Sunday, December 31, 2017

New Year's Resolutions

Happy New Year!

It is 2018, an Olympic year (so I get to watch lots of curling, my favorite Olympic winter sport), an election year (lots of senators and all the congressmen are up for election), and a still-have-to-work year (as I didn't win the lottery).

We all survived 2017, at least my best girl and I did, and all of you did if you're reading this.  It was a fun year, a year of "yoooge" events, of fake news and the Astros' first World Series win -- and our new, severely downsized house.  The Patriots are the NFL champions for at least a few more weeks, although fewer people are watching the NFL these days.

Basketball -- well, I'm not sure anyone watches basketball anymore and, despite ESPN trying to globalize us, no one is watching soccer over here either.  I'll root for Phil Mickelson to win a major in golf; although he's getting a bit old to be contending he still contends, and I would not put money on his not being around for at least one close Sunday finish.  And I'll pull for the Washington Capitals to do something in the playoffs that remotely reflects how good a team they actually are and have been.  Something.

I grew up when today would be the last day of the college football season, with the Orange, Sugar, Cotton and Rose Bowls played, after which the arguments would begin as to which team was actually the best.  Now we have a playoff system, which still doesn't seem to have resolved the arguments.  I don't know if that's a good thing.

I will work, unless that lottery thing actually happens.  And I'll stay on this column, because sometime before the beginning of next year, I will publish the 1,000th piece on this site.  That may be as far as it goes, but I think I'd like to believe there will be lots to write about through then.

Happy New Year to all, and for the first time, we unveil a new copyright notice (and believe me, I thought of using MMXVIII):

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Friday, December 29, 2017

#800: Socialism and Freedom

Thanks for reading all this time.  Today's column is the 800th since its inception in September 2014, in what is a series that I thought would cap out at about four.
                                                            _ _ _

We are fond of saying to young communists in this country that they should "just go live in a communist country" and see what is going on if they tried to live there.  Perhaps, it goes, they would be  a lot less interested in communism if they had to experience the system for themselves in, say, Cuba or Venezuela.  Or the "People's Republic" of North Korea.

Of course, we used to say that about the Soviet Union when there was one of those.  And China, too.  To be honest, it wasn't that long ago that we thought of China that way; I remember thinking about the Olympics opening ceremony when the games were held in Beijing.  They had those marvelous assemblies of thousands of Chinese on the field in the main stadium, moving cards or something in exacting precision to make different designs.  And I thought, God help any of them that is even one half-second late with his move.  Death, probably, and not a pleasant one.

Today we have a country full of young Bernie Sanders types.  They rallied for their geriatric hero in 2016, cried when he was euchred out of the Democrat nomination by Hillary Clinton and the corruption in the DNC, and now are left spouting their same socialist ideology to each other on Facebook.

Of course, in that their brains aren't fully developed yet, they're not prepared to ask mature questions of each other.  You know, like when Bernie Sanders would point his finger to stage right and call for making college "tuition-free", none of them thought to ask where the money was supposed to come from to pay the schools and the professors if tuition was "free."

But those same undeveloped socialists are the ones who squeal like heck anytime their own freedoms are challenged.  Give them a "trigger" -- you know, like an actual conservative speaker on their campus, not that they would have gone to hear an actual idea -- and they howl and start throwing chairs through windows.  If you want to start a business, a glass company in Berkeley might be a thought, by the way.  Except for the taxes in California, I guess, and the minimum wage you have to pay.

The problem, of course, is that leftist economies can not be, and have not been, implemented in any truly free society, free enough to where the little snowflakes can go find their safe spaces if they have been improperly triggered.  Socialism cannot tolerate freedom, which is why, wherever it is implemented in full, it is accompanied by dictatorships and an an elite party class .

The young idealists, who think that socialism is the ideal society, are exactly like the young idealists in every generation who think socialism is the ideal society.  They are idealists because they are young, and incapable of understanding that while they're out there with their slogans and protests, a wise and more-mature portion of their age group is out starting businesses and succeeding.  And they're succeeding because this is America, a capitalist nation where we are free not only to protest and wave slogan signs around, but to create our own success.

Socialism cannot tolerate that kind of freedom.  It suppresses innovation, because there is no real personal gain to be earned by working harder than the next guy if the rewards are the same.  And to get people to go along with that, you have to have an iron-fisted government to enforce it.  Boom -- there goes your freedom.

Our little snowflakes, like those of their previous generations, would do well to walk around in North Korea or Cuba, and see what socialism needs in order to enforce it.  They scream if their freedoms are remotely threatened, but beg for the economic system that requires freedoms to be removed to implement it.

It will never change.  Every generation's youth have thought they had all the answers, and then they turn 30 and come to their senses as the last piece of drool gland in their head finally congeals into brain cells.

But it gives me a topic to send us out to the New Year's Day weekend on.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Thursday, December 28, 2017

What Was Important about Sally Ride?

You may have missed this, but we hear this week that the State of California (insert joking reference here) has dictated that the only textbooks that can be used in its schools are those which have been properly overhauled to provide, yes, "inclusive" references in regard to lesbian, gay, bisexual, etc., people -- even in their history books.

I have it on good authority that this may not extend all the way into its approved math texts ("How many lesbians does it take ...?"), but it sure as heck got into the history books that California's students, who already have some level of difficulty in reading at the appropriate level, will be required by legislative mandate and bureaucratic overreach, to be taught from.

Now, I suppose that every state has the right, however misguided, to decide what gets taught in its schools.  Lord knows we don't want the Federal government getting near the notion of nationwide standards that states are bound to.  So if the State of California wants to be "inclusive" about whether homosexuals are properly mentioned in their textbooks, well, it has the right, just like the people of the state have the right to yank their kids out of public schools and have them taught in private schools or at home, where the primary purpose is education, not indoctrination.

But there are some unintended consequences in this latest foray by the state of fruits and nuts into screwing up its failing schools.

As an example, I give you this one.  A particular history text was proposed as an option to be taught in state schools.  The state ultimately said yes, but get this -- only after a reference to Sally Ride, the first American female astronaut, was altered to insert the word "lesbian" before her name.

Now, Sally Ride kept her sexual orientation private until just before her death in 2012.  And if the history lesson was specifically about how gay people had to hide their orientation as she did, well, that would be one thing to include her in that list as a part of history.

But when you are talking about our nation's space exploration history, well, her sexual orientation was completely irrelevant to everything she did in her space career.  We know that because only when she was dying did she even let anyone get the word out that she had a "partner" and was gay.  So how is it relevant, so relevant that the state will not even allow that a discussion of the space program be put forth in a textbook without indicating something that obviously was not relevant?

But here is where it gets sticky.  There are certainly prominent figures in history who were gay and didn't care who knew it, or were sufficiently obvious about it to where their orientation was part of their life and their art or profession.  But there are others about whom it was simply something suspected, and for which the evidence is far too slim and far too inadequate for us to make any conclusion about it.  The times of the past have had certain close relationships that were not known to be gay, heterosexual men living together and sharing rooms or even beds, with no outward evidence of anything that today we would suspect.

How far does a textbook go?

At what point -- and I'm specifically talking about historical figures noted in passing, or at least in textbook passages where their accomplishments are noted but their orientation is not relevant to the passage -- is it completely inappropriate to mention that anyone suspected the person was gay?

I mean, Napoleon Bonaparte was married to Josephine.  Probably 90% of textbook references to Napoleon do not mention Josephine (and, by extension, Napoleon being straight) because she was not the important participant in the conquests, victories and defeats of her husband.  Are we supposed to care, or are we supposed to recognize that mentioning her, when her existence is not relevant to the story, seems just odd.

But the State of California clearly sees things differently -- of course, only if the participant in history happens to have been gay (or any of the other conditions in LGBTQDJVFXYZ ...).  And there's no question why an irrelevance is forced to be inserted in a historical textbook -- the politicians who run the state government, from Jerry Brown on down, are trying to use history as a way to gain acceptance for people with whatever you want to call the psychological condition of homosexuality.

"Oh, yeah, Sally Ride, she went up in space -- see, gay people can actually do anything that straight people can.  We have to include them everywhere and celebrate their gayness, la la la" -- even if their gayness had nothing whatsoever, as in Sally Ride's case, to do with their accomplishment.  The State of California cannot separate accomplishment from who the person sleeps with.  OK, sure.

There is nothing that any of us can do.  It is up to the people of the state to make their feelings known at the ballot and, if they agree with a policy like that, they can continue to vote in the same people.  This is a free country, and education is the purview of the states.

I hope there are a lot of private schools in California, though, cause the legislature ain't changing anytime soon.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

No Outrage for Rosie?

This morning I happened to pass a stray TV set where Rosie O'Donnell was being mentioned.  Like any train wreck, I assumed that I had to remain focused on what they were saying.  I did, and I have so many questions.

Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, had sent out a message for Christmas, to the troops serving in the military.  I listened to it, and it was about as pleasant and otherwise unremarkable as a Christmas message can be.  It was a bit religious for a public official's message (it is a religious holiday, of course), but the Speaker is a very religious man and a devout Catholic, so I suppose it should have been regarded as coming from Paul Ryan the man, who has a following because he is also Paul Ryan, the Speaker.

Either way, the message was something you or I could have written -- I did, in fact, on Monday -- wishing everyone a wonderful day and reminding us that we were celebrating the birth of the baby Jesus on that day.  There was nothing, nothing in the content that was, in and of itself, out of the ordinary for such a message.

Except, it seems to Rosie O'Donnell.

Rosie O'Donnell, who is -- OK, I don't know exactly what it is that she does anymore, but everyone knows who she is -- well, she could not take it that Paul Ryan would think to issue a message of celebration on Christmas Day.  Somewhere in her addled brain, it must have struck a nerve.

She dashed out a tweet of her own, which I will quote with spelling and capitalization (or lack thereof) intact.

"paul ryan – don’t talk about Jesus after what u just did to our nation – u will go straight to hell.  U screwed up fake altar boy #JUDASmuch"

OK, work with me.  One person sends a message to our troops overseas celebrating the Christmas holiday and wishing them peace and joy for the season.  The other sends a rant based on a complete misreading of a tax law just passed that, by any reasonable reading is helpful to middle-class wage earners.  The rant condemned the first person and accusing him of being a betrayer of everyone and comparing him to the disciple who betrayed Jesus.

Which one has the high ground?

I realize that Rosie O'Donnell is so far down the importance scale, below measles, Burkina Faso and yttrium commodity prices, that we shouldn't care.  But when I looked at the leftist media to figure out if and how they tried to defend her, I found, well, nothing.  No articles, no nothing except on conservative-leaning outlets.  Yes, I know it was not very important, but it was at least news, in the same vein as Madonna publicly talking of blowing up the White House (except that one was on live TV and the media couldn't avoid it).  I couldn't evaluate their side, because they buried the story completely.

Where was CNN?  Where was MSNBC?  Where were the network news people?  Did they simply not find it appropriate to air a story when it is a leftist doing something obnoxious and stupid?

It is a bit frustrating, because not presenting news is on the same order as actual fake news, he kind that has been getting reporters suspended lately.  It is the manipulation of the public to believe what the media want you to believe, sort of like their repeatedly saying that the new tax law is "harmful to the USA" in the actual news broadcast, rather than the opinion segments.  Obviously if the Republicans thought it to be harmful to the USA, they wouldn't have passed it, from either a political or altruistic sense.

Yes, Rosie O'Donnell's opinions and, for that matter, the opinions of pretty much everyone in Hollywood who was never actually involved in politics as their business (so, about everyone there except Clint Eastwood and Arnold Schwarzenegger), are pretty much irrelevant.  But there is no reason the airing of them, particularly when done in such a contemptible way toward a man who has been diligently trying to fix the tax law for the USA for decades, is news only for a few conservative-leaning news outlets, and draws a blank on the left.

I know what it means.  It means that Rosie O'Donnell so badly embarrasses the left, that the last thing they want their media outlets to report is something that could sabotage the public perception of their opinions.

Speaker Ryan's office took the high road when they were asked about l'affaire Rosie.  "We wish everyone a merry Christmas", they replied when asked.

We assume Rosie O'Donnell has no high roads.  We don't know what we can say for the media of the left.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

That Raise Didn't Come from Nancy

So you recall last week that Nancy Pelosi, the former Speaker of the House and formerly  sane individual, the one who cannot come to grips the fact that there are people who actually like President Trump, let alone voted for him, well, Nancy had something to say.

This was after the bill was passed that lowered income taxes for most of America, did a little simplification of the tax code, and removed the deplorable individual mandate to buy health insurance that was a cornerstone of the equally deplorable Obamacare program rammed down the throats of the American people with no more Republican votes (zero) than the Democrats cast for the tax cut law.

Pelosi called the bill "Frankenstein."  Now let's point out that Frankenstein was not the monster, as Mrs. Pelosi sort of implied in her comments, but she's old and forgetful, so we'll forgive her inability to distinguish between the name of the doctor who created the monster and the monster itself.

Of course, we know what she meant, or at least we'll stretch a bit and assume that we know what she meant.  It was, in her view, something terrible that we wouldn't like and would hurt us.

Naturally, the left and the media (but I repeat myself) tripped over themselves to declare how bad the bill was.  The absurdly low approval ratings for the bill in recent polls tell you all you have to know about the media and their influence, as well as, I guess, the gullibility of the American public to believe what the media say is the the truth.

The first actual, tangible reactions to the bill, however, were somewhat different.  Boeing, Comcast, AT&T and a few other companies barely waited for the ink of the president's signature to dry before declaring that they would take advantage of the bill's deep cuts in the corporate tax rate to ... wait for it ... give bonuses to its hourly employees.  Others raised their corporate minimum wages to $15.00 per hour.

Let's remember why that happened.  The Republicans who put that bill together believed that companies -- you know, the people who actually hire and create jobs -- should not have to give as much as 35% of their net back to the government but, rather, that if they could keep more of their net, they would grow more, hire more and, as happened with the tax cuts of the 1960s and 1980s, the revenues to the government in taxes would increase.

I don't know what all those hourly wage earners who got a very, very unexpected raise are going to do now, and whom they are going to vote for.  But people vote with their wallets as often as not.  And the media have, whether it was their intent or not, put that tax cut squarely in the hands of Republicans where, of course, it belongs.

But all those people who got those bonuses, and all those people who got those raises, and all the rest of the W-2 employees who on February 1st will get a pay raise when the new tax tables kick in ... they all vote, or at least most of them can.  And when they start thinking for real about things, well, they're going to remember who gave them that extra money.

When they go to the polls and think about it ... when they think about where their 401(k) balances are, and how much they're putting away now, and how much they're getting in their pay envelope that they weren't getting when Obama was president ... they're going to think a little extra.

They'll ask who gave them that raise, and they'll realize something.

That raise didn't come from Nancy Pelosi.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas to You

For unto us a Child is born
Unto us a Son is given
And the government shall be upon His shoulders
And His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor
The mighty God, the Everlasting Father
The Prince of Peace.
    -  Isaiah 9:6

And a very merry Christmas to you and yours, and thank you for reading.

Copyright 747 B.C. by the prophet Isaiah.
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Friday, December 22, 2017

Left to Right, Right? Nothing Left

It's almost Christmas, and I don't really want to tax my otherwise Christmas-consumed mind with anything actually significant.  My sons are in town and I want to focus on them as much as work will allow.  So this one is the most trivial pieces I may ever have written.

We live in the Northern Hemisphere, as the vast majority of people in the world do.  All of the USA is in the Northern Hemisphere, at least the 50 states and even the District of Columbia, which some people believe is on Mars, or at least is populated by people from there.

North of the equator, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.  It does so south of the equator, too, but it looks funny.  I think it probably does, anyway, because seeing the sun cross the north sky would disorient me.  Well, I've never been south of the equator and I don't know.  G'day, mate.

The moon also rises in the east and sets in the west, too, same as the sun, because the "rising" is the illusion of the earth's rotation.

All this astronomical chit-chat is by way of reminding ourselves that if we Americans are in America, looking at a time-lapse video of the motion of the sun and moon, no matter what time of the year it is taken, it is going to go from left to right, as long as we ourselves are upright.  Left to right.  In the summer, the arc from rise to set is bigger, because the sun appears highest in the sky at noon on the summer solstice, and has the lowest arc at the winter solstice, with its noon peak lowest in the sky at any time of the year.

Left to right.

OK, so I have now planted a thought in your head that I need you to take to your TV and movie watching.  I have long marveled at the fact that lots of shows include an obligatory scene of the sun or moon transiting part of the sky, a shot used to give the impression that time as passed (as an alternative to putting up a graphic reading "time has passed").

OK, it's not that I've marveled at the use of the time-lapse, so much as the fact that more than half the time, the sun or moon is somehow making its transit across the sky right-to-left, i.e., "backwards."  And no one seems to notice or care.

It is a joke in this house, by the way, a kind of dump-on-Bob thing because I am the type who would notice something like that, that defies physics but happens all the time on TV regardless.

But I noticed, which is why I'm writing this, and more to the point I noticed because so many different TV programs, with so many different topics, have so often had the sun or moon going right-to-left.  I don't get it.  There are only two ways to achieve that illusion -- one is to run the film backwards, and the other is to photograph the transit in a mirror.

B-b-but, neither of those makes any particular cinematographic sense; if the obvious purpose of the brief clip is to show time passing forward, and the outcome of the illusion shows the sun or moon -- and presumably time -- going backward, the director has obviously flunked basic astronomy.

And it happens so often!  I'm serious; it is at least half the time, it seems, that the rules of astronomy are suspended because of cinematic ignorance.

I don't know what to say, but I would appreciate it if you would start keeping a sharp eye out for this happening.  Next time you see one of those brief time-lapse videos, notice which way the sun or moon is moving.  And do write a comment below.  I don't know what will be the outcome, except that I will be happy it is not just I.

And I'll have a merry Christmas either way, and hope you do as well.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Thursday, December 21, 2017

No Plans for Ruage (?)

In his most annoying New York accent, the only thing he shares with President Trump, the insufferable Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer, just shared with America that the Republican Congress would "rue the day" that they passed the new tax bill into law, as was done yesterday.

That "ruing" would take place, the minority leader assured us, around the election this coming November, when the effects of "middle-class Americans", none of which he is acquainted with, getting their taxes raised [sic], would lead to a punishing election defeat for Republicans in the House and Senate.

Of course, the law won't lead to middle-class Americans having their taxes raised, despite what Sen. Chuck says, because, well, it doesn't raise their taxes.  That has never stopped him from saying things like that, because the Democrats have no earthly idea how to run an economy, as the last eight years before the Trump boom showed.  So Schumer took to the well of the Senate and to every camera he could stick his face in front of -- he does know he's not exactly distinguished, right? -- to declare, contrary to reality, how bad the tax-cut bill was.

I am not an economist, although I did take an economics class at M.I.T. from Paul Samuelson.  I absolutely did not play one on TV.  So I can't really tell you how much impact the tax-cut law is going to have on the economy in its first year, to where voters in November could actually cause anyone to rue anything.  And voters are pretty fickle, even when they're told the truth, which is rare.

But I have to think the good senator is blowing smoke from a nether orifice.

There will have been exactly zero tax returns filed under the new law by next November, since its effects do not show in the 2017 filing season.  If the president is able to make some good speeches and an occasional tweet during tax season 2018, he might take pains to point out that, although it's a bit onerous in spring 2018 (being under the old law), the new law's effects will not only save them money, but they will remove a lot of the ongoing 1040 struggles in favor of a simpler filing.

What will happen, and nothing Chuck Schumer babbles will stop it, is that come around the first of February, W-2 employees (as opposed to 1099-MISC consultants like, well, me) will get themselves a raise, as the withholding table for the new law kick in, and people get to keep more of their own money.  That's going to be a really popular event, for sure, and the only downside is that the voters will have already gotten used to that by November.

[Aside -- don't worry about 1099-MISC consultants; we'll just set less aside in estimates.  We're good.]

The stock market will continue to rise, a second impact.  That's because publicly-traded companies will be immediately more profitable and, therefore, their valuation will become much larger and their stock price increased.  The bulk of the population of the USA is invested, either through 401(k) plans and IRAs, or mutual fund or direct investing.  Come November, we'll have happy (and wealthier) people.

The other thing, though, is the one I can't predict.

I'm not exaggerating when I characterize the corporate tax cut from 35% to 21% as gargantuan.  It is, in the words of our president, "hyooooge."  For those companies, large and small, who had been paying at the top rate and now get an immediate positive to the bottom line, they have decisions to make.

I have noted in previous columns that it is harder to add an employee now than it used to be, and the economic permanence of that is hard to assess.  Companies facing enormous personnel expenses such as what Obamacare wrought have decided, long since, that if three better employees could do the work of four others, it made economic sense to do so.  That deleted jobs from the marketplace.  There's no reason that posture changes now.

Yet the hope of the corporate tax cuts is that many more jobs would be created.  So the "decisions to make" are simply what those corporations are going to do with the tax savings.  From the point that we started -- the beginning of the Trump Administration -- we had already seen the corporate retrenchment on hiring years earlier.  So that means that demand has to increase in order for hiring to increase, right?

At some point, all the money put back in the pockets of the taxpaying public will end up getting spent, and that means that the demand for those corporations' products and services will increase to where they can hire comfortably.  What I don't know is when that will happen, and whether it will happen enough to affect the 2018 elections.

Will companies "hire on the come", building up their workforce and training them, on the assumption that more orders will need to be processed before the increase comes to pass?  If so, the jobless rate will really show improvement before long (another reason I wish that the Trump-era Labor Department had switched to presenting multiple employment statistics rather than using only the very-flawed "unemployment rate").

Will the Trump Labor Department actually ease enough of those restrictions on private-sector hiring (i.e., burdensome regulations) to help employment on that side of the equation?

It just seems that the first-year, pre-election 2018 outcome of the tax-cut law will be somewhere between "OK" and really, really positive to the economy.  If that's the case, particularly on the latter end of that spectrum, there may be some ruage, but it won't be the way Chuck Schumer thinks.

It will be Democrat red-state senators ruing their voting "no" on the economy.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

By Your Enemies We Know You

OK, maybe "By your enemies we know you" is not a real phrase, or hasn't been out there in literature or politics or foreign affairs, and I just made it up.  People don't say things like that anymore, so maybe it was just off the top of my head.

But after a couple years of incredible Trump-bashing in the media (in fairness, not all of it undeserved), President Trump is on the cusp of a huge victory in getting a massive tax cut passed through Congress and signed.  ISIS has been crushed on the battlefield; employment in the USA is way up.  People are saying "Merry Christmas" to each other (hint: that's a good thing).

So there are presumably two sides, and as a supporter of the president, I sat back for this piece and asked the question we all ought to ask ourselves every once in a while -- "Is it me, perhaps, and not them?"  I try to ask that periodically.

Well, when I thought about it this time, I considered the president's negatives -- he is a New Yorker, which grates on me personally but is irrelevant to his capacity for accomplishment.  His way with women, at least in the past, is not exactly the way I would have conducted myself, but that's personal, not political, and he appears not only to have had perfectly fine -- and unbiased -- dealings with women professionally, including both his own corporation and his Cabinet.

But then I looked at his enemies and adversaries, and all of a sudden the president's warts paled before those of his opposition.  We can start with the left, except that the left includes most all of the opposition, so we have to break that down.

ISIS and radical Islamists hate the president.  These are the people who think that if you're not only not Muslim but don't follow their version of the faith, you have to be murdered, and if a few of even your faith die in the process, well, that's just collateral damage.  And "murdered" is not just execution-style, but brutality we won't discuss.  If they hate Donald Trump, maybe the president is a pretty good guy.

There is the press.  Let's see, they have the armor of the First Amendment, behind which they can say and mostly do anything they want to.  They have disrespected that freedom by making up stories without the vaguest journalistic standards and promulgated them, with any subsequent apologies, if they think them worthy, on page 114-B.  They have published classified material without concern for the safety of our nation.  If they hate Donald Trump, then perhaps he has more good to offer than we would have thought.

There are establishment Republicans as well.  They don't much care for President Trump either, because -- with the apparent exception of Speaker Ryan, who appears to have regarded policy success far, far ahead of personal glory or even professional security -- the president has exposed them for the swamp creatures they are.

They are concerned only for their own reputations and their security in office.  We got rid of the comparable Democrat establishment in 1994 when the nation rebelled against the Clintons and the 40-year choke-hold the Democrats had on the House, and not only voted-in a Republican majority, but the encrusted Speaker, Tom Foley, didn't even win his own House seat.  If I were a swamp Republican senator, I'd be going to see the president now.  But I'm not a fan, and Trump's opposition to them is a good thing.

There are Democrats; oh, Lord, there are Democrats.  They have given us "tolerance", meaning "triggers" of fragile little snowflakes, identity politics, Antifa and Black Lives Matter, hatred of dedicated police, and the creation of 56 new classifications of "gender."  At the same time, they gave us most of what is now a $20 trillion debt (and hilariously are opposing the tax cuts because of a newfound concern for debt).  They gave us Obamacare and a forest of business-choking regulations.  They gave us "Happy Holidays", at least as long as we remove green and red, Santa, trees and Jesus's birth.

The Democrats have flooded the nation with illegal aliens, thrown the nation's doors wide open and before this year had backed the border guards 100 miles away from the border, lest they actually stop a potential voter from entering the country.  They cannot allow even one member of either house of Congress to vote for a Republican bill, even if it is perfectly logical, as we saw last night.  If the Democrats are his enemy, I swear to you that what President Trump is doing must be extremely good for the country.

I don't think I have to second-guess myself.  The worst elements of this country oppose the president.  He must be worth following.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Let Mueller Keep Going

It was not a very good week for the Mueller investigation, of what once was suspected to be collusion between the Trump campaign in 2016 and some Russians.  Obviously it has turned into the biggest of nothingburgers since, with zero evidence of any such collusion, and now appears simply to be an exploration of anything that the special counsel can get his hands on so at least some charge gets filed that justifies the expense of the counsel.

Worst of all, we know now that very senior FBI types involved with the investigation of both the Hillary email scandal and the Trump russiarussiarussia thing, and also senior people at the Justice Department itself, were incredibly biased against President Trump and willing to do anything, legal or (mostly) not, to bend the investigation so it would get him out of office.  Moreover, the lawyers involved from the DoJ side were not only all Hillary types but big, often maxed-out donors to Democrats.

That this all fouls any dream that the Mueller team would be unbiased has not stopped the investigation, such as it is, from going on.

And that's not a bad thing, in my view.

You see, the USA now knows that the investigation is not just tainted but totally compromised; no one in their right mind believes that honest, impartial career investigators are doing the work.  So the longer it goes on, and the longer that the president lets it go on, not firing Mueller but just letting him go on, well, the more upset the people are going to get with the spending of taxpayer money for a partisan witch hunt.

At some point, Mueller will have to come up with a report, and somehow it doesn't seem to be what we expect what it should be -- an essentially thorough clearing of the Trump for President campaign and its people -- and Trump himself -- of any collusion of any kind with Russians of any kind.  That would seem like a failure, right?

What I suspect is that Mueller will try to find one more victim before closing up shop.  He got Paul Manafort on some 2005-era business indiscretion, and Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn for lying to the investigators about something that had not happened in the first place except for there having been an investigation -- not exactly entrapment, but a crime the investigation itself facilitated.

Mueller knows there was no collusion; shoot, we all know that.  He has to justify his existence, and that becomes really hard given the exposure of his team as partisan hacks.  He looks personally worse each week this goes on, and President Trump knows it.  The president is perfectly happy to have an investigation of his campaign go all Keystone Kops, because it will eventually die of its own lack of a crime.

President Trump is not, as some California congresswoman said about "rumors" she had heard, going to fire Mueller.  He's not going to fire him, because Mueller is the best thing that he has going for him.  While Mueller is churning up nothing, President Trump is out there getting tax reform done, booming the stock market to record heights, defeating ISIS and producing jobs all over the place.  Who looks better by contrast?

Mueller will doubtlessly haul up some poor sucker as a third and final victim, probably on some weird charge that also wouldn't exist without the investigation, or maybe something from 2003 or so.  But he will have to end the investigation himself, because the president sure is not going to fire him.

Mueller is far too good for this president to let get away.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Monday, December 18, 2017

So It's Not Really about Net Neutrality

Last week the Federal Communications Commission issued a ruling that rolled back a 2015 (i.e., Obama-era, and therefore stupid) edict in regard to a concept called "net neutrality."  Naturally, the left and the press (but I repeat myself) howled that the Internet as we know it was gone forever, that women and children and old people would die, and California would no longer be a good place.

Jimmy Kimmel, whose platform is that he has a very late-night talk show, called the chairman of the FCC a bad name, which the left tends to do, in the interim while it's trying to dig up women the person has treated badly in the last 60 years, or it can't actually make an argument and has given up logic.

I confess that I do not have a handle on what "net neutrality" actually means, but please don't write a comment explaining it.  What I do understand is that it was a concept wrapped in a nice-sounding title, that had forbidden Internet service providers from adjusting the speed or other attributes of services that certain entities provided.

We understand that removing net neutrality was bad for Google and Apple and other left-coast companies, and it's good for some others.

But it really does not matter.  I don't really care whom it helps or hurts.  The key three-letter organization that does matter is the FCC itself. 

Back in 2015, Obama's FCC voted to impose this net neutrality posture as a regulation with the force of law.  And that, friends, is where I have a problem with it.  When Donald Trump became President Trump, one of the reasons we voted him in was to "drain the swamp", and one of the drainage methods he was going to use, was to delete reams of superfluous regulations.

His pledge, in fact, was to delete two regulations for every one new one that was issued, and if there is one pledge he has carried out, that's the one -- I think I heard today that 22 regulations had been dumped for every one that has been added since Inauguration Day.

But let's get to the purpose of that pledge.  We have three branches of government, as everyone but the people Jesse Watters interviews on the streets and campuses of New York knows.  The Executive branch is intended to run the government, to operate the departments and agencies that are created, funded and overseen by the Legislative branch, which solely has the authority under the Constitution to create law.

The analogy here is the DACA situation, where President Trump removed an executive order that created DACA, claiming it was not in Obama's purview to "make law", and gave Congress six months to pass an actual DACA law to deal with the children of illegal immigrants.  He didn't say that he was against DACA; just that the authority to establish such a program belonged to Congress, and if they wanted to pass a DACA law, he would respect it and, I assume, likely sign it.

The Constitution did not create the FCC, of course.  It gave Congress the power to create agencies such as the FCC, but it did not empower Congress to delegate its lawmaking role to an Executive branch agency that it had created.  Net neutrality is a law, to the extent that it enforceably allows or disallows certain actions, and it's pretty clear that decisions on a law's existence need to come from the Capitol and not the White House.

I can't really say that President Trump cared one way or the other about net neutrality and, to be clear, I'm not sure if the actions of the FCC in dumping it were meant to direct Congress to make a decision on net neutrality for the FCC to follow.  I truly hope both the FCC and the president indeed felt that way.

But I'm a fan of most any circumstance where an Executive branch agency drops a regulation that it came up with, and obliges Congress to do its job and make law, if it decides that there should be one.  If not, it is not for the FCC, or HUD, or OSHA or the CFPB, to make up law in the absence of one.  The Constitution was fairly clear about those roles, and so am I.

So -- I ask President Trump, regardless of why his FCC ended net neutrality, to make a public statement associating net neutrality with DACA as precisely the type of law that must come from Congress or not exist at all.  Executive agencies have over-regulated the USA and created a nanny state that will be hard to dismantle.  But the argument is not over net neutrality but over Government bureaucrat overreach and Congress's assertion of its own role.

If the president can make it clear that actions like this are intended to restore the balance of powers and the proper role of the three branches, at least he will have the high road.

Maybe even Jimmy Kimmel might -- just might -- understand.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Friday, December 15, 2017

Remembering My Murder Panel

A day or three back I referred to a trial, and noted that I had been on a jury that had had its sentence changed by the judge.  Needless to say, I had a few readers ask what had happened, and since it's Friday, I thought I'd end the week with a story and not an opinion.

I believe it was 1982 or 1983, and we were living in a small town in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains in Virginia, a town of maybe three or four thousand in a rural county of which our town was the county seat.  I was the MIS director for an accounting firm there, and we would ultimately buy out the computer shop in the firm to make a service bureau that did services for accounting firms in the area, the start of my entrepreneurial career.

I had gotten a jury summons, which meant in our county that you were to be available over a 60-day period to be called periodically.  You'd come in on a Monday, wait to be interviewed for whatever open cases they had, and if there weren't any or if you weren't selected for a case, they'd send you right back to your job and it might be two weeks before you got called again.

This day I did get called, and they asked me to sit on a case that seemed familiar to the other jurors, although not to me.  Both sides asked me some questions, and when it became clear I hadn't heard of the case and would be impartial, I was selected.  We sat right away and got started; the case would last a couple three days before we got to deliberate.  As the Commonwealth had presented, this was a murder case and they were asking for a first-degree verdict from us.  So we listened intently.

As things were presented to us, the setting of the crime was a building that was in a little village in the county.  It had a post office on one side and a store next to it, with apartments over each one.  A young man lived with his family on one side, and a couple lived on the other.  The young man heard shots one night, hitting his car parked outside below.  He went down to see what was going on, and got shot and killed when he did.

The accused was a fellow in his 20s, I think, who lived in the area.  Some footprints of his were found in the area where it would have made sense the shots were coming from, and I think there might have been a ballistics test that led to him as well.  Possibly a spent shell or two were found there.  Fingerprints were inconclusive, but it appeared pretty sound that the fellow had actually pulled the trigger.

He showed up each day for court dressed in a coat and tie, sitting with his attorney, a walrus-like fellow a couple years older than I, with a genial disposition.  The accused never spoke and did not testify.  Clearly the idea of the defense was to oblige the prosecution to make the case and hope for the lowest-impact verdict possible.

The prosecutor's first witness was the lady who lived in the other apartment, who was quite distraught when she testified as to what she recalled of that night, surprisingly distraught, thought some of the jurors later (in fairness, it didn't click with me at the time).  The police detectives were next, telling what they found and did not find, showing that they had followed standard procedures and indicating that it was not uncommon to have no fingerprints in such a case.

They finished, the defense finished their few witnesses, and we got the instructions. 

I believe about three years ago, I mentioned this case in a piece on this site.  I used it to point out one of the instructions, concerning circumstantial evidence -- of which there was a lot in this case.  The instruction was that we could consider circumstantial evidence if it was "consistent with guilt and inconsistent with innocence", a standard I've used ever since in a variety of situations not related to a court case.  Also, we were told that "premeditation can take one second."

Another, of course, applied here.  "You are responsible for the natural consequences of your actions", meaning, in this case, if you fire a gun randomly and someone gets hurt, you are responsible as the law allows.  That was added to allow this jury to decide that the accused might not have intended to hurt anyone, just to fire at the car, in which case we might decide a charge lower than first-degree murder.

The foreman of the jury was a stockbroker I knew pretty well -- this was a small town, remember.  We deliberated collegially, and I recall this curious sense we had as a group, that we had been entrusted with a sacred duty and were not to be influenced.  I wondered if juries routinely felt that way.

Ultimately, we found the fellow guilty of second-degree murder, use of a firearm in a felony, and one other charge I forget.  We all knew he had done it, but the Commonwealth's Attorney had never presented a motive for us to use to decide premeditation -- not even for one second.  We had nothing, so we came back with all we could, which was second-degree murder.  The three charges allowed us to sentence the fellow 26 years, and that's what we offered.  We got polled when we returned to court and affirmed we each supported the verdict.  Then we went home.

Not too long after, we read in the paper that the judge in the case had lowered the sentence to 10 years, without any reason I recall, and if the fellow who pulled the trigger is still alive, he has been a free man for at least 25 years.  I was not particularly happy about the reduced sentence; I wasn't afraid of the guy coming after jurors or anything when he got out, but I felt we had done our civic duty and the judge had overruled us.  That lasts with me to this day.

So, epilogue ... there has to be one, right?  Well, not a year later I had need of a lawyer for something, and so I sought out the murderer's defense attorney, whose office was a short walk from where I worked.  Heck, I thought he had been pretty good in court.  We went over whatever I went to see him about, and then I mentioned, or he recalled, that I had been on the jury for his client's murder trial.

All of the appeals, if there were any, were done by then, so he was free to talk about the case, and he did.  We had never gotten a motive for the murder, he told me, because the Commonwealth never found it -- but there was one.

Remember the wife who lived in the one upstairs apartment, who was so distraught testifying for the prosecution about the events of that night?  Well, she had been having an affair with the defendant.

Our defendant was apparently enraged when he found out that she was also having an affair with the young fellow in the other apartment, so he went into the woods near the building one night and started shooting at the kid's car.  The kid was really proud of that car, and the shooter figured he would come downstairs to check it out.  He did, and that was that.  If the jury had known that, we would easily have handed down a first-degree murder conviction.   

For years, I've observed jury trials and bemoaned the fact that juries have to go on only what is presented to them.  We have a Constitutional right to a jury of our peers, so that won't change, but every time a prominent trial ends with a surprising verdict, I always consider that they can only deliberate on what they are given.

Have a great weekend.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Appearance of Impropriety

It was an interesting conversation that took place between the Deputy Attorney General who oversees the FBI director, Rod Rosenstein, and various members of the House Judiciary Committee yesterday.  Rosenstein was in front of the committee for a happy visit, primarily to answer questions, or avoid answering them, about the investigation by Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

It's no secret why this testimony was required.  In the past week or two, it has come to light that several of the lead investigators for the FBI in both the Mueller investigation and the Hillary Clinton email "investigation", or "matter" as the Obama administration's Attorney General, Loretta Lynch ordered her team to call it, had some biases.

Specifically, we have known for a while that most of the attorneys hired by Mueller as leads on the case have been big, even maxed-out donors to Hillary, to Obama, or both, and to various Democrat campaigns and PACs.    We know that none of them were Trump campaign donors.  And there are close links to the Clinton "Foundation" and Fusion GPS, the outfit that arranged that phony dossier on candidate Trump.

Then we find out that the FBI-side investigators, including the same fellow who sat in on the abortive FBI interview of the apparently-already-cleared Hillary Clinton on her classified material-abuse investigation, were incredibly anti-Trump, virulently in fact.  That fellow, Peter Strzok, communicated his disdain in the course of about 10,000 texts back and forth with a married co-worker with whom he had an affair that may still be going on.

The texts included references to his ongoing work, and in one scary one he noted that "we can't take that risk" (of Trump getting elected); he also wrote of an "insurance policy" in case he was elected.  The timing on that was far too synchronized with the initiation of the FISA application that got the Russia thing started.

And it's starting to look like the application was based on the phony dossier on Trump that the Clinton campaign paid for through Fusion GPS, looking like the FBI in part paid for it and, worst of all, that Strzok was the one who turned the dossier into a FISA application -- right after telling his married mistress that he "couldn't take the risk" of Trump becoming president.

Rosenstein was asked several times about the "appearance of impropriety" in all that, including the brazen dominance of the DoJ attorneys roster by Democrat donors, and the potential for grave abuse by Strzok and 4-5 others with comparable conflicts based on statements, donations and actions.  He deferred, of course, and noted that those people had been reassigned and, in one egregious case, demoted.  Strzok, as we know, is now in HR, where he is in a position to affect who actually gets into the FBI.  Don't we all feel better now, right?

But nowhere in the televised part of the hearing did it come up that Strzok and the others had been with the investigation for months and months before their removal.

So what, we have to ask is the impact of that?  In other words, how much content has been processed, or even developed, during the investigation, and still part of the case file, that is immensely tainted by the work of several people with strong biases against the president and those working for him?

No one asked that, but I will.  Representative Bob, here asks this:

"What, Mr. Rosenstein, is being done right now, in the wake of the removal of biased investigators from the team, to delete any remaining evidence in the case file of their having been involved?  We know that the FBI used the totally-fake dossier to initiate the FISA application.  Has all the content in this case related to that dossier now been eliminated from the ongoing files?  Has all the work done on the case by these biased staff members been removed or does it still taint the team?"

You have to ask that.  If the prejudiced staff have been removed, but their work is still part of the case, the case itself is compromised and the $7 million or so of taxpayer dollars that Mueller has spent to date will have been wasted.

Come on, someone, ask that.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Lowering Standards at the Hall of Fame

This is not fun to write, folks.

So as you probably are now aware, the Baseball Hall of Fame "Veterans Committee" voted last week to induct two new members to the Hall of Fame.  This was not the usual process for selection to the Hall; normally a player becomes eligible five years after his last game, and can receive votes for the subsequent ten years until they receive 75% of the votes and are selected -- or they don't, and aren't.

There is a Veterans Committee, however, to sort of "clean up" what the main voters -- the Baseball Writers Association of America -- have done "wrong", and each year vote on candidates from a particular era of the game.  This year, they voted on more recent-era players who had dropped off the ballot, maybe 10-12 of them, and they actually voted to induct two of them.

Jack Morris was a pitcher for the Tigers, Twins and Blue Jays.  He will go into the Hall of Fame with the highest ERA of any pitcher elected.  He was an good-to-excellent pitcher for many years, but he went before the "judges" -- the BBWAA voters -- not ten but fifteen times (the rules were changed recently).  Each time, his name came up for discussion, and each time he did not get close to the requisite votes.

Alan Trammell was another Tiger, who also played for a long and distinguished career, in his case just for one team.  He was an excellent shortstop over that time but, like Morris, not excellent enough for the people who evaluate candidates to think worthy of induction.

I don't have to go into the arguments for their candidacy, to trot out this stat or that.  It was already done -- 15 times -- and each time there were not the votes.  So I would be pretty ticked off if I were a baseball writer right about now.  I would feel like a jury member who deliberated and determined a 26-year sentence for a felon after a guilty verdict, only to have the judge drop it to ten.  I know that feeling, as I was that juryman once myself (that's for you, Judge Robertson).

You have to know that every year over that time, the baseball writers would debate the arguments for Morris and Trammell and ultimately not get close to electing them.  So we have to ask.  The process for evaluating new candidates -- ten years (15 in the case of these two) of grinding over history and numbers -- is incredibly rigorous and laden with debate and writing.

So why is there a Veterans Committee in the first place, and why in God's name are they bothering to look at players from the last 60 years?  Is there an assumption that BBWAA voting members, who don't even get a vote until ten years of membership, don't know what they're doing? 

I will stretch a bit and say that players from the 19th Century, and a few from maybe 1900-1950, might warrant more scrutiny.  But Morris and Trammell were subject to that scrutiny in just the past few years, and were assessed for a really long time.  They didn't get any better as players during the process, and surely their numbers didn't improve after they retired.  Again -- I'm not debating whether or not they were good enough to be in, and I don't want to hear why they should have been in before.  But when they went before the court 15 times and failed to make a case 15 times, why was anyone still looking?

Another person was put before the Veterans Committee but failed to get the votes for induction.  That was Marvin Miller, who was not a player but the head of the Players' Association, the union that, for good or ill, revolutionized the business of baseball.  I couldn't stand the man myself; he was a classic union boss, a lawyer who came in at a time the players were subject to an abusive system and then pushed until it was the fans' wallets which were abused.

But he was, as any baseball historian will tell you, a huge force in the game for decades.  Because his impact is still being felt -- and assessed -- it is arguable that, even though the writers never voted him in, unlike a player, he could have been reassessed decades later and considered.  His argument was a heck of a lot greater than Morris or Trammell, in terms of impact on the game.

So the Veterans Committee decided to overturn the diligent work of several hundred baseball writers, most of whom take their votes incredibly seriously -- plenty of them regard that duty as a sacred trust.  The writers examined Morris and Trammell not once but fifteen times and decided "not quite", every time.  But the Committee decided they knew better, and there is no recourse.

At the same time, they voted "not quite" on Marvin Miller, whose influence, regardless of what I think of it, or of the man, was greater.

I don't know what will come of this, and I congratulate Jack Morris and Alan Trammell on their induction.  God bless them.  But if there's anything that should tell the Hall of Fame to dissolve its Veterans Committee, or at least not have them consider post-1950 era ballplayers, well, this is it.

I hope they consider this.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Pondering the Harassment High Road

Al Franken is gone from the Senate, or at least will be soon (but not soon enough), after the worst "I remember it differently but I'm leaving anyway" speech we will ever have to hear.  If you had to listen to it, you heard the words of someone who was made a sacrificial lamb by his own party, cleared out of the way against his will, and unwilling to admit that he did anything wrong.

John Conyers is gone from the House, after having been accused of harassing female associates for a long time.  He was 88 and, to look at him, one wonders if he even knew what he was doing, which should make the citizens of his former district in Detroit about as ashamed as possible that he was whom they chose to represent them.

More will be accused, and more will resign.  And we will be left sorting through the detritus of the "me, too" movement, which will include those who lost their positions because of harassing women, and more to the point, those who will be hurt as a result but are completely innocent.  And by "those", I am referring to women.

You heard it here first, or at least early in the process.

Do you remember when the first job discrimination suits were filed by black applicants for positions who sued to claim that they had been rejected because they were black?  I know this dates back to at least the mid-1970s, because I was part of one of those suits, and received a settlement for having been rejected.  Granted, I was "black" only in definition #31 of the dictionary, and the company I applied to never met me and so had no idea of my race, had they asked, but it still happened.

At the same time, and more importantly, black employees who were laid off or fired started suing ex-employers for having dismissed them because of their race.  That was a real problem with enormous unintended consequences.  I mean, you can pass all the laws you want, but the outcome of legislation and the outcome of legal and judicial precedent moves people's actions in ways not always desirable.

In this case, employers ended up looking at more black candidates, sure, but with a filter that said "Is this guy or lady more likely to sue me if I have to fire them for cause?"  In other words, they had to apply a more stringent set of criteria for black applicants, because the lawsuit movement had applied an additional cost risk to hiring black applicants.  Was it worth it?  Probably not.

So we know that "me, too" is going to have its own set of unintended consequences, with the victims being not (just) the actual victims of the Al Frankens and Harvey Weinsteins of the world.  Employers have already shown how they respond to an analogous situation 40 years ago, and they will do the same here.

In other words, I would not want to be an attractive female job applicant right now.  I mean I really would not.  You see, the logical unintended consequence of "me, too" is going to map directly to what happened in the '70s (and since, of course), because basic behavior doesn't really change.  Except that it will have a spin that will be hard to deal with.

It is illegal to discriminate based on race, sex, age and a few other things.  It is not illegal to discriminate based on competence, experience ... and attractiveness.  We know from studies that attractive females are markedly more likely to be hired than unattractive ones.  We don't even have to guess why; people gravitate toward more attractive associates of either sex.

It is pretty bad to be accused of racial hiring or firing bias; it is miserable and illegal to be deemed guilty of sexual harassment.  No employer worth his salt would voluntarily put himself in that situation if there were any alternative, and the alternative is to remove the temptation by hiring the less attractive candidate.

So what does the unsuccessful applicant do?  I mean, both my wife and I have been subject to age discrimination in hiring, but we only recognized it after we saw a pattern of multiple interview treatments, that did not match treatment we had experienced in the past, when younger.  What happens now when attractive applicants start to see a pattern of being "me, tooed" out of getting hired?  You see, they can't exactly sue, because not only is "attractiveness" subjective, but using it as a criterion is perfectly legal!

What happens when attractive unsuccessful job applicants band together with lawyers?  Whom do they go after in court?  Employers?  Harvey Weinstein?  Al Franken?  Their makeup artist?  Time magazine? There aren't really any deep pockets who are responsible; responsibility rests with a movement that is virtuous on its surface and in its intent, and which I have no problem with.

We know that the Democrats are trying to clear out their male abusers, so that they can claim the high road in the movement and try to paint the Republicans as anti-women.  I mean, we know that, and God help any male Democrat who wants to run in 2020, however pure, against a female Democrat in a primary.

But there is three years' time before the election, and a lot of things can happen.  For one, if the pernicious unintended consequences of "me, too" become a major topic in a few months, we won't be talking about who is on the side of attractive women, right?  We'll be having some very weird conversations, and they won't be about Republicans.

Let us keep our eyes on hiring practices going forward, shall we?  I'm here to tell you that people act based on incentives and disincentives, and when you hike the disincentives to include the risk of accusations of harassment, you're going to see changes and see them quick.  And we will hear about them.

And I expect to write about them.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Monday, December 11, 2017

A Strzok of Evil Intent

Darrell Issa (R-CA), the California congressman, is not a guy you would want to meet up with in a dark alley.  He has a pretty intimidating presence about him, but a lot of that is because, for the most part, he is smarter than you are and can verbally rip you to shreds.  I mean, I think I'm pretty good with language, but in his hands it can be lethal.

And I'm glad he's on our side.

So last week, Issa was seated along with fellow members of the House Judiciary committee, taking testimony from Christopher Wray, the recently-appointed Director of the FBI.  The FBI, of course, has been the subject of some harsh words after the unexpected news was discovered that there was some bias at the Bureau.

Specifically, it was made public that Peter Strzok, a senior-level fellow at the FBI, had been thrown off the investigative team of Robert Mueller, the special counsel on the RussiaRussiaRussia investigationinvestigationinvestigation, which to date has come up with exactly nothingnothingnothing.  Strzok had been removed after it came to light that he had written about 10,000 texts to a colleague at the FBI, who it turns out he was having an affair with, and a bunch of those texts were blatantly anti-Donald Trump and pro-Hillary Clinton.

That news was only 3-4 days old when the committee was hearing from Director Wray, and it was naturally a significant topic of conversation, even though the removal of Strzok and his transfer to a position in HR had occurred prior to Wray's tenure beginning.

So the turn comes around to Rep. Issa, and he starts out by asking whether political opinions could get an agent transferred or removed.  Wray properly answered "no", and I started to wonder where Issa was going, knowing it was going to be somewhere interesting.  After another question or two confirming that it was perfectly fine for FBI agents to have political opinions, Issa dropped his bomb.

Obviously, he said, if political opinions were a disqualification from serving on the investigation of a prominent political figure, in the case President Trump, "no one on the Mueller team would be left", as they all seem to have been donors to the Obama or Hillary campaigns, in most cases maxed out on contributions.

And that's where I picked up on what Issa was driving at.  If opinions were perfectly fine, and all the investigators and lawyers on the special counsel's team were Democrat donors, then what made Strzok any different to the point that he was canned from the investigation and moved to HR?

Naturally, Wray was not able to answer, and when Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) followed up somewhat later with some pretty strongly worded follow-up questions with the same intent, asking the same thing about why the rest had stayed but Strzok was canned, his queries gave a little more coal to the fire.

You see, aside from the existence of the Mueller investigation and the extreme leftist bent of the leads on it, there is the question of how it got started.  And there is a growing suspicion, backed by the facts, that the origin was in the fake dossier on then-candidate Trump.  That is the one initiated by the Democratic National Committee hiring a lawyer to coordinate opposition research, who in turn hired the firm Fusion GPS, who in turn hired a British agent named Steele to get Russians of some stripe to fabricate Enquirer-level stories about Trump.

That dossier, even though it was phony, somehow was used by the FBI in its application to the FISA Court to unmask the names of certain Americans, which is how Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn was pulled into this in the first place.  Rep. Jordan was pretty animated about it, but he had a very straightforward request.  He knew that the FISA Court's activities were classified, but the process of petitioning them (as opposed to content) was certainly not.

Can you tell this committee, Jordan asked Wray, if Peter Strzok was the FBI person who prepared and submitted the application to the FISA Court?  That was not classified data, Jordan insisted, but merely a part of the process.  And if Strzok was the one who put together the application with information that was known to be false, could that have been the reason that he was thrown off the investigation?  And if all that was true, and the special counsel's activity was based on a lie in the first place, well, why was there even a Mueller investigation?

Wray, of course, did not answer the question directly, but indicated he would be willing to provide that answer as soon as he discovered what had happened.  But I'll tell you this -- President Trump tweeted last week that the reputation of the FBI was "in tatters", and if it turns out that an FBI agent was the one pressing a political agenda inside the agency, well, their reputation should take a hit.

And we should thank Reps. Issa and Jordan for asking.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Friday, December 8, 2017

Of Embassies and Reality

On Wednesday, President Trump announced that the USA was officially moving to recognize the city of Jerusalem, Israel as the capital of that country, and proceeding to relocate our embassy there.  In doing so, he simply executed on a campaign promise he had made in 2016, which should have been lauded.  Promise made, promise kept, that sort of thing.

Moreover, it had been a previous campaign promise of pretty much all the past half-dozen presidents that they would recognize Jerusalem as the capital.  Barack Obama said that, as did George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.  We wouldn't dream, of course, that they said that in order to raise money from wealthy Jewish-American donors, never intending to follow through.

That would be, you know, lying and just wrong.

But they did, indeed, say it, and it wasn't just the presidents before Donald Trump.  The U.S. Congress also passed through a measure directing that we recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel -- in 1995, during the administration of good old Bill Clinton.  Of course, somewhere in there was a requirement that the president would have to execute on it or issue a delay, and somehow all the presidents since have managed to stall on that.

Until, of course, we had a President Trump.

But here is the thing.  On the talking-head network news, there was practically universal complaint about his actually acting on that plan.   Moreover, there was an identical phrase used by several -- at least four -- of the anchors, as if it had been distributed to them by the Democrats, although we know they never, ever would do that either.

The anchors all used the phrase "... [despite] 70 years of U.S. policy."  Now, you had to be contemptuous of the fact that the anchors were all using the same phrase, and couldn't be bothered to tweak the Democrats' talking points to suggest they actually wrote their own stuff.  But you have to be twice as contemptuous of the fact that it wasn't true!

If you had stopped the broadcast at that point in any of those network news shows and had a rational debate with the anchor, I would have asked a very simple question of the anchor.  What, I would have asked, constitutes "U.S. policy" on any issue?

If the United States Congress passes, through both houses, a resolution that the capital of Israel is Jerusalem as recognized by this nation, is that not enough to say that U.S. policy is that Jerusalem is the capital?  If four consecutive presidents promote the fact that they plan to move our embassy to Jerusalem in compliance with that resolution, is that not enough to say that U.S. policy is that Jerusalem is the capital?

Let's ask the anchors this -- You just stated -- all four of you -- that President Trump's announcement that we are actually going forward on the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital changes "70 years of U.S. policy", and you called that a bad thing.  How do you claim on-air that was not our policy, at least since the 1995 resolution and the overt declarations of the last four presidents?  Do the media make policy, or does the Government?

For the record, I have no dog in that fight.  I do not lose sleep worrying about where the U.S. Embassy in Israel is.  It has always seemed that sovereign nations have the right to decide where their capitals are, and it behooves foreign countries to locate their embassies where the nation's seat of government is, sort of like Portugal deciding to locate its embassy to the USA in Scott City, Kansas.  It's fundamentally no different.

Presumably our ambassador to Israel lives in Tel Aviv, where our embassy currently is, but has to commute the 45 miles or so to Jerusalem to do anything job-related (i.e., interacting with Israeli officials in the city where they think their own capital is), or has a second residence in Jerusalem.  Either way, it is ... OK, let's say it -- stupid.  Wasteful.  Moronic, even.

But the national media are not for a moment concerned about where our embassy is located.  Had Barack Obama followed through on his promise to move the embassy, it would have been hailed by those very same anchors as some kind of bold stroke by a bold "young" president.  "Breaking decades of U.S. policy?"  Never would have crossed their lips.

The bold stroke was actually taken by the 71-year-old current president, and will be matched in courage by the next nation to follow suit and move its embassy to Jerusalem.  I hear the Czech Republic is contemplating that now.

I wonder what the networks will say then.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Thursday, December 7, 2017

DACA Kids' Rights End at THEIR Noses

There was a fellow on the news yesterday as one of two opposing guest commentators discussing what to do with DACA people (we can't always say "kids", but I probably will here somewhere).  Those, of course, are young children brought into the USA by their parents illegally, but who have grown up here and have become American by default.

Something the "legalize them" guy said appalled me.  In the course of what might have itself been a specious argument, about how deporting them would be expensive and keeping them would increase GDP, he ended by saying that we should "legalize them and their families", and that would be wonderful for the country and show we are a nation of "grace."

I looked up at the screen when I heard "... and their families."

"Hold on there, Hoss", I yelled silently.  "What do their families have to do with this?"

And I am quite right.  Let us start with the notion that, despite my headline, the children who are subject to DACA have no rights under the Constitution; they are not citizens but people on an imminently-expiring grant to avoid deportation.  By the grace of the government of the United States, they are not being deported, along with their families, as they should be, right now.

So having dispensed with the notion of "rights", let's get to the point.  We are a compassionate nation, at least to a point.  We recognize that young children brought here not of their own volition, but who have grown up here, may have no right to be here but deporting them would not feel right, and we really don't want to do that.  They are "innocent", at least in our eyes, of illegality regarding immigration.

But they are still here illegally.  Worse, their parents, who brought them here, willfully violated USA immigration law and are criminals.  So they, my friends, are in a different situation.

We are going to have a difficult time being compassionate to the children but mindful of the violation of Federal law.  So I absolutely oppose any treatment of DACA kids (OK, I said it) that treats the parents the same as their children.  When the guy on TV added "... and their families", I would have argued right there and then.

I am fine with a path to legality and subsequent citizenship for those brought here prior to age 16.  I would insist on the same passing of tests, fluency in English and the like that we should require of legal immigrants, and a place at the end of the existing line, and granting legality of residence in some newly-created status.  But I'm OK with a program by which they can continue their lives as long as they complete all the citizenship tests within five years (and are to be deported if they're not citizens by then).

I am totally opposed to the same treatment for their criminal families.  I do not care (for this discussion) about their circumstances prior to leaving their countries; we have immigration law that covers asylum and they chose not to pursue residence that way.  So they are intentional criminals.

So how do we treat the families of those DACA children?  Well, they too need a path to legal residence, but it must take into account the fact that they entered the USA illegally, put their children in harm's way by doing so, and have a criminal status.  We are OK with them pursuing permanent residence and citizenship, but certainly not by just handing over the keys to the nation.

It is clicking with me that I did a piece on this in the past (I did, apparently, here).  My requirements and rules for those adult family members to stay would be as follows, and violation or non-compliance would lead to immediate deportation:

1) They have to register at the border, meaning that they have to return to their home country, come back through Customs and sign up with a CBP agent, the only way to enter the "adults" program.  Six months after this passes, those not yet registered are to be deported.

2) This DACA Families program is totally separate from the DACA program and every other immigration program, with its own rules.

3) To stay, you must have a job.  You cannot receive public assistance payments or food stamps, nor unemployment insurance, although your children may attend public schools and receive Federally-guaranteed college loans.  This is not meant to be easy, but if you live like legal, wage-earning Americans, it won't be hard.  And you will not be subject to Federal minimum-wage laws, so that you can more easily find work that allows you to meet this standard.

4) You must stay clean.  You will be subject to periodic drug tests until citizenship, and if you are convicted of any felony and certain misdemeanors, your time in the program ends and you will be summarily deported.  If you then enter the USA illegally, you will be subject to a minimum ten-year sentence in Federal prison.

5) You may drive, but the law will direct that the States issue drivers licenses with a special, universal and prominent indication (like a fat red diagonal stripe) that the driver is in the DACA Families program.  If a State fails to comply with this requirement (or #2 above), it will be subject to loss of Federal funds to its state universities.

6) You must show solid proficiency in English within three years of entry in the program (and if you fail the test, you have six months to retake it and pass or be deported).  And you must pass a basic citizenship test recognizing our nation's history, government and Constitution.  Of course, since they've already be living here, English and civics ought to be a snap, right?

7) You have five years to pass all the requirements for citizenship, or you are subject to deportation.

If you love your kids, and want them to stay and you to stay with them, all that is not that hard.  Considering you broke the law and have no rights, it seems a small price to pay to stay.

But you sure as heck don't get grandfathered in with any new DACA law.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Tackling One Thorny NFL Issue

Pun intended, folks.

I've been criticizing the NFL here for a host of different things lately.  Their commissioner is acting like a moron; he has far, far too much power and judge/jury/executioner authority.  The league has decided to give $100 million in "charity", much of which is going to end up in the hands of people who want to destroy America.  Their concussion-treatment history is appalling.  And they are driving fans away in droves by allowing their players to insult servicemen and women and veterans by failing to respect the American flag.

There is excessive violence on the field, as exemplified in Monday night's Steelers-Bengals game, which was so violent that it made the news -- not so much for a given dirty hit or injury, but that the game was practically non-stop injuries and dirty hits.  Rob Gronkowski of the Patriots is sitting out the team's next game, suspended for a clearly dirty hit in a different game, jumping on an opposing player who was already down -- and out of bounds.

People will be injured; that's football.  It's a violent sport to begin with, and we get that.  The players are huge people to begin with and getting bigger; there are offensive lines that average 300 pounds per lineman, which is literally twice my size.  When they run into each other at top speed, bones break.  And to get a ball carrier down, he has to be tackled, literally, such that a knee or elbow or butt touches the turf.

And that, friends, is the topic today.  Tackling.

Way back, once upon a time, I wrote a piece defending the NFL's salary cap.  My feeling was that, by capping the total salary a team could spend, it provided an equivalency of skill across the league (as measured by salary), or at least meant that the teams that were run the best, and coached the best, well, they would win more.  I thought, and still do of course, that any league wants the best-run and best-coached teams to rise to the top, rather than those with the biggest payroll.

What does that have to do with tackling, you might ask?  Well, tackling is a football fundamental.  The normal way to tackle an opposing ball-carrier is first to contain him so that he stops forward motion and cannot move forward unless he drags the tackler with him.  You do that with -- pay attention now -- your arms.

NFL players play the game for a living.  If they're lucky, they'll be in the league for three years and get out without permanent disabling injury.  So it behooves them to play the game the best way possible.

This is why I have to shake my head at the abysmal growth in what I can only call the "wrecking ball" technique used by defensive players to tackle opponents.  You watch football, so you know what I mean.  A defensive player simply runs into the ball carrier as hard as he can, trying to knock him down.  The arms are simply not part of the process; the player leads with his shoulder like a wrecking ball.

So here is my problem with that.  And let me point out that I have not played organized football at any level with the exception of the Phi Delt intramural "B" team about 45 years ago (for the record, I was a pretty good receiver then).  But I'm also not stupid, and certainly not blind, at least as long as my contact lenses are in.  So there are two things that bug me about that kind of tackling.

First, it doesn't work very well, unless the ball carrier is on the sideline and the "tackler" has an angle that forces the ball carrier out of bounds.  That's probably as reliable as good old arm tackling, I guess.  But on the rest of the field, as often as not, or at least really often, the ball carrier, who can typically see the defender coming, can position himself so that even though he gets hit hard, he maintains (or can retain) balance.

And if he does, he is likely to make some good yards thereafter, because the defender is now completely off balance and does not have a grip on the ball carrier.  Since that defender is the one who is supposed to tackle that ball carrier, his teammates simply are not there to help.  Big gain follows, friends, and that's not good, particularly at the professional level.

But the second thing that bugs me is different, and maybe more philosophical.  Tackling, good old two-handed tackling, grabbing the legs or less nether reasons, is intended to bring down the ball carrier by making it impossible for him to go forward.  Wrecking-ball tackling, on the other hand, is intended to hurt the player being tackled.  And that stinks.

As this week's violent games showed, breaking the bones of other players is not a really popular outcome.  So when an action, in this case a tackling technique, is intended to injure the ball carrier rather than bringing an appropriate body part to the turf (still attached to the ball carrier, we should add), well, that is an act of violence that should be inconsistent with the way football is played.

It's sort of like the whole "rip the ball from the running back's hands" thing we see all the time, which I'm not really a fan of either.  But as far as the wrecking-ball "technique", well, I don't want to see it banned by the league -- I want to see it stopped by coaches.  And I want to see the coaches stop it because it is particularly ineffective at actually bringing down the runner.

Remember what I said about the best-coached teams winning in a salary-capped league?  Well, check out the tackling technique of the teams that are consistent winners.  You find yourself repeatedly saying "good tackle" for those teams, because they coach their players to tackle effectively.  Yes, even they have players who do the wrecking ball thing, but hopefully they get it quietly pointed out to them in film review the next day.  And those teams win, and win a lot.

That will not change.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Impeachment, Really?

Yesterday I noticed that for a few moments there was a story lead on Yahoo News about some "Republican strategist" who was saying that impeachment of President was "closer than it may appear."  The article linked was from The Hill, for what it's worth, but at least to provide proper attribution.

I never heard of the "strategist" personally, not that it matters, nor whether I know for whom a Republican strategist (or Democrat, for that matter), works and gets paid.  It's not a profession I suspect provides consistent employment, even if the election season does indeed seem to go on 12 months a year.  But it is indeed the title given to a lot of the guests on the TV news these days.

But I digress.

The article was interesting in that it simply dealt with the notion of whether articles of impeachment could even be voted out of the House, and mainly whether it was possible based on the political climate associated with the ongoing Mueller investigation.  I should point out that as I write this, after many months of investigation, that investigation has generated exactly zero evidence for its intended purpose, i.e., that the Trump campaign colluded with Russians to throw the 2016 election.

But it's still going on, with no end predicted.  Go figure.  They have determined that retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn lied as to whether he had done this or that, all of which was done after the election, meaning that it had nothing to do with the election itself.  The "this or that", about which it is unclear why he felt the need to lie, had to do (I think) with approaches to foreign governments, including Russia, about policy issues.  These were issues where the Trump people differed markedly with the kicked-out Obama people, and therefore needed to ask certain foreign leaders, after the election, to keep their powder dry as far as retaliation, until inauguration.

Now those approaches -- themselves -- are not only legal, but they are encouraged (and maybe mandated) by congressional-passed law covering transitions of new administrations.  So it was certainly foolish of Flynn to have lied about things that were not illegal in the first place.  Of course that means that the "crime" on his part was, in effect, created by the investigation but exacerbated by his own suspicions of the questioners.

That said, Flynn can't be impeached, since he doesn't hold office.  The left is not targeting Flynn as a main point of attack but as a means to an end, the end being to try to bring down the Trump presidency.  Since that is their goal, and not "justice" or "truth" or even "accuracy", the only means to do so is the political one.  Since they can't be bothered to wait for an election (the actual political mechanism), they want to impeach President Trump, and do so now.  Perhaps that is why the Hill article nowhere mentioned anything done by the president that actually warranted impeachment.

So I struggle as to whether I want them to do so or not.  I think there is a reasonable argument for my wanting them to go ahead and pose articles in the House, and for Speaker Ryan to go ahead and let them go to the floor.

I'm thinking ahead here.  There is not a snowball's chance on my stove top that articles of impeachment would be voted out of the House.  First and foremost, there is no crime.  It would seem to be a prerequisite for an impeachment hearing that a crime would have been committed by the subject, right?  So I'm not sure what the leftists' bill of particulars would even be.

Robert Mueller and his legions of Hillary Clinton donors have come up with exactly zero indication of an actual criminal action on the part of the President after months of diligent and highly-biased research.  It ought to occur to Mueller that he has made a sacrificial lamb out of Gen. Flynn, that it's all there is, and wrap up the investigation this week, rather than blowing through more millions in taxpayer dollars.  A decent fellow would do that, leaving Flynn as the Scooter Libby of this non-scandal.

More to the point, with no crime uncovered, nothing even remotely untoward in the campaign, and no collusion (which is also not a crime, but apparently didn't happen anyway), how would an impeachment effort go?  And that is the key.  If the Democrats were to make an actual effort to put a bill of impeachment forward, they would look so stupid, so empty, so senseless that it would put their party at grave risk of being embarrassed to the point of having no chance in the next elections.

I'd be thrilled, of course.  The more the Speaker let the Democrats dig a hole for themselves, the worse the left would look, as if they had no actual ideas to put forth (duh).  They would be the party that tried to overthrow a president with no crime having been committed, and using the act of impeachment politically to do so, something which wasn't exactly helpful to the Republicans even when Bill Clinton was impeached for actually committing perjury.

Oh, it would be nice for the USA to turn on the Democrats for that.

But there's also this.  You know and I know that an impeachment effort would go exactly nowhere, probably not even getting voted out of committee to the floor (unless some chipmunky Republican committee members read my last few paragraphs), and certainly not passing the House.  The effort would surely poison the Democrats for a long while.

However, to let it go that far would create an unholy precedent.  Even though impeachment is a political process, that doesn't mean it should be used for political purposes.  In other words, if the "crime" for which the articles are put forth is not a crime at all, but a political disagreement with the president acting in accordance with his Constitutional duties, that means that it can be done again later on, by the other party when in power.

I don't know if we want to see that.  Donald Trump has not committed an impeachable offense while president, in any stretch of the word.  If we were to let articles go forward for a vote, then there is nothing to stop House Democrats from trying again a month later on no better grounds.  And there is nothing to stop Republican congressmen in the future from proposing impeachment without criminal act for a Democrat president, even one who did nothing more than tell the Russian representative to "tell Vladimir I'll be more free after the election."  Whatever that meant.

This is America.  Our Constitution is a really precious document, preserving as it does the nature of a free nation, and protecting us from a rapacious government.  The Constitution does not have impeachment of a Federal official in there so that we can execute the removal of a political opponent, but to prevent corruption by those officials.  If we redefine grounds so that it is allowed, even once, to vote articles that are completely political, we open a Pandora's Box that can never be closed.

As much as I like seeing Democrats act stupid -- and there is massive precedent for that every day -- the precedent of a crimeless impeachment proceeding is a Constitutionally threatening case that's just not worth the humor in seeing Democrats flail.

We need to let them fail on their own merit, repeatedly and completely.

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.