Wednesday, January 31, 2018

And Newsweek Goes Kersplat

Back in 2012, Newsweek magazine discontinued its print edition after some 80 years, in favor of an online-only version, deciding that the magazine could no longer turn a profit by publishing a printed copy.  An ownership change or two later, the print edition returned in 2014, but the "magazine", such as it is, had been struggling for decades and still is.  We start to understand why.

This is, as we know, the same Newsweek that declined to publish the story its own reporter had broken about the affair between Bill Clinton and his much-younger intern, Monica Lewinsky.  It is pretty bad when you publish fake news stories, as the media are wont to do these days, but it is just awful when you have the scandal of the decade in your own hands, broken by your own reporter, but just bury the story to protect ... well, I don't know what the purpose of that was.

So I happened to have been scrolling through a news feed from somewhere -- might have been Yahoo for some reason -- when I came across this link to a Newsweek story.  Now, for those of you who have an aversion to following links to Newsweek stories (and I don't blame you), here is the gist of the story.

Guy Fieri, the spiky-haired celebrity chef and restaurateur with a number of TV shows to his credit, apparently was closing a restaurant of his in Times Square in New York.  That might not have been news and, I suppose, it really isn't anyway, except that apparently the building that his restaurant was located in happened to be owned by the real estate company of Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and the husband of Ivanka Trump.

I know what you're saying.  "It still doesn't sound like news" ... and you're absolutely right.

That, of course, doesn't faze Newsweek.  They picked up a story that had actually been first written by the Washington Post in regard to the closing, and made words out of it, enough to be able to make a ... well, it wasn't a story, so I'll call it a "piece" for convenience.  Apparently the $17 million a year that the piece said Fieri was grossing on the restaurant, "Guy's American Kitchen and Bar", was not enough to pay the bills.  That included the $1.8 million rent on the Times Square location paid to the Kushner Company.

I kept reading through the piece to decipher what the actual news was.  About a third of the way through though, I figured that the ulterior motive was to make Jared Kushner look bad -- it was Newsweek, after all -- and then it started to make sense.

We were supposed to read that, and decide that the Kushner Company was charging exorbitant rent, and that's why poor Guy Fieri couldn't make a go of it.  Curiously, the piece seemed to have a real good line on Fieri's finances, because it pointed out that he would have needed to have grossed $30 million to make a profit on the location.  That, of course, defeats the purpose of the story, since even if the rent were free, simple arithmetic tells us that Fieri was still more than $11 million short in revenues to have made it work.

I read the piece yesterday morning but, curiously, when I went back to the Newsweek site to quote it properly in the afternoon while writing this, it had been nominally removed; a search of the site for "Fieri" came back with "You are not authorized to view this page."  Remember that three hours earlier it was apparently so important to Yahoo that it was sitting tight at the top of their stories.

I then went back and searched on "Kushner" on the site.  I wasn't allowed to view anything on Guy Fieri, apparently, but I found more stories on Jared Kushner than you can shake a stick at.  The Fieri restaurant story was not there, but the rest of the breathless Kushner news included:

- "Jared Kushner is a woman" (Serious.  Not making that up.)
- "Jared Kushner speaks in public, and here's what his voice sounds like"
- "Jared Kushner's high school is making students write letters of appreciation to Donald Trump"
- "Jared Kushner's NYC buildings aren't entirely his"
- "Jared Kushner's company cheated tenants out of cheap rent"

You may think I'm kidding.  Try it yourself; the above were five of the first eight linked stories that came up when I searched on "Kushner."

When I see a White House press conference or daily briefing, and I see the collected media types puffing themselves up to ask questions of the press secretary, and taking self-righteous tones when they speak of the media and refer to themselves as "journalists", well, I wonder.  I would like to ask them what they think now of a magazine that was common reading in the doctors' offices of my youth and early adulthoodth.

What, I'd like to ask, do they think of the "journalism" that entails creating stories out of things one could really not call "news", and then writing them in such a way as to cast an otherwise-benign public figure in the most villainous light possible.

Not long ago, I wrote about evaluating President Trump based on who his enemies were, and I mentioned the left and ISIS and a few others.  I mentioned the media among the enemies, and I certainly stand by that now.

Of course, we never laughed at the left and ISIS.  But if Newsweek has become this after all those years, and Newsweek is what the media have become, any serious journalist would have to think hard about staying in the business.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Disruptive Again

Two years ago, in the early-middle of the presidential primary campaign, I did a piece on this site that I would be delighted if you would read, before going forward today.  Pour a cup of coffee; here is the link.  A few days later, I followed up with this one, in case your coffee is still warm and you're a fast reader.

The first, more important for this column, dealt with the notion of then-primary candidate Donald Trump and the nature of his campaign.  I used the term "disruptive" to describe his campaign, referencing the term "disruptive technologies" as those that make us all think and act differently from our previous norm (smart phones, single-cup coffee machines, Bluetooth, etc.).

I talked about his approach to campaigning and trying to decide whether anyone might actually take that tack again, or whether another total non-public servant might try to follow that path.  Donald Trump was disrupting the campaign stereotypes then -- his Republican rivals and then Hillary Clinton never knew how to react -- and he is doing the same now.

I have trouble deciding how "disruptive" Donald Trump the president is.  Maybe a tiny bit; maybe a whole lot.

For jollies, I went to YouTube this weekend and enjoyed watching clips from the Election Night coverage of the major networks and cable news.  Except for Fox News, it was striking to see the media striking the mutual tone of astonishment (at the upset in the results) and fear -- the fear being that they simply didn't know what President Trump was going to do.

Yet all that fear turned out to be unfounded, if you can glean anything from the first year of the Trump Administration.  The fear was of Trump the man, and Trump the president turned out to be an image of Trump the businessman.  If anything, we might be astonished at the singular focus with which he is going about addressing the things he pledged to do in his campaign:

- Reduce excessive, business-choking regulations
- Project the USA as a strong leader of the world
- Build a strong border and wall and overhaul legal immigration
- Crush ISIS to the extent we had the military capability to do so
- Cut the corporate tax rate hugely and lower individual rates
- Repeal and replace Obamacare
- Reestablish friendships with our allies
- Pack the Federal judiciary with strong conservative judges

Except for Obamacare, whose individual mandate at least is repealed, and the wall and immigration, which are on their way, the rest are actually a "check."

So in a sense, Trump the president is actually disruptive (or perhaps Reaganesque) in doing what he said he was going to do, for the sake of getting done what he thinks the nation needs.  Presidents don't often do that, after all.  The businessman in Donald Trump rejects the typical "go along to get along" approach in the "swamp", in favor of actually doing what is needed, rolling up his sleeves and doing it.

Donald Trump the person can't abide the stupidity of people like Nancy Pelosi ("People will die!") in politics and "Jay-Z" in entertainment, and seems to revel in making fun of their over-the-top comments in tweets.  Presidents don't usually do that ... will the next one operate that way?

Donald Trump the businessman assumes there is a deal to be made on any issue of contention, including the border wall/DACA/immigration reform issue.  He is not the one out there leaking elements of the negotiations, which ultimately will embarrass the Dick Durbin, Adam Schiff and Mark Warner types who do, at least until they realize they can get some input into governance if they just cooperate.  Will the next president be like that?

Donald Trump, the disruptive president, realizes that the media are almost totally against his success and committed to prevent it, even if his approaches would make the nation and people better.  They control the airwaves, so he takes to Twitter to make sure the USA knows what he is thinking and what he is trying to accomplish -- because the media won't.  He does not use an editor (though I'll take the job if it's open), and that's probably not a bad thing; the tweets sound reliably like him.

I'm not sure if I made a point here, but I do believe that, for completely different reasons, one could argue that President Trump is as much the disruptive individual as president as he was as a candidate.  It might be because he is actually something we didn't expect.

A president committed to getting the job done.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Monday, January 29, 2018

Um, Thanks Obama? For What, Exactly?

Instead of fading off to a ranch somewhere with cowboy boots and ten-gallon hat, or taking a professorship in some ivy-covered university where he can prattle on to his fawning believers, Barack Obama is still around.

Now he is trying to take credit for the economic boom of 2017 and the first year of the Trump Administration.  His egotistical "Thanks, Obama" tagline is out there in his speeches, trying to take some credit for the fact that people are working now, and more people in the workforce are getting jobs, and that the economy is growing at a rate that was not happening during his eight years.

"Thanks, Obama", he himself says, patting himself on the back in a "post hoc, ergo propter hoc" kind of way, the Latin term for assuming that if A came after B, well, it must have been caused by B.  Sort of like "Hillary Clinton is not president because I went to IHOP for breakfast last September."

Well, you know what?  I'm open to anyone who wants to make that argument on behalf of the previous president.  If anyone from Obama on down (or on up) wants to try to explain the cause-and-effect relationship between anything specific that Obama did and any private-sector employment growth, or any increase in corporate valuation, or any legitimate metric of a sound and growing economy, well, I'll be happy to monitor the Comments section and listen to you.

Unfortunately, Obama and his sycophants and toadies would have to deal with the realities that are there.  For example, he points to the stock market, which rose gradually over the eight years of Obama's tenure.  "See, I was the cause of that", he tells you.  "If you give Trump credit, you have to give it to me."

Except, of course, that there was a lot of difference.  Obama came to office with a market already depressed far below its peak of around 14,000 from the summer of 2007.  It did not return to that level until 2013, the fifth year of his tenure; in other words, only by 2013 did the market actually return to a valuation that it had already established.

President Trump, on the other hand, took office with the market, at around a 19,000 Dow, at its highest level ever.  It jumped to about 20,000 by his inauguration, solely on the expectation of what was to come, and sits at about 26,500 as I write this, having gained 7,500 points -- 40% -- since his election.  Your 401(k) and mine are accordingly smiling.  All of that increase constitutes new value that, unlike the gains during most of Obama's tenure, entails levels never seen previously.

The significant difference, of course, is what happens when we go back to the post hoc, ergo propter hoc part of the discussion.

The 40% boom in the markets, the 3% growth in the GDP we are experiencing that never happened in any year under Obama, those things can legitimately be attributed to the Trump presidency.

From the first day of the administration -- before, actually -- he started working with companies to get them to move plants and factories from overseas to the USA, to add American jobs, to repatriate money, to commit to building and growth here.  He committed to reducing stifling and job-killing regulation that was a prime reason for slow hiring, lack of construction, and relocation of facilities and jobs overseas.

Business responded.  They committed to, and started, building here and hiring here.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment rate is still a terribly constructed metric, but it, too is at extremes of low unemployment.  The reduction of regulations has made it easier to hire than under Obama; the substantial drop in the corporate tax rate has led to wage increases, bonuses and more jobs.  And foreign companies, as we saw in the Davos summit, are committing to invest heavily in the USA.

All that is happening because of concrete, identifiable actions on the part of the Administration and the Republican-led Congress.  We can point to "The government did this, and that directly led to that."  Attribution is easy; the CEOs in Davos flat-out said that what they were doing was because of the actions of the Trump team.

Barack Obama and his toadies and sycophants, of course, will claim that the 2017-18 boom is the result of the policies of his team.  We are supposed to thank him for his marvelous economic leadership, and worship at the feet of the All-Knowing.

Well, I am actually willing.  All I ask first, though, is that you provide me a concrete, cause-and-effect relationship between a specific policy implementation of his, or a particular legislative outcome that he drove, and a specific positive economic outcome that can be logically tied to his presidency.  Shoot, I'll take any Obama proposal on the economy even if it didn't get passed!

I don't think you're going to find one.  His policies, specifically Obamacare, were so unpopular that he lost the House to the Republicans the first chance the nation had, and had lost the Senate by the time he left office.  The House never again voted in anything legislative that Obama wanted, and his administrative ram-throughs, in the form of executive orders and bureaucrat-built regulations, were all anti-business and anti-growth.

But I'm willing to listen to any rational argument on which we should be appreciative to Obama for the 2017 boom in the economy of the USA, and the follow-on already in 2018.  I just think you won't find any, and you'll end up having to say what we all will be saying for years.

"Thanks, Trump!"

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Friday, January 26, 2018

When You Have Too Much Time

One day in the life of the Red Sox
The picture at right is of the south wall in my office at home.  The photograph, about five feet wide, was a gift, probably a Christmas gift if memory serves, from my younger son Jay some years ago.

I decided when I set up the new office in March that there was finally room to hang it in a distinct and prominent position in the office, having decided not to hang a bunch of other things, even including an autographed picture of Neil Armstrong.  OK, that one may get put back up pretty soon, but for the moment it is stored.

At any rate, having too much time on my hands one day, I decided to try to figure out what the picture actually was of, because of course I needed to know that.  Well, we know it is a picture of a live ballgame at Fenway Park in Boston; it's just that the picture was, or was not, of a really important day in the long history of the Red Sox.  I didn't know, and one day I had to.

Plus, today is Friday, and I know I'm tending toward the irrelevant on Friday.

Because of the odd shaping of the picture, which is actually a photograph rendered on canvas, it doesn't convey in this column the way I wish it did.  Many of the key scoreboard words are not distinct enough to make out.  But there are, trust me, at least some distinguishing clues to help decide what is going on.  The first-baseline scoreboard indicates a 1-0 count on the hitter, in the fifth inning.  It is not clear the score, except it looks like it is maybe 5-4 against the Sox.  There are seats above the left field wall (the "Green Monster"), dating the picture to no older than the 2003 season, when they were installed.

The Green Monster is not visible save its extreme right end, which says that Atlanta will be playing in LA against the Dodgers later.  The lights are on, and it appears to be a night game; a clock on the main scoreboard appears to be showing "8:38", confirming that.  The big scoreboard in center field is very blurred, but you can make out that the batter is named, and it is Kenny Lofton, and that he is wearing number 7 (the batter himself is facing you, so you can't read his uniform, but you can see he is black and looks like Kenny Lofton).  And his uniform front is blurred too, but distinct enough to make out "XAS", confirming that the opposing team is the Texas Rangers.

The only other clue is that the pitcher is a lefty, and is number 61.  He is stretching his right (glove) arm before getting a sign.  And from that, it was time to date the picture.

Baseball Reference is a wonderful resource for aficionados, providing all the information you need on games, players and teams.  I head there regularly, because there is always a question.  And I figured I could start with the pitcher, since "61" is a number usually given to minor leaguers up for a time in the big leagues before they show themselves worthy of a lower number.

Sure enough, without even getting to Baseball Reference, was available with their all-time list of uniform numbers.  Number 61 has only been worn by two lefty pitchers since 2003, Kason Gabbard (2006-07) and Felix Doubront (2010-12).  The latter is a more swarthy Venezuelan player, and the pictured pitcher appears Caucasian, but better to use more evident facts.

Doubront faced the Rangers at Fenway only once in 2010, pitching into the fifth inning.  In 2011, he did not pitch in the fifth inning of any such game, and in 2012 he did not face Texas at Fenway at all.  And in that game in 2010, Kenny Lofton did not play (he was not on the Rangers that year).  So it was indeed not Doubront pitching.  That leaves Kason Gabbard.

Kason Gabbard pitched for three years in the majors, with a 4-0 record in 2007 for Boston before being traded to -- of all teams -- Texas, at the end of July.  He did not face the Rangers in 2006, which makes the single appearance he made against Texas, on July 2, 2007, the actual game appearing on the canvas in my office.  I know there was nothing special about that game, but I figured I'd see if I could trace the exact moment.

Baseball Register has the pitch by pitch accounting.  Boston and Gabbard went into that fifth inning with a 4-0 lead.  Lofton was the sixth batter of the inning; the previous five had gone walk, strikeout, single, three-run homer, walk.  Lofton came up to bat with the tying run at first and one out.  So we know that the score on the picture that looked like 5-4 Texas was actually 4-3 Boston, and we know that the count was definitely 1-0, so there were no fouls to have to count.

We know that Lofton would eventually ground out on a 3-2 count, which was the sixth pitch of the at-bat.  So the picture is of the moment shortly after the first pitch of the at-bat, after ball one, with a 1-0 count on Kenny Lofton of the Texas Rangers, who were trailing Boston 4-3 at that exact moment, on Monday, July 2, 2007.

Eric Hinske would double in three runs for Boston in the bottom half of the fifth, Gabbard would pitch through two outs in the 6th to get the victory, and the Red Sox would go on to win 7-3.  They would further go on to win the American League East, would win the Division and League Championship Series and then sweep the Colorado Rockies to become 2007 World Champions.

Three and a half weeks later, Kenny Lofton would be traded back to the Cleveland Indians, where he had spent most of the first half of his long career, and would retire after that 2007 season.  A few days after that trade, Kason Gabbard would be traded to the Rangers, for the reliever Eric Gagne.

And at some point, someone decided that the picture that was taken of that particular moment at Fenway would make a great picture to put on canvas, and my son would discover it and decide it would make a great gift for his dad.

And that, they say, is the rest of the non-story.  Have a great weekend.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Thursday, January 25, 2018

What Women Want

OK, that caption probably sounds like click-bait, or something that would be an article tease on the cover of some men's magazine (or Cosmopolitan).  It's a joke, of course, because no one knows what women want.

Including, apparently, women.

Last week, we were treated to a set of "women's marches" around the nation, mostly of course, on the coasts.  Ostensibly they were to raise awareness of "women's issues", except that it was pretty murky what those issues might be, except of course for aborting unborn babies -- which is already legal.

I say that, because I took pains to watch some of the on-the-street interviews of women who were out there marching their little feet off.  I really wanted to know what they wanted, because since no one could precisely say what the marches were for, I figured at least the people who were doing the marches ought to have some idea of why they were there.

So it would have been one thing if the marchers interviewed had cited four or five different issues that maybe a dozen of the marchers would have noted when asked.  That would be OK.  What was not so OK, depending on how you look at it, was that the prevailing answer didn't actually have a reason for marching in it, certainly if you concede that answering "women's rights" is a true non-answer.  It is indeed not an answer, given that you pretty much have to explain what rights they currently don't have in law (hint: I don't know either).

That doesn't say they weren't effective, at least in getting attention.  After all, all three of the main TV networks had stories (or at least mention) of the marches, which was curious given that not one of them so much as mentioned the fact that five whole months' worth of texts, between the two senior FBI people who were engaged in an extramarital affair, had disappeared, and the FBI was apologizing profusely to Congress about it.  That was not worth even noting, but the marches for no clear purpose were.

Well, if marches get attention then, by God, it ought to work both ways.

It is clearly time for conservative women to take the streets.  Their message, an economic one that says that a woman who wants a job can now get one since President Trump's removal of regulatory bars to hiring, well, it ought to be heard.  Their message might include a desire to protect their unborn children and promote adoption, but it does not have to -- but it could be heard as well.

Their message, which could include support for the USA military that protects their homes from foreign attack, could be heard.  Even their appeal to have their and their children's jobs protected from competition from illegal aliens could be heard.

There are certainly messages and, although they may not be specific to women, at least they coalesce into a platform, one that coincidentally is the one that won the White House last year.  And I encourage them, accordingly, to take to the march lanes.  Let the nation and the press know that the left does not have a monopoly on what's good for women, especially when they send female marchers out who apparently don't even know why they are walking.

Of course, this has been done before, although primarily for the single issue of opposing abortion.  Curiously enough, the press either never covered them, or spent an equal amount of coverage on the opponents, even if they weren't 1% in number of the total.  So maybe conservative women, not all of whom are even pro-life, ought to try to take all their issues out there and march in numbers that the press can't ignore.

I might even walk with them, and I have a Y chromosome.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Tired of Little Children -- Like Antifa and Palestinians

I was not the most well-behaved child.  Let's get that out of the way.  I was very typical in that if I didn't get my way I was as likely to scream and yell and pout and do what little children did, as the next little child.  It was the '50s.

So were you, if truth be told, right, whenever you grew up.

Now, children can be cute and funny and clever, and they see things through eyes mostly unsullied by experience.  Art Linkletter made a career out of trotting such kids out on his show, asking them questions and then a fortune writing books full of their answers.

But their unwillingness to accept things that don't go their way is not exactly their most endearing quality.  Half of parenting books, if truth be told, consist of what we are supposed to do when our children act up.  Whack them on the behind, perhaps, or give them a treat to shut them up.  Those are the two extremes of guidance, and they result in what you would expect those kids to grow up expecting (hint: the ones who get the treats end up needing "safe zones" in college).

That was pointed out to me when the latest group acting like children acted like children.  That would be the Palestinians, who are calling a general strike on the West Bank because the USA is moving our embassy to Israel from its old location in Tel Aviv, where the Israeli government is not, to Jerusalem, where the Israeli government actually is.

Of course, children don't usually then take up arms and commit violence.  And of course, the Palestinians most assuredly will, as is their norm, particularly if their strike is greeted with a ho-hum and no change in the status of the embassy, which it likely will.

The Palestinians might have an argument about their own status, and they are perfectly free, depending on what country they are in, to try to press that argument like rational adults.  In fact, to the extent that it is the Israelis that they are actually pressing that with, a rational discussion might lead to a reasonable outcome -- assuming they actually want a reasonable outcome.

But the inevitable violence will only tar them with the same brush that we here in the USA have experienced -- with the Antifa types, the ones who protest whatever they are protesting by breaking windows, clashing with police there to protect them, and leaving people wondering what they actually do for a living, fascists pretending to oppose fascism, that actually does not exist where they see it.

It is the same violent reaction we saw in Baltimore, and in Ferguson and Watts.  And now we are seeing it -- OK, we have always seen it -- in the Middle East.

Commonality?  Of course there is.  Much like congressional Democrats, except for the violence, there are people who resort to violence when they have no sound point to make.  I would also add that these people with the immediate turn to violence lack something besides an actual agenda of solutions that have worked before -- competent, thinking leadership.

Look not just at Antifa, or the Baltimore rioters, or the Palestinians, none of whom have an idea to offer and none of which have any leaders with whom you would want to have a rational conversation.  Is it any wonder that their immaturity leads to groupthink, which ends up leading to violence?

Is it any difference that congressional Democrats, absent any ideas, have been forced to rally behind "leaders" of no capability whatsoever, like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, neither of whom can articulate a single reason why anyone should ever vote for a Democrat?  Are we surprised a bit that violence hasn't broken out there in Congress, or are they simply too old to remember how children behave?

I've written before about basic human actions, why children bully each other and befriend some and try to embarrass others to make themselves look good.  It would be depressing to think that groups bereft of ideas fall, absent articulate leadership, into that same level of maturity and turn to violence.

Perhaps the Palestinians, like Antifa and the urban rioters before them, simply have nothing to say.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Pardon Obama NOW -- the Brilliant Strategy for Trump

There is, as everyone knows (or should know), a new classified memo, a copy of which is being held in a secure area of Congress.  The memo describes, we are led to believe, efforts on the part of people in the Justice Department and FBI to conduct a program of spying on the 2016 Trump campaign on behalf of the Obama Administration, which was engaged in an effort to ensure the election of Hillary Clinton.

That the effort failed is pretty ironic -- if the top law enforcement entity in the world couldn't find anything worthy of feeding to the press to bring down the Trump campaign, and had to hire people to make it up and then use the fiction to justify further spying to a FISA court -- well, maybe our FBI isn't as good as we thought.  Or they were, but the nation's commitment to draining the swamp was even stronger.

At any rate, most of the Republicans in Congress, and as I write this I believe exactly one Democrat, have gone to the secure facility to read the memo.  They cannot talk about it, of course, and it is a bit surprising that more has not leaked to date (which tells you about which party can keep secrets, I guess), but we are hearing some things.

What we are hearing is not pretty.  If most of it can be inferred and believed, the Obama Administration, in the form of senior officials in the Justice Department and the FBI, conspired to destroy the candidacy of Donald Trump, an American citizen, by spying on him.  They misused the FISA process by commissioning the creation of a work of fiction about Mr. Trump and then using it to obtain a FISA warrant for the spying.

This is pretty awful.  Corruption is bad, and gross, politically-motivated corruption is appalling and must never be allowed to happen again.

So let us stipulate that the above happened, and that former Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former FBI Director James Comey were aware of it, and officials in the Hillary Clinton campaign, including the candidate herself, likely would been aware as well.  If that is the case, it is hard to see where the former president would not also have been somehow aware, unless there was a second conspiracy among Lynch and Comey and others to insulate Obama -- even if they were convinced Hillary would win and nothing would ever happen to him.

We stipulate the above, and we know that some pretty familiar names -- Lynch, Comey, Rosenstein, McCabe, Strzok, Page, Ohr and others -- are going to be charged with whatever crimes apply, and those still in government will be summarily dismissed (why are they still working now?).  They should be, if it turns out they are involved, as we know Strzok, Page, McCabe and Ohr certainly are.

OK, so say that I am President Trump.  I know that it is likely that the guilty will be punished eventually; the president knows that.  A lot of the subsequent news will be about who does or does not get punished, and how long the sentences are.  So let's think of this from the most advantageous perspective for President Trump.

I did, and I have an absolutely brilliant strategy for him.

President Trump, I recommend that as soon as the memo comes out, you issue a pardon to Barack Obama for any Federal crime associated with the corruption of the Justice Department and FBI in conspiring to destroy the 2016 election by illegally spying on the Trump campaign.

Sure, Obama may or may not have had anything to do with the spying.  But in a purely political way, a pardon is exactly what is needed.

First, it gives President Trump the high road -- instead of a constitutional crisis, or whatever you would call a trial involving a former president abusing his role, we are left with a presumption of guilt, without having to go to trial, make a case or risk an acquittal.  Obama, along with Richard Nixon the only president ever pardoned, will be diminished forever in the eyes of the public, while Trump will look like the better man.  And that's OK, because we really don't care if Obama goes to jail; we just want the stain of the scandal appropriately and deservedly applied to him.

Second, it increases the likelihood of 100% guilty verdicts on those for whom there is a case and who don't plead out their sentence.  Juries and judges like to see the top dog get his due, and if they see Obama walk, they're less likely to let the actual perpetrators get off.

Third, it will keep the corruption story in the news far longer than it might be otherwise.  Pardons of an ex-president are the kind of news even CNN has to keep talking about, and there's no spin on it that is going to make the left sound good.  Hardly any Democrat is going to want to concede that it is ever OK for the awesome power of the American Federal judiciary to be co-opted for political purposes to damage a political opponent's campaign.

I could probably write a book on this, but I'm sure your mind is taking this in some further directions, and they're all good.

President Trump -- I strongly urge you to consider this simple pardon.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Monday, January 22, 2018

Collusion Or Not -- Baseball, Not Russia

Last week I came across an interesting article -- I disagreed with it all, but it was interesting -- in regard to Major League Baseball's frightfully inactive off-season.

As I write this, pretty much none of the top free agents, in what has admittedly not been exactly the most talent-heavy class, has signed a new contract.  A relief pitcher here and there has signed, but the lead dogs in the sled -- outfielder JD Martinez of Arizona, first baseman Eric Hosmer and third baseman Mike Moustakas (and outfielder Lorenzo Cain) of Kansas City, pitchers Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta and Alex Cobb (and Lance Lynn and a few others) -- are still unsigned, by anyone.

We know that Martinez, a great hitter but deplorable fielder, is looking for a huge contract and at least six years, and the rest are looking for equally unrealistic dollars and years as well.  The second-tier free agents are not moving either, regardless of their desires, simply because as the teams who could sign them wait for the top tier players to decide what they will do, the need -- a competing one, we have to note -- is murky.

For example, while Hosmer is looking for a huge contract, Boston had to decide whether his demands, and those of Martinez, would come down before they knew if they would have to look for a first baseman.  They eventually decided not to wait and signed back Mitch Moreland, a second-tier first baseman who had played for the Red Sox pretty well last year.  Hosmer will have to go elsewhere -- and the diminished market for him will cost him money.

Boston is mainly waiting for Martinez, having made what they see as a reasonable offer to him to be a designated hitter.  Martinez is really good at that, and really not good as a fielder.  So the only team for which his bat is a plus but his glove not a minus is one with a need at DH, and budget space to accommodate him.  That list includes Boston and ... well, Boston.  The National League doesn't have a DH, and the rest of the American League teams don't need one.  Rather than bid against themselves, Boston is waiting for Martinez's demands to temper back to the reality of the market.

Martinez, of course, is not the one directly making those demands.  They are being made by his agent, Scott Boras.  Boras has a well-deserved reputation for over-hyping his clients, and in this case, he is the agent for about all the higher-end free agents out there.  Since Boras's reputation also includes letting his charges go unsigned well into the off-season, we have now the situation where the rest of the free agents can't get an offer, until the top tier sign and the remaining teams know what they need -- but the guy representing the top tier is taking them far into the winter.

Of course, from the outside this (the dearth of free-agent signing) looks like the exact outcome you would have if the owners had gotten together and decided they were not going to sign anyone past five years and $100 million, or something like that.  Of course we could be suspicious, since in the 1980s the owners did exactly that, albeit for fewer years and more 1980s-like dollars.

That is called "collusion", and is specifically banned in the collective bargaining agreement with the players that is now in force.  But correlation does not equate to causality, as I think I have explained by giving you a perfectly good reason why none of those players has signed.

That doesn't stop writers, like those in the article I read, from writing a whole piece assuming that because none of the chief players has signed, the owners must be colluding.

I think I have a pretty good argument as to why those players haven't signed yet, and it has everything to do with the agent of many of them.  But I could certainly compile an entirely equally-valid argument that I haven't mentioned as yet.  That's the "historical context" argument.

It starts with Albert Pujols, about whom I wrote two years back.  Pujols signed a ten-year deal with the Angels, and has played six of those seasons.  He played a full 2017 season, now reduced to only a DH role, and was 19% below a league-average hitter for close to $30 million.

If LA had gotten the first five years, which weren't bad, from Pujols and his contract was now done after the miserable 2017, they probably would have written last year off and been OK.  But Pujols's contract still has four years left, and $114,000,000 still to pay, for which the Angels will likely get next to nothing from their DH that they couldn't get from a good minor-league bat.

The Yankees are facing the same with outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, with time left and no productivity, after they got the same with the last few years of a silly extension for Alex Rodriguez, and the last few years of a too-long contract for Mark Teixeira, and they appear to have decided to be more chary with those kinds of agreements.  Boston is struggling to get a decent year from Hanley Ramirez, and are still paying for a terrible contract for Pablo Sandoval.

There are so many, many examples of the damage of long contracts and so few, few examples of solid productivity through any of them.  It is perfectly reasonable that 30 team owners simply looked at recent history and, independent of each other, decided that it made no sense either to tie up too big a percentage of their player salary budgets on one or two players, or to allow another too-long contract for too-little productivity to hamstring their program.

Collusion not only isn't really likely, it wasn't necessary.  Logic, pure logic should have dominated the proposed rationales for the slow off-season.  Logic, and Scott Boras.

But I guess we'll see, won't we?

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Friday, January 19, 2018

The Creepy Part of the Health Insurance Issue

I am going to discuss today an example of an actual person and their health case, although I'm changing the name and an irrelevant fact or two.  What I have to stress is that this is not about that person, or her situation, as much as the extent to which she is representative of a larger issue.  There are lots of "Marys" around, and the fact that there are is the real topic.

Mary is not her real name, of course.  She is about 70, and a sort of "relative by marriage and then by marriage", so I know her somewhat.  She lives with her widowed sister, and has a room in the sister's house -- when she is not in a hospital.

Mary is, for all intents and purposes, dying, and there is no point waffling that fact.  She has suffered all her life from Crohn's disease, a chronic intestinal disorder, and a life of smoking (which she still does, when not in the hospital), has severely weakened her heart and lungs.  And she has severely damaged kidneys, which are in turn weakening all her vital organs in a downward spiral.

Again -- this is not about her, but the facts are somewhat relevant.

Her life consists of a series of health crises, when her vital signs go sufficiently out of whack to where she faints or otherwise needs to be hospitalized.  She will be there for 7-10 days until the doctors can stabilize her, after which she comes home to her sister's house ... until the next crisis, a week or so later.  A week in the hospital, ten days home -- the cycle simply repeats.

Mary is on Medicare, supplemented by a pension-based Medicare supplement, so the part she pays is mostly covered.  But that doesn't mean her care is free.

All those trips to the hospital, sometimes in an ambulance, all those weeks in the hospital, the care there, the doctors checking in -- all of that costs money, and the hospital charges are paid, in Mary's case, by the insurance company.  Medicare has truly no options here; her illnesses are quite real and common, so her treatment is normal and necessary.  They do not challenge the necessity of the treatment, as none of it is out of the ordinary.

The bills that Medicare pays, however, are gargantuan.  I don't have to throw numbers at you even if I knew them, which I don't; clearly a week in the hospital is tens of thousands of dollars, and someone is paying -- in her case, the taxpayer (through Medicare) and the supplemental insurance company for a modest percentage of it.

The point I want to make here is that Mary is dying.  I have a little medical background, enough to be dangerous, and I would expect that with the kidney failure going on, the secondary impact on other organs (particularly her smoke-damaged lungs and heart) will lead to death in less than a year.

In the meantime, hundreds of thousands of dollars will be paid out by Medicare to sustain someone who has little quality of life, and no prospect for that improving in her remaining time.  Taxpayers will pay taxes, which fund Medicare, which pays the hospital, which pays the medical staff and suppliers of the drugs and consumables, who pay their employees and suppliers.  Lots of transactions result from her care.

There are literally thousands of Marys in the USA as I write this.  Our national morality is a Judeo-Christian one, that we will make no moral decision on the quality of their life, and we will (through Medicare) continue to pay for sustaining treatment, rather than withholding it, until the patient or the family stop medical treatment and revert to palliative care.

I agree, as a Christian, an American and a human being.  There is no alternative for us.  People die, and for the most part it is a slow process requiring more care as it progresses.

But this is what the Obamacare people broke the seal on when they raised the issue of "death panels" (and quickly retreated) and apportioning care.  Health care as practiced in the USA is expensive, driven up by a tort-insurance crisis no one will touch, and it is not appreciably cheaper in the civilized world for the same level of care.

The leaking of the death-panel narrative tells us that the more socialist nations of the otherwise-free world -- Canada, the Scandinavian nations -- are having to look at actually deciding who gets care and who doesn't.  If it isn't pretty now, it surely is going to get uglier soon, at least when the word gets out.

There are many, many Marys in the USA right now, and the cost of sustaining them is astronomical.  Our Christian generosity and morality has a price.  What it may come to is that the USA distinguishes ourselves from the socialists, in that we remain willing to share the costs of that care and not withhold it -- or even discuss withholding it.  And we will not turn that decision over to unelected people.

In that, we will be a purer, if poorer, place.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Struggling WITH, Not ON, Minimum Wage

My best girl is a lovely lady, but sometimes she will see something on the news that trips her trigger a bit.  It is then that we discover that people see and hear the news differently, and that even the closest of couples can find ourselves debating but not actually taking opposing sides -- we're advocating different subtopics.

This came up when one state or other -- Maryland, maybe -- was cited as having a plan to raise its minimum wage to a very high number, maybe $15.00 an hour.  That, of course, is twice the Federal minimum wage, and she brought up the whole topic of varying the minimum wage across the country based on standards and cost of living, and how no number that applied to Los Angeles made sense in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

That got me thinking -- too fast, for the discussion we were having -- about the different facets of the minimum wage debate.  Should there be a minimum wage at all?  Should it be only a state thing and not a Federal one?  What should one be based on?

That was too much for a simple spousal discussion, and I decided it needed more contemplation than really made sense, so I went to get a cup of coffee and slunk back into my office to work.

I start from what I believe to be a truthful concept: understand the problem before you try to solve it.  I think that is actually why we have so much antagonism, because different people are using the minimum wage to solve different problems, and its effectiveness can only be measured against the problem you think it is supposed to fix.

So I start with a USA in which there is no minimum wage at all, and where wages move to a pure supply-and-demand curve, based only the availability of labor in each market, at each level and skill set, and on the need for that labor by what I will call "industry" (by which I choose to refer to all employers, collectively).  In other words, the situation if we were to delete all minimum wage laws today.

What would happen?  We would likely have some $3.00-7.00/hour jobs created, low-end work, internships where the experience is more important than the money, summer jobs for kids, invented jobs to keep young people working and pay them a little -- some of which jobs would not exist save for there being no minimum wage.  The pay curve from $15.00/hour on down would evolve into something smooth.

That, of course, is why I innately oppose minimum-wage laws.  I believe that the demand for labor, and the supply of adequately skilled and competent labor, together produce a "value" that industry determines.  Industry will pay as little as it can, altruism aside, for that labor, but that also means that it will also pay more than its competitor for competent, trained and skilled labor that has more value.

To me, the problem is overly-regulated valuation of labor, forcing a price that industry has to pay that is higher than its value.  That results in industry charging more (inflation), adapting by using fewer people and, as we have seen when minimum wages are too high, higher unemployment.  The first solution to the problem that I see, is to remove the laws.

To others, they see what I do not see -- a connection between the needs of the employer and the needs of the employee.  The needs of the employee are of no innate interest to the employer insofar as we are defining the value of the employee's effort.  Of course, the happiness of the employee, the value of their experience and contentment with their environment produce better productivity; we know and factor that in.  But if the employee wants a new car, there is no basic change to the value of that employee that would oblige the employer to raise his wages accordingly.

A minimum wage, then, rationalized by the needs of the employee (the notion of a "living wage"), does not make sense.  It is imposing a cost on top of labor that is created by factors independent of the value that the employee brings to the table by virtue of his ability.

But let us even accept that a minimum wage exists and will be with us, and is now factored into the fabric of employment costs.  Then, a Federal minimum wage makes no sense at all, as long as the states pass their own laws in that regard.

I say that comfortably.  If a minimum wage exists because of a response to the perceived needs of the employee, it should be set at a level that represents those costs.  In other words, if it should be affected by the  cost of living, well, costs of living are substantially different depending on where you live.

So if the USA then passed a Federal minimum wage law, or reset the current one, even though I believe it is wrong-headed to do so, it should be set based on the economic needs in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the least-expensive city in the USA to live, not in Los Angeles or New York, and not in some "average-cost" community.  To do otherwise is to subsidize the economy of the expensive cities at the expense of jobs in Fort Wayne, right?

States can do whatever they want, of course, and should.  They are locally responsive, and Constitutionally allowed to address the needs of their citizens.  For them to implement economic absurdities like a $15.00/hour minimum wage, is to have to deal with the impact of that decision, and then have to respond to the citizenry of that state when companies flee (as they have in California already), taking jobs with them.

I do wish this discussion could be had rationally, but we will not readily come to agreement about whether employee needs should be mandated into law, as far as having impact on the demand curve for labor.  I do not want to see employees abused or taken advantage of, but I also want everyone to work to be able to prepare for a job they can do, and find a location where they can live on what they can make -- there.

The missus and I, business owners both more than once,  will surely have more to chat about there.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Trump Bump and the Obama Creep

We awoke yesterday to find that the pre-opening projection for the Dow Jones Industrial Average was a bit over 26,000, a number that the Dow had never reached, and which was more than 200 points higher than the Friday close, the last time the markets were open.

As I wrote this, with the markets still open yesterday, the Dow was at 26,060 and well over 250 points higher than that previous close (it closed back under 26,000 but still near the record, and this morning it is projected up another 100 points).

The Dow being only an index of a few dozen companies, it makes sense to note that the rest of the securities in American companies were increasing in value as well.  U.S. equities have increased well over five trillion dollars in value since the inauguration of Donald Trump less than a year ago, and well over seven trillion since his election.

That means, of course, that Americans' savings that were invested in mutual funds, and shares of American companies have soared.  Ask the person on the street who has a 401(k) how their values have changed since the 2016 election, and you will likely get a smile and an upraised thumb.

Of course, if we are to mention the extraordinary rise in the stock market in the last year under President Trump, the smug worshipers of our previous president will rush to point out that there was also a rise in the market under Barack Obama, from 8,800 in November 2008 when he was elected, to 19,100 in November 2016, shortly before the election of President Trump.  "Why shouldn't Obama get credit for the rise in the Dow over his administration, yeah, huh?"

Well, that's a good question, but to be honest, I answered that already.  Several years ago, I wrote a piece on that odd phenomenon.  You are highly encouraged to read it, but to be rather summary about it, I made the point that the rise in the market was not only slow but not really related to corporate performance.

The "slow" part is relevant; in fact the performance of the Dow in the year before Obama was elected is relevant -- a 4,500-point drop from 13,300.  It is relevant, because the economy as represented by the Dow had a year previously shown a certain level reflecting the innate level of strength of the companies (and the environment) as constituted then.  One could argue that half of the gain in the Dow over the eight years of the Obama administration was simply the natural, cyclical recovery of value already established.

On the other hand, President Trump was elected at a point where the Dow was already near its all-time high, and the economy had already established values for those companies, relative to the legal and regulatory environment in which they operated.  The 7,000-point gain in Mr. Trump's first year of office is amazing not only because it was done in a single year, but because virtually all of it entails values never before achieved in the market.

And that is critical in distinguishing the long-term, creeping rise in the Dow under Obama from the current, rocket-fuel blast in the market.  As I wrote in the referenced article, and which was its fundamental point, the Dow under Obama rose because there was no other place for investment capital.  Interest rates were essentially zero, meaning that the only moderate-risk growth instrument available to beat inflation was the stock market.  Demand for savings accounts was nil, demand shifted to equities, and their price went up based on demand -- not so much on the fundamental strength of the underlying companies.

And that growth under Obama was slow because there was little capital around due to the burdensome tax policy of his administration.

Now the companies in that time had, actually, increased that strength some, but not because Obama wanted them stronger.  The over-regulating nanny-state types in his Cabinet had made, among other things, hiring employees so expensive, from Obamacare to quotas, that it became cheaper to automate, to robotize, and to hire fewer, smarter and harder-working people.  Fewer, better employees meant lower expenses and thus better performance.

The economy inherited by President Trump thus started out in a place of retrenchment and, thus, solidity driven by a need for survival.  As soon as it came to understand that the Trump Administration would take the position that regulations needed to be removed far more than imposed, and that a massive tax overhaul was in the offing, industry felt freer to invest -- and investors felt that demand would rise and, therefore, the innate value of the companies would rise in parallel.

To summarize -- the $7 trillion in new value in the market is specifically the result of the economy's assessment of the value of industry, that with massively lower taxes, significant deregulation and the attendant hiring that would be necessary to sustain it, the true value of the nation's companies would indeed rise.

There is a lot of difference between stock prices going up by default, as they did for eight years, and going up because the economy is roaring and the demand curve is hugely and unprecedentedly positive.

I'll take the outcome of this administration's efforts, thanks.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Maybe We Don't WANT More Norwegians!

We're having just a jolly time watching the news lately, between the dummy working for the State of Hawaii who actually triggered a false alarm for an incoming ballistic missile, and the allegation that President Trump referred to certain countries as, well, you know; you've seen the pictures.

It did not take five minutes after the erroneous alert, for morons on the left somehow to blame President Trump for the missile alert, even though it was a state system, not a Federal one.  Even one of their (Hawaii's) congresswomen did that, and you'd think she would know better (... or did she!).

But because blaming the president for the Hawaii alert was pretty stupid to start with, the media and the left (but I repeat myself) turned quickly to statements the president is supposed to have made in a private meeting with a few senators, called to try to reach agreement on an immigration deal that would include protection for people, mostly now adults, brought into the USA as children and who grew up here.

Now, this profanity was leaked by Dick Durbin, the Democrat senator from Illinois, who has a reputation for leaking meeting quotes that were not true, so we won't really know what exactly was said.  And I won't even get into the notion that the quote, which you of course have heard, referred to the countries themselves (i.e., their government and living conditions), not the people themselves.

But what the media are excited about, now, is that there is a way that they can try to characterize the president as a racist.  That's because he was quoted as allegedly asking why we were taking in people from miserable countries like Haiti, and not more from countries like Norway.  The "Norway" reference was, of course, on his mind because (A) we don't take many people from Norway, a civilized country with a stable government, and (B) he had just met with the Norwegian prime minister, so Norway was on his mind.

Let's face it, the point that the president would have been trying to make, if indeed he said something like that, is that our immigration system seems heavily tilted toward what's good for the immigrant and not for our country.  In other words, rather than letting more people in who can add to the USA based on their skills, abilities and training, our system slants toward our being a salvation for people in poverty who would come and be dependent -- while we're $21 trillion in debt.

The problem, of course, is that between the lottery system and the chain migration model, the available slots are crowded by the unskilled and uneducated -- and the problems that other nations want to dump on us, and do so through the "lottery" system.

But let's take President Trump's view for the moment.  He is not, of course, a racist, and would be perfectly happy with a system that took in civil engineers from Haiti rather than street people, no matter what color they were.  That's whether they worked here for ten years and took their improved skills back to Haiti -- or stayed.

The point is that he wants the decision as to who comes here to be based on what they can do for this country, a rather JFKesque reminiscence.  So bringing in people who want to be here, because they have a skill that they can bring here to offer the USA, well, that's a good thing, better than coming in and asking "what the country can do for them."

But Norway ... is that the model he, or anyone else, should use?  After all, Norway is a socialist, welfare-state model that owes its economic existence less to its government-driven collective bargaining and socialized medicine, than to the native work ethic of the Scandinavian.  This is borne out by contrasting the standard of living of Norwegians, which studies have done, with Norwegian-Americans (hint: the Norwegian-Americans come out a lot better, and if Norway didn't have a ton of oil, their people would come out a lot worse, as do Swedes and Finns vs. their American cousins).

So given the immigration of a Haitian civil engineer or a Norwegian one, well, which one would we want?  The Haitian can go to work pretty quickly, as long as he or she can speak English (or find a crew that speaks French).  The Norwegian can, too, and probably already speaks English, since pretty much all Norwegians learn it in school.

The Haitian, however, will come over with contempt for the Haitian government and hoping for a better system here, where an engineer can rise based on capability and hard work.  The Norwegian?  Norwegians must think their socialist model works pretty well, since they don't seem to be changing it -- even though their high standard of living actually predates the socialist institutions in their nation and has gone relatively down since the 1960s.

So maybe the Norwegian is going to come over with innate prejudices that make him think that he knows better.  Maybe he thinks unions and collective bargaining are a solution, rather than that they are actually part of the problem anymore.  Maybe he wants to bring those attitudes here.  Maybe we need less of that.  All things being equal, I might take the Haitian.

And President Trump might, too.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Monday, January 15, 2018

Was "Me Too" Just a Larger Anti-Trump Plan?

[Note -- for those of you who saw the Minnesota-New Orleans playoff game yesterday, and saw the Saints toss away a certain berth in the NFC championship because of a putrid defensive play at the end, where a tackler who could have simply wrapped up a receiver and ended the game tried to blow up the receiver instead of tackling him ... well, you read it here first:] 

                                            - - -

The left, as we know, is all about power.  Getting it, keeping it, destroying its opposition by characterizing them as anything they can make out to be evil so that people will not vote for them.  I imagine that the left would happily do away with the whole notion of voting, the main threat to their power, if only they could.

As they effectively have in, well, everywhere they have taken power.  You know, Russia, China, Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea ... we know the list.

In the USA, a free country with an established Constitution and a well-structured voting system, the left has no choice other than to try to win those elections any way it can.  That includes not only destroying the character of its opposition (Reagan as bumbling, Bush 43 as stupid, Trump as everything bad in the world), but trying to stuff the electorate with reliable leftist votes.  They do that when in power by giving away taxpayer dollars to those already here, and adding voters by opening the borders and abrogating its role in defending them.

The ruthless manner in which they try to destroy their opposition to to try to gain power, though, makes you suspect everything they do, even reasonable things like opposing the abuse of women.  So naturally we have to suspect them.

The left stupidly allowed Hillary Clinton, an abysmal and corrupt candidate, to represent them in 2016.  They thought she would win, of course, since the media kept telling them she would, but surely they'd have liked to have had a better option.  So they really didn't prepare for the presidency of Donald Trump -- as seen in the incredible, over-the-top campaign going on now to destroy him, even somehow blaming him for the failure of the state-of-Hawaii-run early-warning system in Hawaii that went off by mistake on Saturday.  I think the next meteor that hits the planet will turn out to be on Trump too.  Just watch.

So now we have "Me, Too", a movement encouraging women to stand up to, and expose predatory sexual attackers like Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Al Franken and others who have now lost their positions as a result of being exposed for their abuse of women.

But only now, apparently.

So let us suppose this.  A set of lefties like, I don't know, George Soros, Bill Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, that kind, are in a room trying to decide how to get President Trump out of office, or at least ensure he can't be reelected in 2020.  How, they ask, can he be so completely destroyed so that he is incapable of remaining in office?  "We have to do something, and do it quick, because the economy is booming just like he said, and ISIS is mostly crushed and, well, he's actually a good president!"

"Well, one of them says, what's the worst thing we could pin on him?  Racist?  Sexist?  Ooh, I've got it -- abuser of women!  We know he was a player in his somewhat younger days, and everyone knows that.  But the USA already knows it and elected him anyway.  He's probably not doing it anymore, so we can't change history, but we can make what we know he did seem worse!

"We need, they say, to get the focus off the booming economy and military successes and plaudits of our friends overseas, and on to something that will get headlines.  We'll make dealings with women bad first, and then pull him into it.  "I've got it", one of them says.  Let's sacrifice a bunch of our own so it doesn't sound political.  We'll dump a few of ours we hate anyway, and then all of a sudden everyone will be looking at Trump and we'll make his life with women sound more predatorial!

"We need a movement, but we need villains first.  Whom can we sacrifice?  Well, there's always Harvey Weinstein, start with him.  He's scum, we all know it, and then we can get something more going in Hollywood. We're going to need someone in politics, too.  Ahhh, we have those pictures of Franken, plus they've got a Democrat governor there so he can be replaced.  Never could stand Franken anyway."

Is that so hard to believe?  Not that those women weren't abused in Hollywood, but that someone who knew could have encouraged the first of them to expose Weinstein in public?  That the whole "#MeToo" thing was intended not so much to help women -- although surely a lot of the abused women were all for it and should have been -- as much as to start a campaign whose goal was to destroy the career of the sitting president?

Obviously once it got started, it would gather its own momentum, catching up people like Matt Lauer in the avalanche.  And it is actually a good thing; women should not be subject to assaults and workplace hostile environments (which is why it was such a clever idea).  But whatever its genesis, I have no qualms thinking that it was either originally intended, or quickly redirected, as a means to get more leftists elected.

See how all this makes us think?

Copyright 2018 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.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Ten Weeks to the New Year

[Note to regular readers ... Thursday's column, "Boy, Do I Not Understand the Law", somehow got stuck behind Wednesday's column in the order.  So if you missed me yesterday, just look below "The Nation's HOA" and there it will be.]

So OK, most of you think that the New Year happened already and we're a dozen days or so into 2018.  I hear you.  IRS hears you and agrees with you, except that if you want to put money into a tax-deferred instrument, well, 2017 somehow ends on April 15th.  But the IRS doesn't listen to anyone, so their opinions don't exactly count.

For me, however, the year is to begin very late in March, about ten weeks from now.  On the 29th of March, the 2018 Major League baseball season will begin, and not a moment too soon.  Now the baseball that is played on that day may be a bit curious to watch, given that games will be played in New York (Mets), Detroit, Baltimore and Cincinnati on that day, and March 29 in those cities is as likely to be very chilly as comfortable, but it is baseball.  And Cincinnati can be excused as it is a very long tradition that the Reds, the oldest team in baseball, play at home on Opening Day.

Whatever.  I've been without baseball for two and a half months, locked in the play of the so-called "Hot Stove League", which is not actual games but the trades and signings that go on between seasons.  The teams are far from being done with all those transactions, though I am over it already.

Many player signings and trades are waiting on the signing of two or three key free agents.  Until they decide where they will sign, stacks of very good but slightly lesser players are unsigned because the teams which might sign the top couple can't sign an alternative until they know if they won the sweepstakes for the top few.

And I care about the games, the games, the games.  Lots of articles are out there in baseball literature world, but they're struggling for what to talk about until Jake Arrieta decides where he will pitch, or JD Martinez decides where he will hit (and hopefully not field; his glove is where ERAs go to die).

I'm tired of being tired.  I want to turn on the TV and see some live baseball.  I'm an unabashed Red Sox fan (even though, as I have to say, I did not grow up anywhere near New England).  The Sox have won their division the past two years, and their core lineup is almost all younger than 28 years old, the statistical peak of performance for players.  That means that they should be better in 2018 than before ... theoretically.

Of course, other teams have gotten better too, including the despicable division rivals, the New York Yankees.  Their former "shortstop", Derek Jeter, has seen to that (the quotes are to reference the fact that he played at short for easily a dozen years beyond where he should have been moved off that position; statistically he was the worst-fielding position player in the history of the game).

Jeter is now the general manager (or whatever title he has) and minority owner of the Miami Marlins, who are financially in dire straits and are selling off all their decent players to try to make a profit.  One such transaction involved sending Giancarlo Stanton, who hit 59 homers last year, to the aforementioned Yankees for a bag of balls and a six-pack of Moxie, plus an expendable second-baseman, just to clear Stanton's high contract off their books.

At any rate, this means that the Yankees will provide more competition than last year, even though the addition of Stanton is actually a replacement of an existing outfielder, so the "difference" is how much better Stanton might be than Aaron Hicks or Jacoby Ellsbury or Brett Gardner, whichever one loses his starting job.

But see, that's all about transactions and lineups, and not about playing actual baseball.  I want to see games, and I suppose by late January every year, no matter what did happen the prior year, I get this way.  I started watching baseball and understanding what was going on early in the first Eisenhower administration, and it has never lost me, although it tried a few times, particularly in 1994.

I've got a few World Series videos.  Maybe I'll drag out the DVDs, or look on YouTube for something to watch.  There is about everything you could watch out there, of course, and a whole lot you'd prefer not to.  But there is active baseball, and you can pick games your team wins :)

I just need to see something.  See you Monday.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Nation's HOA

On Monday, addressing an agriculturally-oriented audience, President Trump pointed out an interesting statistic in regard to "regulations" as far as his administration is concerned.

The president had stated after inauguration that he had directed his Cabinet that for every new regulation they proposed to implement, two existing regulations would have to be stricken from the books.  His point was twofold; first, that excessive Federal regulation was stifling business from growing and adding jobs, and second, that those regulations had the effect of law, and laws were more properly created by Congress, not the Administration.

Naturally, his Cabinet officials took him quite seriously.  As conservatives, they were not exactly regulatory types to begin with, so the "new regulation" side of the equation was going to be pretty low.  But they really took seriously the "cutting regulations" side.  As of yesterday, President Trump announced to the assembled masses, his administration had removed twenty-two regulations for every one added.

Those assembled masses applauded vigorously, of course; nothing ticks off a farmer more than big government coming in and telling him what water he can or cannot use, or that he's better off with potato bugs than those awful chemicals.  They know a swamp from "wetlands."  It is a simple matter of outside interference in one's own property management.  Humans don't like that.

But some humans, of course (we call them "the left"), just love to tell people how to run their lives and, while regulations and laws are certainly necessary for a free society to operate smoothly and respectfully, there is a point at which it creeps over from necessary regulation to nanny-state overbearing bullying.  Hint: the Obamas were the latter.

There is a pretty good analogy for why those farmers were all thrilled to hear the anti-regulation message from our president.

Many of us live in communities and developments which were established with a homeowners' association, or HOA.  The purpose of an HoA, in its finest and most altruistic model, is simply to maintain the property in a manner that is comfortable and attractive to the homeowners.  There are covenants that you sign up to when you buy in to the community.

Unfortunately, however, HOAs have to be administered, and that means that the homeowners end up voting for fellow residents to run it as HOA officers.  Now, you and I probably would never consider running for such a thing; life is too short to want to be an HOA board member.  But ah, some people do, and somehow they are never the ones who want the HOA to be a quiet, unintrusive management group.

Nope, HOAs are full of Nancy Pelosi.

See the connection?  People detest an over-regulatory Federal government for the same reason we are all fearful of homeowners' associations, namely because they end up led by nanny-state types who want to run your life for you.  Decent, laissez-faire types never seem to run for HOA positions because they have better things to do.

Farmers don't have HOAs, of course; but they do have the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency to serve in their stead.  And worse, leaders of those agencies are not really elected, but appointed by the president who wins a national election.  That means that those snowflaky Californians and big city types in New York and Chicago have as much input into decisions that affect farmers as the farmers themselves.

It's kind of like my HOA having its officers elected by members of an HOA in Idaho, Missouri and Colorado, if you get my drift.

Now, I belong to an HOA here in our community, a large one in the coastal Carolinas.  I have to admit, they have a fair number of regulations, given that it is a very large development, but all the dealings I have had with them regarding our house have been very fair and I'd vote for the same people who run it if they ran again.  That is certainly not the case with some prior HOAs in previous residences, but I think of myself as lucky -- this time.

It's just that I found myself applauding with the farmers, as they cheered on the president as he described his administration stripping regulations like a grass-roots HOA reform movement that somehow gets a majority on the board.

Twenty-two regulations removed for every one added?  I can only ask, "What took so long."

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Boy, Do I Not Understand the Law

On Tuesday night, a Federal court judge appointed by Bill Clinton made a ruling in regard to President Trump's announced plan for the termination of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program.  The president, as you recall, had announced that the DACA program would end in March, effectively declaring that the program was an executive overreach.

You see, DACA is not a law passed by Congress, the people who make laws.  It was implemented as an executive order by the happily-former president, Barack Obama.  President Trump is perfectly fine with having the DACA folks, now mostly in their 20s, have a route to legalization.  He is not fine, though, and I am not either, with presidents making law.

Accordingly, he announced an executive order ending the program by March, with the overtly stated expectation that if Congress wanted to make DACA law, it would do so by then.

So I need some help on this from you, because I don't expect the judge to explain it.

Barack Obama issued the executive order creating the program within the Department of Homeland Security in the first place, because he wanted it and Congress would not pass it.  Whether or not you think he had the right to do so, well, that is another story.  But it was done by an executive order, not by law.

Donald Trump announced the planned end to DACA in an executive order, same as Obama did in creating it.  Obama took one step, and Trump used the same step to end it.

So how, please tell me, can a Federal court judge (Ninth Circuit, of course) make a ruling that the actions of President Trump in ending the program are legally any different from Obama's in starting it?  I am not a lawyer, I don't play one on TV and never have on stage, I think.  But if President X orders something and President X+1 ends it through the same action, how can a court rule that X+1 was not equally, legally justified (or not) in doing so?

If an executive order is not legal, it is not legal.  I'm sorry, but to say otherwise in this specific case is to imply that programs created by an EO are permanent, and that they cannot even be changed or ended by Congress.  I certainly could argue that is the implication of this judge's ruling.

President Trump is going at a record pace as far as getting judicial appointments to the Federal bench going and getting them confirmed.  It is cases like this that make that the most important thing that he can do, perhaps.

Or am I missing something?

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There's a new post from Bob at at 10am Eastern time, every weekday, giving new meaning to "prolific essayist."  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at or on Twitter at @rmosutton.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Odd Question of the Workplace Pay Gap Argument

I am not going to start this off by babbling the figures that usually get babbled when the discussion turns to the pay gap between men and women in the workplace.  You know, women make x cents for every dollar a man makes, yadda yadda yadda.

I'm not babbling that, because the sources are so unreliable there is no point to trying to quantify it.  The only relevant data would be comparisons of identically qualified men and women in the identical job, and that's pretty hard to establish, because that identity -- age, experience, education -- is not going to be "identical enough" to rationalize pay gaps.

Let me give you a story.  Many years ago, I was the director of computer operations for a CPA firm with four locations.  I had two ladies working for me, and among other things, they processed the payroll.  That meant that they knew what everyone in the firm was making, and with a couple of fairly gossipy young ladies involved, needless to say, they often discussed comparative pay.

Word of that got to the firm's senior partner, the one whose name was on the building.  Now, I'm not exactly sure what I would have done to shut them up, but I have to give the man credit for creativity.  He called the two ladies into his office and told them to go get the latest payroll and bring it back to him, along with their boss (me).

The senior partner said this to them: "I am going to do this once and only once with you, in the presence of your manager.  I'm going to answer whatever you want to ask about why people are paid differently from others here.  And when I'm done, you are never again going to raise questions about salaries of people at the firm.  Got it?"

He then went over all the questions that two of them had about why person X was making more than person Y.  The senior partner, of course, knew quite well why the pay was what it was, and why this bookkeeper was making more than that one, and what college courses this one was taking and what complimentary client letters that one over there had gotten.  Sure enough, that shut up the two clerks for good.

I mention this not just because it is a good story, but because both the two clerks and every single employee about whom the two asked a question was female.  All the accountants and bookkeepers they were concerned about were women.

So that came to mind as I was watching some news program decrying the gender pay gap and spouting poorly-sourced salary figures and the like.  Then I saw that some TV personality had quit when she found out she was getting less -- a lot less -- than the male she was replacing on that program.

That's when something struck me, a notion I had had in the back of my mind but only now was coming into clarity.

Do you recall any of the pieces that I've done about the tendency of employers, as soon as they saw that Obama was going to put in rules that made hiring prohibitively expensive, to try to get three better, more skilled people to do the work of four?  The concept was that it was the baseline "per-employee" cost, in effort, cost, and risk of lawsuit, that had gotten high, so it was better, even for the same price, to have fewer, better employees.

That same notion was at play here.  If men are actually making more money in the same jobs, with the same background, as women, then a decision had to have been made in each case.  Why wouldn't they hire women and pay them less? 

Do you follow?  If men are actually making more than the women who replace them, or whom they replace, that means that employers are willing to pay men more to do the same job, even though it costs them higher labor costs.

The more pervasive that practice is (unequal pay), the more evidence there is that in the eyes of employers, they get more productivity out of males than females.  Otherwise, well, why would they pay men more?  It wouldn't make sense.

If I had a business anymore, I would be trying to save money everywhere I could, and labor costs would be right up there on top.  So again, why would I pay more to have a male do the job if I could have a female do it and presumably, if the stats are not completely erroneous, do it cheaper?

I don't actually know where this notion is going.  I believe that people should be paid what they are worth, that is, based on the value they bring to the employer, and not anything else other than the consideration the employer affords.  I'm worth what my clients think I am, not what I think I am, so I try to keep my rate a little lower than my perceived value, so I keep getting work.

But no one seems to be taking the gender pay gap to side B, and asking not why women are paid less, assuming they are, but why employers with a bottom line choose to pay more to men, when they could theoretically pay women less.  One inference, of course, is that employers do so because they think they will, for whatever reason, get more productivity from men, and are willing to pay for it.

I don't know.  In my profession, there is no real capability gap and no real pay gap, by gender.  And a lot of firms in the business are larger and, therefore, have controls over pay that compare to civil service, where you can't discriminate based on anything, including of course, ability.

Well, fun thought to consider on a Tuesday.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Monday, January 8, 2018

Why Weren't The Clintons Boosting the "Foundation" in 2017?

I believe that I wrote a while back about the extent to which the donations from around the world to the Clinton Foundation nose-dived after the 2016 elections, when it became fairly obvious that the Clintons would no longer wield power, what with Hillary losing the election and all.  I also pointed out that the precipitous drop was prima facie evidence that the "Foundation" was only of value as a means to purchase favor with the Clintons, and that with them out of power, there was no reason to give money there.

I pointed out that defenders of the Clinton Foundation always struggled to define any good that it had done with the hundreds of millions it raised ("Well, it does a lot of AIDS work, and ... and ..."), presumably because a lot of that money went to pay for Bill's lavish trips abroad and other non-charitable duties.

And that is the point of today's piece.

Let us assume for the record that the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation is, in fact, doing outstanding work for some wonderful and badly-needed charitable causes.  Let's assume that.  We'll also stipulate that, given that their names are on it, Bill, Hillary and Chelsea really care about the success of the "Foundation" at getting anything done in the world.

Now let's assume that you or I were in the shoes of Hillary Clinton.  You are out of power now, and the only thing you have left is the "Foundation"; all the rest has been yanked from you since, you know, you lost the election.  That's it, only your eponymous charity.

Well, I know what I would do.  I would turn to my foundation and focus on it -- or I would retire and get the heck out of town.  Moreover -- and this is the point -- if after the election loss, the contributions to that foundation were drying up massively and my name is all over it, I'd be scrambling to save its existence.

I'd be doing that for two reasons if I were Hillary.  First, if it is such a force for good, I certainly want to be able to maintain its funding, so it can continue to do what it had allegedly been doing all those years, when I actually had power and could sell influence to Russian oligarchs who wanted our uranium.  If losing the "Foundation" caused little AIDS-riddled children to die all over the place, I'd be all over that, begging donors to give those millions all over again.

Secondly, and I did write this in the previous piece, if I don't get the donations back up to near the previous levels, it points out, in bold 18-point type, that the "Foundation" was only a means to peddle influence.  If the donations dry up when I'm no longer in power, that shows that power was being sold.  So to prevent anyone thinking that, we need to show that donors were being purely altruistic -- by continuing to donate.

So -- you would think that Hillary Clinton would have spent 2017 pounding the pavement for donations to the Foundation, right?  Because she be wanting to continuing the "good works" of her foundation, if there indeed were any.

But Hillary has been doing everything but that.  She walked in the woods, wrote a book, spent months on the road selling her book, created lots of excuses for losing.  I can't say that I have been in tune with everything she has said the past year, but I've heard a lot -- and nowhere, not once, did I hear that she had been lifting a finger to raise donations to her foundation back to pre-election levels.

No one seems to be mentioning that.

If the Clinton Foundation were indeed a thoroughly charitable organization and not a corrupt RICO device to peddle influence, then why, oh why, is not Hillary Clinton's focus not on running around reinstating the donations that went far away when she lost the election?

You know and I know.  The Clinton "Foundation" was pretty much only a device to sell access, to implement corrupt schemes like UraniumOne, and personally enrich the organization's namesakes.  No more influence to sell, no more power to peddle, and no more donations from those currying favor with the no-longer-influential Clintons.

Someone should have told Hillary those AIDS kids were more important than her book.

Copyright 2018 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.