Thursday, May 31, 2018

Do I Have to Write about Roseanne Barr?

The answer, of course, is "no", but that doesn't mean there isn't something to say about it.  But I don't, you know, have to write about her.

We'll start with the obligatory preface.  Roseanne Barr is not one of my favorite people on earth, as I wrote a few weeks back.  Profanity makes me cringe, people who choose to act like low-lifes make me cringe, and people who sing the National Anthem and grab their crotchular area thereafter, claiming to be "everyman" make me cringe.

Those are a lot of the reasons that I did not watch her original TV show even once when it was first on.  I didn't have to, and I certainly didn't want to.  Roseanne Barr would not have been on my radar screen for the rest of her, or my, life had there not been a reboot of that show, and had it not gotten so much publicity.

Plus, there are DVRs now and you don't have to arrange your schedule around a network show anymore.  So if you record something and don't like it, you don't have to watch the rest of it, you can just change to something else you recorded.

So I watched the rebooted Roseanne show because it was going to get talked about, the only surviving sitcom with an actual supporter of President Trump as a protagonist.  OK, I thought, I'll record it and see if I liked it.  And it was OK, although I had to ask my best girl who some of the characters actually were every once in a while.  It wasn't a laugh-a-second comedy like "Big Bang Theory", but I would continue to watch it if it stayed on the air.

As we know, it won't.  Miss Barr decided to go off the deep end, and in what she referred to as an Ambien-influenced wee-hours rant, tweeted a reference to Valerie Jarrett, the Obama whisperer, as what you would get "if the Muslim Brotherhood and Planet of the Apes had a child."  I suppose that the latter was the reference that was problematic, because if you refer to someone who is even part black with a simian reference, you're going to lose your TV show.

And she did ... so she did.

   Note -- the Ambien people put out a snarky comment about how
   "racism" was not one of the side effects of Ambien.  Unfortunately, 
   that got people looking at what the actual side effects of Ambien 
   were, and those are not pretty.  They should have just shut up.

I put all the prefaces in because I really don't think I'll miss the show particularly, I certainly won't miss seeing Roseanne Barr in the news, and I'm 100% sure I'll find something else to watch in its place.  The 150 or so people who lost their jobs when ABC cancelled the show, well, it is very sad for them (and probably for Miss Barr for costing them their livelihoods), but Hollywood cancels shows all the time, and people lose their jobs there all the time.

ABC probably feels like it was pushed into putting the show on in the first place; God forbid they have a show with a Trump supporter as a protagonist, but Roseanne had at least some power and influence and got it done.  The ratings were huge, and ABC was really on the horns of a dilemma.  Unfortunately, Roseanne made it easy for them to cancel the show, even though it cost them their ratings leader.

But ABC is on a different set of dilemma horns now.

They have now set a standard for cancelling a show that relates to tweets.  "Tweet this, and we will cancel your show, even if it is a ratings leader."  It is a fait accompli after the Roseanne action.  So what happens when some other lead actor on an ABC show tweets something about someone who is even less anti-American than Valerie Jarrett?

So I'm not going to do this myself, but someone should, and here goes.  There are plenty of performers in lead positions on shows at ABC.  Most of them, or all of them, tweet.  It is time for some research firm to go through every single solitary tweet that every ABC star has written for the past five years.  Let us set them against the standard that ABC has now set up, by cancelling the ratings-leading show because an actor on it tweeted something offensive about someone.

Stephen Colbert is on CBS, for example, but he made an obscene reference to President Trump on his show -- not even a tweet -- relative to Vladimir Putin.  Had the show been on ABC, would he have been summarily canned?  CBS clearly does not have the same standards for keeping people on the air that ABC does, but what is going to be the standard for ABC going forward?

I do encourage the readers of this column, including the Russians (you are good at that, da?) to go back and review all the tweets of every major performer on an ABC show.  I have a feeling that someone will do that, very soon.

And then what, we ask, will ABC do?

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Hey, MORE Cultural Appropriation -- Dolezal-Style

When you click on the site, there is a little search field in the upper left-hand corner.  I do encourage you to plug in the search term "dolezal" and pull up the three or four columns that I did on good old Rachel Dolezal, the extremely Caucasian woman who perpetrated the odd fraud of calling herself "black", tanning the best she could and frizzing up her hair.

She did pretty well for herself for a while, becoming president of the Spokane, Washington chapter of the NAACP and teaching a class or two at Eastern Washington University.  Of course, as soon as her confused parents pointed out that she wasn't in the least bit black, and she responded with leftist doublespeak to the effect that she "identified" as black, well, she lost both jobs.  Darn.

Still, she had income over the next couple years, some from a book she wrote and some from "friends", enough income to where she wouldn't have qualified for welfare.  Still, one can assume that she "identified" as poor, because sure enough, she applied for welfare -- i.e., you and I paying for her existence.

Yeah, that didn't work out well.  The state was not thrilled about her failing to note all her income on her welfare application, and charged her with welfare fraud and perjury.  Whatever color she and her backside may claim to be, it appears that both are going to land in jail pretty soon, unless she can find a really good lawyer to keep her out.

So ... the left crows and complains about the notion of "cultural appropriation" -- a notion I wrote up here a couple years back and a time or three since, and which gets only worse as time goes on.  If white people dare to try to wear anything or cook anything or sing anything that is associated with another culture, it is very bad.  It is OK for Thais to wear suits, or Nigerians to grill burgers, but God forbid that a white high-school girl wear a pretty Chinese outfit to her prom.

Well, Rachel Dolezal is ancestrally, beyond a shadow of a Jenn Utley doubt, white.  And although she now goes by some kind of African-sounding new name and tans herself heavily and frizzes her hair, she is still 100% Caucasian.  So there is no earthly doubt that what she is doing is "cultural appropriation" in any sense of the word you choose to use.

Of course, when I use a wok and attempt to stir-fry dinner (never with good results, of course), I'm not claiming to be Chinese.  I identify as a white guy (except in Maryland, where I'm black), and as a white guy who can't really cook but is trying to cook a Chinese dish because I hope it will taste good.  I don't, you know, join the local Chinese-American club.

Rachel Dolezal has been performing cultural appropriation on a very grand scale.  I know people like me who, recognizing that it is farcical to use that phrase, can laugh at it, but who cares what we write about it.

I want to see what the pens of the left say.  I want to hear from all the post-millennial snowflakes who actually think cultural appropriation is a "thing", and a bad one at that.  I want to hear if they have the brass testicles to criticize one of their own who has taken things to an extreme.

We're waiting, O voices of the left.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Tuesday, May 29, 2018

A Different President -- The World Is Learning

Let us go back to the news of the past few weeks.

President Trump announces that the USA and North Korea are going to have a summit meeting "soon" to discuss denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and an easing of tensions.  The world prepares for the meeting "maybe" to happen, and if it does, maybe late this year or early next year, given the glacial pace they are used to in diplomatic circles.

Then it is announced that the summit will take place "within weeks" and we await an actual date, wondering how quickly that can happen, and where.  Shortly thereafter, we get the word -- June 12, indeed, "weeks away", and in Singapore.  There is Nobel Peace Prize talk in some circles.

Then, Presidentchairmanwhateverheis Kim is called to a meeting on the coast in China, and thereafter starts making some statements that are far less accommodating than those he had been making about the meeting and the president.  We assume that the Chinese are not happy with the rapprochement, and the possibility that someone other than China will be able to influence Kim and the North Koreans.

President Trump replies by abruptly cancelling the meeting, declaring that he is willing to meet, but not in the climate that followed the North Korea-China seaside meeting, whatever that was.  And all of a sudden, Kim starts saying things and doing things both in public and behind the scenes to get the meeting back on -- which, as we speak, it seems to be.

So what happened?

Well, we can all make some serious mistakes by trying to figure out what people of other cultures are doing, but I'm not a politician or a social scientist so I don't care, and I will do just that.

In fact, I think it was the Chinese making the mistake.  They have more in common with President Trump than Trump does with his predecessors, and they're only learning that now.

I suspect that the meeting at the beach went sort of like this:

China: Mr. Kim, we think that you have gone too far in meeting with this Trump.  But now that you have agreed, you can push it.  Look at Iran.  They were meeting with US and they pushed and then they could go back to building nukes in just ten years.  They pushed again and got the sanctions lifted.  They pushed yet again and got a pallet of cash delivered in the middle of the night!  And the mullahs gave up nothing!

Kim: Ah, yes.  I will do that.  Thank you.  Please pass the goat. 

So Kim pushed, but Trump is not Obama.  This president simply killed the meetings -- meetings that Kim needed a whole heck of a lot more than Trump did.  So Kim did a 180, started being accommodating again, and voila, the meetings were back on.  And Kim had to be asking himself what the Chinese were talking about.

I have to think the coast meeting went a lot like that, with the Chinese telling Kim he was being too easy, that if you push the Americans they will fold like a cheap tent, just like the Obama folks were with Iran.  And the Americans they used to deal with -- Obama, Kerry, Hillary -- would fold, and they'd give you taxpayers' money too, so it was understandable. 

But Donald Trump is not Obama or Kerry or Hillary.  Letting two-bit dictators like Kim walk all over his country is not Trump's style, and it's not America's style either.  It was Obama's style, sure.  It was the past State Departments' style, but it is not Trump's and not Mike Pompeo's style either.

Now we have a president with a spine and a clue, and with the world-view that if you want to be strong and lead, the first thing you have to do is to be strong.

The Chinese are going to have to figure that out, but perhaps they're doing so ... thankfully before learning the hard way.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Monday, May 28, 2018

Memorial Day 2018

I'm pausing here to pay respects on this Memorial Day.  I've no idea how many brave soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and others have given their lives in the service of this country.  But I am thinking of every single one of you as I write this, who died to give me the right to type these shallow words.

There will be no partying today, no grilling, no barbecue; the ungodly weather would have shelved those plans even had there actually been plans.  That may not be a bad thing, as I know for myself I have more private time to remember those who made the supreme sacrifice.

Thank you.  Thank you for all you have given us in the USA.  Thank you for giving us a USA.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Friday, May 25, 2018

Did China Sink the Talks?

So the talks with North Korea are off, at least for the time being.  President Trump has issued a letter, precipitously, canceling the talks with Kim Jong-Un scheduled for June, and pulling the plug on the rapprochement that was underway.

It had sort of seemed like things were going well.  Kim was saying the right things, and the hoped-for denuclearization of the Korean peninsula seemed like it was a very possible outcome.  Nobel peace prizes were even being discussed.

Well, apparently this didn't sit well with our "friends" in Beijing, who have a weird relationship with North Korea to begin with, sort of like having to defend your daughter when she gets drunk and crashes the family Buick.  Not long ago, Kim apparently went to some coastal town in China to meet with Chinese leaders, and things changed.

The rhetoric went from a real willingness to negotiate, to a far more hostile tone.  And seemingly the president had had enough, and he abruptly said that we simply did not need to keep the scheduled talks in Singapore on the books if Kim was going to act like that.

So what changed?

And why, we ask, did China apparently push Kim to test the resolve of the USA under President Trump?  Because, not to go all post hoc, ergo propter hoc on you, but it sure looks like it was influence from China that changed the tone of the public discourse and, ultimately, sank the talks.

Kim, it has been written here, is only about Kim.  He wants to keep himself in power and, if it is also possible, to look "big" in the eyes of the rest of the world.  Chinese leadership is about making China the most powerful nation on earth.

I have also noted in previous columns that the Chinese could not be happy about the upcoming talks.  I doubt it matters to them whether the Korean peninsula is denuclearized or not, but it does matter that they have the buffer state between them and the free world, in the person of South Korea.  Anything that lowers tensions at the DMZ is probably not bad for Beijing, but not to the point of threatening, in the eyes of China, to produce a peace that could lead to reunification.  That's bad for China.

Perhaps the tone had been too civil for the Chinese.  Perhaps they feared that their control of Little Rocket Man would slip if the tensions eased and it were the USA -- and particularly President Trump -- who was facilitating a better life for the North Korean people.  After all, America actually appears to care more about the people of North Korea than either Kim Jong-Un or the Chinese do.  God forbid, the Chinese must have thought, that it be the US that ended up feeding those darn people.

There are never accidents with these people in charge of the communist regimes in Asia.  If the rhetoric changes its tone, it can readily be assumed that Beijing wanted the tone changed.  President Trump knows it, John Bolton knows it and Mike Pompeo knows it.

But Beijing is messing with the wrong president this time.  For once, they're dealing with a president who is more concerned with doing what is best for America.  A president with a spine and a clue, not just a pen and a phone.  A president who sits in stark contrast to Barack Obama, who in his desperation to sign something with Iran, got us into an execrable deal that it took PResident Trump to extricate us from.

Donald Trump does not need to have a meeting with North Korea.  Someone needed to tell the Chinese that.

But I think they know that now.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Fun in the News Feeds

I sometimes pass through the news feeds on places like Yahoo as a break from reading about things people actually care about, like whether the Red Sox are leading the Eastern Division.  They are, by the way, as I write this.

I did a piece not long ago about the relative prominence of certain pieces in those news feeds, and the control that feeding structures like Yahoo have about the placement of such pieces, fake news or not, with conservative pieces sliding far down the list.  A typical Yahoo feed will lead off with pieces from leftist or very leftist sites like Newsweek, Salon, Vox, HuffPost and the like -- lots of them -- before you get to one from Fox or the Washington Times.

In fact, you will see fluff pieces from People or Style placed far ahead of the first conservative (or even neutral) piece, even if they're about meaningless things like four-day-old royal wedding "news."

But what got me today was a grouping.  Now, a "grouping", or whatever it is technically called in a news feed, is when the feeding site puts three headlines together, linking to three separate pieces about the same topic or news item.

As I read it mid-morning on Wednesday, there was a grouping that led the entire feed.  Obviously it must be important, right, if they give us three related story headlines to link to multiple pieces on the same topic?

Well, you would think.

At least you would think that if you know who Shayanna Jenkins is.  I did not, as of Wednesday morning when I awoke, and I'm pretty sure that by the weekend I will have forgotten once again who she is.  But she has something to do with Aaron Hernandez, the murdering thug who used to play in the NFL, who was convicted, sent to jail for life and then killed himself, and whom we have mostly forgotten.

Now, exactly what she had to do with Hernandez is apparently unclear.  That's because Miss Jenkins is pregnant, over a year after Hernandez killed himself, and that was the story.  Now, it should be noted that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was testifying before Congress at the same moment the grouping of headlines regarding Miss Jenkins' pregnancy was at the very top of the Yahoo "news" feed, which tells you a lot about Yahoo's sense of what is important.

But I digress, a little.

The reason that I did this piece is not because some utterly obscure young woman is pregnant, and it is not even that such an utterly unimportant event is regarded by Yahoo as important enough to top off their feed with headline links to three different stories about it.  And it's not that three "news" outlets (People, the Daily Mail and USA Today) even wrote stories about her pregnancy, no matter who the father was.

Nope.  It is about the headlines themselves.  So let me provide them to you, in order:

"Aaron Hernandez' Fiancee Shayanna Jenkins Reveals She Is Pregnant 13 Months After His Death"

"Aaron Hernandez' Widow Announces She Is Pregnant"

"Aaron Hernandez' Former Fiancee Announces Pregnancy"

Are you with me?  Is Miss Jenkins a widow?  Is she a fiancee?  Is she a former fiancee?  Did they get married?  Did they break off the engagement before he killed himself?

How on earth does Yahoo provide three headlines with three different characterizations of the relationship between the expectant mother and the dead murderer, two of which are completely contradictory?  Either they got married and she is a widow, or they didn't and she is, well, not.

OK, I don't really care if they ever got married, or who she is, or who the father is.  I didn't even read the articles, and I don't plan to.  But even this trivial example is yet another illustration of the Blind Man and the Elephant situation we have with the media, where you end up making assumptions based on one story only to have them contradicted by another, and you ultimately have to assume that "the news is very like an elephant", and you just don't know.

I no longer can rely on the accuracy of even a simple item in a stupid piece about a person I don't even care about.

That's where we are now.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

But It Has to Work, Or It's All Useless

In the satiric 1944 book "Barefoot Boy with Cheek" by Max Shulman (who would go on to create TV's Dobie Gillis), the protagonist, Asa Hearthrug, is a young man starting school at the "fictional" University of Minnesota.  He is not exactly a rocket scientist, and completely naive as well.

A lot of the book is Asa's narrative to the reader of his thoughts as he goes through his first year's college experiences.  In one case, he relates to the reader his ability to learn from experience ... sort of.  For example, having once been kicked in the head by a horse while looking for earthworms, Asa assures us that has never happened again.  "Of course", he mentions, "I've been kicked in the head by a horse on many other occasions, but never again while looking for earthworms."

Perhaps it is a stretch to mention that quote in light of the school shooting last week, but somewhere in my senile-adjacent mind, it may make sense before this piece is over.

There was a shooting in a school in Texas last week, as you know.  The young man who did it is in custody, and classmates are dead.  Sadly, that is nothing new.  School shootings appear to be both commonplace and frustratingly difficult to prevent.  We know, for example, that our intelligence and criminal justice services have prevented a large number of attacks by ISIS and other Islamist scum.  But has even one school shooting been prevented?  Do we know?

The Hollywood types are, of course, in full force with their "We have to do something about guns" line, even though in the several interviews I've seen, not one of them, nor their leftist operative cohorts, can come up with a firearms law that would have prevented this, or most of the other school shootings.  In this case, the guns were stolen, so purchase laws wouldn't have done squat in the Texas case.

But what I want to get across is that they are waving around a solution in search of a problem -- and truthfully, they're not even presenting an actual solution, at least any more detailed than "common-sense gun laws", which is not detailed at all.

It occurred to me that "a" problem was that they have not properly defined "the" problem, if that made sense to you.

The problem, properly defined, is school shootings.  It is not "guns in schools" or any variation on that theme.  It is actually the fact that people are killing other people in schools, and while murdering is not good in any context, school children are thought of as innocents, and it offends all our sensibilities when innocents are murdered ... at least as long as they are not unborn innocents.

So a solution to the problem of school shootings, properly defined, requires steps that logically would result in no school shootings.  The guns themselves don't do anything without someone who wants to use them to kill.  To solve the problem, properly defined, we need to identify the common characteristics of the shootings to date -- why they did it, what signs were there, that sort of thing -- and then develop alerts to those commonalities to prevent future school attacks.

Since the guns don't fire themselves, not one of the school shootings is reliant only on a gun.  They all happened because of a conscious decision by a human being with a problem, and pretty much all the time, the person gave some signal that it was going to happen, up to and including writing on social media that they were going to commit a school shooting.  Then ... crickets.

None of us wants another school shooting to happen.  But if we want that to happen, or not to happen, we have to focus on solutions that (A) address the actual problem, and (B) have a reasonable expectation of working as a solution.  If you think the problem is "that there are guns around", well, you're going to see nothing else.  The only solution there is to confiscate every firearm in the nation, ban their importation and manufacture, and institute capital penalties for mere ownership.  That ain't gonna happen.

However, if you think the problem is "school shootings", then there are reasonable approaches -- I hesitate to say "solutions" -- to preventing them.  They all, every one, have to do with addressing the shooter, and that means recognizing the signs from the standpoint of prevention.

I'm right there with everyone who wants to help by preventing firearm sales to people who shouldn't own firearms.  As long as the government can reliably and very quickly identify people with the appropriate issues -- mental health issues, felonies, dishonorable discharge from the military, history of threats on Facebook -- then I have no problem banning sales to them, again, as long as people without those issues can be quickly verified.

I have no problem linking the big social media companies with the FBI and law enforcement to develop and have an active "no buy list" accessible at the point of sale, because I have no problem with those companies actively reporting threatening behavior and postings that show a risk of threatening activity.  I think all of that can be managed reasonably such that people like that can no longer be allowed to be armed.

But those solutions address the person, not the weapon.  That's because the problem is the person.  If the left really wants to solve the problem -- and believe me, conservatives want to solve it just as much (probably more; unlike the left, we want to solve problems), we just don't express ourselves stupidly -- they will allow the problem to be defined properly.  They don't want it solved, of course, since the big government they want is threatened by an armed citizenry, which is why there is a Second Amendment.

Asa Hearthrug thought that the problem was that he had been picking earthworms, and that's why he got kicked in the head by a horse.  He missed the part about, you know, staying away from horses, or at least not bending over when there are horses around.  His solution addressed the wrong definition of the problem.

It's the same here.  I want there never to be another school shooting.  I'm open to an approach that has a reason for us to believe that it will work.  And that is only going to come when the problem is properly named and identified.

The problem is the shooter, but it is also the left, who doesn't want it solved.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

What to Do with Your Bank

I won't say that everyone has been a victim of some form of identity theft, but I daresay it's close to "everyone."  When you expand the notion of identity theft to include someone using one of your credit-card numbers to buy a pizza, or having to be sent a new debit card because 250,000 customers of a particular bank were possibly hacked, yes, it might as well have been all of us.

I write this, and this whole column, in fact, because there are thieves and scuzzballs out there who do try to use other people's credit and debit cards illegally and will continue to do so.

I have conceded that it will continue to happen.  It is a pain in the nether regions to have to change debit card numbers, but it is a bigger pain to have a few thou yanked out of your account and not get it back.  But it will happen and I will do what I can to prevent it.

So I have arranged with my bank (automatically, on their site; it is a routine option) to send me an email every time anything debits my account above a tiny minimum.  Every time.  Now that is a fair number of emails; not a ton but enough.  I never use cash anymore except maybe to tip the check-in guy at the golf course, so that is an email for many transactions.

Now, I am pretty diligent about it -- when I get such an email, I make sure I'm familiar with the transaction.  Over the weekend I got one for an even $200.00, one that I didn't recognize, ordering from some hip-hop performer's site I'd never heard of.  OK, I wouldn't recognize any hip-hop performer.  Presumably, the scuzzball had gotten my number and tried to order recordings of the guy from his site.  Oh yeah ... and he also ordered a pizza from a Pizza Hut down the street from him.  Separate transaction.

So I called the bank, they refunded the transaction and made it pretty clear that they and the cops and the FBI would catch the scuzzball -- because they usually did.  That part was pretty easy, and it's comforting that it is, even if it is because it happens so often that the systems for catching them are pretty sound.

But the important thing is that it took almost no time to discover the breach, because I was alerted to the transaction right after it happened.  Not -- mind you, because the bank thought it was suspicious, but because I had taken the proactive measure to get an email for every deduction from my account above a small minimum.  Credit the bank, they provide an easy facility to do that online, but if you, the depositor, don't take advantage, it is on you if you get taken and can't fix it as I did.

We all have pretty much abandoned cash.  We all pretty much live off using debit cards for our financial transactions of any size.  We all are aware, or should be, that our deposits are only as safe as the effort that we put in to protect ourselves from scuzzballs.

Go to your bank's online site right now.  Log in to your account and find where your notifications are set.  Set it to email or text you promptly when any transaction hits the account above whatever level works for you.

Protect yourself.  The banks give you the tools.  Use them.

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

Monday, May 21, 2018

Whose World is Fake News?

There was a little item on the news last week, to the effect that the old TV show "Murphy Brown" was coming back after a quarter-century or so.

Oh, yippie.

The old show starred Candice Bergen as Murphy Brown, who was the host of a TV news magazine back in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  I watched it back then (we didn't have cable up in the hills, and dish satellites hadn't been invented yet, so the options were limited).

I'm guessing that the notion of this reboot is driven by the successful reboot of another ancient sitcom, "Roseanne".  I say "successful" although there have only been a handful of episodes of "Roseanne" to date and it has not had a chance to settle into its regular viewership yet for us to know if it will be popular for the long run.  But in the view of the Hollywood left, it has to be taken on somehow, lest a show with a positive (?) conservative star possibly be allowed even to try to succeed.

I can hear it now, and so can you.  "We can't let THAT show be out there like that.  Let's exhume some show that we can do that preaches OUR values [whatever those are] and give it a run for its money.  Hmmm .... is Edgar Bergen's kid still alive?  We can do Murphy Brown!"

Or something like that.

It's interesting.  My political leanings are the same as they were when Murphy Brown was on TV, and yet there is not a chance I will watch it now, although I always watched it then.  And I never once -- I'm not kidding -- watched the original Roseanne show, not one episode.  Never could stand her, to tell you the truth.  But I do watch the reboot of it, if only because there is something novel about its political take that I won't see elsewhere -- and I'm still not a Roseanne Barr fan by any stretch.

I guess they have been filming, or at least making promos.  Some press flack put out a thing about the rebooted "Murphy", describing a clip as follows:

Murphy says [in the clip] that until recently she’d been semiretired: “I didn’t know what to do with myself,” she says. “But then we had an election,” and the screen fills with images of Donald Trump. Murphy declares, “We’re taking on this world of alternative facts and fake news.”

I'm a bit confused as to what world she is planning to take on.

President Trump is not technically in the media.  When he popularized the term "fake news", he was referring not to things that candidates were saying, like "You can keep your doctor", but very specifically that members of the media were putting out stories, under the protection of the First Amendment, that were simply not true.  Those stories were and are what is meant by "fake news."

Gee ... is the Murphy Brown character taking on the media then?

Last week, in the course of a meeting at the White House with California political leaders who were fighting their state's sanctuary policies, the topic of the MS-13 gang came up.  In reply, President Trump made reference to the gang members, who are amoral murderers and rapists, as "animals."  Any logical hearing of the context makes it ridiculously obvious that the reference was to MS-13 gang members.

Of course, the media ran with a clip that completely omitted the context and blasted out a narrative that the president had referred to "immigrants" as animals.  Not "illegal immigrants" and not just gang members, but just "immigrants."  Even though the context was clearly not that, CNN, the New York Times and others just ran with it, screaming.  CNN's talking heads were blasting the president for something that had not happened.

That's called "fake news" and is an absolutely, 100%, gold-plated textbook example of what was meant when the term was coined -- the media blasting out, unabated and sourceless, a story that was simply not true.  Worse, in this case, it was editing the reporting to make the actual quote only, in its out-of-context form they presented, something that would fit their anti-Trump narrative.

What would Murphy Brown say about that?  That the end justified the means, even when done by people with a Constitutional protection?  That it doesn't matter, because it was Donald Trump?  That she was embarrassed for her profession when they do that?  OK, probably not that.

But according to the flack, she (or the show) is taking on the world of alternative facts and fake news.  I suppose that in their twisted minds they think that fake news refers to something else, like maybe that anyone outside California, New York and Massachusetts is ever going to watch the rebooted Murphy Brown.  And they're free to think that.

But let's see what they think the fake news is that they're "taking on."  Because they, and their own profession, are they ones producing it, all by themselves.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Friday, May 18, 2018

Who's Doing the Ripping?

It is now a standard phrase of the left, as continually touted by their paid flacks and repeated by their senators.  When speaking of deporting illegal aliens, they constantly use the phrase "ripping families apart."

As if, you know, the left actually cares about families.

It has gotten laughable, and my feelings sort of crystallized during a hearing this week, when the pompous Kamala Harris of California (of course) kept pressing that phrase during a Senate hearing with the Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen.  "Why are you ripping families apart?", the leftist senator asked, or very similar words to that effect.

Secretary Nielsen, of whom I had not heard prior to her appointment to run DHS, is an impressive lady.  She does not need my help to answer questions from politically-motivated, self-serving clowns like Kamala Harris.  But I'll help, because clearly this is going to be one of those pet phrases that the left uses, and pet phrases have been a slight theme for the week.

"Senator, I'm going to answer your question first by acknowledging that there are actions that do separate families, that we take when illegal aliens are deported under the law.  It is a shame, because it is not an outcome that the government prefers, but it is only your job in Congress to make law, and ours in the Executive Branch to enforce law that you make.  You're free to change the law if you like.

"I will further point out that your sensibilities about ripping families apart may be well-meaning, but you seem not to have the same sensibilities when hundreds of thousands of black children are separated from their families each year by being killed against their will.  Of course, they have not been born quite yet, so perhaps you are misinterpreting what their will actually is.  But I digress.

[Given that Sen. Harris would surely have interrupted at this point, the Secretary would now say] "Please shut up and let me finish answering your question, Ma'am.

"While none of us is ever happy to see members of a family go their separate ways, deportation is hardly the most common instance of this.  There are over two million people incarcerated as we speak, for having committed crimes, including 136,000 in California in just your own state prisons.  Every single one of them was convicted of violating the laws that have been duly passed by state and Federal legislatures.

"Every single one of those people was, as you and the left and the press (but I repeat myself) keep referring to it, ripped from their families.  I certainly have never once heard you, or any other Democrat, complain about enforcing laws against robbery, rape, murder, drug-pushing, any of those crimes that put people behind bars and rips them, in your words, from their families.

"The enforcement of immigration law is the same thing, Senator.  Laws requiring people to be removed, whether to prison or their home countries, are the same thing.  If you don't like the law, Senator, it's up to you to change it, that's your job.  My job is to enforce the laws that the Senate has already passed.  You passed this one, I will continue to enforce it to the best of my ability.

"If you continue to be hypocritical and political, to complain about immigration enforcement separating families but do not show the same moral indignities when other convicted felons are removed from theirs -- let alone unborn children being ripped from families they never even got to know -- then I'm glad I have used up all your time.

"Because, Senator, your time has expired."   

Have a nice weekend.  I plan to.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Thursday, May 17, 2018

#900: Me and the NIH Director

This is my 900th column on this site, five a week for going-on four-years now, with a brief hiatus or two when work intervenes too strenuously.  There are at least 100 more, so we'll see what the world tosses out.  Thanks so much for reading, and for my Russian readers who keep coming and going in large numbers, whoever you are and why ever you read this, "Спасибо за прочтение."

Dr. Francis Collins is the director of the National Institutes of Health, or NIH, the huge Federal enterprise that does many things, including coordinating Federal support of medical research in all manner of areas.  Dr. Collins has now served two administrations on utter opposite sides of both politics and reality (the previous one, of course, had a lesser grasp on reality).

Of course, Dr. Collins was also one of the two men who led the effort to break the genetic code, and his Human Genome Project has spawned amazing outcomes in research, forensics and other scientifically marvelous areas, and put him on the cover of Time way back (when it was actually flattering to be there), long before his tenure at NIH.

A serious Christian, he has authored, among a number of other books, the bestselling "The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief", reflecting his view (which I share), that scientific theory, such as the evolution of the species, is perfectly compatible with a divine direction.  I have always admired his willingness to promote such a view.

I have paid attention to Dr. Collins over the years because, although I have not seen him in person in 44 years, we spent a fair amount of time together.  We were classmates in a class of 110 at medical school at the University of North Carolina, and pretty good friends back then.  His lab seat was in a group of four next to my group of four, in the room where we were based when not in the classroom.  So I think I can call him "Francis" without hesitation, and not like Gunther Toody would.

This piece is just a ramble, but forgive me; you might be amused.

Of the 110 in the class, about 90-95 had gone to school in North Carolina as undergrads, many right there in Chapel Hill.  Francis had gone to Virginia, though, and I had gone to MIT, as you know, which pretty much everyone in the class knew, since going from MIT to medical school was pretty unusual at the time.  Plus, I was kind of small and kind of loud back then.

Some time in the middle of the year, 1974 maybe, we had a class session that might have been a guest lecture -- we had a lot of them.  About 110 first-year med students in a theater classroom listened as the instructing physician talked about something or other for an hour.

There was a Q&A session at the end, and one of my colleagues asked a question.  The doctor pondered it for a moment, and decided that it didn't really have an answer.  "That", he replied to the student, "would be like asking why the sky is blue."  

I don't know what my mood was at the time, but I raised my hand and, sarcastically summoning my academic pedigree, I said, "Well actually, where I went to school we knew the answer to that."  Of course, the class went nuts, laughing for quite a while while the poor lecturer had no earthly idea what was so funny.

After the year was out, I decided to start an opera company in Boston, and that was it for my medical career.  Francis did better, of course, staying in school and becoming world-famous.  When he was named to head NIH, I sent him a congratulatory message, email having been invented in the 40 years or so since we had communicated.  Naturally he replied and was kind enough not only to have said he remembered me, but that because of me, the whole UNC Medical Class of 1977 now knew why the sky was blue.

Last year he was in the news again (he's often in the news, of course) for a commencement address he gave at SMU.  Francis is still a pretty funny guy, and decided to spice up his speech by singing a parody of Sinatra's "My Way" that was apropos for the moment.  It was great, and I was sent a link to it by a close friend who works at NIH and helps manage grant applications there.  Here it is, if you like, to list to when you're done reading.

I couldn't help it.  I wrote and told him what I'd been up to, and that I was now living by the beach and, while still working full time, had plenty of time for golf and other more relaxing enterprises -- including this column -- far more so than he.  And that I could write a parody or two if needed, including one of the same song, "My Way", directed right at him and the fact that he was still stuck in Washington and slaving long hours.  "Here you go", I wrote:

"So now – yes now you know, the sky is blue, just like I told you
And you – you use the smarts that UNC, way back then, sold you
While I – I’m playing golf, near Myrtle Beach, far from the freeway
And work just when I please -- the M.I.T. way!"

Bless him, he replied (edited), "Hey there Bob ... that sassy smart retort about the color of the sky, delivered to a touchy-feely professor ... is burned into the memories of all of your classmates, secure in a space where no amyloid or tau deposits can touch it.  Love the new verse!"

What a great guy.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

"Virtue Signaling" -- Finally, Our Own Pet Phrase

I don't know who coined the phrase "virtue signaling", but this column is here to salute the individual who came up with it.  Not, of course, because it is, in and of itself, so wonderful a phrase, but because "the right" needs a phrase or two of our own to use when the left, as they are wont to do, get just a teeny bit, you know, pompous, overbearing, self-righteous, know-it-all, that sort of thing.

You have probably heard the term, but as conservatives are not too fond of actually using pet phrases to make our points -- we try to be more creative than that -- you may not have realized that it is being gradually brought into the official lexicon in a concerted fashion.  You may not even quite get what it refers to.

So I will point you back to this column I did not long ago as a decent example of the practice.  In the left's abysmal attempt to make victims out of all of us, except for white males (victims, after all, need a villain), so that they can make the case that we all need lots and lots of government, they have to send messages.

First, you have to explain to the victims why they are victims.  Your lack of success is not because of lack of talent or ability or ambition or effort.  No, it is because of your race, or your religion, or your immigration status or lack thereof, or your gender (or lack thereof).

Then, especially if you are a white male, or a famous person reliant on getting people going to your movies or buying your recordings, or attending the games of the team you own, you have to show that it is the other guy who is the racist, homophobe, xenophobe, sexist, misogynist -- surely not you.  And you have to show that LOUDLY.

So you "virtue-signal."  You take on some ostensibly self-sacrificial act to make sure that everyone knows that you just hate bigots, and you just love illegal immigrants, or Muslims, or black people, or LGBTQVFR people, or essayists.  OK, no one virtue-signals their love of essayists, but if you want to be the first, there is a Comments section below.

But I digress.

In a column a long time ago, before I had even heard the term, I brought up what happened when Ben Affleck, the actor, discovered that a long-dead ancestor had actually -- gasp! -- owned slaves.   This all came up at a TV look-up-your-ancestors show.  Affleck promptly virtue-signaled by deciding that he, who had never owned an actual slave, would do acute penance for the sins of his 200-year-back ancestor.

In the column I linked to, the owners of the Boston Red Sox, a team of 40% Latinos and black players, but owned by older white men, decided to be embarrassed by the name of the street on the first-base side of Fenway Park. The street is Yawkey Way, named after the long-time owner of the team.  Yawkey was a devoted philanthropist, but he was quite late to integrate his team (the last in the majors to do so, in the mid-1950s), and therefore has been branded a racist, applying 2018 morality to 1955.

So the owners -- John Henry, Larry Lucchino, Tom Werner (who brought us The Cosby Show, by the way) -- decided that they just had to show us how non-racist they were by petitioning the City of Boston to change the name  of Yawkey Way back to its previous name -- Jersey Street.  I know what you are thinking.  Don't go there.

That was virtue signaling in its full flower.  Now we all know how offended the Red Sox owners were at the embarrassing legacy of Tom Yawkey.  They have signaled to us that they are not racists at all, but virtuous human beings, embarrassed at the history of the team they own, and for being white males, and all that.  They have virtue-signaled. It is OK to go to ballgames now.  Whew.

I like the term.  I don't like the actual signaling, of course.  If you are afraid of what your customers think, and are afraid they may not attend your games, or buy your recordings or go to your movies, then take the Dolly Parton approach and just concentrate on your music (or your baseball team, or your acting), and shut up about things that don't concern your business.

Of course, it's 2018, and people who don't like President Trump just have to show it, lest people think they might ... well, those people don't actually think, so actors and performers and sports-team owners shouldn't be worried about what they think.

But they will continue to virtue-signal, and we will continue to call them out on it.  Now we have a term that we can use, and it's great.  "Virtue signaling" sounds as pompous as the people practicing it are acting, so it is the perfect term.  It also calls out its practitioners for hypocrisy, since we know that John Henry and Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino really couldn't care less about the legacy of Tom Yawkey; they just want to act like they do, so no one will shy away from buying tickets.

Because, of course, Greater Boston is just chock full of people who refused to go to Red Sox games because one corner street was called Yawkey Way.  Yeah, sure.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

A Little More on the NoKo Friendship Thought

So yesterday, I declared that I really had no idea what each party in the upcoming summit between the USA and North Korea wanted, at least in the sense of a complete list.  And I don't, to be perfectly honest, although we certainly can guess some of the pillar points of each side's desires.

But then I went on to pose a thought that I believe wasn't even anyone's pipe dream, not left, not right, not them or even us.  No one is thinking this, unless you read this column yesterday.  I suggested this:

"And here is a huge aside ... there is a possible outcome that no one is talking about.  That is where Trump and Kim not only agree to denuclearize both Koreas and end the war and lessen tensions, but to take steps toward actual friendship and jointly re-developing a North Korean economy, and even becoming (gasp) an ally of the USA!  That would embarrass China to no end, of course.   As long as Kim feels secure in his own power, that is not impossible, though no one has even posed that."

Needless to say, I got more than a few emails, only some of them suggesting that my recent birthday had flipped me over to senility.  Believe me, as my friends have known for years, for me senility will be a very smooth transition.

Actually, I brought that peaceful-outcome notion up for no other reason than that I had been contemplating good outcomes -- in the sense of the press figuring out how to make President Trump look bad no matter what came out of the meetings.  If they don't know in advance what would define "success", they could literally decide to call anything failure, simply because they want the president to fail.

In defining the most successful possible outcome,  I then caught myself stopping at a fairly conservative point.  "What if Kim agrees to dismantle and blow up his nuclear sites, turn all the weapons over to the USA, allow us to inspect whenever and wherever, and after six months compliance maybe we'll send some wheat or something."  Pretty modest, conservative goals, right?  The press and the Democrats (but I repeat myself) would still kick and moan and declare it a failure, but normal people would think that was pretty good, especially for having been on the verge of nuclear war to get there.

I thought about it, and let myself shift the paradigm, a lot.  "Maybe it could be even better", I considered.  "What about ..." and let my mind wander.  Clearly the present situation, or at least the situation during the "Little Rocket Man" tweet period, was awful.  What would be the opposite?

I tried to picture a USA-North Korea relationship that was completely opposite of the way it was, and it actually didn't sound completely ridiculous.  Implausible, maybe, but not impossible.  So stay with me for a few more paragraphs.

President Trump goes to Singapore and tells Kim they can talk as long as they need to, all night.  That this is the most important thing for the world that day, and they had to end it right.  He realizes that Kim is not a religious fanatic like the Iranians and ISIS and those types (a little nutso, maybe, but driven by things we understand, like power), and so it was not out of the question that they could negotiate.

Instead of feeling like they would be successful if Kim blew up his nuke sites and we sent them some wheat (just my metaphoric phrase for the outcome most people would hope for), President Trump says, "How about they consider a much bigger shock to the world?"  They were going to shake hands for the cameras at the end anyway; why not declare a friendship, salute the peace, and regard each other as strategic economic allies?

What would that mean?  Well, with the military threat negated (and as long as Kim is assured we're not going to invade, it can be negated), they could dismantle the DMZ by the end of the year.  Kim would immediately cut off exports of weapons to Iran and the like, and allow us carte blanche to inspect his sites.

In return, President Trump could provide economic experts to go to North Korea and, with the South Koreans, help Kim put together an achievable two-year, ten-year and twenty-year program to rebuild its economy, and start creating wealth by identifying goods and services early on that could be exported.  This president knows a few of those types.  The USA would lead a coalition of Western nations that would -- without any effort to undermine Kim's chairman-for-life position -- help lead a resurrection of their economy.

All this time, the USA becomes, over time, the chief trading partner and economic support for North Korea, under reasonable trade agreements, displacing the Chinese and embarrassing them in the process.  In fact, Kim could ask the same question of the Chinese -- "Why didn't you do any of this for us?" -- that the black community should have been asking the Democrats who led their cities into decay and ruin.  And perhaps, years down the road, a path to a unified Korea can be seen.

Why should we not try for this?  Why should we have to see only Korean denuclearization and a fragile peace as the best we should try for?  How about imagining a future that's a lot better than just that?

Can you imagine?  I actually can.  And I'm not senile.  Yet.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Monday, May 14, 2018

What to Expect from Mr. Kim

We know now the date and place for the upcoming meeting between President Trump and Little Rocket Man, the Dear Leader of the barren wasteland that is North Korea, Chairman Kim Jong-Un.  You know it as well.

What do we expect?

It's a lovely question to ponder.  After all, when you go into a negotiation, whether or not one side as actually written a book called "The Art of the Deal", there are things that each side wants of the other.  And that part is always colored by ancillary topics that get thrown in at the last minute.

One example is a meeting between the owners of the Red Sox and Yankees in 1947, where they discussed a trade where Joe DiMaggio would go to the Red Sox and Ted Williams over to the Yankees.  The owners, Tom Yawkey of Boston and Dan Topping of the Yankees, were quite drunk at the time, and although they tentatively shook hands on it, in the morning the deal was scuttled when the more-sober-then Yawkey asked Dan Topping, of the Yankees, to "throw in that little guy you have in left field."

The "little guy" was actually a catcher, name of Yogi Berra.  The deal fell through.

In this one, what each side wants is not so clear that you and I could sit down and try to mock-negotiate an outcome.  And that is a problem, since whether or not the leftist media tell us afterward that anything at all was good for the USA, depends on knowing what we wanted in the first place.

We know, for example, that we want the North Koreans to dismantle their nuclear weapons program, and get rid of all their nuclear weapons.  We also want to be able to maintain a military and naval force in South Korea, we assume, and be able to keep our forces in the area as a buffer against China and Russia, not that we need Kim's permission to do so.  We would like an end to the Korean War and a general sense of peace between the two Koreas, rather than a tense DMZ.  Beyond that, there's nothing the NoKos can really do for us.  The rest is just details.

But what does Kim Jong-Un want?  You see, everything President Trump wants out of the negotiations, as far as we can guess he wants, is for the USA and the world, not for Donald Trump.  He and we (except for the press and the left, but I repeat myself) want all the above things because we want peace and stability in the region.  We'd probably also like a better situation for the North Korean people, but frankly that's for Kim to provide.

What Kim wants, different from President Trump, is 99% for Kim Jong-Un and only incidentally for his people, whom he starves and murders at will.  So we can strongly guess that, while ultimately what we want is denuclearization of North Korea and a lasting peace, what Kim wants is his own security as president for life.  And he will give away some things to keep it.

A certain type of Kim Jong-Un is not a terrible thing for the USA.  That would be where he keeps his problems internal and ceases to pose a nuclear threat, or any military threat.  It's not optimal, but it's stable.  And we could be willing to accept his permanency if it comes without the threat -- or any nuclear program at all.

I mention that Kim is in it only for Kim because he is going to ask for something in return for dismantling his nuke program -- which at this moment may not exist much anymore, if stories of its collapse into a big hole are true (and we certainly know its actual status).  The question is whether what he asks for is for himself, or for his starving people.

I don't think that President Trump is going to be agreeing to send a penny over there.  He's a lot shrewder than that.  He is smart enough to realize that the leverage is all his.  Kim was cowed into agreeing to meet, partly because he discovered that Donald Trump and the U.S. military are a combination quite dangerous to his seeing tomorrow morning, and partly because his nuclear threat may have already dismantled itself into a mountainside.

Very likely he will try to play on our American sympathies for the plight of his starving people, asking for money to buy food, or even actual food.  Again, he is dealing with a challenge in that this president is not going to ship a pallet of euros to Pyongyang in the middle of the night, like the previous one.  Donald Trump is going to insist on tangible, verifiable results before taking any steps to help the North Korean people, and even then he will insist that, in so many words, the food gets eaten by the people.


And here is a huge aside ... there is a possible outcome that no one is talking about.  That is where Trump and Kim not only agree to denuclearize both Koreas and end the war and lessen tensions, but to take steps toward actual friendship and jointly re-developing a North Korean economy, and even becoming (gasp) an ally of the USA!  That would embarrass China to no end, of course.   As long as Kim feels secure in his own power, that is not impossible, though no one has even posed that.


I would like to think that the president, courtesy of Mike Pompeo and our intelligence services, has a pretty reasonable idea of what is important to Kim and what he is likely to seek.  I also think that for all the newsworthiness of the event, Donald Trump will get what he wants, at the price he wants, or he will politely excuse himself and walk away.

The press will have no idea what will happen, because they are not astute enough to know what Kim wants, and certainly what would constitute a successful negotiation on the part of President Trump.  We know for certain that the actual result will be between three and four times more positive for the USA than the media will portray it as being.  You can use that factor, by the way, free.  My gift.

But I sure wish I knew what they wanted over in Pyongyang.

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