Tuesday, July 31, 2018

And God Laughs, Justice Ginsburg

I suppose it was a bit of passing news over the weekend when Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Supreme Court justice who would not recommend the U.S. Constitution to other countries, was asked about retirement plans.  Or just decided to make a statement,  Matters not which.

At any rate, she noted that Justice Stevens who was an elder colleague on the Court, had retired years back at 90, and so, in so many words, she thought she had "five years" left.  We were supposed to interpret that, I imagine, as saying that she would not plan to retire until President Trump's second term was over.  At least the math is close.

Of course, as the saying goes in many cultures and many languages, "Man plans, and God laughs."

We know God has a sense of humor, because how else could you explain the zebra, or Paris Hilton, or Hillary Clinton?  But I suspect that He laughs a lot when someone like Mrs. Ginsburg makes plans that presuppose her making it to 90.

Now, we should all plan for that eventuality, in the sense of being prepared should we live that long.  I get that, and preparation for an eventuality does not equate to an expectation of its occurrence.  I exercise and try to eat sort of right, and I'm already 67, and both parents and both grandmothers lived into their nineties.  So I should certainly prepare for the possibility, at least in terms of financial planning, although I can't say I "plan" to live that long.

What I do not plan to be doing is working.  Nor, I contend, should she.

First of all, my current plan (cut to laughter from God) is to work full time as a consultant until age 70, whereupon I'll tilt the work/life (i.e., time with the Best Girl and lots more golf) balance to maybe a quarter-time for work.  There is a lot of demand for my weird skill set, but I think that could work, part time for a while.  But not until 90, if I were to live that long.

We have Constitutional guidance, where Representatives must be at least 25 and Senators at least 30.  The President has to be 35.  Justices can be any age, including 11 ... or mentally 11.  I imagine that at no point did the Framers contemplate anyone wanting to sit in Congress, the (to-be) White House or the Supreme Court past the age of mental competence, so there is no mandatory retirement age.

But there should be.

The oldest truly notable participant in the founding of our Nation was probably Ben Franklin, who was never the president.  I feel the need to point that out, because high-school students can't be relied upon to know enough history to know pretty much anything, including that Franklin was never president.

It would be helpful if they knew that a really good reason that Franklin was never president, and never even considered to become president, is that when George Washington started his very first term as the very first president of the United States, Benjamin Franklin was already 83 years old.  Washington was only a year into that very first presidential term when Franklin died.

But I digress.

Well, not a lot.  We do start slowing down, mentally, in our 60s and 70s.  I write this column, in part, to practice and exercise my verbal skills so I can do a better job in my actual for-a-living profession.  But I can tell when I'm working to recall a word, that I'm aging.  I used to have a mental exercise when jogging, as recently as 3-4 years ago, where I would verbalize the names of each member of each of the international barbershop quartet champions back to the first one in 1939.  Don't you laugh, now; I used to know them.  Now, not so much.

It is imperative that we make no attempts to impose an age limit on SCOTUS justices for the ad hoc purpose of getting someone off the Court that we don't like.  That's wrong on every level.  But the Court is important, I mean really important -- and we have to have a comfort level that they're capable of doing what they are paid to do.  That they're not sleeping through arguments or, worse, forgetting precedents and how to apply them.

Do you trust a 90-year-old justice?  Me, either.

I would like for us to consider, most seriously, a Constitutional amendment by which any justice appointed after the final adoption of the amendment is to serve only through the Court term or summer recess during which they reach their 80th birthday, and are retired at that point from at least that Court.

Elections have consequences, and the appointments to the Supreme Court are among those consequences.  Of course, since such an amendment would not affect any current justices, the logical outcome is that future presidents would find themselves appointing relatively younger (and therefore more mentally crisp) judges to the Court, which would not be a terrible thing.

I value age and maturity as much as the next guy, but as I watch the subtle impact of age on my own mind skills, and realize that the oldest justice is 18 years older than I, I would certainly like for us to start contemplating a reasonable retirement for the Court, because a nonagenarian Supreme Court justice is not a pleasant prospect.

Thank you, Justice Ginsburg, for reminding us.

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

Monday, July 30, 2018

We Have Great Singers -- We Just Don't Know It

It is probably not a secret that I don't really care for music that involves a guitar, a bass, drums and people either screaming, reciting words to a beat, or trying to sing in a drawl they didn't grow up with rather than letting the lyrics convey the story.  That means most everything since around 1955.  And if I have to listen four times to get even half the words, forget it.

If you didn't know that, please read this piece I did a few years back that says it all and which I stand by yet today.  I have always been this way about music.

Now, even some people who are not particularly musical may be aware of the phenomenon of the Russian bass.  Way back when, the composers of Russian church music wrote some bass parts that were extraordinarily deep by contemporary standards, to which very few basses could "get their pipes around them" and do a good job on.

So the composers started looking around for people with profoundly deep voices and pushed them to become singers.  Suddenly you had these big, deep Russian basses out there, impressing the socks off people.  But it wasn't that Russian men have particularly deep voices -- it was that the demand for ultra-low-voiced singers meant that Russian men with the God-given depth were more likely to end up as singers.

We have 330 million people or so in the USA.  Can you name even one USA-born operatic tenor?  Me neither, although I might recognize a couple if you mentioned them.  Is there any argument that the talent of one who can perform such roles, or perform the songs written for them as "art songs", vastly surpasses that of anyone on the radio today or out selling their songs on iTunes?

But "talent", per se, while it is certainly out there, is simply not developed.  When a spectacular voice appears on a competitive TV entertainment show like the frustrating America's Got Talent, the judges simply don't know what to do with them and they end up on the cutting-room floor, or the chopping block, and never get very close to the final competitions -- at least in the last few years.

So what do I want?  Well, if the Russian bass example teaches us anything, it is that if we want to see the talent within our community, we have to appreciate it.  The music written today simply does not value good singing technique, or even halfway-decent tuning.  What I want is for us to be raising a generation that values the kind of difficult-to-sing-but beautiful vocal music, and appreciates the singularity of talent it takes to perform it -- and the beauty of the result.

I certainly understand that the opera-loving community in the USA morphed into effete eastern snobs who insisted a century back that operas be sung in the original language so we couldn't understand the story (unlike the rest of the world, where they are predominantly sung in the local language).  That screwed everything up and kept us from appreciating the talent of the performers (even I can't sit there and watch people singing in French portraying a story I can't follow because I don't speak French).

But we still have 330 million people in the USA, not counting those who were born or who passed away since you read a few paragraphs back.  If America actually valued great voices, we would actually be developing them, and like the Russian basses, the USA would be lousy with great singers, because we already have them.

OK, I get it.  As long as sloppily-sung (or simply spoken-to-a-beat) stuff is making performers rich, no one is going to drive a movement to value actual singing talent anytime soon.  But I have a pen and a phone -- OK, I have a keyboard and a website -- and I'm going to use them.

I'm sorry, but I love beautiful music, and while billions of dollars are spent on contemporary "music" by poor slobs who don't understand that the emperor has no clothes (you did read the link, right?), I will continue to plug in my earbuds when I'm writing and listen to beautiful sounds, made by talented singers who survived the assault of crappy art to commit to developing into great voices.

If we appreciated it, there would be more.

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

Friday, July 27, 2018

When Is Terrorism Treason?

Over the past week, stimulated by the terror attack in Toronto, Canada, we have discussed here the notion of what terrorism is and is not.  I believe and would insist that most all of the incidents we have seen the past few years -- you know what I'm referring to -- are terrorism, whether or not they were perpetrated by Islamists.

But at least some of these incidents have been perpetrated by American citizens.  What then?

Well, this notion was brought to me by a reader, and I immediately thought that he was exactly right.  If an American citizen grabs a weapon or three, or he or she gets behind the wheel and starts running over people in the name of ISIS, or the name of Iran, or some other Islamist entity, well sure, we're talking murder.  That will get you the death penalty in some states, no matter whose name it was done in.

But it is something else as well, and that is going to get the Feds involved, or at least it should, and I'm hoping someone of the right authority level reads this and thinks about it.

If an American citizen takes up arms in the USA, whether automotive, firearm or otherwise and kills innocents in the name of a foreign entity, with or without territory, they are essentially fighting for that other nation or entity and against the United States.

We have a word for that.  It is called "treason."

Omar Mateen, the murderer in the Orlando gay nightclub shooting, was a native-born American citizen, born in New York of Afghan parents.  He declared his allegiance to ISIS on the phone during the shootings.  By all interpretations, Mateen was fighting for a foreign entity when he shot up the nightclub.

Of course, Mateen is dead, having been killed by police at the end of the standoff, so he is not going to face any charges by the State of Florida, and certainly not treason by the USA, which apparently has a whole bunch of other things to occupy the time and resources of its Justice Department, like figuring out how corrupt FBI management could take an opposition research document to a FISA court and get a warrant to spy on a U.S. citizen.

But there are and will be others, American citizens-turned-soldiers for ISIS or Al Qaeda or whomever.  Some of those will initiate terrorist acts, which may or may not result in death.  But whether or not the result is what they want, any such action that can be suggested to be characterized as an action on behalf of such an entity constitutes treason.

I would certainly like for law enforcement to start -- now -- thinking in those terms, that when an American acts in any way on behalf of a foreign terrorist entity with a violent goal, he or she is seen as a traitor and the Federal government's law enforcement goes there first.

I doubt that doing so routinely is going to lead to any diminution of the frequency of such attacks -- the best weapon for that is people who know turning such types into authorities before they act -- but it is a standard that needs to be set.

Now that's treason.  Let's call it such.

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

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Can the Left Get Its Russia Story Straight?

It is de rigeur for the left and the press these days to bash President Trump for his dealings with Russia.  In general, the theme is some kind of "too soft on Russia" tune, which is supposed to complement the narrative that "the president was elected because the Russians hacked the elections in cahoots with the Trump campaign."

Now, we know to this point -- primarily because if there were any evidence of any of that, it would have leaked months ago -- that there is zero evidence of collusion with Russians on the part of the Trump campaign, and that there is zero indication that the Russians were in any way successful in changing a single vote.  The tried, they failed, if changing votes were their goal.

They were, of course, successful in what you, me and the president know they were trying to do, which was stir up mistrust in the American electoral system, by poking around and pitting one side against the other.  They really didn't give a crap who got elected, you see -- if anything, they'd have wanted the same Hillary Clinton who sold them tons of our uranium, after all.  They just wanted to stir up domestic waves, and they certainly did.

Since the election, in order to keep that narrative going, it has been necessary for the leftist-dominated, anti-Trump-dominated media to have a Russian thread, meaning that anything this Administration does in regard to Russia has to be spun as if it helps Russia.

That means that the narrative has to position Russia as a big, bad adversary that we should be strong like bull against (said best in a Boris Badenov voice).  That way it can be said that Trump is "thanking" them for making him president.  OK, the narrative is loopy, but it's all they've got, what with the booming economy, the diminishing tensions with North Korea, the zeroing unemployment rate and all.  And it means ignoring the fact that President Trump is pushing the heck out of NATO to spend more defending against its main adversary, which is the same Russia that Trump is supposed to be protecting.  And now we've reached agreements with the EU to sell them natural gas that they were otherwise buying from ... Russia.  Not good for Putin.  Go figure.

So ... if Russia and all it stands for are so evil, then why has the Democrat leadership, at least the DNC chair, multiple Democrat senators and the new spokesman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (who to this point has done exactly nothing, including winning a job in an election) practically embraced the failed economic model of Russia?

The Democrats' line is, right now, Russian economic model "good", Russia "bad."  Again -- go figure.

The thing that Democrats don't get -- OK, the 144th thing that Democrats don't get -- is that all the evil associated with Russia, which is its dictatorial government, need to invade other countries, embrace of other dictators, all that they hate, are all associated with its failed economic system, which Democrat socialists are trying to impose on the USA.

They don't get it.  Socialism is not innately "evil", it is simply unworkable and universally unsuccessful, and on top of that requires an evil, iron-fisted dictatorship to keep it in place.  Think Stalin, Castro, Mao, Kim, Kim and Kim.  No, I mean it -- think about those guys, because unless the Democrats find a non-socialist platform, they're going to be trapped into supporting that very model.

It won't look good for them in November.

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

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Fascinating Curation of Yahoo Headlines

We have fun, fun, fun when the news service curators don't talk to each other, or at least what happens when liberals don't think anyone is actually watching.

Yesterday morning, the Yahoo news feed that leads their search engine linked to a picture of the old '50s "Twilight Zone" TV show, complete with Rod Serling himself, accompanying a headline about how the globe is warming and it was 89 degrees in northern Norway or somewhere like that, and we were all going to die.

A couple three headlines below, it was what was intended to be a cutesy celebrity story, captioned by this: "Serena Williams' Husband, Alexis Ohanian, Apparently Flew Her to Italy When She Wanted Italian Food."  It was intended to be a positive, uplifting article about a gesture from one limousine lefty to another.

If your mind works in the same direction as mine, you probably got the same reaction.

Yahoo news is curated, of course from a liberal position; we understand that.  For every citation from the right-leaning Fox News and the occasional neutral piece from The Hill, there are many more links to HuffPost, CNN, all the major networks, Salon, Vox, Bloomberg and a wide array of other leftist to far-leftist publications and reporting/commenting entities.

That explains why a global-warming scare piece sat atop the Yahoo news feed, with an equally scary "Twilight Zone" headline and picture.  We get it, they want to stop the USA economy from progressing, even while China and India and others are paying meager lip service to the goals of the moronic Paris climate accord, with no enforcement against their ability to belch out whatever they feel like.

If the Americans do all the work, it will damage our economy and, by extension, capitalism, which is presumably what they want to do in the first place.

Apparently, though, they haven't told their puff-piece people.

I'm not going to go into how stupid it was that the uber-wealthy Alexis Ohanian took his equally uber-wealthy tennis-playing wife on his private jet to Italy "for an Italian dinner"; if they have the money, have fun.  My best girl made us spaghetti alla aglia e olio that very same night, and I can assure you it was as good as whatever pasta they had jetting to Europe.  And no one needed to read about it the next day.

I will, however, get into how stupid it was that some outlet thought that their readers would go all ga-ga about the idea.  Super-rich people presumably do that sort of thing all the time, except now they post pictures online, lest we forget their relevance.

And I will get far more into how stupid it was that Yahoo accompanies a scary, top-level headline about global warming, with a link a few lines down to a piece on spoiled, pampered rich people burning barrels of jet fuel into the presumably already-overheated atmosphere, on their private jet, so they can have dinner in Italy.

Needless to say, the comments on the Italy article (oh, come on, of course you read them, too) blasted the two lovebirds, Yahoo and HuffPost (ah, that's right, it was a HuffPost piece) all to smithereens for thinking that it was appropriate on any level to try to cute up a story that involved polluting the atmosphere with a private jet for a plate of macaroni with garlic bread.

The writer did not address that.  He or she (who really cares) was far too lost in a world of celebrity adoration to have paid attention to what anyone not in New York or Los Angeles would actually care about, and certainly not that the whole episode was an exercise in stupidity.

I wonder if the same publication, that gets all hot and bothered about how often Air Force One gets used for things that they dislike passionately, even concerned themselves with the silliness of this episode, and the silliness and hypocrisy of the actual writing about it.

Fortunately, NY and LA do not represent mainstream thinking.

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

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

It WAS Terrorism -- What Do YOU Think?

Last June, I did the piece I thought I was going to write today.  When you have five deadlines a week, you have to research sometimes to make sure you're not repeating some brilliance from a year or three back.  And a year ago, apparently I did, sort of, enough to be taken aback but not so much as to avoid writing it again, sort of, today.

The point was brought back to me when a gunman shot up a part of Toronto, Canada, on the weekend, and the news report referred to the local authorities as not having determined as yet if the incident was "terrorism."

I immediately reacted by saying "Then what the heck else was it?", that is, that terrorism didn't depend entirely on the identification of the perpetrator. Then I got a text from my brother, saying the same thing and telling me to write that notion up.  That, of course, is when I discovered that I sort of had.

The difference is that the 2017 column was talking about it in the sense of political correctness, and the notion that "terrorism" meant that the perpetrator(s) had to have been practicing radical Islamist terrorism, and if we didn't yet know if the act was done by Islamists, well gee, we couldn't say "terror" lest we offend anyone.

Well, as I write this, the identity of the gunman who shot up the Greektown neighborhood is known, and he was a Muslim of some stripe, not yet identified as an Islamist.  And he is already dead and not talking.  But the incident certainly is understood.  And it seems quite apparent that (A) Canada's boasted-about gun laws didn't seem to have stopped this, and (B) the perpetrator was shooting at relatively unconnected people, whose presence on the street was enough to make them targets.

"Terrorism" is not really a difficult word to define.  It is an action intended to make people afraid, no matter what the motive.  Yes, the preponderance of such people are Islamists, because the rest of us don't advocate killing innocent people as a way to attract others to their way of worshiping God.  But not all of them are.

Charles Whitman, the shooter at the University of Texas many years ago, was frightening people, but he was a disturbed young man who was venting emotion and anger and very likely the effects of a brain tumor he did not know he had.  He was not trying to influence people by scaring them into doing something.  Was that terrorism?  An act of extreme violence, certainly, but not terrorism, I think.

So was Toronto terrorism or not?  And does it matter?

I think if I were the news reporter, I would be saying that it "certainly appears to have been an act of terrorism", and if it were to have turned out to be the rare act of a very disturbed person not in control of themselves, then I might not even have to feel like correcting myself.

The problem today is that we have conflated "terrorism" with "radical Islamist terrorism" to where the media are afraid to declare an act as the former out of fear of implying the latter.

Well, here is the thing.  Such acts are so predominantly the act of terrorists, that it seems perfectly reasonable and not at all risky to say early on that it "appears to have been a terrorist act" until proven otherwise.

Forty years or so ago, I remember seeing the late British comedians Peter Cook and Dudley Moore in a stage show that may have been "Good Evening", a 1970s series of comedy vignettes.  In one of them, Moore is playing a British detective being interviewed by a reporter (Cook) about a series of train robberies.

"We are absolutely certain", Moore says, "that we know who has perpetrated this awful crime."  Cook replies, "Please tell us, then, who that is!"  Moore then says, "These incidents are the work of thieves!"

Well, duh.  When you are reporting on an act that nine times out of ten is an act of terrorism, you really shouldn't be afraid to point out that it certainly appears to be an act of terrorism.


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

Monday, July 23, 2018

Could "Theybie" Killing the Dems Chances This Fall?

I watched a throwaway piece on the news this weekend about how some parents -- probably two, but what the heck -- were starting to raise newborn babies as "theybies", i.e., without recognizing their gender and, as they start their lives, without treating boys as boys and girls as girls from birth.

Now, the whole notion is pretty silly on its surface -- boys are boys and girls are girls, and the very tiny percentage of people raised in such a way as to feel completely the other gender can be addressed on their own.  But the morning show that ran the little piece had a "panel" of three people Skyped in, to give their views.

One was a clinical psychologist, I recall, and the second was ... I forgot.  But the third was a
Democratic strategist", and the poor fellow was having to defend this notion -- which he did, or tried to -- and that's what got me thinking.

You see, the more the Democrats are saddled with being the left, the more they have to address the cockeyed notions that the more extreme parts of the left spout.  And it is a "feature" of the left that they continually push the envelope with more odd "ideas" constantly, and the press is unwilling to call them out when the ideas are actually stupid -- so we get more of them.

Yesterday, for example, Kamala Harris, the leftist senator from, of course, California, came up with a rosy notion that the Federal government should control rent.  The reason?  Because some people can't afford their rent, and it is too high of a percentage of some people's income.  Now, that's absurd on its face, because the Federal government not only has no right to involve itself in local commerce, and is banned from doing it by the Constitution, it has shown itself incapable of doing so with any ability at all, with Obamacare being the most recent disastrous example (add student loan programs, VA hospitals, etc.).

Oh yeah, and because rent is set by a market economy.  If the Government lowered rent to where the property owner could not afford to rent it out -- and every such property is different, mind you, which the Government would never be able to manage -- either properties would be sold and re-purposed, abandoned, or allowed to decay further, reducing availability of decent housing.

Are the media calling Sen. Harris out for stupidity?  Of course not.  She is a Democrat, like them, a far-left liberal, like them, and she is part-black, which makes her immune from criticism.

So the media ignore the weird or hopeless notions the left is coming up with, like regulating rent at the Federal level, abolishing ICE, throwing borders open, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and "guaranteed incomes", an experiment which just crashed and burned in Finland.

And now we have "theybies", and I hope this one at least gets publicized, although I can't say for sure who is actually practicing this notion.

When I saw that the defender invited to comment was a "Democratic strategist", it struck me that that was a big issue.  As long as the left kept coming up with these hare-brained things that average Americans would reject out of hand, how are the Democrats who have to represent the left supposed to get elected?  How would "less leftist" Democrats like Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Donnelly, Claire McCaskill and Jon Tester expect in November to keep their Senate seats in states that President Trump won, unless they aggressively oppose that kind of idiocy?

The Democrats want to try to take back the House in November (they don't really have a chance in the Senate because the Senate election cycle doesn't break their way in 2018).  How are they going to do that if an aggressive Republican National Committee points out in every contested race that the Democrats are defending these policies that the voting public doesn't support?

The Democrats have a problem of their own making.  They are not shutting these notions down, and the press is not helping them by airing them as being mainstream thought, when they are not.

I'm waiting for the first "gender reveal" by one of those sets of lefty parents that actually buys into the "theybie" notion.  I'm guessing what color the balloons will be.

I'm thinking "beige."

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

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Do NOT Attend That Sensitivity Training, Mr. Hader!

Major League Baseball is apparently run by spineless morons.

Don't believe me?  Try this.  According to this piece from ESPN, the leftist "sports" network, which surely is happy about it, the All-Star pitcher Josh Hader of the Milwaukee Brewers will have to attend "sensitivity training" and participate in "diversity and inclusion initiatives" because of tweets he sent.

Hader is 24 years old, in his second year in the majors.  You would have assumed that he was punished for tweets he sent last week, or maybe a month ago.  Nope.

First, let's go ahead and read Baseball's insipid statement in total.  Here goes:

"During last night's [All-Star] game we became aware of Mr. Hader's unacceptable social media comments in years past and have since been in communication with the Brewers regarding our shared concerns," Major League Baseball said in a statement Wednesday. "After the game, Mr. Hader took the necessary step of expressing remorse for his highly offensive and hurtful language, which fails to represent the values of our game and our expectations for all those who are a part of it. The Office of the Commissioner will require sensitivity training [sic] for Mr. Hader and participation in MLB's diversity and inclusion initiatives [sic]."

Now, I've read the tweets, and let's just say that if I had a granddaughter, the 17-year-old version of Josh Hader would not be the guy I'd want her to be anywhere near.  They were racially offensive and not exactly kind to gay people either.  They're the kind of sub-sophomoric crap you would expect from a 17-year-old.

Which, if you haven't already figured out, is how old Hader was when he wrote them!

I am serious as a heart attack.  Major League Baseball is ordering sensitivity training, and participation in their other virtue-signaling garbage, as punishment for something that Hader did when he was 17 years old -- before he was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles, before he played in the Houston Astros organization, and then before going to Milwaukee, where he made his major-league debut last year.

Those tweets were from 2011.

Now, Hader is not accused of having ever, you know, actually done anything, physically.  He wrote a bunch of offensive tweets in 2011, as a 17-year-old, while the property, not of Major League Baseball, but of Old Mill High School in Millersville, Maryland.  And, I suppose, his parents.

It is unknown whether his school, or his parents or anyone else took him to task or punished him back then, but I can tell you that it was their jurisdiction to do so, certainly not Major League Baseball, with which Hader had zero connection then.

So I am telling you this, Josh Hader.  You need to refuse to attend any such training, any such punishment, and if Baseball tries to punish you for that refusal, you need to take them to court, where you will surely win.  You need to insist that, however ugly, the offensive tweets of a 17-year-old are for parents and schools to punish at that time, not for an employer seven years later, and particularly when we're talking about protected speech, as in "protected by the Constitution."

Josh Hader, according to his teammates, is not the same person he was as an immature teenager, and I assume, at least based on my own example, that is true.  If Baseball can punish him as an employer for something he did not do while in their employ, and which was Constitutionally protected, then other employers can assert some right to go back to employees they want to lay off, find tweets from when they were 17 and fire them, instead of laying them off.

Or find tweets from when they were 16.  Or 12.  Or in nursery school.

And for how long are subject to that?  If they found the tweets only when he was 58 would they try to suspend his pension until he went to "training"?

Please, Josh.  Do not go to that training.  Refuse!  The nation needs you to take a stand.

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

Where's My Baseball!!!!

On the bookcase facing my desk there is a shaped glass piece with dirt in it from Fenway Park, 2004.  That was a piece of merchandise celebrating the Red Sox championship that year, their first in 86 years.  It was a gift from someone who thought I'd like it, and they were right.

There are two baseballs as well, one positioned atop a "Hole-in-One Mug" I got for my hole-in-one in 1987.  That baseball is signed (although faded a lot) by Carl Yastrzemski, the Hall of Fame outfielder for Boston I met a few times back in my anthem-singing days.  It's also signed by Bill Lee, the oddball left-handed pitcher from the 1970s, who grabbed the ball and signed it for no specific reason.

The other was signed far more recently, that one by Trot Nixon, the Red Sox outfielder who is from Wilmington, NC, where my son is general manager of a brewery.  Nixon went there for an event, and when he heard that the GM's dad (me) was a Sox fan, he signed a ball for me and gave it to him.  That one is also mounted on that bookcase.

What I don't have, now in Day 4 of four, is actual baseball.

We are in the All-Star break, which means that for four straight days the only activities in Major League Baseball are the Home Run Derby on Monday and the All-Star Game on Tuesday.  The Derby is just a skills competition, especially if no one you care a lot about, is competing.  The All-Star Game is certainly baseball, but when the players are taking selfies on the field while the game is in progress, it is not ... well, you get the idea.

I used to watch the All-Star Game and root for the American League, except for when I rooted for the National League for some years for reasons that escape me.  Now, however, the game is fairly meaningless -- who is actually named to the team (and not named) is far more important, it seems, than the actual outcome.  I find myself barely reading the box score the next day to see if any Red Sox players did anything.

My disinterest in the All-Star Game is really what drives this.  There was no baseball of any kind last night, and there will be only one game tonight -- that I don't care about.  That makes four days in the middle of the season where a game, that thrives because of its daily ability to recover from the previous day's success or disaster, is off our consciousness -- at least mine.

I get it -- the players need a break to recharge; the non-All-Stars go home for a breather while the others are not doing very much.  Well, I don't care ... I do not like it.  The team I root for ended the break winning 12 of its last 13 games, and 16 of 19.  They are 4.5 games up in their division, are winning seemingly every day, and I just feel that they needed four days off like they each needed a third nostril.

I'm being immensely selfish, but I like baseball precisely because its rare days off watching are followed by a bunch of days "on."  I like the game; it does not bore me, and is a huge vent for my competitive juices and basic hatred of the Yankees.

Friday night cannot come soon enough.

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

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Of Course -- They're Competitors!

Maybe it was a year back, and maybe it was Sebastian Gorka, or another commentator on foreign affairs speaking of certain countries and their relationship with the USA.  He referred to the notion of countries being our "enemy", or our "adversary."  Those closer to us were "friends" or "allies."

I don't know that those are formalized terms in the diplomatic circles in which people such as Dr. Gorka operate, but I think his point was to try to distinguish, certainly as far as what we would regard as characterizing unfriendly countries, the difference between an enemy, like Iran, and an adversary, like, in that case, Russia.

Several days ago, in preparing for the summit Monday with Vladimir Putin, President Trump referred to Russia using a different word that made me pause the TV to think about for a minute.

He referred to the Russians as "our competitors."

No president before Trump would ever have used that term, because no president before Trump looked at diplomacy and foreign affairs through the eyes of a pure businessman before.  And that is certainly made clearer when we look at the issue of LNG -- liquefied natural gas.

The USA has immense stores of natural gas that could power our country for centuries.  For some reason -- global warming, perhaps? -- the Obama people refused to allow us to sell natural gas to Europe or anywhere else, even though there was a strong market for it there and, by displacing coal-fired power, actually would have cut greenhouse gases.

President Trump reversed that policy, allowing us to sell -- if Europe would buy.  Of course, in the meantime, with no other source of gas, Europe started buying from Russia, which also has large supplies of natural gas and a land bridge to Europe.  Pipelines got built, and Europe -- particularly our historic friends like the Germans -- started sending money to Russia for natural gas they could have bought from us.

From a geopolitical standpoint, it made the Germans reliant on Russia for energy, meaning that they - and other NATO allies -- were reliant on, as Trump pointed out, the opponent that NATO existed to contain!

Now the Russians are not our "enemy"; we are not at war with them even if our defense posture is predicated on their being the major threat.  They are an adversary, not innately about to do anything to help us, and doing lots of things, like poking around in our elections (albeit unsuccessfully thus far), to cause harm or at least turmoil.

But when economic realities, such as the need for energy, cause our allies to get chummy with our adversaries, it makes it a lot tougher to achieve diplomatic successes.

So Donald Trump, the businessman president, sees things the way previous presidents, all swamp-bound in recent years, have not been able to.  By using economic pressure to achieve geopolitical ends (in this case, weakening NATO), Russia is behaving like a business competitor, and President Trump sees that quite readily.

How do you treat a global geopolitical adversary?  You treat them like a business competitor, and you negotiate as you would in business, determining what your competitor wants, balancing against what you want, and trying to achieve positioning to your favor.

I've about gotten fed up with the handshake, backside-kissing world of international diplomacy.  To me, it is yet another swamp where nothing is done to help the American people and the American taxpayer; that is not the primary goal of previous State Departments.

I'm perfectly happy to see us start looking at all relationships with other countries as either trading partners or competitors, just as much as we look at them as military allies, adversaries or enemies.

It's a fresh breath of common sense in a world devoid of it.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Lesson from the Grocery

I was at the grocery the other day, the local Lowe's -- we call it "Girls" Lowe's to distinguish it from "Boys" Lowe's, the hardware chain of the same name (the two chains are unrelated).  I was wandering around the produce section when I turned near the apples and just missed bumping into another gentleman coming from the opposite direction.

We didn't collide, but were close to what would have been a minor bump.  We then looked at each other, smiled, chuckled and went our respective ways.

As I was walking away, I thought about it.  I'm 67 years old, and the other fellow was probably of comparable age.  Our reaction, both of us, was to smile, laugh, excuse ourselves and go our separate ways.

What it was not, was to snarl at the other one, kick his grocery cart or his leg, cuss him out or do some other inane, obnoxious macho gesture to assert our superiority, as people 40-50 years younger than we would likely have done.  There was no "What the &#$% you doing, fool?", as we can readily picture from a couple puffed-up 2018 young men.

That's what occurred to me right away -- that, as the saying goes when properly cleaned up, "stuff happens", and accidental collisions (or, in this case, non-collisions) are "stuff" that happens.  No blame, no harm, no foul, and certainly no need for a confrontation.

I thought "Why can't young people, particularly males but really everyone, react to accidents like that with a laugh?".  Why, it occurred to me, must every little thing be considered an affront to our masculinity, our a sign of disrespect, when they can be defused with a smile and a chuckle?

I suppose that a video of our encounter should be mandatory watching for every 14-year-old kid, not that we did anything special -- the other guy probably has already forgotten it -- but that a smile should be the default posture.

So I think.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Monday, July 16, 2018

Strzoking the Swamp

I was able to have the Thursday congressional hearings up on the TV in my office while working at my desk.  These were the hearings where the House Judiciary and Oversight committees, the ones concerned with the FBI and Justice Department, brought in Peter Strzok, the disgraced former executive at the FBI, to talk about his bias in the Clinton email and Russian election interference cases.

You have probably seen enough clips to where I don't need to get into either why he was there, or what he said during the very lengthy questioning period, as about 70 or so congressmen had the opportunity to alternately grill him and over-praise him.

What struck me the most, however, was the attitude displayed by Strzok on the stand, an attitude that was there from his opening statement to the end of the questioning around dinnertime for those of us in the Eastern Time Zone.

This was pomposity rivaled only by people like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the types who are utterly convinced that they are better than you and I are, and that by that fact and a position in government, they have an unalienable right to act as though they are better.  Strzok certainly had a position in government, he was a Senior Executive Service person, a sort of "flag officer-level" type in the civil service world.

I've probably pointed out in multiple pieces on this site when the swamp is out there in all its full glory, the seemingly God-given right to one's position and to lord it over others.  It is omnipresent in the Senate, where getting reelected every six years without fear of term limits is often assured, and with that assurance brings a sense of nobility that would make our Founders cringe.

Strzok is not a senator, but you might have thought so from the lecturing he periodically gave congressmen trying to get him to explain how he could have written the tens of thousands of texts to his mistress, many of which displayed intense passion against Donald Trump, including after Trump became his ultimate boss, and yet been a fair investigator into our current president's activities -- and those of the candidate he defeated.

I was certainly taken by what seemed like his "right" to sit there for hours and lie about something that probably cannot be proven by evidence -- his claim that despite his intense hatred of the president, he was able to lead an investigation into the Russian meddling probe and into Hillary Clinton's abuse of classified information without bias.

I could prefer to have seen him trying to sit there and quietly insist that, with over twenty years at the FBI, he was very capable of simply going where the evidence led, no matter what his views were.  I could have seen him apologetically conceding in an opening statement that he probably, on hindsight, should have steered clear of involvement in a case where his biases would be so impactful.

But that's not what we got.  We got, when the FBI lawyers allowed him to speak (why was the FBI defending him?), defiant insistence that he was fair and impartial and prepared simply to follow the evidence, as any other investigation would go.  We got attitude, and not in a good way.

What we got was the swamp creature in full flower, defiant, entitled and pompous as you please, all-knowing and self-righteous.

When the swamp is finally drained, God willing and Trump-dependent, it will be rather pleasant to see Peter Strzok in the vortex, washed out into the metaphorical sea.  The government will be the better for it.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Friday, July 13, 2018

OMG -- He Bought Baseball Tickets!!!

It's Friday, and I try sometimes to be a little funnier, or a little cuter, or a little bit on a different tack on Friday.  So please don't assume this one is funny.  It is factual as heck, at least in the fact that an actual "news" outlet (Huffington Post, quoting from the Washington Post) published this piece, and an actual media company (Yahoo) reprinted it.  Those publications actually happened.

And it is factual in that, we assume, the events themselves that are cited actually happened.  What is laughable is that the two entities above regarded this as "news", to the point that they felt it worthwhile to inform their readers of the fact.  What is bizarre is to imagine what they were trying to convey.

I'm going to summarize the article in two paragraphs, which I will gladly attribute to the Huffington Post so they don't come sue me, at least if they wanted to admit that they had anything to do with it.  Here goes. 

"Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh charged tens of thousands of dollars to personal credit cards over the past decade, and was sometimes as much as $200,000 in debt, according to financial disclosure forms reported by The Washington Post.  The reason, according to the White House: baseball.  [He] incurred much of that debt buying Washington Nationals season tickets for himself and his friends, White House spokesman Raj Shah told the Post, noting that some of the expenses were also used for unspecified home improvements.  The judge had $60-200,000 ... between three credit cards and a personal loan in 2016, but all were paid off in full or had balances below reporting requirements by the following year.

"Kavanaugh has since stopped buying Nationals season tickets, Shah said. [His disclosures] also showed he had two assets worth up to $65,000 in 2017, far less than current members of the Supreme Court, [although] he is not required to disclose the value of property on such documents (he owns a house with his wife, Ashley, in the D.C. area, purchased for $1.2 million in 2006).  [The] average net worth of current members of the court was $4.6 million last year ... Kavanaugh ... draws an annual salary of about $220,000 a year. He also earned around $27,000 from teaching at Harvard Law School."

Let's see.  The judge bought Nats tickets -- from the value, it seems like he bought a set of season tickets, one or two pairs depending on where the seats might be.  The "... and his friends" suggests that he likely fronted the money on his credit card and was repaid by the friends who regularly joined him, or took all the seats at times, the usual arrangement.

When I lived in Virginia, a friend, Mike, had a pair of good Washington Capitals season tickets (in the front of the upper deck behind one goal).  He would put them up for sale via an email group for many games to a set of friends, of which I was just one of several -- I would regularly buy them to go with my older son, as many as 4-5 times a year -- and that was just me.  I know what the friend did for a living and thus his assumed income, and figure he probably sold about half the season.

Lots of people do that, fronting and handling the distribution of season tickets, much as the corporations that buy blocks of tickets do.  In the case of my friend's Caps tickets, he only charged face value; he was simply doing a favor for friends -- or perhaps we were doing him a favor; by offloading half the expense, he got better and more predictable seats for the games he wanted to see, plus playoff seat access.

If you had told me what you read in the preceding content, I'd have assumed that the judge had done precisely that -- fronting season tickets for the Nationals on his credit card.  And given the cost of a season ticket, I would have presumed that he used a mileage or cash-rewards card of some kind, telling his friends that he would front the big bucks on his card and handle the seats' distribution, in return for which he got a huge reward through his card.  Duh.

There is even evidence of that, circumstantial though it may be, in that the cards were paid off in full within the year.  That would be the likely scenario if what I suggested were actually the case, that he were reimbursed for much of the cost of the tickets.  You would assume that, too.

So now, let us take a look at the actual headline that accompanied the above article:

"Brett Kavanaugh Had Massive Credit Card Debt.  The White House Blames Baseball"

I'm not freaking kidding.  That headline appeared atop the article as presented online by Yahoo News [sic].  I saw the headline and immediately assumed what you also did, which was that Kavanaugh had been betting on the games and lost a ton of money.  I read just the headline to my Best Girl and asked her what she presumed, from just the headline.  She promptly said "He bet on the games."

For me, the reason my Best Girl and I leaped to that assumption was that it was impossible that even a bunch of lefties like Yahoo could possibly take fronting baseball season tickets for a group on a rewards card, and try to make it a bad thing.

But they did.

I feel a creepy sense that perhaps Yahoo actually intended for us to think that fronting season tickets on a rewards card is a bad thing for a judge to do for his friends and family.  Or maybe ... just maybe, they intended for us not actually to read the article, but to draw a conclusion from the headline, because a sizable percentage of Yahoo readers don't get any further than the headline.  And they wanted that conclusion to be far, far different from the facts.

Wow.  Now, let's put ourselves inside the mind of President Trump, who faces this sort of perverted reporting and broadcasting on a regular basis.  Is it any wonder that he repeatedly has to point out the "fake news" rampant in the industry?

I hope the president uses this as an example, and uses it repeatedly.  I hope he points out the headline and specifically calls out what it was intended to do and why.

Because it has gotten to the point where you simply cannot trust the news reporting, any of it.  I would not want to be an honorable journalist in that business today.

The well is completely poisoned.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Thursday, July 12, 2018


We've all heard the term.  When we say "Eurotrash", we are thinking about pompous, often lazy young people who populate their beaches, have too much money somehow (or act as if they do), seem to vacation half the year, prey on visiting American girls and, most importantly, look down their noses at the USA as if we are country yokels.

The last is most important, because the USA has now, by far, the highest GDP of any NATO member and bears more than half of the cost of the defense of, essentially, Europe, in doing so.  They laugh at us and ridicule us, while they simply ignored our pleas for the European nations to pay their fair share of the defense of their own continent from the threat of Russian intervention.

Beyond that, they banded together into the European Union, turned over their sovereignty to unelected bureaucrats, and among other acts, absurdly taxed imports of American goods into Europe.  In true Eurotrash fashion, they simply assumed that, yokels that we are, we would just go along with it and continue to import European goods without applying comparable tariffs.

Well, Donald Trump is many, many things, but is not a yokel.

Listening to his impromptu news conference this morning -- and he certainly enjoys engaging the press, in stark contrast to both his predecessor and his defeated 2016 opponent -- you could readily tell that this is not a president who will be walked over by those nations who think that soccer is actually a watchable sport.

It is not a president who is content to see the American taxpayer fund the defense of a set of nations who treat us as if we are stupid with our money.  It is not a president who will let grown-up Eurotrash spit in our faces and expect us to wipe it off and give them another few billion while they sun themselves on the coast.

It is a president who is an American, willing to stand up for my tax dollars and do his best to ensure that hard-earned wages are not just given away to nations who laugh and refuse to pay their share -- and then keep out American farmers' and ranchers' products with huge tariffs.

NATO has been a problem, and the EU has been a problem, because their leadership has behaved like grown-up Eurotrash and treated us like we are stupid.  And that has been exacerbated by eight years of a globalist like Barack Obama who was willing to bow down to European abuse of his own country and beg for more.

Those days are over.  Thank God.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Seeds of Their Own Demise

Cornelius McGillicuddy was an unfailingly polite gentleman, who also happened to have had an extremely long career in the world of baseball.  After a long career as a catcher at the then-major league level prior to 1900, he went on to become the owner of the Philadelphia Athletics of the American League, the team that, after a decade or two in Kansas City, moved to Oakland and became the Oakland Athletics.

When I say that he was the "owner", I mean that he was among the longest-tenured owners in the history of the game, having increased his part-ownership stake in 1913 to become majority owner, and not selling out until 1955, shortly before his death at 93.  He also managed the team for fifty years, by far the longest managerial run in history.

We know him, of course as "Connie Mack", Hall of Famer and brilliant tactician, who built successions of Athletics teams over the decades despite perpetual financial issues plaguing his operation.

I mention Connie Mack because of a comment of his.  Mack's first truly great team peaked in 1914, only to be steamrolled in the World Series by the "Miracle" Boston Braves, whereupon he dissolved the team.  Stating that "Every great team bears the seeds of its own demise", he sold off the stars of that 1914 team, and began a long rebuilding process that would take 15 years, before he was able to produce the championship 1929 team of Jimmy Foxx, Al Simmons, Mickey Cochrane and Lefty Grove (and Bevo LeBourveau, but I digress).

"Every great team bears the seeds of its own demise."

And now we wonder about that notion.  Major League Baseball has 30 teams, of which ten -- five in each league (the division champions and two wild cards) -- will make the playoffs.  Theoretically, that means that each team has a one-in-three chance of making the playoffs and having a shot at the World Series, but that is far from the case.

Baseball does not have a salary cap that is meant to equalize the amount that each team can spend on player salaries.  It has a "luxury tax", a set of levels of team salaries above which teams get fined a percentage of their pay above the threshold, serving as a sort of brake on excessive hoarding of expensive players.  But the same teams end up leading the league in payroll each year.

So there are effectively the haves and have-nots -- over a ten-year period, assuming competent management, the haves can compete 9-10 of those ten years, and the have-nots can compete maybe two of those ten years.  When Kansas City wins a championship, as they did in 2015, Baseball trumpets how wonderful that a "poorer" team can win but, unable to afford to keep all their stars due to noncompetitive revenues compared to teams in New York, LA and Boston, the Royals are now a brutally bad team instead of a perennial competitor, exactly like the Marlins after winning in 1997 and again in 2003, breaking up both teams and stinking thereafter.

Today, a few higher-revenue teams are steaming through the season with projections of well over 100 wins, a huge number.  Many others are simply selling off their stars, or planning to, and on pace to lose over 60% of their games as they do so.  The difference between those teams that can sustain excellence and the rest of the league is immense.

This is what I mean by "seeds of its own demise."  Baseball is wildly successful -- mostly.  But Tampa Bay and Oakland cannot draw flies, because they cannot sustain a winning program long enough to build a really large, loyal fan base and get an attractive stadium to replace the dumps they each play in.  Texas is awful, Baltimore, Kansas City, Cincinnati, San Diego -- terrible years and revenues that couldn't sustain excellence if they could even produce it for a year.

How long can this last?  At what point do the fans of 20 of the 30 teams get tired of the same teams buying up all the best players and dominating?  How is it fair to have a luxury tax threshold as high as, say, $190 million of team salary, when 14 out of 30 teams couldn't even afford salaries above $125 million last year?

The NFL is going through an analogous situation.  After getting golden eggs from the golden goose for years, and dominating the "favorite sport" polls in recent years, the NFL has been plagued by the outcroppings of too much success -- scandals from the concussion cover-ups to bad on-field and off-field behavior by players, to the regrettable anthem-kneeling issue that immediately cost millions of fans, including this author.  The seeds of its own demise.

And that, friends, applies to the USA.

I tend to think that the nation is going through a lot of that itself.  Infected by a leftist minority that has tried to make us think that nothing is really right or wrong, we have allowed political expression to turn into violence without any sensible heads on the left to say "stop."

Our freedoms came at a price.  With freedom comes responsibility to manage being free, and unless we recognize that managing freedom means having defined wrongs as part of the legal framework, this nation could collapse because of our greatest virtue.

I hope you will think about these things.  Sports is often a metaphor for society and life in general, and if baseball loses its grip because it cannot control the greed of its participants, I fear the nation will not be far behind.

I'm serious.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Long Division

A year ago I did a piece during the nomination and approval process for Justice Neil Gorsuch.  The point was that the complaints about how divided we are now as a country were silly, in that we have always been divided and ever shall be.

Liberals are liberals because of whatever makes someone that way, and conservatives are conservatives because the opposite influences are the case.  Trying to have a candidate who claims to "Unite us, not divide us" is fruitless because (A) no one actually wants to divide us, and (B) we cannot be really united because, well, we are innately and environmentally different and, ah, just see (A).

But we are indeed politically divided, and unfortunately the rhetoric has gotten pretty bad, sort of like in the British Parliament on a bad day, except without the wigs and wool-sacks.  There is no way a sitting congressman (OK, she was standing, but you get the idea) should be encouraging people to harass government officials in their homes, in restaurants and other personal spaces, and not be censured and fired on the spot.

But we have gotten to where for the Democrats to censure Maxine Waters would be to say that she was not only wrong but criminally wrong, even though she was, and that would sound too much like it is actually all right to be a Trump Cabinet member.  God forbid that be thought OK, right?

So this weekend I was going to take the little lady out to eat in a little village by the seaside.  We got down to the area we were looking for and I saw an eatery that clicked with something in my mind.  Sure enough, we had been advised, or warned, or whatever the right word is, about the place.  Was the food not good?  Was it dirty?  Well maybe, but that was not the warning.

No, we were told, they were unfriendly to Trump supporters.  I couldn't recall what the incident had actually been, or whether someone had been kicked out, or had a MAGA hat confiscated, but that was their reputation -- I thought.  I looked them up on the Internet and their site was full of things the owners supported that suggested that yes, it was the place we'd heard of.

So we didn't eat there.

I can assure you that five years ago, I could not have cared less what the politics of the owners of any restaurant I ate at were, nor any shop I patronized.  We owned a bridal shop, and I daresay we did not advertise our political leanings in any way, lest we lose business we could not afford to lose in those financially perilous Obamanomics days.  We understood "Republicans buy sneakers, too" (from yesterday's piece).

But now you wonder.  If Democrats in Congress are advocating harassment of Cabinet members for no reason other than who their boss is, do I really want to eat food prepared by people who would actually do that, or at least not renounce someone who did?  Is that where Democrats are these days, and where the discourse has descended to?

I truly believe we will discover in November just how much the Democrats and the left in general have shot themselves in their collective feet by letting violence be deemed OK -- extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice, but extremism to the point of harassment, in opposition to supporters of a sitting president is no virtue.  I guess if they're fine letting MS-13 ooze over our borders to murder people, they're just as OK with violence in the service of their "causes".

We yearn for reasoned discourse.  I'd be delighted to take time to listen to the rationales for liberalism from someone willing to do it at a civil decibel count.  I do not hold my breath, since liberalism has nothing to recommend it, which is why the left resorts to violence so much sooner than we do; they've run out of ideas that actually work.  But I would talk and I would listen.

I'm just not happy with a USA where I care what the owner of a restaurant thinks of my politics.

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

Monday, July 9, 2018

My Russians Are Back! We Missed You

I want to start the week by welcoming back my Russian readers, who were gone for a few week.  Last week, about 55% of the reads on this site were from Russian IP addresses, which was fascinating since there had not been a peep out of the Russians since June.

Your guess is as good as mine, friends.

The logical reason would be that I had written something that was of great value to them, or which they thought might have offered an intriguing insight into something or other that they had interest in.  But that seems not to be the case.

If that were the case, I would see that a particular essay or article had a lot more reads, and I could make the logical assumption.  But they appear to be reading a piece at a time.

Last week, they were focused on articles from 2015, reading one after the other.  The articles they were reading had no contiguity other than chronological, sequential relationships.  I mean, I appreciate their interest and all, but have they just discovered that there's some good stuff here?  Do they want to see how a particular writer who writes every day would be commenting on that era?

I hope they'll tell me.  In fact, I'd like to take a moment and ask them to contact me and let me know what it is that they find so interesting in this site.  Do they like the article about the leftist political science major on a date with a nerdy financial analyst?  That's my favorite.  How about the stuff from the 2016 campaign, as I came to appreciate -- eventually -- the kind of president Donald Trump would eventually be?

Whatever the case, I would love to hear from them.  After all, as I just happened to have quoted Michael Jordan when he backed out of political endorsement by saying "Republicans buy sneakers, too", Russian readers are indeed readers, and readers deliver advertising.

So if you're sitting there in Dnepopetrovsk and love the column, let me know.  Cпасибо!

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

Friday, July 6, 2018

What is Actually "Asylum"?

It is Friday, and I've taken to doing something different on the Friday columns, so I suppose today either is or is not an exception, depending on how it comes out.  It may be a bit stream-of-consciousness today.

The other day I heard a short clip about a woman who had left Guatemala, went through Mexico and crossed the border illegally at a place other than a port of entry.  During the piece, she mentioned that she had left, with her children, to escape an abusive husband, and was seeking asylum in the USA.

That got me thinking.

Iran has a corrupt, Islamist government from which people would want to leave to seek asylum.  North Korea is a dictatorial disaster that is systematically starving its citizens.  There are several countries where there is governmental persecution of sects because they do not allow the free exercise of religion.

But asylum from those places is from government persecution.

Assuming this lady's story was true, she was not seeking asylum from persecution but from domestic violence.  And given that we have a finite amount of resources to accommodate legal immigration (and, oh, by the way, we also have laws), dare we at least raise the question as to whether her case is even a legitimate one of asylum-seeking?

There is an argument, although I am not actually trying to make it, that what was going on in her home was domestic violence and, therefore, a Guatemalan police action rather than an impetus to seek asylum.

Now to me, I would tell you that if she had entered at a legitimate port of entry, as opposed to illegally sneaking across the border, it seems reasonable that her request for asylum would have been given reasonable hearing, and I would have been fine with that happening.

But with her having committed the crime of entering illegally at an unauthorized crossing, I start getting a bit chipmunky about her situation and have to ask the question -- what, in fact, is asylum-seeking, and at what point is an unpleasant situation in one's home country grounds, or not grounds, for seeking asylum?

I'd like to stimulate a little discussion here, either in the Comments or, at least, for you to think about and maybe get back to me.  Is any unpleasant situation grounds to seek asylum here, or should we rule out police actions?  Suppose she had robbed a bank in Guatemala City and was being pursued by the cops there?  Does she get asylum here?  I don't think so, but what is the definition that we use to say this appeal is good and that one is not?

Suppose that after being beaten, or claiming to have been beaten by her husband, she killed him and is fleeing the cops?  How about that one?  What do the asylum judges do about that?

I hope you get the line of thought.  There is, to me, a difference between leaving a country because of the country itself, its government, persecution and the like, and leaving a country because of some personal situation with another, non-governmental citizen.  I think it is a big difference; this lady is asking the people of the USA to take care of her domestic issue.  Why is she not asking the police in her home country to do their job?  Was it easier just to pack up the kids and cross the border, illegally?

Why did she not cross at a legal entry point and ask for asylum?  What was she told about our laws and, more importantly, by whom?

Lots to think about, if only we can allow cooler heads to have the discussion.

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

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Guest Column: Oaths of Office

For today's guest column, we welcome back Ed Fenstermacher, an MIT classmate of mine who has written several previous guest columns here since 2014.  Ed is a regular reader of this site, a long-time leader in Scouting, and a nuclear engineer by profession -- and a very thoughtful commentator on life and society.  I should mention here that, although I knew of Ed's name during our undergrad years, we never actually "met", and I suspect that he might not have known I existed, back then.
                                        _ _ _

On June 1, 1973, Bob and I, along with about a thousand others, graduated with bachelor's degrees from MIT, adhering to the request to “not shake President [Jerome] Weisner’s  hand” as we received our diplomas.  The day before, in a much smaller ceremony, I was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force.  

The speaker at the Joint Services commissioning ceremony, Rear Admiral Rumble, gave a brief speech.
"Many years ago," he said, "I was commissioned in the Navy.  I remember who the speaker was, but don’t remember what he said.  Years later, I graduated from the Naval War College.  I don’t remember the speaker or what he said.  So I don’t flatter myself that any of you will remember what I say.  So I’ll just say this: Read your commission, so you’ll know what you’re getting into."

Then he sat down.  What my commission said was pretty much what my oath of office said, and that oath was this:

"I, Thomas Edward Fenstermacher, having been appointed a Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter. So help me God."

A check on the Internet gives not only the oath, but summarizes the meaning of the various phrases:

·        I (name) do solemnly swear (or affirm): Signifies a public statement of commitment. You are accepting responsibility for your actions. 
·        That I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States: You are not swearing to support the President, the Country, the flag or a particular service, but rather the Constitution which symbolizes all of these things.
·        Against all enemies, foreign and domestic: We must always be prepared for current and future wartime operations.
·        That I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same: Officers pledge allegiance to the nation, not a military service or organization.
·        That I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion: Your word is your bond! Without integrity, the moral pillar of our core values is lost.
·        And that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter: Promising to give it our all. 
·        So help me God (optional): Signifies truth and commitment to what you have sworn to in the oath. It is a call to a higher being or divine agency, to assist with ensuring your own integrity and honesty.

Since I took that oath, I have also taken five other oaths of consequence.  The first was my marriage vow.  The next three were oaths I silently took before God when each of my children were born to do my very best to raise them as well as I could.  The final one consisted of the promises I made when I joined my church.  I have never violated any of these oaths.  They are sacred to me.  In a very real way, they define who I am.

A year or after graduating and being commissioned, I was on active duty.  A fellow officer whom I will call Major Tony speculated that, if Nixon were to be impeached and then convicted, the military would stand with him and refuse to let him be removed.  We were, after all, in the middle of a war.  Tensions and emotions were high.  

I reminded Major Tony that our oaths were not to President Nixon or any official, not even to our brother officers; they were to the Constitution of the United States.  That supersedes all other considerations. 

Now, four decades later, we are again in the middle of a Constitutional crisis you are likely familiar with.  It has little to do with the alleged collusion of President Trump with Russians.  What it has to do with is the refusal of certain civilian officers of the United States, who took oaths very similar to the one I took as a military officer, to perform their clear duty.  

In this case, that duty is to cooperate with the oversight of Congress, a co-equal branch of the Federal Government, just as the Constitution calls for.  They need to cooperate in word, by truthful and forthright testimony, and by deed, turning over the documents they are lawfully required to give to Congress.   

Deputy AG Rosenstein and FBI Director Wray need to remember this -- that when they took the following oath, as required by 5 U.S. Code 3331:

"I, (name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter, so help me God."

... that they took that oath not to the FBI, nor the Department of Justice, nor to their fellow employees, nor to their political party.  They took that oath to the Constitution of the United States.  It is time that they bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution, by doing their clear duty.   

That duty is to provide Congress with the truth, not to protect their agencies.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton and T. E. Fenstermacher
Like what you read here?  There's a new post from Bob at www.uberthoughtsUSA.com at 10am Eastern time, every weekday, giving new meaning to "prolific essayist."  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at bsutton@alum.mit.edu or on Twitter at @rmosutton