Friday, August 31, 2018

Where Affirmative Action is Affirmatively Wrong

You may or may not have heard this, but for a while now a group of Asian-American students has been pursuing an admissions lawsuit against ivy-covered Harvard University, the second-most prestigious institution of higher learning in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The premise of the suit is that Harvard discriminates against students of Asian descent, admitting them at a rate disproportionately low for the nature of their academic qualifications.  One position of the organization sponsoring the suit is prompted by the discovery that with the same qualifications that would lead to the admission of about 90% of black student applicants and 70% of Hispanic applicants, an Asian student would be admitted about 15% of the time.

This is fun.

It's fun as an MIT alum to ridicule the pomposity and virtue signaling of the other college down the road.  They look incredibly disingenuous, especially when they try to defend their processes.  "We are committed to a diverse student body ...", they say.  Yeah, like "diversity" is the most important factor in admission, or at least second only to how much an applicant donated to Harvard's bloated endowment fund.

At any rate, this suit was in the news yesterday when the Department of Justice took a holiday from protecting its own leadership's corruption, and actually did something productive.  They filed briefs on the side of the Asian students, and committed to be a part of the suit.

I don't know how Harvard actually defends this.  "Diversity" is such an amorphous, blobby term that it is darn near impossible to pin down what the goal is.  Think about it.  If you are to be textbook diverse, you pretty much need to come up with a quota system that reflects the population of the USA.  And if you do that, you have to define the tolerance limits -- if there are 6% Martian-Americans in the general population, then the admitted class needs to be perhaps between 4% and 8% Martian.

But it is impossible for Harvard to put numbers on diversity quotas.  For example -- and it is a sterling example -- about 2% of the American population is Jewish.  That's about one in 50.  But incoming classes at Harvard are about 25% Jewish and have been for years.  Do you think that Harvard feels the need to do anything at all about that?  And given the figures above on the comparative standards for admission across just Asian, Hispanic and black applicants, just how "Asian" would Harvard be, if they applied comparable standards in a race-blind way?  Maybe 70%?  Would that be wrong?  If so, why?

They can't apply the same strictures against Asian applicants to Jewish applicants to get the Jewish figure down closer to 2-3%, right?  But they can do whatever they want to Asian (and, for that matter, white) applicants, apparently.

So what do they do?  They stay far away from any quantification to define admission policy and toss out the term "diversity" as a desired goal, without ever defining how you know you have reached it.  That way, as with every action of the left, they never actually reach the goal, and have to keep in place the overreaching rules (or, in the case of government, the overreaching Federal programs) forever.  That allows them to maintain control and keep it within the entitled few, rather Obama-like when you think of it.

Harvard is contemptuous of the Justice Department intervening on behalf of the Asian students, of course.  They know better than anyone what is the right way -- the Harvard way -- and God help anyone, especially a Justice Department headed by someone from, God forbid, Alabama (and appointed by Donald Trump), who tries to tell them otherwise.

Long-time readers will remember this column that I wrote a couple years back, one that suggested that my own alma mater had not come close to figuring out when to declare victory in the diversity wars.  Please read it if you have not already.  If you went to MIT or know anyone who did, get yet another copy in the hands of MIT Admissions.  MIT had been using the same dangling carrot in front of itself for 50 years, without ever knowing how to declare victory.

Harvard is such an awesome target, though.  I want to hear them in court, answering questions like "What is your precise goal, qualitative and quantitative, for the outcome of race in admission?  We're waiting, please ..."  I'd actually like to have the Asian students themselves hire the noted Harvard Law professor emeritus, Alan Dershowitz, to defend them.  Can you imagine Dershowitz, who knows where all the admissions bodies are buried, asking insightful questions in court?

Let's see what happens here, because there is no win for Harvard.  And I love seeing them lose.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Thursday, August 30, 2018

Who's Asking Whom What?

It's hard to know what to make of the testimony of the disgraced DOJ official Bruce Ohr before a congressional committee on Tuesday.  It is difficult, in part, because the testimony was behind closed doors and thus we don't have a verbatim transcript.  It is also difficult because, had it been in the open, with posturing and preening by witness and congressman alike, the testimony might have been much different.

Still, in accounts from some of those present, Ohr was fairly cooperative and did not appear to be pleading the 5th Amendment,or unwilling to be forthcoming, as some previous witnesses before that committee had been.  And one question that he did answer, and for which we'll take his answer to have been candid, was really curious.

Robert Mueller, the Special Counsel, was hired to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election and collusion between foreign (i.e., Russian) nationals and American candidates.  His investigation having clearly turned up not a bloody thing regarding the Trump campaign and any collusion, he has wandered off into absurd rat-holes like the financial dealings years back of a guy who later was a campaign manager for the Trump campaign for a month or two.

You would think that instead of (or even in addition to) sending his taxpayer-funded minions down such rat-holes, like Paul Manafort's bank records from 2007, Mueller would honor his mandated mission by exploring actual evidence of such collusion with a political campaign.

That might, you'd think, include the known facts of likely collusion.  That should include the "known fact" that the opposing campaign had hired Fusion GPS, an American dirt-digging operation, to work with Christopher Steele, a foreign national who hated Donald Trump, and by extension with actual Russian operatives, to fabricate a faked dossier of material on Trump to influence the 2016 campaign.

Knowing that, you would think that it is of interest that the pathway of the fake dossier was from Fusion employee Nellie Ohr to her husband, a very senior DOJ executive, Bruce Ohr, to the FBI for corrupt senior players like Peter Strzok to use as the basis for a FISA warrant to spy on an American citizen.  Bruce Ohr, though twice demoted, still works for the Federal government and still holds a clearance.

You'd think, right?

And yet when Ohr testified Tuesday, and he was asked if Mueller's team had even once interviewed him, what do you know?  According to Ohr, he has never once been interviewed by the Mueller investigative team.

So what exactly is the Mueller investigation about?  Is it about Russian collusion or is it about submarining the presidency of Donald Trump?  Is it about getting to actual, well-documented connections, in this case between the Democratic National Committee and Russian operatives seeking to influence the 2016 campaign, or is it about Paul Manafort's tax returns and embarrassing and jailing people around the president?

I have been one to say that the president should steer clear of the Mueller investigation as it could not end well for him to play a role.  But at this point, I'm ready for President Trump to use the fact that Ohr was never interviewed as a reason -- a very public reason -- to take over the investigation, declare that it is imperative that we expose collusion, if any, fire Mueller and his team on the spot, but replace him with someone capable of an impartial investigation confined to the issue of Russian tampering and collusion.

Mueller never talked to Ohr.  Are we crazy?

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Admiring Teams that Try

This past weekend, the Boston Red Sox, owners of the best record in the majors and rather a shoo-in to reach well over 100 wins in the season, hosted the Tampa Bay Rays.  The difference in the teams is fairly stark and worth a little observation.

The Rays play in Tropicana Field, a domed stadium in St. Petersburg (it is, after all, the Tampa Bay and not the "Tampa" Rays).  Although I've never been inside, it is widely regarded as a dump, unattractive to watch a game in, and certainly reflective of the dump that is the Rays organizational finances, in part because they can't attract fans to the place.

Although it is not necessarily the best metric, it is certainly worth pointing out that the series pitted the team with the highest 2018 payroll in the game (Boston) against the team with the lowest (Tampa Bay).  That having been said, it should have been only a minimal surprise that the Rays swept the series, to the disappointment of the Red Sox, their fans (including me) and most of New England.

After all, in baseball, they play 162 games, and the better team certainly does not always win.  Beyond that, despite their meager payroll, the Rays actually are several games over .500 and, while they're really not contending even for a wild card, the fact that they win as much as they do with a paltry payroll is remarkable.

Now, as I have said, comparing payrolls can be a fool's errand.  Major League Baseball does not have a salary cap, but it does have a "luxury tax", under which teams whose payrolls exceed various thresholds kick back a percentage of the overage to the league, which distributes it to lower-revenue teams.

The luxury tax is progressive, to where at a certain point it is an effective limit on team salary obligations.  The highest team payrolls are still under $250 million (Tampa Bay is at the bottom, about $75 million).  But note that the revenues of the highest-income teams are substantially above that, so that while those teams rake in a lot of dollars, they still have to be careful where they spend it.

Boston, for example, is still paying two players no longer with the team $40 million or so in 2018 as a result of poor contract decisions in the past.  The New York Mets are still paying $1.2 million a year to Bobby Bonilla, who has not played in the majors for seventeen years.  But I digress.

Boston this year is paying two players no longer on the team well over half of the amount that Tampa Bay is paying their entire team.  The economics are truly bizarre.  Tampa Bay can obviously not afford to hand out even $15 million a year contracts to anyone -- only four players on the roster make even $1 million a year, and none makes as much as $6 million.  They certainly can't afford to make mistakes.

So while I regretted the three game losses over the weekend, I also respect the process by which the Rays have built their roster, heavily tilted toward younger players (and therefore cost-controlled).  I respect that they have taken a young manager, Dave Cash (a former Red Sox catcher, naturally) and allowed him to guide his team with the trust of the organization.

Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Oakland Athletics were in the same financial position as the Rays are in now, with a similarly abysmal ballpark and little possibility of generating the revenues needed to attract free agent players and keep their own talent.

But they, like the 2018 Rays, found ways to succeed.  They even won several division titles with over 100 wins, despite being at or near the bottom of MLB in team payroll.  They looked for ways that they could minimize the impact of revenues, identifying undervalued skills that traditional scouting paid little attention to, such as getting on base.

I don't know what the Rays are doing.  The statistics don't seem to show anything particular, but the team wins a lot of games.  If there is an undervalued attribute they're leveraging, we can't yet tell what.  And no one really looks forward to playing them, even if the game is not in St. Petersburg.

But they have my respect.  And they also have four more games with the Yankees, in which I wish them all the best.  And no more with Boston, for which I'm grateful.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Tuesday, August 28, 2018

"My" Labor Day

As if on cue, next Monday, whatever remaining newspapers are left in the USA, after the rest folded, will have their obligatory Labor Day column, where they will say their respective huzzahs and make obsequious verbal bows toward, not the working man and woman, but organized labor, an institution which outlived its usefulness sometime in the 1950s.  Except in baseball, but that's another story.

Wage-earning, "W-2" employees will get a paid day off, including government bureaucrats and lots of other folks, respectable folks who actually perspire (or, in the case of woman employees, "glow").

Me?  I'm not sure Labor Day is for me, not that I ask for any sympathy.  As a consultant, a full-time worker but a "1099" type who is paid by clients and not an employer, my Labor Day is an unpaid day off, unless I sneak in a few hours in the morning, before the neighbors come around for burgers and franks in the afternoon.  And who wants to do that?  (The work, not the burgers)

I may have to do a couple hours, since I'm in the middle of a proposal effort and the Government deadlines for my client are fixed and the work has to get done.  If I were to work all day and make it up later, I still wouldn't get paid for the makeup day off.

But it is going to be Labor Day, and you will not catch me complaining.  Let me count the ways and the reasons I will not complain.

1. I am gainfully engaged.  I can't say "employed", because I'm under a consulting agreement to my clients, but I have work to do and am able to be paid for it, and I have full-time work.  Lots of people, particularly in the last administration, went unemployed for so long that they stopped being counted as "unemployed."  Just being able to be paid is wonderful and I'm grateful for a market for my trade.

2. I live where I want.  Since my clients are dispersed around the country, I don't have to live anywhere particular, and so I live where I choose.  I never have to travel anywhere, and can decline assignments requiring me to be away.

3. It's related to #1, but I feel needed.  We often hear of people happy with the accomplishments of a good day's work, and not only do I get that feeling, but I get occasional calls from brand-new clients asking my assistance.  Ten years ago, when my last actual employer folded half its tent and let go half its workforce, including me, I could not get a sniff of an offer.  Of course I was 57 at the time (yes, read the link).  Consulting is an odd situation -- where age is a detriment in getting hired, it's a wonderful asset if you charge by the hour.

4. The SEP-IRA, the greatest gift to consultants, like ever.  We are responsible for our own saving for retirement, of course, and the Simplified Employee Pension IRA allows consultants to put a wonderful percentage of our revenue aside, tax-deferred, far more than we could do as W-2 employees.  I won't be retiring soon, but because of SEP-IRA, at least I will be able to, at some point.

Not asking for a "Consultant's Day", mind you.  Just happy to have things as they are, and I don't need a holiday to celebrate it.

But I'll take one anyway.  I'll just call it something different from what the press will.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Monday, August 27, 2018

Guns, Coins and Good Policy

My brother was in South Carolina last week on some daily wandering when he stopped into a coin store.  Now, you might have assumed that a store like that would have a sign or three out front dictating policies, and you would be right, of course.

One, though, did catch his eye.  This was the one from the owner that let his customers know that if they carried concealed weapons under a license, they were absolutely welcome in his establishment.  None of those "no guns in here" signs there, mind you.  If you carried, you were a welcome customer.

Naturally my brother was intrigued and happy at the same time, and took a few minutes to chat with the owner about his policy.  Nothing strange about it, the owner told him.  "I want my customers to be armed!"

I hope that notion isn't counter-intuitive to you, or that it is, depending on what "intuitive" means in that context.  Either way, it certainly should make sense once you think about it.  After all, the places with the worst gun violence in the nation are the places with the tightest gun laws -- New York, Chicago, you get the idea.  The more the armed citizen is suppressed, the harder it is for citizens to arm themselves for protection, the easier life is for the bad guys.

The owner of that coin shop was absolutely right, of course.  He has made his shop a microcosm of the USA as far as firearms policy is concerned.  That stands in stark contrast with the various stores that make "no guns here" a visible policy but not a reality for those who would cause problems.  Criminals do not fear where the threat of the armed citizen is removed.

You know, of course, that there are air marshals on airline flights routinely in this country.  Not only is it not a secret, the government does not want to keep it a secret.  The knowledge that there is likely someone on board to keep the bad guys from pulling anything on the plane is not only a substantial deterrent to anyone trying to do something evil on a flight, but it is also a comfort to those passengers who know that their presence is an added layer of safety.

The store is doing just fine, thank you.  Being where it is, of course, the patrons in general are perfectly happy, exactly like the passengers on those flights.  They know that it is extremely unlikely that anyone is going to try to do anything in the shop when they can't be sure that the guy looking at old silver dollars isn't carrying.

Now that's logic.  Let's have more of it.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Friday, August 24, 2018

If Hillary Showed Up

Amusement from rambling thoughts on a Friday ...

I had an interesting email from a reader the other day, in which he described falling short (morally) because of an inability or unwillingness to forgive certain people, and not hate them ("hate" appears to be a topic this week).  Naturally I had to compare myself and whether I had fallen as far short of God's desire for me, and I had to concede that as long as there are New York Yankees and George Soros (in no specific order), I would retain the capacity to hate.

But that made me think.  Since the people on both my friend's list and mine (and there was massive overlap) were all people I had never met, my wandering mind wandered mindlessly to what it might be like if I were to encounter one of them, and that we would be forced to engage in conversation.

Naturally, the first person who came to mind was Hillary Clinton.  Not Bill, mind you; even though he is a corrupt sleazebag and likely was a rapist in his younger days, he was entertaining at times and that counts for something.  Besides, I don't really want to have a conversation with him about anything; it's not possible to believe anything he says.

So I thought "OK, what if Hillary's car broke down right in front of the house here, and she had to come in and wait for a tow."  OK, that is ludicrous.  Hillary Clinton probably has not driven a car herself in 82 years, wouldn't know how to try to get towed, and surely wouldn't talk to me, any more than she would talk to the press during her campaign.  But just stipulate that she would, please.

So -- I have chardonnay in the house, and let's say that it loosened her conversation up enough to where she would actually answer questions.  What would I want to know?

I found it interesting that, as I pondered the notion, I realized that I would not want to ask her about covering up Bill's bimbo eruptions, or selling a quarter of the USA's uranium to Russians in exchange for a huge speaking fee for him.  I didn't feel the need to ask her "What Happened" (I didn't read the book), not about the election or about Benghazi either.  I don't need to ask her about her bathroom email server and why she had it -- we know why; she was avoiding the Federal Records Act in advance.  Duh.  Already wrote about it.

No, and this may surprise you.  I would want to ask her about why she is a liberal.

Hillary Clinton is many things, but she is not stupid.  She is as aware as you or I that liberalism does not work; that it is dependent on a morality that is fluid, and that it is innately doomed, in that its implementation removes all the incentives for someone to work harder.

She used to be a Republican.  She knows that government does almost nothing as well as the private sector does, but once government is allowed to take on a function, it is nearly impossible to wrest it away.

She knows that.  Liberalism fails, and fails worse the closer it is allowed to drift toward socialism.

I would want to ask her all that, but I believe I already know the answer (not that I wouldn't go ahead and ask it regardless).  I think that she is a liberal because it is easier to get votes by mouthing liberal platitudes than by actually doing a good job leading the nation, or the state.  And it is easier, for sure.

I think that Hillary Clinton is simply a political being, nothing more.  She was always convinced that she could do a better job as president than her husband, of whom she is distinctly politically jealous -- he won and she couldn't; the only election she ever won was as a carpetbag senator from New York, an absurdly leftist state, with a leftist electorate that would have elected Mortimer Snerd to that Senate seat, if he were running as a Democrat.

As a political being, it's probably not fair to call her a liberal.  She is more Democrat than liberal, if you get my drift.  Her belief system is flexible; if it will get her elected, she'll declare that she keeps hot sauce in her pocketbook.  There are probably liberals who actually believe what they say on the stump; I simply believe she is not one of them.

So I suppose I answered my own question, right?  I could ask her all day why she is a liberal and probably never get an actual answer about an actual liberal policy that actually works.

I guess she can just keep driving.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Thursday, August 23, 2018

When Are You Really Safe?

I do not have any daughters.  We will start with that, because there is "sympathy" and "empathy" and other expressions of understanding of the pain of others, but I can't really personalize it as well as someone who can put a name to a situation.  What I feel for the family of people like Kate Steinle and others who have lost a daughter senselessly is a great sadness, but in a detached kind of way.

So it was with a bit of that detachment that I learned that the young college student from Iowa, Mollie Tibbetts, had been found murdered in a cornfield after jogging one day, but a real concern when it was announced shortly after, that the police had arrested, for her killing, an illegal alien who had been in the USA unlawfully for several years.

Many of us no doubt stared blankly when we heard of the disappearance of the young lady.  She was in a small farming town in Iowa, where one would have though that a 20-year-old woman could jog down the road in safety.  You and I might have not thought it a great idea for a young lady to be jogging alone in the evening in a lot of places, but Poweshiek County, Iowa, with houses around where she ran, would have been thought a place where it wouldn't have been frightening to do so.

Things have apparently changed.

There are places where you would not dream of walking down the street by yourself.  I lived in Chicago for a while, in 1968, on the South Side.  When I wanted to go walk to Comiskey Park one day to see a White Sox game, I was told to go with a group of exactly five.  To go with more was seen as threatening to the gangs that ran the place even then; to go with fewer was to wear a sign that said "target."  Five was code for "going in peace."  Young women did not jog alone there, to put it mildly.

Conversely, there are places where one would think it to be perfectly safe to walk or jog alone at most any time of day.  Poweshiek County, Iowa sure seemed like that -- midwestern, farm community, everyone knowing each other.  The community I live in has gated access, with more to fear, one assumes, from alligators than from bad people with evil intent.  Seems pretty safe.

But I fear that the case in Iowa has told us that, while we have come to regard different areas as completely safe, totally unsafe, or something in between on that spectrum, our perception of "completely safe" may no longer be valid.

And the element that may be causing that evolution in validity is, or includes, the issue of illegals in this country.  Surely we added a level of perceived fear after 9/11, and the actions of terrorists on our soil in recent years.  Knowing that there was a whole community built up in New Mexico to train terrorists is a real concern, especially given that the raid on the community seems to have eluded the mainstream media.

But it is a measurable concern when we realize that our southern border is a pathway for an uncomfortable number of people who simply do not respect the law, as blatantly evidenced by their refusal to apply for legal entry in the first place.  If that law is not to be regarded, then the same people can be assumed not to have regard for other laws -- including, apparently, murder.

I know that the left, which does not really want countries, let alone borders, will yell and scream that illegal immigrants have a lower crime rate than the population at large, which may or may not be true.  But it is not actually relevant, and certainly not technically accurate.  The crime rate among illegal immigrants is 100%, for obvious reasons.  They have made at least one decision to violate the law.

But it doesn't matter, really.  When you are already wanted for your first offense, you are willing to violate another law to protect yourself.  Paradoxically, with some, having already broken one law, and being wanted for that, it may seem like a "what the heck" to break another.  Can that be the motivation, or rationale, for the murder in Iowa?

We are talking about morality.  There is indeed a morality in this country; we were founded on it and the notion of right and wrong carries through to this day.  At least it did, until the left sought to implement a fuzzy morality, one that says that anything is right or wrong depending on your perspective -- and therefore nothing is actually "wrong."

It is actually fairly difficult to implement a sense of right and wrong across a population as we have done in the USA, and apparently pretty easy to plant the seeds of doubt as the left has.  By not stopping illegal immigration, we are allowing the entry of people with a morality that innately does not jibe with that of this country.

And at least one of those people has now taken the life of an innocent young woman in Iowa, a place where we would have regarded safety as the default.  Are we actually safe anywhere?

This is very uncomfortable.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Just Hating Him Regular

Many, many years ago, the Friars Club, an institution with lots of old celebrities as members, used to do "roasts" of members of their esteemed institution, for charity.  There would be Rat Pack types and their cronies, singers, comics and others.  The "roasts" consisted of some of the more famous members walking to a lectern in the midst of the head table, and making good-natured fun of the subject.

One such roast sticks in my memory, decades after it was aired.  The subject of the roast was Joe Namath, who was the quarterback of the New York Jets for a few years, when they won the third Super Bowl back -- when people actually watched the NFL and the players stood for the anthem.  Namath, as you surely recall, was a real playboy in his time, known for dating scads of models and actresses.

The emcee of the roast was the late Buddy Hackett, a very funny and too-forgotten comedian and comic actor.  Hackett talked with a peculiar speech pattern overlaid on a Brooklyn accent, at least when he wanted to, and affected a kind of "dumb guy who says clever funny things" persona.

In this instance, Hackett was introducing the late sportscaster Howard Cosell to give his take on Joe Namath, but it was actually Hackett's introduction of Cosell that I remember, not Namath.  I detested Cosell, as did most everyone else on earth.  He was a pompous loudmouth who was sure that he was smarter than you (whether true or not) and had a hyper-nasal, whiny New York accent that was itself pretty tough to listen to.  People would change the channel when Cosell came on the air.  So he was a great target.

"There have always been mixed emotions about Howard Cosell", Hackett began.  "Some people hate him like poison!  The rest of us just hate him regular."

That phrase pretty much characterizes the left in this country, and their collective attitude toward President Trump.  The driving force behind the actions of the left have nothing to do with what is or is not good for the USA, or for its citizens, for the economy or our national defense.  The most important thing, the most important factor that drives whether the liberal left, in and out of Congress, supports a policy is that they hate Donald Trump, and therefore if he is for something, they must, a priori, be opposed to it.

They just hate him regular, or maybe they hate him like poison.  Matters not.

That, my friends, does not constitute a rational, cohesive policy structure.  But it is what drives them.  Else, how could you rationalize the Schumers and Pelosis and the like, turning down the opportunity to do what they have been screaming about, to get what they wanted, as far as immigration is concerned?

President Trump has been trying to terminate the DACA program, temporarily legitimizing children brought illegally to the USA and stalling their deportation if they enter a program.  He has been seeking to end the program, not because he did not want the children to have a path to permanent residency, but because the program was Constitutionally illegal, done under an Executive Order instead of being put into law by Congress.

He naturally turned to Congress, and told them that he was going to end the program -- but that they should pass it as a legislative action, i.e., the legal, constitutional way that such programs that affect citizenship and residence status should be done.  In fact, he said, if Congress would fund the border wall in the same bill, he would sign a DACA bill that would allow three times the number of children as are currently in DACA to enter the program!

So let's see -- you give the other side more than what they are asking for.  But they said "nope", no matter the positive impact on the children both in, and potentially in, the program.  Couldn't do it; it was a Donald Trump idea, and therefore they couldn't even sign up to not filibustering (and thus killing) the proposed legislation.  They hate him regular, even if carrying out their hatred cost them what they've been asking for.


Well, two reasons.  First is The Wall, which would be the price of their cooperation in passing the bill that would legislate DACA and legalize more children than they had asked for.  The Wall, they insist, is a terrible thing.  "We need bridges, not walls", they cry, even as illegals breach the border on a daily basis, violating existing immigration law, and causing the devastation on families such as that of Kate Steinle, and as the illegal drug traffic pours over the same border.

The Wall, you see, is a Donald Trump idea, which is the second reason.  It is not that the Democrats don't want The Wall, surely.  In fact, when the idea of a border wall came up for a funding vote in the Senate in the late 2000s, maybe ten years back, guess who voted for it.  No, really, guess.

Did you guess Chuck Schumer?  Or Barack Obama?  Hillary Clinton, perhaps?  Maybe Joe Biden?  Would it shock you a little to know the answer is all of them? -- that Schumer and Obama both are recorded as declaring that a wall for border security was a good idea (by the way, all four of the above voted for it), and that in Schumer's words, people who cross the border illegally are not entitled to the same rights as people who cross legally?

Of course you guessed it, because you and I both know that it doesn't matter whether an idea is good.  Once it becomes associated with Donald Trump, it must be opposed because Trump is to be hated and his ideas treated accordingly.

Hatred, hatred, hatred.  It makes me wonder if I would have disagreed with something Howard Cosell said just because I couldn't stand him.

But then again, I'm not a Democrat leader in Congress.  They should be better than that.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Need to Know

Last week, President Trump initiated what is certain to be a series of actions ending the security clearances of certain former Obama Administration officials, along with other swamp creatures who have been shown to have connived with Russians to tamper with the Trump campaign in 2016.

Naturally, the left, whose media outlets had been paying some of these types (like John Brennan, the former CIA head under Obama), are in a stew.  "Punitive", they call it, against wonderful people like Brennan, opposing the Trump administration at every step and calling him treasonous and other pleasant things, and calling for his impeachment for .. for ... well, give him time, Brennan will come up with something.  Maybe even a lawsuit to restore his clearance, if either he or his lawyer is a complete moron.

But he won't "come up with something" because he has access to classified data.  He no longer does.

It is generally understood that holding a security clearance, as millions of Americans do, is analogous to a driver's license.  Just because you have a Top Secret clearance doesn't mean you can walk into the Situation Room at the White House, any more than holding a driver's license allows you to drive on a sidewalk, even though police cars in pursuit may have to.

Holding the clearance means that you have been investigated and deemed to be not a risk of being compromised or blackmailed, and are thought to be able to protect information at the level of classification that goes with how deep the investigation of you was.  After five years, you have to be re-investigated no matter what.

But that just means that for X number of years, you are eligible to be exposed to classified information at the level of your clearance, not that you are entitled to.  In other words, along with being personally approved to see or work with such sensitive information, you also have to have a need to know, based on your job requirement.

For a civilian contractor, that means working on a specific contract that includes classified information, and that your role on that contract requires you to see or work with that data.  For a government employee, there is a similar requirement.

In other words, holding the clearance is an "approval" for the holder, to where he or she, if there is a need, may work with classified material without having to go through a further investigation.  Do you follow the difference? 

Then typically, if a cleared person goes through two years without being assigned to work on a classified project, their clearance expires and they require re-investigation if they ever need it again.

John Brennan no longer had a need.  While past CIA directors had been asked to consult with their successors on sensitive matters, it's pretty clear that the Trump Administration CIA is not asking John Brennan for help.  If they don't need his help, and if he is working, not for a Federal contractor on a classified contract, but for a media outlet, then John Brennan does not have a need to know.

Simple -- no "need to know", no clearance needed.  Having been out of office nearly two years anyway, his clearance would have expired regardless, and he would have required a re-investigation -- which, given his remarks about the president in which he suggested that he could be blackmailed by Russians, probably would not have gone well for Brennan.

So we can presume that it was just as well that Brennan got his ticket pulled when he did, before he somehow got access to material that a sworn enemy of the President of the United States should probably not see.

He may have been the first, but he should not be the last.  That clearance was a privilege, and if we were picking a finite number of individuals on whom to grant that privilege, John Brennan would not be on that list.  He drove on the sidewalk without permission.

Better now than later.  Now let's pull the tickets of the rest of them.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Monday, August 20, 2018

A Sting from the Bee

Last week, the Sacramento (CA) Bee editorialized on the future of Nancy Pelosi, the embarrassing one-term Speaker of the House of Representatives who is just dying to get that job back.  In order for that to happen, of course, the Democrats would have to take back the majority in the House, something they fervently believe to be possible (hint: it is only somewhat possible as I write this, though there are possibilities).

The Bee's editorialist was not particularly optimistic about the prospects for the Democrats taking the majority, particularly if Mrs. Pelosi decided to insist that she be elected Speaker if that were to happen.  The opinion was:

"It’s getting close to crunch time, and the San Francisco Democrat [Pelosi, not a rival newspaper] must put her party and her country ahead of her personal ambition and declare that she will not seek the speakership again. This is much bigger than her [sic]. To retake control of the House, Democrats need to gain at least 23 seats in November. That’s no easy task. And it’s even more difficult now that Pelosi’s future has become a distracting campaign issue for Democrats in key swing districts, where they need moderate and even Republican votes to win."

Read more here:

Grammar notwithstanding, the Bee has figured out what Mrs. Pelosi has not, which is that once you get 50 miles or so away from downtown San Francisco, people don't like her.  They don't like her because people don't like people who want you to think that they are better than they, who know better for you and your family than you do yourself.  And they don't like her enough to vote for the opponent of any candidate supporting her Speaker ambitions.

Nancy Pelosi can never take back her most famous line, the one about Obamacare -- "You'll have to pass it to find out what's in it."  And it's good that she cannot, because that statement sums up why, in hundreds of congressional districts, Republicans are running with commercials of Nancy Pelosi, making sure that voters know that if they elect Democrats, that is what you're going to get as Speaker.

It is why some Democrat candidates -- over 40 of them to date -- have stated openly that if elected, they will not support Mrs. Pelosi as Speaker.  But that does not faze her a bit.

It can't faze her; after all, she not only wants you to think she is better than you, and knows more than you, she truly believes it.  If she didn't believe it, she would be modifying her tone at least somewhat, right?

The opinion piece noted that Mrs. Pelosi was waving around something written by the New York Times economist Paul Krugman about her.  "She was the greatest Speaker ever", Krugman insisted, having won legislative victories in her two years like, well, Obamacare.

Now, we'll set aside the fact that you or I could have gotten Obamacare through that overwhelmingly-Democrat Congress before Ted Kennedy died; the Democrats had a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and a majority in the House, they didn't need a Republican vote for anything -- and didn't get them.

More important, she quoted Paul Krugman, of all people.  Krugman is the guy who, while we were mired in anemic growth during the second miserable Obama term, declared that the new normal for our economy was a maximum of 2% growth per year.  That was it, forget it.  Couldn't do better.

It took all of what -- 18 months -- of an Administration committed to growing jobs and the economy, before we saw double what Krugman thought was a maximum possible growth level.  What does that say about Krugman, as an arbiter of what does or does not constitute competence as a Speaker of the House?

What does that say about Nancy Pelosi when that's the guy she thinks people will trust for an opinion on whether she was any good in that job, when the American voter booted her out of office the first chance they got?

I'm not sure what the Bee particularly hopes will happen, but I would be just as happy if Democrats running for the House all over the place positively embrace Nancy Pelosi.  She is just wonderful -- Paul Krugman said so, and look what he knows!

I rather imagine that the Republicans will not only hold the House but might even pick up a seat or two, which never happens in the off-year after a presidential election.  It's not the norm, but Lordy, those paychecks are better, and people vote with those.

Should be fun.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Friday, August 17, 2018

Unions, Democrats and the Interests of the Worker

As we are in our glide path toward 1,000 pieces in this blog and its imminent retirement, it becomes really hard to avoid saying something that I hadn't pointed out before.  I like a good point as much as the next guy, but not twice in a week, if you know what I mean.

So when had a recent conversation with my brother about labor unions, I had to do a lot of checking to make sure that I wasn't repeating myself in the topic we agreed made sense.  Well, I had done a column back in 2014 about the state of contemporary trade unionism, but the topic as different, though the conclusion still applies.

Rich and I were kicking around the notion that maybe the Democrats weren't even the best landing spot for union members anymore, and possibly even for the trade unions themselves (I specify that we are talking about private-sector unions here; government unions not only should not exist because of the corruption I mention in that article, but are incorrigibly and irreparably socialist and, therefore, the province of the Democrats).

Private-sector unions, historically, have always been glued to the Democrats, donating primarily (or solely) to them and being a large component of their infrastructure.

What, then, have the Democrats done for the unions and union members (which are not exactly the same thing)?  More specifically, what can Democrats do today that would have a positive effect on both the institutions and their membership?  And can the Republicans actually offer a better return on the unions' donations?

That's why I highlighted the word "today" in the last paragraph.  The 2018 Democrats are very little like the Democrats of 1947, or 1962.  Where once they were the province of the "working man", or purported to be, today they are made up of multiple constituencies, as I wrote last week -- the aggrieved ethnic-identity types, the socialists, the old-style workers, the government Democrats.

Being nothing like the Democrats of 60 years ago when the unions had much larger influence, it can be assumed that the Democrats of today don't have as much to offer the trade union and the trade unionist of today.

So what about the Republicans?

OK, it would be utterly paradigm-shifting to imagine trade unions leaning Republican, but is it that odd, really?  After all, trade union members certainly have jumped to the Republicans in elections before, most notably for Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump, so does that suggest that maybe the unions themselves should shop around?

Let's note that, like the Democrats, the private-sector unions are far different from six decades back.  Membership is far down and still falling.  The unions' influence is as much as bankers and vote-bloc brokers as anything else; they manage massive pension funds that are arguably more important a role than negotiating contracts or legislative influence for worker rights.

The unions (as distinct from their membership) need to survive, to protect their income stream (dues), to manage their resources (pension funds) and, even if only incidentally, protect workers' rights.

The Democrats' policies don't necessarily mesh well with those aims.  For example, their aggressive "let anyone in" approach to immigration is anathema to unions, as it expands the pool of laborers to compete with skilled union tradesmen and thus drives down wages, as well as decreasing union membership and dues.  Their equally aggressive antagonistic view of banks and large financial institutions threatens the stability and success of pension funds.  Their overly aggressive demands have pushed manufacturing jobs overseas.

Do the Republicans offer more?  Well, they certainly offer more to the union member than one might think.  Tradesmen need jobs to be employed full-time, and a successful, roaring economy produces growth and the environment in which those jobs are created and maintained.

Given -- and you have to concede this -- that the regulatory environment has been protective of the worker, by statute as well as by rule, the union worker is really not at any conscionable risk of losing the standing (vis-a-vis his employer) that he holds today.  That is, the Republicans are not going to try to peel back much of that labor law where it makes sense, but neither are the Democrats in a position to add anything productive either.

The Democrats have long had a tight, cozy relationship with the unions that turned out Democrat votes for decades.  But they also have a tight, cozy relationship with black Americans, who have long voted for Democrats even though they have done virtually nothing for black America in return.

I've read that the black support for President Trump has tripled since he was elected -- elected on a message that included "What have you got to lose -- the Democrats just take your vote and don't do anything to help you!"  Last I looked, the president's job approval rate among black Americans was at an amazing 38% (Rasmussen poll), far up from 2017.

Union leadership people are very likely looking at the same thing and asking the analogous question.

Donald Trump had relationships with trade unions for his entire career as a builder.  They understand each other, to the point that he is a president who can actually get the union leadership to ask themselves if perhaps it isn't better to deal with a businessman who understands them and has negotiated with them -- rather than a political party that has taken their votes and then promoted policies like immigration that are simply not good for the working American.

Perhaps the Democrats have bitten one of the hands that has fed them.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Thursday, August 16, 2018

Happy Anniversary

OK, a fast day because today is a day off.  It is anniversary day for my best girl and me, and I'm going to stay away from work and enjoy the company of my dear wife, doing whatever she has planned for us, and a plan element or two from me.

We have been together for many, many years and days like this help ensure -- and remind us -- that we will be together and very happy for many more.  Happy Anniversary to my best girl, and I'll see the rest of you tomorrow ;)

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

So Strzok Is Gone

Peter Strzok was fired this week.

Or last week, I'm not sure.  He no longer works for the FBI, the institution that he disgraced by being grossly insubordinate and using government communication media to write foul things about the Commander-in-Chief.  It won't matter, because sycophants and other morons have been raising a half-million for his retirement as a parting gift on a GoFundMe page, showing that indeed, you can't fix stupid.

Now, exactly what he was fired for specifically is not known to me, possibly because I haven't taken the time to read the articles (it's hard to trust any news outlet's accuracy these days), and possibly because such disciplinary matters are not usually public record.  It doesn't matter, really -- if you want to fire someone, it is usually not too hard to come up with something, except in the government, where it is darn near impossible.

I've been trying to figure out the lessons we learned from all this, and as I cogitate on them, I mainly come up with the fact that he should have quit, or been fired, many, many months ago after Donald Trump became president.

We have a dozen or so Federal departments at the Cabinet level, plus a number of other agencies doing this or that.  Far too many, of course, but it is really hard to dissolve one -- Education should be first, followed by Energy, CFPC, ad nauseam, but that's not the point either.

These departments are the core of -- well, in fact they are the Executive Branch of the government, carrying out the policies of the Administration within the budgets and guidance provided by Congress.  As such, they should be following the leadership of the president, as implemented by the secretary or other Cabinet officer in charge.

But there are more.

Every agency has multiple undersecretaries or deputy secretaries or assistant secretaries, each of whom is in charge of a vital function within the department.  For example, Defense has undersecretaries for things like Policy, one for Research, one for Personnel, and so forth.  Those are often what we refer to as "political" appointees, in that most are required to be approved by Congress on their appointment.

They are normally members of the Senior Executive Service (SES), a civil service level that is roughly equivalent to a general officer in the military, except without the uniform and too often without specific experience in whatever they're supposed to be managing.  But they do know someone, which is how they got appointed in the first place.

All that, though, is as it has been for many decades.  What is a bit different is that it has become a lot harder to get those jobs.  Not because, you'd think, it is hard to find the people, but because political appointees are now buried in politics.

There are over a thousand of those senior-level, policy-implementing jobs to be filled, and when a new president comes in it should be his or her important responsibility to get the list of nominees to those jobs in front of Congress so they can be rubber-stamped and start doing their jobs in a matter of days.  This is important, since the president cannot do that job for them, and in order to get all that policy implemented, you need people to delegate that to.

Unfortunately, though, the Senate has rules about that sort of thing, and that grants the minority the right to force 30 hours of debate or hearings on each of those nominees.  Good old Chuck Schumer is doing just that in an effort to slow President Trump's electorate-given mandate.  When you have a thousand people to vote on, you can get deep into a president's second year with jobs unfilled while waiting for the Senate, dragged out and delayed by a minority that can keep a president from having his or her people in place.

The SES types from the previous administration, of course, are under no obligation to leave unless they are fired, at least until they are replaced.  The Cabinet secretaries themselves all resign after inauguration, of course, but they leave scads of deputy-under-this-or-thats still in their roles.  When the change in president entails a change in party, as was the case going from Obama to Trump, it means that a new president cannot get his own agenda moving, because the leadership in the executive departments is in opposition to their incoming boss's goals.

Peter Strzok was an Obama type, although a career FBI agent and official (as opposed to a political appointee).  He would not have been replaced by an incoming administration, but his loyalty was not to the incoming Trump agenda, so he is sort of an odd example of my point.  He should have been gone, but more because he could not do his job impartially -- and let's be fair; his "job" at that time was working on investigations in which he had a big political stake, the Hillary private-server-mishandling-classified-documents one and the phony-bologna-Russia-collusion one.

The USA is a curious place.  Unlike some other nations, an incoming president can't just get loyal people put in on Day One and start taking action.  President Trump was inaugurated, and the next day had the entire Executive Branch run by people appointed by his predecessor and utterly opposed to carrying out the will of their president.  In one case (at Justice), the acting Attorney General actually had to be fired, because she refused to carry out a specific order of the new president.

Can't we do better?  Must we have months of a new government run by the Strzoks of the world, the disloyal leftovers, or cannot we come up with a system by which individuals who are nominated to SES and Cabinet-leading positions can simply take their positions as interim appointees subject to Senate approval?

Anyway, at least Strzok is gone, off doing whatever he is left doing (the DNC might hire him, I suppose, or he can live off his GoFundMe income, assuming it isn't taxable) and no longer in a position to sabotage our government.

I'd be happy to try to figure a way to avoid that happening again.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

No NFL in This House

Since I only recently discovered that I had written two separate columns a year apart referencing the same 1914 quote for different reasons, I did some research.  I had to, since I needed to make sure I had not stated this before.

There will be no NFL in this house.

OK, you knew that, not because I had already written this piece's theme before, but because it is actually the title, and most people at least do read the headline before going on to the piece.  I'd like to think my readers don't need to, because they want to jump right in to the content as fast as possible, but I'm not stupid.

I'm so "not stupid" that I can recall most of the reasons for doing so, or not doing so, whichever applies to banning the NFL.

Colin Kaepernick, the entitled former NFL quarterback who started the whole kneeling-for-the-anthem business, is out of work, unless being a professional nuisance is paying his mortgage.  He is not out of work because he knelt, despite what he and a bunch of other NFL players aver; he is out of work because he is not good enough to play in the NFL anymore.

Well, I'll give you this -- he is certainly not good enough to start in the NFL anymore, and if there are 50 backup-quality quarterbacks alive today, and if he were good enough to be compared to those backups, he still wouldn't be on a team -- because he doesn't offer anything that 49 other guys don't offer with considerably less baggage.  That baggage, by the way, is having the police and military, including veterans and their families, refuse to attend games, buy from sponsors or support the team that would have hired him to be -- again -- a backup.

So lots of other entitled NFL players started kneeling, so many that they can't get their stories straight about why they're kneeling, to where I literally cannot tell you why any of them is taking a knee.  By the time this peaked last season, the NFL was mired in a PR disaster of the highest level.

They tried, posting a $100 million planned donation that was supposed to go to charities of the players' choosing.  Yes, read the link.  Those charities, at least some of them, were some pretty offensive organizations with real questionable links (they could have just given it to the United Negro College Fund and called it a day without protest, but that would have been too easy).

The point was that it was supposed to buy off the players and get them on their feet for the national anthem.

Well, it didn't work, apparently, although I have not heard that the NFL is suspending its annual payments to those charities.  Some players are still kneeling, and as we head into the preseason, we're also left with the aftermath of the NFL having tried to put in a rule requiring the players to stand, and then having to waffle on that.  Frankly, I don't know what the rule is now.

Fortunately, I don't have to care.

My best girl and I have banned the NFL from our home TV screens.  I certainly don't need the NFL.  My hockey team, the Washington Capitals, won the Stanley Cup this year, and since they play in roughly the same season and then beyond, I can devote my sports attention, after the Red Sox run toward the World Series at least, to hockey (I don't watch basketball anymore regardless; the colleges don't keep players in school long enough to become a "team", and the NBA is so full of contemptible people randomly producing illegitimate children that there's no one to root for).

I enjoyed the NFL in the 60 or so years that I watched it before last year.  Granted, I had a predictable reaction at the start of each season.  I'd miss football, but then I'd see a preseason game and some clown would score a touchdown and dance like a fool even though his team was down 24 points.  I'd go "That's why I don't watch as much football as I used to", and then watch the season with less loyalty than before.

The NFL is now a set of disagreeing owners led by a wildly-overpaid and acutely-incompetent commissioner, overseeing wildly-overpaid players with zero regard for, or understanding of, the people who ultimately allow them to buy those mansions and big cars (and those who defend them in uniform).  I've reached an age where I simply do not need to be taken advantage of by them.

I'm over 65, and it is a fear of all of us of that age that we will be taken advantage of, either by scam artists, or government, or technology we don't understand.  I will not be taken advantage of by professional football.  If the choice is watching the NFL or feeling good about my support for Americans in uniform in the military and law enforcement, there is simply no choice to make.

We will not watch the NFL here.  Go Red Sox.  Go Caps.  OK, Phil Mickelson too.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Monday, August 13, 2018

Insight into the Real Roe v. Wade Passion

My best girl and I frequently binge-watch television shows, especially in the summer when there are few new network show episodes, but really all year, to some extent.  Early on, we bought or were given some boxed sets of DVDs of show we liked, so they're fun to go through now that we have some time to do so.

One such show was "Boston Legal", which ran for five years about a dozen years back.  It was often as much comedy as legal drama, featuring a team in a law firm in Boston taking on odd cases.  The quirks of the show included occasional side jokes about the "network" or using the term "this episode", subtlely referencing the fact that they were, indeed, a TV show.

And, of course, it was a bit odd that two of the three named partners in the firm had gone a bit senile, one ("Denny Crane") played by William Shatner (who, at 75, referred to his creeping Alzheimer's as "mad cow disease" but still practiced law, at least a little -- the other was almost never seen after the first few episodes). 

Another core "thing" in the show was the relationship between Shatner's character and one of the younger lead attorneys, "Alan Shore" (played by James Spader).  Both were incorrigible skirt-chasers, Shore the classic liberal with no concern about treating all women as sex objects (clearly a Kennedy relative), Crane the old conservative with (naturally) lots of guns.  Let's just say there was no secret about the political leanings of the producer and writers.

Last night we were watching an episode from the fifth and final season.  In it, a fairly mature and well-spoken 15-year-old girl came to the firm for representation.  She had immigrated to the USA from China, and gotten pregnant.  Her father was deceased, and the mother refused to give her consent for the abortion the girl wanted, consent needed under 2008 Massachusetts law, we assume.

That law allowed for a judge to override the parent and allow the abortion, at least as portrayed in the episode.  That was the girl's petition; she had gone to the firm to ask for them to go to court to get the permission.  She was intelligent and rehearsed, knowing all her lines about how raising a child would cause irreparable harm to her and stall her education and career.

Shore and Crane were not representing her, but frequently discussed the case.  In those discussions, Shore (this was 2008) was positively panicked over the thought of Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion case, being reversed by the then-construction of the Supreme Court.  Panicked, I tell you, as if going back to the rule of law before that ruling would end the country as we knew it.

He was in his office alone, cogitating on the notion when Denny Crane walked into his office.  That would be Denny Crane, the once-great attorney and founder of the firm that bore his name, but now, mentally crippled by the onset of Alzheimer's disease and morally bankrupt as well.  Yet he made right then the single most profound point we would ever hear on the show.

The setting?  Shore had just discovered that the reason the child wanted to abort the baby was not about her own career or education, but because she was following a Chinese cultural leaning favoring male children, and discovered the baby was female.  This, Shore clearly thought, was morally troubling even in the face of his abortion-for-all mentality.

I'm quoting from memory here as to what Crane said, so forgive me.

"You people [liberals like Shore] need Roe v. Wade, Alan.  You need it because you can always point to it as the bedrock law that keeps you from having to confront your own morality, morality that says abortion is actually wrong.  You can't actually say that, of course, so Roe gives you the legal spine to avoid actually having to decide that something is right or wrong.  Without Roe, Alan, you'd have to look in the mirror."

I immediately made notes for today's piece.  Can you blame me?  Brilliance, utter brilliance from a geriatric, gun-toting lawyer with mad cow disease, on a left-leaning network TV show.

Now we just have to find a liberal with actual morals to understand it.

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

Friday, August 10, 2018

Picking Winners and Losers in NYC

The once-great, or maybe never-really-great City of New York is at it again.  Yes, I hate the place and all it stands for, so maybe writing this is a guilty pleasure, but when the city steps all over itself, I do experience Schadenfreude of the highest level.

Most of us at one time or another have taken an Uber or Lyft ride, some of us a whole stinking lot of times (I've done it exactly only once, but then again I have a car).  I can't speak to whether or not it is a good experience, certainly not on one episode I've long since forgotten, but it is a popular service.

And a disruptive one.

Apparently, the taxi industry in New York City is noticing.  Cabs there have been a necessary evil forever, since the overpopulation and lack of garage space -- and compressed space lessening the need for them -- keeps down the car count.

The taxi folks have managed to build a tidy little business there -- a few years ago, a medallion, or transferable license to operate a single cab, was selling for well over a million dollars.  That tells you all you need to know.  The people there need cabs, and the industry has conspired with the city to constrain the number of them to drive up prices.

Then came Uber and Lyft, which I will refer to collectively as "Uber", because it's my column.  With an alternative to cabs (and I won't even get into the relative cleanliness or English fluency of the drivers, since I never go near New York and can't really speak to it, but the stereotype is good enough), people started using cabs less and less.

Medallions are now selling for about 90% less than they were only a few short years ago, because the competition is making them less valuable.  It's called "serving the marketplace", and if cabs were serving the marketplace instead of, apparently, screwing it, Uber wouldn't have a place.

Well, the good City and its communist mayor and bumbling council have apparently listened.  Not, of course, to the people of the city, who can now get from point A to point B cheaper than before and with a custom-summoned vehicle.  No, they are listening to the taxicab cartel that was apparently screwing the citizens before Uber came along.

New York City is now limiting the number of Uber cars that can be on the streets at any one time.  I haven't gotten into the details of the law, because the fact that the law exists at all means that the city government and its communist mayor have selected one business over another, rather than allowing the market to make that decision.

They have the right to do that, and they have the right to be voted out of office, if the people of the city hadn't already exposed their stupidity by voting for them in the first place.  That doesn't mean that it made sense.

These anti-capitalists, led by their communist mayor, passed that law not because they were doing a good deed for the people they serve, but because the taxicab cartel complained that their revenues were going down, and they could no longer gouge each other for medallion fees, or gouge the public.

Now, if the City were to have passed a law allowing the taxis to charge whatever they wanted and not be forced to obey mandatory rates set by a commission, perhaps they could compete -- as is done in a free market.  The cabs could then battle with Uber by charging lower fares, for example.  All that would be good for the people of the city.

Ah, the people.  The ones whom the City Council and the communist mayor apparently paid no attention to in the crafting of the bill.  The people who, as of the passage of the law, had less access to transportation than they had the day before, but with exactly no benefit to them.  The taxi cartel now has less competition, and the Uber types are limited in what they can do.  But the people who actually needed the service of being drive from point A to point B, well, apparently their needs are less important than the cartel.

The cab companies are the winners, and Uber and the people of New York are the losers, as chosen by the City of New York.   Ahhhh, they're Yankee fans, I shouldn't care.

And come these next Novembers, those people who lost will go to the polls and vote for the same council members and communist mayor they have been voting for in recent years.  They got screwed, and then they vote for the same thing.

You can't fix stupid.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Thursday, August 9, 2018

Are They Letting Me Fix the History of Shoeless Joe?

OK, two baseball columns in a row.  I can't help it, I really want to update previous columns when the circumstances warrant.  And this is only somewhat about baseball anyway.  OK, "mostly."

Long-time readers will remember that a long time back I did a piece on the case of "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, the remarkable baseball player who was on a Hall-of-Fame track until 99 years ago, when he was, at minimum, a peripheral part of the conspiracy of eight players that threw the 1919 World Series with his Chicago White Sox to the Cincinnati Redlegs.

While the original piece -- and please read the link; it is plot material -- covered the plot somewhat, the point was not really so much about the scandal itself, as it was about the way it was recorded in Wikipedia, the "people's encyclopedia" that lets most anyone write most anything and call it factual.

OK, that's a bit pejorative -- Wikipedia is a wonderfully helpful tool.  But in this case, that of old Shoeless Joe, the site was tightly monitored by a guy in Arizona who was keeping in content that argued for Jackson's innocence, and purging out anything that suggested he was actually a part of the plot and worthy of suspension.

As I wrote, I had addressed a particular issue in that Wikipedia page.  The Series was best-of-nine that year, and it went eight games.  Jackson's White Sox only won three games -- two which were pitched by Dickie Kerr, who was not in on the plot, and the seventh game, when the conspiring players, upset at late, low and missing payments from the gamblers, really played hard.  They won the game, shafting many of those gamblers who were still leveraging their knowledge of the plot to try to win big.

The argument by the Jackson apologists was that he "tried hard" throughout the Series, pointing to his .375 batting average that led all players.  So I put in a well-crafted edit, noting that his hitting was much better in the three not-thrown games -- half his 12 hits in the Series were in just those three games. In other words, the record suggested that he might not have tried quite so hard when the other conspirators weren't either.

I checked back the next day and my edit had been removed.  I did a few tests, putting it back, and discovered that it would be removed in minutes after updating, even though the remover was doing so at like six in the morning in Arizona.  That was in 2015.

So for jollies, I recently tried to edit the section again, this past week.  I noticed that there were some additional sentences in there in the intervening couple three years, all of which were in support of Jackson's "innocence."

I put in three changes.  The latest version, since 2015, had a note that Jackson had been accused of poor fielding in the thrown games, noting that it had been reported that there had been an unusual number of Cincinnati triples to left (where Jackson played) but that "contemporary newspaper accounts did not report any triples to left."

So I added a line that Baseball Register, the fairly definitive historical site, had at least two triples shown as going to left or left-center, both in thrown games.  The left-center one was notorious, as it was noted at the time that Jackson and the center fielder had looked at each other as the ball rolled between them.

I also noted that the article, after reporting on $5,000 being paid to Jackson, now stated that pitcher Lefty Williams, one of the conspirators, had later said that Jackson was "not at any of the meetings" and his name was only added to give the plot more persuasiveness (presumably to the gamblers).  So I added a parenthetical note that it made no sense for the plotters to give Jackson $5,000, an enormous amount of money in 1919, or anything else, if he wasn't part of the plot.

Finally, I put back in the reference to Jackson's hit compilation in the "clean" games, that had been taken out back in 2015 every time I put it in.

Son of a gun.  My changes are still there as I write this.  Of course, I also decided to set up a login to identify myself when editing Wikipedia, not that I do it very often.  The article is here, if you want to check.

I got a lot of feedback after I wrote the original piece, so I figured those readers who were interested might want to know that things had seemingly changed.

Unfortunately, this sordid history has not.  Shoeless Joe was rightly banned.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Historic Weekend in a Historic Season

Or "an" historic season.  I suppose that the choice of indefinite article is flexible, depending on how much you want to sound like a 1950s-era British television commentator.

The season, of course, is the baseball season, specifically that of the Boston Red Sox, whom I follow with an acute passion that has no anchor in geography whatsoever.  As I've noted a few times, I am certainly not a New Englander, and can trace that acute passion back to age three or four, several years before I first saw them live (in 1959, on the road) and 15 years before I was even in Boston.

I was 53 when they finally won a world championship in my lifetime -- their previous five had been in the early 20th Century; my father lived through four Red Sox championship seasons, but unlike the three I have experienced in the last 14 years, his four spanned 91 years, bracketed by the 1916 and 2007 seasons.

This year, however, is a different experience.

Aaron Boone, the manager of the hated and detested New York Yankees, recently commented that, in so many words, he would look up at the scoreboard and the Red Sox "never lose."  That was borne out rather elegantly this past weekend, when the two teams met head to head in a four-game series at Fenway Park.

Boston won all four games, including one in which they handily defeated the Yankees' ace starting pitcher, and the last, in which New York blew a 4-1 lead in the bottom of the ninth inning and lost it in the tenth.  When the dust had settled, a Yankee team that had played, at this writing, to an outstanding .625 winning percentage in an excellent year, was sitting nine and a half games behind Boston.

The Red Sox started 2018 by losing the opening game (of course), before winning the next nine straight and 17 of the next 18.  They have lost so infrequently that:

- They went 56-29 in their first 85 games, and then started a ten-game winning streak
- In their worst ten-game stretch, in April, they still won four games
- They have lost only as many as three straight games (in that 4-6 run in April), and only once
- They have had separate runs of 17-2, 15-2, and 14-4, their current streak.

They are doing this with a manager, Alex Cora, who never managed in the major leagues before this year, and who has rather evidently made some moves that, to be polite, are a part of his learning curve -- learning that it is indeed OK to pinch-hit once in a while, for example.

I suppose that the forecasters thought that the Red Sox would have a pretty good season, but I'd assume from brief research that even the computers were maxing Boston out at perhaps 90-92 wins, even after winning the Eastern Division the past two years.  As of now, they are projected at 108 wins, which would be a franchise record.

So wha' happened?

My take -- and yes, everyone has opinions, but I've thought this through over a number of years -- is that the optimal situation for a club is not so much when it has a well-stocked farm system, but rather, in the first five years after a wave of talent emerges from that farm system simultaneously, or at least within that five-year window.

This happens only occasionally, because phenoms rising from the minors do not pan out nearly as often as teams would wish.  When it happens to teams like the Tampa Bay Rays, with very low revenues, those young teams don't stay together but are traded off before their salary demands make them impossible to retain.

The Rays of 2008 went to the World Series with Evan Longoria (age 22), B.J. Upton (23), Carl Crawford (26) and Dioner Navarro (24) all early in what would be long careers, and really leveraged a pitching staff with James Shields (26), Andy Sonnanstine (25), and Scott Kazmir, Edwin Jackson and Matt Garza (all 24).  Nine years later, most of those players are still in the majors -- but none of them Rays.

Boston, on the other hand, with the revenues to retain players and complement them with a free agent here and there, has no fewer than six of their regular lineup positions manned by players from their own farm system who are in no more than their fifth big-league season -- Jackie Bradley (28), Christian Vazquez (27), Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts (both 25), Andrew Benintendi (23) and Rafael Devers (21).

The fact that all these players are approaching their peak performance years (age 26-29) roughly together is the real key here.  Teammates who are going down the path with you for multiple years constitute a team.  Teammates who have serious talent -- Betts is an MVP candidate, the others excellent in multiple facets of the game -- and can grow for multiple years, produce winning teams.

The major-league record for wins in a season is 116, set by the Seattle Mariners of 2001, before crashing and burning in the playoffs.  That team seemed never to lose, save a four-game losing streak near the end of the season -- and, of course, the playoffs.

This one, which overcame a two-run deficit to beat Toronto with a 10th-inning rally last night, indeed never seems to lose.  But unlike late-20th Century Boston teams that faded late, this one seems to have not only the sustaining power to complete the season on a high in 2018, but to stay together and succeed for several years.

I can live with that.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Tuesday, August 7, 2018

How the Democrats Lost the "Worker"

In yesterday's piece I talked about the lack of leadership in the Democrat left, and blamed Barack Obama for leaving a big vacuum in the party that he not only couldn't fill, but prevented others from preparing to fill it when his term mercifully expired.

I think a related topic in that piece is relevant.  I spoke to the notion that the Democrats are split into somewhat unrelated constituencies that aren't necessary in any kind of accord.

One of those constituencies was the "worker", typically meaning the blue-collar tradesman, steelworker, or other skilled person who had long ago been likely a union member, working in the same job or for the same employer for a lifetime.  Because the first half of the 20th Century was when the private-sector union arose, it was then that such workers became strongly Democrat, because to be Republican was to side with the businesses which employed them.

But it is certainly relevant that the blue states that broke to Donald Trump in 2018 were the Rust Belt states -- Ohio, of course, but also Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania -- where a healthy part of the electorate is made up of those same "workers" that were historical Democrat voters.

In 1980, in the Reagan campaign, the commentators referred to "BCECs" -- blue-collar ethnic Catholics -- a term that has disappeared so much that googling "BCEC" gets to about the 44th screen of responses before you get "blue-collar ethnic Catholics", and nothing from under 18 years ago.

By "ethnic", the term was referring to Polish, Irish and Italian immigrants and descendants, along with some other eastern Europeans like Slovaks and Czechs.  The stereotype was that they went to high school and then right into the factory, steel mill or coal mine, joined a union, went to Mass, married and stayed married, had kids, worked for one company all their lives and retired on a pension.

The stereotype was pretty real, and you can add to it that they voted Democrat because they were told to by their union, which then gave lots of money to the party to elect people who would vote in Congress and the states' legislatures the way the unions wanted them to.  Pretty tidy system, and it lasted for a long time.

That was, of course, before Jimmy Carter.

Carter's economic incompetence was so severe that people were confronting 16-18% mortgage rates by 1980.  Plants were closing because of a combination of foreign competition and lack of access to capital -- if you're a business needing to pay 15% for a loan to build a plant or upgrade equipment, and you're already paying high union wages to your people, something is going to break -- workers get laid off, or plants and equipment fall into disrepair, or businesses close and everyone loses their job, union or not.

The "BCECs" weren't stupid.  If voting for Democrats was going to produce the stagflation that cost them jobs or inflated the costs of their groceries, clothing and homes, then maybe Ronald Reagan's platform of tax cuts to stimulate growth was worth giving a vote -- certainly voting for another term of Carter was certain to cause continued problems.

"Trickle-down economics", laughed at by Democrats, actually worked.  The economy boomed and tax revenues, predicted to tank by the doom-and-gloomers on the left, actually soared after the passage of the tax cuts in Reagan's first term.  Of course, Tip O'Neill's Democrat Congress went and spent $1.40 for every additional dollar the heated economy produced in taxes, but "spending" is actually not a metric of tax policy, and government spending is not a measurement of the success of trickle-down economics.

That election, and that presidential term, was the crack in the previous "blue wall."  The "workers", and by that term we are very much talking about BCECs, discovered that it was OK to vote for a Republican, even though they might not be very loud about it, given their unions' reputation for goonery.  But once they could cast a Republican vote voluntarily, it was no longer mandatory that they vote as they were told.

And that is where we are in 2018, as we were in 2016.  The horrific Obama economy, quite certain to lurch equally as badly into a Hillary administration, was as scary in its own way as the Carter economy of 1980.  The "worker" that the Democrats lost in 1980 was lost again in 2016.

That voter was lost because the second "C" stands for "Catholic", and the Democrats' antipathy toward Catholicism, and the left's rigid dogma about social issues like gay marriage and abortion, does not ring well for that voter.  Neither does socialism, and certainly neither does a policy on the borders that invites people to just walk over -- and compete against the BCECs for their livelihood.

Donald Trump, the candidate, was a builder.  It was a significant attribute that Hillary Clinton had never "signed the front of a paycheck" -- run a business and made a payroll -- while Trump had produced tens of thousands of private-sector jobs and dealt with unions all his life.  If you were a BCEC, you couldn't identify with Hillary, who promised to close your mine and kill your job, but you could at least understand where Trump was coming from, even if he were on the other side.

So then bang -- 2016, he gets elected president, cuts taxes and the economy booms.  Even more than Reagan, the now-President Trump takes loud, affirmative steps to bring more jobs to the USA and protect the American worker against unfair foreign tariffs, while the Democrats are opposing immigration enforcement and trying to throw open the borders.

If I am a BCEC voter who just got my full-time job in the factory, mill or mine handed back to me, then whom am I going to credit for that?    If I'm a shop steward who got a $2,000 annual cut in taxes with the new laws, whom am I going to credit for that?  Chuck Schumer?  Nancy Pelosi?  Maxine Waters?  Bovine feces, with a cherry on top.

I don't think the question is whether that voter is going to vote Democrat or Republican in 2018 and 2020.  I think the question is if that voter is ever going to vote for a Democrat again.  The question is when that voter's union is going to realize that its membership is simply not going to support donations to Democrats anymore, and that member will leave the union (if they can in their states) if it keeps donating to them.

The Democrats started losing the worker in 1980.  I'd argue that the worker is gone.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Monday, August 6, 2018

Did Obama Suck the Leadership Out of the Democrats?

Saturday my best girl and I were talking over coffee and the news on TV.  She was asserting that there seem to be three kinds of Democrats out there now.  She was referring to "Democrats, liberals and leftists" and by that, she meant (A) blue-collar union types who have always been Democrats even through Reagan and Trump, (B) Hollywood types and some minorities, who have no concept of economic reality and live only for social and stereotypically race-based issues, and (C) socialists, communists, and the college-polluted millennials who follow them.

The Democrats (all of the above) have always been a mixed bag who came together at the polls -- sometimes -- even though they might not have always agreed.  They got Clinton elected, and had an easier time with Barack Obama because of his father's color, capitalizing on race-based guilt among white voters.

But now it seems harder to imagine any kind of reconciliation, and that is because there is no unifying principle on which they can agree.  The blue-collar types are thinned out already because many who hadn't already escaped to vote for Reagan turned out for Trump, and more probably will now that their paychecks are larger.  Union bosses -- private-sector union bosses -- have lost vast influence with declining membership and lingering gangster reputations.

This distinction is being covered up -- unsuccessfully, of course -- by the Democratic National Committee, which cannot afford to have its membership split up to the point where it can not turn them out to vote in elections, particularly this fall.  But at some point they are going to have to come up with a somewhat-unifying message other than "We oppose President Trump because of something-or-other!!"

In order to have a message, though, you need to have a messenger.

This is a situation for the Democrats that simply cries out for leadership of some kind; someone to provide that message as soon as they, you know, come up with one.  But there is no leadership to be found.

I propose that the reason for that gap is simply that Barack Obama sucked all the leadership out of the Democrats in 2009 and left them in an untenable situation.

Here's the thing.  When a president is elected, he becomes the leader of the party, the messenger of its goals and approaches.  There is no room for another person to take that kind of role.  But with that leadership position comes responsibility, and Obama simply did not take it.  He was, it should be conceded, a good reader of speeches but a terrible leader, and as his presidency wound on, it became clear that there was no direction visible.

No one in his own party could oppose him of course, lest they be called a racist, so the Democrats were stuck with an ineffectual, Jimmy Carter-like leader in Obama, with no capacity to run a government and no ability to grow a new leadership cadre, ultimately running by corrupting his Justice Department and IRS into a weapon against political enemies.  All the excitement they felt at his election in 2008 eventually dissipated when it was clear they were stuck with his jello rudder for eight years.

In essence, Obama made it impossible for a subsequent leader to rise within the party and posit a platform that the USA could evaluate and vote for.  Instead, they nominated the corrupt and entitled Hillary Clinton, who could not only not lead, but could not articulate any reason to vote for her that did not start and end with her uterus.

Yugoslavia was, for many years, run by Marshal Tito, who effectively held together several former countries with ethnic and political hatred for each other.  When Tito died, Yugoslavia blew apart, and no longer exists.  The Democrats are in a somewhat analogous situation now, with no one to hold their various constituencies together, because no leadership has been cultivated and no message created.

While all that is going on -- and mind you, there is still no leadership among the Democrats and certainly no platform for voters to consider -- President Trump has delivered what should end up being an over 3% GDP increase for 2018, record low unemployment for black and Hispanic populations in the USA, detente with North Korea, an actual effort to level tariff imbalances, a massive tax cut that has fueled job growth, and big cuts to job-killing Federal regulations.

In a perfect world for the Democrats, they would have someone about 25 years younger than President Trump, a good speaker (not just a speech-reader) with some clear, active ideas to make the country better.  But there is no such person, and there are no clear, active ideas being proposed at all, let alone any that would produce predictably positive results.

But of course, that is in part because they cannot even get their finger on the problems that Americans feel need to be solved.  If they think that the problem is income inequality, or race relations, and try to come up with solutions that will address those things (which are, as I've written, not correctable), the solutions will sound like big government control and will be rejected out of hand by the voters.

If they don't know the problems, they won't have solutions.

If they can't articulate solutions, they won't get elected.

If they have nothing to articulate, no leader can arise to promote them.

They're in a pickle.  And it doesn't bother me in the slightest.

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