Keeping the President Alive

Back when President Barack Obama was first elected, during that delusional era of hope and change and boundless “Yes we can” optimism, it was a widely held belief among our liberal friends that he would soon be assassinated.
The notion that the James Earl Rays of America would never tolerate a black president had been a staple of black stand-up comedy for years, and the more progressive white folks seemed to assume that conservatives harbored the same murderous fantasies that they’d indulged in all through the George W. Bush era. Our nation’s unhappy history compelled us to concede that there was a risk, but we tried to reassure our friends that it didn’t seem any more dire than usual. There are no doubt a few would-be James Earl Rays left out there, but by now even the dimmest of them are well aware that modern society won’t confer them the heroic status that their hero mistakenly thought he would acquire, and every conservative of our acquaintance was especially anxious to see the president serve out his term. Not just for the usual patriotic and moral reasons, or the prospect of a Joe Biden presidency, but also from a nagging fear that a martyred Obama would usher in an era of unrestrained liberalism more effectively than even a live one.
If an assassination attempt were made, we figured, it would most likely be by another of the deranged anarchists or disgruntled office-seekers or Fair Play for Cuba activists or Manson family members or man-hating feminists or love-struck movie fans or assorted other nut cases who have taken shots at presidents in the past. The thought has reoccured to us with the news that one such nut case was recently able to climb over the White House fence, walk through the unlocked front door, manhandle his way past an undersized woman security guard, and then penetrate deep into the president’s residence. Throw in the the past several years’ worth of stories about Secret Service agents boozing it up and consorting with prostitutes, party-crashers making their way to within hand-shaking distance of the president, known criminals  pretending to provide deaf language interpretation right next to the president, along with some of the other Secret Service scandals so numerous we can’t quite recall them all of the top of our head, and there is reason to believe that a president whose survival is of paramount importance to both liberals and conservatives is not being adequately protected.
Congressional hearings regarding the matter are scheduled for today, with the woman in charge of presidential security summoned to provide testimony, and we expect the Republicans will pose the more aggressive questions and insist on the more robust solutions. The president is ultimately responsible for own security, as we all are, and as usual it would be embarrassing for the Democrats to too closely scrutinize his job performance. The Republicans, remembering how much more saintly and perfectly liberal President John F. Kennedy was in death than he ever was  in life, and knowing full well that they will be blamed for any misfortune, just as Dallas’ “riight-wing  climate of hate” was blamed for that Fair Play for Cuba activist’s lucky shots, will have a greater stake in keeping the president alive.

– Bud Norman

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Another Useless Story From Moore, Oklahoma

The hard luck town of Moore, Oklahoma, was back in the news last week. This time it wasn’t yet another F-5 tornado tearing the town apart but rather the beheading of a woman and the stabbing of another by a former co-worker at a local food distribution plant, the sort of gruesome crime that usually dominates the tabloid headlines for days, but we suspect will quickly fade away.
That disgruntled ex-employee angle would ordinarily have some appeal to the popular press, with its subtle implication of a man driven to madness after being callously tossed aside by heartless capitalism, but the rest of the details in this story are not the sort of news that The New York Times ordinarily deems fit to print. The assailant had a long and disturbing history of violent criminal conduct long before he was hired by the company where he committed his horrific crime, which raises questions about the current administration’s policy of suing businesses who prefer not to hire job applicants with felony convictions. He was reportedly fired for the very good cause of constantly haranguing with his co-workers with rants that women should be stoned for a variety of offenses generally tolerated in the more feminist-informed United States, a consequence of his recent embrace of Islam that will also be uncomfortable for the more polite press organs to report, and it will thus be impossible to broach the subject of beheading without reminding readers that the practice has lately been revived in the Middle East by others proclaiming the very same Religion of Peace. No guns were involved except for the one legally wielded under Oklahoma’s wise laws by a company executive to prevent even more murders. the assailant is black and cannot be plausibly be tied to the “tea party” or other Republican causes, and nothing but the peripheral involvement of a little-known and seemingly blameless corporation serves the press’ preferred narratives.
Although the story is useless to the mainstream press, we think it highly useful to anyone seeking a more honest understanding of reality. A more frank look at the story would suggest that companies should be able to shield their employees from people with known histories of violence, that Islam does condone beheadings, that sometimes it’s good to have a gun around, and that the “tea party” and other Republican causes are not the most pressing threats to public safety. That the story carries yet another unhappy Moore dateline should also make it prominent, as it proves that such outrages can happen anywhere.
Although we’ve only passed through on our way to Dallas and points south, we retain a strong affection for Moore because that is where our beloved Pop grew up. Moore was where he learned to shoot all sorts of firearms with an remarkable accuracy, and where he was taught the hard work and hard math that enabled him to slide through engineering school and into a successful career in avionics, and we don’t need the gloating sign at the city limits to tell us that it’s an All-American City. What was once a distinct small town has now been engulfed by the sprawling boom of right-wing Oklahoma City, and our Pop tells us that on his last visit he found only a couple of old city buildings that had survived all the progress and tornados, but we don’t doubt that the same quintessentially All-American heart still beats there.
A darker urge from centuries ago now lurks there, too, and that story is unlikely to fade away anytime soon.

– Bud Norman

A Bittersweet Departure

Attorney General Eric Holder has announced his resignation, yet we feel no glee. Holder was by far the worst Attorney General of our lifetime, which stretches back to the days of John Mitchell, but his departure provides no vindication and little hope.
The man’s execrable record began long before he assumed the office of Attorney General, from his days taking over campus buildings as a college radical to his role in the Clinton administration’s final days pardons of a Democrat-contributing expatriate scammer and some bomb-throwing Puerto Rican terrorists, and continued into his private sector work at a law firm that provided pro bono defense for Islamist terrorists. In the euphoria that followed the hope and change election of ’08 this record was insufficient to prevent the appointment of the first black Attorney General, however, and his outrages as Attorney General began immediately with his decision to drop charges against the paramilitary-garbed and club-weilding New Black Panther members who had already been convicted of intimidating voters outside a Philadelphia polling station and an address that branded America a “nation of cowards” for declining to talk about race on his resentful terms, then continued with a disinclination to pursue hate crime charges on behalf of white victims, his insistence that school discipline be administered by racial quotas, his apparent approval of the “Fast and Furious” program that allowed gun sales to Mexican gangsters who wound up committing hundreds of murders that included the death of American law enforcement agents, his subsequent stonewalling of congressional investigations that led to a contempt charge, his refusal to appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of his party’s political opponents, his resistance to reasonable rules regarding eligibility for voting, his prejudicial statements concerning various racial contretemps playing out in the local justice systems, and other offenses so numerous that we can’t off the top of our head recall them all.
None of this was sufficient to remove the first black Attorney General from office, however, and so far as we can tell he is rather smugly leaving for a lucrative career in the private sector of his own accord. There is speculation in the conservative press that Holder is departing under duress of those still-lingering contempt of Congress charges stemming from the “Fast and Furious” scandal, but this seems wishful thinking. All those dead Mexicans and American law enforcement officers weren’t an issue in the re-election of Holder’s boss, and are now rarely mentioned in the public discourse, so we can’t imagine that Holder or his boss feel at all concerned by it now. Disturbingly enough the more plausible explanation is Holder’s statement that six years of bedeviling American justice is enough and that he’s ready to follow his wife’s advice and take on the less stressful and more remunerative life of a very well-connected private sector lawyer. He announced his resignation with a lachrymose farewell from the President of the United States and such polite press as the Politico web site admitting that his resignation is perfectly timed to allow a replacement to be confirmed by a lame duck Democratic Senate but still gushing that he is “leaving on arguably the highest point of his personal career, after a year of progress on his plan to reform sentencing laws and just after his well-received, calming-the-waters trip to Ferguson, Missouri, during the riots in August.”
That Holder is leaving as the least popular person in the Obama administration went unremarked, as was that his trip to Ferguson calmed the waters by promising the mob its preferred decision on the police shooting that prompted the riots and it wasn’t at all well-received by the vast majority of Americans who don’t write for Politico, but otherwise the article seems credible in its assertion that Holder is leaving on his own. The publication’s posterior-kissing approach to journalism has probably given it credible sources within the administration, too, so we take seriously their list of the equally-radical and racialist candidates being considered to replace Holder. One can hope that a more Republican Senate will refuse to confirm the first few put forth, but they’ll eventually have to agree to one of them and in the meantime Holder will stay on the job. We’ll be glad to be rid of Holder, but don’t expect that anything will soon get better.

– Bud Norman

Crossroads, Paths to Peace, and Blah Blah Blah

That speech President Barack Obama gave to the United Nations’ General Assembly on Wednesday wasn’t all bad, but the good parts were a begrudging repudiation of his past statements and the rest of it was just awful.
There was at last an acknowledgement that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not the reason for the Middle East’s dysfunctions, an “illusion” that has previously formed the basis of administration policy, but of course it was accompanied by a claim that “the violence engulfing the region has made too many Israelis ready to abandon the hard work of peace.” There was some needed tough talk about Russia’s recent aggressions in Ukraine and America’s commitment to its NATO obligations, which had been described in a previous UN address as “relics of the Cold War,” but except for the very non-lethal aid and ineffectual sanctions that he boasted of nothing that will do any good for the Ukrainians. There was a heartening claim that “America is and will continue to be a Pacific power,” but nothing about funding the Navy at the levels it needs to make that claim more than mere bluster. There was also some talk about how Iran must not let his generously provided opportunities to abandon its nuclear weapons program pass, but nothing specific about what might happen if they continue building the bomb.
The rest of it probably had the assembled delegates, good guys and bad guys alike, rolling their eyes. After opening with some happy talk about what a great time it is to be alive and some flattery about the UN’s role in bringing about this golden era, without bother to apologize for not asking the body’s permission to conduct his various bombing campaigns around the unprecedentedly peaceful globe, he humbly admitted that there is nonetheless a “pervasive unease in our world.” He attributes this to the “failure of our international system to keep pace with an interconnected world,” his previous flattery of the UN notwithstanding, and to “violent extremism.” That failure of the international system presumably refers to Russia’s and China’s failure to secure UN approval for their ambitions, but he made clear that he didn’t blame any that violent extremism on Islam. Even as he was raining missiles down on a group calling itself the Islamic State because it has lately been following Islam’s clearly stated Koranic commandments to behead infidels and conquer new territory he stressed that it had nothing to do with their religious affiliations.
Even in a speech full of such of euphemistically described threats, he found time to throw in some blather about eradicating world poverty while simultaneously advocating crippling the world’s economies with useless regulations to combat the non-existent threat of climate change. There was also the obligatory confession of America’s sins, specifically the shooting of a black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, that the president can’t possibly know was justified or not, with no mention of the far more numerous shootings of black teenagers by other black teenagers, along with a reference to the wars fought between Christians some centuries ago.
Worse yet, such nonsense was wrapped in the most hackneyed cliches about crossroads and different paths and young people yearning for a better world, along with a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt of all people. The president was first elected on a widespread hope that his soaring oratory and personal awesomeness would suffice to bring about world peace, but it doesn’t seem likely to pan out.

– Bud Norman

A Consummation Devoutly Not to Be Wished

A recurring theme in the spate of dystopian futurist movies popular in our youth was that someday the government would start killing off all the old people. The notion provided a memorable scene in “Soylent Green” where Edward G. Robinson shuffled off to the local suicide center where the aged were treated to soothing music and images as they ceased to be a burden, and the entire plot of “Logan’s Run” was based on a society that maintained its perfectly organized order by offing anyone over the age of 30. In the late ’60s and early ’70s audiences found this plausible, with the younger and hipper movie-goers smugly assuming it was just the sort of thing that President Richard Nixon and his right-wing buddies would love to do, but it’s not been until the era of hope and change and the left-wing ascendancy that we’ve started to worry about it.
Our worries were heightened by the once-venerable Atlantic Monthly’s recent publication of an article by Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel in which he expresses his desire to die at age 75 and urges the rest of us to do the same. This morbid advice would ordinarily be easy to ignore, but Emanuel is the brother of former Obama White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, has served as a special advisor to the Obama White House’s Office of Management and Budget, and is currently a fellow at the Obama White House-affiliated Center for American Progress. He painstakingly insists that he’s not advocating euthanasia, and he couches his argument mostly in terms of the individual’s best interests rather than society’s or the government’s bottom line, but there’s no shaking a discomfiting feeling that his enthusiasm for a mass early exit from this earthly plane isn’t entirely apolitical, or that it won’t have some appeal to the bureaucrats charged with balancing Obamacare’s hard-to-balance books.
His arguments for dying at age 75 probably won’t be persuasive to anybody else. He correctly notes that people tend to have more aches and pains and get around less energetically after 75 than they did in their younger days, but throughout history most people have found that more tolerable than the proposed alternative. Some people are afflicted with aches and pains and limited mobility early in life, too, and although Emanuel isn’t quite so bold as the Nazis were in suggesting that these unfortunate folks should also cash it in neither does he bother to discount the idea. He further notes that the vast majority of people are less productive after the age of 75, and cites some studies suggesting the decline begins well before that point, but the notion that an individual’s life is only of value to the extent that it serves the collective is also abhorrent. He acknowledges that some people retain great creativity and usefulness late into life, without considering how someone might know if they’re one of them until they reach an age well beyond 75, and he begrudgingly concedes that even the most debilitated oldsters still provide love and meaning to the lives of the families and friends, although he seems to regard this as a silly sentimentality, but he still insists that the rather arbitrary age of 75 is when shuffling off this mortal coil is a consummation devoutly to be wished.
What’s most unsettling, however, is that Emanuel’s arguments are so consistent with a predominant anti-life strain in modern liberalism. The enthusiasm for abortion even when a baby has survived the procedure, the advocacy for other extreme means of population control, the antipathy toward the scientific advances that have allowed agriculture to sustain the lives of untold billions around the world, and the younger generations’ apparent aversion to procreation and preference for polar bears, all reflect a peculiar post-religious belief that human life is not a precious gift granted by God to each human being but rather a problematic privilege conferred or revoked by more earthly ruling elites. Throw in the facts that the president of the United States has told the daughter of a centenarian that her mother should “take a pill” rather than get the expensive surgery she needs to continue a vital life, and his former Secretary of Health Human Services has explained a decision to deny a young girl life-saving treatment because “some people live and some people die,” and one of his former advisors is advocating death at age 75, and those old dystopian futurist flicks no longer seem so far-fetched. Nixon and his right-wing buddies have nothing to do with it, but otherwise they’re starting seem to prophetic.

– Bud Norman

Totalitarian But Honest

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. thinks we should be in prison for our skeptical opinions regarding the more alarmist anthropogenic global warming theories, and we appreciate his honesty.
The scion of the liberal dynasty argued for imprisoning anyone who harbors doubts about his anti-capitalist political agenda to solve the alleged global warming problem during one of the big “climate change” protest marches the past weekend, which all sorts of celebrities had flown in on private jets to attend, and although his harshest words were of course directed at those all-purpose villains the Koch brothers he made it clear that anyone dissenting on the issue should be behind bars. It’s about as illiberal an opinion as anyone could utter, and was part of a rant that was full of staggeringly stupid misinformation, including the claim that the Kochs were responsible for the war in Iraq despite their outspoken opposition to it, which is one of our rare disagreements with the brothers and one we don’t wish to see them imprisoned for, as well as the laughable claim that they support only policies that enrich their business when the environmental movement’s prohibition against building competing oil refineries has probably done more than anything to enrich them, and there was also some galling hypocrisy, but at least he came right out and said it. A desire to criminalize political opposition is quite common among what passes for modern liberals, we have found, but few are so willing to abandon any pretense of support for freedom of thought and speech.
Kennedy isn’t the only one willing to confess his censorious and totalitarian instincts, alas. The Gawker and Talking Points Memo web sites and a former Clinton administration official named Joe Romm and a former National Aeronautics and Space Administration worker named James Hanson are among those on the record with the same view, and those Attorneys General who have been targeting the governors of Texas and Wisconsin and the Internal Revenue Service agents who were scrutinizing those “tea party” applications for tax-exempt status might as well have made the same confession, along with all the Democratic Senators who voted for that proposed amendment to the First Amendment, but he does have the most prominent name of those who brazenly support crushing dissent. Perhaps it’s because he doesn’t have a real job at risk, and can be assured that prominent name will protect him from the guillotine once the blades start falling, but his honesty is still commendable.
If the rest of modern liberalism were as frank it would be easier to deal with, and would spare the public discourse all sorts of disingenuous blather about civility and dissent as the highest form of patriotism and all those other high-minded concepts the left still claims to believe in even during periods of Democratic rule. The vast majority of the public that isn’t at all worried about climate change, and doesn’t fly in private jets and rightfully resents the efforts of those who do to shoe-horn the hoi polloi into those phone-booth sized automobiles or inefficient public transportation systems, would also be more easily convinced to rally to the right. That’s not Kennedy’s intention, we’re sure, but he’s obviously an idiot who doesn’t carefully consider the consequences of his deranged views.

– Bud Norman

Vulgar and Offensive

We had hoped to take a break from the decline and fall of western civilization over the weekend by immersing ourselves in college football, but of course it proved futile. The top-ranked team in the country was playing without its Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, who had been suspended for the game due to “vulgar and offensive behavior,” and the frequent televised shots of the sidelined player cheering on his eligible teammates only reminded us of the sorry state of our culture.
“Vulgar and offensive behavior” isn’t quite so troubling as the domestic battery and child abuse scandals that have lately bedeviled the professional game, but it is so far more common that we didn’t need the reminder. Vulgarity and offensiveness are so commonplace, in fact, that instead of concerning passing and rushing and defensive statistics we found ourselves on the internet trying to find out just how much more vulgar and offensive than the prevailing standards a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback must be to get benched in a big game. The more polite media were vague, explaining only that the quarterback had shouted an “internet meme” at a group of women in a public square, but the “social media” reporting the accounts of the twittering students within earshot were more explicit. We’ll spare you the ugly verbatim details, but suffice to say that what he was shouting at women he did not know in a public square was pretty darned vulgar and offensive.
The offending Heisman Trophy winner, who won the prestigious award last year despite a credible accusation of rape by a fellow student, might well have had no idea that he was shouting something that would keep him out of a big game. It’s an “internet meme,” after all, and not significantly different from what you might hear on the latest pop hit or in a popular motion picture or see on the back of the t-shirt in front of you at the grocery store check-out line. Absent any connection to the social standards that prevailed just a generation ago, which a college-aged person of the moment is likely unaware of, it might have even struck him as a witty and convivial remark.
Which is all the more reason that we are heartened a football-crazed institution would risk a shot a national championship by sidelining the player. Even without the star player the team was still favored by more than a touchdown, which might well have informed the university’s decision, but it was still a brave stand on behalf of old-fashioned decency. As it turned out the inexperienced substitute played just well enough to send his team in overtime, where the opposing coach’s bone-headed call on a fourth-and-inches play secured a victory, but one can hope that the close call made an impression on the vulgar and offensive quarterback and his equally vulgar and offensive fans.

– Bud Norman

Forever Scotland, More or Less

That Scottish independence referendum proved anti-climactic. Had the Scots voted to secede from the United Kingdom it would have been one of the biggest stories in years, roiling financial markets and re-aligning the geo-political order and fueling separatist movements around the world and provoking thousands of op-ed pieces and stirring up God only knows what other sorts of irksome mischief, but the apparent vote to stay put just means that a rather desultory status quo will continue indefinitely.
Disappointing as it might be to the world’s press and other cheerleaders for catastrophe, the result is not surprising to anyone who still credits the Scots with a modicum of common sense. When the United States declared its independence from Great Britain they believed that “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation,” and laid out a litany of complaints that included standing armies quartered among the general population and taxation without representation and an ongoing slave trade, but after 307 years of union the would-be Scottish nationalists were never able to make such a convincing case to their relatively pampered countrymen. Instead they relied on Obama-esque slogans of “Yes We Can” and “hope” and “change” along with a blatant appeal to the most base sort of tribalism and the endorsements of empty-headed show biz celebrities, and apparently that wasn’t enough to overcome a lot of questions about the country’s currency and solvency and place in the security arrangements that have prevailed over the past half century and more.
That the question even came up is prompting some soul-searching all over the western world, with the press in even the more seemingly solid jurisdictions pondering the strange discontent that seems to have settled upon the unwashed masses almost everywhere. The reliably elitist New York Times worries that it’s symptomatic of a global rebellion against the elites, and at the other end of the media spectrum the reliably populist billionaire Rupert Murdoch is saying the same thing without the same fretful tone. All the world’s various secessionist movements, from Spain’s Basque and Cantalonia regions to Flemish Belgium to Italy’s hard-working northern portion to the Kurdish enclaves of the Middle East to Texas and California, all have very specific complaints, but there’s a natural inclination to lump them all together. The independence-minded Scots were dreaming of a country that would levy higher taxes and lavish more generous social services and pursue a more savage-friendly foreign policy, along with the welcoming immigration policies that are not usually associated with nationalist movements, but The New York Times can’t help likening them to America’s “tea party” movement because both represent the same threat to the established order. Those elites and their established order should not be reassured by Scotland’s acquiesce to the status quo, however, because it seems begrudging and disgruntled. There is clearly little enthusiasm in Scotland for Britishness, a concept that has become almost meaningless in the post-war era, but they just can’t muster the necessary Scottishness.
One of our few forays outside the United States was a driving tour of Scotland with our Pop a few years back that seemed to take us through every square mile of the country, and we found it a strikingly dissipated land. The scenery is breathtakingly beautiful, and you’ll still meet some likable folks in the picturesque villages, but there’s no mistaking that the best of the country is in the past. All of the best architecture is centuries old, and the stubbornly elegant squares of the cities are filled with statuary the great Scotsmen who enriched the world with their genius long ago, and the unattended churches are adorned with the names of Scotsmen who died fighting for Great Britain in wars long since forgotten, but what’s new is shabbily modern and the pubs are likely to erupt in a brawl at a moment’s notice and the mostly tabloid press is filled with tawdry crimes and scandals and the kinds of empty-headed show biz celebrities who endorsed Scottish independence. We had a nice beery evening listening to a Scottish folk band in a gorgeous little seaside pub, and couldn’t help noticing the resemblance to the bluegrass that the folkies are playing down in Winfield right now, but otherwise Scottishness seemed mostly a matter of higher taxes and more social services and the rest of the dissipating socialist agenda, and suspect that in the end that was not enough to persuade the average Scotsman to dissolve a familiar arrangement.
Any American op-ed writers looking for a local angle on the Scottish story would do well to avoid the “tea party” allusions. Limited government and lower taxes and expanded liberty and increased personal responsibility appeal to Americanism in a way that a welfare state does not appeal to any instinct of Scottishness going back more than 307 years, and those who are dissatisfied with status quo here still have what it takes to assume the burdens of nationhood.

– Bud Norman

Insanity in the Heartland

Politics here in Kansas is now so screwy that the Democrats are in court pleading they shouldn’t be forced to field a candidate for Senate and the Republican nominee is lagging in the polls. The explanation for this otherwise inexplicable turn of events is a self-described “independent” candidate offering the usual pablum about bipartisanship and practical solutions, an entrenched Republican incumbent who barely survived a primary challenge by a scandal-tainted neophyte because he’s considered too bipartisan and practical by the party’s base, and the gullibility of the average voter.
The self-described independent was once registered as a Democrat, once ran for the Senate as a Democrat, is now very careful not to deny that he will caucus with the Democrats, and to the carefully attuned ear he still sounds a lot like a Democrat, but it remains to be seen if a majority of this reliably Republican state will reach the obvious conclusion that he is a Democrat. On Thursday he came out for the Democrats’ proposal to re-write the First Amendment to restrict criticism of the Democratic Party, which is about as Democratic a policy as one can endorse, but even that might not make the necessary impression on those Kansans distracted by the upcoming basketball season.
One can only hope that the average Kansan, who is as least as apt to exercise his First Amendment rights as the citizen of any other state, will notice that putative independent Greg Orman, usually described in the Kansas press as a wealthy businessman from Johnson County, is on the record with his support of the odious amendment the to the constitution recently proposed by the Democrats that would allow for further federal regulation of spending on political speech. The amendment is touted as an antidote merely to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, which reasonably found that that prior restraint of an anti-Hillary Clinton movie was a gross violation of the the First Amendment, but its inevitable result is a regulatory regime that will restrict conservative opinions while allowing the liberal riposte. Orman’s endorsement of this outrage should convince any sensible Kansan of his Democratic tendencies, but we anxiously await the verdict on how many of our fellow Kansans are sensible.
That entrenched Republican incumbent, Sen. Pat Roberts, has an 86 percent lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union, which has spiked during the age of the locally unpopular President Barack Obama, and although that heretical 14 percent has alienated the party’s conservative base we hope they’ll notice that he’s been a stalwart defender of free speech. That Citiziens United decision involved money from the demonized Koch Brothers, who are a mainstay of the Kansas economy and have been forthrightly defended by Roberts on the Senate floor, and Roberts has been quite admirable in his defense of the decision of the principle of letting even the most targeted people express their opinions in the the public square.
Thus far the national Republican party seems aware of the danger that such a usually reliable state is in play, and we’re hopeful that Roberts will have the resources to make his convincing case to the people of his state. The state’s media won’t be much help, inclined as it is to present that radical constitutional amendment as an old-fashioned sunshine law that will reveal the nefarious money-bags greasing the system, but given the mood of the state we are hopeful that Orman will eventually be regarded as another Democrat and meet the usual Democrats’ fate. It’s a tricky race to handicap, though, and could go either way.
Kansas’ prognosticators seem split on how it might turn out. One school of thought holds that forcing the Democrats onto the ballot will split the anti-incumbent vote, while another posits that without an official Democratic candidate Ogman will be regarded as the de facto Democrat and suffer accordingly. Roberts’ reputation as a get-along Republican will cost him a few votes from the party faithful, but might pick up a few among those who buy into Orman’s happy talk about bipartisanship. We’ll be keeping our fingers cross that the party faithful recognize a censorious Democrat when they see one, that those with fantastical hopes of bipartisanship won’t mind Roberts’ occasional offenses against Republican orthodoxy, and that Kansas of all places doesn’t screw up the Republicans’ hopes of taking the Senate.

– Bud Norman

Searing and Wearing Words

One of the many peculiar features of our modern age is the t-shirt controversy. Obsessive news-readers will encounter several of them almost every month, usually involving a student who has run afoul of his school’s dress code, sometimes a disgruntled shopper complaining that some censorious rent-a-cop denied him entry to the local mall, and always a result of our popular culture’s strange insistence on expressing itself on its chest. These days the offending opinions are likely to be religious, patriotic, or otherwise offensive to prevailing polite opinion, which is yet another peculiar feature of our modern age.
The latest spate of t-shirt controversies include a young girl who was forbidden to wear a t=shirt declaring that “Virginity Rocks” and a prominent quarterback for a professional football team wasn’t allowed to appear before the press in a t-shirt with the words “Know Jesus, Know Peace.” There’s another story about an Army officer who wasn’t allowed in his daughter’s school because of his uniform, and of course the recent federal court decision upholding a school’s right to ban any wearing of the American flag for fear of offending the foreign students. The Arkansas middle school that objected to the pro-virginity slogan said it was simply trying to avoid any uncomfortable discussions about sexuality, the professional football league invoked a higher power by saying that the pro-Jesus t-shirt wasn’t an officially licensed Nike product, the Detroit school that stopped the Army officer at its door hilariously explained that it was because he wasn’t wearing a tie, as if anyone in Detroit wears a tie and an Army uniform isn’t sufficiently businesslike by the standards of the Detroit public schools, but even if one buys in to any of this a trend is apparent. Another controversy occurred when some college students wore t-shirts with an obscene suggestion for “Safe Zones,” but that was because of its offense to the school’s up-to-date speech codes rather than any concern for old-fashioned notions of propriety.
Although we stand foursquare for middle school virginity, Jesus, the United States Army, and the American flag, and certainly find them less offensive than the obscenities and insults and likenesses of Che Guevara that shout at us from t-shirts all over the public square, we find it hard to work up much indignation over a t-shirt. Here’s hoping the unwelcome Army officer gets even more groveling apologies from that school for its absurd insult to his service, but the people who could have shown up in primary colored t-shirt free of unasked opinions, or even a nice button-down, must fight their battles without us. Libertarian principle forbids us from any governmental attempt to squelch even the most frivolous forms of free speech, but a traditionalist streak in us can’t help yearning for a bygone era when people voluntarily didn’t wear their opinions on their chest.
In most cases the t-shirts proclaim the wearer’s allegiance to some sports team or rock ‘n’ roll band or clothing manufacturer, which is probably a starter to the most interesting conversation you can have with him, but otherwise it is always something calculated to give offense to somebody. Even when the words are agreeable to us we can’t help wondering if any idea that can be expressed on a t-shirt is worth expressing, and whether those ideas wouldn’t be more persuasively expressed by someone dressed in an adult and serious fashion. The notion that individuality is best expressed by t-shirts and tattoos and vaguely Afro-French-sounding names is of recent and uncertain vintage, and cannot explain why the most daringly transgressive and individualistic figures of the pre-modern era all looked pretty much like else. There were always the extravagant sorts, from Oscar Wilde to Gen. George Custer to Isadora Duncan and her fatally-long scarves, but even these showboats would never have thought of donating their chests to free advertising for some sports team or political cause or foul-mouthed joke. According to the old black-and-white movies even the gangsters aspired to look like respectable Republican businessmen, and and embarrassingly betrayed themselves with a street-level garishness.
So far as we can tell the clothing controversies started when switchblade-wielding kids started showing up at mostly-white high schools with black leather jackets and white t-shirts and rolled-up jeans and basketball shoes a look now regarded as classic continually evoked by subsequent counter-cultures, and intensified when all those long-haired and tie-dyed hippie freaks started filling the local parks with that odd sweet smell. Anyone old enough to recall that era is probably discombobulated by a time when virginity and Jesus and the American flag are the controversial attire, but we mostly lament that people no longer feel free to be themselves without imposing themselves on the fellow just ahead in the grocery store check-out line.

– Bud Norman


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