The Strange Matter of the Rent Boy Investigation

At the risk of sounding not only straight but also square we will admit that we had never heard of Rentboy.com until the Department of Homeland Security raided its offices and arrested its chief executive and several other employees on charges of prostitution. According to the ensuing news reports Rentboy.com is a nearly twenty-year-old web site where homosexual “escorts” advertise their services, which made the news of legal difficulties seem peculiar.
Although we’re in favor of strict enforcement of any laws against prostitution, whether of the heterosexual or homosexual or variety, or some other variety we’re not yet aware of, it’s hard for us to see why this is a matter of concern to the Department of Homeland Security rather than the police in the alleged perpetrator’s jurisdiction. A spokesman for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, which was also somehow involved the arrests, explained that “As the investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, ICE is responsible for the enforcement of laws that promote the legitimate movement of people, goods and currency in domestic and foreign transactions,” but he didn’t explain why a prostitution ring is not a matter better left to the local or state authorities. The charged company is apparently located in a prime part of New York City, in a state and locality that probably have more pressing problems for their law enforcement agencies to deal with than a web site advertising the services of homosexual “escorts,” and given the political influence that homosexuals have in those areas it’s all the more unlikely that the cops would ever get around to raiding the joint, but this only raises the question of whether this is really something that threatens the homeland’s security.
What seems most peculiar, though, is that the federal government, of all people, have apparently picked a fight with the homosexual portion of the country. We guess that most of our homosexual friends share our distaste for prostitution, but an organized segment of the homosexual rights movement seems to believe that the right to rent a boy, or at least a boyish young man, is surely embedded somewhere in all those penumbras of the Constitution, and lately the federal government and the culture at large has been inclined to go along with whatever such organized segments of the homosexual rights movement insist upon. Same-sex marriage has not only been legally enshroud but rigorously imposed on even the most recalcitrant County Clerks and old-fashioned bakers and wedding photographers, the surgical mutilation of human genitals is celebrated on magazine covers and sports network shows, and the White House has been bathed in the pastel colors of the rainbow flag. An odd time, then, for the same federal government to crack down on a web site that facilitates consensual homosexual activity.
These days an observant news-reader will naturally go in search of some political explanation for what the federal government is doing, but in this case there doesn’t seem to be one, which is also peculiar. Given that heterosexual men on the whole are every bit as libidinously irresponsible as homosexual men we assume there are numerous similar web sites advertising the services of female “escorts,” and they still have a broader potential audience than a similar homosexual site, so of all the possible targets it’s hard to see why the feds would want to pick on Rentboy.com. Every time some bureaucrat does something we assume that it’s so he can proclaim that he is, indeed, doing something, but we can’t think of any reason that an executive branch bureaucrat ultimately responsible to President Barack Obama and his Democratic Party would be annoying libidinously irresponsible homosexuals.

The folks at Rentboy.com are arguing in the press that they only advertised their clients’ “time,” and not anything that might reasonably construed as sexual, and this might or might not prove a persuasive argument in a court of law, so we’ll keep on an eye on the outcome. Our interest in homosexual escorts is nil, but we can’t quell our curiosity about why the federal government is taking such an interest in the matter.

— Bud Norman

Murder, Live on Television, and Its Complications

The murders of Alison Parker and Adam Ward on Wednesday morning were broadcast on live television and posted on the internet by the murderer, which of course makes them impossible to ignore. Otherwise the media happily ignore it.
Both of the victims were white and heterosexual, their murderer was black and homosexual, and except for the inevitable arguments about the need for new gun laws there’s nothing about the case that advances the preferred media narrative. The heartbreaking tales of the victims’ promising lives make the Democratic Party’s sudden embarrassment to state that all lives matter seem callous, the murderer’s firing from the television news organization he attacked now seems well justified no matter or his race or sexual orientation, and his declared intention to start a race war with the shootings of his former colleagues doesn’t suggest that the post-racial era promised by the current president has come about. Except for the fact that there was a gun involved, nothing about these brutal murders is of much use to the press.
The more conservative portions of the press will properly note that the preferred narrative of the media is sympathetic to the grievances of blacks and homosexuals and especially black homosexuals, and that this might have led some obviously crazed black homosexual who kept getting local television news jobs despite his obvious mental and emotional deficiencies to commit such a horrible crime, but we will resist this temptation. We don’t like it when people who take a principled stand against late-term abortions are implicated in the murder of a doctor who performs late-term abortions, or when a rather insignificant political figure is blamed for a bizarre shooting of another obscure political figure because of a rifle-sight figure on a political blog, and for all our contempt for the Only Black Lives Matter movement we’re not going to blame them for some random lunatic’s amoral actions. We can’t say they helped, but we can’t say they’re to blame.
All we can say is that we’ll pray for the victims and their families and loved ones, and that the government doesn’t do anything crazy to undermine the right of self-defense as a result, and that the next news cycle somehow brings better news.

— Bud Norman

The Chinese Model and Its Flaws

Not so long ago, before the shakiness of the Chinese economy started shaking the rest of the world’s stock markets, some reputedly smart people were insisting that China was a model to be emulated. The New York Times’ star columnist and best-selling author Thomas Friedman, for instance, once wrote “Forgive me, Heavenly Father, for I have cast an envious eye on the authoritarian Chinese political system, where leaders can, and do, just order that problems be solved.”

div style=”text-indent:20px;”>It was a damned fool thing to say even at the time, even by the standards of The New York Times’ editorial page, and has since been revealed as such by the full percentage points or more that the Chinese catastrophe seems to be yanking away from the the the DJIA and S&P and the STOXX and Footsie and the NIKKEI and the rest of the acronyms and nicknames of all those panic markets in every nook and cranny of the world. Still, it’s easy to understand the appeal that a system where the reputedly smart people “can, and do, just order than problems be solved” would have to those who think they possess such wisdom and information and elite status that they could and would do exactly that if only the great unwashed masses of the body politic would allow them the power. China was reporting extraordinary growth in its gross national product, which according to some accountings had already overtaken America’s as the world’s largest, and the country was blissfully unbothered by anything resembling the fiscally sober and free-market-loving elements of America’s Republican Party, so a cause-and-effect relationship of course seemed obvious to a certain sort of so-called liberal, and the example of authoritarian rule that momentarily seemed to be working was simply too much for the more authoritarian-inclined yet so-called liberals to resist.

Now that it has become so quantifiably apparent on the stock market boards that the people running the Chinese economy can’t and haven’t solved all its very serious problems, the argument for letting a few reputedly smart people run a country is harder to sustain. The Chinese invested borrowed billions in a variety of bridges and infrastructure projects and entire new gigantic cities, just as the reputedly smart people on the American left would do, but the bridges mostly led to nowhere and the infrastructure projects were largely pointless and the cities remain uninhabited, and there’s nothing resembling the fiscally sober and free market-loving portion of the Republican Party around to be blamed for the obvious mess.
The worst possible outcome for America’s economy might yet be blamed on that same portion of the Republican Party, and some self-described or barely-disguised socialist might persuasively make the argument for letting a few reputedly smart people run the whole economy and the rest of your life, but at least the fiscally sober and free market-loving portion of the Republican Party will be able to make a plausible argument. We’re as alarmed as anyone else about this stock market dive, and well understand where it might lead, but we’re clinging to a faint hope that at least it won’t lead to a Chinese-style authoritarianism.

— Bud Norman

Oy Vey, That Stock Market

These days our interest in the stock markets is mostly academic, but the past several days have been quite interesting nonetheless. Pretty much everywhere the stock markets are panicking, and suddenly the most alarmed pundits are surpassing even our usual gloom and doom.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average took a catastrophic 1008-point plunge Monday before a roller coaster rally reduced that to a still dire drop of more than 588 points, which is about 3.7 percent of the market’s total value lost in a single day, which is enough for some pundits with a economic stake in their reputations to advise people to invest heavily in bottled water and canned foods. Our own reputation for economic prognostications is of negligible value, as we won’t even pretend to know what the hell is going on out there, but for what it’s worth we’ll go on record to say that it apocalyptic predictions sound plausible enough to us.
Maybe it’s just that early 1008-point plunge that’s got us fretful. We’re old enough enough to recall a time with the DJIA measured in four digits, and when a three-digit drop dominated the next day’s headlines, so a three-digit drop has a scary sound to our ears even in this age of a Dow so many thousands ahead of even the Reagan days. That 588-point closing plunge even seems frightening, especially after the previous week of steep decline, and there’s little elsewhere in the news to provide reassurance that this is just one of those occasional dips in the inevitable road to prosperity. The popular explanation is that the Chinese economy, which might or might not be the world’s first largest economy depending on which method you believe, is suddenly going from vastly overstated good fortune to probably overstated decline and that the rest of the world is running the numbers and realizing that as a result they’ll fall far short of the promises that have been made to their restive peoples. The rest of the world is mostly the United States, which might or might not be the world’s first largest economy, depending on which method you believe, and the European Union, which is by all accounts a solid third in the pecking order, even with Greece’s ongoing catastrophe and all the the other brewing problems with that misguided project to meld fissiparous Europe into one state and economy, and the Latin American economies that have lately seen a plunge in the value of their currency, and the African states that are so dysfunctional they barely rate a mention in the stock market news, and the Asian countries that are overwhelmed by the Chinese, so the global situation doesn’t seem at all encouraging.
We have some faith in our fellow citizens that they’ll still be able to provide the products and services they’ve made their lives’ work, so that the bottled water and canned goods aren’t the next shrewd investment, but we have little faith in any of the governments and we’re still pretty gloomy and doomy. The communist Chinese method of mandating by law that by power of the gun the economy will continue to climb no matter how many ghost cities they build is proving powerless against the almighty market forces, the United States’ and European Union’s method of simply printing enough money to pay of all the promises is proving just as ineffectual, and the rest of the world is of course entirely hapless. The inevitable fact that ghost cities and printed money and false promises of government-engineered property aren’t enough to sustain a global economy seem to have reached their conclusion.
Those Dow Jones Industrial Averages were always overstated, to our admittedly unreliable thinking, by all all the quantitative easing of free money that had nowhere to go in a zero body yield world except the stock markets. All of the eye-popping numbers the markets produced seemed wildly incongruent with an economy that had a record lows in labor participation and declining wages and the scant job claims outstripped by immigration, and the current panic seems more in line with the reality of the actual situation. Although we don’t recommend investing in bottled water and canned goods we don’t expect any good news about the economy soon.

For those who insist on a silver lining we we will note that the economy should soon its rightful place among the pressing issues of the day, and that the public will not be inclined to buy any arguments for the status quo.

— Bud Norman

The Democratic Plot Thickens

There’s serious talk going on about Vice President Joe Biden running for president, and it goes to show how very panicked the Democratic Party is about having former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as its nominee.
Given the ongoing e-mail scandal and all the other equally damning scandals of the past 25 years or so and how very few accomplishments were associated with all those highfalutin titles and how very horrible a candidate she is, we’re not at all surprised that Democrats would be looking around for someone other than Clinton. That they’re considering Biden, though, suggests a party even more desperate than we would have thought. Biden is a two-time loser of the nomination, an inconsequential Vice President even by the low standards of that office, and a gaffe-prone buffoon who malapropisms have been ridiculous to even the such liberal ridiculers as the writers of “Saturday Night Live.” More surprising and scarier yet, if you’re a Democrat who happened upon this site, is that Biden will likely make a formidable contender.
Clinton is already losing ground to self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the current darling of the party’s far-left faction, and a long-time senator and Vice President would likely take more votes away from her than from the the Sanders and his base of people looking for an outsider option. He’d likely enjoy the implied endorsement of President Barack Obama, too, who has lately been deafeningly silent about all the federal investigations into Clinton’s e-mail, and without the black support that entails Clinton’s candidacy will be further eviscerated.
Biden has also been reportedly meeting with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and discussing the possibility of a couple of one-term presidencies between the two, and that further thickens the plot. Warren, a fake-Injun-Harvard-professor-turned-far-left-populist-Senator, is the most avidly longed-for choice of the Democratic Party’s far-left base, even if she has thus far stood by her refusal to enter the race. The media speculation is that Biden might run with Warren as his pre-announced running mate, on a promise that he would serve only one term due to his seasoned age, allowing Warren to succeed him as president, fulfilling the Democrats’ destiny of electing both a black man and white woman to the presidency, and we can see such a promise beating out even the self-described socialist and any of the more scandal-ridden insider opponents.
At this point it’s all purely speculative, of course, but the inevitability of Clinton’s nomination does seem very much in doubt. If she does wind up with the nomination she’ll be likely be brushed and battered by the the fight for it, and without the enthusiastic support of the coalition that has won the last two presidential elections for her party, and as someone who had to fend of the buffoonish likes of Joe Biden.

— Bud Norman

Palace Intrigue in the Age of E-Mails

The stock market is swooning, new revelations about awful side deals to that awful Iranian nuke deal that would allow the Iranians to choose their own inspectors make it look it all look even more awful, the illegal immigration debate continues to simmer, and other significant news is plentiful, but nothing seemed of particular interest and yesterday was a birthday, so we decided to simply engage in some idle speculation about this e-mail controversy that has been so entertainingly disruptive to Hillary Clinton’s presidential aspirations.
We love a good tale of palace intrigue, even if we’ve never watched an episode of “Game of Thrones,” which we understand has the added enticement of copious nudity, so the e-mail imbroglio offers a peculiar fascination. By now we’re familiar enough with the conventions of the genre to know that there’s always some unseen character pulling all the strings, and in this particular episodic series of putatively reality television we have anticipated that it will turn out to be President Barack Obama. Thus far his name has been almost entirely left out of the press plot line, but being the binge-watchers we are anticipating his eventual appearance.
The understandably disgruntled conservative press seems resigned to the sad realization that Clinton will never face any legal consequences for her use of a private and dubiously secured e-mail server for public use, and following the president’s Justice Department’s lack of interest in the Internal Revenue Service’s harassment of conservative non-profit groups and the Inspectors Generals’ reports on the pork in the stimulus bill and the murder of an ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi and the Fast and Furious scandal that resulted in all those dead Mexicans and all of the rest of the current administration’s record on such things we can’t scoff at their skepticism, but we still see that surprise plot twist coming.
The headlines are already mentioning the FBI and DOJ and vague mention of criminal charges, even if they are attributed to Clinton’s e-mail server and not herself, and the plot seems to have moved too far along to any longer believe that those unseen characters are intervening in Clinton’s behalf. Obama doesn’t seem to like Clinton any better than he did back in that famous moment of the ’08 primary when he sneered “You’re likable enough,” so we’re guessing that he’d prefer someone else to provide him with the third that he’s publicly bragged he would surely win. This introduces the character of Vice President Joe Biden, who is purely comic relief, but who also wins the Black Lives and Black Lives Only Matter vote by virtue of Obama’s implicit endorsement and is suddenly a front-runner over Clinton, whose support among non-black Democrats has lately gone on a white flight to self-described Scandinavian socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Obama could well end up with his chosen successor. It might not end up with Clinton wearing the sort of orange jumpsuit that we’ve been binge-watching on Netflix’ “Orange is the New Black,” but judging by the latest polls and a Democratic panic that has led to the utterance of such names as Gore and Kerry and Warren, it’s enough to suggest that that someone in the executive branch has taken a newfound interest in the possible legal violations of a formerly high-ranking executive official.
There are reports of the Obamas and Clintons recently sharing drinks and convivial conservation at Martha’s Vineyard, and then there’s the matter of whether he would throw the first four years of his administration’s foreign policy under the bus, but we’ve seen all of the “Godfather” flicks and know that the smart players keep their friends close and their enemies closer, and we’ve read enough mainstream news to note that Obama gets away with all sorts of these shell games. He’s not up for reelection, anyway, and he knows that given the current state of academic historians he knows he’ll be treated well by history at least until his death at an old age, so he might as well go with someone less embittered toward him and some that he was less embittered toward, such as the comic relief character of ¬†buffoonish but ever-faithful sidekick Vice President Joe Biden, and to us this seems the most plausible plot line at this point.
We’ve been wrong about these shows before, but but we’re expectant that another Clinton versus feud is a-brewin’. The ratings should be strong, almost as good as that compellingly repellent Donald Trump show over on the Republican side, and at the very least is should prove a fascinating show.

— Bud Norman

America, Still in the Top 20 For Freedom

It’s a free country, according to an oft-used expression, but we can’t help noticing that America is not nearly so free as used it be. The good folks at the free-market Cato Institute have corroborated this observation in their latest “Human Freedom Index,” which surveys a wide range of indicators of personal and economic liberty, and finds that America is now only the 20th freest nation in the world.
Although we’re surprised to find America ranking behind such countries as Hong Kong and Chile, the rest of the report seems about right. The authors say America has fallen three spots in the rankings since 2012, and that “the decline reflects a long-term drop in every category of economic freedom and in its rule of law indicators,” then note that “the performance is worrisome and shows that the United States can no longer claim to be the leading bastion of liberty in the world.” We’re pleased to know that it’s as worrisome to them as it is to us, but presently an even greater worry is that so much of the public seems not at all concerned. The Democratic candidates seem more concerned with the problem of “income inequality,” which apparently will require ever more rules and regulations and limits on equality, while The Republican Party seems disinclined to put much of a fight against it, and all those independents who will decide the matter tend to vote for free stuff rather than freedom.
We can’t tell if the Cato Institute is taking into account such petty rules as light bulb bans and no smoking in even the seediest honky-tonks and mandatory seat belt use and limits of the size of soda one can purchase, but there are by now so many of these offenses against personal autonomy that even the communist Chinese rules of Hong Kong can’t keep up. More significant freedoms have also been noticeably diminished. The freedom of the press has declined to a point that reporters are being kept in roped enclosures at public events and their investigative reporting is being treated as a criminal conspiracy by the Department of Music. People are still free to attend church on Sunday, but freedom of religion no longer means that you can no longer act according to the beliefs taught there if a same-sex couple wants you to bake a cake for their wedding. Freedom of speech is still largely free of government regulation, unless you make a YouTube video that is critical of Islam and makes a convenient scapegoat for a failed Libyan policy, but the howling mods of the easily offended are doing a good enough job of constricting public debate. As for economic liberty, just ask any businessperson you know about how many permits and inspections and taxes and employment laws and equal opportunity requirements and reams of forms to be filled out they have to deal with.
Once upon a time in America the people would have been boiling tar and plucking feathers to be at least as free as the people of Hong Kong or Chile, and if you re-read the Declaration of Independence you’ll realize that Americans once went to their muskets over far less, but these days few seem to mind. The average citizen of the 20th freest country is now content with that status, so long as some of the income is redistributed his way and the games are playing on cable and there’s an illusion of broader freedom because everyone’s cussing on the comedy shows and everyone’s got a tattoo and those restrictive old notions of sexual morality are being punished by the state.
The economy and illegal immigration and the continuing difficulties with the more belligerent sorts of Muslims and the rest of the issues dominating the presidential debate are all important, but we’d love to see a candidate for the presidency or any other office make it his foremost issue to return to America to its rightful place as the leading bastion of liberty in the world. Such a project would do wonders for the economy, involve the necessary enforcement of America’s immigration laws, and strengthen America’s commitment to the freedom that those more belligerent sorts of Muslims threaten. We suspect would like it, too, just as Americans used to back when this really was a free country.

— Bud Norman

Trumping the Immigration Issue

Regular readers of this publication are by now aware that we are not at all enthusiastic about Donald Trump or his presidential campaign, but we will give him credit for a salutary effect on the ongoing debate about illegal immigration. It was typically Trumpish braggadocio for him to say in that widely watched debate that no one would be talking about the issue if not for him, a claim easily disproved by our own frequent rants about the matter starting long before he announced his presidency and all the way back to when he was taking the opposite side of the debate, but he does seem to have broadly expanded the parameters of what a politician can say without committing career suicide.
Not so very long ago, at least as recently as the last presidential election, all the smart set insisted that any serious Republican effort to stem the immigrant tribe would surely cause the party’s demise. Any attempt at mass deportations or other form of serious enforcement of current immigration law would lead to so many mass media sob stories about families torn asunder by a xenophobic zeal that no person worried about his reputation would tolerate it, that a variety of well-heeled industries ranging from agriculture to hotels and restaurants to whatever those guys who gather down at the Home Depot parking lot every day are doing would exert their influence, and that the more ethnically diverse America that would surely result would forever banish those old white Republicans from the nation’s politics.
Such otherwise more or less reliably Republican types as President George W. Bush and Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio are still saying the same thing, and the Wall Street Journal and other putatively conservative media with a predisposition to agriculture and hotels and restaurants and the rest of the business interests that are hauling pickup trucks full of those in the Home Depot parking lot were of course espousing the same line, and the few hard-liners were so exquisitely careful about how they talked about deportation and border enforcement, and when you threw in in the unanimous opinion of the liberal bien pensant it really did seem that you just couldn’t say anything else. Even at the time it struck us as odd, given that all the scientific opinion polls confirmed our unscientific anecdotal experience that most of Americans of all hues were dissatisfied with the currently unprecedented levels of illegal and legal immigration, and that the dissatisfaction also crossed partisan and ideological and socio-economic categories, so it all reminded us of the numerous liberal friends who have assured us that no watches Fox News, despite the ratings that show more people watch Fox News than the other news channels combined.
Trump, we must concede, has proved our point. He’s taking the hard-headed if hard-hearted stand that those families can stay together but only in the countries where they’re legally allowed, stated the obvious fact that a nation without borders and laws is no longer a nation, seemingly accepted that lettuce and hail insurance and the chocolate on your pillow at one of Trump’s fancy hotels will be slightly be more, made a shrewd pitch to spend more on “inner city” youth than newly arrived immigrants, which is especially shrewd at a time when the “Black Lives and Black Lives Only Matter” movement is bedeviling the Democrats, and yet continues to lead in the polls. Taking the stand that a clear majority of Americans prefer, it would appear, does not necessarily result in a politician’s career suicide.
All of a sudden the conventional wisdom seems quite convoluted. Self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’s insurgent Democratic campaign is calling illegal immigration a “right-wing” thing and he’s nonetheless leading the more respectable-on-the-issue front-runner Hillary Clinton in some crucial early-voting states. The “Black Lives and Only Black Lives” matter movement that has dogged then both won’t be inclined to vote any Republican but they’ll probably be less enthused about voting for any candidate that takes issue with Trump’s plan to spend more on “inner city” youth than illegal immigrants. The issue is shaping up to be a significant advantage for the Republicans, and if that Republican is somone other than Donald Trump it could be decisive.

— Bud Norman

A Clinton Scandal That Somehow Matters

After all the scandals the Clintons have survived, it’s been interesting to see that the latest mess regarding Hillary Clinton’s e-mails seems to be doing real damage to her presidential campaign. The press has been brutal, even if it is still polite enough to describe the scandal as being about her e-mail server rather than her, and ever since the story broke her poll numbers have been plummeting. Which leads one to wonder why this particular scandal is so much more damaging than all the others.
It is a serious matter, of course, with her use of a private rather than government e-mail system being apparently in violation of law, likely jeopardizing national security by allowing top-secret information to be easily obtained by hostile foreign governments, and the only plausible explanation being her desire to keep her public acts from public scrutiny, but all those other scandals that the Clintons somehow survived were also serious matters. Going all the way back to her early days in the public eye there was the suspicious killing she made in the cattle futures market, the White House travel office scandal, where Hillary Clinton trumped up criminal charges against an obviously innocent public servant in order to enrich some Hollywood pals, those subpoenaed Rose Law Firm records that ultimately turned up in her closet, her delusional claim that the rumors of her husband’s infidelity were a “vast right-wing conspiracy” and her war on the women who insisted otherwise. Her brief time as a Senator was largely untainted by scandal but not marked by any significant accomplishments, and her inglorious tenure as Secretary of State involved suspicious donations to her family’s suspicious charity by suspicious foreign governments and a disastrous Libyan war that wound up with four Americans dead in a terror attack that she falsely blamed on an obscure filmmaker who wound in prison for exercising his First Amendment rights. Why a hard-to-follow story about her e-mail accounts should be more damaging is hard to explain.
Our guess is that it’s the proverbial straw the broke the camel’s back, the story that at long last confirmed all the suspicions that had accumulated over the past 25 years of previously underplayed scandals, and an excuse for anxious Democrats to start seeking more electable alternatives. So far the best they can come up with is Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Vice President Al Gore, present Vice President Joe Biden, and there’s even talk of past failed nominee and current Secretary of State John Kerry, who is responsible for that Iran nuclear bomb deal that ever sensible American hates, but that only demonstrates how very damaged the Clinton candidacy is. The press might relent once it realizes that the Clinton campaign is still well positioned to win the Democratic nomination, but until then we expect they’ll continue to pile on an Clinton’s poll numbers will continue to plummet.

— Bud Norman

Straight Outta the Movies

Although we pay little attention to the contemporary cinema, we couldn’t help noticing that the big hit of the past weekend was titled “Straight Outta Compton.” The essential Drudge Report was of course on the story, and when we hit its link to a story about the box office booty it transported back in time to the days when the murder rate was soaring and here in Wichita and just about everywhere else and we were working the music beat for the local newspaper.
Just as we had suspected, the movie is reportedly about N.W.A., an acronym for “Niggaz With Attitude,” which is the “gangsta rap” ensemble whose debut album was also titled “Straight Outta Compton.” Middle-aged and middle-American white guys that we are, we were quite familiar with the subject matter. Back in the the glorious ’80s, when vinyl records were still widely available, we used to frequent a local music shop where the proprietors were familiar enough with our tastes that they would sometimes recommend a new release, and although they knew we’re predisposed to old country and old blues and old rock ‘n’ roll and old jazz and old pop standards they also knew we were also keen to hear anything that sums up the current zeitgeist, so they urged that we purchase a copy of “Straight Outta Compton.” Sure enough, when we laid it on our turntable and turned up the volume we were memorably stunned by the ensuing sounds. The record was the aural equivalent of the most stomach-turning horror flick you’ve ever seen at a drive-in motive theater, with a compellingly abhorrent beat underling underlying extraordinarily vulgar and immediately believable lyrics about the carnage that was then occurring in the Compton portion of the Los Angeles metro area and almost everywhere else, our humble prairie hometown included, which had a sizable black population.
By chance the group soon announced a concert engagement here in Wichita, at a venue built to accommodate the big swing bands, so we did our day job and called up the record company’s publicity department to arrange a telephone interview with one of the group’s members. We wound up speaking with with Ice Cube, identified in the record as a “crazy-ass nigga named Ice Cube,” and were surprised to find him a most affable fellow. When we asked about the controversy that had naturally resulted from his group’s success he explained that he they were just telling the awful truth about what was going on in his “‘hood,” which was the du jour defense of “gangsta rap” back in those days, we asked if it machine gun murders was really all that going on in in his neighborhood, and if nobody was falling in love or going to school in starting a business or something other than owing down naggers with a machine gun, and he stammered his explanation that the carnage was the most important development for N.W.A. to be going on about. Since then he’s gone on to a successful career as a mainstream Hollywood actor, with fine performances in the fine Iraq War caper flick “Three Kings” and a couple of moves that about black American life that entail a wider array of black American experience than street murders, and we’d like to think that our stumping questions had something to do with that.
Affable as he’d been, our conversation with Ice Cube and our multiple playings of “Straight Outta Compton” led us to insist that our newspaper buy us a ticket to N.W.A.’s performance so we could write an eye-witness account of the resulting shooting. Our niggardly editors were skeptical of our promise that would be a shooting at the concert, which was taking place at the old Cotillion Ballroom that had been built for the big bands of the swing era, but we explained that they hadn’t heard the album. We were sure that of all the people enticed to that that concerts by “Straight OUtta Compton” some among them were going to take a shot a someone. We were slightly worried when the the concert went without incident, and the group explained that they weren’t going to do with their hit “F**K Tha Police” because it has proved troublesome, but as the group finished its closing numbers and the shots rang and the glass broke and the crowd rioted we were able to make deadline by phoning from behind an old-fashioned phone booth that gunshots were fired at a performance of “Niggaz With Attitude,”
Nobody died at that concert, but there were more murders in Wichita that year than were were in Belfast, Ireland, which was still in thrall of its “troubles,” and we’re still not sure if the “Niggaz With Attitude” and their “Straight Outta Compton” was exposing this dire situation or glamorizing it. We do recall reading a story about how every stop on N.W.A.’s tour, from Honolulu to Wichita to New York, involved gunshots. We haven’t seen the new movie, and probably won’t until it show up on Netflix, but we’re eager to see how it deals with these unpleasant facts.
The murder rates have sharply declined here and elsewhere since those bad old days, but we’re nonetheless worried that “Niggaz With Attitude” are once again at the top of the box office and back in the the news. It seems to coincide with the “F**k Tha Police” attitudes of a “Black Lives Matter” movement that that boos down any suggestion that all lives matter, even those black lives lost to the lawlessness that too often prevails in black neighborhoods because of a lack of policing, and with the racial animosities that have resurfaced since the election of the First Black President. Some may welcome the black empowerment of the the Niggazs With Attitude, but we hope they’ll note that death total is mostly black.

— Bud Norman

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,562 other followers