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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An Impossible Essay Question

Our college days were long ago in the era of raccoon coats and ukeleles and pitching woo over a box lunch on the quad, but we still try to keep abreast of the contemporary campus scene. These days the talk seems mostly about sex, as it was even back in our day, but it’s lately been a strange conversation.
After decades of giddily deconstructing the sexually repressed patriarchy and its archaic Judeo-Christians superstitions that notoriously kept women barefoot and pregnant through the ’50s or so, academia has now decided that neither does it care for the ongoing fraternity orgy that has resulted. Unsurprisingly enough the more demure co-eds haven’t found the promised self-fulfillment of sexual freedom, and instead feel put upon by the highly sexualized new social standards, and the modern feminist academia has declared it a “Culture of Rape.” Rape is defined here more broadly than law, lexicography, and the general English-speaking public have long understood the term, to the point that it encompasses almost any sexual activity that a woman later regrets, and with prodding from the Department of Justice schools are working to stamp it out. Bringing back that sexually repressed patriarchy is of course out of the question, so the official response has to been to do away with due process and presume the guilt of any student accused of violating the nebulous new rules of sexual propriety. At Ohio State University, proving one’s innocence not only entails proving the other party’s consent but also proving they had reached agreement on why they are having sex.
Our further advice to any libidinous Buckeyes is to get the agreement in writing, not because it’s likely to keep anyone off the sex offender register but because the documents would make for such fascinating reading. Over the past many millennia the question of why we have sex has been pondered by the world’s most brilliant scientists, philosophers, poets, and advice columnists, none of whom have come up with an adequate explanation for why anyone should become involved with such messy nonsense, and it would be quite a hoot to see those kids who sit shirtless in sub-freezing football stadiums with their fraternity letters painted on their fashionably-toned tummies take a stab at the question. Psychiatrists and stand-up comedians would find a gold mine of material in comparing the stated reasons of the men and to those of the women, making the unforgivably heteronormative assumption that a man and woman are involved, and our guess is that little sexual activity would occur even on a college campus if both parties were honestly forthcoming about their motives. Even the biggest and hunkiest man on campus is likely to strike out with even the most promiscuous and plain girl after affixing his signature to a document stating that he agrees to the ensuing sexual encounter because the party of the second of the part has large breasts and he’s been on a dry spell lately. Even the comeliest campus queen would be rebuffed even by the most nerdy engineering student if she ever confessed whatever dark and twisted character flaw it is that would cause anyone, at any age, to contemplate having sex with something so hideous as a college boy.
Some couples might state the same reasons of true love and all that, but given the current offerings in popular music and motion pictures we can’t imagine where today’s college students would get such ideas. Youngsters used to get such lofty notions from their literature classes, where Shakespeare was comparing his love to a summer’s day and finding her more lovely temperate, or on the black-and-white late shows that used to be the only thing on television, where Bogie was sagely telling the highly desirable Ingrid Bergman that the problems of two little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this world, but those lessons have been lost. All that dead white male stuff is read only to expose its crimes against race, class, and gender, and anyone watching the late show rather than the latest indy films on the internet will find that the oldies are now from the ’70s when the sexual revolution still seemed a heroic cause. The college students being presumed guilty of violating the new and as yet unenunciated rules have been shaped more by popular entertainments and academic pronouncements and a political party’s promises of free contraceptions that constitutes what is, if not precisely a “culture of rape,”  a culture that encourages the behavior that the schools and the Justice Department hope to stamp out by iron-fisted governmental power rather than that nasty old social stigma that used to discourage inevitably horny college boys from pressing equally horny and inept young women into activities they later regret. Social stigma is so judgmental, after all, and although it once proved more effective than the government’s harsher measures it doesn’t pay any bureaucratic salaries.
We’ll keep an eye out for further developments, as we find it one of the more hilarious academic follies of recent years. Trying to impose some sort of sexual restraint on these college kids is going to be challenging, especially without any of that archaic Judeo-Christian superstition or any other commonsensical social rationale redolent of that still-hated patriarchy, and we’ll be interested to see how the dwindling number of male students on our college campuses react to being presumed guilty of sexual assault. Perhaps it should be a condition of enrolling in a school that the student and university sign a statement that explains their reasons for entering such an agreement. The student probably won’t mention a desire to learn the best of his civilization’s knowledge, or to prepare for a lucrative career in the soon-to-be-booming economy, and might even admit that he’s hoping to get some action for taking on a job and a wife. The school will admit that they’re interested in the tuition money that goes up every time the federal student loan program authorizes an increase in debt loads, or they’ll also admit a desire to indoctrinate another middle white class into anti-Americanism. At that point, nobody will be getting any action.

– Bud Norman

Football Season and Its Discontents

The Wichita Wingnuts baseball team has concluded its season as champions of the American Association, our New York Yankees are unlikely to earn even one of those socialistic one-game playoff spots that we hate, and being normal red-blooded American males we now turn our sporting attention to football. There’s an appropriate chill in the air, evoking nostalgia for the heroic gridiron exploits we witnessed in our innocent youth and stoking our hunger for some more hard-hitting football, but so far all the stories seem to be about domestic battery and child abuse.
Such stories are by now a routine feature of football season. Nobody’s died, so far, which makes this a relatively placid season, but the bad news stories have been more than enough to take the fun out of spectating. One highly-regarded running back has become a YouTube sensation by cold-cocking his then-fiancee in an elevator, and although the same sordid video shows her throwing the first punches and some spits for good measure it still leaves one with an unfavorable impression of the fellow’s character. An even more highly-regarded running back has since been charged with beating his son, and although we’ll happily leave it to the criminal justice system to decide if he was acting within his legal rights as a parent to discipline a child or crossed over into criminal conduct we are disinclined to root for him in the meantime. The rest of the league seems populated largely by players eager to convey an equally thuggish public image, and there’s something suspicious about the ones who don’t, and we can’t help wondering what Walter Camp would have to say about it.
Only the most history-minded fans now know about Walter Camp, but without him there probably wouldn’t be any football fans at all. He was a star player for Yale University way back when that meant something, and later coached his alma mater to Ivy League championships when that still meant something, but his greatest contribution to the game was as a writer and journalist. Football had evolved from the “mob gangs” that ruffians played in the streets of the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada, and in the early days it suffered an unsavory reputation despite its association with the elite Ivy League, but Camp’s prose persuaded a nation that the game inculcated all the the masculine qualities of teamwork, discipline, and the clean living needed for the physical rigors of such a brutal game. Camp invented the All-American team, and named it with the idea that its players represented the best of America both on and off the field. This was utter nonsense even then, of course, but it was so widely agreed upon that football survived the numerous fatalities and countless other scandals of its early days to become a prominent feature of American culture.
Along the way football often has served the country well, at times even approaching that exemplary American manliness that Walter Camp described. America has been well suited to a rough world because it has played a rough game, and if the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton it is just as true that the battle on Omaha Beach was won by banged-up boys who had learned how to break through a line on some godforsaken rural football field. The game once produced mythically manly characters, and in our confused ’60s boyhood the stoic and fedora-topped Tom Landry and his Naval Academy quarterback just returned from Vietnam and the rest of “America’s Team” seemed to reassure that the best of American manhood could still find a place in an increasingly emasculated society to flex its muscles and excel at something rough and impolite and somehow beautiful. Even without such mythos there’s something to be said for that unknown fellow in the green helmet making such a gusty play and taking that vicious hit just to keep a drive alive.
Those disreputable mob game origins were there all along, though, and football’s history is mainly a tale of the mob getting bigger, stronger, faster, more injurious. The University of Oklahoma Sooners team that we’ve been weaned to root for now has an offensive front line averaging 321 pounds, according to the graphic that the television network imposed on Saturday after a big gain against a relatively puny University of Tennessee Volunteers’ line that averaged only 271 pounds, and anyone who wanders into the melee ensuing after a snap in an even heftier professional game must have a certain predilection for both inflicting and enduring pain. We are no longer surprised that many of the game’s most talented players are prone to violate the rules against violence that prevail in society after the game is played. Our favorite football movie, of many worthy choices, is the original version of “The Longest Yard,” a testosterone-drenched drive-in flick in washed-out color about a team of imprisoned criminals who prevail over their guards because their anti-social tendencies give them a natural advantage in football. it makes the occasional good guy seem all the more heroic, and makes us long for the days when hometown hero Barry Sanders would simply toss the ball to the referee after a touchdown rather than stage a minstrel show, but we have no delusions about that guy who just laid that vicious hit on the wide receiver.
The latest scandals have provided plenty of fodder for the commentators who still hope to eradicate the mob game, which is another drearily routine feature of football season. The meritocracy and manliness and Walter Camp Americana of the game are all offensive to a certain modern sensibility, and when you throw in allegations of domestic battery and child abuse and God only knows what goes on at those after-game parties the game is going to have a public relations problem when all those class-action concussion suits go to jury. Football represents all that is wrong with our violent and thuggish society, we will be told, and it won’t be hard to find twelve people willing in any jurisdiction to along with that.
We’ll be sad to see it go, though. Those soccer games where “everybody plays” and nobody keeps score aren’t likely to win any military victories, which will still be required in what remains a rough world, no matter how ardently those soccer moms might wish otherwise, and as phony-baloney as it always was that Walter Camp ideal of football was always something worth aspiring to and on certain Saturday and Sunday afternoon and even on Friday nights in those godforsaken rural football it was sometimes almost attained. That kind of football entails a code of chivalry and manliness and Americanism that football’s critics have long sought to extinguish along with the game, and their demise is not the fault of football.

– Bud Norman

Losing a Halo

The president isn’t getting the same worshipful treatment from the media that he once enjoyed. Back in the heady days of hope and change he was routinely photographed with an angelic halo effect, but these days he’s being shown with luciferian horns sprouting from his graying head. Even the once-loyal scribes at the most polite publications are no longer apologists for his foreign policy, and although it’s not nearly so harsh as what any Republican would expect the treatment must be unsettling for a president accustomed to applause from the press row.
When the president ran for election on the argument that his Islamic name and Islamo-Marxist ancestry and primary education at an Islamic school in Indonesia and some sufficiently flattering and apologetic speeches delivered in his silver-tongued style to the Islamic world would quickly put an end to all that unpleasantness the west has endured in its relationship with Islam, the press happily went along with the preposterous notion. When he ran for re-election on the argument that it had worked, all the ongoing unpleasantness notwithstanding, the press went along with it again. Much more unpleasantness has occurred since, however, and by now the most prestigious organs of the establishment have at last grown weary of pretending otherwise.
The once-reliably supportive New York Times has been obliged to note that the president’s past declarations about “the tide of war is receding” and the terrorist threat is “on the run” and our remaining enemies are the “jayvee” team of terrorism were all wishful thinking. The Associated Press, all of places, is reporting that the president’s efforts to assemble a coalition to carry out his promised campaign against the Islamic State terror organization in Iraq and Syria is complicated by the distrust that the president’s past broken promises and unenforced “red lines” and shabby treatment of such allies as Israel and friendliness to such foes as Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood have engendered among the world’s governments. With such standard bearers of the media unafraid to offer such blunt criticism, no one is any longer obliged to pretend that the president’s name, father, elementary school, and silver-tongued oratory are going soon bring about a lasting peace.
One can hope that the same publications will at long cast an equally clear on the president’s performance in domestic matters, but they haven’t yet. The ongoing Internal Revenue Service scandal, which would have the press in a frenzy if it had happened during a Republican administration, remains largely ignored. A record number of long-term unemployed would have required a few thousand sob stories if it had happened just prior to the current administration, but is now usually relegated to the last paragraphs of stories emphasizing the slow but more-or-less steady growth in the economy if it is mentioned at all. There are plenty of problems to report about Obamacare, too, and there’s no telling what’s become of tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors that strolled across the border that the president had declared secure, but for some reason these don’t seem to interest the media so much as the president’s foreign policy failures.
One might speculate that the mess overseas is harder to ignore, and that even the most established news outlets want to retain some credibility when it comes again to our shores, but the domestic woes are surely as apparent to the average reader or viewer. When Obamacare’s employer mandate finally kicks in during some safe-for-Democrats election cycle and the big networks and papers start kicking employees of the plans they liked and were promised they could keep there might be some stories about it, and when the other problems penetrate the more fashionable neighborhoods of Manhattan or Capitol Hill they might also get more attention, but until then the journalism industry is more concerned about journalists being beheaded and a once-comfortable world order falling into disarray.
The criticism and frank acknowledgement of reality in the foreign policy coverage is welcome, though, and we hope it spreads into the rest of the news.

– Bud Norman

Anniversaries and Anxiety

Today is September 11, a date filled with dread. No American can help looking back in horror at the terror attacks that occurred on this day in New York City and Washington, D.C., in 2001, or at an American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012, nor nervously looking ahead for what might happen today. That nagging worry has occurred on this date for the past 14 years, but seems especially hard to shake this year.
The Islamist bloodlust that caused the past terror attacks is as impassioned as ever, and those afflicted with this ancient hatred have lately been conquering a large portion of the Middle East with beheadings and crucifixions, waging war against Israel with rockets lobbed into random civilians, committing the usual atrocities against one another, and issuing threats of mass murder against the west generally the United States specifically. It was once easy enough to dismiss such threats as mere Islamist bluster, but not now. Among the terrorist army rampaging through Middle East are hundreds of people with western passports that will get less scrutiny than the randomly selected businessman or tourist standing behind him at the airport, our  porous border with Mexico can’t keep out an illiterate and impoverished Guatemalan teenager much less an educated and well-funded terrorist, two Americans have been beheaded and others are being held awaiting the same fate, and the president’s prime time explanation of his hastily formulated strategy for dealing with the main Islamist threat on Wednesday offered no reassurance that our government is up to the challenge.
We’re not the only ones with this sense of foreboding. The United Kingdom has elevated its level of alertness in response to what the Prime Minister calls the “greatest terrorist threat in history,” Australia is considering doing the same, and a threatened king in Saudi Arabia has warned of attacks in the United States within months. A senior official at the Department of Homeland Security has told congress of Islamist plots to infiltrate the southern border, and although the agency quickly denied anything was currently afoot the brass at the Fort Bliss Army base near El Paso has been ordered to implement increased security measures. Polling data show that the public at large is lately more worried about the threat of terrorism, too, and the president’s appearing on prime television to admit that al-Qaeda is not on the run and the tide of war is not receding and our enemies are not a junior varsity team suggest that he at long last has the same necessary worry something big might happen.
He’s probably not yet so worried that he’ll reconsider his ban on detaining terrorists at Guantanamo Bay or using the harsh-interrogations that have successfully thwarted past terrorist plots, or his supposedly more moral preference for drone strikes that incinerate the terrorists and anyone who happens to be in the vicinity, or his instruction to Israel that even existential wars must be fought with the utmost politeness. Wednesday’s speech alternated tough talk about a “core principle” of his administration that “If you threaten America you will find no safe haven” with reassurances to his dwindling base of hippie peaceniks about the many things that he won’t do to the fight the enemy.
The president has recently described the country as “pretty safe,” a rather modest boast that he was obliged to admit he could make only because of all the national security apparatus created by his hated predecessor, and we’d like to believe it. Something about September 11 makes it difficult, though, so we’ll say a prayer, keep our fingers crossed and the radio on, and hope to be less anxious on September 12.

– Bud Norman

Presidential Speeches and Other Domestic Battery

The President of the United States is scheduled to give yet another major speech today about the direr threat posed by to ur national security by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq or the Islamic State in the Levant or whatever you want to call it, and all the chatter seems to be about the professional football player who cold-cocked his then-fiancee and now-wife wife on an elevator at some ritzy hotel.
We don’t mean to downplay the repugnance of a professional football player cold-cocking a women on any sort of elevator, of course. Such violence against women is never acceptable, and when the male perpetrator is sufficiently physically formidable to earn a living in the National Football League we have no problem with him being banned from that burly profession as a result of the offense. The same video evidence that led to the player’s banishment show that the woman threw the first punches and added a couple of spits for good measure, but this does little alleviate our opprobrium. Our consistent advice to men embroiled in a relationship with an abusive woman is to shield yourself as best as possible from the blows, ignore the spittle, and immediately explain the resultant break-up in a carefully-worded e-mail. This fellow wound up married to the woman, and our libertarian instincts incline us to believe that at point it’s their business rather than National Football League’s, but a traditionalist streak in our temperament makes it hard to root for his gridiron exploits. To recall a favorite old W.C. Fields joke, we’ve never hit a woman, not even our own mother.
Still, we wonder why such a quotidian domestic dispute between such an atypical couple would overshadow the even more office violence being indicted by ISIL or ISIS or whatever you want to call it on the Christians and other religious minorities in a portion of the earth where American military might once held sway. Our best guess is that the domestic depute can be more readily identified with than that the far-off threat of beheadings and crucifixions and other horrors being inflicted on far-away peoples of whom we know little, and that by now few people put much stock in yet another of the speeches of the President of the United States.
Back in the heady days of ’08 we were seeking solace from all the political mania at a local tavern, and an especially annoying acolyte of the soon-to-be president demanded that the television be changed to one of the many channels showing the presumptive president’s bit speech rather than the American League’s baseball playoffs.The combined objections of ourselves and another barfly were overwhelmed by popular consensus, and we wound up enduring yet another tedious oration about how peace was merely a matter of American capitulation to the beheading and crucifying armies of radial Islamism. By now we suspect that even such a hipster dive as that would insist on baseball or whatever other sporting alternative the season might offer, even with a a fiancee-batterer in the starting lineup, and that says more about the diminished status of presidential orations than about the public’s tolerance for spousal abuse.
Whatever the president might say about the horrific violence being perpetrated by ISIL or ISIS or whatever you might want to call it, most people will take it as yet another meaningless red line drawn in the sand against the worst of the of a theology that the president seems o regard with a certain sympathy, or yet another meaningless assurance that if you like your secular 21st Century western civilization you can keep it. The chances that someone you know has been a victim of domestic abuse, no matter how ambiguous the circumstances, is far greater than chances that someone you know has recently been beheaded by a terrorist organization that the the media haven’t yet decided what to call.

– Bud Norman

Nudes in the News

Perhaps it’s just a prurient interest on our part that has led us to notice, but there seems to be an awful lot of nudity in the news lately. None of it is nearly so significant as all that economics and foreign affairs and the rest of the world’s crises, but it makes for an interesting diversion.
Most of the headlines have been about that anonymous computer hacker who somehow got hold of a large cache of naked pictures of prominent movie actresses and put them out on the internet, but we’ve paid only scant attention. We don’t keep abreast of the contemporary cinema, so to speak, and it’s hard to work up any voyeuristic interest in people we’ve never heard. There’s been quite a bit of feminist outrage generated, what with the invasion of women’s privacy and the objectification of their bodies and all that, but we’re also finding it hard to work up any indignation. So many people have an all-too-natural curiosity about the people who move around in such meticulously objectified bodies that whenever we type the name of almost any movie star into our favorite search engine a window pops up with suggested searches that always include “nude.” It pops up even with the antique movie stars from the black-and-white that we’re most likely to be investigating, and so far as we can tell nude pictures of screen sirens go back all the way to the beginning of motion pictures. Back in our more avid movie-going days in the ’70s almost all the flicks would throw in at least one nude scene, probably on the longstanding Hollywood theory that you have to give the audiences something they couldn’t see on television, but now that you can get bare bodies on the boob tube, so to speak, it’s all computer generated images and shoot-‘em-ups, and it doesn’t represent an improvement. We feel a bit badly for the women who had their nude pictures taken with the assurance they would remain private, and worry if anything can remain private these days, but can’t help wondering what they did intend.
Another story at Cosmopolitan, which we assume is a reliable source for this sort information, suggests that posing for naked pictures is a surprisingly popular pastime these days even for people who aren’t movie stars. The famously risqué women’s magazine took a survey of “millennial women” and found that a whopping nine out of 10 had been photographed nude and that only 14 percent regretted it while 82 percent said they would do it again. The survey doesn’t delve into motives, leaving us to speculate why so many young women want their nudity photographed. For the benefit of boyfriends, perhaps, but modern relationships being so fleeting it hard’s to imagine that there wouldn’t be more widespread regrets if that were case. We suspect that the narcissism that is also so common of the younger generation is a more likely explanation.
Oddly enough, this widespread naked photography seems to be breaking out at the same time jurisdictions around the world are banishing public nudity. According to the New York Post even the famously free-minded French Riviera has ceased the topless sunbathing that formerly did so much for France’s tourism industry. Apparently the practice hasn’t been officially banned but merely become passé, in part because of the ubiquity of cell phone cameras and the potential that the bared breasts will turn up on that darned internet. The article lists several other exotic locations that have recently banned public nudity, including Hainan Beach in China, Machu Picchu in Peru, and Barcelona in Spain, all before we even realized there were naked people there. In most cases it’s because the locals have grown weary of naked tourists, who probably aren’t walking around unclothed in their own home towns, and it seems a reasonable request.
Getting far less attention is a minor nudity problem just up the turnpike Topeka. The city had apparently never gotten around to passing a law requiring clothing in public, which is the sort of thing a city really shouldn’t have to pass a law about, and until recently Topekans had always extended this courtesy to one another without legal coercion, but apparently one fellow has recently taken to nude strolls around the town. We’re not sure why, although the weather here in Kansas has been just beautiful lately, and it might well be the economy, or maybe global warming, but in any case he’s forced the city council take up the issue. Even in such a staid town as Topeka, it seems, the modern tendency to bare it all has become sadly literal.

– Bud Norman

The Politics of Procrastination

So it turns out that President Barack Obama won’t be signing any executive orders granting amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants until after the mid-term elections, apparently on the assumption that uniformed voters won’t punish his party for an unpopular policy that he promises but hasn’t quite yet enacted. How very frustrating to realize that he might well be right.
The ploy has worked well enough before, after all. Various unpopular aspects of the Obamacare law were delayed until after the past presidential election and some are still being delayed for the benefit of Democratic congressional incumbents, and the many millions of Americans who like their health care plans and have been promised that they can keep their health care plans thus far don’t seem to mind that sooner or later they are going to lose their health care plans. During the past campaign the president was overheard promising the Russian leadership that after the election he could be “more flexible” regarding that country’s avaricious geo-political ambitions, and it wasn’t until after the president was re-elected that the public noticed an unfortunately flexible the post-war world order has suddenly become. A reported plan to stick the country with economy-crippling carbon emissions by means of an unratified “climate change” treaty that not even the most die-hard Democratic Senator from the most deep-blue state would vote will probably wait until after the elections and go largely unnoticed until the pink slips start showing up during some other Democratic schmuck’s election cycle, at which point the press will helpfully provide explanations about how it’s all the Republican’s fault.
The president doesn’t seem the least bit embarrassed by the brazenly political motive for his ploy. In an otherwise hilariously disingenuous interview on “Meet the Press,” the president frankly acknowledged that after a widely-publicized invasion of the southern border by unaccompanied illegal minors who had heard of his executive order to delay deportations of unaccompanied illegal minors “the politics did shift mid-summer because of that problem.” He further explained that delaying another equally ill-advised executive order that would surely lure a few million more unskilled and non-English-speaking and ultimately dependent people to our cash-strapped and largely unemployed nation would thus be more “sustainable” if he inflicted it on the country after the voting was completed. He has to make the case for his policy, the president explained, and an election just isn’t the right time.
Some Republicans are already screaming about the coming amnesty, cand those who are inclined to listen to them will likely take heed. Some Latino activists are also screaming about the delay, and a few Hispanic voters might be disinclined to get out and vote. Blacks and low-wage workers and trade union members and other loyal Democratic constituencies harmed by the policy will gladly delay their outrage until the deal actually goes down, however, and a large number of people who dislike the president’s plan simply won’t hear about it.
The Democrats’ policies on illegal immigration will be a problem for them in the upcoming elections, as will Obamacare and the Russians and everything else they’ve put off, but the president has probably mitigated the damage by delaying his plans. How very frustrating.

– Bud Norman

Strange Times in Kansas

The Democrats aren’t even running a senatorial candidate in Kansas, the conventional wisdom is that the Republican is therefore more likely to lose, and it goes to show how very convoluted the state’s politics are at the moment.
There was a Democratic candidate in the race, duly nominated by a relative handful of voters in a primary where all the action was on the Republican side, but on Thursday he dropped out of the race without stating any particular reason. Our best guess is that with little money, less name recognition, and the nomination of a party that’s quite unpopular in these parts he simply decided to forgo the prolongated embarrassment of running a losing race. Ordinarily this would further ensure the already inevitable re-election of the entrenched Republican incumbent, but these are not ordinary times.
In this case the entrenched Republican incumbent, Sen. Pat Roberts, is not popular within his party. Although he has a respectable rating of 86 percent from the American Conservative Union, and has been far higher during the age of Obama, that heretical 14 percent has riled the Kansas conservatives. Over all those years in Washington Roberts has racked up a lot of debt ceiling increases and back room bargains and the sort of business as usual that Kansas’ rock-ribbed Republicans are now revolting against, and he survived a mud-slinging primary with less than 50 percent of the vote only because the anti-incumbent sentiment was split between a strong but tarnished challenger and a couple of no-names who were so little known that many people knew nothing bad about them and thus decided to award them a protest vote. Despite this desultory primary the Republicans had reason to hope that Roberts could wash off the mud and rally the base with the valid argument that he is far more conservative than the alternatives, and let the anti-incumbent sentiment split between the Democrat and the Libertarian and the independent who were crowding the ballot.
The departure of the Democrat is a boon to that independent, however, and that independent was already leading Roberts in the polls. He’s an Olathe businessman named Greg Orman, and according to his widely disseminated advertisements he’s all about non-partisan practical solutions and common sense and all the other focus group-tested cliches. There’s enough talk in those ads about balanced budgets and fighting the Washington establishment to imply that he’s a conservative, but he ran for the Senate as a Democrat in 2008, he’s been suspiciously coy about which party he would caucus with as a Senator, and the Democrats here and elsewhere seem quite pleased with the prospect that he might wind up denying the Republicans another seat in such a supposedly safe state as Kansas.
The Roberts campaign has already started deploying its considerable war chest with the message that Orman is a “closet Democrat,” which seems wise. Talk of businessmen and common sense and practical solutions always plays well in Kansas, and that nonsense about non-partisanship has eternal appeal to those apolitical voters who can’t quite understand why the mutually exclusive political philosophies of the two parties won’t allow them to get along nicely and do all the simple things that would surely make everything right, so Orman must be pressed for some specificity. We would be surprised if Orman’s common sense and practical solutions were conservative enough to garner an 86 percent rating from the ACU, and stunned if he proved anything but a partisan Democrat, and even the most disgruntled Republican should be willing to forgive Roberts’ sins against conservatism when offered that alternative. To whatever extent Orman does try to veer right of Roberts it will only diminish the enthusiasm of those Democrats who have been abandoned by their candidate. There’s still a possibility that the Democrat will be on the ballot even without a campaign, something to with a Kansas law that requires some specific reason for dropping out, and with the minuscule Libertarian vote splitting more or less equally between the free-market types and the dope-smokers it would still be the four-way race that supposedly favored Roberts.
Orman could try to exploit Roberts’ unhappy reputation in the state as an establishment sort of Republican, but it’s hard to say how that might play in these unpredictable days on the prairie. While the too-establishment Roberts finds himself in the fight of his life the incumbent Gov. Sam Brownback also finds himself vulnerable in the polls and largely because he’s been such an unabashedly tax-cutting and down-sizing Republican radical. Brownback’s feuds with the “arts community” and the teachers’ unions and the public sector at large have provoked an energized and well-organized opposition, a sizable minority of his own party’s primary electorate preferred a more polite and well-bheaved young woman who barely campaigned at all, and the Democrats around here are giddy with the expectation that a State Representative from the commie college town of Lawrence will vanquish their hated right-wing foe.
They might be right, and Kansas might turn out to be that unexpected Democratic triumph in what is otherwise expected to be a bleak election cycle. There are those polls, after all, and these are undeniably strange times. Still, we’re not putting much stock in polls that were taken before Labor Day when people were still wearing white shoes and straw hats and paying little attention to the state’s suddenly convoluted politics. The state still feels like a conservative and Republican and generally sensible jurisdiction, as it has been almost without interruption since the Republican abolitionists won that shooting war with with the Democrat slavers back in the Bleeding Kansas days, and a gut instinct suggests that it will return to form after all the momentary fussiness is dissipated. The Democratic president remains palpably unpopular here, his party is held in the same disrepute, Roberts’ sullied record is more in in opposition than any of his opponents, Brownback’s feuds with the “arts community” and the teachers’ unions and the public sector at large were all necessary, and better an establishment Republican such as Roberts as a fire-breathing right-winger such as Brownback than any old openly or closeted Democrat.
The state’s media won’t be of much of help, as they all hang out with the “arts community” and the teachers’ unions and the public sector at large, but the Republicans are well-funded and have plenty of unflattering photos of President Barack Obama to show juxtaposed against their opponents in saturation advertising. Money and media attention will pour into the state from Democrats hopeful of denting such a deeply Republican state, but that will only rile the natives. Both Roberts and Brownback will have to campaign well, but they’ll always having the advantage of making their arguments to a Republican state. We might be wrong, as we sometimes are, but we still like the Republicans’ chances here in Kansas.

– Bud Norman

Enemies Foreign and Domestic

Of all the sordid details in that horrifying child sex abuse case in the northern England town of Rotherham, one seemed especially telling. Apparently the same Strategic Director of Children’s Services who chose to ignore the sexual torture of 1,400 English girls by Pakistani  and other Muslim immigrants over a 19 year period had once removed three children from their foster parents because the couple was known to support the United Kingdom Independence Party.
For the benefit of any American readers who are not anglophile or politically obsessed enough to know, the United Kingdom Independence Party is basically a British counterpart to America’s “tea party” movement. The independence it seeks is from the European Union and its many layers of bureaucratic regulation, so its domestic policies reflect a similar preference for low taxes and relatively unfettered markets and more freedom from the increasingly bossy government. Such outlandish principles have of course appalled polite opinion in Great Britain, even among the more established Tories but especially among the Labour types who hold posts such as Strategic Director of Children’s Services in provincial towns, and it is sadly unsurprising that the political activities of the newly-fledged party would offend official sensibilities more than the ongoing gang rapes and brutal sexual torture of children by more politically correct constiuents. The rapists and torturers were from an ethnic and religious minority that can only be criticized at the career-endangering risk of accusation of racism and religious prejudice, after all, while UKIP draws its dangerously widespread support from people who were once considered quintessentially British.
The same strange double standard is all too familiar here in the United States. Those  Internal Revenue Service workers who subjected “tea party” organizations applying for tax-exempt status to more severe scrutiny would never have thought to apply the fine tooth comb treatment to any organization of an Islamist bent, and they were more eager to question the applications of any groups supporting Israel’s fight against Islamism. The President of the United States is always more impassioned when railing against his domestic political opponents than when downplaying the treat of the head-chopping and crucifying of foreign foes, a chore so onerous that it has delayed his tee times, and the same strange priorities are common in his party and on the left more generally. The modern feminist movement in America has lately been concerned with a Republican “war on women” that so far as we can tell is reluctance in some Catholic and Evangelical corners of the party of to subsidize abortifacients and a “culture of rape” on American campuses that seems to be the inevitable consequence of the sexual revolution that modern feminism once championed, but the undeniable rapes that were excused by reasons of multi-cultural tolerance have not warranted mention. By this point we’re almost accustomed to hearing cocktail party conversation that excuses the exotically swarthy fellow swinging a scimitar and ululating “Alahu Akhbar” but condemns that pasty Baptist fellow who has been living peaceably down the street for the past half-century or so as a bona fide fascist because of the sign in his yard advising against the local tax hike referendum or the pro-life bumper sticker on his car or a general suspicion that he might decline an invitation to a same-sex marriage.
Our occasional impolite questions about why anyone should hold to such obviously ridiculous opinions always yield the same answers, and always in the same offended tone. All that head-chopping and crucifying and gang-raping are going in some far away country between people of whom we know nothing, we are told with the usual confidence in this historically-fraught phrase, but all that anti-tax and pro-life talk is going on right here in a culture they feel entitled to rule without any objection from the yokels. These are the same people who routinely lecture us about the interconnectedness of of the world, and how our stubborn refusal to segregate our plastics from our tins in the bi-weekly trash hauls will surely cause the downfall of our entire planet, but in accordance with the bumper stickers on their hybrid cars they are hoping to crush dissent locally while acting with exquisitely forbearing tolerance globally . The far more offensive behavior of that misunderstood “other” has already arrived in a small northern England town, however, and if the boasts of those head-choppnng terrorists can be believed it might well be coming to a soft-target skyscraper near you soon. In that unfortunate event we don’t expect that the Strategic Directors of Children’s Services of small town Great Brtain and and their socio-economic peers in the United States will go any any easier on the UKIP or “tea party” types, but it will be interesting to see how they feel about that hose head-chopping and crucifying scimitar-swingers who were once confined to a multicultural world of which we knew little.

– Bud Norman


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