Two Down, Forty-Eight to Go

Another football season is in the books, basketball won’t begin its all-important post-seasons for a few more frigid weeks, and baseball’s spring training seems an eternity away, so at the moment the only scores a sports fan has to pore over are from the New Hampshire presidential primaries. Although it’s still early in the long political race, the results are already intriguingly different from all those pre-season predictions.
Over at the Democratic league, the senior circuit in more ways than one, the presupposed long-shot, self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, was a blow-out winner over former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the once-presumptive First Woman President of the United States. Following her minuscule margin of victory in the season-opening Iowa caucus, which by now everyone knows was officiated as fishily as the 1972 Olympic basketball finals, Clinton’s long-assumed coronation suddenly seems very much in doubt. All the bettors in the party and the press who went big on her candidacy seem panicked, all the big news and entertainment media are begrudgingly obliged to acknowledge the existence of a self-described socialist called Sen. Bernie Sanders, all the kids are acting like they’re at the Ed Sullivan Show when The Beatles were playing, and all those federal agents are still snooping around her e-mail accounts and fishy family foundation donations, so the race is at least more interesting than was promised.
Next on the schedule is South Carolina, and any objective sportswriter might resort to an old cliche and say Clinton is in desperate need of a win there to salvage her season. In her last failed season Clinton lost badly in South Carolina, following a much-needed win in New Hampshire, but this time around she’s assumed to have a home field advantage. The more polite press are embarrassed to explain exactly why, but it’s implied that it’s something to do with the fact so many of state’s white people are Republicans that the Democratic party is largely comprised of black people. Last time around Clinton was running against Sen. Barack Obama, the presumptive and sure enough First Black President, but this time she’s running as Obama’s personally-chosen Secretary of State and the wife of the first First Black President, and she’s running against a guy from the whitest state in the union that anyone who’s ever seen a “Seinfeld” episode will immediately recognize as not only New York but Jewish, and even we hesitate to imply how that will play with an average South Carolina Democrat, so if Clinton doesn’t win there it will probably mean that the establishment team is forced to make one of those messy early-season quarterback changes.
There was a blow-out win in the Republican contest, too, but to the discerning eye of a veteran political sports fan it was not so significant. Real-estate-and-gambling-and-reality-show mogul Donald J. Trump more than doubled the numbers of his nearest competitor, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is merely  one of the Congressmen who delivered the last more-or-less-balanced budgets and a twice-elected chief executive of a bellwether swing state, which should tell you something about how very different this season of Republican politics has already been. This is enough for the headline writers, and will allow Trump the end-zone dance that was so cruelly denied the showboating quarterback Cam Newton in last Sunday’s Super Bowl, but it doesn’t have the same effect on the standings. The Democrat race is already down to two teams, but the Republicans still have a crowded field of contenders, and although we wouldn’t compare it to the Masters we will analogize that there are a lot of holes left to be played. A full 66 percent of the voting went to someone other than Trump, who continues to suffer downright Clintonian levels of disapproval in the same public opinion polls that show him leading the race nationally, New Hampshire is a crazy state that goes for Pat Buchanan one year and Mitt Romney in another, and the guys who were hanging around in the round are all capable of shooting high scores.
Still, it’s a win for Trump, the end zone dance will have to be indulged, the headlines will be all that anybody reads, and those who of us who are lustily booing his professional wrestling shtick will have to get used to it for a while. The early result will likely shake out a few of the bottom-tier candidates, and their cumulatively important number of supporters will likely be distributed among the remaining candidates who are someone other than Trump, but it leaves in place all the jockeying for inside lanes that have caused all those campaign pile-ups Trump has somehow always raced past, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will still be sniping at one another and everybody will be sniping at Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who won Iowa and had a good-enough showing in New Hampshire, for some reason known only to 16 percent of New Hampshire’s Republican voters Kasich will also be sticking around and acting above the fray. All in all, a good night for Trump.
Next on the schedule is South Carolina, though, which is a different course with different ground rules and extended three-point lines or whatever sports analogy you might prefer. Like New Hampshire it is an open primary, which allows the independents and Democrats that Trump seems to be drawing to participate in the Republican election, but the white folks and the few few black folks who predominate in the party’s voting tend to be Christian and capitalist and traditionally conservative, earning it a reputation as a “firewall” against insurgent candidacies, so it could prove unfriendly for Trump. Our best guess is that he’ll get his usual sizable chunk of the electorate, but our hope is that someone will be able to garner a competitive share of the more sizable-not-for-Trump vote. Cruz would seem a possibility, but retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson might still be around to take away some much-needed evangelical votes, and with Kasich still around to steal votes from Rubio and Bush, who are for some reason known only to themselves still squabbling with one another rather than leading a full-on assault against Trump, there’s little likelihood of whatever’s left of “the establishment” playing any role in this race.
It’s still early in the season, as already noted, but so far it looks to be a memorable one.

— Bud Norman

The Sisterhood and Its Generation Gap

According to all the public opinion polls and press reports and other political tea leaves, former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will likely lose today’s New Hampshire primary to self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, of all people. At this point it’s apparently an acceptable part of the political vocabulary to say she’ll be “schlonged,” which seems as apt a description of any for what is being forecast, and that’s how the long-planned coronation has lately been going for the long-presumed First Woman President.
The elders of The Sisterhood are not at all pleased by any of this, of course, and we’re not entirely unsympathetic to their laments. We quite agreed when they objected that “schlonged” shouldn’t be an acceptable political part of the political vocabulary, although in our case it was because we thought it vulgar while their objections had something to do phallic privilege or cultural appropriation or something, and for that matter we often find ourselves in agreement with the elders of The Sisterhood about those tawdry hip-hop chanteuses with their “twerking” and “tweeting” and scantily clad activism, but that’s just the same shared fuddie-duddiness of us old folks. One would have a heart of stone not to feel some sympathy for any lady in distress at the sight of seeing her dream of a First Woman President dashed by the likes of a bumbling self-described socialist and Vermont Senator named Sanders, too, but our sympathy only goes so far as a freshly laundered handkerchief, a consolatory pat on the shoulder, and a little bit of “there, there.”
Such formerly formidable feminists as Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright are especially aghast that the younger of The Sisterhood are abandoning the long-awaited First Woman President for such a schlub as the self-described socialist Sanders. The once-famous journalist Steinem told an incredulous talk show host that young women were at Sanders rallies because “that’s where the boys are,” fondly recalling an old Connie Francis tune for us, and the First Woman Secretary of State Albright warned the little hussies that “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” A writer for The Washington Post lamented that Clinton is a victim of sexism because Sanders’ schlubbiness gives a certain authenticity and that as a woman she isn’t allow to be as schlubby. Although we strive to not be sexist, some manly instinct still residing in our soul thinks this all goes a bit too far.
Steinem was still something of a household name back when she defended Bill Clinton against the sickening allegations of Paula Jones, writing that even if he did use his office to order a state trooper to summon a young and low-level government employee to a hotel room where he exposed himself and made a suggestive remark and then used his office to tarnish her reputation it was no reason he shouldn’t be president, and she some retained some credibility when she later wrote that an allegation Clarence Thomas might have made an off-color joke and an unwanted request for a date should disqualify him from the Supreme Court, but by now she won’t do Clinton’s wronged wife any good. Today’s young women have plenty of chances to “hook up” with bearded and disheveled and self-described socialist young men, who in most cases they won’t care what candidate she prefers, even if it’s a Republican, and few of them have ever heard of Steinem. Albright was a lousy Secretary of State, as was Clinton, and even such racist Republicans as ourselves much preferred the First Black Woman Secretary of State in between, and the worst of all might turn out to be John Kerry, who is the first White Male Secretary of State since John Foster Dulles or John Quincy Adams or one of those guys, so by now we figure that all of us can expect some special place in hell, and we don’t expect those young women at the Sanders rallies will pay her any mind. As for the idea that a woman can’t be schlubby and play in politics, the fine observer Ann Althouse suggested a look at any old video of Rep. Bella Abzug back in the ’70s glory days of The Sisterhood, which looks and sounds eerily like a Sanders rant.
At some point the elders of The Sisterhood are going to have cowgirl up and admit that at last part of the problem is that Hillary Clinton is awful and old and obviously incompetent and thoroughly corrupt and phony,and while sanders is also awful and old his incompetence isn’t yet proved and he’s untainted by all that Wall Street money the young folks so despise and he quite authentically is a full-blown crazy socialist as he describes himself, and he’s promising more free stuff than Clinton can and a full-blown bound-to-be-fun revolution to boot. The feminist cause has always been subordinated to the First Black This or First Hispanic That or stopping whatever war the left was griping about, and forced genital mutilation and honor killings of rape are always subordinate to multi-cultural tolerance, and there’s a young woman in Germany who sent out a selfie with hand-drawn offer to “Trade Rapists for Racist,” and every part of the whole leftist project has been in service of The Revolution that the schlubby Sanders somehow seems to be leading.
In all the excitement, and after more than seven desultory years of the First Black President, the next First This or First That no longer seems so motivating. Sanders would be the First Mostly Secular Yet Ethnically Jewish President, but he never mentions that, nor do his supporters in a party that no longer supports Israel and is often explicitly hostile toward Jews in general, nor do his Milton Friedman-loving and Republican opponents who are far more offended by his self-described socialism and lack of support for Israel, and it even goes unmentioned in the press. Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas could be the First Latino President, but they only allude to their immigrant roots to inoculate themselves against charges of racism for being tough on border enforcement, and their opponents insist that their Cuban heritage and all the anti-communism that implies make them not really Latino at all, even though the Laotian and Vietnamese and Chinese and other immigrants who fled communist horror are still considered Asian, and the Czechs and Poles and Hungarians are still just white people, and everyone seems to have far better reasons for liking or disliking both senators.
We’d have no problem with a theoretical First Woman President, and on many a warm spring day we have lolled on the grass and daydreamed about a Margaret Thatcher or a Golda Meir coming our to rescue, but Clinton is one of the last one hundred or so women in this populous country that we’d choose for the honor. That’s at least one thing that we and those randy young women at the Sanders rallies seem to agree on.

— Bud Norman

L Is For Super Bowl

Although we’ve pretty much lost all interest in professional football, which lately seems an interminable series of obnoxious commercials for pickup trucks and pharmaceutical aphrodisiacs followed by a few brief seconds of tattooed behemoths beating their chest as they stand over some supine opponent and then an endless series of pointless play reviews, we still tune in for the annual Super Bowl extravaganza. By now it’s an almost obligatory secular rite, at least for any red-blooded American male who doesn’t want to be left out of the new few days of guy conservation, and it’s also our annual foray into contemporary popular culture.
The rest of the year we’re playing old jazz and hillbilly and garage rock tunes on the stereo, watching the occasional old sit-com over the rabbit ears on our analog television set or taking in Netflix’s offerings of the good old black-and-white days on this newfangled computer machine of ours, or reading books mostly by dead white males and a few dead white women, and our sports spectating is mostly limited to such old-fashioned fare as Missouri Valley Conference basketball and American Association baseball, so we’re annually curious to see what’s going on out there with the young folks and their modern world. It always comes as quite a shock, of course.
There’s always a slight surprise to find that they’re still playing the Super Bowl at all, for one thing. Football has always been a rough affair, and was arguably even rougher before President Theodore “Rough Rider” Roosevelt sissified the the rules to eliminate the frequently fatal “flying V” formation, but these days the players are so big and strong and fast that the kinetic energy exerted against the players on each down is so great, and the lifelong physical consequences are so severe and common, and the entire culture is suddenly so risk-averse, that we might have expected the lawyers and the oversight sub-committees to have put a halt to it all by now. The effort is well underway, naturally, but such a profitable organization as the National Football League can well afford to buy plenty of its own lawyers and oversight sub-committees, and vicarious risk will always be a big draw on television, so perhaps the fight might take a while.
In the meantime, sports in general and football in particular remain the last redoubt of unapologetic masculinity in America, for both better and worse. The Battle of Waterloo truly was won on the playing fields of Eton, as Lord Wellington famously observed, and the men who stormed the beaches on D-Day were already veterans of hard-fought wars in backyards and on vacant lots where not everybody got a trophy, and every successful culture since Sparta has honored the victors of rough games, and we’d like to think there’s still some role for unapologetic masculinity in American culture. So long as the players are fully apprised by the best medical experts of the risks, and have agents and hangers-on to advise them how to weigh that against the not inconsiderable benefits of a professional football career, we say let them play, and let the lawyers and the oversight sub-committees and the rest of the risk-averse and all-too-feminized culture be damned.
Still, for such history-minded sports fans as ourselves there’s also something unsettlingly bread-and-circuses-like about these roman-numeraled Super Bowls. After five decades they went with the more standard arabic “50” instead of the roman “L,” reportedly because “L” would confound a public that was never taught to count that far in roman numerals, and “Super Bowl L” looks kind of odd to even the most Latinate priest, but the same imminent-fall-of-Rome vibe was still there. The guys they’ve got playing in the Super Bowl these days are so big and fast and strong that they’d whip your childhood idols easily, even that Super Bowl-winning Kansas City Chiefs squad of of our long-ago wide-eyed youth, but there’s a tattooed and preening thuggishness about them that Lord Wellington would have disdained and an unabashed self-interestedness that would not have sat well with those boys who played for the team at Normandy, and there’s little of that helping-a-guy-up-after-you’ve-knocked-him-down sportsmanship that was always part of the western tradition on the playing fields and battlegrounds and business deals and interpersonal relationships.
The same tendency to unnecessary roughness that afflicts football is evident in popular entertainment, where Quentin Tarantino’s post-modern revenge fantasies and thuddingly aggressive hip-hop and heavy metal music and bondage-fantasy romance novels are now standard fare, but there’s also a slightly more respectable mainstream left over from the Ed Sullivan days that the Super Bowl annually books for its much-ballyhooed half-time shows. This year it was some band called Coldplay, or Cold Play, or however they might write it, and some woman named Beyonce, who has an accent mark over the last letter that we’re not willing to figure out how to put there, and some guy named Bruno Mars, whom we think we can vaguely remember from Super Bowl halftime show of a few years. The band was dressed up in nostalgic jeans-with-flower-patches and played electric guitars just like the garage bands used to do, although with a football-field-sized dance group jumping around, and the Beyonce woman with the accent mark over the last letter did some kinetic dancing with her noticeable legs and group of similarly leggy young women and did some song that supposedly has something to do with the edgy “Black Lives Matter” movement, and the Bruno Mars guy sang something about “funking you up.”
In past years the Super Bowl has featured what are politely called “veteran” acts of the late rock ‘n’ roll era, but lately there’s been a spate of those dying off. The past month has seen the passing of heavy-metal hero “Lemmy,” glam-rock innovator David Bowie, country-rock star Glenn Frey, popular funk-lite performer Maurice White, and our Super Bowl was especially saddened by Sunday’s news of the passing of Dan Hicks, who wasn’t so well known but played a delightful blend of jazz and hillbilly and garage rock and old-fashioned goofus music that we’ve dearly loved ever since we borrowed a friend’s VW Beetle to cut class one day in high school and found Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks’ “Last Train to Hicksville” in the eight-track player. Musical culture has since been in severe decline, judging by the recent Super Bowl halftime shows, and we’ll admit it probably began even before that.
We do try to keep up with politics and other unavoidable matters, and of course we notice the same decline there. On the Democratic side of the race they’re talking about trophies for everyone and trying to pretend there are no more battles of Waterloo or D-Day to be fought, and the putative front-runner is claiming that any biological masculinity should be disqualifying and her pesky challenger self-described socialist challenger isn’t do much to dispute the argument. On the Republican side that pick-’em-up-after-you’ve-knocked-’em’-down approach to the playing fields and battlegrounds and business deals and interpersonal relationships seems out of fashion with at least a plurality of the party. Neither side seems to have any good music, for that matter, and judging by the endless commercials during the most recent Super Bowl even the private sector seems wanting.
At least the game was pretty good. At the risk of violating that warning about “unauthorized accounts” of the game, and bringing down the wrath of the NFL’s lawyer’s and oversight committees upon us, the Denver Broncos’ defense beat the Carolina Panthers’ offense. This kept the Panthers from their infamous beating of chests over the supine bodies of their opponents, and allowed the seemingly good guy Peyton Manning a crowning glory to his scandal-free and sportsmanlike career, and maybe the youngsters will get something positive out of this rough game.

— Bud Norman

What All the Fuss Is About

One of the problems with these quadrennial presidential election years, among many, is that one can so easily get caught up in all the political plot twists and lose sight of what all the fuss is about. While most of the media attention was devoted to fall-out from last Monday’s Iowa caucuses and all the subsequent bickering leading up to next Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, for instance, someone in the know was giving sworn testimony to Congress that our current immigration law enforcement policies are such that “We might as abolish our immigration laws altogether.”
That was the sworn testimony of Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Control Council, the union that represents agents and support staff of the United States Border Patrol, and he laid out a convincing case for his hyperbolic claim. He further testified that his members have been ordered to release illegal immigrants and to no longer order them to appear at deportation hearings, and he attributed the policy to the embarrassing fact that fewer than half of those ordered to appear such hearings have ever bothered show up, and that by the way many of those who have been caught and released are almost certainly members of notoriously murderous criminal organizations. Despite our innate suspicion of public sector unions we’re more inclined to believe Agent Judd than the far-away-from-the-border spokesmen at the Department of Homeland Security, who continue insist the border is hermetically sealed, despite all those press photographs from the pre-race days of trains crossing the border with roofs full of unaccompanied minors flipping off the photographers, and we’d like to think there’s still some seething anger about it.
The anger was once so seething that Donald J. Trump, a real-estate-and-gambling-and-reality-show-and-professional-wrestling mogul who boasts that his only previous involvement in politics was buying off politicians, was able to vault to the top of the Republican primary polls by unleashing his suspiciously newfound seething anger and promising to build a great big wall that Mexico would pay for to end the problem. He later promised to build a great big door in that wall to welcome the good ones back in, with promises of a top-notch staff to determine which ones are the good ones, but then he got beat in the crazy Iowa caucus by Texas Sen. Cruz, a loose cannon conservative who might or might not have betrayed the secure border cause in some procedural vote or another, and suddenly there’s a lot of talk about Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a former firebrand and current “establishment lane candidate” who clearly betrayed the cause once but sure sounds as if he’s gotten the true religion since then, and would arguably be held to it especially if he is the pragmatic opportunist he’s accused of being, and suddenly all of them would rather talk about the “tweets” and sound-bites of the post-Iowa news cycle.
Over on the Democratic side, they’re talking about an odds-defying series of coin tosses and who hates the financial sector of the American economy more and whether a commie or a potential convict should lead the country, and there’s conspicuously no mention of all in their debates about all those people in the know who are testifying before Congress that America might as well not have any immigration laws. The commie has expressed some relatively sane ideas left over from the days of Hugo Chavez and the New Left’s anti-“wetback” days, while the potential convict is probably more malleable to public opinion, but they’d rather not talk about it.
A friend of ours mentioned that he’d heard on one of the more serious talk radio programs reporting that illegal immigration isn’t a pressing issue in the next big deal New Hampshire primary, far away from the southern border and yet where Trump was last reported to be be leading despite a recent drop in his poll numbers and post-Iowa surges by both Cruz and the third-place-with-alleged-momentum Rubio, and we admit we find it all most fascinating. Still, we can’t shake a nervous feeling about someone in the know confirming our suspicion that we might as well abolish our immigration laws.

— Bud Norman

Another Story Having Nothing To Do With Islam

We’re all for peace and love and understanding and all that jazz, but even so, there was something awfully grating about President Barack Obama’s visit to a mosque on Wednesday.
Pretty much everything about it was grating, for that matter. There was the dreary familiarity of the whole presidential-mosque-visit thing, which has been a regular ritual ever since George W. Bush first felt the obligation to pay his respects in the aftermath of the deadly Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks that the perpetrators swore-to-Allah had something to the do with Islam, along with the usual rote incantations about how Islam had nothing to do with it. This was all the more grating after so many years when the dreaded anti-Islam backlash has yet to materialize, and when Jews remain the most likely targets of hate crimes and yet the only times the president ever shows up at a synagogue is to insist that despite all appearances he’s a steadfast friend of Israel, but even that wasn’t the worst of it.
There was also the choice of the Islamic Society of Baltimore for the visit, which had been under federal investigation after one of its worshippers was arrested for a terrorist plot, and with ties to both the unabashedly Islamic supremacist Muslim Brotherhood and a Virginia mosque that once featured the sermons of radical jihadist Anwar al-Awlaki. Obama’s affinity for the Muslim Brotherhood has been well-known ever since he invited its leaders to the front row for his famous Cairo address about peace and love and understanding, and was confirmed by his efforts to usher them into power in Egypt, and high-level appointees with Muslim Brotherhood ties, and his indulgence of the offshoot Hamas terror gang that is devoted to the destruction of his friends in Israel, but it does seem strange given that the American citizen al-Awlaki was killed by an Obama-ordered drone strike. In any case, it’s an odd venue to give yet another lecture about how self-proclaimed Islamic terrorism has nothing to do with Islam.
There was also some blather about how mean old right-wing Hollywood has been whipping up anti-Islamic hatred with its depictions of murderous Muslims, even though almost all of the action-adventure flicks have light-skinned and blue-eyed villains, except for such such fact-based flops as “13 Hours,” with its unnecessary depiction of that better-unmentioned Benghazi fiasco that was all the result of an anti-Islam video on “YouTube,” and how television sit-coms should all feature a lovable Muslim-next-door character. We note that the homosexual-next-door character has been a staple of sit-coms for a decade or so now, and eagerly await the first homosexual-Muslim-next-door character on the small screen, as we expect politically-correct “intersectionality” should cause a few heads to explode. We’d settle for any sort of a pop cultural depiction of a Christian-next-door who isn’t bitterly clinging to his guns and religion, but we aren’t holding our breath for a presidential visit to a low church on any Sunday mornings soon.
Most grating of all, though, was when Obama took the opportunity to liken himself to President Thomas Jefferson. It wasn’t Jefferson’s ruthless and successful war against the Islamic pirates who had been seizing American vessels and the Tripolitan potentate who justified it by citing the Koran that Obama had in mind, which would have been obviously immodest, but rather that “Thomas Jefferson’s opponents tried to stir things up by suggesting he was a Muslim, so I was not the first.” He’s apparently referring to Jefferson’s writings on religious liberty, wherein he stressed how radical he was about it that he would even tolerate what was then called Mohammadism, and how some of his foes were indeed not willing to go far, but he didn’t mention that Jefferson never spoke of the Muslim call to prayer as the “most beautiful sound” or invited the Muslim Brotherhood to the front row of his speeches and certainly never regarded small-town American Christian folk as bitter-clingers to God and guns or urged them to get off their high horses and repent for the Crusades.
The president needn’t worry that we’re going to rush out and commit any hate crimes against any group unfairly underrepresented on America’s bigoted sit-coms or Hollywood’s xenophobic yet international-market-oriented action-adventures, and we certainly won’t be ordering any drone strikes, but he should be advised that we’re not the only ones tiring of this nonsense. The president barely rates a mention these days in the news, which is preoccupied with all the alarming tough talk by his would-be Republican successors and the the Democratic race where the self-described socialist and the former Secretary of State with the Muslim Brotherhood-tied confidant who would both rather talk about income inequality and student debt and anything else, so it takes something this grating to get back in the headlines.

— Bud Norman

Luck Be a Lady

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, according to one of our favorite sports cliches, and nothing proves this better than the improbably lucky and not at all good career of former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Her unlikely but widely presumed status as the presumptive First Woman President of the States was challenged during Monday’s Democratic caucus in Iowa by such a long-shot underdog as self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, but she somehow prevailed thanks to six favorable coin tosses in a row.
What are the odds of winning six coin tosses in a row? Although we have only a public school education in mathematics, our finger calculations indicate that it’s approximately a one-in-64 shot, which sounds worse yet after we cheat and use an internet percentage calculator to find that’s also just a 1.562 percent chance, which is even more remote than what the suckers at one of Donald J. Trump’s house-odds casinos could expect. And what are the chances that six county races would end in a tie, and that one of America’s major political parties would choose to settle such weighty matters as its presidential nomination according to a coin flip? Such questions are beyond our public schooled powers of computation, but we’d bet it’s like a gazillion or something to one.
Even the self-described socialist’s necessarily fanatical followers, who are apparently too innumerate to comprehend the mere trillions of deficit spending on economy-crushing and liberty-squashing government programs that he’s proposing, are wised-up enough to be suspicious about it. There’s some talk among the supporters of a recount and other protests, even if the long-shot self-described socialist himself seems willing to call it a tie and move on to the New Hampshire primary where he’s currently a prohibitive favorite, and we wish them well. The Iowa Democratic Party’s ways of doing things are awfully vexing though, and we spent most of Monday night trying to find actual votes cast rather than precinct and county and state delegates won, and then we found out on Tuesday that even the self-described socialist’s campaign operation was having a hard time getting its hand on hard numbers, so it should take a while to sort it all out. Last time around it took the Iowa Republicans more than a week of “Romney Wins” headlines to figure out that former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum had actually won, and by then Romney was well on his way to the nomination, which proves that these sorts of screw-ups are not so unlikely in either party, and it’s a safe bet that a week’s worth of stories about Clinton’s asterik-affixed victory will carry her through the expected New Hampshire primary on to the supposed “firewall” state of South Carolina and all it’s supposedly faithful black voters.
Last time around all those black voters derailed the First Woman President’s supposedly inevitable inauguration by voting for the First Black President, and this time around Santorum didn’t even get to one percent in the Republican Iowa caucus, and each successive coin toss has the same 50-50 odds, and we honestly don’t know how you’d rig that game in front of all those cel phone cameras, but something about the Democrat’s Iowa caucus still seems awfully unlikely. Then again, Clinton has a longstanding habit of beating the odds.
Old-timers with an interest in old news will recall the time when a relatively youthful Clinton parlayed a $1,000 bet on the cattle futures market into a $100,000 cash-out just ten months later, and although we won’t even pretend to be able to guess the odds of that happening without some funny business we did find some better educated fellows writing for the Journal of Economics and Finance who figured it to be about one-in-35-trillion, We also note that the chances of the First Woman President being the wife of a former Living White Male President is just four-in-150-million or so, and that the chances of a brother and son of a former Living White Male President are by now pretty much nil, and when you add in all the other coincidences and that fact that she’s never accomplished anything to the good in any of her prestigious jobs it’s bound to add up to some more-than-astronomical odds, given the finite number of stars and planets and moons in the universe.
As we’re not at all the suspicious sorts, we’ll just assume that Clinton is one lucky lady. The Republican front-runner is running on the argument that he’s so good he and his house odds always win, even though he lost the Iowa caucus by frankly reported numbers, and that if elected he’ll win for the country. It’s a compelling argument, we suppose, but by the same logic it might be better to bet on someone so impossibly lucky as Clinton to win those coin-tosses that so often determine a Republic’s fate.

— Bud Norman

On the Day After Opening Day

For such avid fans of the blood sport of American politics as ourselves, the quadrennial Iowa presidential caucuses are like the opening day of a once-every-four-years baseball season. Some youthful enthusiasm left within us wants to extrapolate the rest of the reason from the season from the first day’s statistically insignificant scores, some more sober sensibility acquired over the years reminds us that are plenty of games left to be played in what is always an up-and-down season, and we always wind up indulging in the obligatory speculation.
Over on the Democrats’ senior-in-more-ways-than-one circuit we note that former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and long-presumed Next President of the United States Hillary Clinton is still going into extra innings as we write this against self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, which bolsters our pre-season suspicion that it’s going to be a long and hard-fought contest. In a far more crowded field the upstart Republicans’ winner was controversial right-fielder Texas Sen. Cruz, who had a plurality of 28 percent, with real-estate-and-gambling-and-reality-show-and-professional-wrestling mogul Donald J. Trump coming in from way out in the metaphorical left field to take an unaccustomed second place with 24 percent, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, now cast as the party’s steady center-fielder, just behind with an intriguing 23 percent, which at least provides hope for another long and hard-fought race.
Of course, one needs to keep in mind the peculiar ground rules that govern Iowa’s opening games. The Democrats require caucus-goers to spend all night standing with their fellow rooters in the corners of various frigid high school gymnasiums and senior centers spread across the state, staring one another down to attract the rooters from the candidates disqualified in the first rounds, which should have given her opponent’s more youthful and fired-up supporters an edge, so even a slight win will still count as a win even by pliable rules of politics. The next game will be played according to more traditional primary rules in New Hampshire, but that’s right next door to Vermont and Sanders has held a comfortable lead in the polls there for some time, so a win in Iowa means at least Clinton won’t get off to that 0-for-2 start so many formerly front-running candidates have never recovered from. Still, those bettors who put their chips on Clinton a full four years ago are likely in for a nervous season. Veteran political sports fans will recall that a similarly spirited far-left candidacy by Sen. Eugene McCarthy knocked sitting President Lyndon Johnson out of the race with a win in New Hampshire way back in the memorable ’68 season, and although those with more reliable memories will more accurately recall that Johnson eked out a victory it was close enough it was still enough to convince Johnson that he wouldn’t make it to the general election finish line, which makes it a potentially worthwhile analogy.
Cruz only won eight delegates to Trump’s and Rubio’s seven, and long-shot retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson got three, with even longer shots libertarian Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and erstwhile starting center fielder Jeb! Bush of the erstwhile Bush dynasty getting one apiece for finishing fifth and sixth, respectively, so with 1,114 delegates needed to clinch the pennant there’s still plenty of race of left. It’s still a crucial tally in the win column for Cruz, however, and although he’s starting from behind in New Hampshire the Iowa winner has traditionally picked up a few points in other contests. Veteran political sports fans will also recall how little-known Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter got a sudden amount of name-recognition-generating publicity from an upset win in Iowa and rode it to the Democratic nomination back in that sub-.300 year of ’76, and although those with more reliable memories will recall that Carter actually finished second to “undecided,” which ultimately proved poetically appropriate enough, the point still obtains. For someone running against a reality-star with almost unlimited free publicity and near-universal name recognition, it’s an especially important point.
In an ordinary season an ordinary candidate could claim more than seven delegates from a second-place finish in Iowa, but Trump is no ordinary candidate. The most likely explanation for the front-running Trump’s second-place finish is that Iowa’s Republican caucus is largely dominated by evangelical Christians who prefer a Baptist minister’s son such as Cruz to a thrice-married gambling mogul who publicly boasts of the billions he made by buying off politicians and all the married babes he’s bagged along the way, but we don’t think even Trump will attempt that spin and we don’t think New Hampshire voters would buy it even if they are next door to Vermont. Much of Trump’s appeal is based on his argument that he always wins, and that Americans might even get bored with all the winning he’s going to do for America, making it hard for him to spin an actual vote where he not only came in second but a full 76 percent of the voters went for someone else. He wisely declared himself “honored” by a second-place finish, noting only obliquely how many observers had thought Iowa an unfriendly field, and he’s still got the lead in New Hampshire before getting back on evangelical turf in South Carolina, but to mix the sports analogies somewhat at least he won’t be getting that early-round knock-out.
Rubio’s close third-place finish, on the other hand, should be worth more than just seven delegates over the coming weeks. It represents a significant bump in his previous poll standings, will merit enough mention to up his name recognition a few notches, and will likely even knock out some of the other players vying for the centerfield position. When the fourth-place Carson sooner or later bows out we suspect most of his support will flow to Cruz, so Rubio will need all the meager votes scattered about the rest of the soon-to-drop-out candidates, and when Bush makes his inevitable exit Rubio will at least be spared the millions of dollars of negative advertising that have been aimed him, so in this game opening day does matter more than in baseball.
Both leagues might wind up battering themselves into a sorry state for the eventual general election World Series, but that’s way too far away to speculate about now.

— Bud Norman

And So It Begins

The arduous process of picking a new President of the United States begins today in Iowa, as it quadrennially does for some reason or another, so there’s nothing we can do about it now. While at church on Sunday morning we offered up a humble prayer of gratitude that America still has some say in the matter and a plea that it choose wisely, and we suppose that’s the best we can do at this point.
Watching the returns will likely test our faith, however, as any sort of providential outcome seems unlikely. The Iowa Democrats are choosing between former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, perhaps the most thoroughly corrupt and incompetent crony capitalist of our time, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose most admirable quality is his willingness to admit that he’s an outright socialist bent on eradicating capitalism altogether, and that at least he’s not charging big speaking fees to those evil Wall Street types and isn’t under the scrutiny of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Meanwhile the Iowans of our Republican party are reportedly choosing between front-running Donald J. Trump, a real-estate-and-gambling-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul who prides himself on his unabashedly corrupt and inarguably competent crony capitalism, and underdog Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, whose more red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalism and strict constitutionalism and unabashed evangelical Christianity have suddenly made him the target of both the “establishment” and “anti-establishment” wings of the party, although there’s still a chance that a conservative-but-more-pragmatic sort such as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio might at least do well enough to alter the storyline somewhat through the next less-noticed 49 rounds of the party primary process.
The Democrats’ descent into this madness has been going on at least since George McGovern’s nomination back in ’72, and except for a few brief moments of political sensibility during times of war as far back as Woodrow Wilson’s administration, but the Republicans’ situation seems rather all of a sudden.
Until last summer, Republican presidential nomination races always had a comfortingly familiar feel to them, with us more rock-ribbed and ideologically-grounded conservatives out here in the hinterlands squabbling with those pointy-headed and lily-livered country club types back east over matters of tactics, but eventually uniting for a shared disdain for those outright and all-but-in-name socialists and multi-cultural bullies over on the Democrat side, and if we lost we squabbled over the blame and if we won squabbled over both the credit for what went right and the blame the for what went wrong despite the victory. In any case we all at least paid lip service to the non-crony sort of capitalism, we all grumbled about the breakdown of the constitutional order, and even the most secular country club types acknowledged a certain necessary Judeo-Christian underpinning to the whole western civilization project that we also all agreed upon. Then all of a sudden a real-estate-and-gambling-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show star shows up boasting of all the politicians he’s bought off and all the married babes he’s bagged and the billions he’s made along the way, and the four bankruptcies and the failed airline and the defunct football league and the highly dubious if not downright fraudulent eponymous “university” and all the other debacles of his career go unmentioned, and he fires up the population by addressing the unaddressed immigration problem with righteously indignant but outrageously unworkable ideas, and his past employment of illegal workers and his politically criticism of the hated “establishment” Republican Mitt Romney for suggesting a more sensible “self-deportation” policy just one presidential election ago are similarly forgotten, and with a few late night insult comic jabs against prisoners of war and the handicapped and an admirable woman rival’s face he became the politically-incorrect hero of the “anti-establishment” wing. Then he began boasting of how the “establishment” loved him, and its most formerly hated exemplars began to sing his praise, and both talked of how they could cut some good crony capitalist deals together, and suddenly it is hard to see how any red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalist and strict constitutionalist and unabashed evangelical Christian can compete against both wings.
One hopeful theory holds that many the fans of the real-estate-and-gambling-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul and political newcomers unlikely to brave a cold and long Iowa night of caucusing, or be able to find their way there, but some of the pollsters are calling for what Trump would call a “yuge” turn-out, and they might prove right. There’s not the enthusiasm for red-in-tooth-in-claw capitalism that one might hope for in a state that’s swung a sweet crony-capitalist deal on the engine-corroding and consumer-gouging and doing-little-for-the-ecology ethanol subsidies, which the deal-making real-estate-and-gambling-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul has promised to sweeten beyond what even any Democrat has proposed, and strict constitutionalism and evangelical Christianity might not prove as significant a negotiating point. We have no disputes with the Democrats or Republicans of Iowa, and although we’ve found it a hard state to hitch-hike through in the winter we are great fans of Grant Wood and that deep-brown dirt they’ve got, but so long as they’re first in line to pick the next president we don’t see how we’ll ever get rid of that ridiculous ethanol subsidy.
Iowans are disproportionately white and rural and union-enrolled and otherwise atypical of the broader American population, too, but so long as the state’s Democrats keep picking either an establishment or more frankly socialist candidate they’ll been immune from any criticism about, Whatever candidate the Iowa Republicans choose will be subject to all sorts of quota-driven scrutiny. Both candidates will reap much publicity and considerable momentum going into the next round of voting in New Hampshire next week, and after that second round of 50 all the press will be writing their premature obituaries the same way they do after the second of of a best-of-seven professional basketball series. Sometimes those premature obituaries proved prescient, so we will wait and see.
The red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalist and strict constitutionalist and unabashed evangelical Christian is at long last blasting away at the real-estate-and-gambling-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul’s crony capitalism with an ad we think states the case rather succinctly, and what’s left of conservatism’s intelligentsia is arousing itself on behalf of the cause, and even some of those right-wing radio talkers are suddenly asking questions, but it’s probably too late for today’s voting, and today’s voting will be big story until next week’s voting, so we’ll wait and see. In the meantime, we’ll take whatever deal we can get.

— Bud Norman

Another What-If Episode

Many of the old television shows that used to take up far too much of our childhood would occasionally encounter a creative lull about mid-season and resort to the old gimmick of having the characters transported by harp music and a wavy dissolve into some alternate reality. What if the guys at WJM had met the irresistible Mary Richards when they were single, or Felix and Oscar had never met? What if Gilligan or the Skipper had bothered to check the damned weather forecast before that three-hour cruise?
The Republican Party’s reality show of a presidential nomination race was reduced to the same hackneyed formula Thursday night, inviting viewers to imagine the storyline without the love-him-or-hate-him star-of-the-show-as-always Donald J. Trump. Being on the booing-and-hissing side of the divide of the show’s fans, we happily accepted the invitation.
If you’ve been binge-watching the series thus far with the same rapt attention as ourselves, you already know that Trump wrote himself out of the script because the episode was being broadcast by the Fox News Network, which always elicits booing and hissing from the left and is now the hated by the supposed savior of the right because it employs Megyn Kelly, a most comely and seemingly competent broadcast journalist who had the lese majeste in an earlier to episode to ask Trump about his longtime habit of calling her less comely sisters by such names as “‘fat pigs,’ ‘dogs,’ ‘slobs,’ and ‘disgusting animals.'” When Trump responded afterwards that the seemingly calm and undeniably comely Kelly had “blood coming out of her eyes” and “blood coming out of her wherever” it seemed to us to prove her implied point yet nonetheless improved his poll numbers, and viewers will recall it it was one of the highest-rated episodes ever. Trump declined the long-anticipated sequel, with all his fanzines proclaiming it a stroke of tactical genius, and next Monday night’s much-anticipated “Iowa Caucus and Actual Voting” episode might yet prove it so, but we’re hopeful the next episode will reawaken to a different storyline.
Trump might have reasonably calculated that he would be all the more conspicuous by his absence from Thursday night’s episode, but he was only mentioned in passing. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the main rival for the love-him-or-hate-him starring role, got some laughs by doing some Don Rickles shtick and saying “that concludes the Trump portion,” and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is the embodiment of the hated “establishment” hovering over the whole series even in the harp-music-and-wavy-dissolve transition to an alternate reality, sounding quite reasonable and even statesmanlike as he noted the higher tone of the proceedings. For the most part, it was pleasantly easy to close one’s eyes and imagine what it would have been like in an “It’s a Wonderful Life” where Donald J. Trump had never been born. All the candidates would still be talking about the unavoidable costs of both illegal and legal immigration to be weighed against their widely doubted benefits, there would still be same unavoidable discussion about Islamic terrorism and all the other international problems the Democrats don’t seem to want to talk about, there would d be the same talk about free markets and individual liberty, only without all the bragging by the front-runner about the politicians he’s bought off and the powers he would seize, the hated “establishment” would still be hated no matter how reasonable and statesmanlike it sounded, and the storyline would still be lively enough to generate some ratings.
Even in the would-be world of Thursday night’s debate there was a love-him-or-hate-him character in Cruz, and although we’re inclined to love him we think he got the worst of his first night in the crossfire. His opening bit about Trump’s tiring insult comic act played well enough, but a later attempt at ironic humor seemed to backfire when the audience didn’t seem to get his joking threat to leave the stage if he got any more tough questions. His reasonable arguments for his consistent resolve on illegal immigration inevitably got bogged down in talk of amendments and parliamentary procedure and all that stuff that even federal neophytes are bogged down with, and his blunt talk about those ridiculous ethanol subsidies that are so beloved in first-in-line Iowa and hated everywhere else probably did him little good in Iowa but boosted him past the absent Trump everywhere else, so some blows were clearly landed. He came off with the requisite ratings-grabbing feistiness, and landed a few blows of his own here and there, but he probably should have more relished the villain’s role.
There were some good lines by the unimportant New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the bumptious but establishment guy, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, the establishment but bumptious guy, and even the loony libertarian Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, and as always we thought retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson was quite good with his brief few lines, and Bush somehow didn’t come across the least bit villainous, but the surprising co-star of the night was Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Longtime fans of the show know Rubio was the handsome and youthful character who was once the true-blue conservative hero of an earlier season but then fell in with the Gang of Eight who conspired to unleash the immigrant hordes upon America, and has since been on a mission of penance, but he made a good accounting of himself. He swore his newfound toughness and noted the similarly evolving position of the anti-immigrant horde Trump, who bravely chose to not be around to defend himself from the undeniable charge, and he rightly noted that he was at least more anti-immigrant horde than Bush or any of those other guys, and he bogged Cruz down in all that talk of amendments and parliamentary procedure, and he wound up sounding more electable in a general election than the rest of them.
After the next round of harp music and slow dissolves we’ll be back to real world where there really is a Donald J. Trump, and all that entails, and by late Monday night or early Tuesday morning we’ll find out how the story resumes. We’ve also been watching the Democrats’ mini-series, which is weirder yet, and we’re starting to worry that might be the weirdest of these reality shows.

— Bud Norman

What To Read on a Dreary Winter Night

These are the times that try men’s souls, what with the cold winter nights and the over-heated days of politics and economics and culture and the rest of the bad news blowing by, so our first instinct is to curl up in bed with a good book. Lately our preference has been for P.G. Wodehouse and S.J. Perelman and Evelyn Waugh and similarly fatalistic humorists of the even drearier past, but we always advise the young folks that there’s also something to be said for more sober fare.
In our meanderings around the internet we happened upon the reading lists that students at the supposedly top colleges in the United States are now dutifully poring through, and all in all we were happily surprised. Based on the reports we’re reading from academia and the impression we’ve gleaned from conversations with its more recent graduates, we’d assumed that all that was required for a degree these days was a smidgen of politicized science and some multi-cultural mathematics along with a passing familiarity with such commie agitprop as “A People’s History of America” and “Wretched of the Earth,” along with a representative sampling of fiction from the ever-expanding universe of racial and sexual identities. The reading list does confirm these suspicions in some cases, but the young-uns are also getting some sterner stuff.
Apparently the most-taught work of fiction at America’s colleges is Mary Wollstonecraft-Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” with Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” coming in a close second, which is somewhat worrisome. Not that they’re bad books — we thought “Frankenstein” a fun-to-read and better-than-the-movie horror story with a few interesting philosophical implications when we picked it up the summer vacation after sixth grade, and we found all the flatulence and fornication in “Canterbury Tales” most amusing when it was assigned to us in junior high, so we won’t deny them their rightful place in the Canon — but we suspect they’re on the list for the wrong reasons. It’s not just that a college student should have already surpassed our sorry-assed inner-city junior high’s requirements well before entering a “top university,” but also a nagging suspicion that Wollstonecraft-Shelley is mostly there because she’s a woman, albeit a white woman from a certain high class and ornate literary tradition,  and because she’s offering a cautionary tale about science and all the rest of that worrisome western civilization stuff, and that Chaucer is still there despite being not only dead and white but also male only as a reminder that white men were always telling smutty jokes.
We also note, with a Wollstonecraft-Shelley sense of horror, the complete absence of William Shakespeare from the most-taught lists of any of the “top colleges” in the United States. Although we grant that The Bard is about as dead and white and male as an author can get, well, c’mon, he’s still The Bard. If even he can’t crash the glass quota ceiling, what chance we do we still-living yet mere mortal white males stand of getting a future reading? And that’s not to mention academia’s apparent complete lack of familiarity with The Holy Bible and its even more formidable author.
We have not read the most-assigned history text, “America: A Narrative History,” by George Brown Tindall and David Emory Shi, but we’re going to tentatively assume it’s commie agitprop, and nor have we read the second-most assigned, Anne Moody’s “Coming of Age in Mississippi,” which is described as “a memoir of life by an African-American woman in Jim Crow America,” but while we don’t doubt that it’s a worthy book neither do we doubt why it supersedes other worthy books about the broader American history. “The Communist Manifesto” is the third most-taught history book, and top title in sociology departments, which made sense when we read it way back in the Cold War days to familiarize ourselves with the enemy’s wicked ideology and wily ways, but in these days of Bernie-mania it’s probably offered as a how-to manual.
Still, we found some solace in the broader reading list. Plato’s “Republic” is somehow the overall most-assigned text at the supposed “top ten” colleges, despite his deadness and whiteness and maleness, and although his ancient Greekness might earn him some some sympathy from the homosexual lobby we’d like to think he’s there as a starting point for the best of Hellenic thought. Number two is Thomas Hobbes’ “The Leviathan,” which is most surprising and especially pleasing to us. Most surprising because Hobbes is just as dead and white and male as Shakespeare as ever was, and especially delightful because we recall arguing with some adjunct teaching assistant and annoying Rousseau-ian fellow who hangs out at Kirby’s Beer Store haranguing about peak oil and how humanity’s gone downhill ever since agriculture and how we all need to get to back to the caves, and when we quoted “The Leviathan’s” old line about life in a state of nature being “nasty, brutish, and short,” which we usually use only when telling mother-in-law jokes, he sneered at us and scoffed that “Nobody reads Hobbes any more.”
Coming in at number three is Niccolo Machiavelli’s “The Prince,” which seems so timely we’re not altogether surprised. Although he’s also dead and white and male, Machiavelli was the first to explain the “Chicago Way” that has defined the past seven years of the Obama administration, as well as the methodology of the front-running Republican candidate who hopes to succeed it, and we expect it will be useful to students in all majors from business administration to community organizing. Downright stunning is the fourth-place finisher, Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations,” an extraordinary work of scholarship that frankly describes western civilization’s unavoidable conflicts with other cultures, including the ones that are usually politely left unmentioned in most of academia, and doesn’t recommend capitulation. If even one righteous man could have redeemed Sodom and Gomorrah, perhaps such a righteous book as “Clash of Civilization” will spare even modern academia from God’s wrath.
Our well-worn copy of Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style,” still occupying a place of honor on our reference book shelf, right there next to the “Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual” and “The Complete Hoyle,” also takes its place as the fifth-most assigned book in academia. We have mixed feelings about that, as we think that the venerable pair’s rules of plain English represent a vast improvement over the current academic jargon and jibber-jab, but we also think they’re sometimes plain to the point of Amishness. Aristotle’s “Ethics” comes in sixth, continuing the lessons of that dead white male Hellenic thing, and we’re glad to see that. Thomas Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” comes in seventh, and we freely concede that we have not read that yet, although the title sounds intriguing and we eagerly await the movie showing up on Netflix.
Another happy sight on the top ten is Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America,” which describes a ruggedly individualistic and rapidly expanding nation of free association and town hall government and a European-galling whisky-swigging and church-going capitalism, a happy time before the Chicago Way took over. The ninth and tenth spots went to “The Communist Manifesto” and Aristotle’s “The Politics,” respectively, and we’d like to think that at least evens out.
They’re still teaching Max Weber’s thesis on “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism” at Princeton, along with Thucydides and Henry Kissinger, and Harvard top pick is Martin Luther King’s “Letter from the Birmingham Jail,” with all its dangerous talk of God and natural law and resisting unjust laws of government but not undermining the very notion of law, and we’re guessing it’s good news that Harvard also has “Principles of Corporate Finance” on its own top ten books. Over at Yale the Federal Reserve Bank’s “Quarterly Review” comes in just ahead of Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man,” proving that black lives matter to proper Elis but do so those portfolios, and all the other swank colleges have some good reads on their students’ lists. There’s the usual commie agitprop, of course, but we expect the good stuff will make a stronger impression.
We do hope those hard-working students will find some time, in between their studies and protests and “culture of rape” social lives to enjoy some Wodehouse or Perelman or Waugh or other humorous fatalist. We recommend “The Things that are Caesar’s” and “This Town Is Nowhere” or anything by that Mark Twain guy, and we expect that you’re going to get an education one way or another.

— Bud Norman

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