A False but Accurate News Conference

The following transcript is not an an actual White House news conference, and is instead something we dreamed up for the recent “Gridiron” show, but we offer it in a belief that it has a greater verisimilitude than the real thing. Also, we’re busy with chores and friends’ personal problems and have no energy for that ridiculous New York Times story on income inequality, so in the interest of the environment we’re going to recycle.
CHIP WILSON: Hello, I’m Chip Wilson. Jay Carney is taking an extended leave of absence in order to grow a real beard, and in the meantime I’ll be the acting White House Press Secretary. Do you have any questions?
REPORTER ONE: About Obamacare …
WILSON: I’m sorry, but let me interrupt you right there. This is just my first day on the job, and I was hoping I wouldn’t have to deal with Obamacare. Does anybody have a question about something other than Obamacare? No? Damn it. Well, OK, what was your question?
REPORTER ONE: The president said that under Obamacare people the average American would be paying less for his health care insurance than his cell phone bills, but instead most people are seeing rate increases. Isn’t this another broken promise?
WILSON: I can assure you the president is working hard to keep that promise. He’s already proposed legislation that would drastically increase the average American’s cell phone bill. If our do-nothing Congress won’t act on this pressing matter, you can hardly blame the the president.
REPORTER TWO: What about the president’s promise that “If you like your health care plan, you can keep you health care plan”? Millions have already lost their coverage, and millions more will when you finally get around to enforcing the employer mandate.
WILSON: I think you need to go back and check that quote. You’ll see that what he actually said was “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan, period, end of story.”
REPORTER TWO: How does that make it better?
WILSON: Well, where I come from, “period, end of story” is generally understood to mean that you won’t be able to keep your health care plan.
REPORTER TWO: Where do you come from?
WILSON: I come from the post-modern world, pal, where words can mean whatever the hell you want them to mean. What hick town do you come from?
REPORTER THREE: You say that eight million people have signed up for Obamacare, but can you tell us how many of them have actually made a payment?
WILSON: I’m sorry, I don’t know.
REPORTER FOUR: Can you tell us how many of them previously were covered, but lost their plans due to Obamacare?
WILSON: I don’t know.
REPORTER FIVE: Can you tell us how many wound up on Medicaid?
WILSON: I don’t know.
REPORTER SIX: Can you tell us how many of them are the young, healthy people with no need for these comprehensive plans that you need to make this boondoggle work?
WILSON: I don’t know.
REPORTER ONE: Why don’t you know?
WILSON: Trust me, you don’t want to know.
REPORTER TWO: The law is currently being challenged in the courts by the Little Sisters of the Poor, who can’t understand why they’re being compelled to pay for contraceptive coverage. How do you respond to that?
WILSON: The Little Sisters of the Poor, as you know, are a notorious street gang that oppose everything this administration does because of the threat we pose to their nefarious traffic in prostitution and narcotics.
REPORTER TWO: Actually, it’s an order of nuns who provide care to the indigent elderly.
WILSON: A perfect cover, don’t you think?
REPORTER THREE: What about the report from the Congressional Budget Office that more than two million Americans will leave the labor force rather than taking a low wage job that would force them to relinquish their Obamacare subsidies?
WILSON: These fortunate people have been freed from the bondage of work. Do you want them to be wage slaves? Of course not. And what makes wage slaves? Wages, that’s what. Thanks to the miracle of Obamacare, these Americans can now devote their energies to more creative pursuits. We’re expecting a veritable renaissance of macrame and beer can sculpture.
REPORTER FOUR: Despite these assurances, all the polls show that most Americans disapprove of Obamacare.
WILSON: The administration is hard at work on that, as well. We’ve launched a multi-million dollar advertising campaign to to convince Americans they do approve of Obamacare. We’ve got some NBA stars, some healthy and pretty young models, and we’re in negotiations with that “Flo” woman from the Progressive ads.
REPORTER FOUR: And you think this will make Americans approve of paying more for less?
WILSON: Well, we believe that if the public can be persuaded to watch mixed martial arts fighting and the “Real Housewives of Haysville,” they can be persuaded to do just about anything. They did vote for my boss twice, after all, and he’s not nearly as likable as that “Flo” woman from the Progressive ads. Also, we’re counting on you on the media to help out in the effort. I mean, come on, it’s Obama.
(Reporters all murmur their general agreement.)
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A Good Day at the Court

The Supreme Court has ruled that Michigan doesn’t have to practice racial discrimination if it doesn’t want to, and this is a double dose of good news.
By upholding a ballot measure banning affirmative action in state university admissions, which passed by a 58 to 42 percent margin, the court has struck yet another legal blow to that insipid policy. These thinly-vieled quota systems exacerbate racial tensions, diminish the accomplishments of the most capable minorities, funnel less capable minorities into failure at elite colleges rather than success at more suitable institutions, punish meritocratic notions in the process, produce a less educated country as a result, and are an affront to the essential ideal of a color-blind society. They do little to rectify the past injustices they are meant to atone for, and add new ones by punishing Asians and Jews and other historically oppressed minority groups that nonetheless produce students deserving of admission in numbers greater than their share of the overall population. They certainly do nothing to address the continuing failure of America’s public schools to educate their black and Hispanic students as well they do their white and Asian charges, a social catastrophe which affirmative action implicitly acknowledges, and enables the failure to continue without provoking the wrath of the teachers’ unions.
The court’s decision does not ban the practice of affirmative action, but it does affirm the right of the people of Michigan or any other state to do so. This is a heartening development, too, as it represents an all-too-rare victory for public opinion over the supposedly superior wisdom of the judiciary. There are certain fundamental rights explicitly enumerated in the Constitution which no popular vote can revoke, and the courts have a duty to thwart any temporary public passions about these matters, but on issues ranging from same-sex marriage to affirmative action to environmental regulations the courts routinely substitute their judgment for the clearly stated desires of legislatures and even public referenda. When a priestly caste of black-robed men and women can discern that the Constitution confers an absolute to homosexual marriage or a student of one race’s right to admission to a state university over a more qualified applicant of another race or the Environmental Protection Agency’s right to regulate the exhalations of every citizen, all of which would have been anathema to men who wrote and ratified that Constitution, the document ceases to have any meaning. When the court defers to public opinion, as it did on Tuesday, there’s still a chance of restoring some semblance of constitutional order.
It’s bad news that such a commonsensical ruling seems such welcome good news, and those inclined to worry can note that two justices dissented and a third would have had she not been forced to recuse herself because of a previous involvement in the case. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a 58-page dissenting opinion that asserted those 58 percent of Michiganders who voted for the ban are nasty old racists, and argued that a ballot measure which states that Michigan may not “discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual on the basis of race, sex, ethnicity, or national origin” is somehow a violation of the 14th Amendment. In keeping with the currently fashionable sensibilities she added some balderdash about how affirmative action had benefited her own career, although she stopped short of admitting that she owes her appointment to the court to the practice, but a majority of people in Michigan and the other 49 states are entitled to conclude that she’s another persuasive argument against it.

– Bud Norman

Senatorial Slapstick

The good folks at Netflix have lately been sending us the classic films of Harold Lloyd, the great silent-era comedian, and we’ve been lamenting the demise of the great American sight gag. For pure gut-busting slapstick, though, it’s hard to top a recent effort by Sen. Richard Blumenthal.
The Connecticut Democrat was recently on the platform at an Amtrak station lecturing the public on commuter train safety, which is apparently a subject of some importance to Connecticuters, and for some reason chose to deliver his speech well within those yellow lines that travelers are loudly advised to stay beyond. As if one cue from Hal Roach or some other suitably low-brow comedy director a train speeds by mid-speech, knocking Blumenthal’s visual aids askew, nearly squashing an unidentified man standing even closer to the track, and leaving an expression on Blumenthal’s face that even Buster Keaton would have been hard-pressed to top. In a seeming homage to Lloyd’s famous “Safety First,” the near-death experience occurs just as Blumenthal declares that “safety is paramount.”
Aside from its sheer entertainment value, the awkward moment seems worth briefly noting for a few reasons. It’s the sort of thing that would be endlessly replayed on the late night comedy shows if the Senator were a Republican, for one thing, and it seems only fair to to heap on our small measure of ridicule when it happens to a Democrat. Republicans frequently do similarly stupid things, of course, but we will proudly note it’s not likely to happen while they’re haranguing their fellow citizens about how to not get hit by a train. Most importantly, Blumenthal is among that breed of Democrat that seeks ever great control of our lives, and it’s useful to be reminded that he’s an idiot.

– Bud Norman

Two Holidays in One

Yesterday was Easter Sunday, of course, but this year it coincided with the far more secular holiday of 4-20. For the sake of the squares among you we will explain that “4-20″ is a sub-cultural slang term for marijuana. Some marijuana enthusiasts make a ritual of indulging each day at 4:20, although we’re not sure if it’s supposed to be A.M. or P.M, or perhaps both, if your sleep schedule is accommodating, and the 20th day of the fourth month of the year has become an unofficial national 24 hours of marijuana celebration. Easter didn’t prove a distraction for the large crowds that gathered in various cities across the country, and in The Mile High City of Denver 4-20 pushed the holiest day in Christendom right off the front page.
Tens of thousands gathered in a Denver park, according to the Associated Press, to smoke enough marijuana to make the nearby buildings look quite hazy in the news photographs. The state of Colorado has recently legalized the sale and possession of small amounts of marijuana, and although it remains in violation of federal laws and it is still illegal to smoke marijuana in public there seems to be a considerable degree of tolerance regarding the drug. Reports indicated that only 103 of those tends of thousands were cited, and only 92 of them marijuana violations. The rest were presumably handed a more expensive ticket for consuming tobacco in one of the nearby taverns. There seems to have been no violence or other problems associated with the party, and it can be assumed that the nearby fast-food outlets and convenience stores did a brisk business, so the event might become an annual tradition if anyone can remember the location. Most years it won’t fall on Easter, and a few more pious potheads might join in.
A bunch of grubby neo-hippies littering a park and giving a contact high to an entire neighborhood might not seem the most persuasive image that the pro-legalization movement might send to a wary non-pot-smoking public, which thus far retains a political majority in the country, and would probably be more sympathetic to the respectable Saab-driving suburban pothead who tries to hide it from the kids, but they do seem to be on a roll lately. Polling shows public sentiment moving toward legalization with the dizzying speed of same-sex marriage, legislation and referenda are being considered in several states, prominent politicians from both parties have offered their endorsements, and a certain sweet scent of inevitably is wafting across the land like the smoke from that rally in the park. It’s partly the Baby Boomer’s dominance of the Democratic party, and partly the increasing influence of libertarians and libertarianism in the Republic Party, but we suspect it’s mainly because everybody in government at every level is increasingly desperate for more and more revenues. Just as the Great Depression brought and end to the prohibition of alcohol, the current never-ending recession will prompt the government to cut itself in on the enormous trade in marijuana.
When it does happen, all those 4-20 types around the country won’t necessarily be celebrating. They’ve been smoking tax-free so far, and will be surprised to find how very expensive is the government’s fair share. Pot has previously been free of regulatory oversight, as well, and bureaucrats are notorious buzz-kills. In our newspaper days checking the fly-sheets at the local jail we noticed that the only people who ever got arrested for marijuana were selling large amounts in a careless way or had small amounts in their pockets while they were being arrested for something else, but we’re sure law enforcement will take a more active interest in the matter when state funds are stake. They’ll miss that slight outlaw frisson, too, and some will consider take up tobacco to regain that rebel stand.
State governments are all in the numbers racket already, with their lotteries and casinos ruthlessly protected monopolies, and government itself can be understood as sanctified protection racket. In Puerto Rico they’re considering getting in on the prostitution to trade to erase a debilitating debt, along with other ideas ranging from legalizing weed to reviving the country’s once-great coffee trade, and the more indebted states will be tempted to do the same after they’ve taxed all their rich people into other jurisdictions. State-sanctioned marijuana, which would be far more palatable to those aging Baby Boomer Democrats and their haranguing feminist wives as well those libertarian Republicans and their religious friends, will soon be an easy sell to a cash-strapped public.
A better way to fill the public coffers would be to expand the broader economy with tax and regulatory incentives to create more productive goods and services, but that’s a harder sell. There are good arguments against putting someone in prison at taxpayer cost for smoking marijuana, and good arguments for taking small cut on that marijuana to keep someone in prison for something more detrimental to the society, but parks full of grubby neo-hippies and agencies full of rapacious bureaucrats is not going to be a successful combination.

– Bud Norman

The Wising-Up of a Country

In such strange times as these we were heartened to read that 61 percent of America of thinks the president is a liar. Ordinarily we would find this a worrisome development, but in these extraordinary circumstances we consider it good news that the suckers are wising up.
The poll was conducted on behalf of the Fox News network, so feel free to dismiss it as just another fabrication by the vast right-wing conspiracy. There’s lately been a conspicuous lack of polling that indicates widespread trust in the president’s honesty, however, and we’re inclined to think the 61 percent figure sounds suspiciously low. Only a plurality of 37 percent of the poll’s respondents believe the president lies “most of the time,” with another 24 percent who will only go so far as to say he lies “some of the time,” and we’re left wondering what the rest could possibly be thinking.
Just off the top of our head we can recall the president assuring Americans that they if they liked their health care plans that they could keep them under Obamacare, that the average American family would save $2,500 a year on his premiums, and that all Americans would be covered. We remember a campaign promise that his health care reforms would not include an individual mandate, along with promises that no one making less than $250,000 a year would see any sort of tax increase, that the irresponsible and un-patriotic deficits of the Bush administration would be halved with four years, and that after too many years of drone strikes and interventions America’s international standing would be restored by smart diplomacy. There was that whopper on the late night comedy show about the murderous attacks on America’s consulate in Benghazi being a spontaneous reaction to some obscure YouTube video, and the whole bit about al Qaeda being on the run, the Internal Revenue Service’s harassment of conservative groups being the work of a few rogue agents in Cincinnati, and talk of the “most transparent administration ever,” and if we were inclined to spend the next several days on Google we’re sure we could come up a long list of other things that can be described as blatant lies.
Die-hard apologists for the administration could probably come up with numerous examples of the president being more or less honest, and if you count all his idle chit-chat about the weather and sleeping time they might even make a case that his lies don’t fill “most of the time,” but it’s hard to fathom how anyone could think they don’t take up at last “some of the time.” Another 20 percent allowed only that the president lies “now and then,” which seems overly generous, and 15 percent insist the president “never” lies, which seems downright worshipful and ridiculous. It’s been a couple of millennia since there was anyone on Earth who never lied, and the president clearly is not the second coming of that fellow.
The same poll shows the president’s approval rating at 42 percent with only 51 percent disapproving, so apparently there is a large number of Americans who believe he is a liar but don’t mind. We’ve even met a few earnest liberals who have offered apparently sincere explanations that the lies were told in the service of some greater good, such as foisting a health care reform law on the country that doesn’t keep any of its promises but screws things up badly enough to make an even worse single-payer system possible, and they clearly believe they are justified in telling further lies. They are acting out of deeply-felt affection for the average working American, as they explain it, and apparently the poor fellows are just stupid to handle the truth.
The latest poll shows that 39 percent of Americans haven’t yet figured out that the president lies somewhere been “most” and “some” of the time, so maybe those earnest liberals are on to something.

– Bud Norman

A Race We’d Like to See

A headline on the Drudge Report announced that “Sebelius Eyes Senate Run,” and we couldn’t resist clicking to the story to find out what state she had in mind. Imagine our amusement when we learned it was Kansas.
The story was from The New York Times, a notoriously humorless newspaper, so we assume it isn’t jest. Even so, the notion of Kathleen Sebelius coming back to Kansas for another campaign struck us as every bit as preposterous as anything we’ve encountered lately in the more fanciful internet parody publications. Had the story mentioned Maryland or Virginia or whatever state she’s been living in during her disastrous tenure as Secretary of Health and Human Services the idea would have sounded far-fetched but frighteningly within the realm of possibility, and taking her carpetbag to a dementedly Democratic state such as Massachusetts or California would have seemed slightly more plausible, but a Sebelius for Senate campaign here in Kansas left us waiting for a punchline.
It is embarrassingly true that Sebelius was twice elected governor of the state, as the Times hopefully notes, but that was long ago in the pre-Obama age. At a time when things were going well enough in the state that it seemed safe to elect a Democrat she managed to beat a couple of fire-breathing radicals nominated by the more stridently religious elements of the Republican party by presenting herself as as a respectably center-right sort of technocrat. Immediately after her re-election she veered sharply to the left in an apparent bid to endear herself to the national party, and it worked well enough to earn her a cabinet position that would forever associate her with Barack Obama, Obamaism, and its historic achievement of Obamacare. This would be a political impediment in almost any American jurisdiction east of Los Angeles or west of the Upper East Side of Manhattan, but in Kansas it is now a provocation to tar and feathers.
Since Sebelius’ last win in the state Kansas has voted overwhelmingly against Obama in both of the past presidential elections, chosen a governor conservative enough to drive all the local lefties crazy, and sent a delegation of rather rock-ribbed Republicans to Congress. Even the most fire-breathing radicals that the religious right might serve up now seem center-right and technocratic compared to Democrats such as Sebelius, and it looks to last at least another election cycle. We ran recently ran into a friend who owes his professional fortunes to the Democratic Party, and we eager to hear his insider’s view on who the party would be running next November. He waved off the question with a groan and a long swig of his drink, then admitted that he didn’t think it mattered. He’s been trying to endear himself to the occasional visitors from the aforementioned conservative governor’s office, even though our friend is among the liberals driven crazy by the governor, and has written off all the other races as well.
The motive for Sebelius’ possible run into this unfriendly environment, according to the Times, is “revenge.” Sen. Pat Roberts is up for re-election this year, and although Roberts once enjoyed a friendly relationship with Sebelius and voted for her confirmation to the HHS post he later accused her of “gross incompetence” and called for her resignation. The accusation was accurate, and the resignation was eventually forthcoming, but reportedly Sebelius wants satisfaction. She’s been out of the state long enough that she might well have deluded herself that she could beat Roberts, and Roberts probably hopes that she has.
Roberts has a slightly better chance of getting knocked off in the primary by a guy named Dr. Milton Wolf. He’s a Kansas City area radiologist who is waging one of those anti-establishment insurgencies that are popping up around the country. Although he’s gotten some traction with the argument that Roberts has been in Washington for a long time and no longer has a residence in Kansas, and that Roberts did after all vote for Sebelius’ confirmation, Wolf is under-funded and made some outrageous and widely-publicized Facebook gaffes with x-rays of his patients, and he is clearly an amateur running against an old pro who is generally well-liked in the state and has lately been toeing the conservative line. We expect a relatively easy win for Roberts in the primary, and an easier one in the general election against anyone the Democrats might put up. If the Democrats put up Sebelius, that would almost be too easy.
The state’s Democrats would probably put her on the ballot, however, if Sebelius is sufficiently self-deluded to make a run. Whenever they know a race is un-winnable the Democrats around here like to run the full-blown lefty lunatics that would win by landslides in the Kansas of their dreams, and when they lose by an ever larger-than-usual margin it allows them to feel superior to an even larger percentage of the state. Sebelius might be willing to sacrifice what little is left of her dignity to the cause of lefty smugness in the Sunflower State, but even the Times story is cautious about that possibility. Several unnamed Democrats are urging Sebelius to run, according to the story, and another unnamed person is said to have said that she’s thinking about it, but that’s pretty much the extent of what the nation’s erstwhile paper of record has to go on. We can’t shake a suspicion that the story was a run as a trial balloon to re-pay some past favor Sebelius did the Times, and that the amused reaction out here will quickly put an end to such ridiculous speculation.

– Bud Norman

The Art of Bankruptcy

Maybe it’s our grumpily conservative political views, or perhaps a certain prairie roughness in our manner and speech, but people often seemed surprised to discover what avid culture vultures we are. In warmer weather we frequently stroll a few blocks through our elegantly aging Riverside neighborhood to visit the Wichita Art Museum, even making the trek during a blinding snowstorm this past brutal winter in order to catch the opening of that terrific George Catlin traveling exhibition, and many a snooty easterner has been taken aback by our familiarity with the finer arts. That’s largely due to our early and ongoing exposure to the Wichita Art Museum, which has taken aback many a snooty easterner with a an unexpectedly fine collection that includes John Steuart Curry, Stuart Davis, Richard Diebenkorn, Thomas Eakins, Albert Pynkham Ryder, Winslow Homer, three Edward Hoppers, with two of them major works, and perhaps the most major work by Mary Cassatt.
Such works of art have long exerted a powerful influence on us, ever since Mom first dragged us down to the museum intent on getting her young’un’s some refinement, and remain one of our favorite things about living in Wichita. They can’t help but affect our reaction to an intriguing story in the invaluable Weekly Standard about far-off Detroit, where that beleaguered city has reached a tentative deal to prevent its municipal art museum from selling off its even most significant collection to pay off the debts of decades of mismanagement by a corrupt coalition of Democratic machine politicians and union bosses. The article makes a convincing case that the deal flouts reasonable bankruptcy laws, favors pubic pensioners over other rightful creditors, and reeks of a political cronyism redolent of the Detroit auto industry bail-out, but acknowledges that at least Detroit will get to keep its art. It’s difficult to weigh such competing values, especially for such grumpily conservative culture vultures with a certain prairie roughness such as ourselves, but we’re inclined to go with keeping the art.
The deal would have such well-heeled do-gooder groups as the Ford, Kresge, and Knight Foundations shell out $330 million for the museum’s collection, along with another $350 million from the state of Michigan, and comes with a promise to keep the collection in Detroit and add all the proceedings to the bankruptcy payout to Detroit’s public employee pensioners. We have no sympathy for public employee pensioners, who did so much to drive the city into bankruptcy, and feel sorry for those municipal bondholders who won’t get in on the loot, even if they were suckers to place a bet on Detroit, but otherwise the arrangement does not offend our conservative sensibilities.
We rather like that such long-dead red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalists as Ford, Kresge, and Knight are riding to rescue of Detroit’s high-cultural heritage, for one thing, even if the average snooty easterner wouldn’t acknowledge the irony. The same corporate titans that the arty types always disparage have always been the essential patrons of American arts, even if the refined aesthetes won’t notice until their guillotines have finished their dirty work. This requires an amusing amount of denial by the culturati left, especially here in Wichita where the much-vilified Koch family is by far the most generous benefactor of the arts. A punctiliously politically correct friend of ours is affiliated with the Wichita Art Museum, and when we noted that the aforementioned terrific George Catlin exhibition was underwritten by the Fred C. and Mary Koch Foundation she huffily protested that at least there was no money from their evil spawn Charles Koch. We pointed out that the patriarch of the family fortune was an unrepentant John Bircher who earned his anti-communist bona fides by going toe-to-toe with Joe Stalin business negotiation over his pioneering oil-extraction techniques and would probably consider his sons pinko sell-outs she was eager to change the subject. At least her collection’s survival wasn’t dependent on on such a mean old anti-Semite as Henry Ford or the Wal-Mart of his day, the indignity that has befallen the culturati of Detroit. The Knight foundation was named after the co-founder of the newspaper chain that we used to toil for, and the Wichita Art Museum’s inaugural collection was bankrolled by the founder of the local newspaper that it long ago bought out, but somehow our friend won’t be so embarrassed by that.
None of the various strains of conservatism can object to those individuals who have prospered in the capitalist system contributing to the cultural life of their country. Once those contributions have been necessarily bequeathed to the care of the collective, however, the matter does become more complicated. We are sympathetic to the libertarian arguments against public financing of the arts, as most of our satisfying cultural experiences have been with garage bands and Hollywood movies and dime novels and other artists who would never stand a chance with those highfalutin grant-givers, and a certain prairie roughness in us makes us susceptible to the populist argument that the south-siders shouldn’t have to pay even the few pennies they’re being charged to indulge our hoity-toity Riverside tastes. There’s still a strain of conservatism that seeks to conserve the very best of our cultural heritage, however, and ultimately we find it most convincing.
Somewhere in the middle of the liberal-caused fiasco that is Detroit you will still find an extraordinary collection of truth and beauty and the best of Western Civilization, and that is worth conserving. Most Detroiters will prefer the noisome distractions of The Jerry Springer Show and the latest hip-hop releases or the virtual or actual orgies of violence that are staples of the local culture, but those lucky few who happen to wander in might find more worthy aspirations. Rescuing Detroit will require cruel doses of capitalism and a routing of the public sector rackets that have driven the city bankruptcy, but it will also require considerable art.

– Bud Norman

Murder in Overland Park

Murders routinely happen here in Kansas, as they do everywhere, and it’s always a tragedy, but the ones on Sunday in Overland Park were especially appalling. A sick, twisted man gunned down a 14-year-old boy and his 69-year-old grandfather outside a Jewish Community Center, then drove to a nearby assisted living community called Village Shalom and fatally shot a 53-year-old woman. The boy and his grandfather were Methodists, and the woman a Catholic, but if there was any doubt that the locations were chosen because of a hatred of Jews the shooter erased it by shouting “Heil Hitler” as he was taken into custody.
The Missouri man made no secret of his anti-Jewish sentiments, and had been a “Grand Dragon” in the Ku Klux Klan and a founder of something called the White Patriot Party, so his crimes are clearly the latest in the bloody history of the oldest hatred. All decent people will offer only sympathy to the victims and their families and friends, as well as the intended victims, but others will inevitably use the tragedy to score the usual political points.
Had the murders been committed by Muslim terrorists, such as the ones Secretary of State John Kerry has lately been pressing the Israel government to release from its prisons, the prevailing rules of political discourse would discourse would require an admonition to not draw conclusions about anyone or anything other than the individual involved. When it’s an old white guy from the middle of America, especially one obliging enough to use the word “Patriot” in his perverted political activities, the reader is invited to extrapolate to his heart’s content. There’s an ever-present eagerness among the press to portray all people with conservative notions of constitutional restrains as gun-loving, government-hating terrorists itching to kill, even on the far more frequent occasions when the murders do turn out to be the work of Muslim terrorists, and cases such as this provide an irresistible opportunity.
Modern conservatism’s emphasis on limited government and free markets and individual liberty are the antithesis of National Socialism, of course, but somehow they will be conflated by the term “right-wing.” Modern conservatism is also distinguished by its steadfast support of religious freedom and affinity for the state of Israel, both of which are increasingly disparaged by the same liberals who slur the conservatives for their supposed intolerance, but the old charge of prejudice will once be made. That the killer was finding inspiration for anti-Jewish hatred in such a venerable leftist publication as The Nation will go unmentioned, as will the fact that almost all of the conservative media routinely accused of “hate speech” are outspokenly philo-Semitic.
We wish everyone in Overland Park well at this time of mourning. It’s a pleasant little suburb of Kansas City where most of the folks work hard, obey the law, and get along with all their neighbors, and the many conservatives among them don’t deserve to be slandered as complicit in a crime that has shocked their sensibilities.

– Bud Norman

That’s Show Biz

All hell could have broken loose the past few days without our noticing. This past week was devoted to our annual appearance on the local stage, and amateur theatrics is an all-consuming activity.
On our drives to and from the aged but still elegant Orpheum Theater in downtown we caught word on the radio that the stock markets are tanking, Ukraine is heating up, and some feisty Nevada ranchers have somehow managed to stare down the Feds, but there wasn’t time to dive into all the details with our usual thoroughness. We tried to keep apprised of the Ukrainian situation well enough to know if our cheeky skit about the matter, which featured Vladimir Putin and a bear hoofing to “Singin’ Ukraine,” was veering into bad taste, but otherwise we were too preoccupied with ironing costumes and memorizing lines and placating temperamental cast members to keep abreast of the rest of the world.
The show closed its three-night run on Saturday, but the cast party went well into Sunday and the rest of the day was devoted to watching the final round of the Masters and recuperating from the grind of show biz. A lack of talent spared us any singing or dancing, and our three short scenes were carefully written within the severe limitations of our acting ability, but it nonetheless proved quite exhausting. Theater is a collaborative art from, which necessarily entails other people, and that always wear us out. The mostly media-affiliated folks who put on the annual “Gridiron” shows for charity and ego gratification and a good bunch, at least, and by now we think they’re almost used to us.
Our humble efforts got some good laughs, more so the first two nights, for some reason or another, and it once again proved an enjoyable experience. After 47 years the “Gridiron” show is a local institution that brings out all the other local institutions, so it’s a good way to immerse one’s self in the city for a short while. We got to schmooze with our district’s reality conservative congressman, Rep. Mike Pompeo, and the director of the nationally-regarded Music Theater of Wichita company, who’s always been nice to us despite the occasional bad reviews we’d write back in our newspaper days, as well as some old friends and comely women. The county commissioner from Haysville was obliged to be less friendly than usual this year, due to his constituents’ recent umbrage at the jokes the show traditionally makes about the town, and there was no one there from the local television station that fired a fellow cast member for inadvertently uttering an expletive at the end of a news cast, which of course was a recurring gag in the show, but on the whole everyone was nice enough.
The show was unusually right-wing this year, too, which was a welcome change from the usual fare that you’d expect from a mostly media-affiliated troupe. That’s partly because the show has recently added some younger folks who are surprisingly sensible about politics, and partly because the past year’s news has been dominated by Obamacare and foreign affairs and other issues that demand ridicule if they can’t plausibly be blamed on Republicans. A staunch lefty on the cast was lamenting the lack of Koch Brothers-bashing, but when we wondered what they should be ridiculed for she couldn’t come up with anything but a hateful glare. The same hateful glare came back when she noticed that the cast party’s host had aluminum and plastic commingling with his other trash instead of being placed in proper recycling bins, but a few glasses of wine she was back to her usual pleasant self, and in any case it didn’t affect our comedy very much.
A day’s rest should have us ready to confront reality, and we’ll even be glad to be back to it.

– Bud Norman

So Long, Kathleen

We won’t have Kathleen Sebelius to kick around anymore, and we have to admit we’ll miss the pastime. We were heaping scorn on the woman long before the rest of the country got in on the fun, ever since she was elected Governor of Kansas 12 years ago, and her probably permanent departure from public life will make it hard to break the habit.
Sebelius resigned Thursday as Secretary of Health and Human Services, and although all the send-offs from the big papers and wire services were properly respectful they didn’t seem surprised. Given her undeniably botched roll-out of the administration’s all-important Obamacare boondoggle, as well as the extra-legal delays and waivers and other administrative sleight-of-hand, along with some dubious fund-raising schemes and some past tax questions and other problems the papers were obliged to mention, one might expect any responsible organization hold such a record to account. We were stunned to see it happen in the Obama administration, though, as it is habitually disinclined to admit failure.
Eric Holder has been at least as awful an Attorney General as Sebelius was a Health and Human Services Secretary, for instance, and he spent Thursday whining about how very unfair it is that he has to hear any criticism. No other Attorney General has ever been subjected to such harsh treatment, he griped, and one couldn’t help hearing a subtle suggestion that any white Attorney General could let loose armed thugs intimidating voters or declare that only victims of certain ethnic groups be championed by the Justice Department or be held in contempt of congress for stonewalling an investigation into his gun-running operation without anyone being so rude as to raise an objection. He did his whining to an organization founded by the notorious race-baiting, rabble-rousing buffoon Al Sharpton, which was predictably sympathetic, but we suspect an audience of Ed Meese and John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzalez and the rest of the past Republican Attorneys General would have been more skeptical.
At least Sebelius was willing to fall on her sword, and without resort to any insinuations that sexism had anything to do with it. Maybe she’s saving that for her inevitable memoirs, but for now it’s the sort of graceful departure the country once expected of its failed public servants. We can almost whip up a wee bit of sympathy for a one-time Kansas gal who was stuck with the unenviable job of implementing something so fundamentally flawed as Obamacare. She did shell out a gazillion dollars to some crony Canadian computer company for a widely-ridiculed web site, however, and just about everything else she did was capricious and corrupt, so it’s just a wee bit. Her reportedly voluntary but much-desired resignation was obviously intended to help in the administration’s effort to convince the public that the problem isn’t the law itself but just its previously inept implementation, so come to think of we can’t even give her much credit for that.
One of the shriller right-wing was angrily wondering the other day how this woman ever got elected as governor in such a conservative state as Kansas, and we declined his invitation to callers from the state to offer an explanation. The host is rather harsh, and we were concerned he might not want to hear that it happened because a recently triumphant and thoroughly revved-up religious wing of the Republican party won the nomination for a candidate so shrill and angry that Sebelius was able to pass herself off as pragmatic and reasonable and moderate sort of Democrat. She actually governed that way for her first time, or at least we don’t remember to being too riled about anything she did, and she stayed out of the news well enough to win re-election over another fire-breather. She then took a turn to the left, however, and was clearly looking to endear herself to the Democratic party’s liberal base rather than her own state’s more conservative voters. One low point came when the once-lovely little town of Greensburg was wiped out by a tornado, and Sebelius falsely claimed that recovery efforts had been hampered by a lack of National Guard equipment due to the Iraq War. The ploy worked well enough to gain Sebelius a prominent post in the Obama during its heady early days, and she no doubt thought that it would lead to even greater things, but her career now seems to have come to a more fitting conclusion.
Sebelius will likely find some sinecure on a corporate board or in academia or at some lucrative lobbying outfit, but the past talk of her presidential or vice-presidential possibilities won’t be repeated. The Democrats will be running another candidate for governor this year, and already have another pragmatic and reasonable and moderate sort of Democrat woman lined up for Lieutenant Governor, but we’re not expecting them to invite Sebelius to any of their campaign events.

– Bud Norman

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