Even “Team America” Can’t Rescue Free Speech

Although we are not fond of the comedy of Seth Rogen, we were nonetheless dismayed to hear that his latest motion picture is being pulled from theatrical release because of terroristic threats by the North Korean government. When the tinpot dictator of a third world basket case can determine the choices of the American movie-going public it is a blow to free speech, and we are fond free speech. When the likes of Kim Jong Un can even halt a screening of “Team America: World Police,” the kind of movie that free speech was invented for, we are doubly outraged.
“Team America: World Police” isn’t a movie we recommend to everyone, as it is only suited to certain unrefined tastes. The polite word for its style of humor is Rabelaisian, but such a highfalutin term isn’t quite appropriate to such a deliberately foul-mouthed and dirty-minded puppet show. Those whose minds are already in the gutter and whose stomachs are strong enough for such fare will find it hilarious, though, and notice it has more shrewd points to make than the next ten indie flicks that will play your local art house put together. First released in 2004, the movie spoofs the Bushian patriotic fervor of America in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, but that’s mostly rendered with the sort affectionate understanding that the great Preston Sturges brought to his classic satires “Hail the Conquering the Hero” and “Miracle of Morgan’s” during the similarly proud days of World War II. By far the harshest barbs are aimed at Islamist terrorists, the late North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il, and their equally anti-American sympathizers in Hollywood. “Team America: World Police” is such a convincingly scathing indictment of Hollywood’s limousine liberalism that it’s a wonder Hollywood ever released it, but at the time Hollywood didn’t have the ready excuse of not wanting to offend any of the various Kim Jongs of North Korea.
Since the original release of “Team America: World Police” the North Koreans have been cast as the villains in several movies, including that awful remake of “Red Dawn” which somehow retained all the stupid improbabilities and bad acting of the original but somehow omitted all the popcorn-chomping patriotic fun, probably for lack of politically correct and liability-proof options. Hollywood stopped doing commie villains as soon as the Cold War ended, and even wound up re-making “The Manchurian Candidate” with some vaguely Koch Brothers-ish corporation as the bad guys plotting world domination, and was more likely to release an adoring bio-pic of Che Guevara. Neo-Nazis still make an occasional appearance in the movies, but that beloved cliche has mostly played out from overuse. Christians and Republicans and especially Christian Republicans can always been employed to stop a high school dance or say unpleasant things about a cross-dresser or complicate someone’s abortion or provide some other villainous plot twist, but that’s only good for the women’s market, and is insufficiently violent for the action-adventure fare that brings in the really big box office, and it probably doesn’t translate well to the foreign market.
Islamist terrorists are widely unpopular domestically, a sentiment that probably prevails in a profitable segment of those foreign markets as well, but of course they’re terrorists and might prove more expensively dangerous to offend than whatever’s left of the Neo-Nazis or the Koch Brothers-ish corporations or Christians or Republicans or even Christian Republicans. From the still-in-hiding Salman Rushdie to that besieged Danish magazine that published the Mohammad cartoons to the murdered Theo Van Gogh, criticizing the Islamists has never proved a profitable enterprise. The same ribald fellows who did “Team America: World Police” also do the foul-mouthed and dirty-minded and frequently brilliant “South Park” cartoon, but when they dared to depict Mohammad in solidarity the Comedy Central network did not air the offend segment. The same network’s Stephen Colbert recently received the effusive thanks of the Democratic party for his long service to its cause, which they will cite as proof of how very daring they are, but they are by no means alone in Hollywood in their preference for a safer sort of daring.
Kim Jong Un has apparently noticed this tendency, if that reports that it’s actually a big publicity push for some otherwise unsaleable Seth Rogen flick can be discounted, and now he can enjoy the same immunity from Hollywood villainy as his friends in Iran and Cuba. The studio has already suffered from a cyber-attack that has revealed e-mails and other internal documents confirming that everyone in Hollywood is as self-absorbed and shallow as you’d always thought, and apparently believes that the North Koreans can make good on its more deadly threats. A few theaters decided to show “Team America: World Police” as a protest against the Sony Corporation’s capitulation to the terrorist threat, but the studio decided to pull even that worthier production from the theaters as well. Any other tinpot dictators of third world basket-cases seeking some say in which pictures get green-lighted can expect the same response, and it will likely have an inhibiting effect on the American cinema. At this rate, the next James Bond will have the intrepid secret agent saving the high school dance that one of those creepy Christian Republicans was trying to shut down.

– Bud Norman

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Normalizing Dictatorships

A communist dictatorship seized power in Cuba the year of our birth, and has been nothing but trouble to the world ever since. The dictatorship pointed nuclear weapons at the United States which almost triggered an apocalyptic war, fomented similarly dictatorial revolutions throughout Latin America and Africa, emptied its prisons onto American shores, and even after the demise of its Soviet patron has continued to abet the mischief of its fellow pariah states and imprison its own population in a totalitarian gulag. Now we read that America will normalize diplomatic relations with this cruel government, and can only wonder that it has taken so long.
The left hasn’t had much enthusiasm for opposing any sort of communism at least since George McGovern won the Democratic nomination, after all, and has always had a special sympathy for the Cuban variety. Countless documentaries and feature films, pamphlets, symposia, and the breathless testimonials of too many hipsters in Che Guevara t-shirts have portrayed Cuba as a tropical workers’ paradise where rhythmic and revolutionary cumbias fill the air and high-quality free health care is available to all. We never heard of anybody tying a bunch of inner tubes together and trying to get to Cuba, while hundreds of thousands have resorted to such desperate measures in order to get out, but the myth persists. Normalizing diplomatic relations with the communist dictatorship will prolong its power, but the left no longer sees this as a problem.
In his last campaign debate the president chortled to his opponent that the Cold War was long over, clearly amused that such confrontational thinking still happened, and indeed that epic conflict was so long ago that the collective memory has faded and only the liberal myths prevail. It was so long ago that the current president was smoking that high-quality Hawaiian pot with the “Choom Gang” when the west was winning the conflict, and went on to tell an adoring crowd of Germans at the former site of the Berlin Wall that it was because the world stood as one, and the former long-haired hippie who testified to Congress that it was futile for American to resist communism is now the Secretary of State, and the idea that communism wasn’t really so bad after all is now a fixture of the campus curriculum. The hammer and sickle never achieved the same intolerable status as the swastika, even if it represented the same brutal totalitarianism, and the likes of the mass-murdering Che Guevara became fashionable attire.
By now the decision to open an embassy in Havana will probably be of little political consequence. The left will be pleased with their president’s daring, the Americans of Cuban heritage will be mostly outraged but of few numbers, maybe not even enough to swing to Florida’s electoral votes back to the Republicans, and the old-timers such as ourselves who proudly recall a time when America was the reason communism’s evil didn’t prevail probably would have voted Republican in any case. The Cold War is long over except for those unfortunate folks in Ukraine and Cuba and the South China Sea who are dealing with its unpleasant aftermath, the threat of a nuclear conflagration has been downgraded to the possibility that Iran or North Korea or another of Cuba’s allies will someday launch one, and the left is already looking for rationalizations if that ever happens.

– Bud Norman

The Silly Season of Politics

There are still a couple of weeks left in 2014, according to that damnable calendar icon that taunts us with the relentless passage of time whenever we log on to our computer, but the presidential campaign of 2016 already seems well underway. An otherwise slow news day was full of speculation about the Republican contest on Tuesday, but none of it was quite so compelling as the Wichita State University Wheatshockers’ basketball squad home court win over an unranked but upset-minded University of Alabama Crimson Tide by a score of 53-52. Our beloved ‘Shockers went on a 13-1 run over the final five minutes to seal the narrow victory, and we don’t expect the Republican race to be quite so exciting as the pre-season hype would indicate.
All the talk on Tuesday was about former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who announced that he was thinking about pursuing the nomination. Bush is also the son of former President George Herbert Walker Bush and the brother of President of George W. Bush, and the grandson of Sen. Prescott Bush, and an heir to God only knows how many previous generations of big deal Bushes, so running the country is pretty much his family business and his announcement that he was all but announcing his candidacy for president was not a surprise. More surprising was that so much of the press took serious the notion that Bush might actually win, and regarded his admittedly impeccable “establishment” credentials as a likely reason. These scribes are apparently too far removed from the Republicans’ fly-over country base to know that “establishment” is now as much a pejorative to its primary electorate than it ever was the hippies, and that the Bush name is now synonymous with a big-government style of conservatism that is widely considered unsuited to the nation’s needs or the party’s desires. Bush has already staked on stands on illegal immigration and the federalization of education that are anathema to Republican stalwarts, both of which remind the party’s activist base of everything they hated about his brother and father and grandfather and all those previous generations of big deal Bushes, and no amount of fund-raising is likely to negate those disadvantages.
The press gleefully noted that Kentucky’s Sen. Rand Paul was already issuing advertisements against Bush, a clear signal of his unsurprising intention to seek the nomination, but neither do we regard Paul as pre-season favorite for the nomination. He’s certainly not at all “establishment,” being heir only to the quixotic campaigns of his father, former quadrennial presidential candidate and Texas’ Rep. Ron Paul, but he’s staked out accommodating positions on foreign policy issues that will not play well at a time when Russia and China and Islamism are all ascendant. There was even some attention paid to to disparaging remarks made about Bush by Donald Trump, a real estate mogul and reality star ever eager for paid attention, although we expect that “The Donald’s” ambitions are primary to produce publicity for whatever eponymous project he is planning in the private sector.
This is the “silly season” in presidential politics, to borrow yet another sports metaphor from golf, and the day’s headlines will be long forgotten by the metaphorical playoff time. The real contest begins with an impressive slate of governors get done with their necessary state business, and a smaller and less impressive slate of Representatives and Senators show what they’re willing to do with their party’s majorities, and a robust debate about who’s the most solid conservative is underway. The contestant from the prestigious confederation won’t necessarily prevail, as the Shockers’ hard-fought win over the Southeastern Conference demonstrated, and anyone who can plausibly deny responsibility for what’s been going in the big leagues of Washington will have an underdog’s leg up.
We expect an exciting race for the Republican nomination, and maybe even one of those improbable come-from-behind victories that cause you to shake hands with the bartender when you’re watching at Merle’s Tavern, but it never goes according to what the press is saying.

– Bud Norman

Tortured Logic

Although we are squeamish about torture, to the point we can barely sit through a Quentin Tarantino movie without experiencing nausea, under certain specific circumstances we reluctantly countenance our government engaging in what is euphemistically called “enhanced interrogations.” Whenever American lives are imminently at risk, and there is a high degree of certainty that a captured unlawful enemy combatant has information that might help avert their deaths, we are inclined to allow the authorities wide latitude to interrogate away.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein and her fellow Democrats on the Senate’s intelligence committee take a harder line against torture, judging by the much ballyhooed report they issued about the matter. After six years and $40 million and no interviews of anybody they have accused, they have uncovered a few instances where agents of the United States government apparently interrogated suspects when there was no imminent risk and no certainty of useful information to be gained and the methods went even beyond the widest latitude we would allow, which is a service to the country, but we think they take an otherwise admirable aversion to torture too far. They are critical of techniques that have demonstrably proved helpful in the past, and are well within the bounds of the the public understands is going on, and would surely inhibit agents dealing with future imminent risks from subjecting potentially useful sources to anything harsher than a comfy chair and a cup of tea.
The report is clearly intended to remind America of the bad old days of George W. Bush, when Dick Cheney used to stick needles into the arms of innocent Afghan goat herders just for kicks, no matter how dissatisfied it might be with Obama and the out-going Democratic Senate majority. After so many years without a major terrorist act on American soil, unless you count the countless “lone wolf” attacks and plots that failed entirely to their own ineptitude or the sporadic incidents of “work place violence,” or the successful slaughter of Americans overseas, Feinstein and her fellow Democrats believe they can once again be indignant about the rough men who have been keeping them safe. The sense of moral superiority that comes with a willingness to sacrifice American lives rather than cause pain to an unlawful enemy combatant is irresistible to the likes of Feinstein and her fellow Democrats, especially when they sense a political advantage.
Recent polling suggests that much of the public shares the Republicans’ reluctant willingness to pay rough, though, and the argument quickly leads to the Obama administration’s alternative method of sending drones to vaporize the unlawful enemy combatants and whatever innocent Afghan goat herders happen to be standing nearby. This has the advantage of sparing the president the awkwardness of sending the unlawful enemy combatants to that nasty Guantanamo Bay detention camp that he’s been promising to close for the past seven years, and there won’t be any of that rough stuff that was done back in the bad old days, but it doesn’t provide any useful information from the sort of suspects that used to be nabbed by the special forces, and it tends to lose the hearts and minds of the relatives of those innocent Afghan goat herders who happened to be standing nearby, and we doubt that the unlawful enemy combatants find it preferable to a few rounds of water-boarding.
Current policies should offend the more refined sensibilities of the left, and alarm the more pragmatically ruthless right, so let that debate begin.

– Bud Norman

Hacking Hollywood

Hollywood holds little interest for us these days, to the point that we hardly know whose sex lives we’re ignoring, but we can’t resist reading about the information that was recently stolen from the Sony Corporation’s computers. None of it is at all surprising, and so far as we can tell there aren’t any of the nude “selfies” of movie starlets that the last big Hollywood computer heist revealed, but it is entertainingly embarrassing.
There’s really nothing embarrassing about being “hacked” these days, as all the big industries and even the White House have been victims of the newfangled crime, but one might have expected more of Hollywood. We had thought that all the top-notch computer talent was currently employed generating images for the latest “Star Wars” installment or Marvel Comics adaptation, and that surely such a tech-savvy company as Sony would be able to stave off the best efforts of the cyber-criminals, so it does prompt a satisfied chuckle that they’re not any better at keeping their memos out of sight than any other sorts of office workers. They haven’t yet programmed a computer that can come up with an original idea, either, and we are relieved to note that there are still some limits to all this technological progress.
The most gleefully reported of the purloined e-mails are those that show studio executives as every bit as the studio executive characters in the movies. Time Magazine was particularly outrage by an exchange between two backlot big-wigs, shortly after the president had delivered a lavishly complimentary speech to the movie on the occasion of yet another big-money fundraiser, jokingly speculating about Obama’s favorite movies. The gag was they mentioned only releases marketed to black audiences, and although they didn’t mention “Superfly” or “Sweet Sweetback’s Badass Song” or any of the “Dolemite” flicks of the blaxploitation era, which we think would have been funnier, Time found it all distastefully racist. Another e-mail revealed some executive’s opinion that Leonardo DiCaprio is “despicable” for backing out of a role in an upcoming movie, which does not offend us. DiCaprio is so famous that we’ve heard of him, and a we’ve even seen him in a few movies that we kind of liked but not well enough to remember the title, and his acting wasn’t horrible even if it did leave us wondering whatever happened to the days when there were real movie stars, but we also know him as a jet-setting “global warming” activist and a celebrity guest at the Occupy sit-ins and other fashionable events, so we figure the executive is entitled to his opinion. Yet another e-mail has an executive gossiping that George Clooney has his feelings hurt by negative reviews, but we would likely be untroubled by that even if we cared much about George Clooney. Clooney was very good in “O Brother, Where Art Thou” and “Intolerable Cruelty,” both of which we enjoyed, and it gives us a hopeful feeling that a gray-haired man of a certain age can be still regarded as a sex symbol, but he’s enough of a Hollywood know-it-all liberal that we’re pleased to learn of his insecurities.
Creative properties were apparently stolen, as well, including the script for the next James Bond movie. This horrified the Fleet Stteet fellows at The Telegraph, who noted that the publicity had already revealed the title as well as the latest Bond girl and Bond car, but we figure that once you know the title and girl and car of the latest Bond the plot is hardly worth hacking. One wonders why the hackers, who go by the peculiar nom de cyber of Guardians of Peace, went after such stale material when they could have gone after a more scandalous industry such as journalism.
Largely ignored by the mainstream, but duly noted by the keen eyes over at Powerline, were the memos that revealed the publicity department’s eagerness to downplay any patriotic sentiment that might have seeped into a couple of new releases. One was “Captain Phillips,” a Tom Hanks vehicle about the U.S. Navy’s fight against Somali pirates, and another was “White House Down,” a thriller set in the titular residence, so one can well understand the department’s stated goal to “avoid American themes.” There’s a lot to dislike about Hollywood, and the fact that everyone there seems to dislike everyone doesn’t make our top ten list.

– Bud Norman

Strange Bedfellows

Try as we might, we can’t make any sense of this so-called “Cromnibus” budget deal that might or might not have been passed and signed into law by the time you read this. None of the smart publications that had confidently reported it would pass in routine fashion seem to be able to make any of sense of it, or even explain why it has been called “Cromnibus,” and of course no one in congress has offered a plausible explanation for what’s going on. We suspect there just isn’t much sense to be made of it.
Still, it makes for an interesting spectacle. The $1.1 trillion, 1,600-page bill was said to be a bipartisan compromise with something for everyone to like, just what all the pundits are saying the public is yearning for, so of course some on both sides of the aisle found something to dislike. Conservatives had no problem finding plenty to hate among the $1.1 trillion and 1,600 pages, including such outrages as a year’s worth of money to continue implementing the wildly unpopular Obamacare law at whatever pace the president chooses and a couple of month’s of funding for the Department of Homeland Security of all people to carry out the president’s unwise and unconstitutional and even more wildly unpopular decree to grant amnesty to several million illegal immigrants. Liberals had to dig deeper into such a complete Republican capitulation to find something they didn’t like, but eventually came up with a a couple of provisions that would amend the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law to allow federally-insured banks to trade in certain sorts of derivatives in some convoluted way or another and increased the limits on campaign contributions. This was sufficient for a minority of Republicans and a majority of Democrats to hold up passage of the bill in the House until late Thursday night, and a similar coalition might also prove troublesome in the Democrat-controlled Senate today.
This unlikely convergence of the rabid Tea Party right and loony left-wing progressives is fun to watch, at least, and one can hope that it might even save the country from all the stupid ideas that are found in the moderate middle and therefore funded by the bill. In any event, it has at least revealed some interesting fissures within both parties. House Speaker John Boehner was using whatever clout he has left with his party to win passage of the bill, but his promises to start getting tough about illegal immigration once the calvary of the soon-to-be-installed Republican majority in the Senate is installed and that couple of months of funding for DHS has passed was not believed by the party’s base , who flooded the congressional phone lines and stiffened the spines of the numerous Republicans who voted no. The president also used whatever clout he has left with his party to win passage of the bill, which didn’t stop the Associated Press from describing how that Republicans had “muscled” the bill through the House, but among those who ignored his advice were the likes of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi from San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury and Rep. Maxine Waters from the same Compton that Niggaz With Attitude came straight outta. Leading the Democratic charge against the bill in the upper chamber is Massachusetts’ Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is widely touted as a more left-wing alternative to Hillary Clinton as the party’s presidential nominee, and it will be fascinating to find out what would-be presidential candidates among the Republicans will buck the GOP’s increasingly reviled leadership.
The best guess is that the lousy deal winds up passing more or less intact, though, and that what’s left of the combined clout of the president and the Republican congressional leadership will prevail. The alternative seems to be not funding the government at all, which for some reason remains even more unpopular that a lousy deal full of Obamacare and illegal immigrants and those nasty bankers and big-money donors getting their way. The Republicans took a hit in the polls with the last government shutdown, even if it had happily dissipated by the time the mid-term elections rolled around, and that was over something as comprehensibly outrageous as Obamacare, so they’ll pull out all the stops to make sure that doesn’t happen again even if it’s about something more comprehensibly outrageous than those millions of illegal immigrants. The Democrats’ fondness for government makes even the most limited and unnoticeable government shutdowns unthinkable, and we can’t see them taking the responsibility for a government shutdown over something incomprehensible and probably sensible as allowing federally-insured banks to trade in certain sorts of derivatives according to some convoluted system.
The fissures will remain, though, and it will be interesting to see what seismic rumblings they produce once the lame duck congress has been retired. Rep. Waters told her fellow delegates “don’t be intimidated by Obama,” showing some attitude of her own, and we expect the president will be increasingly un-intimidating to many other Democrats as his final term plays out and his poll numbers dip with every veto of a popular bill passed by the Republican congress. If the Republican leadership doesn’t get those bills passed, and do a far better job of thwarting the president’s authority and dismantling his legislative legacy than they’v done in this lame duck session, challenging their authority will not only be easy but necessary for political survival from the pitchfork-bearing base.

– Bud Norman

Budgetary Blues

Being civic-minded sorts, we do our best to keep up on the latest events of public importance. Having a peculiar interest in such dreary matters, we’re probably more diligent about it than the average American. Even such obsessed sorts as ourselves, however, sometimes find it a dreary slog through the news.
Wednesday’s headlines were largely devoted to the $1.1 trillion spending bill that seems set for passage today, for instance, and it’s more than the most patriotic policy wonk should be expected to digest. Not only is that astronomical figure beyond our powers of mathematical conception, it takes 1,600 pages to spend that exorbitant amount, which is more than even a Congresswoman Evelyn Woods would be able to read before the vote. The Washington Post boasts that it “skimmed” the bill “so you don’t have to,” and provides a somewhat useful summary compressed into a relatively few column inches, but we’d rather read 1,600 pages of bureaucratese than take their word for it.
Usually one can infer what’s in 1,600 pages of budgetary jargon by who is screaming the loudest, but in this case the shrieks of pain are coming from every direction. The Conservative Review gives several convincing reasons that the right-wing bastards such as ourselves should hate it. The folks at Politico are always attuned to liberal sentiment, however, and they report that the left hates it was well. We note that Massachusetts’ Sen. Elizabeth is among the most outraged, and take some solace in this. The bill will avert a government shutdown, which will presumably please that uniformed majority of folks in the middle of spectrum, but it doesn’t seem likely to improve anybody’s poll numbers. Elsewhere in the news find that the bill does not provide funding for a ridiculous that outlaws our beloved incandescent light bulbs, but judging by the shelves of our local grocery store the manufacturers will probably continue obeying the law just in case there’s a federal budget surplus that needs spending.
The political ramifications, which are what mostly concern the politicians who will be voting today, are every bit as convoluted. Our familiarity with the Republican base leads us to expect it will once again be livid, with more denunciations of their party’s congressional leadership emanating from talk radio and Tea Party meetings and barroom conversations, and the inevitable lamentations of the liberals will provide little compensation. That vast uninformed middle of the spectrum will take little note, that astronomical figure being far beyond their powers of mathematical conception and the latest of passing totals of the National Football League’s quarterbacks being of greater interest, so despite our preference for de-funding the federal government in almost its entirety we can’t discount the possibility that the Republican congressional leadership didn’t attain its power without some political savvy.
President Barack Obama is still wielding veto power and the Democrats still have control of the Senate, after all, so there might be a plausible argument that this lousy deal was the best that could hoped for. In a month or so the Republicans will control both chambers, with an opportunity to drive Obama’s unpopularity to a point that they’ll be able to peel off a veto-proof number of nervous Red State Democrats, and at that point the Republicans will face a disastrous rebellion within the ranks if they don’t do better. We dare not hope for a federal government on a scale that its more diligent citizens can keep track of, but something better. Even a skimming of the skimmings of the budget deal will show that.

– Bud Norman

Empathy for the Devil

Former First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is also the presumptive next presidential nominee of the Democratic party, gave an interesting speech at Georgetown University a few days ago. Most of the press coverage focused on the size of the crowd, which was conspicuously less than the Led Zeppelin reunion tour-sized turnout one might expect for such an credentialed person, but her remarks were also worth noting.
The reviews of the speech were so uniformly negative that even such a reliably Democratic scribe as The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank opined that Clinton has “lost that ‘new car smell,'” and even went so far as to ridicule her arguments for feminine leadership of the world as a remedy for its woes, but only the conservative press was so unkind as to delve into its content. The gist of the speech, so far as we discern from all the snark, is that American foreign policy must be based on an “empathy” for its foes.
“This is what we call ‘smart power,'” Clinton said in her speech, if the transcripts are to believed, “using every possible tool and partner to advance peace and security, leaving no one on the sidelines, showing respect even for one’s enemies, trying to understand and, insofar as psychologically possible, empathize with their perspective and point of view, helping to define the problems to determine the solution. This is what we believe, in the 21st century, will change, change the prospects for peace.”
Anyone trying to understand why Russia now controls a large chunk of what used to be Ukraine and China is rapidly exerting similar control of large swathes of the formerly autonomous Pacific Ocean and Iran is steadily progressing toward nuclear weaponry that it has already announced they will use to affect another Holocaust need only realize that such hippy-dippy thinking has informed America’s “smart” foreign policy for the past six years or so. We have nothing against trying to understand our adversaries’ thinking, and cooly assessing that Russia is nostalgic for the good old days when it imposed its totalitarian ideology on Eastern Europe and China feels entitled to the same hegemony in its region and that Iran’s medieval theology compels it to hate infidels in general and Jews in particular, but we aren’t so suicidally empathetic as to concede that any of them have any valid points that America is obliged to respect. Back when the French were big in the diplomacy business they had an expression that “tout comprendre c’est tout pardonner,” which roughly translates as “to understand all is to forgive all,” and it was such enlightened thinking that led to that country’s many years of Nazi occupation.
What strikes us as most odd about such progressive thought, however, is that it so rarely extends to domestic issues. The likes of Clinton are ever eager to offer a “reset” button to the likes of Vladimir Putin as penance for the sins of the George W. Bush administration’s harsher response to Russia’s invasion of Georgia, but will always regard Bush as Chimpy McBushitler for his 32 percent income tax rate on the top margins. The Chinese communists can be forgiven their bullying of the Taiwanese and Filipinos and Japanese and anyone else in their vicinity, but any American cop or neighborhood patrolman who defends himself against the life-threatening aggression of a neighborhood thug is presumed racist. The Iranian government’s policy of executing homosexuals is not reason to worry about what it might do with a nuclear bomb, but any resistance to same-sex marriage in America is regarded as a religious mania.
Conservatives can just be as prone to a lack of empathy, which is after all a normal human tendency, but the pervasiveness of liberal thinking makes it harder for them not have some understanding of their ideological opponents’ reasoning, such as it is. The modern media landscape too often allows liberals to shield themselves from conservative thinking, and to regard it with the same suspicion and prejudice they ascribe to anyone outside their carefully cocooned circles. We advise them to show some respect and understanding for their enemies, and insofar as is psychologically possible to empathize with their perspective and point of view. We’d also advise them to start to looking around for another presidential nominee.

– Bud Norman

On Presidential Profanity

President Barack Obama reportedly spewed a “profanity-laced tirade” against the press recently, and we would have loved to have heard it. Partly because we always enjoy hearing the news media getting a good cussing, and partly because it would have been interesting to hear what complaints he might have against such a compliant lot of scribes, but mostly because we’d like know how adept he is with salty language.
One might easily surmise that the president is nostalgic for the more hagiographic sort of coverage he got back in the halcyon days of ’08, when his every utterance was treated as prophetic and the photographers always took care to add that eerie halo effect, so it’s not surprising that he would resent the relatively frank accounts of how things are going that he now occasionally endures. One still wonders what specific gripes he might have offered among the obscenities, however, and whether any recent Republican presidents would sympathize.
Of far greater interest would be the president’s proficiency with profanity. Although liberals are fond of foul language, an affinity they have indulged gratuitously at least since the days of Lenny Bruce’s martyrdom, we have noticed they are rarely any good at it. Most liberals simply pepper their speech with the gerund form of a familiar term for sexual intercourse, a habit which by now is far more monotonous than transgressive, with an occasional accusation of Oedipal tendencies leveled against conservatives. They infrequently employ the harsher terms deriving from female genitalia, perhaps for fear of offending the feminists they hope to bed, and they rarely invoke a common expression for those engage in fellatio, lest they be considered homophobic, which would also diminish their chances with the feminists they hope to bed, and their vocabulary of vulgarisms is conspicuously limited. Almost never do they achieve the staccato rhythms and poetic alliteration that make swearing truly swing. This is most likely because so few of them have served in the military or worked at blue collar trades, the professions that have elevated obscenity to an art form, but it might also be the same lack of imagination that characterizes the rest of liberal rhetoric.
Having watched the embarrassing spectacle of Obama attempting to throw a ceremonial first pitch at a baseball game, and having seen the sissy helmet he wears when pedaling his sissy bike around Martha’s Vineyard, we suspect he is especially ill-suited to such a masculine pursuit as profanity. The hesitant and halting speeches he sputters when speaking impromptu further indicate he has no talent for the free-flowing torrents of verbal vile necessary to make cussing successful. Even if the writers of that famously foul-mouthed “Deadwood” series that ran on HBO were to provide the script for his teleprompter, we doubt that his usual haughty chin-up delivery would be equal to the task.
Which is not to say that a president can’t cuss, of course. Lyndon Johnson was famously vulgar when coercing congressmen into supporting his disastrous agenda, which we are thankful is another talent that Obama has not yet demonstrated, and the transcripts of Richard Nixon’s tape-recorded White House conversations once made “expletive deleted” a household phrase. Johnson was from Texas, though, and Nixon was a Navy man, so both had some education in the art. That fancy Hawaiian prep school and Columbia University and Harvard’s law school probably did not provide Obama a similar tutelage. Should the president’s poll numbers continue their recent slide, however, he might get the knack of it yet.

– Bud Norman

The Rape of Journalism

Celebrity sex scandals rarely interest us, and we follow political scandals more from a sense of civic obligation than any voyeuristic fascination, but we do love a good journalism scandal. The recent flap over Rolling Stone magazine’s latest discredited story is also an academic scandal, another of our favorite pastimes, so we have been enrapt.

The story that was featured on the cover of the Rolling Stone, once such a counter-cultural honor that Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show had a hit song about it, was incendiary stuff. It told of a brutal gang-rape that occurred as part of a fraternity initiation rite at the University of Virginia, complete with such shocking details as the broken glass that littered the floor where she was attacked. Such a sordid story not only corroborated the academic left’s recent claims of a “culture of rape” on the nation’s campuses, it also confirmed its longstanding prejudices against fraternities, the south, and the brutally sexist nature of American society generally. All in all the story was too good to be true, so it should have come as no surprise that it turned out be false.
Some readers were skeptical from the start, noting the abundance of unnamed sources and a striking failure to even ask for a response from the accused, and of course those who expressed their skepticism were widely denounced for their insensitivity. Even so the points they raised about the numerous deviations from standard journalistic practice were sound enough to instigate an investigation by The Washington Post, a publication ordinarily inclined to believe the academic left’s claims and think the worst of fraternities and the south and the American society generally, and its reporters quickly found several problems with Rolling Stone’s reporting. Among other things, the very specific description of the appearance and occupation of the man who allegedly lured the victim to the party did not remotely match any of the fraternity’s members, and the victim’s friends’ recollections of the aftermath of the incident did not include the visible injuries that would have inevitably occurred if her story were true. A short time after the Post’s story ran Rolling Stone issued a statement acknowledging discrepancies in the subject’s claims and admitting that “We have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced.”
Rolling Stone’s liberal readership was of course angered that the magazine was blaming the putative victim, even though at that point there was no evidence she was a victim of anything, and more reason to believe that she had victimized the fraternity with a false claim of rape, so the magazine has since altered its statement to say that the mistakes were entirely its own fault. Some of the accuser’s friends remain plausibly convinced that something bad happened to her at the fraternity even as they say that it could have not been precisely what she described, so at this point it is probably for the best that Rolling Stone simply admits its own responsibility for the story and leave it at that, but the fraternity members deserve a presumption of innocence that the phrasing seems to deny them.
Presumption of innocence is an unfashionable concept on the modern left, however. The University of Virginia’s president had no use for it when she suspended all fraternity activities in the immediate aftermath of the publication of the Rolling Stone story, the Department of Justice is using the government’s funding of higher education to coerce other schools to to expel students accused of all manner of sexual misbehavior without due process, and claims that no woman has ever made a false of claim of rape is being chanted on campus around the country. An exception seem to be made for Juanita Broderick’s very believable claim that she was raped by former President Bill Clinton when he was the Attorney General of Arkansas, and the radical left’s defense of Scottsboro Boys and other black men accused of raping white women in the Jim Crow era of the south is still to be regarded as a heroic chapter in the history of liberalism, but otherwise any woman’s claim of rape is to be believed no matter how little evidence supports the charge or how much evidence refutes it.
To believe otherwise opens one to a charge of denying that rape is a continuing problem, but those who insist on believing every charge without reason are not helping the many women who truly are victims of this heinous crime. Every false charge that is ultimately disproved makes it harder for the public to believe the true claims, and those who fall for those false charges similarly discredit themselves. Rolling Stone has done great harm to a fraternity at the University of Virginia, and will probably wind up paying for it in a libel suit, but one can only hope that it will pay for the great harm it has done to rape victims with declining sales and ad revenue and public scorn.

– Bud Norman

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