Policing the Police

The rioting has ended in Baltimore, with the mobs apparently placated by the indictments of six police officers involved in the recent death of a suspect or simply worn out and stocked up on looted supplies, but the city’s violent problems continue. With the cops in retreat the crooks have been on such on rampage that Baltimore has suffered 38 murders this month, the latest victims being a 31-year-old woman and her seven-month-old child, and although it won’t likely receive the same attention as the riots it should be considered in the nation’s ongoing debate about policing in minority neighborhoods.
Thirty-eight murders in one mere month is a lot for even such a populous city as Baltimore, and there’s no arguing that it’s a mere coincidence the spree has taken place after those six officers were indicted, the entire force was subjected to a Department of Justice investigation, and public scrutiny was focused on the city’s law enforcement. There are doubtlessly bad police officers in Baltimore, and those six indicted officers might yet be proved among them, but given the recent events it is also to be expected that even the good ones are reluctant to risk the sort of policing that once kept the local crime to more reasonable levels. Arrests are down in the city, what policing still occurs is done despite threatening groups of onlookers, and the president of the local Fraternal Order of Police freely admits to feeling “under siege” and that “criminals are taking advantage of the situation since the unrest,” and that officers “are more afraid of going to jail for doing their jobs properly than they are of getting shot on duty.”
The problem isn’t limited to Baltimore, though, because the same animus toward to police is common throughout the country. New York City elected a mayor who ran on a promise to end that city’s “stop-and-frisk” procedures and other aggressive law enforcement techniques, and he’s gained a national following despite the city’s 45 percent increase in murder since his election. There’s even talk of making him the Democratic party’s presidential nominee, and current frontrunner Hillary Clinton is already attempting to stave off the challenge by calling for an end to the “era of mass incarceration” and the other tough-on-crime policies that her husband and former President Bill Clinton once championed. With the highly-publicized deaths of black suspects in Ferguson, Missouri, Baltimore, New York City, and Charleston, South Carolina grabbing most of the headlines, and the added murders in places such as Baltimore and New York City getting less attention, and the Department of Justice seeming more concerned with the former rather than the latter, the soft-one-crime approach suddenly seems ascendant.
By the time the next presidential election rolls around, however, we expect the proverbial pendulum might swing in the other direction. That tough-on-crime stance the Democratic front-runner’s husband was once compelled to champion during the crime wave of the ’90s resulted in a 20-year decline in the nation’s crime rate, to the point that the voters in jurisdictions such as New York City and Baltimore forgot how very dangerous the nation’s big cities once were, which is why the press is now more concerned with the inevitable and sometimes entirely fictitious (as in the case of Ferguson) misdeeds by the police, but a steady stream of dead mothers and their seven-year-old children will serve as a reminder of why we started locking up prisoners and throwing away the key and the indulging the sort of aggressive policing that transformed New York City from a cinematic post-apocalyptic wasteland into a vacation destination with one of the world’s lowest big-city crime rates. Baltimore’s consistently more progressive civic government never did achieve that level of tranquility, but we can hope that 38 murder victims, including a 7-year-old and his mother, will offer a persuasive perspective even to that town.
The rest of the country should take note, as well. The bad police should face the consequences for their misdeeds, but that must be achieved without making the good ones afraid to do their very important jobs. Any presidential candidate who takes a similar stand should have an advantage over those who are more concerned with the rights of criminals to commit crime without fear of the legal consequences.

— Bud Norman

Taking a Kick at Soccer

We know little about soccer, having grown up on wholesome American games that allow the use of hands, as God and Abner Doubleday intended, but even we knew that the sport’s international governing body is corrupt. It was therefor no surprise to hear that legal action is being taken against them, but we were a bit startled that it was America’s Department of Justice that is doing it.
The Federation Internationale de Football is not based in America, as the foreign name and its galling misuse of “football” would suggest, and so far as we can gather from numerous press reports none of its alleged crimes took place here. Authorities in Switzerland, where the organization is based, and where the alleged crimes seem to have allegedly occurred, and where the populace presumably cares more about soccer than do Americans, are also taking action, so it’s hard to see why America’s legal system should be bothered. All of the 14 FIFA official indicted on charges of racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering conspiracy are from other other countries, there’s going to be a lot of fuss over extradition, it complicates foreign relations with the numerous countries involved to the point that we have to admit Vladimir Putin has a point when he calls it “another case of illegal extra-territorial implementation of American law,” and none of the bribes they’re said to have accepted for awarding international tournaments seem to have been paid by Americans, who won’t be hosting any FIFA tournaments in the near future in any case, so the only point seems to be cleaning up a sport that few Americans bother to watch.
The smart fellows over at the Powerline web site are avid soccer fans, which strikes us as odd given their usually sound political opinions and excellent taste in music, and they contend that the Department of Justice is still sore that FIFA awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar despite the long trip to Zurich and personal lobbying of former Attorney General Eric Holder. It won’t be the least bit surprising if it is eventually proved in court that the Qataris prevailed by means of millions of dollars of illegal bribes, as such things are a feature of Arab culture and there is no other plausible explanation for awarding the world’s most-watched sporting event to such a remote and backwards desert hellhole as Qatar. The country’s pledge to air-conditioned stadia large enough to accommodate a soccer field and many thousands of spectators in the 100-plus degree summers has already been reneged on, the tournament has thus been moved to winter during the middle of the seasons of the professional leagues that supply the players, and the Indian, Sri Lankan, and Bangladeshi laborers who have been imported to build the vast infrastructure that FIFA absurdly requires have died at the rate of one per day. Nor would we be surprised if this is all about Holder holding a grudge, as he always struck as that sort of guy.
Besides, the Obama administration was still smarting from its snub by the International Olympic Committee way back in ’09 when it award its games to Rio de Janeiro over of Chicago. Obama personally flew to Denmark to make the pitch, bringing along Oprah Winfrey, who might or might not be a big deal in Denmark, and giving a speech about how Chicago was his kind of town and recalling how “Nearly one year ago, on a clear November night, people from every corner of the world gathered in the city of Chicago or in front of their televisions to watch the results of the presidential election,” and basically suggested that having the Olympics culminate his eight years in office and welcome the world to his transformed America would give the games new meaning. All the press speculated that of course the deal was already done or no president would put his prestige on the line by making the trip, so when the Olympics went to an even more crime-ridden kleptocracy than Chicago it was the first bad press that the administration got after all the messianic treatment in ’08, and although the loss of the 2022 World Cup went entirely unnoticed we’re sure it still stung.
The blow to Obama’s and Holder’s egos notwithstanding, and despite the lucrative deals that Valerie Jarret’s Chicago buddies would have made preparing for the Olympics, and whatever deals might have been made for a World Cup, these are two games we’re glad America lost. These big international sporting events are lucrative to whatever network makes the sufficient bribes, and they transfix much of the world for a brief time, but they’re usually a severe burden on the communities that get stuck with them and the useless stadia they paid for. Even in soccer-mad Brazil there were riots in response to lavish sums that poverty-stricken country doled out to host the most recent World Cup, and the police are gearing up for more of the same during those ’16 Olympics that Chicago wanted. The only Olympics that we can recall proving profitable for a host was the ’02 winter games in Salt Lake City, and that was due to the organizational skills of Mitt Romney, which the public apparently found less impressive than that soaring “on a clear November night” rhetoric of Obama. The Olympics have lost much of their appeal since the end of the Cold War, not to mention all believable rumors about the IOC’s shenanigans, but they’re still a bigger deal to the real American sports fan than some FIFA contest with a bunch of foreigners kicking a ball around a “pitch” — we know that, too, along with with the corruption of the governing body — to a 1-0 score after some incalculable amount of time.
A country such as Qatar might decide that the millions in bribes and billions in soon-to-be-useless stadia and the daily deaths of Indians, Sri Lankans, and Bangladeshi is well worth the prestige of hosting a highly-rated sports event, along with all the hooligans that soccer somehow always attracts, no matter how remote the backwards hellhole, but we’d like to think the United States of America can still earn its international prestige elsewhere.

— Bud Norman

The Verdict is Already In

The headline writers at The Washington Post are worried that “President Obama’s legacy is increasingly in legal jeopardy,” but we’re worried that they’re wrong. Our faith in the judicial system has never recovered from that awful Obamacare decision, and we can’t imagine anything it might do to further tarnish the president’s sorry legacy.
Still, there’s some fun in watching the president and his media allies fret that the courts will impose some restraints on his ever-expanding powers. There’s no guarantee that they will, given that four of the Supreme Court justices seem predisposed to agree with Richard Nixon’s infamous argument that “If the president does it, that means it’s not illegal,” at least in the case of this particular president, and there’s always at least one Republican appointee who is prone to go wobbly, but on several fronts the legal logic against the president is so compelling that it will at least be amusing to read the rebuttals.
The latest legal imbroglio concerns Obama’s executive orders on illegal immigration, which even he repeatedly insisted he has no constitutional authority to write until his re-election was won and he suddenly decided he did after all. Now the former adjunct professor of constitutional law’s lawyers are arguing that prosecutorial discretion allows him to stop enforcing immigration law, but two judges on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals out-voted a dim-witted third member of a panel to deny an earlier stay of injunction against the executive orders, and offered a convincing decision that “prosecutorial discretion is broad but not unfettered,” and that the orders are “more than non-enforcement: It is the affirmative act of conferring ‘lawful presence’ on unlawfully present aliens. Though revocable, that new designation triggers eligibility for federal and state benefits that would not otherwise be available.” Such reasoning won’t sway those four Justices inclined to side with Obama when it inevitably winds up in the Supreme Court, probably around election time, but we hope it might have some stiffening effect on one of those potentially wobbly Republican appointees.
There’s also a chance, at least according to those worried media allies of the president, that the Supreme Court will strike a blow against Obama’s big domestic triumph in the already embarrassing King v. Burwell case. That’s the one challenging the subsidies for Obamacare being offered through federally-run health insurance exchanges, on the grounds that the law clearly states that the subsidies are only available to to those enrolled through state-run systems, and because 36 of the states reasonably chose to have nothing to do with the Obamacare monstrosity the decision will have significant consequences. The former adjunct professor constitutional law’s lawyers are arguing that to insist a law be enacted as written is picky-picky-picky, and that no one should expect a 2,000-plus page bill to be free of significantly consequential errors, and never mind those statements by the bill’s “architect” that the language was clearly intended to coerce states to go along, and that, c’m’on, it’s Obama. This will probably prove persuasive to at least one of those wobbly Republican appointees, although we can hope that Chief Justice John Roberts might seize the opportunity to repent for his vote in that awful decision on the general constitutionality of Obamacare, and in any case there will be some black comedy in the arguments and a cautionary tale about passing 2,000-plus page bills that fundamentally transform a sixth of the economy and don’t promise to be free of errors with significant consequences.
The Washington Post is also worried that the Supreme Court might interfere with Obama’s noble attempts to halt the rise of the oceans and heal the earth through Environmental Protection Agency regulations on coal-fired power plants’ mercury emissions, and that they might conclude the authors of the constitution and the Republic that ratified it didn’t intend a right to same-sex marriage, but these seem rather inconsequential to the president’s all-important legacy. The combined powers of the EPA and Obama’s messianic charisma can’t stop China from frying the climate, even if you believe all that global warming alarmism, and Obama was so late to the same-sex wedding fad that he won’t be able to take any credit even if the Supreme Court does decide that it was exactly what James Madison and the rest of those dead white males had in mind all along.
Those Washington Post headline writers should take some comfort in the Supreme Court’s recently acquiescent history, but they shouldn’t hold out any hope for Obama’s legacy. The best-case scenario for Obama is that he’ll forever be remembered for inviting a wave of unskilled third-world immigrants that further overwhelmed an exhausted social welfare system, as the eponym of a law that raised health care costs and reduced health care quality, as a narcissist who thought he could turn back the tide, a latecomer to the same-sex marriage fad, and the man who won the argument that it’s not illegal if a president does it.

— Bud Norman

Rainy Day Blues

Rain is falling on the just and unjust alike here in Wichita, and has been for most of the month, with no end in sight on the forecasts. The nearby Arkansas River is already flowing over the adjacent bike paths, the Little Arkansas River is no longer little, and West Street is once again a third river in town. At this point we’re thinking of stocking up on gopher wood and reacquainting ourselves with the cubit system just in case an ark is required, and it is not helping our mood.
There’s the gloominess of the constantly gray sky, the disappointing chill of the late May nights, and of course the stir craziness that comes from being rained indoors through three weeks and a Memorial Day weekend. In our case the curse is exacerbated by our habit of reading the news, which lately is even worse than the weather. The Islamic State continues its sadistic romp across the Middle East, impeded occasionally by forces backed by Iran, whose leader was bragging to his national military academy’s graduating class that the deal they’re working out with the United States won’t allow any inspections of military sites or interviews with the scientists working on their nuclear weapons program, and more formidable powers such as China and Russia seem to have noticed that the Pax Americana is no longer operative. Over on the domestic front things seems just as gloomy, with the economy continuing to slug along on increasing debt and money-printing and interest rates that even the Federal Reserve Board is realizing must come up, the ongoing culture wars were best summed up by an excellent but depressing essay at National Review about how we traditionalists find ourselves “strangers in a strange land,” and even the sports pages offer nothing but the latest  defeat in the New York Yankee’s prolonged slump.
Most infuriating are the latest rants of the global warming alarmists, who had promised us that the good days of the drought would last forever but are now trying to blame all this rain on us and our aging four-cylinder internal combustion automobile for causing “climate change.”
While we were homebound by the rain, and Iran’s Ayatollah was giving that nuclear pep talk to his nation’s most elite military academy, President Barack Obama was warning the graduates of the Coast Guard Academy that the greatest challenge of their career will be dealing with a changing climate. So far as we can tell the American military has been dealing with a changing climate throughout its history, with Redcoats and Spaniards and Prussian militarists and Nazis and Commies and lately Islamists proving thornier problems, and we’re not at all sure what the Coast Guard can do about our landlocked difficulties, much less the even worse situation occurring down in Texas and Oklahoma, and we’re quite sure that if human causes are to blame it’s probably more to do with the president’s jet than our aging automobile, so we can imagine that the graduating class gave the oration the same eye-rolling that we did. We’ve lived through enough prolonged droughts and incessant rains here on plains, and have read enough about the same phenomena in the journals of our pre-combustion engine forebears to know that they lived through their share as well, that we’re reluctant to accept that the weather is our nation’s most pressing problem. Given how bad the weather’s bad been, that is a depressing realization.
We’ll deal with all the wetness as best we can, and with gratitude that God and the Big Ditch and West Street will probably keep the Arkansas and Little Arkansas Rivers away from our Riverside home and that the neighborhood’s basements don’t have the problem with leakiness as those snobs over in College Hill. Our collection of vinyl records and CDs includes such sustaining seasonal fare as Willie Nelson’s “Rainy Day Blues,” Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women,” Buddy Holly’s “Raining in My Heart,” The Doors’ “Riders on the Storm,” Lena Horne’s sultry rendition of “Stormy Weather,” and Esther Phillips’ inspiring recording of “I Can Stand a Little Rain,” among other rainy standards, and the latest reports suggest that our beloved Wichita Wingnuts might be able to get a home opener of the baseball season in today. After that it’s all chances of rain in the forecast, and big green and yellow and red blotches on the radar, so we should be able to cope with it, but even the inevitable summer sunshine won’t help with the rest of it.

— Bud Norman

Memorial Day

Among the fallen heroes we honor today are some who fought in the Iraqi cities of Mosul and Ramadi in order to bring democracy to that country and cease its support for terrorism. Lately both cities have fallen into the hands of a sadistic terrorist gang calling itself the Islamic State, presidential candidates from both parties are questioning the decision to send American troops into Iraq in the first place, nobody seems to be asking it if was a good idea to withdraw them, and those who survived the ordeal are feeling forgotten and disrespected. We won’t take up time on a holiday best spent with barbecue and beer by arguing the wisdom of the American efforts in that country, or their apparently premature end, but we would like to let those who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan know that they are well remembered by re-running a post from a Memorial Day past:

 

On a long walk through the old and picturesque Riverside neighborhood of Wichita, Kansas, you might happen upon a small monument to the veterans of the Spanish-American War. Located on a tiny triangle of grass dividing a street leading to Riverside Park, the memorial features a statue of a dashing young soldier armed with a rifle and clad in the rakishly informal uniform of the era, a cannon captured from a Spanish ship, and a small plaque thanking all of the men who served America in that long ago conflict.
We always pause at the spot to enjoy the statue, an elegant bronze work that has tarnished to a fine emerald shade, and often to reflect on the Spanish-American war and the men who fought it. Sometimes we’ll wonder, too, about the men and women who honored those soldiers and sailors by building the small monument. The Spanish-American War had been one of the controversial ones, and the resulting bloodier war in the Philippines was still underway and being hotly debated at the time the monument was installed, so we suspect it was intended as a political statement as well as an expression of gratitude, and that the monument builders had to endure the animosity of their isolationist neighbors.
We’ll also wonder, on occasion, how many passersby are surprised to learn from the monument that there ever was a Spanish-American War. The war lasted for only four months of 1898, and involved a relatively small number of American soldiers and sailors, so our current crop of history teachers might be inclined to give it only short mention as a regrettable act of American colonialism before rushing on to the more exciting tales of the ‘60s protest movement or whatever it is they’re teaching these days. The world still feels the effects of those four months in 1898, when that relatively small number of American soldiers and sailors ended more than three centuries of Spanish colonial dominance, commenced more than a century of America’s preeminence on the world stage, and permanently altered, for better or worse, the destinies of Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam, yet the whole affair is now largely forgotten.
If you keep walking past the park and across the Little Arkansas River toward the east bank of the Arkansas River, just beyond the Mid-America All-Indian Center and its giant Keeper of the Plains statue, you’ll find a series of similar monuments dedicated to the veterans of other wars. One features an old torpedo and honors the men who died aboard the S.S. El Dorado, “One of 57 submarines on eternal patrol,” during the Second World War. Another lists the names of the many local men who died while serving in the Merchant Marines. An austere black marble plaque beneath an American flag is dedicated to all U.S. Marines. There’s a rather elaborate area devoted to the veterans of the Korean War, with a statue, several flags, numerous plaques and a Korean gateway, which wasn’t erected until 2001, long after the controversies of that conflict had subsided.
The veterans of the Vietnam War are honored with a touching statue of an American soldier standing next to a seated South Vietnamese soldier, which was donated by local Vietnamese-Americans as an expression of gratitude to everyone of all nationalities who tried to save their ancestral homeland from communism, and that won’t be formally dedicated until the Fourth of July. We hope the ceremony will be free of protestors, or any acrimony, but even at this late date the feelings engendered by that war remain strong. Some American veterans of the war have publicly complained about the inclusion of non-American soldiers in the veterans’ park, while some who opposed the war have privately grumbled about any monument to the Vietnam conflict at all. Both the memorial and the attending controversy serve as reminders that the effects of that war are still being felt not just by the world but individual human beings.
Walk a few more blocks toward the old Sedgwick County Courthouse and there’s a grand monument to the Wichita boys who went off to fight for the union in the Civil War, featuring the kind of ornate but dignified statuary that Americans of the late 18th Century knew how to do so well, but a more moving memorial can be found clear over on Hillside Avenue in the Maple Grove Cemetery, where there’s a circle of well-kept graves marked by American flags and austere gravestones for the boys who didn’t come back. Throughout the city there are more plaques, statues, portraits, and other small markers to honor the men and women who have fought for their country, and of course a good many gravestones for fallen heroes in every cemetery. This city honors those who fight for its freedom and safety, and that is one reason we are proud to call it home.
There is no monument here to the brave men and women who have fought for us in Iraq and Afghanistan, and no memorial to those who died in those far-off lands, but there should be, and soon. Both wars, and especially the Iraq war, have been controversial, and any memorial will be perceived by some as a political statement rather than an expression of gratitude, but it is not too soon to honor the men and women who fought for us. The effects of the wars will outlive us all, and none of us will ever see their ultimate consequences, but there is reason to believe that the establishment of a democracy in the heart of the Islamic middle east and the military defeat of al-Qaeda will prove a boon to humanity, and that is the reason those brave soldiers, sailors, and airmen fought and died there.
If we wait until the ill feelings subside, we might wait until the war has been largely forgotten. In every city and town of the country there should be something that stands for those who gave their lives for America in Iraq and Iran, and it should be something that will stand for a century or more. Something that will cause the passersby of the 22nd Century to stop and reflect, and to be grateful.

— Bud Norman

A Terrorist’s Reading List

We’re the snoopy sorts who will always seize the opportunity of a party to look over the nearest bookshelf, assuming there is one, and glean whatever insights it offers into the host’s mind. The fine folks at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence apparently share the same fascination with other people’s reading habits, and have helpfully compiled a list of the books that our brave fighting men seized during their raid on the home of the late Osama bin-Laden.
It’s a fascinating collection, although much of it is surprisingly familiar to anyone who has lately been invited to the home of an up-to-date American liberal. The list includes “Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies” and “Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance” by Noam Chomsky, the esteemed linguist and far-left political analyst, “The Best Democracy that Money Can Buy” by far-left journalist Greg Palast, “Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower” and “Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II” by far-left historian William Blum, as well as several other similarly fashionable far-left titles. We couldn’t find Frantz Fanon’s “Wretched of the Earth” or anything by Maya Angelou or the “magical realists” of South America on the list, but otherwise bin-Laden seemed to share the same literary tastes as President Barack Obama or any other impeccable liberal. We’ve long marveled at the way pro-homosexual, pro-abortion, anti-God leftists have found so much common ground with Islamists who execute homosexuals and subjugate women in an attempt to impose totalitarian theocratic control, but their overlapping reading lists suggest they at least share the same dissatisfaction with western civilization.
When asked about his terrorist reader, Palast told Politico that he was embarrassed only because “It’s clear that Osama was more well-read than our president (though, in George W. Bush’s defense, there’s much to be learned from ‘My Pet Goat.’)” Never mind that Bush’s staff and the press corps that covered his presidency were astounded by his voracious reading habits, or that he routinely read more substantial fare than Palast will ever produce, the liberal urge to feel intellectually superior to that much-ridiculed president is apparently all the more urgent when the topic at hand is a mass-murdering terrorist such as bin-Laden. Palast also complained that investigative reporting is “a profession banned in the U.S.A. after September 11, 2001 — when journalists were replaced by Brian Williams and others wearing his hairdo,” but we recall plenty of journalistic investigations into Bush’s alleged perfidy that lasted a full seven years after that date, and it wasn’t until the Obama administration that the Department of Justice pressed criminal conspiracy charges against a reporter and the likes of Sharyl Atkisson found themselves stymied in their investigations at such media outlets as CBS News and the Brian Williamses and similarly coiffed anchors everywhere stopped questioning authority. We can sympathize with Palast’s disappointment that Bush never bought his books, since as far as we know Bush never bought one of ours, but it hardly seems a sufficient reason to prefer bin-Laden, even if the hit squad had found an old copy of “The Things That Are Caesar’s” in his house.
Evil mass-murdering terrorist that he was, we have to give bin-Laden credit for delving into a wider range of books than most of our left-wing friends. He also had such weightier fare as “The Oxford History of Modern War” by Charles Townsend, “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers” by Paul Kennedy, and “The U.S. and Vietnam 1787-1941″ by Robert Hopkins Miller, which goes back at least 175 years further than seems necessary. A practical man, bin-Laden also had such drier tomes as “Guerrilla Air Defense: Antiaircraft Weapons and Techniques for Guerrilla Forces” by James Crabtree, “Handbook of International Law” by Anthony Aust, and “Checking Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions” by Henry Sokolski and Patrick Clawson. We’ve not read any of these books, and therefor cannot comment on their merits, but we are eagerly awaiting the movies. “A Brief Guide to Understanding Islam” by I.A. Ibrahim was also found on bin-Laden’s bookshelf, so we also have to credit him with more interest than the usual left-winger in that subject.
Like so many of the left-wingers we know, bin-Laden also had an avid interest in conspiracy theories, as shown by his ownership of such books as “Black Box Voting, Ballot Tampering in the 20th Century” by Bev Harris, “Bloodlines of the Illuminati” by Fritz Springmeier, and “Conspirators’ Hierarchy: The Committee of 300″ by John Coleman, and “Secrets of the Federal Reserve” by Eustace Mullins. We’re awaiting the movies on these books, too, but on the basis of the titles alone we will assume they’re the sort of thing that only a left-winger or someone off the Arab Street would take seriously. More intriguing is bin-Laden’s interest in the various “truther” conspiracy theories about the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attack, as evidenced by such books as “New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions About the Bush Administration and 9/11″ by David Griffin, and we’d like think it irked hit that some people were trying to deny him credit.
Most striking, though, is the lack of anything entertaining on bin-Laden’s shelf. When we’re inevitably forced to go into hiding from the American government we intend to stockpile plenty of P.G. Wodehouse’s elegant comedies and Scott Phillips’ lurid thrillers and something of a more titillating nature as well, along with the usual how-to books and canned food and ammunition, and it makes us think all the less of bin-Laden that he couldn’t appreciate such fine writing. It’s nice to think that his final days were spent holed up in some desolate hiding place in a third-world hellhole without anything to fun to read, though, and we hope that if he had the internet he never stopped by here.

— Bud Norman

Apples, Oranges, and Biker Gangs

You probably about heard about that big biker gang shootout down in Waco, just as you probably heard about the riots in Baltimore, and in both cases you probably concluded they were unfortunate incidents caused by unsavory people. Those who worry about such things, though, are worried the news media might have caused you to be more appalled by the latter than the former.
Almost all of the unsavory people rioting in Baltimore were black, many of the unsavory people shooting it out in Waco were white, and these days the ensuing coverage is to be judged accordingly. Over at Salon.com they were offended that the riot was typically described as a “riot” and the shootout as a “shootout,” while lawyer and “community organizer” Sally Kohn was among many who were offended that the rioters were often called “thugs” while those involved in the shootout as were more frequently dubbed “biker gangs,” all over the left side of the internet there was great consternation about the amount of attention being paid, and of course all of these discrepancies were blamed on the subtle racism of the American media. Such nuances are apparently intended to mislead the public into a racist opinion that blacks destroying black communities is a bad thing while giving a wink and a nod to “white on white crime.”
Which leads us to wonder what sort of coverage they would have preferred, and what damage it might do to the English language. What happened in Baltimore was a riot, after all, and what happened in Waco was a shootout. Neither term carries any racial implications that we are aware of, and we note that whenever opposing groups of unsavory black people shoot at one another, as occasionally happens, most news media usually call it a “shootout,” and when white people engage in violent public disorder, as occasionally happens, usually in the wake of some sports team’s championship, the same news media invariably call it a “riot.” If such sensitive sorts as Kohn think it racist to call the people who burned down a senior citizens’ home in Baltimore “thugs” they should take it up with the black mayor of Baltimore and the black president of the United States, both of whom also employed the term, and be reassured that “biker gang” carries a rather thuggish connotation. The coverage of the Baltimore riot lasted for several days, but only because the riot lasted that long, it followed similar rioting in the St. Louis area, and there were threats of more rioting in other cities due to the same lingering controversies of policing in black neighborhoods. The shootout lasted a relatively short time before local police were able to restore order, the nine dead were all willing combatants, the remainder were arrested and duly charged, there is no reason to believe that any other biker gang shootouts are imminent, and the continuing coverage is because the media rather like this kind of story.
Most of the media dislike black-on-black crime stories, which are far more numerous than the police shootings and deadly biker gang brawls and high society murders that always go on the front page, and it usually has to happen on a scale that requires calling in the National Guard to get more than six column inches deep inside the local and state section. This in part because black-on-black crimes are so common, in part because they expose the media to the now-inevitable charges of racial insensitivity, and in part because most of the media is itself so hyper-sensitive about racial issues that they’re willing to ignore a significant problem affecting black people to assuage their consciences. They’d much rather draw attention to a white-on-white shootout down in gun-crazy and Republican-voting Texas, and will happily ignore the fact that it wasn’t exactly a white-on-white shootout. The shootout pitted the “Cossacks” against the “Bandidos,” and as the nomenclature suggests it was more of a whites-and-Hispanics-upon-one-another gunfight, and apparently it had more to with the biker gang subculture’s strange rules regarding the patches worn on motorcycle jackets and the usual drug turf disputes than race, and a lot of the mug shots are ambiguous enough that some of the Bandidos could fit into that “white Hispanic” category that The New York Times created for George Zimmerman after he killed Trayvon Martin in self-defense, so most of the media are happy to give the impression of “white-on-white crime.”
They’re happy to perpetuate the outdated stereotype of the biker gangs as an exclusively white phenomenon, too, even though black and Hispanic and Asian biker gangs have been in business since at least the early ’70s and are now a significant portion of the biker gang problem. There are various ways of reading the statistics about biker gangs, which comprise only 2 percent of the nation’s gang members but cause more trouble and over a vaster area than the more common neighborhood gangs, but none that suggest they aren’t a problem worthy of the attention that the waco shootout has brought. The racialist media critics seem to believe that white America gives a wink and a nod to such violence, but most white people we know have no tolerance for it, and we expect that the citizens of Waco will insist on the most severe punishments the law allows. Despite years of cinematic portrayals of biker gangs, from Marlon Brando’s mumbling “The Wild One” to all those drive-in features to the hilariously politically correct “Sons of Anarchy” on television, “biker gang” is still synonymous with “thugs” to most Americans of all races, and the only thing they have to recommend them is that they don’t mind that no one is making excuses for them.
Biker gangs are a problem, and the riots that threaten to break out over the coming long, hot summer are arguably an even bigger one, and both require some resolution. That will require honest discussions, and separate ones, and any attempt to conflate them is not helpful.

— Bud Norman

The Moral Equivalence Contest’s New Contenders

When confronted with some foreign evil, the American liberal has a strange impulse to insist something morally equivalent is wrong with his own country in general and its conservatives in particular.
We’ve long noticed this tendency, and for many years having been ranking the most outrageous examples. So far the winner is still a friend of ours who, during a discussion about the old tradition in India of burning a widow alive on her husband’s funeral pyre, insisted that western culture does things to women that are every bit as bad, although she couldn’t quite think of any on the spur of the moment, followed by another a friend, a music-loving hippie who insisted that Afghanistan’s Taliban was no worse than the George W. Bush administration and contended that the Taliban’s complete ban on music was negated by a local college radio station’s cancellation of his favorite program. President Barack Obama sometimes seems intent on winning our competition, and his claim that Americans shouldn’t “get on a high horse” about the Islamic State chopping heads off because many centuries ago the Crusaders did some nasty things in their defensive war against a similarly brutal Islamic imperialism is certainly worth consideration, but this week also saw a couple of new contenders.
One is Samantha Power, Obama’s representative in the United Nations, whose recent commencement address at Barnard College told the women accepting their $250,000 degrees from that elite institution how very bad they have it. She recalled the sexism that once excluded women from colleges, and although she acknowledged that women now earn about 60 percent of all colleges she assumed that her distaff listeners were still troubled by “persistent self-doubt,” “fear of making mistakes,” and letting those doubts “get in the way of your voices being heard.” Our experience of young women is that their self-esteem has been carefully nurtured by modern education and popular culture, they’re no more afraid of making a mistake than your average Obama administration member, and that nothing gets in the way of their voices being heard, and we were entirely unsympathetic to all the personal anecdotes that followed about juggling motherhood and UN diplomacy, but what struck us as especially absurd was Power’s portentous note that there is a higher proportion of women in the Afghanistan parliament than in the United States’ Congress.
It was part of a spiel about how women’s rights have advanced in that formerly Taliban-ruled country to the point that it now has a national women’s cycling team, with no mention that this admittedly positive development is entirely due to an invasion and occupation by American forces that began during a previous administration, or any acknowledgement that those cyclists will almost surely be back in burqas shortly after the Obama administration’s planned retreat, and we suppose it can be taken as an upbeat exhortation to continue the march of women’s rights, but the tendency toward moral equivalence was unmistakable. Powersalso mentioned that young woman who has been carrying a mattress around Columbia University all year to protest its failure to punish the young man she alleges raped her, even though the evidence suggests that the the university and the city police declined to take any action for lack of evidence that she was raped, and the alleged rapist has numerous e-mails and other communications suggesting that she’s the sort of troubled young woman who haul a mattress around a university campus for an entire year, and generally spoke as if womanhood were at least as much a travail in America as in Afghanistan or anyplace else. We can only hope that $250,000 buys enough education at Barnard College that there audience will know better than believe such nonsense.
The other recent contestant in our moral equivalence idiocy contest is someone named William Saletan, who took the digital pages of Slate.com to explain why Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is just like all the Republican candidates for president. He doesn’t allege that any of the Republicans hopefuls have been chopping off heads or doing any of the other deadly things that have brought the Islamic State such notoriety, but he does claim that they sound a lot alike. He notes that al-Baghdadi has said that he is waging a war of Muslims against non-Muslims, just as the Republicans have said that al-Baghdadi is waging a war of Muslims against non-Muslims. As if that weren’t damning enough, Saletan also notes that al-Baghdadi has said that his version is Islam is incompatible with western values, and that there are verses in the Koran and Hadith that urge violent jihad against non-Muslims, and sure enough many of those Republicans agree. He further notes that al-Baghdadi has warned Muslims that America has no respects for their rights, and although he can’t think of anything the Republicans have done to confirm this warning other than some gripes about a mosque being built near the former World Trade Center location and former Sen. Rick Santorum’s complaint that we’re not dropping enough bombs on al-Baghdadi’s Islamic State he still thinks that the IS and the GOP are pretty much the same. Indeed, he concludes that the GOP is “working for Baghdadi” by opposing it, and signs off with a haughty “Remind me again who’s naive.”
Perhaps it’s us who are naive, but to our ears the GOP candidates and al-Baghdadi don’t sound any more alike than Hitler and Roosevelt did when the former said his country was at war with us and the latter agreed that we were indeed at war. Of course, the modern liberal would also find some moral equivalence there.

— Bud Norman

Academia Nuts

A friend of ours is fond of citing the fact that Kansas has the third least-educated legislature in the country, and he always sounds rather embarrassed for the state when doing so. We can’t confirm that this actually is a fact, but even if it is true that our legislature’s level of educational attainment is closer to Abraham Lincoln’s than Barack Obama’s we are not bothered. William F. Buckley famously stated he’d “rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston phonebook than to the faculty of Harvard University,” and these days we’ll go even further to say that we’d vote for a randomly selected high school dropout over many of the highly credential academics we keep encountering in the news.
Almost every day brings some further news corroborating our opinion that academia has more or less gone crazy. Last week we were grousing about that British professor who wants parents who read bedtime stories to their children to feel bad about, and just yesterday we were ridiculing that Harvard professor who thinks that Christians don’t care about poverty, and on any given day we can make fun of the “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces” and “micro-aggressions” and other assaults on free speech and common sense that are fixtures of the modern campus, but today it’s the latest ravings of Boston University’s Saida Gundy.
The newly installed assistant professor of sociology and African-Amercan studies had already made the news with a series of profanely worded and randomly capitalized “tweets” that called white males a “problem population” and asserted “white masculinity is THE problem for America’s colleges,” among other similarly bigoted opinions. The statements were enough to prompt a reprimand from the university’s president and force Gundy to issue a statement of regret “that my personal passion about these issues led me to speak about them indelicately” because “I deprived them of the nuance and complexity that such subjects always deserve.” One might hope that her white male students will get a more nuanced and complex explanation of why they’re awful people just by virtue of their race and sex, but a subsequent internet rant suggests that the assistant professor’s personal passions are more likely to prevail.
It all began when a Facebook page linked to an article criticizing an actress’ Academy Award acceptance speech calling on blacks and homosexuals to support the cause of equal pay for women, and a woman who identified herself as white and a rape victim posted her disagreements, adding in usual Facebook post fashion that “I LITERALLY cry and lose sleep over this.” The post so offended Gundy that she responded in her own clumsy style that “‘I literally cry’ … While we literally die,” and added a link with the suggestion “try this article. A white woman explaining this issue to other white women … who manages NOT to cry while doing it!” This prompted a reply of “No really. I got it. You can take your claws out, thanks.” This provoked such passion in Gundy that nuance and complexity and standard English once again were lost, as she hit the capital letters key to respond “THIS IS THE SH*T I AM TALKING ABOUT. WHY DO YOU GET TO PLAY THE VICTIM EVERY TIME PEOPLE OF COLOR AND OUR ALLIES WANT TO POINT OUT RACISM. my CLAWS?? Do you see how you just took an issue that WASNT about you, MADE it about you, and NOW want to play the victim when I take the time to explain to you some sh*t that is literally $82,000 below my pay grade? And then you promote your #whitegirltears like that’s some badge you get to wear … YOU BENEFIT FROM RACISM. WE’RE EXPLAINING THAT TO YOU and you’re vilifying my act of intellectual altruism by saying I stuck my “claws into you?” This was enough for her target to post that she would “exit” the conversation, but Gundy added a final taunt to “go cry somewhere, since that’s what you do.” After another brief rant, complete with the random capitalizations and the mistaken use of “prospective” rather and perspective, she signed off with “My name is ‘Sai,’ but you can call me Dr. Gundy.”
Being foul-mouthed, illiterate, childish, insensitive, and arrogant, not to mention so conspicuously lacking in nuance and complexity, usually wouldn’t cause a professor any grief, but the fact Gundy’s passion was unleashed on a woman who identified herself as a rape victim might prove problematic. The posts have been removed from the Facebook page, although they were caught on “screen shots” by several offended readers who have passed them along to the university’s administration, and at this point Gundy isn’t saying anything about it, and so far neither has the university. Our guess is that those lucky Boston University students who are paying $46,644 in tuition for a lucrative degree in African-American studies will get plenty of Gundy for their money.
Should she find herself out of a job, Gundy could move to Kansas run for the state legislature in any of a few carefully gerrymandered districts we have out here. Her doctorate would raise that average level of education in the legislature, but we don’t think her presence would make it any smarter.

— Bud Norman

Those Crazy Christians

Christians still comprise a significant percentage of the American population, at least according to the polls we see from time to time, but so many people seem to have no familiarity with them. We notice this from time to time in our social encounters with people who assume we share their agnostic or atheistic or otherwise enlightened notions of the universe and proceed to speak of Christians as some sort of remote and primitive tribe, and in widely disseminated news outlets that attribute that all sorts of strange opinions to Christians that we’ve never heard one utter, and in even a symposium at last week’s Catholic-Evagenlical Leadership Summit at Georgetown University featuring a best-selling author and the President of the United States.
Harvard professor Robert Putnam, best known for the book “Bowling Alone,” got the ball rolling with an interview with The Washington Post, in which he said “The obvious fact is that over the last 30 years, most organized religion has focused on issues regarding sexual morality, such as abortion, gay marriage, all of those. I’m not saying if that’s good or bad, but that’s what they’ve been using all their resources for. That is the most obvious point in the world. It’s been entirely focused on issues of homosexuality and contraception and not at all focused on issues of poverty.” When Putnam repeated the claim at the Georgetown, President Barack Obama chimed in that “Despite great caring and concern, when it comes to what you’re really going to the mat for, the defining issue, when you’re talking in your congregations, what’s the thing that is really going to capture the essence of who we are as Christians, or as Catholics, what have you, that (fighting poverty) is oftentimes viewed as ‘nice to have’ relative to an issue like abortion.”
This might seem “the most obvious point in the world” to a Harvard professor or a President of the United States, but it will surely come as a surprise to anyone who actually lives among the Christians of America. Even the editors at The Washington Post know a couple of Christians from the Religion News Service who had the numbers at hand to refute such nonsense. They note that in 2009 America’s churches donated more than $13 billion to overseas relief and development, which is more than the secular charities could muster, and even looks pretty good compared to the $29 billion the federal government spent, largely with the taxes paid by Christians. In 2012 the evangelical group World Vision spent about $2.8 billion caring for the poor, which would put them 12th among the world’s nations. The Catholics, whom we also consider Christians, our president’s clumsy locutions notwithstanding, spend about $97 billion on health care networks, many billions more on colleges and schools, and another $4.6 billion to various national charities.
Even the most diligent research will fail to account for all good works done to alleviate domestic by done by America’s churches. Our own small congregation at the rough edges of a working class neighborhood chips in for a local orphanage and offers whatever help it can to anyone who walks in, our parents’ congregation in the Philadelphia suburbs runs a food distribution center with its time and money, and every Christian we share church chat with tells of a similar endeavor. Diligent research shouldn’t even be required to notice this phenomenon, as a daily drive through almost any city or town in America will take one past the various shelters and soup kitchens and hospitals and assorted charities created and run and supported by Christians, and in to contact with someone who has benefited from these efforts, and perhaps even one of those Christians who made who put a buck in the collection plate and did some volunteer work to make it possible. Those professors and presidents who dare to take the daring anthropological plunge in to the most remote portions of Christian America might even find that the natives aren’t quite so sexually obsessed as they’ve imagined.
At our small congregation on the rough edges of a working-class neighborhood that stuff rarely comes up, and in a lifetime of worshipping with this very conservative church we can’t recall many times when it ever did. We listen to the talk radio and read the web sites and newspapers and magazines that conservative Christians follow, and notice that the social issues aren’t such a hot topic there as they seem to be in the more ostentatiously secular media. The combined budgets of the best-funded organizations devoted to the social issues are supposedly American Christianity’s main concern spend in the mere millions, and are vastly outspent by Planned Parenthood alone, and of course the occasional protests heard on those conservative Christian media are vastly out-shouted by the more ostentatiously secular media. To complain that American Christianity is obsessed with the social issues to the extent that it ignores other pressing problems is not only divorced from reality, it seems rather unsporting.
Nor do we concede that those social issues are unrelated to those other pressing problems, or that American Christianity’s last resistance is unjustified. Issues of sexual morality have much to poverty and the general social well-being. A society of people raised by baby mamas and baby daddies will be poorer and more generally unpleasant than one raised by husbands and wives, no amount of federal spending will change that time-honored fact, those crazy Christians out there in the hinterlands and the socio-economic elites of our time seem to be the only ones who understand this, and those crazy Christians out there in the hinterlands and the only ones who will come right out and say it, so we hope they don’t go away or agree to shut up.
Much of American Christianity has already agreed to shut up, and its focus on the social issues has been devoted to accommodating the latest trends, and its churches seem to be losing congregants to whatever’s on television at those hours of a Sunday morning. Many continue to insist on traditional notions of sexual morality, even as they divvy up the church funds to the orphanage or the food distribution center or whatever its charity might be, and at this point they’re just hoping that they’ll be able to be live by these beliefs after the latest trends take root. Those churches are struggling, too, but we expect they’ll persist, as they have the past two tough millennia, and we believe the world will be better for it.
Yet apparently it looks different to a Harvard professor and a President of the United States. Putnam’s “Bowling Alone” was about the decline of bowling leagues and increase of individual bowling and the decline of fraternal orders and social organizations generally, and was well reviewed by both liberal commentators who decried the retreat into private live and conservatives who found proof of a government’s encroachment on the free association of individuals into effective groups, and we’d have expected him to notice that the churches are among the last effective non-governmental groups. We’d also have expected more from any President of the United States, especially one who has proclaimed his Christianity almost as much as he has criticized the faith.

— Bud Norman

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,136 other followers