The Calm on the Day After

By longstanding tradition there is no news worth writing about on the day after Thanksgiving, and this is probably for the best. Between the lingering soporific effects of the turkey and the noisome distraction of the disconcertingly premature Christmas music that is already on the radio it would be difficult to deal with a real issue. The networks and newspapers will make do with sordid tales about the Black Friday shoppers rioting at the local mall, and the anti-coroporate moralists will recoil at the sight and the economists will be watching to see what it portends for the all-important holiday season in the retail sector, but otherwise the most significant news is to be found on the sports pages.
More ambitious pundits will seize this opportunity to run something so profoundly all-encompassing and not tied to a specific story that it has long been in the drawer awaiting a slow enough news day, or perhaps something they came up with in a moment of holiday-inspired reflection, but we have neither to offer. The most interesting thing we’ve come across is the estimable Gertrude Himmelfarb’s reflections on Matthew Arnold’s 1869 treatise “Culture and Anarchy,” which contains some fascinating observations on the Hellenistic and Hebraic traditions in western civilization, but the jokes it suggested were too earthy and ethnic. An early winter has chilled our ambition, and although we could come up with something sympathetic about the stranded travelers at the snowbound airports or something sarcastic about global warming we’re too darned cold to muster the effort. A snowstorm and a holiday and the presence of heavily armed National Guardsmen seem to have quelled the rioting in Ferguson, and unless the Justice Department is inclined to further placate the mob with a civil rights prosecution we’ll be glad to have heard the last of that story. The president’s outrageous executive action to legalize a few million illegal immigrants will soon be back in the news, but until the Republican congressional majorities are sworn in early next year there won’t be much to say about it except that we’re still outraged. Around there are plenty of worrisome developments rom China to Russia to the Middle East, but except for the Islamic State being on the verge of another major victory in Iraq and Iran getting another six months of nuclear weapons developments there is nothing to vie with those Black Friday shoppers for news space. Economic mediocrity and Obamacare and assorted political scandals are still afoot, along with the usual misbehavior in the entertainment industry, but nothing that violates the longstanding tradition of no news on the day after Thanksgiving.
Give thanks for that, and let drowsy sense of gratitude linger for another day or so, and stay away from those Black Friday sales. Real issues will intrude through the Christmas music soon, and the same old battles will still need to be fought, and it might help to be rested.

– Bud Norman

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Happy Thanksgiving, 2014

This is no time for our usual glum assessments of the latest developments in our political and economic and cultural life. Better you should enjoy the pleasures of family and friends and food and football, and give thanks that the politics and economics and culture haven’t yet regulated them away.
As we take stock of our own situation, we find ourselves mostly grateful for the blessings that derive from those last redoubts of life free from the great collective enterprises. We are thankful for the loving support of our family, the steel-forged friendships of our old companions, the comforting diversions of long-ago individuals stretching the great expanse between William Shakespeare and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, and the small kindnesses of strangers we encounter on the streets. All of these occur on a fundamentally human level, joyously separate from politics and economics and culture and the rest of our usual concerns, and the rest of humanity’s endeavors should only seek to sustain them.
We give thanks, too, for the sunsets that fall over the Little Arkansas River, the memories of hot summer nights and the promise of more to come that sustain us through through the coldest days of winter, and to the God whose mercy and love created these miracles and inform the love and mercy we receive from our family and friends and all those kind strangers. We have our complaints with the rest of it, and will get back to that soon enough, but not today. Happy Thanksgiving.

– Bud Norman

Thug Life

The eyewitness testimony and physical evidence presented to a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri, indicate that 18-year-old Michael Brown led a thug’s life and died a thug’s death. This unhappy conclusion hasn’t prevened numerous other thugs from rioting and looting and burning buildings and firing random gunshots in the aftermath of the grand jury’s decision not to indict the police officer who fired the fatal shots when Brown attacked him and struggled for his gun, nor did it prevent some presumably less thuggish pundits and politicians from attempting to justify the mayhem, but it is worth noting nonetheless.
Such sad facts of the matter, alas, are easily lost in the inevitable racial acrimony. Initial reports about last summer’s shooting accurately stated that a white police officer had fatally shot an unarmed black teenager, and in the absence of any other relevant information much of the media went with the story that in front of numerous witnesses the cop had for no plausible reason other than racial animus gunned down a soon-to-be college student who was kneeling in the street with his hands up. Despite its apparent implausibility the story was believed widely enough to fuel several days of rioting and looting and burning of buildings and firing of gunshots, and for the President of the United States to send an emissary to Brown’s funeral, and for much of the press to stick to its story.
By this point the story of the blameless black victim of white America’s murderous racism is simply too tempting not to run with. As far back as the ’80s Tom Wolfe’s “Bonfire of the Vanities” was satirizing the modern racial controversy rituals with the sharp-eyed detail of a cynical reporter characterizing the victim as an “honor” because one of his teacher’s had said that anyone at his high school who didn’t stab a teacher deserved the designation, and the same technique has since become a staple of modern journalism. The previous celebrity victim of America’s lethal racism was a black Florida teenager named Trayvon Martin, portrayed by much of the media as Skittles-loving, tea-drinking and baby-faced 12-year-old even as a jury heard evidence that the hulking and haggard 17-year-old had phoned a friend about the “creepy ass cracker” who was watching him and was pounding the aforementioned creepy ass cracker’s head against the pavement when the fatal shots were fired. The even more formidable Brown was often described as a “gentle giant,” even after the release of a surveillance camera’s videotape of him and a colleague strong-arm robbing a convenience shortly before his fatal encounter with the police officer, and the image persists even after the release of the convincing eyewitness testimony and physical evidence that Brown had struggled for the officer’s gun and was lunging at him “like a football player” as the fatal shots were fired.
Even in the face of such unsettling facts the broader story about America’s irredeemable racism has irresistible appeal to some people. For the thugs it provides a convenient rationale for rioting and looting and burning buildings and firing random gunshots and other enjoyable activities. For politicians who rely on the racial grievances of impoverished ethnic minorities to bolster their coalitions with super-rich white folks it’s an obvious argument. For the professional race hustlers it’s all in a day’s work. Harder to explain are the comfortably cocooned apologists for rioting and looting and arson and gunfire who proudly consider themselves “progressive.”
Over at the once-venerable Time Magazine they’re running a piece “In Defense of Rioting,” which will probably prove unpersuasive to the mostly-minority businessmen who’ve recently seen their hard work burned to the ground on behalf of a thug who tried to kill a cop. They also have a story on the humber of police who have lately committed “justifiable homicide,” with the term framed with sarcastic quote marks as if it had recently been invented by some cabal of racists who are somehow still in charge of the language, and strain hard to make it seem significant. The story goes so far as to note that “black teenagers were 21 more times likely to be shot dead by an officer than white teenagers,” which only suggests that it is extraordinarily unusual for a white teenager to fatally shoot a black teenager, and leaves the more skeptical reader to wonder if a black teenager might be more likely yet to shot to death by another black teenager. The political class is obliged to at least express disapproval of rioting, but it will speak of “justifiable anger.”
Such willful blindness to the racial realities that most Americans understand all too well is largely a result of nostalgia. Once upon a time in America there were ample blameless black victims of white America’s murderous racism, with such exceptional men as Medgar Evers and James Chaney and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. among the martyrs, and those who championed their cause of civil rights did so with an exhilarating sense of righteousness. Their efforts succeeded in making segregation illegal and changing public attitudes about race and establishing vast government programs of more questionable value, and although matters of race have since become less black-and-white in any sense of the term there’s still a longing for that exhilarating sense of righteousness that shouts of racism once provided.
All those years of America’s tragic racial history might explain why Michael Brown led a thug’s life and died a thug’s death, but that made no difference to the police officer who had a hulking young man going for his gun and taunting that he was too cowardly to protect himself. Nor does it make any difference to the mostly minority businessmen whose hard work has been burned to the ground by other thugs, or to that majority black men and women who are trying to make their way in the broader society and hoping that its racial attitudes won’t revert to its old suspicions, or to any of the people of all races in all parts of this country who are routinely menaced by thugs emboldened by the rationalizations offered by people who pride themselves on being “progressive.”

– Bud Norman

Sympathy and Riots

Six years into the promised post-racial era of American history, we spent much of Monday anxiously awaiting the official start of the latest race riot. An announcement of a grand jury decision in Missouri that was widely expected to unleash mayhem on the tiny St. Louis suburb of Ferguson was scheduled in the late afternoon, then postponed until the early evening, but didn’t arrive until 8:15 or so here on the prairie. In the meantime there was news that the Secretary of Defense had resigned after an unusually short tenure and under suspicious circumstances, that the deadline for a grand bargain with the mad mullahs of Iran had passed with their nuclear weapons program still progressing, and that a couple of the stock markets had reached record levels, but it was all filler until the long awaited and utterly unsurprising news that no charges would be brought by the grand jury against a white police officer who had fatally shot an unarmed black teenager.
That thumbnail description of a white police officer fatally shooting an unarmed black teenager sounds pretty darned damning and is accurate in a certain strict sense, at least enough to fuel a media frenzy as well as a more visceral frenzy on the streets of Ferguson for several weeks following the incident, but a more complicated and mitigating version of the story that had gradually seeped into the news made Monday’s announcement expected. Leaks from the grand jury indicated that eyewitnesses and physical evidence corroborated the tale told by the officer’s friends that the unarmed black teenager had attacked him and was struggling for the officer’s gun during the fatal encounter, and the counter-narrative that the cop had gun downed a kneeling teenager in front of multiple eyewitnesses for no reason other than the normal racial animus of America’s law enforcement always seemed less likely to pass the more dispassionate sort of scrutiny that would presumably be brought to bear during a legal proceeding. Dispassionate scrutiny of such facts is not a virtue of lynch mobs, however, so it was also widely expected that those who favored the gunned-down-on-the-street version of events would respond with what the more polite media call “unrest.”
As we write this the Drudge Report is already linking to stories of rioting and looting and arson and gunshots being fired. The story about the white officer gunning down the innocent black teenager on the streets for racist kicks is apparently still widely believed in many neighborhoods of Ferguson, much of the media have done little to dissuade them them of this assumption, numerous groups hoping to channel the local resentments in service of their various left-wing causes have been organizing in the city, and the Justice Department has launched an investigation of the Ferguson police and the White House has sent emissaries to the funeral of a man who might have attempted to kill one of its officers, so it was inevitable that at least a few troublemakers would seize the opportunity for the expression of long accumulated racial resentments and the acquisition of some free stuff. What the rioters and looters and arsonists and gun shooters hope to accomplish is unclear, as their victims are businesses and individuals that have nothing whatsoever to do with the shooting in question, and their crimes are unlikely to refute whatever racist attitudes might have been involved, but from what we saw on the cable news coverage that was playing at a local watering hole during a break in our writing they seemed to be having a grand old time.
The President of the United States went on television to urge peace and calm, an obligatory pre-riot oration that stretches back at least to the days of Lyndon Johnson, but even The First Black President had no more success in the effort than any of his predecessors. This time around the speech told the rioters that their anger was “an understandable reaction” given that they claim to believe “the law is being applied in a discriminatory fashion,” and the president explained to all those weren’t rioting that “We need to understand them,” and such sympathetic rhetoric followed the sending of those emissaries to the funeral of man who had tried to kill a cop and his Attorney General’s admonition to the surviving officers not to react too harshly to any rioting and looting and arson and gunfire that might follow a grand jury decision that was not to the mob’s liking, but it seems not to have soothed any of the savage breasts in Ferguson.
Perhaps a more forceful address emphasizing the eyewitness testimony and physical evidence that corroborated the officer’s account and the always far-fetched nature of that story about a cop gunning down an innocent teenager in the street would have been more effective, especially coming from The First Black President who had promised a gullible electorate that he had overcome his racial animosities and would teach the rest of the country to do the same, but by now no one expected that. The president’s party tried to use the Ferguson tragedy to energize black voters in southern states where the Senate and House races were thought to be close, warning black voters that a Republican victory would mean more innocent black teenagers being gunned down for no reason other than racial animus by white cops, and it continues to see political opportunity in the racial anger that is so starkly on display in Ferguson. The left also has an emotional investment in that story about white cops gunning down black teenagers, too, and eyewitness testimony and physical evidence cannot shake not its faith in its moral superiors over such brutes.
One can only hope that Ferguson recovers from its riots more successfully than did Newark or Camden, New Jersey, or Detroit or the Watts area of Los Angeles or any of the other localities that were afflicted by the similar unrest back when Johnson was delivering the presidential scoldings, but we are not optimistic. Even then the broader society tried to be understanding, with the Kerner Commission providing the official rationalizations for rioting and looting and arson and gunfire, but the areas burned to the ground by the very irrational hatreds of the mobs have still not regained the vibrancy and livability they once offered in supposedly less enlightened times, and even the generations of the Democratic governance that has been brought to bear on Ferguson doesn’t seem to offer much help. Perhaps a sterner response wouldn’t do any better, but sympathy for the rioters and looters and arsonists and gun shooters clearly does little to help their innocent victims.

– Bud Norman

Friends and Enemies and Their Proper Treatment

There was little mention of it in the American press, which was understandably preoccupied with the the president’s executive orders regarding illegal immigration and the upcoming race riot in Missouri and other pressing domestic matters, but last week President Barack Obama thoroughly annoyed Australia.
En route back from China’s Asia-Pacific conference, where he’d grandly announced a deal with the host country that would reduce America’s carbon emissions in exchange for a guffawed promise that in 16 years the Chinese would consider doing the same pointless damage to their own economy, Obama stopped his jetliner in Australia to continue his efforts against anthropogenic global warming. During a speech in Brisbane that was added at the last minute to the president’s schedule he made repeated references to climate change, spoke in worried tones about the ecological health of the Great Barrier Reef, and.seemed to criticize Australia for inefficient use of energy. Australians, the vast majority of whom recently voted in a conservative government because of the depressing economic effects of the previous government’s cap-and-trade policies, and who have taken expensive steps to ensure the ecological health of the Great Barrier Reef, and whose fondness for their freedom of mobility around their vast empty country can only be explained by the “Mad Max” movies, understandably took it as an insult. One of the big Australian newspapers found that the American embassy staff had advised against the speech, reported that the Australian Prime Minister and other officials were not given the usual diplomatic courtesy of an advance copy, and noted that “Historians of the US-Australia relationship are unable to nominate a case of a visiting president making such a hostile speech for the host government.”
Such disrespect for America’s most stalwart allies has been a consistent trait of the Obama administration. It started with his decision to return a bust of Sir Winston Churchill to Great Britain and honor its queen with an I-pod full of his own speeches, then went on with the reneging on a missile defense deal with Poland and the Czech Republic, continued through the undiplomatic treatment and anonymously foul-mouthed descriptions of Israel’s Prime Minister, and is still playing out over the XL Keystone Pipeline and a conspicuously nit-picky enforcement of the norther border and other petty issues with Canada, among numerous other examples. The “open hands” and “reset buttons” have been reserved for such adversaries as the Iranians and Russians, who have benefitted greatly such friendliness while offering little in return but bomb-making and land-grabbing trouble, which seems a peculiar way to conduct a foreign policy.
At this late point in his presidency, however, Obama seems to care little about public opinion in any country except perhaps the ones where he hopes to redistribute the west’s wealth. The same cap-and-trade policies that the Australians rejected were also rejected by America’s Congress even when Nancy Pelosi was Speaker of the House and Harry Reid controlled a supermajority in the Senate, but Obama continues to impose as much of them as he can through executive action. The long delays in construction of the XL Keystone Pipeline that are infuriating the Canadian government are also infuriating the American public, but expect a veto that will bring at least another two year’s delay. An executive order to stop enforcing America’s immigration laws for an estimated five million illegal aliens is proving so widely unpopular that even such formerly steadfast supporters as the black American punditry and the “Saturday Night Live” writing staff are critical, but he seems ready to defend it to the point of a politically advantageous government shutdown. If the Australians feel insulted by the president’s blatant disregard for their opinions, at least they have some idea how Americans feel.

– Bud Norman

Shedding the Corporate Label

If there’s one thing that the more fervent sort of modern liberal hates more than capitalism itself, it’s a corporation. Whenever a modern liberal spits out the word  it sounds as if he thinks the longstanding legal tradition of incorporation is some sort of pact with Satan. If there’s one thing a modern liberal hates more than a corporation it’s a Republican, but we think the Grand Old Party can use some of that anti-corporate fervor in its favor on a few important issues.
This counter-intuitive notion came to us while poring through a recent issue of The New the York Times, of all things. The Gray Lady has been uncharacteristically feisty lately, with such lese majeste as to remind its readers that the president has often been on the record declaring his newly pronounced illegal immigration policy unconstitutional, and she even went so far as to run an article damning Obamacare. That grenade of heresy was lobbed from the left, criticizing the law’s rather cozy relationship with the evil insurance companies that the left had cast as the mustache-twirling villains in the melodrama that played out as the health care law was being forced down the public’s figurative and literal throats, but there’s no reason those on the right shouldn’t share in the outrage. The more righteous of the right have long insisted that government should favor no special business interest, whether incorporated or doing business by any other legal arrangement, but rather enforce a level playing field of ruthlessly efficient and red-in-tooth-and-claw competition. What The New York Times convincingly describes is lobbyist-negotiated, government-regulated, taxpayer-funded crony capitalism, and if there’s one thing the modern conservative hates more than socialism itself it is crony capitalism.
A constitutionally old-fashioned sense of civil discourse usually prevents a true conservative from employing such strong language, but in other contexts the modern liberal will call such economic policies “fascism.” Back in the bad old days of George W. Bush our liberal friends were constantly telling us how fascism merged corporate and government power, just like some tax break that the oil companies were getting or that no-bid contract for Halliburton, and they really seemed to believe that we were living under the reign of another Il Duce. We found it odd that their objection to fascism was not  based on its authoritarian insistence on conformity but rather what the more up-to-date academic liberals call “industrial policy,” and were always skeptical of their apparent belief that Mussolini lived in constant fear of the industrialists’ goons rapping that midnight knock on his door rather than the other way around, and can’t help noticing that their outrage about those tax breaks and no-bid contracts has greatly diminished since Bush left office, but perhaps they can be made to see that Obamacare is about as cozy a relationship between corporations and government as American history provides. We’re talking insurance companies, after all, and by now it will be hard for the left to write them a more friendly role in its ongoing melodrama.
Back in that brief, heated moment when Obamacare was being debated the right found the insurance industry a sympathetic character in the play, but it can easily be recast in the continuing conservative narrative. We initially argued that the industry’s 4 percent profit margin was not at all obscene, and certainly less than what the bureaucratic bloat of the federal government would inevitably suck out of expenditures on health care, but no longer felt any obligation to defend them when they signed on to new rules that exempted them from the market forces that had kept those profit margins low relative to other industries. A generous interpretation would be that in the national insanity following the great “hope and change” election of ’08 the insurers feared a single-payer or full-blown national health system would tie them to a metaphorical railroad track and thus felt compelled to sign on to anything that would prolong their survival, which we must admit did not seem at all far-fetched, but that’s no reason the right should hesitate to throw them back into that ferocious pit of pure capitalism. The always-feisty Washington Examiner warns that the insurance companies will resist any Republican efforts to dismantle Obamacare, but this will only provide the Republicans with a villain that even the modern liberal will boo and hiss in their telling of the long, sad story. They might not like the ending where the insurance companies go back to their piggish 4 percent profit margins and people who like their plans get to keep their plans, but even the liberals should prefer that to the bigger profits and promises of bail-outs under a system that would have surely been fascism if the Republicans had created it.
Selective corporate-bashing could benefit the Republicans elsewhere, as well. All Republican efforts to resist Obama’s outrageous refusal to execute federal immigration laws should include some mention of the powerful corporate interests which will benefit as well as and emphasis on the low-wage workers who will suffer. The waste of public funds on various “green energy” boondoggles should emphasize the incorporated but otherwise politically correct fat cats who are cashing in without providing any of the tangible benefits of those oil men. Countless state and local issues, such as that city-subsidized hotel referendum they peddled here in Wichita a couple of years ago, could unite the anti-corporate and anti-crony-capitalist constituencies in opposition. If the public can be made to understand that the comic agitprop of Jon Stewart and his late-night ilk and the usual fare of The New York Times and those up-to-date academic liberals are products of corporate America that would also be helpful.
The Republicans should resist the label of the party of of corporate America, and should continue to purge their ranks of those corporate-financed office-holders who make it plausible, but allow the Democrats to be the anti-corporate party. Those people who voluntary work for or buy from a corporation are going to be at least somewhat wary of a party intent on the destruction of corporate America, and they are probably a large portion of the population. A party of capitalism, which neither favors nor disfavors any of those corporations fighting it out in a ferocious pit of competition where the lowest profit margin survives, might even have some perverse appeal to even the most anti-corporate modern liberal.

– Bud Norman

The Audacity of the Last Two Years

The president is going ahead with his long-threatened executive action on illegal immigration, and it’s going to be awful. Amnesty under any name for millions of illegal immigrants will only encourage millions more to flood an already glutted unskilled labor market and further burden already strained education and welfare and penal institutions, doing it by executive action will further weaken already tenuous constitutional restraints on presidential power, and if it works as the president plans it will sign up several million more voters for the rest of his awful transformative agenda.
Even with newly elected majorities in both chambers of Congress the Republicans are unlikely to be able to do anything about it, and we are not confident that the courts will even attempt to offer any relief, so our only consolation is that the president’s already low level of popularity will further decline. Not that he cares, having entered the what-the-hell portion of presidency when he can at last unleash his inner radical and stop pretending to care what the squares think, but we can hope that the disrepute he is bringing to liberalism will pay some dividends down the road. The president might think that he can sell his disastrous ends and unconstitutional means to a gullible public, given his unaccountable yet undying faith in his rhetorical skills and the undeniable evidence of the public’s gullibility in that past two presidential contests, but he’s likely to have no more success than he did with Obamacare or the mid-term Democratic candidates or any of his numerous other lost causes.
One needn’t consult the many public opinion polls to know that there is no great clamoring in America for millions more illiterate, unskilled, non-English-speaking refugees from the most dysfunctional neighborhoods of the Third World, nor for a Philosopher-King form of government. These ideas have a certain appeal to an unlikely coalition of rich businessmen with an economic interest in keeping lower-tier wages low, socialistic types whose championing of the poor brown folk serves their heroic self-images, and Latinos whose sense of racial solidarity supersedes their more patriotic impulses, but they comprise a distinct minority of Americans. The rest of the country, including most of the blacks and many of the Latinos who have been such reliable Democratic voters, are more concerned about the lower wages and higher social costs and cultural frictions that are bound to be exacerbated by the president’s action.
Back when the president was obliged to pretend to care what the squares think, he admitted “Not all these fears are irrational.” In that awful “Audacity of Hope” book that launched his first presidential campaign, he also wrote “The number of immigrants added to the labor force every year is of a magnitude not seen in this country for over a century. If this huge influx of mostly low-skill workers provides some benefit for the economy as a whole — especially by keeping our workforce young, in contrast to an increasingly geriatric Europe and Japan — it also threatens to further depress the wages of blue collar workers and put strains on an already overburdened safety net.” He also wrote “There’s no denying that many blacks share the same anxieties as many whites about the wave of illegal immigration flooding our southern border — a sense that what’s happening now is fundamentally different from what has gone on before.” The oh-so-cosmpolitan president even acknowledged those inevitable cultural frictions we mentioned, writing that “Native-born Americans suspect that it is they, and not the immigrant, who are being forced to adapt. And if I’m honest with myself, I must admit that I’m not entirely immune to such nativist sentiments. When I see Mexican flags waved at a pro-immigration demonstrations, I sometimes feel a flush of patriotic resentment. When I’m forced to use a translator to communicate with the guy fixing my car, I feel a certain frustration.”
Then again, the president has also stated on numerous occasions that he has no constitutional authority to take the actions that he will announce tonight. He has apparently changed his mind, as we are certain that the constitution has not changed, but he will have some difficulty refuting his more sensible past arguments.
He can count on some help from the press, judging by an ABC news radio report we just heard that led with the dubious claim that the president would be acting “as past Republican presidents have,” and NBC’s embarrassed insistence that its own polling a sizable number of skeptical Latinos was not reliable, but there have already been some notable defections from the ranks. The New York Times has noted the president’s previous interpretation of his constitutional powers, The Washington Post has acknowledged the planned executive action would “expand the authority of the executive branch into murky, uncharted water,” USA Today was openly skeptical of the president’s claim that this “position hasn’t changed,” and the Associated Press has reminded its readers that a referendum to deny drivers’ licenses to illegal immigrants passed by a 68-to-32 margin even in such a hippie-dippy state as Oregon. Local media will eventually be obliged to report on the budget crises at the local welfare agencies and the scuffles at the local schools and the rest of the local problems that will be too glaring to ignore without losing the last shreds of credibility, and even the most blissfully uninformed will be reading their paychecks.
There might also some be defections from the Democratic ranks in Congress. The Huffington Post reported that soon-to-be Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid urged the president to wait until December in vain hopes of some congressional solution that he might concoct the before the Republican majority is installed, then reported that he apparently figured out that the existing House majority had been the roadblock all along and was urging the president to “go big,” and we suspect a similar ambivalence among the rest of his recently-shellacked Democratic party. The thought of those additional votes is surely tempting, and there’s also the financial support of those rich businessmen with an economic interest in keeping wages low, as well the temptingly heroic-self image of being a champion of poor brown folk, but those votes might not make it to the polls for several years and in the meantime they’ve surely seen the polls and heard the deafening lack of clamoring for millions more illiterate, unskilled, non-English-speaking immigrants from the most dysfunctional neighborhoods of the Third World. Party loyalty will probably prevail, as the Democrats are a remarkably disciplined lot, but we can hope that a few Representatives and maybe a Senator from the more sensible portions of the country will panic and jump ship.
A few Democrats broke ranks over the wildly popular XL Keystone Pipeline project, most notably Louisiana’s Sen. Mary Landrieu in a desperate bid to stave off the wrath of her voters in a run-off election, but not enough to get the necessary lame-duck super-majority, so when the bill passes overwhelmingly in the first days of the next Congress the president will assume all the public’s wrath with his veto. Recent remarks by an irksome professor and upcoming rate increases will make poll-tested reforms in Obamacare all the more popular, and the president’s inevitable vetoes will be correspondingly unpopular. Failure to ratify a lousy treaty with the Iranians will also prove popular, joint investigations made possible the Republican majorities can easily come up with some damaging revelations about the Internal Revenue Service and Benghazi and any number of other scandals, and absent any Republican overreach or excessive caution or other missteps it’s hard to see anything on the horizon that redounds to the president’s political benefit. At some point, every Democrat contending for any office with have to come up with a pitch that they’re somehow different from the president.
That pitch has to be carefully worded so as not to offend the president’s die-hard faithful, which denies the Democrats the pleasures and political benefits of the full-throated denunciations that every Republican candidate will be shouting, but at least it will also have to be more in tune with the majority of the country. We’ll be interested to hear what it is. Two more years of the what-the-hell presidency of an unleashed radical is bound to engender some suspicion of unfettered liberalism, and so far the Democrats seem to the gamut from the Hillary CLinton left to the left-of-Hillary Clinton left, so there’s at least some hope that the Republicans can successfully present a conservative alternative if the country last another couple years. If they do he’ll probably reverse the current president’s executive orders, and not be bound by the law that a more savvy and less power-hungry predecessor could have finagled out of the weak-kneed Republican leaders and their rich businessmen contributors or pushed through when his party had all the power but the president had a reelection campaign in front of him, which would be a nice denouement to this whole sordid affair.

– Bud Norman

Of Savages and Their Apologists

There was dancing in the streets of the Palestine territories on Tuesday, complete with the traditional handing out of sweets to the children, in celebration of the slaughter of five godly men worshiping at an Israeli synagogue. Reaction among those Palestinians’ many sympathizers here in America was more muted, but no less disturbing.
The President of the United States chose strong words to condemn the murders, but felt obliged to add that “too many Palestinians have died” as a result of Israel’s efforts to defend itself against such slaughter. He further asserted that a “majority of Palestinians want peace,” despite all those sweets being handed out on the streets of the Palestinian territory and the majority of its population that has consistently supported the Hamas terror gang that shares in power in its government and has also celebrated the murders, and thus left the impression that he would continue to insist on further Israeli concessions and self-restraint to achieve his stated goal of a Palestinian state. Most of the anti-Israel left responded with an appalling silence, but a few ventured the usual claims of moral equivalence between the Palestinians’ slaughter of random civilians with Israel’s carefully calculated strikes against terrorists. On the Cable News Network they reflexively misreported that the murders had been committed at a mosque, but even after correcting the rather significant error they invited a woman on the air to argue that because Israel has been forced by constant attacks of its neighbors to impose universal conscription it cannot suffer civilian casualties, and much of the media seemed committed to a similar evenhandedness between the killers and their victims. The Israeli government has ordered the demolition of the killers’ homes and eased restrictions on Israelis’ gun rights to allow them to defend themselves against a recent spate of lone wolf attacks on the citizenry, so we expect the left’s sensibilities to be further offended.
No one seemed willing to acknowledge that the attacks had something to do with the same religious supremacism that has lately led to the slaughter of westerners from Iraq to England to Canada to Oklahoma, even though the killers’ proud families and organizations were loudly proclaiming that motivation. Although it was widely reported that three of victims were Americans and one a Briton, and that the New York City Police Department is on alert to prevent similar acts of violence in its jurisdiction, too late to prevent the savage beating of a 53-year-old Jew at a subway station, and even though there’s a vague memory of the Palestinians dancing in the streets and handing out sweets in celebration of the slaughter of 3,000 Americans on a warm September morning some years ago, no one seemed willing to acknowledge that Israel’s fight for survival has something to do with civilization’s ongoing fight for survival.
After too many desultory conversations with the Palestinians’ sympathizers, we have reluctantly concluded they have less regard for civilization than a sentimental attraction to the killers’ claims of victimhood. The profound western civilization that has largely derived from the Judeo-Christian tradition provides them with a prosperity and freedom and opportunities for happiness unprecedented in the history of mankind, but it has also resulted in the inequalities and imperfections that are inherent in any society of humans, so they prefer the primitivism of their society’s enemies. They denounce the sexism of a society that subjects women to a scientist’s ribald shirts, and decry the homophobia of a nation whose courts haven’t yet fully imposed same-sex marriage on a wary populace, but make apologies for a religious movement that subjugates its women in ways that the women of medieval Europe would have never tolerated and whose courts have not yet decided whether beheading or stoning is the proper punishment for homosexuality.
They might yet rouse some resistance when the slaughter is visited upon their own communities, although the left’s supine response to the slaughter of 3,000 Americans on a warm September morning a few short years ago and the countless outrages that have occurred since leave little cause for hope, and when the slaughter of five godly men worshiping at an Israeli synagogue disappears from the news in a few days it will seem all the more unlikely.

– Bud Norman

A Full Day of Outrageous Presidential Remarks

Even on the slowest news days an opinion writer can almost always count on President Barack Obama to provide some outrageous remark to fulminate about. On Monday, though, the president provided more than the usual fodder.
One hardly knows where to begin, but it might as well be with the official White House statement regarding the latest horrific beheading of an American by the Islamic State, the bloodthirsty terrorist gang that was once dismissed by the president as a “jayvee team” and is now in charge of much of Syria and prematurely-abandoned-by-America Iraq. The statement appropriately offers prayers and condolences to the victim’s family, and accurately describes the murder as “an act of pure evil,” but then veers into the most bizarre apologetics. Referring to the terror gang by its preferred acronym, and to the victim by the name he adopted during his captivity to them, the statement adds that “ISIL’s actions represent no faith, least of all the Muslim faith which Abdul-Rahman adopted as his own.” The dubious claim that the Islamic State’s actions have nothing to do with Islam is by now an obligatory ritual that follows every act of Islamist terrorism, but that “least of all” defies any rational explanation. There’s no avoiding an implication that Muslims are far less inclined toward beheading infidels than the adherents of Judaism or Christianity or Buddhism of Hinduism or any other religion, which is clearly contradicted by copious evidence stretching from Iraq to Oklahoma, nor the conclusion that the president regards the victim’s conversion to his captor’s supposedly anti-Islamic creed as sincere. We can well understand a desire not to rile the non-beheading Muslim population, but the president’s remarks smack of a religious favoritism that is inappropriate and downright worrisome from an American leader.
Then there’s the report of the president’s advice to the protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, to “stay the course.” The previously little-known St. Louis suburb has endured rioting and looting and arson and assorted acts of mayhem ever since a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager, and now that it appears a grand jury which has heard all the physical evidence and eyewitness testimony will conclude that the officer acted in self-defense against a violent behemoth who attacked him and was struggling for his gun there is a legitimate concern that more rioting and looting and arson and assorted mayhem will soon follow. A generous interpretation of the president’s remarks would be that he urges them to “stay on the course” of peaceful protest, rather than the course that has been taken, but even the peaceful protestors he was addressing have stated that “Rioting and looting are the tools of those without a voice.” Better advice would be for the protestors to respect the conclusion of the grand jury, and the facts that led it to its conclusion, but apparently the president who promised a post-racial America would prefer that a majority-black town be utterly destroyed.
Slightly less irksome are the president’s disavowals of Jonathan Gruber, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology economic professor who has been caught on videotape gloating about the deceptions that were used to ensure the passage of Obamacare and the stupidity of the American voters who fell for them. The president’s previous admission that he “stole liberally” from the professor is more convincing, given the $400,000 the president paid for the professor’s advice and the if-you-like-your-plan-you-can-keep-your plan deceptions that were indeed built into the law, so only the most stupid American voters are likely to be fooled once again. Given the bone-chilling weather that has arrived ahead of schedule here in Kansas we are more annoyed by the president’s boast that the Republican majorities that have been installed in both chambers of Congress by a clear majority of voters won’t be able to stop his executive orders to combat global warming, but on a day so full of outrageous remarks even that doesn’t warrant a full column.

– Bud Norman

Who Are the Rubes?

Not since the late, great Milton Friedman has a professor of economics done as much to advance the conservative cause as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Jonathan Gruber. In Gruber’s case his contributions have been entirely inadvertent, but we appreciate them nonetheless.
In case you haven’t heard the nationwide grumbling, Gruber is the “architect of Obamacare” who has been caught on several different videotapes gloating about the numerous deceptions that were built into the bill in order to assure its passage. To compound the public’s outrage he has also been caught snickering about the stupidity of the average American on whose behalf he was supposedly practicing the deceptions, which neatly epitomizes the arrogance of modern liberalism, and it further exposes exactly who are the stupid Americans.
A clear majority of Americans were never fooled into thinking that Obamacare was a good idea, even as the bill was being ramrodded through the Congress by means of questionable legality, and conservatives were wise to its deceptions all along. Gruber takes a peculiar pride in the bill’s unprecedented tax on not buying health insurance being disguised as a mandate, a bit of semantic legerdemain that the Congressional Budget Office was obliged to honor lest the bill scare off even Democrats, but all along conservatives were pointing out that it made no difference to the people who would be paying the bill under either name. When the Supreme Court upheld the dangerous notion that government can compel citizens to buy something they do not want it did so on the grounds that the mandate was indeed a tax, conservatives’ only consolation was that the government had at least been forced to acknowledge its lie. Gruber also told his fellow academics that the average American was too stupid to understand that the tax on insurers would inevitably be passed along to the insured, but the very simple concept that a tax on corporations is always paid by its customers has been a staple of conservative economics since Adam Smith. Only liberals believe that corporations pay taxes, and we are grateful to Gruber for pointing out how very stupid they are to believe such nonsense.
Gruber’s kindnesses to conservatism do not end there, however. Efforts by the likes of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats to disavow their association with the professor allowed the conservative press to point out the $400,000 and the “architect of Obamacare” title he received from them, which can only stoke the indignation of the insulted American public. He also pocketed several million dollars giving advice to the states on how to deal with the law, and his videotaped instructions include repeated warnings that the law quite deliberately insists that citizens of states which do not set up their own health care exchanges will not be eligible for Obamacare’s generous subsidies. Now that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the King v. Burwell case, which could result in the enforcement of that provision and deny subsidies to citizens of the 37 states that declined to set up their own exchanges despite Gruber’s warnings, the administration is arguing that it was merely an unintentional typographical error and not at all the intention of Congress. The testimony of Obamacare’s acknowledged architect, along with a few other choice items from the congressional record, could effectively debunk that deception and create all sorts of welcome havoc for the law.
The formerly brilliant Gruber was also credited with creating the Obamacare-like “Romneycare” plan enacted in earlier Massachusetts, and has helpfully admitted that its brief survival was due largely to federal assistance, so his association with eponymous former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney should help the more rock-ribbed sorts of Republicans in staving off any attempt by Romney or any other northeastern moderate to win their party’s presidential nomination. Gruber might yet provide further service to the conservative cause, but his astoundingly stupid admissions that only the stupid believed the claims of Obamacare has been such a boon to the self-esteem of conservatives that he has earned our eternal gratitude. One can only hope that the liberals will take umbrage at his insults, but we suspect they’re too stupid to realize he was talking about them.

– Bud Norman

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