Don’t Mess With Texas

Unaccustomed as we are to rooting for Texas, we’re obliged to raise a toast to the Lone Star State’s Gov. Rick Perry for his decision to send a thousand state militia troops to secure his portion of the nation’s southern border. The troops have no legal authority to arrest or deport anyone and are therefore unlikely to do anything meaningful about the recent invasion of unaccompanied illegal minors into the country, but we like the gesture nonetheless.
At the very least Perry’s gesture keeps the border crisis in the news, and at a time when the implosion of America’s recent foreign recent policy in Gaza and Ukraine and other usually overlooked lands is dominating the headlines. A few hundred thousand invaders are easily ignored by the media, even when they’re underaged and stacked up in makeshift detention centers or being expensively unloaded on a school district and law enforcement community near you, so anything that forces the necessary public attention is welcome.
Those who peruse past the headline about the story will also note that Gov. Perry is taking a more steadfast stand against the the invasion than the current presidential administration, and that should also have a salutary effect on American public opinion. The current presidential administration has been talking tough about sending the invaders back home, just as it has been talking tough about Russia’s misdeeds in the Ukraine and Israel’s right to be doing damage in Gaza, but in each case the insincerity is by now apparent. Gov. Perry is on tenuous legal ground with even his purely symbolic gesture, given the Supreme Court’s inexplicable decision that states have no right to enforce any immigration laws that the federal government declines to enforce, but perhaps the casual reader of the obligatory news stories will wonder how this bizarre situation came to be.
If the gesture is intended only to bolster Gov. Perry’s standing in the ’16 presidential race that is also fine by us. All the pundits like to believe that his aspirations in ’12 were derailed by a brief brain freeze following major surgery during one of those interminable Republican primary debates, but the bigger problem was his past support for in-state tuition for the “dreamers” who had been snuck into the country by their invading parents, and to whatever extent the gesture is intended as penance we accept it gratefully. Aside from those few seconds of stammering during that long-forgotten primary debate Gov. Perry has done a pretty good job of not screwing up his state’s remarkable record of economic expansion while the rest of the non-fracking country has been stuck in neutral, and he warrants consideration as a replacement to the current presidential administration.

– Bud Norman

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The Sad End of Archie

Many decades have passed since we last checked in on Archie, Jughead, Betty, Veronica and the rest of the Riverdale High School gang that populated the “Archie” comic books, but we still regarded them as childhood pals. Now we hear that Archie is about to be killed, sacrificed on the altar of liberal dogma, and it seems unfitting.
From its debut in 1941 until just a few years ago, the “Archie” comics were blissfully free of any political. A charmingly cornball account of a redheaded teenager’s carefree existence, his only problem being the constant attention of a wholesome blond beauty and slightly sultrier brunette beauty, and except for the slang and the fashions and the music playing on the jukebox at the local malt shop nothing ever changed. Apparently Archie finally grew up about four years ago, at a time when everyone else’s adolescence remained arrested, and since the comic has tried to achieve “social relevance” by detailing the divorces and diseases and financial struggles and other adult problems from which the characters formerly provided escape. One of the plot lines involved Archie’s obligatory homosexual friend, who of course got married and ran for Senate on a strict gun control platform, and now it seems that Archie is to be shot while thwarting the predictable assassination attempt.
.We don’t mind so much that Archie is leaving the earthly comic book realm, as anyone who was a teenager in 1941 has by now lived to a ripe old age, but he shouldn’t have to suffer the ignominy of dying for such absurd propaganda. The “Archie” comics were always intended for a very young audience, too young to consider the many arguments made about such issues as same-sex marriage and gun control, and it’s a rather sleazy enterprise to indoctrinate such impressionable readers.
Children’s entertainments are full of such propaganda, however, and usually with the same lack of subtlety. Environmentalist talking points are especially common, and have rendered a generation of youngsters neurotically fearful about the survival of the planet, but guns and same-sex marriage and a celebratory attitude about all the alien cultures that are sneaking across the border are also routine. If there are any messages being sneaked into children’s books and movies and television shows that celebrate free market capitalism or traditional values or anything else that might plant a seed of Republican inclinations in young mind we have not noticed them. Perhaps the Archie comics in their socially irrelevant era were guilty of teaching heterosexism through Archie’s romantic back-and-forths with Betty and Veronica but never with Jughead or even that hunky “Moose” character, and perhaps the lack of ethnic diversity that prevailed at Riverdale High until the ’60s or so taught a racist wariness of The Other, and any post-modern deconstructionist worth his salt could find any number of other offenses against today’s more enlightened attitudes, but we can’t recall any issues when Archie and his pals went gay-bashing or gun-slinging.
The Archie comics of our long-ago youth helped us learn to read, gave us a hopeful idea of what the coming teenage years could be, and imparted no lessons other than a proper respect for old folks and a friendliness toward our peers. The were occasionally amusing, too, which does a kid more good than a ham-handed gun control tract. Archie deserves better, and so do today’s comic book reading children.

– Bud Norman

Polls, Politics, and Prioritizing Our Problems

All that “tranquility of the global community” the White House spokesman was recently boasting about dominated Thursday’s news, what with Israeli ground troops entering Gaza and a jet from the ill-fated Malaysian Airlines being shot down over Russian-occupied Ukraine, so it would have been easy to overlook an intriguing Gallup poll about what worries Americans most. The litany’s top top five doesn’t include the deteriorating international order, which should come as a relief to that insouciant White House spokesman, but neither does it include any good news for the Democrats.
Topping the list of most important problems is “immigration/illegal aliens,” which has shot up the charts since the recent invasion by unaccompanied minors from Central America, and the racist xenophobes of the Republican party are likely beneficiaries of the public’s concern. The Democrats and their media allies will have a hard time convincing anyone that the Republicans’ racism and xenophobia are what’s drawing tens of thousands of expensive illegal youngsters to the country, rather than the Democrats’ more compassionate and caring policy of holding out hope of amnesty and free stuff, and other polls indicate that most Americans are more inclined to the racist and xenophobic option of returning the invaders to their homelands.
Coming in a close second is the hodgepodge of “Dissatisfaction with government, Congress, politicians, poor leadership, corruption, Abuse of Power,” which is at least open to hopeful interpretations. The White House will prefer to read this as a righteous anger against those obstructionist Republicans in Congress who stubbornly refuse to rubber stamp the president’s agenda, but we expect that many respondents had in mind the Internal Revenue Service and Veterans Administration and National Security Agency scandals and any number of other problems that have more to do with the executive branch. Much of that dissatisfaction with Congress is caused by the Democrat-controlled Senate, too, and the Republicans in the other chamber don’t seem to have much power to abuse.
The “economy in general” comes in second and “unemployment, jobs” in third, and a sensible combination of these two would have probably come in first. The Democrats will argue that these problems could have been easily solved if only those darned Republicans had allowed them to rack up the national debt by a few more billion and add another million or so pages of regulations for the understaffed compliances offices of America’s corporations to comply with, but the Republicans should be able to get a few votes and a lot of laughs out of that.
“Poor healthcare, hospitals, high cost of health care” comes in fourth on the list, so the Republicans will have a head start on convincing the American public that Obamacare hasn’t solved all that. Despite an almost complete absence of news coverage, “federal budget deficit, federal” debt comes in at a surprisingly strong fifth place. The Democrats will boast that they’ve cut those deficits to less than the recent trillion dollar highs, even as they lambaste the Republicans for their stingy ways, but this far the public is not reassured. “Education, poor education, access” to education are the public’s sixth most pressing problem, and the teachers unions will need to spend a lot of dues money to convince any voters that they just need more funding and continued tenure and that federalized Common Core Curriculum to make things right at school. “Ethics, moral, religious, family decline” comes in eighth, and the party that would compel nuns to purchase contraceptives is not likely to appeal the people with those worries.
Democrats can take some hope in noting that “Poverty, hunger, homelessness” came in ninth, as these are the party’s traditional causes, but they’ll have to hope that nobody notices there’s more of all of them after six years of a Democratic presidency. It’s also good news for the Democrats that “foreign aid, focus overseas” barely made the top ten.
What’s missing from the top ten is also a problem for the Democrats. Only one percent of the poll’s respondents cited “race relations and racism” as the nation’s most pressing problem, and it’s probably a similar number who will take seriously the notion that racism is the sole reason for any dissatisfaction with the president. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision doesn’t rate any mention, even though it’s a staple of Democratic fund-raising and the Senate Democrats regard it as such a crisis that the First Amendment needs amending as a result. The Hobby Lobby decision is also unmentioned by any of the respondents, even though the Democrats are raising even more money with claims that it’s the first step toward the Republicans’ nefarious plot to subjugate women to bare feet and pregnancy. The even more nefarious plot by to Koch Brothers to do God only knows what was also overlooked, although that can cited by the fund-raising Democrats as further proof of how very ingeniously wicked is the conspiracy. We also note that income inequality and global warming and transgendered rights and all the other issues that seem to excite a certain sort of Democrat are not high on the list of what the general public is worried about.
We don’t have much regard for the general public, but is heartening to see that they have more sensible priorities than a certain sort of Democrat.

– Bud Norman

A Chilling Wind and Childhood

Wednesday was wet and chilly and glum, at a time of year that is expected to be dry and hot and cheery in our prairie city, and we took a moment in our melancholy to feel sorry for the local children.
Even in our middle age we can well remember how very irksome it was to be homebound by the weather on any day of summer vacation. Those precious days of freedom were meant to be spent on a bicycle, on rides into town or out to the remotest countryside, and the rain that would sometimes fall on the just and the unjust alike was a hated imprisonment. The driveway basketball games could still go on in soaked t-shirts and shorts, except during lightning strikes or hail, but otherwise it meant being confined to the indoors. There were great old movies from the golden black-and-white era of Hollywood showing on the “Dialing for Dollars” afternoon show, and an ample supply of books the folks had stocked, and a chess set that a younger brother also knew how to use, but even these sublime indoors entertainments could not compare to the glorious Huckleberry Finn feeling of being out in the open air and away from adult supervision.
Much good and little harm came to us during those early boyhood forays into the world, or at least that prairie portion of it that could be reached by bicycle and returned from by dinnertime, and we fret that the urchins we encounter on our walks around the neighborhood will never know the same benefits or learn from the same slight scrapes. All of the kids scurrying around the nearby parks and playgrounds always look to be excessively supervised, not only by their omnipresent parents but also by the regulators who have welded the old metal spaceship shut and made all the other public playthings so boringly safe, and in our middle-class and well-educated neighborhood they don’t have much scurrying around time left in between the violin lessons and crafts classes and the rest of highly structured schedules that middle-class and well-educated parents insist on these days. The slightly swarthier kids from the nearby barrio predominate in the local parks, and we’re pleased to note they’re at least allowed to frolic in the modern art fountain near the old zoo on the sultry days, but they also have parents watching over them with a wariness that teaches a fear of even a dry and hot and happy day in a picturesque park on the prairie.
At Reason Magazine we read of a mother who was jailed for her letting her nine-year-old daughter play alone at a nearby park, and we think of the times we climbed three stories up a rusty steel ladder to the top of an abandoned cement factory miles from home at about the same age, and we wonder what’s become of a country that won’t allow reasonable latitude to its children. If it is truly so unsafe for a nine-year-old to wander a few blocks to a public park by herself that her mother should be charged with dereliction of parental duty, the community should insist on a higher standard of public safety. Those afternoon black-and-white movies always featured an “Our Gang” short that documented how kids would wander their worlds even in the dangerous days of the Great Depression, and that ample supply of books on our parents’ shelves included Twain and Dickens and other authors who testified about the unfettered childhoods of even earlier generations, so we conclude this is a modern complaint.
More wet and chilly and glum weather is forecast for today, but we’re hopeful that we’ll eventually some of that global warming that the alarmists have been terrorizing the kids about. When it comes we hope some of the local youngsters will sneak off and do something that hasn’t been scheduled for them. We’ll try to do the same, and will revel in the memory of America’s lost freedoms.

– Bud Norman

The Noise in Israel and the Quiet Elsewhere

Every few years or so Israel has to wage war against the Islamist terror gangs that want to kill every Jew in the world, and the current unpleasantness is much the same as all the other occasions. What’s conspicuously different this time around, however, is that most of the world doesn’t seem to mind Israel defending its citizens.
The usual outraged demonstrations have been strikingly absent from the public squares of the Islamic world, leftist indignation in the west has been relatively muted, and many of the governments in the west have been surprisingly supportive of Israel. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, and even the avowedly socialist French President Francois Hollande, whose country saw a few local Islamist terror gangs attack the local synagogues, have all called Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu with words of support. All of those calls came in before Netanyahu heard from the United States, which was formerly Israel’s best friend but has lately been more interested in dictating its housing policies and hectoring it to accept a so-called “peace treaty” with the same Islamist terror gang that is now indiscriminately lobbing rockets into their country, but even the current administration has accepted Israel’s right to self-defense in its public statements. Not so unequivocally supportive as Canada and its conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in this strange new world we find ourselves living in, but accepting nonetheless.
It would feel nice to attribute this strange new understanding to the world’s sudden ability to see the world with moral clarity, and to understand that Hamas’ rain of rockets on Israel hasn’t killed thousands only because of the Jewish state’s amazing “Iron Dome” missile defense system and that Israel’s retaliatory strikes against the launch sites have killed only hundreds because of their extraordinary efforts to prevent civilian casualties, but this is too hopeful. The public squares of the Islamic world are probably quiet only because the people gathered there are distracted by the many more thousands of co-religionists who are being slaughtered by the nominally Muslim government of Syria and the Islamist terror gang that has spilled over from that conflict into an all-out assault on Iraq. The Arab and Sunni governments of the region don’t have the usual motives to whip up anti-Israel sentiment among their restive populations, not when the rockets are being supplied by a Persian and Shiite Iranian theocracy that poses a far more frightening threat than Israel ever would. Those suddenly supportive western governments are probably making the same calculations, with a wary eye on the Islamist terror gangs living happily on welfare within their borders, and might well revert to their traditional moral relativism as soon as it is politically expedient.
Still, at this moment the tide of international opinion seems to have turned in Israel’s favor, and given that Hamas’ futile rocket-lobbing was never intended as a military victory but only a public relations coup, that bodes well for a total Israeli victory. In an ill-timed op-ed piece published in an Israeli magazine just days before Hamas started indiscriminately lobbing rockets into Israel, President Barack Obama was still urging the adoption of his proposed peace deal with the Hamas-affiliated government and claiming it would “help turn the tide of international opinion and sideline violent extremists,” but despite the Israeli’s wise decision to argue his advice the world seems willing to side with Israel’s right to sideline the violent extremists with some pin-point missile strikes at sites the civilians are long forewarned to stay away from. Perhaps this is another example of leading from behind, but it looks more like another botched attempt to keep up with rather than ahead of world opinion.

– Bud Norman

O Canada

We’re old enough to have been around when Pierre Trudeau was transforming Canada into the one of the world’s wussiest nations, and well remember how very envious was the American left. Trudeau was unabashedly socialist, considered an intellectual, and had a tabloid-worthy sex life, so he embodied everything Americans liberals would be looking for in a national leader over the subsequent decades. Even after Trudeau’s disastrous reign came to an end Canada retained a reputation for enlightened liberalism, with its health care system and gun-shyness and apologetic foreign policy and exquisitely sensitive multi-culturalism constantly cited by the likes of Michael Moore to shame the relatively conservative rubes south of its border.
We’re also old enough, alas, to have arrived at a point in our lives when we’re pining for the sort of national leadership that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is now providing Canada. The sobering thought occurred to us again when Harper released a statement of unequivocal support for Israel’s right to respond however it wishes to the murderous rocket attacks on its people by the despicable terror gang Hamas, with none of the absurd moral relativism or bossy insistence on a suicidal two-state solution with a Hamas-affiliated government that our own abashedly socialist and considered-an-intellectual national leader was propounding in an op-ed piece in an Israeli magazine just before the latest attacks by that very same despicable terror gang starting lobbing rockets at civilian targets across Israel. Admitting the wisdom of the Canadian way is still uncomfortable for us, but it’s becoming all too familiar.
Harper is also quite right about the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would benefit both Canada and America and keep inexpensive oil out of the hands of Chinese industries that will use it in more environmentally unfriendly ways, but our political leadership is too beholden to environmental fantasists to allow it. Canada’s economy was largely unscathed by the financial meltdown that occurred in America and elsewhere because it had wisely declined to require its banks to loan gazillions of dollars to un-creditworthy home buyers, has further enriched itself under Harper’s leadership by encouraging rather than discouraging the exploitation of its vast natural resources through new technologies, and is now several spots ahead of the United States on the Heritage Foundation’s reliable rankings of each country’s economic freedom. Harper has even begun an anti-carbon tax coalition with the conservative government of Australia, which came to power after the liberals’ insane cap-and-trade scheme proved calamitous for that island continent’s economy, and it’s almost enough to make us think that punting on third down isn’t such a bad idea.
One of those famously smart French intellectuals is warning Britons that the European Union is demographically dying and they’d be better off casting their lot with the Anglosphere, which strikes us as good advice, but for the first time in our long lives we don’t expect for the Americans to take their usual lead in that coalition. Perhaps in another two-and-a-half years the United States can assume its rightful position among that handful of nations that the only ones to be on the right side of every battle against tyranny during the 20th Century, but until then we can only envy the leadership to the north. There’s some consolation is knowing that the once-envious liberals are just as discombobulated by it all, but it is faint.

– Bud Norman

Tommy, Clif, and Tommy, RIP

All of the original Ramones are now dead, two of the best rockers in our prairie city have recently passed away, and what’s left of rock ‘n’ roll music suddenly isn’t at all satisfying.
You probably had to be a troubled youth in the late ’70s and early ’80s to fully appreciate The Ramones, but we were there and you can trust us when we say they were one of America’s greatest musical creations. At a time when rock ‘n’ roll stars were absurdly overpaid prima donnas striking ridiculous poses in even more ridiculous clothes, pretending that a musical style derived from greasy-haired poor white trash in the hills and prairies and bayous in an unholy alliance with the no-account negroes on the street corners of the roughest slums was now some sort of effete art form, The Ramones came out of the garages in some nondescript New York suburb wearing leather jackets and torn jeans and cheap sneakers with shaggy hair in their eyes to pound out a fast and furious and funny reminder of what the real deal sounded liked. No synthesizers or drum machines or fancy production techniques or any pretense of redeeming social value, just an insistent man-made beat and a thudding bass line and three chords screeching from an electric guitar while a gloriously ugly lead singer wailed “I”m a Teenage Lobotomy,” ¬†“Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue,” “I Wanna Be Sedated,” “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend,” “Gabba Gabba Hey,” or similarly understandable and socially irrelevant rock ‘n’ roll sentiments. The Ramones’ formula distilled rock ‘n’ roll to its intoxicatingly stupid quintessence, and even now when we slap the old sides on the turntable we still tremble at its all-American brilliance.
That basic idea of The Ramones became known as punk rock, and was eagerly embraced by a smattering of oddball kids here in Wichita. With the band’s music blaring on record players at parties and in the afternoons at the apartments of unemployed friends we’d share the half-baked ideas that had been inspired by the demonstration that rock ‘n’ roll or any other cultural expression was something to be created at ground level by ordinary Americans such as ourselves rather than a commodity to be purchased from the established manufacturers. The more musically inclined among us formed bands such as The Agaarns and The Dream Dates and The Inevitable and that classic international cult band The Embarrassment, others painted pictures, some took photographs, and a few of us were compelled to write breathless accounts about with a few pieces that were somehow sneaked into the pages of the local newspaper. It was great fun, the sort of giddy entertainment that can only be enjoyed at a young age and with plenty of rock ‘n’ roll, and seems to have had some lasting value.
Some of those troubled and creative kids we knew on the scene have died early deaths from various causes, one is locked away in a federal prison on some very embarrassing charges, others have drifted away to unknown fates, but many are still coming up with something worthwhile to contribute to the local culture, or at least offering some much needed friendship. The art shows that still draw a crowd on the “Final Fridays” of every month by collusion of the painterly part of town aren’t so interesting these days, but they’re still there and so long as they are it provides hope that another John Noble or William Dickerson or one of the other truly great Wichita painter will some day arrive. The band scene is in one of its periodic slow points around here, so far as well gather from our admittedly infrequent forays into the bars where live music is still heard, but there’s still enough of the real deal rock ‘n’ roll to germinate another generation.
The young punks will have to do it without Clif Major and Tommy Crabb, though, and that’s going to be tough. Major was a local guitar star going back to the mid’-’60s, when his screeching solos for the oh-so-southside band The Outcasts transformed the local scene. Most of the well-scrubbed Wichita youth back then preferred the bouncy rock ‘n’ roll of such uniformed midwestern horn bands as The Fabulous Flippers, while the more sophisticated college hippies went for the slightly jazzy psychedelics of the great Mike Finnegan and his Serfs or the San Francisco-connected Jerry Hahn Brotherhood, but The Outcasts introduced the bluesy working class that was being exploited by British bands such as The Yardbirds and The Rolling Stones and wound up winning all the battles of the bands. The feat almost killed Major a couple of times, and we got to know him well enough that he laughingly recalled for us how a subsequent stint in a bluegrass gospel band saved his life by keeping him off the prodigious diet of drugs that had fueled those screeching guitar solos, but he lasted long enough to enliven the ’80s rock scene with some gritty sax-driven ’50s rock ‘n’ roll and offer guitar-playing advice to the 21st Century’s local rockers at his ultra-cool instrument shop and to raise a son who slaps a pretty mean rockabilly upright bass in the local bands. Major was a good musician and a good guy, right up to the point that he lost his long battle with cancer, and Wichita and the world can ill-afford to lose either of those.
Crabb was a longtime musical collaborator of Major’s, and his death in his early ’60s about a week after Major’s passing was an unexpected blow. Every local music lover we ran into had the same stunned reaction, that they’d just run into him a few days before and thought he looked great. He’d been drumming for local bands as long as anyone could remember, and it was widely expected to last forever. We remember with particular fondness a night that he and Major had a gig backing up the great Bo Diddley at a sleazy little strip mall on the near west side, and how their natural affinity for the good time music with the Bo Diddle beat had propelled the jaded old pioneers to new frontiers of the real deal rock ‘n’ roll. His last gig was The Tom Page Band, a rootsy outfit that jumps from old-time country to down-home blues to long-haired rock with an effortless knack and is about as good as it gets around here, and its sad to be dreading their next performance. Crabb was a good drummer and another good guy, and a friend of ours who used his bills-paying services laying tile in a renovated kitchen assures us he was quite good at that job, and we’ll miss a drummer a who could answer a cell phone call in the middle of a show without missing a beat.
Tommy Ramone and his fellow Ramones and Clif Major and Tommy Crabb all died younger than people are supposed to in this day of medical miracles, none of them reaching that three score and ten that the Bible described as the age of man, and we lament the work they each left undone. There was never going to be a Ramones reunion, as there’s no sense in sixty-something gray hairs banging out three chords about sniffing glue, and when replacement Marky Ramone tried to revive the old punk spirit at the Wichita River Festival last spring one of our original punk scene friends complained that some idiot was trying to start a “wave,” but we understand that Tommy Ramone was still performing some interesting acoustic folk music, going back to an even more democratic era of American music, and we would loved to have heard it. One of the guys from The Embarrassment is back in town to take care of his aging father, who was once a prominent player on the local big band swing scene, and the most famous local act is Split Lip Rayfield with their punk-meets-bluegrass blend, which can be quite exhilarating when the boys are on their game, and we hold out hope that Wichita will once again realize the glorious possibilities of that unholy alliance of greasy poor white trash and the no-account negroes on the street corners and the very heart and soul of working class America..
Maybe it’s already out there, and we’re just too inclined to stay home to have heard it. We’re always asking the young folks we run into about it, though, and they always glumly assure us that we’re not missing anything special. Nobody we run into eagerly debates who’s the best guitar players out there, the way that Major’s fans did back in the ’60s, and they certainly don’t argue about who’s the best clarinet player, the way our old fogey friends did even into our early youth, and these days the best drum players are all computer programs. America’s popular culture is now just another commodity bought from the established manufacturers, not something that ordinary Americans create spontaneously and joyously and rebelliously and dangerously, and we mourn that passing most of all.

– Bud Norman

The Fissure at the Border

The president and his supporters in the press are trying their best to portray the Republicans as the villains in the ongoing border crisis, but it’s looking like more of a problem for the Democrats. All those unaccompanied minors who have illegally entered the country in the past months have unified the Republican opposition, annoyed the politically unaffiliated, and at long last exposed some dangerous fault lines in the Democratic coalition.
After so many years of successfully vilifying the Republicans as a bunch of stingy racist xenophobes eager to harass any brown-skinned people who innocently if illegally wander across the border it is now hard for the Democrats to argue that it was the GOP who lured all those unaccompanied minors across the border with promises of amnesty and ample social services. There have been some Republicans from the big business wing who were tolerant of an insecure border and willing to tolerate those who crossed it, but House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor lost to an under-funded unknown because of his welcoming attitude toward illegal immigrant even before the current mess started to dominate the headlines, and it’s a certainty that the next Republican majority in Congress will be almost entirely rid of such heretics. The smart people have long warned the Republicans that this stance will forever doom them to a demographic disaster, but it now seems likely to win the support of a lot of otherwise apolitical people who are suddenly being asked to pick up the tab for the education and health care and eventual imprisonment of tens of thousands of unskilled and non-English-speaking youngsters who hopped the freight trains across Mexico.
Worse yet for the Democrats, those demanding the immediate repatriation of the invaders include many voters they’ve come to depend on. “Every economist agrees” that importing a few million more unskilled and non-English-speaking people into a country already suffering high unemployment and declining wages is just the thing to get the economy booming, according to a president who is fond of spouting such obvious nonsense, but a lot of high school drop-outs and a Harvard economist have already noticed the damage being done by unfettered immigration to financial prospects of those at the bottom rung. The law of supply and demand are more ruthlessly enforced than immigration, after all, and is hard for the most unsophisticated worker not to notice when the fines show up in a paycheck. A perpetually unkept promise to redistribute some wealth their way has kept the lower working class in the Democratic column for more decades than anyone alive could remember, but the immigration issue offers Republicans a rare opportunity to peel off a few votes with their own naked appeal to economic self-interest.
A disproportionate share of those low-wage workers are minorities, too, and their displeasure with the invasion is making hard to pretend that the opposition is comprised solely of ¬†Gadsen-flag-waving and tricornered hat-wearing white folks. Some videos that have “gone viral” over at the much-watched YouTube site belie the press accounts that protestors who blocked the entrance of a convoy of Homeland Security buses full of the recent illegal arrivals in the California town of Murrieta were a lily-white mob, and feature African-Americans offering full-throated rants against admitting the youngsters. Our favorite of the videos show a couple of impassioned black men, one of them in Rastafarian garb, arguing with the pro-illegal immigration counter-protestors who had flocked the barricades. The counter-protestors are waving signs about how America stole the land from the Indians and Mexicans, but even the Native American in the “Vietnam Veteran” ball cap seems unable to articulate and argument about how the arrival of tens of thousands of unskilled and non-English-speaking youths is going to benefit his people. Illegal immigration not only gives black Americans competition for jobs, but also the political racial spoils that suffice in lieu of a job, and it will be difficult to keep the black political leadership on board with the Democrats’ agenda. It will be interesting to see if they’ll be able to keep Rep. Charles Rangel, who has been re-elected in Harlem since Reconstruction, but barely survived a primary challenge earlier this year in a district that is now majority Hispanic.
Sooner or later the homosexual community might consider if it is in their interest to welcome a massive immigration from a more macho part of the world that still taunts its soccer opponents with the Spanish equivalent of “faggot,” and then another loyal Democratic constituency could be in revolt. Those limo-driven one per centers who needn’t worry that their children will be seated next to any of the recent arrivals at their swank boarding schools will still be loyal to the cause, as will those idealists who believe that America should be caring for all of the world’s many billion needy, but the rest of the Democratic coalition will be vulnerable to doubts.
The overwhelming ublic sentiment for secure borders is so apparent that even the president is talking tough about sending the invaders back home, and he’s attempting to blame the Republicans for his failure to do so because they won’t authorize his request for $3.7 billion to deal with the situation. The request is tough enough to offend such open borders advocates as La Raza, the radical and revanchist and explicitly racialist organization from whence the president’s top policy advisor on immigration came, but it’s pork-laden and mostly spent on caring for rather than repatriating the aliens and will likely continue a policy of setting the invaders free with a pointless of promise of show up at a far-off deportation hearing. It’s calculatedly too soft to win the vote of any self-respecting Republican, and the president is already griping that the Republicans are too interested in playing politics to vote for it. We suspect the president would be more comfortable vilifying the Republicans as stingy racist xenophobes, and is eager to get back to that as soon the headlines fade and the negotiations on “comprehensive immigration reform” begin with whatever wobbly Republicans are left in the Congress, but the border crisis is causing all sorts of trouble for the Democrats.

– Bud Norman

Every Picture Tells a Story

Perhaps it’s just our skewed right-wing perspective, but President Barack Obama seems to be losing his once unerring knack for public relations.
Consider that carefully posed and widely disseminated photograph of the president with his sleeves rolled up and his tie loosened as he shares a beer and a game of pool with the governor of Colorado. The image is obviously calculated to portray the President of the United States as a regular sort of guy and easy-going fellow you’d like to have a drink with, which is just the sort of thing that helped him win the presidency in the first place, but it seems to us not quite right for a moment so far into a second term. Especially at a moment when tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors are pouring over the nation’s relatively nearby southwestern border and even the local Democrats are noisily clamoring for some presidential attention. One of the rare Democratic congressmen from Texas described the photo-op as “bizarre,” “aloof,” and “detached,” and we’re inclined to agree.
The President did fly down to Texas to meet with the state’s Republican governor, who controversially considered forgoing the usual handshake-on-the-tarmac photo-op, but the visit to the Lone Star State was devoted mostly to fund-raisers and did not include a visit to any of the makeshift detention camps where the Central American urchins are being piled up. The oversight is being widely described as Obama’s “Katrina moment,” an allusion to that long-ago time when his predecessor was pilloried in the press and buried in the polls for a perceived indifference to the human toll of a hurricane that had battered the Gulf Coast after he flew over the wreckage rather than land and interfere with the rescue efforts. The press was more eager to seize the moment against Bush, and would have been just as happy to lambaste him for landing and interfering with the rescue efforts, but even the most sympathetic media have lately had a hard time spinning the invasion of unaccompanied minor illegal aliens as a good news story.
Over at The New York Times’ the loyal scribes gave prominence in their coverage to the president’s predictable gripe that the Republicans were out to get him and wouldn’t set aside their petty political ploys to cough the few billion dollars that he expects will solve the problem, but even there it was impossible to pretend that the president hadn’t invited the invasion when he signed an executive order that promised two years without deportation to any kid who could hop a freight to the United States and that the Republicans have always been a bunch of soft-on-border-security sissies. There’s still some faint hope that the President will still win the amnesty-by-euphism “comprehensive immigration reform” that he’s been pining for the past six years, and the press doesn’t seem quite sure how to portray Obama’s sudden role reversal as a tough-talking border enforcer, especially when they can reasonably anticipate that he’ll eventually revert to his former compassionate self.
We suspect that the White House itself hasn’t yet decided how to spin this disaster, except for the usual play of blaming it all on the Republicans. Just as they thought that alleged-deserter-for-five-ferocious-terrorists swap was going to be a public relations boon, and even trotted out the alleged deserter’s Taliban-bearded and Koran-quoting crazy-pants dad for a photo-op in the Rose Garden, they probably thought an influx of adorably sad-eyed waifs would tug at the heartstrings of a weepy American and nudge that amnesty-by-euphemism bill over the line. With most of the arrivals being scary-looking teenagers, and the younger ones in such unpleasant circumstances that both the press and Congress haven’t been allowed a look, which is such bad publicity that one can only assume the pictures and interviews would be far worse, this is looking like just another recent public relations plan that hasn’t worked out.
Maybe that’s just our skewed right-wing perspective, though. No doubt many Americans are still unaware of being invaded by unaccompanied minor illegal immigrants, and thought Obama looked pretty cool hanging out with that regular guy-looking governor. Eventually the invasion will fade from the news, just as those kidnapped Nigerian girls and the shoddy treatment at the Veterans Administration and the illegal harassment of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service have been relegated to the inside pages or dropped from the news altogether, and the image of that cool dude at the pool table will linger.

– Bud Norman

An Almost Perfect Evening at the Ballpark

Tuesday provided us an almost perfect evening of Americana at the elegantly aging old Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, just across the swelling Arkansas River from downtown Wichita.
The temperature was appropriately but not excessively high as the Sioux Falls Canaries took a worrisome lead at the top of the first, but as the Wichita Wingnuts kept within striking distance over the subsequent innings a picturesque prairie sunset descended upon the hallowed field and the clean Kansas air achieved an optimum warmth. We enjoyed hearing the familiar corny advertising promos that accompany almost every possible play of minor league baseball as we sat in the sun-blinding smoking section with a couple of stogie-loving pals, chatted amiably with a couple of late-arriving friends about some of the city’s more notorious crime stories of the past few decades in between our game commentary, and amused ourselves by annoying the more stridently liberal of the two with our speculation that a black baserunner on the opposing team was a threat to steal second. At the top of the eighth we overhead a young mother consoling her adorably chubby and mitt-wearing daughter that one doesn’t get to take home a foul ball every game, and in the bottom of the inning a sharply hit foul bonked off the head of our liberal friend’s sister and landed softly in the hands of that very girl. Better yet, the hometown team took its first lead, and the only one it needed, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.
The combined talents of Norman Rockwell and George M. Cohan could not have concocted a more satisfyingly old-fashioned American night, and with the free admission coupon we obtained from a local convenience store chain it was a bargain despite the over-priced beer, but it was made infuriatingly imperfect from the moment we had to pass through a wand-weilding security guard to gain admittance. Security at the elegantly aging old Lawrence-Dumont Stadium isn’t so intrusive and insulting as what the jet set routinely endures, but it entails a pat on the pants pockets and is annoying enough to spoil the illusion that we’re still living in the old America of the brave and free.
There’s no telling why such measures are thought necessary by the ballpark’s otherwise astute management. Even the most unambitious jihadist is unlikely to bomb an elegantly aging old ballpark where an unaffiliated double-A team called the Wingnuts is battling a team called the Canaries, and even the most culturally savvy of them would be unlikely to realize what a pregnantly symbolic target it would be. If those heavily-armed and rather ferocious-looking guards are concerned that a unmedicated nutcase is going to start abusing his concealed-carry permit they should spend some time in the stands, where the folks are both reassuringly normal by modern standards and yet somehow still well-equipped to take care of things in any contingency even by old-fashioned standards. The Wichita Wingnuts draw their rather modest crowds mostly from the inelegantly aging white working class near-westside neighborhood that abuts the ballpark, an area that was once one of the Wild West’s wildest townships, and it’s an intriguing mix of family values and biker tattoos that we sit among with complete confidence that they won’t attempt mass murder nor put up with any such nonsense.
Perhaps the Wingnuts’ management is following the lead of the far more fabled and lucrative Wichita State University Wheatshockers basketball squad, which subjects its more aged and well-heeled and less likely to defend themselves fans to the same inexplicable scrutiny, Anything governmental around here is even nosier, and more behavior-altering. Our country boy Pop once inculcated in us the habit of carrying a Swiss Army knife, but we long ago abandoned that useful trait because of the Osama Bin Laden-like treatment we got from those guards at the city and county halls and federal courtrooms we were required by our profession to cover. Sometimes we find ourselves in need of the scissors or corkscrews that those devices put at our disposal, and we long for a bygone era.
Wingnuts games always draw a lot of cute young all-American kids, usually accompanied by parents who look as if they would otherwise be in one of the nearby dives, and it does our heart good to see them playing catch in between innings by the beer stand as we head off to a post-game beer with our pal at a local dive. Satchel Paige and Ron Guidry and Arky Vaughn and the all-steroid outfield of Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, and Pete Incaviglia once played in that ballpark, and we like to think those urchins are feeling some connection to those happier days. We think it would be good if they could take their own kids to a ballgame some day, and to walk in unmolested by the irrational fears that pervaded their childhoods, sure in the good intentions of their fellow Americans.

– Bud Norman


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