‘Round the Clock Baseball

With a little bit of luck and a fortuitous lack of those annoying robo-sales calls we’ll be sleeping late today, because they’ll be playing games down at the local baseball park until the wee hours of the next morning and we’d hate to a missing an inning of it. One of the cultural advantages of living here in Wichita, Kansas, along with the Cassatt and the three Hoppers and the Eakins and the other masterpieces over at the Wichita Art Museum, and the odd strain of punk and country that infuses the music in the local dives, and the surprising amount of talent in the various local theatrical groups, and the relatively cheap rents that foster a fertile bohemian subculture that defies the town’s rather staid and conservative reputation, and Koch Industries and ‘Shocker basketball and the the rest of the right-wing conspiracies that bolster our crazy reputation, is the “around the clock baseball” tradition at the annual National Baseball Congress.
The National Baseball Congress is more or less the world championship of semi-professional baseball, and has been ever since the darkest days of the Great Depression when a wily sporting goods salesman named Ray “Hap” Dumont started it up in the old Island Stadium that once flourished in the middle of the Arkansas River. To help draw the business of the impoverished locals he offered the grand sum of one thousand dollars to to the great Negro Leagues pitcher Satchel Paige, who was at the time the best hurler of any color in the business, and who gratefully accept the offer and temporarily abandoned his Negro League team and mowed down the semi-professional competition with such ease that his pitching records still stand in the NBC books to this day, and the gimmick worked well enough to lead to another tournament and now an 84th one. Since then the old Island Stadium, which was somehow exempt from the local blue laws and able to sell beer even on the Sunday games, has burned down, according to local legend because of some smoker’s carelessly tossed cigarette, but to this very day the games still go on at the elegant and now aged Lawrence-Dumont Stadium just across the river from downtown, named in honor of some bearded Civil War-era town founder and “Hap” Dumont, and one of its enduring gimmicks is to play baseball once a year until the sun rises.
Whatever benighted city you happen to live in probably doesn’t afford the privilege of watching red-blooded young American men from unknown small towns playing the great game of baseball long after the bars have closed, but be assured that you’re missing out on quite a spectacle. This year’s NBC has already provided some Hollywood-scripted baseball, with the Wellington, Kansas, Heat notching a 1-0 victory over the Colorado Cyclones with a walk-off single in the bottom in the bottom of the ninth inning after a ferocious pitchers’ duel, and Kansas’ Liberal Beejays, which despite your unseeingly assumptions was not named in honor of the of the Clinton administration, scoring a “run rule” win over Rush Limbaugh’s hometown Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Capahas by a “run rule” 23-2 after five innings. The now-familiar “run rule” was invented by the National Baseball Congress, by the way, and is sometimes known as the “Wichita rule,” so the entertaining but anti-climactic result had a certain appeal to baseball traditionalists. We expect more great baseball early tomorrow morning, along with all the usual color.
Some years ago we we were witness to a game involving one of the usual Alaska entries, whose bullpen admitted to us during a casual conversation along the first base line that they were disturbed by the 4 a.m. heat, and when a foul ball popped out of the glove of a 12-year-old fan there were hearty boos by the remaining and pajama-clad fans. There’s nothing in baseball quite so gratifying as hearing a couple hundred die-hard fans booing a 12-year-old at four in the morning, and our occasional treks to the major league parks have never topped that. One of the local convenience store chains is offering one-dollar tickets to it all, too, and despite the inflated beer prices it’s even a better entertainment bargain than Netflix. That will be hard to top, but we’ll seated in the smoking section with a couple of wizened cigar-chomping buddies of ours, and we’ll be wearing our trademark straw fedora, and every picture we’ve ever seen of “Hap” Dumont shows him with a hat atop his head and cigar in his mouth, and despite the recent prominence of Ultimate Fighting and NASCAR and the National Football League this is still the national pastime, and we expect something great will happen here in Wichita in the wee hours of Saturday morning.

— Bud Norman

About that Dead Lion

Although we were genuinely sorry to hear about that poor lion being killed somewhere in Africa, we’re not so sorry about it that we’ll be making any additional death threats against the Minnesota dentist who killed it. We understand that the big game hunting business is providing an incentive for Africans for to keep their continent’s big game plentiful, and we can’t quite rid ourselves of an old-fashioned prejudice that human lives are of greater value than the lives of other mammals, and we note that lions are big game hunters themselves, and we figure that humans have the same God-given right to hunt as any other predatory-by-nature beast along the food chain, so we’ll let that poor dentist be.
The dentist apparently thought he was shooting an arrow into some anonymous lion rather than a celebrity lion, so far as we can gather from the voluminous news coverage, and since we have to admit even at the risk of of being accused of species-ism or some other damning ism that all lions look alike to us we are sympathetic to his defense. We’re also so very uninformed about celebrities these days that we didn’t even know there were any celebrity lions, at least since the one that used to introduce all those old MGM movies, and if for some reason we were inclined to commit a random murder we could easily wind up knocking off one of the Kardashians or Lady Gaga or one of those other people on the covers of the magazines at the grocery store checkout line rather than some less newsworthy victim, so his mistake strikes us as easily forgivable. We’re also skeptical of the widespread notion that celebrity lives are somehow of greater value than others, whether leonine or human, so that is also a mitigating factor in our decision not to threaten that Minnesota dentist’s life.
Nor can we understand why the public is more outraged about the life of a even a celebrity lion than about the lives of the zebras and gazelles and maybe even the ¬†human beings that the lion would have eventually taken had he survived that Minnesota dentist’s safari. There’s an old Jerry Seinfeld comedy routine about how people always root for whatever animal is starring in a nature documentary, with people cheering on the hawk as he swoops down on a field mice to provide food for the adorable baby hawks back in his nest but hoping for the field mice to outrun those deadly talons and get back to his own adorable children when the show is about field mice, and we think some gruesome footage of even a celebrity lion chowing down on a zebra that had been given a top-billed role might even make that Minnesota dentist seem heroic. It’s a rough world of kill or be killed out there, and we’re genuinely sorry about that, too, but the attention being paid to the killing of a lion somewhere in Africa seems outrageously inordinate.
There’s a late night comedian out there who reportedly teared up as he tried to make mean jokes about that Minnesota dentist, even though he’s never been so choked up about the Christians being routinely beheaded by the Islamic State, and some of our Facebook friends posted that the lion’s death makes them ashamed to be human, even though they’ve previously been unashamed by the far more common slaughter of their fellow human beings in the daily crime reports, and a liberal but otherwise delightful woman we ran into at a ballgame Wednesday night was saying that she hopes all of the beasts of Africa slaughter all the African people, even though at the ballgame the night before she was defending the “Black Lives Matter” movement that shouts down anyone who dares say that all lives matter, and it all seems rather silly. We are genuinely sorry that lion was killed, but at the moment we’re more worried about the lives that will be lost when Iran gets a nuclear bomb due to soft-hearted and even more soft-headed western sensibilities, and the black lives that will be lost when the police go into full retreat for fear of well-intentioned reprisals, and the aborted lives whose parts are being sold for scrap on the open market by an organization that enjoys millions of taxpayers’ ¬†dollars and the support of all the right people, and the sorrier state of all the lives that will somehow survive America’s cultural and political and economic and spiritual decline into a broader array of soft-hearted and even softer-headed good intentions.
There’s every reason to hope that the death of that poor lion in somewhere in Africa will soon be forgotten, and that the soft-hearted and even softer-headed among us will soon move on to something else to be outraged about, but there’s little reason to hope that the same good intentions that are currently threatening the death of a Minnesota dentist will move on to something useful.

— Bud Norman

The Worst Deal Ever Gets Even Worse

Several weeks ago we reached the conclusion that the nuclear accord the Obama administration has reached with Iran is the worst deal ever struck in the history of diplomacy, and since then it looks even worse. There have been revelations of contingent side deals between the International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran that the administration has signed on to without reading, constant taunts by the Iranians about how they have defeated the western powers and are now free to continue their sponsorship of international terror and pursue nuclear weaponry, and proof that the administration is going headlong into this disastrous deal despite the opposition of a majority of the American public and its elected officials.
The existence of the two side deals was discovered by our very own Kansas’ fourth congressional Rep. Mike Pompeo during a fact-finding mission in Vienna, although he he wasn’t able to learn what the side deals say, just that the administration has apparently agreed to them even though it was also unable to learn what was involved, and given how very awful the known facts of the deal are we’re going to assume the worst about the unknown. In the highly unlikely event that the deals ultimately prove more or less benign there’s still the worrisome fact that the administration is signing off on them without notifying Congress, which strikes us as pretty darned unconstitutional even by the degraded standards of the moment, and the relative lack of attention being paid to this alarming development is an an alarming development in itself.
Then there’s all that gloating by apocalyptic suicide cult running Iran about how it’s nuclear programs and international sponsorship of more low-tech terrorism and general global trouble-making will continue unabated with the blessings of the Americans and their equally gullible western partners. One of the “tweets” by Iran’s “supreme leader” featured a illustration of President Barack Obama committing suicide along with text about predicting the futility of western resistance to Iran’s ambitions of global dominance, which is certainly more extreme than anything the “Tea Party” or any domestic opponents of the administration have ever dared. Even Secretary of State of John Kerry, whose enthusiasm for anti-American barbarism dates all the way back to this days as a hippie protestor of the Vietnam War, admits that he’s “disturbed” by such imagery and language. He’s not so disturbed that he’ll reconsider the disastrous deal he’s made, of course, but it’s a telling admission nonetheless.
Given that this is supposed to be a representative democracy there’s also something troubling about the fact that all the disastrous known deal and the possibly even worse unknown deals are all proceeding despite the fact that a clear majority of the country seems to know better. There are polls that ask the country if they support a deal that would prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons in exchange for lifting the economic sanctions against that country, with the predictably supportive response, but even those reveal that most Americans somehow understand that this particular deal won’t achieve that that response. There’s perhaps still a slight chance that Israel and the Sunni Arab countries and the western powers within reach of the inter-contentinental ballistic systems that Iran is free to develop under the proposed agreement will somehow survive this awful agreement, but it’s far less likely that our constitutional system of representative democracy will be unscathed.

— Bud Norman

Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On

Another earthquake rattled our old house today, and we still haven’t quite become accustomed to it. It only lasted a few seconds, and doesn’t seem to have done any noticeable damage around here, and residents of Los Angeles and Tokyo and Teheran and other earthquake-prone places probably wouldn’t have thought it worth mentioning, but during our first half-century here on the once-solid plains this sort of thing was unheard of, and even after the last few years of earthquakes becoming a rather regular occurrence it’s still a topic of local conversation.
Before the local old media could provide official confirmation that an earthquake measuring 4.5 on the Richter scale had emanated toward us from the not far away small town of Crescent, Oklahoma, we were happily assured that weren’t going crazy by all the alarmed posts on our Facebook page. Folks of various degrees of familiarity spread across the entire city were describing the same unsettling phenomena we experienced, with most of them sounding even more rattled that we had been, and of course more than a few them were assuming that all the “fracking” going on down in Oklahoma was to blame.
We remain agnostic about the theory, as we have to admit that the earthquakes didn’t start around here until the “fracking” did, while at the same time we can’t help noticing that earthquakes are happening in all sorts of unlikely places where no “fracking” is going on and that “fracking” is going on in places that aren’t experiencing earthquakes. Most of the scientists who presumably know more than us about these sorts of things are admirably frank that they don’t know what’s going on either, and we rather like having the local convenience stores selling gasoline for $2.41 a gallon, and would be quite annoyed by paying $4 a gallon for Iranian oil and still experiencing an occasional earthquake if the theory is wrong, so we aren’t jumping to any conclusions. Still, we can understand the temptation to believe that there’s something we can do.
One of those Facebook friends from the local university was angrily demanding that these earthquakes be immediately stopped, just as his preferred presidential candidate vowed to stop the rise of the oceans, and if it were truly that simple we’d probably go along as well. Few things in life are so simple, however, and if more of them were we’d also be demanding an end to the tornados and hail storms and droughts and floods and miserably cold winter nights and swelteringly hot summer days that are the more traditional banes of Kansas life. The tornados and hail storms have lately been unusually and quite pleasantly uncommon around here, despite the dire predictions of our university-affiliated friend’s preferred presidential candidate, and last winter was no colder than usual and this summer has been only as hot as our lifetime’s average, with no recent floods but enough rain to bring an unmistakable end to the most recent drought, and the corn is as high as an elephant’s eye and the bumper wheat crops have helped with the state’s budgetary woes. A lifetime on the prairie has left us in awe of nature’s power and skeptical of mankind’s, so we can’t quell a certain suspicion that the former has more to do with these occasional rumblings of the earth than the latter, and we’ll patiently await the conclusions of those scientists who supposedly know more about this stuff than we do. In the meantime we’ll be checking the basement for cracks and perusing the news for about the more consequential earthquakes that seem to keep happing elsewhere, and hope that our brother in southern California doesn’t fall into the Pacific Ocean as has long been predicted, and continue to worry about the national debt and the nuclear bomb that the Iranians are building with their oil revenues and the rise of Donald Trump and the greater possibility of a Hillary Clinton and all of the other disasters that can only be blamed on mankind.

— Bud Norman

A Gay Old Time in Kenya

Modern liberalism has so many rules, with new ones constantly being added by both the bureaucracy and the more unofficial social justice warriors, that it’s hard to keep up. Oftentimes the rules are in conflict with one another, too, which can lead to the sort of awkward moment President Barack Obama recently endured while advocating homosexual rights during a trip to his ancestral homeland of Kenya.
One ironclad rule of modern liberalism is that every primitive instinct of third world hellholes as such Kenya are to be regarded as ancient wisdom far more profound than anything our decadent western civilization has concocted, and that any attempt to correct them is tantamount to cultural imperialism, but another even more ironclad rule is that homosexuality should not only be tolerated but celebrated with the rainbow colors on the White House, and given the fact that Kenya and most other third world hellholes regard homosexuality as a crime punishable by years in prison or even more draconian punishments this poses something of a dilemma. For Obama, who has famously proclaimed that “No nation can or should try to dominate another nation,” except perhaps for Israel, whose housing policies and ability to defend itself from terrorist attack are of course exempt from this rule, the dilemma is especially vexing. Homosexuals are a more sizable voting bloc than Kenyans in American electoral politics, however, and more generous donors to Democratic candidates, so we are not surprised that Obama went right ahead lectured his Kenyan hosts on the need to get up to date with western civilization’s recent embrace of homosexuality.
We have no problem with Obama’s statement, as we think that Kenya’s criminalization of homosexuality is an egregious violation of human rights and a futile effort against the many varieties of human nature, but then again we’re unapologetic cultural imperialists who would happily impose even older and more unfashionable notions of western civilization on such third world hellholes as Kenya. Given the opportunity of a presidential visit to Kenya we would also criticize the tribalism that has divided its society, the Afro-Marxism that has destroyed its economy to the point that Obama’s own half-brother is living in a shack, the strange superstitions that has impeded its scientific and technological development, the primitive sexism that has oppressed its women, as well as its considerably less consequential animus toward homosexuals. What we can’t comprehend is why Obama found only the homosexual issue worth mentioning.
The reluctance to criticize the tribalism of such third world hellholes as Kenya can be explained by Obama’s affiliation with a modern liberalism that feels obliged to apologize for saying that “all lives matter,” which also explains the reluctance to criticize the Afro-Marxism that has reduced Kenya to squalor, and the unscientific nature of Kenyan society has at least arguably reduced its contribution to the superstition of “global warming” or “climate change” or whatever they’re calling it these days, and we understand that the privileged white women who comprise the modern feminist movement in America don’t really care about what the black women in Kenya are enduring, but it’s still hard to see why homosexuality is the only issue that is exempt from the otherwise ironclad rule about one nation trying to dominate another. Domestic politics is an obvious explanation, but modern liberalism insists that it is above such crass considerations.

— Bud Norman

The Conventional Wisdom and Its Pitfalls

One should always be skeptical of the conventional wisdom, or at least occasionally reconsider it. Not so long ago it was hard to find a poll or pundit best-selling non-fiction publication that didn’t proclaim the Republican party’s opposition to unrestrained illegal immigration and discomfort with ethnic identity politics in general and certain queasiness about abortion and noticeable reluctance to embrace same-sex marriage would lead to its demise, what with the changing demographics and the hip young voters and the arc of history bending toward liberalism and all, but for the moment all of these issues seem to be working against the Democrats.
One day after the Republicans in Congress held hearings featuring the heartbreaking testimony of several Americans whose beloved family members have been killed by illegal immigrants, President Barack Obama expanded his executive actions to exempt an estimated 80 percent of the nation’s illegal immigrants from the threat of deportation. The president’s actions were explained in the usual terms of compassion, of course, but the lack of compassion for those murdered and rape and robbed by the more unsavory of those illegal immigrants has not gone unnoticed. Certainly not in Texas, where the Department of Public Safety has counted 611,234 crimes, including 2,993 murders, committed by illegal aliens since Obama took office, dreary enough numbers that are understated because they only include those illegal aliens who were previously fingerprinted by state and federal authorities. Among the national total of people killed by illegal immigrants is the young Kate Steinle, who was shot and killed while walking in the “sanctuary city” of San Francisco by an illegal immigrant with multiple felony convictions, and although no one in the administration has even spoken her name, except for a Department of Homeland Security official who mispronounced it, the president has announced his intention to veto a bill that would withhold federal funds from the “sanctuary cities” that protect the likes of her murderer. The polls and pundits and best-selling non-fiction publications will be hard-pressed to explain how the Democrats derive any advantage from this.
So far the main beneficiary seems to be Republican contender Donald Trump, the real estate mogul and reality-show star and noxious blowhard, whose outspoken and wildly overstated insistence that every illegal immigrant has murderous and rapine intent has drawn all the media attention and thus propelled him to the top of all those questionable polls in the Republican nomination race, but we expect that some other candidate with similar but more carefully spoken views will eventually prevail and enjoy the same political benefits. Throw in the effect that illegal immigration is almost certainly having on the wages of low-skilled and unskilled workers, the added strain on an already overwhelmed social welfare system, and the inevitable consequences of modern liberalism’s insistence that the broader society assimilate to the new arrivals rather than the other way around, and the Democrats, who have lately been talking a lot about the wages of unskilled workers and the need for a more generous welfare system and communitarian values, seem to have chosen the weakest of all possible positions on the issue.
There’s always the race issue to be played, of course, but that’s also lately become more complicated. Those low-skilled and unskilled laborers whose wages are depressed by illegal immigration are inordinately black, and several of the families who gave those heartbreaking testimonies about their loved ones who were murdered by illegal immigrants were also black, and the lily-white contenders for the Democratic nomination are already having a hard time dealing with a “Black Lives Matter” movement that will boo a candidate off a stage for suggesting that other lives matter at all, and given the temporary racial make-up of the country it’s hard to see how the Democratic Party’s attempts to divide the country will add up to an electoral majority. Throw in the Democrats’ staunch defense of affirmative action policies that punish Asian-Americans for their education efforts, along with the economic and quality-of-life effects their policies have on native-born Hispanics and blacks as well as whites, and Donald Trump won’t be the only the Republican contender savvy enough to question the conventional wisdom.
Meanwhile, the country remains as divided as ever on the question of abortion, and the hidden-camera accounts of Planned Parenthood officials sipping wine and supping at fine restaurants as they negotiate the price of aborted fetuses can only push public opinion in the Republicans’ direction, and the rest of those social issues that were supposed spell the Republicans’ demise are also working out contrary to the conventional wisdom. Three separate polls taken since the Supreme Court’s decree that same-sex marriage was somehow intended by the 18th Century ratifiers of the Constitution, just like the right to a first trimester abortion, all show a decline in support for the decision as well as a marked increase in support for the right of businesses to refuse participate in same-sex nuptials. The Democrats can claim the cause of tolerance, but until they’re willing to tolerate any dissent on these issues the claim will be unconvincing.
The Republicans can still easily lose the advantage, especially if they nominate a real estate mogul and reality-show star and obvious buffoon such as Trump, but it won’t be because they’ve stuck to principles more timeless than the conventional wisdom.

— Bud Norman

Today’s Geography Lesson

We began the day with every intention of writing about illegal immigration, and how it’s suddenly an issue that seems to bolster the Republican party’s electoral prospects rather than portend its doom, but our research on the topic led us to a recent Washington Post story that tried but failed to make presidential contender Gov. Scott Walker look bad after a recent encounter with an illegal immigrant, and off to the side of the article was a suggested link to a story headlined “Which of the 11 American Nations Do You Live In?” The click bait was irresistible, given our longstanding fascination with America’s regional divisions, so we decided to fulminate about that instead.
The Post’s map of the north and western hemisphere of the world makes as little sense to us at its attempt to make Walker look bad for insisting on the enforcement of America’s immigration laws, and reflects the Washington press’s same provincial viewpoint of the country, but at least it doesn’t put us in the “midwest,” as so many people are wont to do. Here in Kansas the country is easily divided into four main parts, those being Up North and Down South and Out West and Back East, with our beloved state being in the very heart of a fifth and most essential region known as the “Heartland,” and no true Kansan can abide being called “midwestern.” We admit that Kansas taxonomy admittedly doesn’t really make much sense in geographic or political or economic or cultural terms, as Portland, Maine, and Portland, Oregon, don’t truly make belong in the same “Up North” category, and that Palm Springs, California, and Palm Beach, Florida, don’t have much in common except that they’re both “Down South,” and “Back East” and “Out West” only make sense in the context of America’s westward-looking history toward its manifest destiny, but at least it doesn’t pretend we’re part of any “midwest.”
By almost any definition the “midwest” includes Minnesota and Wisconsin and Illinois and Ohio and Indiana and other states that would seem both Up North and Back East to us, and we find that our geography and ethnography and politics and culture and economy and other defining regional traits have little in common with them. We prefer the company of the “prairie states” or “plains states” or “heartland” that stretches up from Oklahoma Ciy or so through the harsh Dakotas into the pugnaciously conservative Prairie Provinces of Canada, and is bordered from west to east by the Rocky Mountains and approximately Kansas City through the western portions of Minnesota. The Washington Post has us in a “midlands” region that somehow stretches clear to the Atlantic Ocean, with western Kansas somehow aligned with a “far west” region that stretches into Trudeaupian parts of Canada, and we have to wonder if the authors have ever visited our very remote part of the country.
We found a more reasonable division of the northern and western hemispheres of the world way back in the ’80s in a book titled “The Nine Nations of North America,” which was recommended to us a city editor at the newspaper we worked at who had come from Back East and was trying to make sense of his baffling new residence, and which dubbed Miami as the capital of the Caribbean and the Pacific Coast as a specific region and Quebec as a distinct nation and the mostly Spanish-speaking southwest and all of Mexico as a distinct political entity, and Kansas as part of a prairie region stretching well into Anglophone Canada as a political and cultural and economic bloc, but we also had our quibbles with that. We think the best definition of the country’s regional divisions used to be defined by the old college athletic conferences, before the days when greed and re-alignment altered the landscape.
The Big Ten used to have have ten teams that quite logically defined the “midwest,” and the Big Twelve, which once had twelve teams, and was once the perfectly appropriate Big Eight, was a fair map of the “heartland,” and the old Southeastern Conference reasonably defined the “deep south” while the Atlantic Coast Conference was a reliable indicator of Duke University and the rest of the respectable south, while the Pac-Ten mean the hippie-dippy West Coast and the Big East represented the pinko East Coast and everything more or less made sense. Now the Big Twelve has ten teams and the Big Ten has twelve teams and the Big Eight’s old University Colorado has somehow relocated to the Pacific Coast and the University of Missouri is in the Southeastern Conference and no longer playing the University of Kansas, and Tulsa University was briefly in the Big East, which is now mainly Catholic schools such as former Missouri Valley Conference member Creighton University of Omaha, Nebraska, so we can see why The Washington Post is so easily confused.
The cultural and economic part of it is confusing, as well. Kansas has always been part of the southwest as far as country music is concerned, with Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys being the guide, but the rock ‘n’ roll scene has always been connected to the midwest, with Detroit Rock City as the starting point and such Big Ten acts as Head East and John “Cougar” Mellencamp drawing reliable crowds, and the ingrained right-to-work laws are more in line with the southeast until and the oil and agriculture and leave-me-the-hell-alone politics are more in line with the economy Out West, and the abolitionist strain harkens Back East, and the bluegrass that fills the pecan orchards in Winfield every fall coming from the southeast, and a reporter for The Washington Post can easily be forgiven for failing to understand where Kansas fits into the big hemispheric picture.
In any case we’re not the “midwest,” as even The Washington Post has noticed. We’re not the something called “the midlands,” however, and have little in common with the Eastern Seaboard states the paper has lumped us in with. “Prairie states” is a better description, and “heartland” is better yet, and we suggest The Washington Post should keep that in mind when trying to disparage a politician for suggesting that the immigration laws should be strictly enforced.

— Bud Norman

Abortion and the Second Videotape

The public relations department at Planned Parenthood is probably working overtime today, as there’s yet another undercover video of some of their top officials casually discussing over dinner and drinks at a nice restaurant the sale of organs from the fetuses are that aborted at their clinics.
The first one was bad enough that Planned Parenthood’s president felt it necessary to release a videotaped statement claiming that no one at at the organization would ever think of profiting from the sale of organs from fetuses aborted at their clinics, regardless of what that high official was chatting about in the videotape, but apologizing for the secretly recorded high official’s “tone and statements” which do no reflect the “compassion” of the abortion industry. The second one features an even higher official haggling for a price “big enough that it’s worthwhile for me,” adding that “I want a Lamborghini,” and offers to instruct her doctors to use abortion techniques that are “less crunchy” to insure the organs retain their market value, so the tone statements come across even less compassionate.
There’s a reasonable argument to be made that the fetal organs being bargained over could help further research that might save and improve lives, although they’re increasingly less persuasive as scientific methods improve, and there are reasonable ethical questions about the use of hidden cameras and sting investigations, although they never seem to be made when “60 Minutes” or some of the other old media are using such methods against industries less beloved by liberalism, and Planned Parenthood’s most steadfast supporters would no doubt be susceptible to the notion that its highest officials should be driving Lamborghinis as compensation for the good works they do, although the tone and statements involved would be seen in less entitled segments of the population as lacking in compassion, so instead there are the usual attacks on the opposition. Some of the old and new media who have bothered to pay any attention are questioning the tax-exempt status of the Center For Medical Progress, whose operatives portrayed themselves as a for-profit start-up company acquiring fetal tissue for medical researchers, and the denial and apology issued by Planned Parenthood note that their tormentors are opposed to abortion, and all of the apologists are noting how very carefully both high officials tip-toed around the federal regulations regarding the sale of fetal tissue, and of course there are allegations that the tapes have been selectively edit, but the public relations department at Planned Parenthood surely realizes that they’re on the defense, and that the tone is not helpful.
The same Internal Revenue Service officials who gave extra scrutiny to any organization with “tea party” or “liberty” or “Constitution” in its name will probably be inclined to be just as skeptical of the Center for Medical Progress, but the broader public will be more interested an organization already well-funded by taxpayer dollars trying to add a few more dollars toward that Lamborghini by selling organs from aborted fetuses. Whatever misrepresentations the Center for Medical Progress might have made about its affiliations with other anti-abortion groups never hid the fact they are also an anti-abortion group. The careful statements made by both high officials about the law sound more conspiratorial than comforting, too, and they’ve also published the entirety of the videotaped meetings as well as the edited versions to demonstrate they’ve not taken any statements out of context. The unexpurgated versions make the “tone” all the starker, with both high officials happily swilling wine and making small talk in swank restaurants as they haggle over the price of an aborted fetus. The tone is redolent of Hannah Arendt’s famous phrase “The Banality of Evil,” as Planned Parenthood’s own defense and apologies frankly acknowledge, and they raise issues that the most fervent abortion rights supporters would rather not confront.
Both high officials acknowledge that Planned Parenthood would be willing to use different abortion techniques to harvest salable fetal organization, or “less crunchy” ones in the gruesomely tone-deaf terminology of one, and at this point we can ascertain whether the women who signed those consent forms that Planned Parenthood boasts of were informed of what risks those procedures might entail. There’s also the matter of whether those high Planned Parenthood officials had tip-toed carefully enough around the laws regarding the sale of fetal organs, and the unmistakeable impression that they’re trying their best. Worse yet, there’s the acknowledgement that the meaningless mass of fetal tissue they’re blithely aborting has human organs and human cellular structures and a potential for human life that the crunchier methods of abortion routinely mutilate.
The abortion issue is more complicated than that, and will continue to be debated long past the soon-to-be-released sequels to this sting operation, but Planned Parenthood and the Democratic Party and the mainstream media and the rest of the abortion rights side seem to know they’ve lost this round. Longtime media star Mark Halperin tried to trip up presidential nominee and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry about his longstanding opposition to Planned Parenthood, but found himself stuttering a sort agreement when Perry asked if his interlocutor had seen the video and whether he had any problems with it. Some of the media have already noticed that Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton has been conspicuously silent about the story, and any long-shot challengers that try to fire up the base by rushing to Planned Parenthood’s defense know they won’t be helping their chances in a general election. The ambivalent middle ground of the abortion debate know that it is at best an evil to be tolerated rather than a right and rite to be celebrated, and even those who reluctantly conclude that it must allowed would hope that the grisly business is carried on with regret and the highest regard for the law, and that is not at all the tone of either of two high Planned Parenthood officials as they sip wine and eat at fancy restaurants and haggle over the price of the organs of the fetuses their organization has recently aborted.

— Bud Norman

All Lives Matter, Some More Than Others

While what’s left of the old media were paying such rapt attention to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s latest cries for attention, we were more intrigued by the spectacle of a far less-publicized Democratic presidential candidate apologizing for saying that all lives matter.
Trump’s latest publicity stunt is just a spat of playground taunts with equally attention-seeking Arizona Sen. John McCain, a playground taunter in his own right for whom the best we can say is that he would have made a better President than Barack Obama, which is damning with faint praise, and that he served his country with uncommon courage and valor during the Vietnam War, which is saying something, but the relatively sissified Trump’s taunts concerned that very same distinguished military record, and it did indeed make the Republican party look rather ridiculous to have Trump suddenly leading its pack of contenders and McCain among its past two nominees, so we can well understand the old media’s avid interest. Even so, we had futilely hoped that some attention would be paid to a Democratic contender being booed off a liberal stage for making the seemingly reasonable claim that all lives, even white lives, matter.
This actually happened to somebody named Martin O’Malley, who is apparently a former mayor of Baltimore and governor of Maryland and is apparently challenging former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and all that Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, during a public interview at the “Netroots Nation” convention. “Netroots” is one of those political neologisms, a portmanteau denoting the internet presence of the very roots of Democratic Party craziness, with the nation part borrowing from the sports lexicon of “Boston Red Sox Nation” and “University of Kansas Jayhawk Nation” and the rest of that pretentious silliness, so of course the “Netroots Nation’s” annual convention has thus became an important ritual of the Democratic Party’s nominating process. Long-shot challengers O’Malley and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders both seized the opportunity to demonstrate their heartfelt Democratic craziness, but despite his best efforts to pander to the crowd O’Malley was shortly shouted down by a large portion of the crowd chanting “Black lives matter.” This is by now a familiar slogan of the political movement that has been peacefully and violently protesting against the use of deadly force by police in a number of American cities the past year and a half or so, and the tactic of shouting down conversation about other issues has also become familiar to the patrons of restaurants that have some reason reason or another been subjected to the same treatment. By most accounts the restaurant clientele usually respond with polite inattention, but both the interviewer, of whom we might as well come right and say seems as an ostentatiously effeminate fellow, and O’Malley feel obliged to cede the stage to their hecklers. They might have been moved to their protest by O’Malley’s record as mayor, which empowered police and reduced black homicide rates, or his record as governor, which continued such as a tough-on-crime approach, but they don’t seem to mention that, and instead continue to chant out names and slogans and their latest hash-tags conspiracy theories, as well as projecting a hip-shaking self-righteousness as they stood on stage. After much indulgence the exquisitely effeminate moderator insists that O’Malley be given a chance to at last respond, and after some “I know, I know” and to his hecklers and some talk of the civilian review boards he established and the death penalty he abolished O’Malley sputters the now infamous words that “every life matters, and that is why this issue is so important, back lives matter, white lives matter all lives matter.” We have no use for this O’Malley fellow, whose tenure as mayor of Baltimore was marked by the same social and economic policies that made the city un-policeable no matter how tough they came down, and whose tenure as governor was such that even Maryland elected a Republican to succeed him, and whose main qualifications seem to be that he’s a relatively handsome fellow who is photogenic in beach shots, but we can’t imagine why he should be greeted with boos only for his rather bland opinion that all lives, even white lives, matter. The fact that he was seems at least noteworthy as the latest Trump antics.
There’s a journalistic case to be made that Trump is hot and O’Malley is not, given that Trump has a small plurality is a field crowded with numerous more qualified likely candidates and that O’Malley is polling single-digits in most states and far behind not only front-runner Hillary Clinton but also self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has been hogging what little attention is paid to the Democratic contest and has little to worry about on the race issues because he’s spent his entire life in the second-whitest state in the union. All the hubbub about the noticeable but ultimately insignificant slice of the Republican poll respondents who are for the moment supporting Trump and his tantrums is therefore a preferable topic for the old media, but they would do well to note that the “netroots” of the leftward segment of the body politic that used to pay attention to the old media are now joining in booing the previously uncontroversial notion that all lives matter, and that such Trump-worthy nonsense is by now an unquestioned dogma of the Democratic Party, and entrenched enough to force O’Malley to apologize on the “This Week in Blackness” radio program for his heresy.
Black lives do matter, of course, and any time one is taken by police force the matter should be thoroughly investigated and conclude wherever the facts of the matter ultimately lead, and so far as we can tell none one of the Republican candidates, including the repugnant Trump, would disagree, but the “black lives matter” movement believes that only those black lives taken by police force matter, no matter how necessary and justifiable even an Attorney General Eric Holder’s Justice Department could deny, and that the far greater number of black lives taken by other blacks as a result of inadequate law and order matter not at all, even when those numbers climb as a result of the intended police retreat, and of course there’s also something unsettling about the obvious implication that only black lives matter. One of the women who commandeered the stage took care to mention both black and brown lives, but that still leaves a numbers of hues that apparently don’t matter. The Democratic Party’s candidate will pick a few votes from among them, whoever he or she might be, but we’re starting to become hopeful that the Republicans might actually a cobble an electoral majority from the rest of them, the best efforts of Donald Trump and John McCain notwithstanding. We’re also hopeful that the winning candidate will affirm that all lives do indeed matter, and offer no apologies for saying so.

— Bud Norman

How to Pick a President

We’re not running for president this time around, for reasons we’ve previously explained, so naturally we’ve taken an avid interest in those who are vying for the job. Choosing a favorite among the candidates is starting to take up a lot of our time, as there are so darned many of them, especially on the Republican side, but as usual the internet has provided a short-cut. A friend advised us of the existence of a web site called isidewith.com, and simply by filling out a brief questionnaire we we able to learn how closely each candidate’s stands on the issues of the day aligns with our own.
Right-wing extremists that we are, we were pleased but not at all surprised to see that former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and current Florida Sen. Marco Rubio scored an admirable 95 percent rate of agreement with us, and that current Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is not far behind at 94 percent. We were somewhat surprised to find an acceptable 89 percent rate of agreement with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, given our very strong disagreements on foreign policy, and very surprised to find only an 87 percent rate of agreement with our tentative choice, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a similar rate of 86 percent for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who we have no use for, a solid 80 percent for Dr. Ben Carson, who we like a lot but can’t help noticing has never held elected office, and numbers in the ’60s and ’70s for the rest of the crowded field, with of course the all the Democrats coming in last place.
We can’t help noting that Ohio Gov. John Kasich is the Republican most likely to disagree with us, and thus be wrong on one of the major issues of the day, which is a shame given that his impressive electoral victories in the most important and predictive swing states suggests he might be among the most likely of the possible general election contenders. We also couldn’t help being slightly embarrassed to find that we’re in agreement with former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a full 30 percent of them, and even in agreement with self-proclaimed socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders 18 times out of a hundred, but we were relieved to see we agree with former Baltimore Mayor and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley only 9 percent of them of the time, which we figure makes us right about 91 percent of time. All of these numbers deserve skeptical scrutiny, of course, and a few more clicks on the web-site offered some explanations.
The web site wisely allows a choice of how important a respondent considers each issues, and weighs accordingly, and it seems that Walker lost points because the web site has concluded it cannot definitively state the candidate’s position on the issue. We’re willing to take Walker at his lately tough-on-immigration word, though, and will give him the extra credit. The web site also concluded that it cannot definitively state the candidate’s position on raising taxes on the rich to reduce student debt, but given that Walker has been a steadfast tax-cutter and the bane of Wisconsin academia we’ll also give him even a few more extra points on that issue. He’s not in favor of decriminalizing drug use, but if Hillary or one of the other Democrats don’t win that won’t be such an important issue to us. The rest of the disagreements cited are of little to bother us.
That 30 percent rate of agreement with Clinton isn’t so bad on closer inspection, either. She gained points by claiming to be a staunch ally of Israel, although her support of the Iran deal and everything about her years as Secretary of State call that into doubt, and she also agrees with us about the use of drone strikes, although she’s sort of stuck with that and we’ve never agreed with her view they should be used to the exclusion of special forces raids that capture suspects for indefinite detainment and harsh interrogation. We agree with Clinton that Wall Street executives should not charged for their role in the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis, but we doubt she agrees with us that her husband and his Housing and Urban Development Secretary and all those congressmen who conspired to force the Wall Street executives to make those subprime loans should face some sort of consequences. She’s against the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade deal with China, as are we, but in our case it’s because we don’t trust the president’s secret negotiations and in her case it’s because she’s against free trade.
Sanders also claims to be a friend of Israeli, which we doubt, and he shares our disdain for the Common Core curriculum, but we don’t like because of its America-bashing version of history and he doesn’t like the idea of educational standards, and we’re told he’s a staunch Second Amendment guy, but that it goes back to his student radical days when the Weather Underground and Black Panthers and other armed revolutionary groups made that a left-wing imperative, and otherwise our occasional agreements are forgivable.
There’s more to the matter than how often a voter agrees with a candidate, of course. One must also consider what the contenders have previously accomplished for the public good, and what hardened character and pleasing personality was required to get it done, and just how important those areas of disagreement might be, as well as which one is most likely to keep on of those Democrats from winning. Such calculations defy precise quantification, and require careful observation over a long and testing campaign, but already they’ve eliminated Donald Trump from consideration and severely handicapped Huckabee and call some of the mid-tier candidates into question, and we’re still tentatively favoring Walker. There’s lots yet to see, though, and even when it’s all been seem we’ll need some web site or another for the final calculations.

— Bud Norman

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