A Rainbow Jumper in Indiana Hoops

Our beloved Wichita State University Wheatshockers won’t be playing in the “Final Four” of the college basketball championship tournament this weekend, having lost to a tough Notre Dame squad in the “sweet sixteen,” but at least they won’t be accused of homophobia for playing in Indianapolis. The entire state of Indiana is being boycotted by the more fashionable sorts of people because of its recently passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which critics allege will unleash a torrent of anti-homosexual hatred in the Hoosier State, and a team that’s already so politically incorrect it plays its home games in Charles Koch Arena and has a fan base comprised largely of blue-collar types who make corporate jets and a mascot that’s hardly gluten-free doesn’t need that kind of trouble.
The impeccably up-to-date cities of Seattle and San Francisco have announced boycotts of Indiana, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy has signed an executive order barring state employees from visiting any state with a similar law, and a “hashtag” campaign is currently recruiting more boycotters. The chief executive officer of the Apple computer company has written an op-ed for the Washington Post denouncing Indiana, and of course all the celebrities are “tweeting” about it. Even the National Collegiate Athletic Association that is hosting the tournament in Indianapolis has issued a statement affirming that it is “deeply committed to providing an inclusive environment for all our athletes” and “will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week’s Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill.”
Our guess is that any homosexual hoops fans who are well-heeled and lucky enough to have scored “Final Four” tickets will find Indianapolis a most hospitable host, despite the recent restoration of religious freedom there, and that any homosexual “student-athlete” competing in the tournament should hire a good agent to look over all the book and movie deals that will surely be coming his way. The federal government has had a Religious Freedom Restoration Act since the Clinton days, 19 other states have followed suit, each have simply reaffirmed legal principles that have prevailed for decades, and until recently the idea wasn’t at all controversial, yet the social trend has been toward ever greater tolerance for homosexuality. The trend has proved so inexorable that by now the cultural left no longer demands mere tolerance but is intolerant of any dissent on questions of sexual morality and intends to impose its own views through force of law.
Restoring religious freedom was all well and good when it meant that Native Americans could use peyote or the Amish could ride buggies or Muslims could wear beards, or some similarly sympathetic group demanded some similarly unusual right, but the idea that a plain old Christian businessman might be able to decline baking cakes or creating floral arrangements for a same-sex wedding ceremony, as Indiana’s new law allows, is just too weird for fashionable opinion to put up with. Seattle and San Francisco might be among the most racially segregated and economically stratified cities in the country, but at least they’re willing to force a Baptist baker to violate his conscience. Connecticut has its own religious freedom laws, which makes its governor looks rather ridiculous, but at least the University of Connecticut’s defending national champions didn’t qualify for the NCAA’s tournament and he’s not forced to bar its  state-paid coach from going to to the “Final Four.” The Apple company’s corporate conscience might allow it it do business with Saudi Arabia, where homosexuals are routinely punished with lashes and execution, or China, where all manner of human rights violations occur, but at least it has bad things to say about Indiana. The cultural left will soon move on to another “hashtag” campaign urging closer ties to Cuba, where homosexuals are routinely harassed, and continue its apologetics for the brutally harsh treatment of homosexuals almost everywhere in the Muslim world, but it won’t put up with any white bread businessman’s qualms about same-sex marriage in Indiana.
Next season we expect the ‘Shockers will play their obligatory Missouri Valley Conference games in Evansville and Terre Haute, and we won’t be the least embarrassed to have them playing in the state that not only produced Cole Porter and Hoagy Carmichael but also Oscar Robertson and Larry Bird. We root for the ‘Shockers because they’re the plucky underdogs going up against the rich and powerful, and if there’s a baker or florist in Indiana that would rather not work on a same-sex marriage ceremony regardless of what the Apple corporation or those “tweeting” celebrities think we’ll be rooting for him for the same reason. The same-sex couple that wanted to buy a cake or some flowers used to be the plucky underdogs, but we seem to have moved beyond that.

– Bud Norman

Lies, Damned Lies, and Polls

We’re not so cynical we would ever doubt a pollster, but we’re always suspicious of the folks who write their headlines. Consider the case of the latest numbers from The Washington Post and ABC News, which are neatly summarized as “Poll: Clear majority supports nuclear deal with Iran.”
One will momentarily assume that the “deal with Iran” the “clear majority supports” is the one currently being negotiated in Switzerland, which is probably what the headline writer intended, but on an another moment’s reflection one will realize that no one yet knows what that deal will look like. The lead paragraph is slightly more helpful, noting that “By a nearly 2 to 1 margin, Americans support the notion of striking a deal with Iran that restrict’s the nation’s nuclear program in exchange for loosening sanctions,” but it still implies that the deal being negotiated in Iran will look like that, and there is reason to doubt it.
In the very next paragraph, even the Post’s reporters acknowledge that the survey “also finds few Americans are hopeful that such an agreement will be effective. Nearly six in 10 say they are not confident that a deal will prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons …” Apparently a large portion of the “clear majority” that supports a “nuclear deal with Iran” does so despite a belief that it won’t prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, or oppose the deal that is being concocted but felt obliged to endorse the theoretical deal that they don’t think is likely, but in either case it makes public support for the administration’s dealings less enthusiastic than the headline suggests.
Still, the Washington Post grimly warns that 47 percent of Republicans also supported that hypothetical deal where everything works out fine and that “the split contrasts with Republican lawmakers’ widespread backing of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech deriding the potential deal in early March before a joint session of lawmakers.” Those recalcitrant Republicans will be heartened by the next paragraph, though, where the Washington Post is obliged to admired that “Popular sentiment among Republicans is more in line with GOP lawmakers on the issue of whether Congress should be required to authorize any deal with Iran.” Citing a Pew Research Center survey, the reporters note that 62 percent of the public — not just Republicans — believe Congress should have final say on the matter.
As we write this the deal is still be negotiated, and there might not be a deal at all, and of course it remains to be seen if the reliably untrustworthy Iran government will abide by anything that is agreed to, and the Secretary of State is saying it all depends on what Allah is willing, but we share the widespread skepticism that it will work out quite the like deal that the “clear majority” supports. We’ll eagerly await the polling on the deal that actually transpires, and expect that even The Washington Post will have a hard time making it seem supportive of the administration. The poll taken just after Iran announces that it has a bomb will probably even be worse, but maybe by that time there will be a Republican administration to take the blame.

– Bud Norman

Revising the Foreign Policy Theory

As improbable as it might seem in retrospect, the theory underlying the Obama foreign policy when it was unveiled during the 2008 presidential campaign was that because of the candidate’s African heritage, Arabic middle name, Muslim schooling, and Messianic persona, “The day I am inaugurated, not only will the country look at itself differently, the world will look at America differently.” Throw in some silver-tongued and culturally relativist rhetoric, a bit of “daylight” between Israel and America, and other assurances that America had abandoned its past racist and imperialist bellicosity, we were assured, and the past millennia-and-a-half of unpleasant would cease. This fanciful notion had an understandable appeal to a war-weary country, but after seven years it requires a bit of revision.
The promised withdrawal from the hated war in Iraq has ceded control of a third of the country to the barbaric Islamic State, with the rest of the country increasingly reliant on the support of Iran, which has lately been backing a successful revolt against the American-backed government in Yemen, which the administration continues to cite as a model of its anti-terrorism strategy, complicating the administration’s efforts to capitulate to all of Iran’s demands in its negotiations over that country’s nuclear weapons program, which has already prompted Saudi Arabia to join a nuclear arms race in this volatile region. The Syrian civil war continues to rage despite the use of chlorine gas by the Syrian dictatorship, which once again crosses the president’s declared “red line,” which was supposed to have been settled through “re-set” relations with Russians, who continue to occupy large chunks of Ukraine and seem ready to grab more land. Libya continues its descent into chaos since being bombed into anarchy by a coalition “led from behind” by America, Afghanistan anxiously awaits the results of another American withdrawal, and Iran continues its reach into Lebanon and Jordan. There’s by now enough daylight between Israel and America to fill an Alaskan summer, enough to have scuttled any chance of a promised peace agreement with the Palestinians, yet our negotiating partners in Iran continue to chant “Death to America” and the rest of the Muslim doesn’t seem any more friendly.
Such a conspicuous gap between between what was promised and what has occurred requires some explanation, even for the most credulous press, so the reporters at Politico dug deep into their rolodexes and found some ambitious unnamed officials who were willing to give it a try. Someone described as a “Senior State Department official” went so far as to say that “If there’s one lesson this administration has learned, from President Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech through the Arab Spring, it’s that when it comes to this region, nothing happens in a linear way — and precious little is about us, which is a hard reality to accept.” We are heartened to hear that the administration has learned something over the past six years, and can appreciate how hard it must have been to accept that not everything that happens in the Middle East is about us, given their previous deep-seated beliefs that all the pathologies of the Middle East are entirely America’s fault, but we’re not reassured the right lessons have been learned.
The administration still seems intent on whatever bargain the Iranians might agree to, with a recent Iranian defector saying “the U.S. negotiating team are mainly there to speak on Iran’s behalf,” although all the linear and non-linear ways that might turn out are catastrophic. Its apologists continue to blame the blame the policies of the previous administration, and by extension the previous 200 years of American foreign that sought to protect the country’s interests, even as they insist it is no longer about us. There is retreat on one front, drone strikes on another, and alliances that seem to mean little in terms of useful support on yet another. There is little reason to believe the administration understands that while events are always beyond America’s control they are rarely beyond its influence, that the more strident passages of the Koran and the Hadith have something to do with conflicts that have been ongoing since long before the founding of the American public, or that the relatively tiny population of Jews in the relatively tiny country of Israel aren’t somehow responsible for the whole mess.
One promise kept has been that the world now sees America differently. The world now sees us as an untrustworthy friend and harmless enemy. Perhaps America also sees itself differently, too, but we hope not.

– Bud Norman

Safe Rooms in an Unsafe World

One of our longstanding literary ambitions has been to write a satirical novel about the modern university, something along the lines of Mary McCarthy’s “The Groves of Academe” or Kingsley Amis’ “Lucky Jim” or Tom Wolfe’s “I Am Charlotte Simmons,” but it looks as if we’ll have to abandon the project. Academia is now more ripe for ridicule than ever, but apparently to the point that it is beyond satire.
Such a humorless publication as The New York Times recently ran a rather straightforward story that the latest campus contretemps that the combined talents of Jonathan Swift, Mark Twain, and the usual gang of idiots at Mad Magazine could not have rendered anything more comical. Headlined “In College and Hiding From Scary Ideas,” the story told how Brown University hosted a debate between the founder of a feminist web site called feministing.com and a female libertarian on the topic of the “culture of rape” that now reportedly pervades the American campus, and how members of the school’s Sexual Assault Task Force responded to this exchange of ideas. Worried that the libertarian’s perspective on the issue “could serve to invalidate people’s experiences,” and might even be “damaging,” the Sexual Assault Task Force members created a “safe space” for traumatized listeners to retreat from the debate, complete with “cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies, as well as students and staff members trained to deal with trauma.” Even if we had the imagination to concoct such absurd details, we would have rejected them as too obvious a burlesque of the infantilizing nature of modern higher education.
As The New York Times ruefully notes, such episodes are now common at America’s colleges and universities. Almost every day tells of a student being disciplined for merely questioning the veracity of that highly questionable “one if five women on campus are victims of sexual assault” claim, or professors being charged with “micro-aggressions” for patting the arm of a student angered by an opposing viewpoint, textbooks coming with “trigger warning” to alert the possibility of unapproved ideas, or women’s rights activists being barred from campus because they’re advocating the rights of women in the wrong cultures, or some other more mundane case of campus activists chasing dissenting views off campus. Institutions of higher learning once insisted on vigorous debate and an unflinching look at facts as necessary tools to the discovery of truth, but they’ve now determined they have all the truth they need and no longer anything as potentially traumatizing as debate and unwelcome facts. Little good is likely to come of it, and certainly less than one would expect for the tuition prices being charged today.
The same censorious instincts are found in the broader left, and score the occasional victories against free speech, but they are unlikely to prevail outside the campus. Reality intrudes outside the campus, as well as what’s left of the First Amendment, and most people who haven’t undergone an expensive indoctrination at such elite institutions as Brown University find it very annoying. Nor will anyone who has been so carefully shielded from opposing opinions and unpleasant realities be likely to prevail in the rough-and-tumble of American politics. Worse yet for those who took refuge with the cookies and coloring books and videos of frolicking puppies, they’ll be up against conservative foes who spent their years of higher education being constantly bullied, ridiculed, and shouted down for their beliefs, not just by their professors and deans but also by all the movies and television shows and the rest of the popular culture. The right’s arguments will be honed and its spines stiffened by the college experience, if they get nothing else out of it except perhaps for a still-lucrative degree in math or science or engineering or one those other suspiciously “objective” disciplines.
Even those supposedly oppressed sub-cultures that the left presumes to speak for are unlikely to offer the same sort of refuge as the modern university. If those people retreating to the “safe rooms” of Brown University are planning on community organizing in America’s poor neighborhoods, they’ll find that there are no cookies or coloring books or videos of frolicking puppies, and plenty of uncomfortable facts that they’d rather not face.

– Bud Norman

A Bad Deal Back in the News

The American public’s memory is short, and until Wednesday it had likely forgotten the name of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
He was briefly a celebrity last year when he was released from Taliban captivity in exchange for five high-ranking terrorists being held at the Guantanamo Bay in a deal brokered by President Barack Obama, complete with a Rose Garden news conference featuring Bergdahl’s teary-eyed parents and assurances from the White House that the freed prisoner had “served his country with honor and distinction.” There was a brief controversy about it, given that the five high-ranking terrorists were certain to return to their murderous ways, the teary-eyed father’s remarks in English and Arabic and Pashto at the news conference revealed he was a Taliban-sympathizing nut, and the soldiers who served with Bergdahl were telling anyone who would listen that he was a deserter and collaborator, and the Government Accountability determined the president’s deal had violated federal law, but it soon passed.
Until Wednesday, when the Army announced that Bergdahl would be court-martialed on charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. Even Bergdahl’s brief celebrity is enough to interest the media in a trial, so we can expect extended coverage of the evidence brought against him, and one can only hope that it will rekindle some of the public outrage that attended his release. Five high-ranking terrorists were released for him, a trade that looks even worse as the tide of war continues to not recede, Bergdahl’s Taliban-sympathizing nut of a father will likely become an annoying presence on the nation’s newscasts, and the president’s tendency to go beyond the traditional legal restraints on executive power has continued to prove troublesome, so perhaps the outrage will be even greater this time around. Should one of those five released high-ranking terrorists be able to claim credit for notably deadly attack Americans might grow greater yet, although the scant coverage of the terrorism committed by other prisoners released from Guantanamo Bay suggests it will have to be something spectacular.
There’s no getting those terrorists back, and little hope of persuading the current administration to capture and incarcerate any more of them, but the public outrage might do some good. The Bergdahl trade was one of several briefly outraging stories over the past many years that have steadily eroded the president’s support on foreign policy, and the public’s discontent has emboldened members of both in Congress in to resist the president’s effort to negotiate a deal with Iran regarding its nuclear weapons program. So far the administration has declined to offer any details about what they’re offering, asking that the public trust its good intentions and expertise, but it’s hard to trust anyone who would swap five high-ranking terrorists for a deserter to make a deal with the likes of the Iranian government.
Much of the media will be looking for something else to talk about other than nuclear bombs and what might happen if Iran gets some, and the Bergdahl story could prove a distraction, and there will certainly be some stories about the poor young man caught in George W. Bush’s war who reached out to the enemy, but it won’t help with the president’s public relations efforts.

– Bud Norman

The Worst Spy Movie Ever

The espionage genre isn’t what it used to be back in the good old Cold War days. Back then there was a clear-cut good guy versus bad guy backdrop to a spy versus spy tale, no matter how morally ambiguous an Ian Fleming or John le Carre might render their cloak-and-dagger heroes, but these days it’s hard to tell who to root for. This story about Israel’s alleged spying on the negotiations between the United States and its European partners with the Iranian government, for instance, will never make the movies.
There’s no doubt that the Israelis did somehow discover information about the negotiations that President Barack Obama would have preferred they did not know, but it’s hardly the sort of thing that would get an American audience’s blood rushing. It’s all just a sub-plot of a bigger story that the Hollywood moguls won’t want to touch, as well, At this point we have no reason to believe there was even any spying at all, at least not of the sort of that involves the planting of electronic surveillance devices or the taking of pictures with tiny cameras slipped into the heel of a shoe or a comely seductress luring a diplomat to his doom or any of that cinematic sort of spy craft. The Israelis freely admit to having obtained all the information they could gather about America’s negotiations with a country that has vowed to drop nuclear bombs and them and annihilate their entire population, which seems a reasonable thing to do, but insists it was all a dreary matter of diplomatic contacts and calling in favors from well-placed sources and reading the same papers where Obama seems to get all his news, and this seems plausible enough. We’d like to think the diplomatic channels would put Israel in touch with some highly-placed American and European sources who would still prefer that Iran not annihilate the Jewish state and are willing to share information about any developments that might make that unhappy event more likely, and given the taut security of the Obama administration the eaves-dropping microphones and shoe cameras and comely seductresses hardly seems necessary.
To further muddle the plot, the Israelis didn’t pass the information along to some cat-stroking arch-villain in a South Pacific volcano island fortress but rather to the United States Congress and the American people. Even the Wall Street Journal article that broke this story, and with all the breathless fervor of a screenplay treatment being pitched to a Hollywood producer, admits that “The espionage didn’t upset the White House as much as Israel’s sharing of inside information with U.S. lawmakers and others to drain support from a high-stakes deal intended to limit Iran’s nuclear program, current and former officials said.” It’s not clear from the story how The Wall Street Journal defines “espionage,” and whether its quoting of “current and former officials” would also meet that definition, but in any case the officials’ admission would introduce another plot-twist that would make that Hollywood producer wince. The good guy is supposed to be Obama, at least if you want to sell this script to Hollywood, and it’s likely to be a little confusing when he’s the one who’s withholding information not only from Congress, a stock villain, but also the American people. Even the foreign audiences, a vital market, might find that baffling.
Perhaps the plot can proceed that our heroic president is shrewdly negotiating a brilliant deal despite the efforts of hard-liners in both Iran and among those villainous Republicans and Israelis who so ardently desire an Iranian bomb, but if it will take some expensive computer-generated images to explain why the Republicans or Israelis would want that and some rather fanciful screenwriters to bring it to a happy ending. The big hole in the plot is why the heroic president with the masterful plan won’t reveal it to the American public until it has been signed, sealed, and delivered without the approval of the people and their elected congressional representatives. Those press reports that the deal will allow Iran to continue its nuclear-enriching centrifuges and join the nuclear club in ten years seem all the more convincing, the Iranian’s long history of duplicity in international affairs makes it hard to believe that even such generosity won’t be abused, and the most likely ending would be derivative of “Dr. Strangelove.”
There was never a sequel to “Dr. Strangelove,” as you’ll recall, and this plot is an even bigger downer.

– Bud Norman

Running on Cruz Control

Texas’ Sen. Ted Cruz has officially entered the race for the Republican presidential nomination, and we’re glad of it. He’s a smart fellow and solid conservative who deserves his party’s consideration, and it will be fun watching the ensuing hysteria on the left.
The howling commenced immediately after Cruz launched his campaign Monday with a speech delivered at Liberty University and clearly aimed at the party’s conservative base. Just the choice of venue was enough to rile the left, as Liberty University is an unapologetically evangelical school founded by the late Moral Majority founder and left-wing boogyman Jerry Falwell, and is full of the kind of clean-cut and well-groomed and chaste young people who give the left the willies, and is even located in a town with the scary-sounding name of Lynchburg, Virginia, but all the talk about repealing Obamacare and restoring constitutional limits on government and balancing budgets was was like fingernails scraping across a blackboard to leftist ears, and when Cruz through in some talk about abortion and same-sex marriage and God it became all the more painful. “Tweets” immediately twittered across the internet from outraged listeners, most with the usual snarky but unspecific complaints about what a “moron” and “joke” and “wack job” Cruz is, the lattermost with a row of exclamation marks to emphasize its misspelled assertion of intellectual superiority, and yet they also seemed to fear that Cruz is also a diabolical genius. There’s already much talk about Cruz having been born in Canada, and we can’t tell if this is meant as a sarcastic payback for the questions that a small group of people raised about President Barack Obama’s place of birth or is a serious effort to have Cruz declared ineligible for the president, but in either case it demonstrates Cruz’s unhinging effect on liberals.
This only further endears Cruz to the conservative primary voters that he’s courting, though, and it made the praise for Cruz’s speech all the more effusive. Cruz is already well respected by conservatives for his willingness to take political risks for his beliefs, such as his leading role in the “government shutdown” of a while back in a noble but failed to effort to get Obamacare repealed, which is also why he is more despised by the left than the average Republican politician. To whatever extent Cruz becomes the favorite of his party’s conservative base he will be even more vehemently opposed by the liberal base of the opposition party, so his fortunes will ultimately be determined by all those folks in the middle. Much of the media will be happy to inform those largely uninformed voters that Cruz is a fire-breathing right-wing radical who will dismantle the government and force women into back alley abortions and conduct a foreign policy without proper respect for the touchier Islamic sensibilities, but Cruz can count on the support talk radio and other far-reaching conservative media, and it won’t be easy for the opposition to caricature him.
The “moron” stuff will quickly fade as the public comes to Cruz, who was graduated from Princeton and then Harvard Law School, where liberal Prof. Alan Dershowitz regarded him as his most brilliant student, so the diabolical genius angle will probably take over, but the birth certificate stuff will just give Cruz a chance to recount his heartwarming and humanizing family history as the son of a Cuban refugee. Nor is Cruz’s staunch conservatism so far out of the mainstream to be considered “wack job.” Repealing Obamacare and abolishing the Internal Revenue Service and the “Common Core” takeover of local education are not ideas that will strike a vast majority of Americans as radical, and the public might even be in the mood for a little more governmental dismantling. Cruz’s blunt talk about social issues will strike many as old-fashioned and self-righteous, but when the Democrats are increasingly perceived as the party of transgenderism and forcing bakers to make cakes for same-sex weddings and a general distaste for anything religious, it’s hard to say which party that vast middle now considers out of the mainstream. Nor does the public seem to share the exquisite sensitivity to the touchier Islamic sensibilities of the current administration or any likely Democratic successor, so unless Cruz makes some very bellicose blunder he should enjoy the same advantage on foreign policy as any Republican nominee.
The Republicans will have other candidates who deserve consideration, though, and even Cruz’s admirers might find others a preferable candidate. Some have executive experience to go along with their own acts of political bravery, and there’s a case to be made that’s preferable to one term in the Senate now mater how distinguished it might have been. Some have their own heartwarming and human family histories, too, and more likable personas to go along with them. A few have also been vilified with the same vehemence by the left, which always endears a candidate to the right, and it was often because of the things they succeeded in doing. Cruz strikes us as far superior to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee or former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum or any of the other candidates who might be making the same pitch for cultural conservatism, and the intellectual equal of any of his gubernatorial rivals, and the least establishment of any the congressional contenders, so we consider him a viable possibility to win it all. It’s going to be a long contest, though, and the field is strong, and Cruz might have weaknesses that have not yet revealed themselves, but we will be watching.
If nothing else, the hysteria on the left should prove amusing.

– Bud Norman

The Right to Not Vote

Among our many acquaintances are people who habitually do not vote. They’re lovely people, for the most part, but they’re blissfully ignorant of politics and prefer not to participate. We believe they’re entitled to this perfectly reasonable and probably mentally healthy practice, and we don’t worry that the democratic process suffers from their absence, so we were alarmed to hear President Barack Obama propose that voting should be mandatory.
It’s not an official proposal, at least not yet, but the president did ponder the possibility out loud during a “town hall style event” in Cleveland. He noted that others countries have made voting mandatory, and mused that “It would be transformative if everybody voted — that would counteract money more than anything.” Not only is the president floating a stupid idea, he’s offering stupid reasons.
Aside from idiocy of the argument that if other countries are jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge we ought to be doing it as well, and the cold chills that run down our spine whenever the president speaks of fundamental transformations, that talk about money is poor hooey. The president outspent his opponents in the past two presidential elections, his party routinely outspends the opposition in all but the most hopelessly gerrymandered races, and he can’t possibly believe that the Koch Brothers and other well-heeled arch-villains of the nefarious right are the reasons he’s putting up with Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress. Money more easily explains why the president is in a position to be making end-runs around Congress and its constitutional authority, as his well-financed campaigns were able to buy the attention of those uninformed voters who were easily swayed by slick television commercials touting his record as a tough-on-terrorism defense hawk and accusing his opponent of killing an employee’s wife and generally spouting the sort of transparent lies that the more politically attuned are likely to recognize as balderdash. Mandatory voting would drive those gullible sorts to the polls at less cost to the Democratic party, which more likely explains the president’s enthusiasm for the policy, but we can understand his reluctance to say so.
Once upon a time the people who stayed out of politics would have likely voted against the party that wanted to impose ever more politics on their lives, and back then the Democrats would have been appalled by the idea of mandatory voting, but these days the party offering the most goodies and the most celebrity endorsements would likely benefit if everybody were forced to vote. Republicans will naturally resist the idea, therefore, but not just for pragmatic reasons. A party of individual rights and limited government should resist mandatory voting on principle, and allow the lovelier people among the uniformed to continue their blissful ignorance of what’s going on and perhaps even be unaffected by it.

– Bud Norman

Black Coffee, White Guilt

At the risk of sounding like the unfashionable cheapskate old fogies that we are, we confess we have never once patronized a Starbucks coffee shop. Instead we brew our two essential cups of morning coffee with a teapot and one of those conical things with the paper filter and two spoonfuls from a can of the local supermarket’s most inexpensive ground, and in the happy solitude of our kitchen table we savor its bitter taste and stimulating effects at a fraction of the price and without any conversation about race.
The conversation about race apparently now comes with the high price of a cup of coffee at Starbucks, according to press reports. It seems the 60-something white guy who runs the company has lately been concerned about the state of race relations in America and therefore instructed the “baristas” at his company’s store to engage the customers in heartfelt chit-chat about that “police shooting of an unarmed black teenager” and the rest of America’s racist sins. We put “barista” in quotation marks because it strikes us as such a highfalutin term for a coffee-slinger, and “police shooting of an unarmed black teenager” in quotation marks because he’s talking about such a clear-cut case of self-defense that even The Washington Post’s most exquisitely racially sensitive writer now admits it, but the press reports treat this cacophony as everyday language. They further note that the Starbucks “baristas” are writing some “hashtag” on the coffee cups with “Sharpies,” which is also apparently common parlance, and all the more reason to retreat to the solitude of our kitchen table.
At least the reports also indicate that Starbucks’ new policy has already met with widespread disdain. Many people have been “tweeting,” another one of those damnable neologisms requiring quotation marks, that the policy is patronizing toward minorities and insufficiently groveling toward the most up-to-date racial sensitivities. One widely “re-tweeted” “tweet” showed a smilingly caucasian waitress and the caption “Let’s discuss the disenfranchisement of your people that has allowed me to prosper.” Another offered “May I have a latte and an explanation for why your people continue to plunder my country.” Yet another suggested that the “hashtag” campaign “is what happens when a 1%-er without any actual anti-racist education or training has mid-life ‘white man’s burden’ crisis.” We wonder how the disenfranchisement of anybody has allowed Starbucks’ relatively meagerly paid waitresses to prosper, and we’re not at all sure what countries the corporation is plundering, but we do rather like the line about the executive’s mid-life “white man’s burden” crisis. If such more-progressive-than-thou self-righteousness is what it takes to force Starbucks’ retreat, we’re all for it.
The right doesn’t seem to be “tweeting” about it so much, presumably because they abhor the newness of the medium and brew their own coffee at home, but we’re also sympathetic to its largely unstated complaint that the even trendiest yuppie on his way to a multi-cultural sensitivity training session should be able to buy a cup of joe without having to hear some queer studies or gender studies or something or another studies graduate yammering on about race and class and gender and oppression and corporations and the rest of that nonsense they racked up $40,000 of debt learning about to get a job as a “barista” at Starbucks. That conversation Starbucks is hoping to provoke will involve the customer apologizing for his skin tone and that cop defending his life and getting absolution as part of the steep price of a cup of coffee, and somebody should object to that.
Besides, the formerly simple task of ordering a cup of java is time-consuming enough these days. After all the rigmarole about cream and sugar and foam and double mocha and beans from a certain region of Columbia and all the rest of it, adding in a discussion of the past 400 years of racial relations will make you late for that multi-cultural sensitivity training session.

– Bud Norman

An Israeli Election and the American Consequences

Israeli politics seem to us a confounding mix of those convoluted European parliamentary systems and the even more arcane points of Talmudic mysticism, and as we write this there is still a chance that the results of Tuesday’s elections in that far-away country might yet come down to hanging chads and butterfly ballots in Palm Beach, but it does appear from the latest press reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has won another term. This strikes us as good news for Israel, at least from our faraway vantage point, as well as a happy development in our own domestic politics.
Like most American conservatives, we have been puzzled that Netanyahu was ever in danger of not winning re-election. He’s long been the world’s most forthright and effective opponent of Islamic terrorism, after all, and the notion of his countrymen failing to recognize such leadership seemed as inexplicable as the British rejecting Prime Minister Winston Churchill after the Second World War. All politics truly is local, though, and the Israelis have been susceptible to fanciful leftist economic schemes since the country’s kibbutz days, and Netanyahu has already been in power for more ten years and even the most admirable politicians everywhere eventually become wearisome to a public, so some drama should have been expected. The results don’t necessarily vindicate Netanyahu’s domestic economic economic policies, according to the general tenor of the world press, and they don’t necessarily constitute a referendum on national security policy, as even the most crazily liberal Israelis are by now realistically hawkish, but the party of the Arab minority that isn’t committed to the country’s survival might have involved in a coalition to unseat Netanyahu, and there is reason to believe that Israel’s desire for continued existence had something to do with it.
It’s so hard to say how much Netanyahu’s recent well-publicized spat with American President Barack Obama had to do with it, but we’d like to think it played at least a small part. Netanyahu accepted an invitation from the Republican party to address Congress recently, the president huffily declined a meeting for the stated reason that he didn’t want to interfere in another nation’s elections, a slew of unnamed White House sources made it clear that the president clearly intended to influence the the Israel elections against Netanyahu, Netanyahu went ahead and gave a speech decrying the president’s negotiations with Iran over its nuclear weapons program, and it seems to have worked out well for him. If Netanyahu had lost the president’s apologists would have gloated about it, so American conservatives are entitled some to gloating about the victory. Better yet, Netanyahu’s victory might even help persuade a crucial number of Democrats to join a unified Republican in overriding a presidential veto of an impending bill that will impose economic sanctions on Iran and wind up scuttling the president’s disastrous negotiations. At the very least, Netanyahu’s victory deprives the president of an argument that his appeasement policies are acceptable to even Israel.
The very latest press reports from Israel indicate that the election wasn’t even very close, and we say shalom to Israel and God bless America.

– Bud Norman

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