Insanity in the Heartland

Politics here in Kansas is now so screwy that the Democrats are in court pleading they shouldn’t be forced to field a candidate for Senate and the Republican nominee is lagging in the polls. The explanation for this otherwise inexplicable turn of events is a self-described “independent” candidate offering the usual pablum about bipartisanship and practical solutions, an entrenched Republican incumbent who barely survived a primary challenge by a scandal-tainted neophyte because he’s considered too bipartisan and practical by the party’s base, and the gullibility of the average voter.
The self-described independent was once registered as a Democrat, once ran for the Senate as a Democrat, is now very careful not to deny that he will caucus with the Democrats, and to the carefully attuned ear he still sounds a lot like a Democrat, but it remains to be seen if a majority of this reliably Republican state will reach the obvious conclusion that he is a Democrat. On Thursday he came out for the Democrats’ proposal to re-write the First Amendment to restrict criticism of the Democratic Party, which is about as Democratic a policy as one can endorse, but even that might not make the necessary impression on those Kansans distracted by the upcoming basketball season.
One can only hope that the average Kansan, who is as least as apt to exercise his First Amendment rights as the citizen of any other state, will notice that putative independent Greg Orman, usually described in the Kansas press as a wealthy businessman from Johnson County, is on the record with his support of the odious amendment the to the constitution recently proposed by the Democrats that would allow for further federal regulation of spending on political speech. The amendment is touted as an antidote merely to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, which reasonably found that that prior restraint of an anti-Hillary Clinton movie was a gross violation of the the First Amendment, but its inevitable result is a regulatory regime that will restrict conservative opinions while allowing the liberal riposte. Orman’s endorsement of this outrage should convince any sensible Kansan of his Democratic tendencies, but we anxiously await the verdict on how many of our fellow Kansans are sensible.
That entrenched Republican incumbent, Sen. Pat Roberts, has an 86 percent lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union, which has spiked during the age of the locally unpopular President Barack Obama, and although that heretical 14 percent has alienated the party’s conservative base we hope they’ll notice that he’s been a stalwart defender of free speech. That Citiziens United decision involved money from the demonized Koch Brothers, who are a mainstay of the Kansas economy and have been forthrightly defended by Roberts on the Senate floor, and Roberts has been quite admirable in his defense of the decision of the principle of letting even the most targeted people express their opinions in the the public square.
Thus far the national Republican party seems aware of the danger that such a usually reliable state is in play, and we’re hopeful that Roberts will have the resources to make his convincing case to the people of his state. The state’s media won’t be much help, inclined as it is to present that radical constitutional amendment as an old-fashioned sunshine law that will reveal the nefarious money-bags greasing the system, but given the mood of the state we are hopeful that Orman will eventually be regarded as another Democrat and meet the usual Democrats’ fate. It’s a tricky race to handicap, though, and could go either way.
Kansas’ prognosticators seem split on how it might turn out. One school of thought holds that forcing the Democrats onto the ballot will split the anti-incumbent vote, while another posits that without an official Democratic candidate Ogman will be regarded as the de facto Democrat and suffer accordingly. Roberts’ reputation as a get-along Republican will cost him a few votes from the party faithful, but might pick up a few among those who buy into Orman’s happy talk about bipartisanship. We’ll be keeping our fingers cross that the party faithful recognize a censorious Democrat when they see one, that those with fantastical hopes of bipartisanship won’t mind Roberts’ occasional offenses against Republican orthodoxy, and that Kansas of all places doesn’t screw up the Republicans’ hopes of taking the Senate.

– Bud Norman

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Losing a Halo

The president isn’t getting the same worshipful treatment from the media that he once enjoyed. Back in the heady days of hope and change he was routinely photographed with an angelic halo effect, but these days he’s being shown with luciferian horns sprouting from his graying head. Even the once-loyal scribes at the most polite publications are no longer apologists for his foreign policy, and although it’s not nearly so harsh as what any Republican would expect the treatment must be unsettling for a president accustomed to applause from the press row.
When the president ran for election on the argument that his Islamic name and Islamo-Marxist ancestry and primary education at an Islamic school in Indonesia and some sufficiently flattering and apologetic speeches delivered in his silver-tongued style to the Islamic world would quickly put an end to all that unpleasantness the west has endured in its relationship with Islam, the press happily went along with the preposterous notion. When he ran for re-election on the argument that it had worked, all the ongoing unpleasantness notwithstanding, the press went along with it again. Much more unpleasantness has occurred since, however, and by now the most prestigious organs of the establishment have at last grown weary of pretending otherwise.
The once-reliably supportive New York Times has been obliged to note that the president’s past declarations about “the tide of war is receding” and the terrorist threat is “on the run” and our remaining enemies are the “jayvee” team of terrorism were all wishful thinking. The Associated Press, all of places, is reporting that the president’s efforts to assemble a coalition to carry out his promised campaign against the Islamic State terror organization in Iraq and Syria is complicated by the distrust that the president’s past broken promises and unenforced “red lines” and shabby treatment of such allies as Israel and friendliness to such foes as Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood have engendered among the world’s governments. With such standard bearers of the media unafraid to offer such blunt criticism, no one is any longer obliged to pretend that the president’s name, father, elementary school, and silver-tongued oratory are going soon bring about a lasting peace.
One can hope that the same publications will at long cast an equally clear on the president’s performance in domestic matters, but they haven’t yet. The ongoing Internal Revenue Service scandal, which would have the press in a frenzy if it had happened during a Republican administration, remains largely ignored. A record number of long-term unemployed would have required a few thousand sob stories if it had happened just prior to the current administration, but is now usually relegated to the last paragraphs of stories emphasizing the slow but more-or-less steady growth in the economy if it is mentioned at all. There are plenty of problems to report about Obamacare, too, and there’s no telling what’s become of tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors that strolled across the border that the president had declared secure, but for some reason these don’t seem to interest the media so much as the president’s foreign policy failures.
One might speculate that the mess overseas is harder to ignore, and that even the most established news outlets want to retain some credibility when it comes again to our shores, but the domestic woes are surely as apparent to the average reader or viewer. When Obamacare’s employer mandate finally kicks in during some safe-for-Democrats election cycle and the big networks and papers start kicking employees of the plans they liked and were promised they could keep there might be some stories about it, and when the other problems penetrate the more fashionable neighborhoods of Manhattan or Capitol Hill they might also get more attention, but until then the journalism industry is more concerned about journalists being beheaded and a once-comfortable world order falling into disarray.
The criticism and frank acknowledgement of reality in the foreign policy coverage is welcome, though, and we hope it spreads into the rest of the news.

– Bud Norman

Anniversaries and Anxiety

Today is September 11, a date filled with dread. No American can help looking back in horror at the terror attacks that occurred on this day in New York City and Washington, D.C., in 2001, or at an American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012, nor nervously looking ahead for what might happen today. That nagging worry has occurred on this date for the past 14 years, but seems especially hard to shake this year.
The Islamist bloodlust that caused the past terror attacks is as impassioned as ever, and those afflicted with this ancient hatred have lately been conquering a large portion of the Middle East with beheadings and crucifixions, waging war against Israel with rockets lobbed into random civilians, committing the usual atrocities against one another, and issuing threats of mass murder against the west generally the United States specifically. It was once easy enough to dismiss such threats as mere Islamist bluster, but not now. Among the terrorist army rampaging through Middle East are hundreds of people with western passports that will get less scrutiny than the randomly selected businessman or tourist standing behind him at the airport, our  porous border with Mexico can’t keep out an illiterate and impoverished Guatemalan teenager much less an educated and well-funded terrorist, two Americans have been beheaded and others are being held awaiting the same fate, and the president’s prime time explanation of his hastily formulated strategy for dealing with the main Islamist threat on Wednesday offered no reassurance that our government is up to the challenge.
We’re not the only ones with this sense of foreboding. The United Kingdom has elevated its level of alertness in response to what the Prime Minister calls the “greatest terrorist threat in history,” Australia is considering doing the same, and a threatened king in Saudi Arabia has warned of attacks in the United States within months. A senior official at the Department of Homeland Security has told congress of Islamist plots to infiltrate the southern border, and although the agency quickly denied anything was currently afoot the brass at the Fort Bliss Army base near El Paso has been ordered to implement increased security measures. Polling data show that the public at large is lately more worried about the threat of terrorism, too, and the president’s appearing on prime television to admit that al-Qaeda is not on the run and the tide of war is not receding and our enemies are not a junior varsity team suggest that he at long last has the same necessary worry something big might happen.
He’s probably not yet so worried that he’ll reconsider his ban on detaining terrorists at Guantanamo Bay or using the harsh-interrogations that have successfully thwarted past terrorist plots, or his supposedly more moral preference for drone strikes that incinerate the terrorists and anyone who happens to be in the vicinity, or his instruction to Israel that even existential wars must be fought with the utmost politeness. Wednesday’s speech alternated tough talk about a “core principle” of his administration that “If you threaten America you will find no safe haven” with reassurances to his dwindling base of hippie peaceniks about the many things that he won’t do to the fight the enemy.
The president has recently described the country as “pretty safe,” a rather modest boast that he was obliged to admit he could make only because of all the national security apparatus created by his hated predecessor, and we’d like to believe it. Something about September 11 makes it difficult, though, so we’ll say a prayer, keep our fingers crossed and the radio on, and hope to be less anxious on September 12.

– Bud Norman

Presidential Speeches and Other Domestic Battery

The President of the United States is scheduled to give yet another major speech today about the direr threat posed by to ur national security by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq or the Islamic State in the Levant or whatever you want to call it, and all the chatter seems to be about the professional football player who cold-cocked his then-fiancee and now-wife wife on an elevator at some ritzy hotel.
We don’t mean to downplay the repugnance of a professional football player cold-cocking a women on any sort of elevator, of course. Such violence against women is never acceptable, and when the male perpetrator is sufficiently physically formidable to earn a living in the National Football League we have no problem with him being banned from that burly profession as a result of the offense. The same video evidence that led to the player’s banishment show that the woman threw the first punches and added a couple of spits for good measure, but this does little alleviate our opprobrium. Our consistent advice to men embroiled in a relationship with an abusive woman is to shield yourself as best as possible from the blows, ignore the spittle, and immediately explain the resultant break-up in a carefully-worded e-mail. This fellow wound up married to the woman, and our libertarian instincts incline us to believe that at point it’s their business rather than National Football League’s, but a traditionalist streak in our temperament makes it hard to root for his gridiron exploits. To recall a favorite old W.C. Fields joke, we’ve never hit a woman, not even our own mother.
Still, we wonder why such a quotidian domestic dispute between such an atypical couple would overshadow the even more office violence being indicted by ISIL or ISIS or whatever you want to call it on the Christians and other religious minorities in a portion of the earth where American military might once held sway. Our best guess is that the domestic depute can be more readily identified with than that the far-off threat of beheadings and crucifixions and other horrors being inflicted on far-away peoples of whom we know little, and that by now few people put much stock in yet another of the speeches of the President of the United States.
Back in the heady days of ’08 we were seeking solace from all the political mania at a local tavern, and an especially annoying acolyte of the soon-to-be president demanded that the television be changed to one of the many channels showing the presumptive president’s bit speech rather than the American League’s baseball playoffs.The combined objections of ourselves and another barfly were overwhelmed by popular consensus, and we wound up enduring yet another tedious oration about how peace was merely a matter of American capitulation to the beheading and crucifying armies of radial Islamism. By now we suspect that even such a hipster dive as that would insist on baseball or whatever other sporting alternative the season might offer, even with a a fiancee-batterer in the starting lineup, and that says more about the diminished status of presidential orations than about the public’s tolerance for spousal abuse.
Whatever the president might say about the horrific violence being perpetrated by ISIL or ISIS or whatever you might want to call it, most people will take it as yet another meaningless red line drawn in the sand against the worst of the of a theology that the president seems o regard with a certain sympathy, or yet another meaningless assurance that if you like your secular 21st Century western civilization you can keep it. The chances that someone you know has been a victim of domestic abuse, no matter how ambiguous the circumstances, is far greater than chances that someone you know has recently been beheaded by a terrorist organization that the the media haven’t yet decided what to call.

– Bud Norman

The Politics of Procrastination

So it turns out that President Barack Obama won’t be signing any executive orders granting amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants until after the mid-term elections, apparently on the assumption that uniformed voters won’t punish his party for an unpopular policy that he promises but hasn’t quite yet enacted. How very frustrating to realize that he might well be right.
The ploy has worked well enough before, after all. Various unpopular aspects of the Obamacare law were delayed until after the past presidential election and some are still being delayed for the benefit of Democratic congressional incumbents, and the many millions of Americans who like their health care plans and have been promised that they can keep their health care plans thus far don’t seem to mind that sooner or later they are going to lose their health care plans. During the past campaign the president was overheard promising the Russian leadership that after the election he could be “more flexible” regarding that country’s avaricious geo-political ambitions, and it wasn’t until after the president was re-elected that the public noticed an unfortunately flexible the post-war world order has suddenly become. A reported plan to stick the country with economy-crippling carbon emissions by means of an unratified “climate change” treaty that not even the most die-hard Democratic Senator from the most deep-blue state would vote will probably wait until after the elections and go largely unnoticed until the pink slips start showing up during some other Democratic schmuck’s election cycle, at which point the press will helpfully provide explanations about how it’s all the Republican’s fault.
The president doesn’t seem the least bit embarrassed by the brazenly political motive for his ploy. In an otherwise hilariously disingenuous interview on “Meet the Press,” the president frankly acknowledged that after a widely-publicized invasion of the southern border by unaccompanied illegal minors who had heard of his executive order to delay deportations of unaccompanied illegal minors “the politics did shift mid-summer because of that problem.” He further explained that delaying another equally ill-advised executive order that would surely lure a few million more unskilled and non-English-speaking and ultimately dependent people to our cash-strapped and largely unemployed nation would thus be more “sustainable” if he inflicted it on the country after the voting was completed. He has to make the case for his policy, the president explained, and an election just isn’t the right time.
Some Republicans are already screaming about the coming amnesty, cand those who are inclined to listen to them will likely take heed. Some Latino activists are also screaming about the delay, and a few Hispanic voters might be disinclined to get out and vote. Blacks and low-wage workers and trade union members and other loyal Democratic constituencies harmed by the policy will gladly delay their outrage until the deal actually goes down, however, and a large number of people who dislike the president’s plan simply won’t hear about it.
The Democrats’ policies on illegal immigration will be a problem for them in the upcoming elections, as will Obamacare and the Russians and everything else they’ve put off, but the president has probably mitigated the damage by delaying his plans. How very frustrating.

– Bud Norman

Strange Times in Kansas

The Democrats aren’t even running a senatorial candidate in Kansas, the conventional wisdom is that the Republican is therefore more likely to lose, and it goes to show how very convoluted the state’s politics are at the moment.
There was a Democratic candidate in the race, duly nominated by a relative handful of voters in a primary where all the action was on the Republican side, but on Thursday he dropped out of the race without stating any particular reason. Our best guess is that with little money, less name recognition, and the nomination of a party that’s quite unpopular in these parts he simply decided to forgo the prolongated embarrassment of running a losing race. Ordinarily this would further ensure the already inevitable re-election of the entrenched Republican incumbent, but these are not ordinary times.
In this case the entrenched Republican incumbent, Sen. Pat Roberts, is not popular within his party. Although he has a respectable rating of 86 percent from the American Conservative Union, and has been far higher during the age of Obama, that heretical 14 percent has riled the Kansas conservatives. Over all those years in Washington Roberts has racked up a lot of debt ceiling increases and back room bargains and the sort of business as usual that Kansas’ rock-ribbed Republicans are now revolting against, and he survived a mud-slinging primary with less than 50 percent of the vote only because the anti-incumbent sentiment was split between a strong but tarnished challenger and a couple of no-names who were so little known that many people knew nothing bad about them and thus decided to award them a protest vote. Despite this desultory primary the Republicans had reason to hope that Roberts could wash off the mud and rally the base with the valid argument that he is far more conservative than the alternatives, and let the anti-incumbent sentiment split between the Democrat and the Libertarian and the independent who were crowding the ballot.
The departure of the Democrat is a boon to that independent, however, and that independent was already leading Roberts in the polls. He’s an Olathe businessman named Greg Orman, and according to his widely disseminated advertisements he’s all about non-partisan practical solutions and common sense and all the other focus group-tested cliches. There’s enough talk in those ads about balanced budgets and fighting the Washington establishment to imply that he’s a conservative, but he ran for the Senate as a Democrat in 2008, he’s been suspiciously coy about which party he would caucus with as a Senator, and the Democrats here and elsewhere seem quite pleased with the prospect that he might wind up denying the Republicans another seat in such a supposedly safe state as Kansas.
The Roberts campaign has already started deploying its considerable war chest with the message that Orman is a “closet Democrat,” which seems wise. Talk of businessmen and common sense and practical solutions always plays well in Kansas, and that nonsense about non-partisanship has eternal appeal to those apolitical voters who can’t quite understand why the mutually exclusive political philosophies of the two parties won’t allow them to get along nicely and do all the simple things that would surely make everything right, so Orman must be pressed for some specificity. We would be surprised if Orman’s common sense and practical solutions were conservative enough to garner an 86 percent rating from the ACU, and stunned if he proved anything but a partisan Democrat, and even the most disgruntled Republican should be willing to forgive Roberts’ sins against conservatism when offered that alternative. To whatever extent Orman does try to veer right of Roberts it will only diminish the enthusiasm of those Democrats who have been abandoned by their candidate. There’s still a possibility that the Democrat will be on the ballot even without a campaign, something to with a Kansas law that requires some specific reason for dropping out, and with the minuscule Libertarian vote splitting more or less equally between the free-market types and the dope-smokers it would still be the four-way race that supposedly favored Roberts.
Orman could try to exploit Roberts’ unhappy reputation in the state as an establishment sort of Republican, but it’s hard to say how that might play in these unpredictable days on the prairie. While the too-establishment Roberts finds himself in the fight of his life the incumbent Gov. Sam Brownback also finds himself vulnerable in the polls and largely because he’s been such an unabashedly tax-cutting and down-sizing Republican radical. Brownback’s feuds with the “arts community” and the teachers’ unions and the public sector at large have provoked an energized and well-organized opposition, a sizable minority of his own party’s primary electorate preferred a more polite and well-bheaved young woman who barely campaigned at all, and the Democrats around here are giddy with the expectation that a State Representative from the commie college town of Lawrence will vanquish their hated right-wing foe.
They might be right, and Kansas might turn out to be that unexpected Democratic triumph in what is otherwise expected to be a bleak election cycle. There are those polls, after all, and these are undeniably strange times. Still, we’re not putting much stock in polls that were taken before Labor Day when people were still wearing white shoes and straw hats and paying little attention to the state’s suddenly convoluted politics. The state still feels like a conservative and Republican and generally sensible jurisdiction, as it has been almost without interruption since the Republican abolitionists won that shooting war with with the Democrat slavers back in the Bleeding Kansas days, and a gut instinct suggests that it will return to form after all the momentary fussiness is dissipated. The Democratic president remains palpably unpopular here, his party is held in the same disrepute, Roberts’ sullied record is more in in opposition than any of his opponents, Brownback’s feuds with the “arts community” and the teachers’ unions and the public sector at large were all necessary, and better an establishment Republican such as Roberts as a fire-breathing right-winger such as Brownback than any old openly or closeted Democrat.
The state’s media won’t be of much of help, as they all hang out with the “arts community” and the teachers’ unions and the public sector at large, but the Republicans are well-funded and have plenty of unflattering photos of President Barack Obama to show juxtaposed against their opponents in saturation advertising. Money and media attention will pour into the state from Democrats hopeful of denting such a deeply Republican state, but that will only rile the natives. Both Roberts and Brownback will have to campaign well, but they’ll always having the advantage of making their arguments to a Republican state. We might be wrong, as we sometimes are, but we still like the Republicans’ chances here in Kansas.

– Bud Norman

Enemies Foreign and Domestic

Of all the sordid details in that horrifying child sex abuse case in the northern England town of Rotherham, one seemed especially telling. Apparently the same Strategic Director of Children’s Services who chose to ignore the sexual torture of 1,400 English girls by Pakistani  and other Muslim immigrants over a 19 year period had once removed three children from their foster parents because the couple was known to support the United Kingdom Independence Party.
For the benefit of any American readers who are not anglophile or politically obsessed enough to know, the United Kingdom Independence Party is basically a British counterpart to America’s “tea party” movement. The independence it seeks is from the European Union and its many layers of bureaucratic regulation, so its domestic policies reflect a similar preference for low taxes and relatively unfettered markets and more freedom from the increasingly bossy government. Such outlandish principles have of course appalled polite opinion in Great Britain, even among the more established Tories but especially among the Labour types who hold posts such as Strategic Director of Children’s Services in provincial towns, and it is sadly unsurprising that the political activities of the newly-fledged party would offend official sensibilities more than the ongoing gang rapes and brutal sexual torture of children by more politically correct constiuents. The rapists and torturers were from an ethnic and religious minority that can only be criticized at the career-endangering risk of accusation of racism and religious prejudice, after all, while UKIP draws its dangerously widespread support from people who were once considered quintessentially British.
The same strange double standard is all too familiar here in the United States. Those  Internal Revenue Service workers who subjected “tea party” organizations applying for tax-exempt status to more severe scrutiny would never have thought to apply the fine tooth comb treatment to any organization of an Islamist bent, and they were more eager to question the applications of any groups supporting Israel’s fight against Islamism. The President of the United States is always more impassioned when railing against his domestic political opponents than when downplaying the treat of the head-chopping and crucifying of foreign foes, a chore so onerous that it has delayed his tee times, and the same strange priorities are common in his party and on the left more generally. The modern feminist movement in America has lately been concerned with a Republican “war on women” that so far as we can tell is reluctance in some Catholic and Evangelical corners of the party of to subsidize abortifacients and a “culture of rape” on American campuses that seems to be the inevitable consequence of the sexual revolution that modern feminism once championed, but the undeniable rapes that were excused by reasons of multi-cultural tolerance have not warranted mention. By this point we’re almost accustomed to hearing cocktail party conversation that excuses the exotically swarthy fellow swinging a scimitar and ululating “Alahu Akhbar” but condemns that pasty Baptist fellow who has been living peaceably down the street for the past half-century or so as a bona fide fascist because of the sign in his yard advising against the local tax hike referendum or the pro-life bumper sticker on his car or a general suspicion that he might decline an invitation to a same-sex marriage.
Our occasional impolite questions about why anyone should hold to such obviously ridiculous opinions always yield the same answers, and always in the same offended tone. All that head-chopping and crucifying and gang-raping are going in some far away country between people of whom we know nothing, we are told with the usual confidence in this historically-fraught phrase, but all that anti-tax and pro-life talk is going on right here in a culture they feel entitled to rule without any objection from the yokels. These are the same people who routinely lecture us about the interconnectedness of of the world, and how our stubborn refusal to segregate our plastics from our tins in the bi-weekly trash hauls will surely cause the downfall of our entire planet, but in accordance with the bumper stickers on their hybrid cars they are hoping to crush dissent locally while acting with exquisitely forbearing tolerance globally . The far more offensive behavior of that misunderstood “other” has already arrived in a small northern England town, however, and if the boasts of those head-choppnng terrorists can be believed it might well be coming to a soft-target skyscraper near you soon. In that unfortunate event we don’t expect that the Strategic Directors of Children’s Services of small town Great Brtain and and their socio-economic peers in the United States will go any any easier on the UKIP or “tea party” types, but it will be interesting to see how they feel about that hose head-chopping and crucifying scimitar-swingers who were once confined to a multicultural world of which we knew little.

– Bud Norman

Islam in the News

Another American has been sadistically beheaded for the benefit of a worldwide internet audience, terrorists are frolicking poolside at an abandoned American embassy in Libya, the reports from northern England are every bit as shocking, and Islam is back in the news.
Some effort is usually made by the western world’s editors and producers to keep Islam out of the news, except for the occasional multi-cutural puff piece about the Religion of Peace around Ramadan or another op-ed about the impending threat of an Islamophobic backlash by those barbarians out there in the American heartlands, but it’s lately been impossible to completely excise the word from the coverage. The beheading was carried out by an organization variously described as ISIL or ISIS, and even the most polite press is obliged to explain on first reference that in either case the “IS” stands for “Islamic State.” Those shady-looking characters enjoying a cool dip in that American taxpayer-funded swimming pool are just as insistent on proclaiming their Islamic allegiance. The 1,400 English children who were sexually abused in the hitherto little-known village of Rotherham between 1997 and 2013 ordinarily wouldn’t warrant the world’s attention, but England’s more robust newspapers have at last found it noteworthy that the abuse continued so long because local authorities purposefully overlooked the overwhelming evidence against the Muslim perpetrators for fear of being accused of racism and religious prejudice.
By now everyone is familiar with the obligatory disclaimer that most of the world’s Muslims are peaceable people with no intentions to behead or blow-up or gang rape anyone you know, but only because it’s been appended to so many stories about the endless slaughter and countless atrocities committed in the name of Islam. Most Muslims truly would prefer a peaceful coexistence with the rest of the world, we’d like to think, but until they start enforcing this sensible preference on their more militant co-religionists the truism will be of no practical value to the rest of the world. Thus far the more militant are the ones imposing their preferences, with the relatively peaceable sorts of Muslims being the most numerous victims, and all the carefully worded disclaimers cannot hide the ugly consequences. Even the fear of being accused of racism and religious prejudice will not forever conceal the truth that much of the Islamic world is resolutely at war with the rest of us..
This has been true for the past 1,400 years or so, another unhappy fact that polite opinion would rather ignore, but the latest conflicts have been especially worrisome and worthy of frank consideration. The violence inflicted by the Islamic State features a brutality not seen since the glory days of Islam’s conquests, the land being conquered is broader and more resource-rich than in the past several centuries, western passports and porous borders and seized jetliners provide the terrorists with unprecedented opportunities for mass slaughter in almost any country, and there’s the problem that polite opinion in the rest of the world would rather ignore it. The President of the United States candidly admits that he has no strategy for dealing with the Islamic State, and quite conceal his disappointment that the big speech he gave in Cairo and his boyhood days in an Indonesian Madrassa haven’t placated the head-chopping and land-grabbing Islamists of the world.
Another 350 troops are heading back to Iraq, whose safe and stable democracy was once one of the administration’s greatest achievements, and drone strikes and special forces missions are ongoing elsewhere in the Muslim world, but of course it’s all accompanied by lots of talk about peaceable majority of Muslims and the need for Israel to show restraint in its efforts to deal with more pressing problems concerning the religion of peace. There still seems some faint hope that the whole matter can be settled without any mention of any religion, and in a way that won’t interfere with the planned downsizing of the military, but it’s going to take some sympathetic coverage. Islam is back in the news, and is getting harder to ignore.

– Bud Norman

Summer Gives Way to Campaign Season

Labor Day has come and gone, and by tradition Americans will now put away their white shoes and straw hats and start paying attention to politics. We have no idea where the white shoe rule comes from, but we haven’t owned any white shoes for the past several decades, what with the black Converse All-Stars being more dignified for our advanced age, and thus we pay it little heed. The straw hat rule was obviously concocted back in New England or some other northern clime where autumn weather arrives on a more fashion conscious schedule than it does here on the plains, so despite our ardent desire not to give offense to etiquette we’ll simply ignore that one for another couple of hot summer weeks or so. We’re the sorts who obsessively follow politics even through the summertime, so that rule also has little effect on us, but at least it makes some sense.
During the next two months there will be campaign commercials, soundbites, scandals, yard signs, billboards, fliers, barroom arguments, and all other forms of politics sufficient to sate the most unnatural appetite until the next round of elections in a couple of years or so. Our suspicion is that the adage about people not paying attention to politics until after Labor Day was coined by political professionals who didn’t want to begin the chore of campaigning until they had rested sufficiently on a full summer’s vacation, and wisely realized that an earlier start would be even more annoying to the amateurs. Besides, two months and a few days should be long enough a campaign for even the most low-information voter to figure out which candidate is the stingy poor-people-hating anti-government Tea Party fanatic and which is the God-hating Marxist tax-and-spend lunatic, and to choose according to taste, so Labor Day seems as good an arbitrary date as any to start the campaign season.
We will be interested to see what those political Rip Van Winkles who have been blissfully sleeping through this mild summer will think when they awaken to the current mess. If they were roused from that enviable slumber by the shrill sound of Vice President Joe Biden shrieking to a Labor Day union gathering that “It’s time to take our country back” they might get the impression that it’s all because those stingy poor-people-hating anti-government Tea Party fanatics have had full of control of the country, but after a couple cups of coffee and two months of non-stop television spots juxtaposing your local Democratic candidate next to an unflattering picture of President Barack Obama they might regain a hazy memory of the last desultory election cycle. The more sober and less sanguine mindset that people have when wearing dark shoes and cloth hats might even lead many voters to consider how the Democratic party’s policies have contributed to the lingering economic malaise, all those unaccompanied minors crossing over to the southern border to a school and social welfare agency near you, all those invasions and beheadings and swimming pool take-overs on the international scene, as well as an alphabet soup of scandals in the federal bureaucracy, but we expect that a certain number will be more concerned about the Republicans’ mythical War on Women and the nefarious influence of the Koch Brothers and all that income inequality that the president keeps bringing up in between $32,000-a-plate fundraisers.
Our guess is that more people will be concerned about jobs, the invasions in Ukraine and Texas and Arizona and elsewhere, and all those scandals by a government the Democrats are promising more and more of, and that it will take some ingenuity on the part of the Republicans to blow this advantage. The Republicans have proved up to the challenge in the past, though, and those people who don’t pay attention until after Labor Day can be easily lulled into another midsummer’s night dream.

– Bud Norman

Pretty Safe in a Messy World

The world might seem dangerously out of control at the moment, what with Islamist terror gangs slaughtering people across a wide swath of Iraq and Syria and enjoying the swimming pool at the abandoned American embassy in Libya, along with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its threats of nuclear weapons, and the nuts running Iran in the process of getting their own bombs, not to mention the suddenly assertive Chinese and all the other crises popping up around the globe, but the President of the United States assures us this is all quite normal. Speaking to yet another group of rich people at yet another high-dollar fund-raiser recently, the president assessed that we’re actually “pretty safe.
This is not as reassuring an assessment at the president probably intended, but it’s probably the best one can hope for these days. Still, after paying $32,400 per plate the audience had every right to expect the famously silver-tongued orator to provide a more convincing case for even that rather modest boast.
“The truth of the matter is that the world has always been messy,” the president said, which is true enough, and rather generous in its implied acknowledgement that this was so even before the George W. Bush administration, but he added that, “In part, we’re just noticing now because of social media and our capacity to see in intimate detail the hardships that people are going through,” which is altogether wrong and quite strikingly stupid. Perhaps the president has only recently noticed the messiness of the world because of the “tweets” and Facebook postings that pop up on his cell phone, such as those hash-tagged missives his wife once sent out about the Boko Haram terror gang that is still running amok in Nigeria, but almost anyone old enough to have been aware of the world’s imperfections even before the invention of these new media can easily judge that the world is conspicuously messier lately. Islamist terror gangs controlling huge swaths of resource-rich countries is not a routine feature of history, invasions of European countries by other countries is a problem that had largely been eliminated by the post-war world order once imposed by American power, the various other crises are more numerous than usual, and all of this would be impossible to ignore even the good old days when three networks and a couple of newspapers got to decide what people knew.
It’s not so dangerous as the Cold War days, the president explained to his well-heeled friends, and it’s true that at least for the moment none of those Islamist terror gangs have a stockpile of nuclear atop intercontinental missiles. Iran’s working to get one during the seemingly eternal negotiations that the administration is so proud of, however, and Russia and China already have plenty and are clearly intent on expanding their territories. The president also believes that the Cold War was won “because the world stood as one,” as he put it to those gullible Germans who gathered to hear his highfalutin speech at the former Berlin Wall back in ’08 when people everywhere were believing such nonsense, so it’s hard to have confidence in his ability to handle the current challenge.
The president also told his friends that America’s military is preeminent in the world, which is true for the moment, but when the planned downsizing is complete and our enemies continue to beef up their defense budgets with the interest payments on the national debt or the oil fields they’ve seized from our former allies the advantage won’t be nearly so overwhelming. All that military might doesn’t mean much without a credible threat of its use, too, and the country’s enemies are all tweeting one another that it’s now a post-American world.
There are more alarmed voices in the administration, including those of the Defense Secretary and the Attorney General and the unnamed sources for a spate of old-fashioned news media stories about the possibility for another large-scale terror attack sneaking across the porous southern border some time soon, and the president seems content to know that they’re on the job with all those intelligence and national securities that his hated predecessor put in place. The harsh interrogations and Guantanamo Bay detentions and some of the other ideas are gone, which might explain the downgrade to “pretty safe,” but we’ll be keeping our fingers crossed.

– Bud Norman


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