Officers Ramos and Liu, RIP

The many recent protests regarding the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner have often featured chants for the murder of police officers, and such evil wishes came true on Saturday. Two of New York City’s finest were shot down in cold blood, apparently in retaliation for the highly publicized deaths of two unarmed black men by police, and many of those who stoked the angriness of the protests are offering their condolences.
In Brown’s case an unassailable array of physical evidence and numerous eyewitnesses eventually corroborated the officer’s claim of self-defense against an intimidatingly large man who had gone for his gun, and in Garner’s case a videotape of the unhealthy man’s fatal encounter with a neck hold and pile of officers demonstrated what was arguably excessive force against his attempt to resist arrest but not murderous intent, yet both were widely exploited as proof of a deadly war by law enforcement against law-abiding black men. The use of deadly force by police officers has declined in recent years along with the crime rate, black men are still far more likely to die at the hands of another black man, and the death tolls for everyone would be far higher without police officers willing and able to defend themselves on the streets, but none of that stopped the usual racial provocateurs from egging on the protests that chanted for the murder of cops.
The ubiquitous Al Sharpton was on the scene, of course, along with the New Black Panther Party and the rest of the soap box orators who haven’t yet secured a network news gig or frequent invitations to the White House. Hollywood celebrities chimed in, as always, and professional athletes took to the field with the thoroughly disproved “Don’t shoot” slogan of Brown’s purported mayrtrdom or Garner’s sadly true last words of “I can’t breathe” emblazoned on the high-dollar shoes that the big time sneaker companies provide them. Much of the media did its usual muckraking, too, happy to let the fanciful but useful notion of cops murdering innocent black men in cold blood linger. This time around the crowd included the the Mayor of New York City, who publicly lamented that he had to teach his black son to be fearful of the city’s police, the President of the United States, who sent an emissary to Brown’s funeral and told the United Nations that Brown’s death left his country unable to assert its moral authority in the world, and his Attorney General, who launched an investigation of the department involved in Brown’s death even as evidence of the officer’s innocence was accumulating.
Some of those soap box orators are exulting about the murders on social media, which is the soap box of our high-tech age, and the same platform that the killer of those two New York City officers used to proclaim his vengeful motives, but the provocateurs who need to retain some level of respectability are now obliged to offer either sympathy or at least a respectful silence. Hollywood celebrities have publicity agents who will shrewdly advise against any comment, and any athletes who take the field with slogans in solidarity with the murders will likely lose his shoes. The rest have ratings or circulation figures or poll numbers to worry about, and have said all the right things.
Members of the New York City Police Department nonetheless turned their backs on Mayor Bill de Blasio, however, and in the most literal sense of the phrase. The broader public might have a similar reaction to the suddenly kind words offered to the police by erstwhile supporters of the protests that until Sunday had chanted for the murder of police. There’s no plausible way for the media to report the deaths of a Hispanic and an Asian police officer who were involved in a training exercise to deal with potential terrorist threats that will support the narrative of a white racist war against black men, and the killer’s race and name will make it impossible to blame the usual Tea Party suspects. That national conversation on race that the race provocateurs have long hoped to start has suddenly shifted to the facts that the deadly use of force by police officers has been declining along with the crime rate, that black men are far more likely to die at the hands of other black men, and that the death toll for everyone would be much higher if there weren’t officers willing and able to defend themselves and the rest of us against a threat that suddenly seems all too real.

– Bud Norman

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Normalizing Dictatorships

A communist dictatorship seized power in Cuba the year of our birth, and has been nothing but trouble to the world ever since. The dictatorship pointed nuclear weapons at the United States which almost triggered an apocalyptic war, fomented similarly dictatorial revolutions throughout Latin America and Africa, emptied its prisons onto American shores, and even after the demise of its Soviet patron has continued to abet the mischief of its fellow pariah states and imprison its own population in a totalitarian gulag. Now we read that America will normalize diplomatic relations with this cruel government, and can only wonder that it has taken so long.
The left hasn’t had much enthusiasm for opposing any sort of communism at least since George McGovern won the Democratic nomination, after all, and has always had a special sympathy for the Cuban variety. Countless documentaries and feature films, pamphlets, symposia, and the breathless testimonials of too many hipsters in Che Guevara t-shirts have portrayed Cuba as a tropical workers’ paradise where rhythmic and revolutionary cumbias fill the air and high-quality free health care is available to all. We never heard of anybody tying a bunch of inner tubes together and trying to get to Cuba, while hundreds of thousands have resorted to such desperate measures in order to get out, but the myth persists. Normalizing diplomatic relations with the communist dictatorship will prolong its power, but the left no longer sees this as a problem.
In his last campaign debate the president chortled to his opponent that the Cold War was long over, clearly amused that such confrontational thinking still happened, and indeed that epic conflict was so long ago that the collective memory has faded and only the liberal myths prevail. It was so long ago that the current president was smoking that high-quality Hawaiian pot with the “Choom Gang” when the west was winning the conflict, and went on to tell an adoring crowd of Germans at the former site of the Berlin Wall that it was because the world stood as one, and the former long-haired hippie who testified to Congress that it was futile for American to resist communism is now the Secretary of State, and the idea that communism wasn’t really so bad after all is now a fixture of the campus curriculum. The hammer and sickle never achieved the same intolerable status as the swastika, even if it represented the same brutal totalitarianism, and the likes of the mass-murdering Che Guevara became fashionable attire.
By now the decision to open an embassy in Havana will probably be of little political consequence. The left will be pleased with their president’s daring, the Americans of Cuban heritage will be mostly outraged but of few numbers, maybe not even enough to swing to Florida’s electoral votes back to the Republicans, and the old-timers such as ourselves who proudly recall a time when America was the reason communism’s evil didn’t prevail probably would have voted Republican in any case. The Cold War is long over except for those unfortunate folks in Ukraine and Cuba and the South China Sea who are dealing with its unpleasant aftermath, the threat of a nuclear conflagration has been downgraded to the possibility that Iran or North Korea or another of Cuba’s allies will someday launch one, and the left is already looking for rationalizations if that ever happens.

– Bud Norman

The Silly Season of Politics

There are still a couple of weeks left in 2014, according to that damnable calendar icon that taunts us with the relentless passage of time whenever we log on to our computer, but the presidential campaign of 2016 already seems well underway. An otherwise slow news day was full of speculation about the Republican contest on Tuesday, but none of it was quite so compelling as the Wichita State University Wheatshockers’ basketball squad home court win over an unranked but upset-minded University of Alabama Crimson Tide by a score of 53-52. Our beloved ‘Shockers went on a 13-1 run over the final five minutes to seal the narrow victory, and we don’t expect the Republican race to be quite so exciting as the pre-season hype would indicate.
All the talk on Tuesday was about former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who announced that he was thinking about pursuing the nomination. Bush is also the son of former President George Herbert Walker Bush and the brother of President of George W. Bush, and the grandson of Sen. Prescott Bush, and an heir to God only knows how many previous generations of big deal Bushes, so running the country is pretty much his family business and his announcement that he was all but announcing his candidacy for president was not a surprise. More surprising was that so much of the press took serious the notion that Bush might actually win, and regarded his admittedly impeccable “establishment” credentials as a likely reason. These scribes are apparently too far removed from the Republicans’ fly-over country base to know that “establishment” is now as much a pejorative to its primary electorate than it ever was the hippies, and that the Bush name is now synonymous with a big-government style of conservatism that is widely considered unsuited to the nation’s needs or the party’s desires. Bush has already staked on stands on illegal immigration and the federalization of education that are anathema to Republican stalwarts, both of which remind the party’s activist base of everything they hated about his brother and father and grandfather and all those previous generations of big deal Bushes, and no amount of fund-raising is likely to negate those disadvantages.
The press gleefully noted that Kentucky’s Sen. Rand Paul was already issuing advertisements against Bush, a clear signal of his unsurprising intention to seek the nomination, but neither do we regard Paul as pre-season favorite for the nomination. He’s certainly not at all “establishment,” being heir only to the quixotic campaigns of his father, former quadrennial presidential candidate and Texas’ Rep. Ron Paul, but he’s staked out accommodating positions on foreign policy issues that will not play well at a time when Russia and China and Islamism are all ascendant. There was even some attention paid to to disparaging remarks made about Bush by Donald Trump, a real estate mogul and reality star ever eager for paid attention, although we expect that “The Donald’s” ambitions are primary to produce publicity for whatever eponymous project he is planning in the private sector.
This is the “silly season” in presidential politics, to borrow yet another sports metaphor from golf, and the day’s headlines will be long forgotten by the metaphorical playoff time. The real contest begins with an impressive slate of governors get done with their necessary state business, and a smaller and less impressive slate of Representatives and Senators show what they’re willing to do with their party’s majorities, and a robust debate about who’s the most solid conservative is underway. The contestant from the prestigious confederation won’t necessarily prevail, as the Shockers’ hard-fought win over the Southeastern Conference demonstrated, and anyone who can plausibly deny responsibility for what’s been going in the big leagues of Washington will have an underdog’s leg up.
We expect an exciting race for the Republican nomination, and maybe even one of those improbable come-from-behind victories that cause you to shake hands with the bartender when you’re watching at Merle’s Tavern, but it never goes according to what the press is saying.

– Bud Norman

Tortured Logic

Although we are squeamish about torture, to the point we can barely sit through a Quentin Tarantino movie without experiencing nausea, under certain specific circumstances we reluctantly countenance our government engaging in what is euphemistically called “enhanced interrogations.” Whenever American lives are imminently at risk, and there is a high degree of certainty that a captured unlawful enemy combatant has information that might help avert their deaths, we are inclined to allow the authorities wide latitude to interrogate away.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein and her fellow Democrats on the Senate’s intelligence committee take a harder line against torture, judging by the much ballyhooed report they issued about the matter. After six years and $40 million and no interviews of anybody they have accused, they have uncovered a few instances where agents of the United States government apparently interrogated suspects when there was no imminent risk and no certainty of useful information to be gained and the methods went even beyond the widest latitude we would allow, which is a service to the country, but we think they take an otherwise admirable aversion to torture too far. They are critical of techniques that have demonstrably proved helpful in the past, and are well within the bounds of the the public understands is going on, and would surely inhibit agents dealing with future imminent risks from subjecting potentially useful sources to anything harsher than a comfy chair and a cup of tea.
The report is clearly intended to remind America of the bad old days of George W. Bush, when Dick Cheney used to stick needles into the arms of innocent Afghan goat herders just for kicks, no matter how dissatisfied it might be with Obama and the out-going Democratic Senate majority. After so many years without a major terrorist act on American soil, unless you count the countless “lone wolf” attacks and plots that failed entirely to their own ineptitude or the sporadic incidents of “work place violence,” or the successful slaughter of Americans overseas, Feinstein and her fellow Democrats believe they can once again be indignant about the rough men who have been keeping them safe. The sense of moral superiority that comes with a willingness to sacrifice American lives rather than cause pain to an unlawful enemy combatant is irresistible to the likes of Feinstein and her fellow Democrats, especially when they sense a political advantage.
Recent polling suggests that much of the public shares the Republicans’ reluctant willingness to pay rough, though, and the argument quickly leads to the Obama administration’s alternative method of sending drones to vaporize the unlawful enemy combatants and whatever innocent Afghan goat herders happen to be standing nearby. This has the advantage of sparing the president the awkwardness of sending the unlawful enemy combatants to that nasty Guantanamo Bay detention camp that he’s been promising to close for the past seven years, and there won’t be any of that rough stuff that was done back in the bad old days, but it doesn’t provide any useful information from the sort of suspects that used to be nabbed by the special forces, and it tends to lose the hearts and minds of the relatives of those innocent Afghan goat herders who happened to be standing nearby, and we doubt that the unlawful enemy combatants find it preferable to a few rounds of water-boarding.
Current policies should offend the more refined sensibilities of the left, and alarm the more pragmatically ruthless right, so let that debate begin.

– Bud Norman

Strange Bedfellows

Try as we might, we can’t make any sense of this so-called “Cromnibus” budget deal that might or might not have been passed and signed into law by the time you read this. None of the smart publications that had confidently reported it would pass in routine fashion seem to be able to make any of sense of it, or even explain why it has been called “Cromnibus,” and of course no one in congress has offered a plausible explanation for what’s going on. We suspect there just isn’t much sense to be made of it.
Still, it makes for an interesting spectacle. The $1.1 trillion, 1,600-page bill was said to be a bipartisan compromise with something for everyone to like, just what all the pundits are saying the public is yearning for, so of course some on both sides of the aisle found something to dislike. Conservatives had no problem finding plenty to hate among the $1.1 trillion and 1,600 pages, including such outrages as a year’s worth of money to continue implementing the wildly unpopular Obamacare law at whatever pace the president chooses and a couple of month’s of funding for the Department of Homeland Security of all people to carry out the president’s unwise and unconstitutional and even more wildly unpopular decree to grant amnesty to several million illegal immigrants. Liberals had to dig deeper into such a complete Republican capitulation to find something they didn’t like, but eventually came up with a a couple of provisions that would amend the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law to allow federally-insured banks to trade in certain sorts of derivatives in some convoluted way or another and increased the limits on campaign contributions. This was sufficient for a minority of Republicans and a majority of Democrats to hold up passage of the bill in the House until late Thursday night, and a similar coalition might also prove troublesome in the Democrat-controlled Senate today.
This unlikely convergence of the rabid Tea Party right and loony left-wing progressives is fun to watch, at least, and one can hope that it might even save the country from all the stupid ideas that are found in the moderate middle and therefore funded by the bill. In any event, it has at least revealed some interesting fissures within both parties. House Speaker John Boehner was using whatever clout he has left with his party to win passage of the bill, but his promises to start getting tough about illegal immigration once the calvary of the soon-to-be-installed Republican majority in the Senate is installed and that couple of months of funding for DHS has passed was not believed by the party’s base , who flooded the congressional phone lines and stiffened the spines of the numerous Republicans who voted no. The president also used whatever clout he has left with his party to win passage of the bill, which didn’t stop the Associated Press from describing how that Republicans had “muscled” the bill through the House, but among those who ignored his advice were the likes of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi from San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury and Rep. Maxine Waters from the same Compton that Niggaz With Attitude came straight outta. Leading the Democratic charge against the bill in the upper chamber is Massachusetts’ Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is widely touted as a more left-wing alternative to Hillary Clinton as the party’s presidential nominee, and it will be fascinating to find out what would-be presidential candidates among the Republicans will buck the GOP’s increasingly reviled leadership.
The best guess is that the lousy deal winds up passing more or less intact, though, and that what’s left of the combined clout of the president and the Republican congressional leadership will prevail. The alternative seems to be not funding the government at all, which for some reason remains even more unpopular that a lousy deal full of Obamacare and illegal immigrants and those nasty bankers and big-money donors getting their way. The Republicans took a hit in the polls with the last government shutdown, even if it had happily dissipated by the time the mid-term elections rolled around, and that was over something as comprehensibly outrageous as Obamacare, so they’ll pull out all the stops to make sure that doesn’t happen again even if it’s about something more comprehensibly outrageous than those millions of illegal immigrants. The Democrats’ fondness for government makes even the most limited and unnoticeable government shutdowns unthinkable, and we can’t see them taking the responsibility for a government shutdown over something incomprehensible and probably sensible as allowing federally-insured banks to trade in certain sorts of derivatives according to some convoluted system.
The fissures will remain, though, and it will be interesting to see what seismic rumblings they produce once the lame duck congress has been retired. Rep. Waters told her fellow delegates “don’t be intimidated by Obama,” showing some attitude of her own, and we expect the president will be increasingly un-intimidating to many other Democrats as his final term plays out and his poll numbers dip with every veto of a popular bill passed by the Republican congress. If the Republican leadership doesn’t get those bills passed, and do a far better job of thwarting the president’s authority and dismantling his legislative legacy than they’v done in this lame duck session, challenging their authority will not only be easy but necessary for political survival from the pitchfork-bearing base.

– Bud Norman

Budgetary Blues

Being civic-minded sorts, we do our best to keep up on the latest events of public importance. Having a peculiar interest in such dreary matters, we’re probably more diligent about it than the average American. Even such obsessed sorts as ourselves, however, sometimes find it a dreary slog through the news.
Wednesday’s headlines were largely devoted to the $1.1 trillion spending bill that seems set for passage today, for instance, and it’s more than the most patriotic policy wonk should be expected to digest. Not only is that astronomical figure beyond our powers of mathematical conception, it takes 1,600 pages to spend that exorbitant amount, which is more than even a Congresswoman Evelyn Woods would be able to read before the vote. The Washington Post boasts that it “skimmed” the bill “so you don’t have to,” and provides a somewhat useful summary compressed into a relatively few column inches, but we’d rather read 1,600 pages of bureaucratese than take their word for it.
Usually one can infer what’s in 1,600 pages of budgetary jargon by who is screaming the loudest, but in this case the shrieks of pain are coming from every direction. The Conservative Review gives several convincing reasons that the right-wing bastards such as ourselves should hate it. The folks at Politico are always attuned to liberal sentiment, however, and they report that the left hates it was well. We note that Massachusetts’ Sen. Elizabeth is among the most outraged, and take some solace in this. The bill will avert a government shutdown, which will presumably please that uniformed majority of folks in the middle of spectrum, but it doesn’t seem likely to improve anybody’s poll numbers. Elsewhere in the news find that the bill does not provide funding for a ridiculous that outlaws our beloved incandescent light bulbs, but judging by the shelves of our local grocery store the manufacturers will probably continue obeying the law just in case there’s a federal budget surplus that needs spending.
The political ramifications, which are what mostly concern the politicians who will be voting today, are every bit as convoluted. Our familiarity with the Republican base leads us to expect it will once again be livid, with more denunciations of their party’s congressional leadership emanating from talk radio and Tea Party meetings and barroom conversations, and the inevitable lamentations of the liberals will provide little compensation. That vast uninformed middle of the spectrum will take little note, that astronomical figure being far beyond their powers of mathematical conception and the latest of passing totals of the National Football League’s quarterbacks being of greater interest, so despite our preference for de-funding the federal government in almost its entirety we can’t discount the possibility that the Republican congressional leadership didn’t attain its power without some political savvy.
President Barack Obama is still wielding veto power and the Democrats still have control of the Senate, after all, so there might be a plausible argument that this lousy deal was the best that could hoped for. In a month or so the Republicans will control both chambers, with an opportunity to drive Obama’s unpopularity to a point that they’ll be able to peel off a veto-proof number of nervous Red State Democrats, and at that point the Republicans will face a disastrous rebellion within the ranks if they don’t do better. We dare not hope for a federal government on a scale that its more diligent citizens can keep track of, but something better. Even a skimming of the skimmings of the budget deal will show that.

– Bud Norman

Empathy for the Devil

Former First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is also the presumptive next presidential nominee of the Democratic party, gave an interesting speech at Georgetown University a few days ago. Most of the press coverage focused on the size of the crowd, which was conspicuously less than the Led Zeppelin reunion tour-sized turnout one might expect for such an credentialed person, but her remarks were also worth noting.
The reviews of the speech were so uniformly negative that even such a reliably Democratic scribe as The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank opined that Clinton has “lost that ‘new car smell,'” and even went so far as to ridicule her arguments for feminine leadership of the world as a remedy for its woes, but only the conservative press was so unkind as to delve into its content. The gist of the speech, so far as we discern from all the snark, is that American foreign policy must be based on an “empathy” for its foes.
“This is what we call ‘smart power,'” Clinton said in her speech, if the transcripts are to believed, “using every possible tool and partner to advance peace and security, leaving no one on the sidelines, showing respect even for one’s enemies, trying to understand and, insofar as psychologically possible, empathize with their perspective and point of view, helping to define the problems to determine the solution. This is what we believe, in the 21st century, will change, change the prospects for peace.”
Anyone trying to understand why Russia now controls a large chunk of what used to be Ukraine and China is rapidly exerting similar control of large swathes of the formerly autonomous Pacific Ocean and Iran is steadily progressing toward nuclear weaponry that it has already announced they will use to affect another Holocaust need only realize that such hippy-dippy thinking has informed America’s “smart” foreign policy for the past six years or so. We have nothing against trying to understand our adversaries’ thinking, and cooly assessing that Russia is nostalgic for the good old days when it imposed its totalitarian ideology on Eastern Europe and China feels entitled to the same hegemony in its region and that Iran’s medieval theology compels it to hate infidels in general and Jews in particular, but we aren’t so suicidally empathetic as to concede that any of them have any valid points that America is obliged to respect. Back when the French were big in the diplomacy business they had an expression that “tout comprendre c’est tout pardonner,” which roughly translates as “to understand all is to forgive all,” and it was such enlightened thinking that led to that country’s many years of Nazi occupation.
What strikes us as most odd about such progressive thought, however, is that it so rarely extends to domestic issues. The likes of Clinton are ever eager to offer a “reset” button to the likes of Vladimir Putin as penance for the sins of the George W. Bush administration’s harsher response to Russia’s invasion of Georgia, but will always regard Bush as Chimpy McBushitler for his 32 percent income tax rate on the top margins. The Chinese communists can be forgiven their bullying of the Taiwanese and Filipinos and Japanese and anyone else in their vicinity, but any American cop or neighborhood patrolman who defends himself against the life-threatening aggression of a neighborhood thug is presumed racist. The Iranian government’s policy of executing homosexuals is not reason to worry about what it might do with a nuclear bomb, but any resistance to same-sex marriage in America is regarded as a religious mania.
Conservatives can just be as prone to a lack of empathy, which is after all a normal human tendency, but the pervasiveness of liberal thinking makes it harder for them not have some understanding of their ideological opponents’ reasoning, such as it is. The modern media landscape too often allows liberals to shield themselves from conservative thinking, and to regard it with the same suspicion and prejudice they ascribe to anyone outside their carefully cocooned circles. We advise them to show some respect and understanding for their enemies, and insofar as is psychologically possible to empathize with their perspective and point of view. We’d also advise them to start to looking around for another presidential nominee.

– Bud Norman

On Presidential Profanity

President Barack Obama reportedly spewed a “profanity-laced tirade” against the press recently, and we would have loved to have heard it. Partly because we always enjoy hearing the news media getting a good cussing, and partly because it would have been interesting to hear what complaints he might have against such a compliant lot of scribes, but mostly because we’d like know how adept he is with salty language.
One might easily surmise that the president is nostalgic for the more hagiographic sort of coverage he got back in the halcyon days of ’08, when his every utterance was treated as prophetic and the photographers always took care to add that eerie halo effect, so it’s not surprising that he would resent the relatively frank accounts of how things are going that he now occasionally endures. One still wonders what specific gripes he might have offered among the obscenities, however, and whether any recent Republican presidents would sympathize.
Of far greater interest would be the president’s proficiency with profanity. Although liberals are fond of foul language, an affinity they have indulged gratuitously at least since the days of Lenny Bruce’s martyrdom, we have noticed they are rarely any good at it. Most liberals simply pepper their speech with the gerund form of a familiar term for sexual intercourse, a habit which by now is far more monotonous than transgressive, with an occasional accusation of Oedipal tendencies leveled against conservatives. They infrequently employ the harsher terms deriving from female genitalia, perhaps for fear of offending the feminists they hope to bed, and they rarely invoke a common expression for those engage in fellatio, lest they be considered homophobic, which would also diminish their chances with the feminists they hope to bed, and their vocabulary of vulgarisms is conspicuously limited. Almost never do they achieve the staccato rhythms and poetic alliteration that make swearing truly swing. This is most likely because so few of them have served in the military or worked at blue collar trades, the professions that have elevated obscenity to an art form, but it might also be the same lack of imagination that characterizes the rest of liberal rhetoric.
Having watched the embarrassing spectacle of Obama attempting to throw a ceremonial first pitch at a baseball game, and having seen the sissy helmet he wears when pedaling his sissy bike around Martha’s Vineyard, we suspect he is especially ill-suited to such a masculine pursuit as profanity. The hesitant and halting speeches he sputters when speaking impromptu further indicate he has no talent for the free-flowing torrents of verbal vile necessary to make cussing successful. Even if the writers of that famously foul-mouthed “Deadwood” series that ran on HBO were to provide the script for his teleprompter, we doubt that his usual haughty chin-up delivery would be equal to the task.
Which is not to say that a president can’t cuss, of course. Lyndon Johnson was famously vulgar when coercing congressmen into supporting his disastrous agenda, which we are thankful is another talent that Obama has not yet demonstrated, and the transcripts of Richard Nixon’s tape-recorded White House conversations once made “expletive deleted” a household phrase. Johnson was from Texas, though, and Nixon was a Navy man, so both had some education in the art. That fancy Hawaiian prep school and Columbia University and Harvard’s law school probably did not provide Obama a similar tutelage. Should the president’s poll numbers continue their recent slide, however, he might get the knack of it yet.

– Bud Norman

Race, Class, Gender, and the New Rules

Race, gender, and class are the trinity of modern liberalism, and all three are becoming increasingly complicated.
While growing up in the heroic era of the civil rights movement we were taught that the race issue was a rather simple of matter of judging a man by the content of his character rather than the color of his skin, but such simplistic notions of racial equality are apparently no longer applicable. The great civil rights cause of recent months has involved a black teenager who was fatally shot while attempting to kill a white police officer, and we read that the organizers of one of the many protests demanding the officer be punished for not allowing himself to be murdered are insisting that only “people of color” participate, although they will generously allow “non-people of color” to stand nearby in solidarity. Aside from the new civil rights movement’s curious insistence on a return to racial segregation, we’re also jarred by its terminology. “People of color” has always struck as uncomfortably close to “colored people,” a phrase that was banned from polite conversation way back in our boyhood days, except at meetings of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which seems to be exempted by some sort of grandfather clause, and we’re not sure if the unfamiliar description of “non-people of color” is meant to imply that we’re not people or just that we’re not sufficiently hued, but in any case the new rules will take some getting used to.
The latest news is also forcing us to reconsider our past lessons regarding what were once called the sexes but is now known as the genders. In our formative years the feminist movement insisted on that same simplistic notion of equal treatment that the civil rights movement once championed, to the point that such old-fashioned acts of chivalry as opening a door or offering a bus seat to a woman were considered insulting and women were allowed to be as irresponsibly promiscuous as the most libidinous man. Feminism thus defined proved predictably popular with the least chivalrous and most libidinous men, and the resulting bacchanal that is contemporary college life has predictably proved so unsatisfactory to those women who retain a traditionally feminine desire for love and commitment that it has been deemed a “culture of rape” and the feminists are now insisting that any woman who has been unhappily seduced be able to have the cad thrown out of school without due process. Contraceptives are still to be subsidized, and anyone who who thinks less of the women who choose to be irresponsibly are faulted for “slut-shaming,” but any man who still plays by the earlier rules would be well advised to get himself a lawyer. The issue is further complicated by the recent invention of several new sexual categories other than male and female, including such exotic and seemingly rare categories as transgendered and omni-gendered and a few others that we’ve had to look up on the internet because the dictionaries haven’t yet caught up with them, and we shudder to think how arcane the rules for their relationships might be.
Class used to be simpler, too. In our younger days rich people were all right so long as they earned their money in an honest and socially beneficial way, poor people were all right so long as their poverty resulted from hard luck or heredity, and most people considered themselves somewhere in between and thought themselves all right as well. Back then the rich people were presumed Republican, the poor people Democrat, and the folks in between chose sides according to their personal preferences. Now the very rich and the very poor tend to be Democrats, which imbues both with a sense of nobility, while the folks in the middle tend to vote Republican, which earns them a reputation as boobs. Because the Democrats’ candidates are invariably from the wealthier end of the party, usually having earned their wealth through political connections and speaking fees and marrying rich widows and other not very honest or socially beneficial ways, it requires a more complex theory of class than Marx and Engels ever conceived. The wealthiest and most liberal communities in America are the most segregated by both class and race, the poorest and most liberal communities can be counted on to continue voting for the policies that have created their segregated squalor, and the new rules somehow allow the former to retain their sense of moral righteousness and the latter to retain an even more spiritually satisfying sense of victimhood.
Keeping up with all these changes is proving exhausting, and we’re inclined to stop trying. Better we should keep on judging men by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin, treating women with the respect we would want for ourselves, and assuming that the rich and the poor and the folks in between are all right unless we have reason we think otherwise. This might make us racist, sexist, and classist, but we’re unlikely to avoid those charges now matter how hard we try be up-to-date.

– Bud Norman

Another Grand Jury, Another Controversy

Yet another grand jury has declined to indict a white a police officer involved in the death of a black man, this time in the Staten Island borough of New York City, and the latest round of racial tensions seems likely to continue for a while.
The death of an unarmed black teenager by the gun of a white police in Ferguson, Missouri, brought devastating rioting and looting and arson to that unfortunate town, and then another round of the same after a grand jury heard testimony and evidence that clearly indicated the officer was acting in self-defense. Reaction to the grand jury decision in New York City has thus far been less destructive, despite the efforts of a mob to disrupt the city’s annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony, but it will suffice to keep the controversy about policing in black neighborhoods in the news for weeks to come. The latest case might yet prove even more volatile than the Ferguson incident, as the facts are less clear-cut.
The incident in New York City was caught on videotape, and what it reveals is at best ambiguous. Several policemen approach an extremely obese man, reportedly because he had been selling single cigarettes to passersby without paying the city’s notoriously high taxes on the product, and he is argumentative but not physically aggressive. When the officers attempt to handcuff the man he resists, but not in a way that can be construed as life-threatening given the lack of a weapon and the number of policemen involved. Several officers then bring the man down to the ground, one of them employing what the New York press has routinely called a “choke-hold” but might better be described as a “headlock,” and the officers pile on to handcuff the man as he is heard shouting that he cannot breath. As the tape ends, the officers are still piled on, the man’s head is still wrapped in a policeman’s arm, and the shouts by the man that he cannot breath continue.
The videotape leaves no doubt the decedent would still be alive had he acted more sensibly, but one can reasonably wonder if he might also have survived different procedures that could still have resulted in an arrest. There’s obviously more to the story than than what is seen on the videotape, and we assume the grand jury heard the rest of it, but there’s enough there to exacerbate the resentments of those who presume that police routinely act with disregard for the lives of black suspects. It’s at least a more compelling example for that view than what happened in Ferguson, where several black eyewitness corroborated ample physical evidence that the officer’s life was in danger and deadly force was warranted in response, but the initial reports in that case suggested a case of cold-blooded murder and weren’t effectively rebutted until the aftermath of the grand jury’s verdict.
The politicians and activists who prosper from racial strife will likely switch their attention to the New York story now that Ferguson’s rage has diminished in the cold weather and the even colder facts of that case, but they’ll have to settle for a story that is at best ambiguous. The videotape makes it harder to claim that putting cameras on America’s police will prevent such situations, but there’s still a case to be made that it could have prevented the premature judgment rendered against the Ferguson officer. What happened in New York might lead to better policies regarding arrests, but it should also continue to serve as a warning to those who would resist arrest in even the most ineffectual ways. It will also continue to distract attention from inordinate amount of criminality in black America, which kills far more black Americans than even the most reckless police departments, and we can only hope that the current controversies will soon fade enough for the country to consider that sad fact.

– Bud Norman


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