Oh Yeah, the Economy

Perhaps it’s just because we’re not hanging out with a high-rolling crowd, or because baseball season is underway and the National Basketball Association’s playoffs just concluded, but nobody seems to be talking about the economy these days. All of the non-business news media seem equally uninterested, to the point that it takes another announcement from the Federal Reserve Board to get any front-page play for those poor newspaper scribes stuck on the economy beat.
We suspect this has something to do with the diocletian nature of all that boring data that the Fed went on about Wednesday. The economy isn’t quite bad enough for the Republicans to make an issue of it, and not nearly good enough for the Democrats to do any bragging, and apparently not so bad that the Fed feels obliged to again ramp up the money-printing that fueled that newsworthy stock market boom, but not so good that it intends to raise interest rates above 0 percent any time soon, and only the economics geeks understand what any of that means and none of them seem agree about it. Better to talk about baseball and basketball and whatever else might be going on, we suppose, but we can’t shake a nervous feeling that something important is going unremarked.
Perhaps it’s also because no one seems to know what to do about it. President Barack Obama’s only big economic initiative since that pork-laden “stimulus” bill and all the other debt-increasing “investments” he and his Democratic majorities in Congress foisted on the country back in the bad old days has been his Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade deal with most of Asia, and the Republican congressional majorities that resulted from those earlier fiascos have been largely supportive, and it’s suddenly the remaining Democrats who are balking, and by now it’s more a story about our troubling politics than our troubled economy. David Brooks, The New York Times’ token “conservative” who fell in love with the perfectly pressed crease in Obama’s pants way back in ’08 and has never quite gotten over it, blames it all on what he calls the “Tea Party” faction of the Democratic party, which is wedded to labor unions and their protectionist preferences, and although he admits that Obama’s characteristic secretiveness prevents anyone without top-secret security clearance from knowing what the free-trade deal is he rightly notes that those same Democrats don’t seem to mind they have no idea about the wacky deal he’s making with the even wackier mullahs of Iran about their nuclear weapon ambitions. Our conservatism requires no quotation marks, and we’re staunchly Republican, and will grouse that the “Tea Party” analogy belies Brooks’ putative conservatism because the “Tea Party” was pretty much right about the growing debt and all the regulatory red-tape resulting from all those expensive “investments” and everything else, and we’re free-traders to our Adam Smith core, but even we are so spooked about Obama’s negotiating record and what might be hidden in that Trans-Pacific partnership that we’re willing to wait another two years or more for a better and more transparent agreement. There’s some fun in watching all the presidential hopefuls in both parties try to finesse this mess, even if the smart ones seem to understand they can simply ignore it, but otherwise we can well understand why people are following the divisional races in major league baseball and The Golden State Warrior’s long-awaited basketball championship.
Eventually everyone will be forced to pay some attention to the economy, certainly by November of ’16, and at that point it will be all about politics. The Republicans will argue that the numbers regarding jobs and household wealth and Gross Domestic Produce could have and should have been been much better, the Democrats will reply that those admittedly unimpressive numbers would have been so much worse without the president’s “investments” and resultant regulations and trillions of dollars of debt that everyone would have stopped going to work and buying groceries and falling for the latest advertised seductions and we’d all be rubbing sticks together in some cave, and that the same president’s secretiveness and lack of meaningful relationships with anyone else in government sank that Trans-Pacific Partnership that might have helped, and there’s no way way of knowing who the public will blame.
They’ll blame somebody, though, because there’s no getting around the end-of-the-month fact that economy isn’t that good. Even through the rose-colored glasses of the Federal Reserve Board the economy is expected to grow at at only 1.8 to 2 percent this year, barely enough to sustain those much-touted jobs number that haven’t quite kept up the arrival of new legal and illegal immigrants, another issue proving problematic for both Republican and Democratic presidential candidates, and on those rare occasions when people talk about the economy nobody seems to singing that happy days are here again. Whatever the economic numbers might be deep inside the business section around the next election day, we expect the Democratic nominee will be griping about the inequality of it all, which will resonate with a large resentful population of the country, and the Republican nominee will be talking about tax-cutting and de-regulating and unleashing the potential of the economy, which will resonate with the more hopeful portion of the electorate, nd the electoral numbers will decide the matter.
Until then, we’re as confused as anybody else. Zero percent interest rates don’t seem to provide any incentive for making the loans that could fuel an economic boom, and it isn’t any good for those poor old folks counting on interest-bearing retirement plans, but anything higher is likely to scare away investors in such uncertain and debt-laden and over-regulated times such as these, and that free-trade deal with a crucial foreign might or might not be a good idea, as only those with a top-secret security clearance would know, so we’ll anxiously await whatever happens. In the meantime we note that The Kansas City Royals are back on top of the American League’s Central Division and that The New York Yankees are within striking distance of the lead in the Eastern, and we’ve had a certain sympathy for The Golden State Warriors ever since they won their last title 40 years ago with that arrogant white boy Rick Barry as the star, so we’ll hope for the best.

— Bud Norman

If He’s So Rich, How Come He Ain’t Smart?

A healthy ego is required to run for the presidency of the United States, but Donald Trump takes it to his characteristic levels of excess. The tendency was on full display Tuesday during the announcement of his campaign for the nation’s highest office, where he boasted of his top-secret-but-foolproof plan to defeat the Islamic State, confidently predicted that “I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created,” bragged that his nearby Gucci store was worth more than Mitt Romney, and described himself as “the most successful person ever to run for the presidency, by far.”
The oft-bankrupt real estate mogul and longtime reality television series star clearly isn’t running on the usual aw-shucks-I’m-just-a-regular guy shtick that fabulously wealthy Democrats such as Hillary Clinton routinely employ, and we must admit that he’s at least savvy enough to know that wouldn’t have worked for him, and that it probably wouldn’t have hurt the aforementioned Romney to have been a little less defensive about his more honestly earned and more generously shared wealth, but surely some small measure of humility is required to actually be the President of the United States. We’ve read enough Greek dramas to know about hubris and nemesis, and enough of the Bible to know that pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall, and when you throw in that ridiculous haircut of his and the embarrassment of a long-running reality television show Trump seems to be just asking for it. While we admire financial acumen just as much as the next guy, or at least the next Republican guy, we also have to quibble with his rather limited definition of success.
Trump might or might not be the richest person ever to run for the presidency, depending on which accounting of his extremely complicated spreadsheets you choose to believe, but that hardly makes him the most successful. George Washington had successfully led a rag-tag army of farmers and merchants to victory over the world’s mightiest military, which is at least as impressive as getting rich, which we he also did. Alexander Hamilton’s failed candidacy came after he had played a key role in that same rag-tag army’s victory, and then as the first Secretary of the Treasury had set up an American financial system that was the most successful wealth-generator in history until our recent profligacy ruined it, and we’re further impressed that he selflessly chose not to enrich himself in the process. Ulysses S. Grant had successfully forced the legendarily wily Robert E. Lee to Appomattox, which most historians agree was of far greater significance than his numerous failures as a businessman. Dwight Eisenhower had led a fissiparous coalition of out-gunned countries to victory over the Nazis, thus saving the world from history’s greatest calamity, and one needn’t be a historian to see how that’s a bigger deal than a Gucci store and an Atlantic City casino. That Trump measures success only in terms of dollars and cents, and even then by the most favorable accounting methods, is as problematic as his ego.
Other past presidential candidates have offered up impressive resumes full of notable successes, as well, and in many cases they’ve haven’t resulted in successful presidencies. Herbert Hoover had become quite wealthy with his international mining ventures, and he did so without the benefit of inherited wealth and in a way that won him world-wide acclaim for his ethical business practices, then volunteered for such hard jobs as coordinating relief efforts for Europe after World I, coordinating similar relief efforts for the victims of the Great Mississippi Flood, and serving as Commerce Secretary during the boom years of the Coolidge administration, and he was widely regarded as spectacularly successful in each of these tasks. He’s now regarded as one of the least successful presidents, however, and we think that’s largely due to all the counter-productive tinkering he did to overcome the Great Depression because he believed in his own powers more than he did the resilience of the free enterprise system. George H.W. Bush had a resume that not only included a successful private sector career but also public service posts ranging from Central Intelligence Agency director to Ambassador to China to being Vice President during the most successful presidential administration of our lifetime, and a similar confidence in himself had less dire consequences but slowed the momentum from the aw-shucks-I’m-just-a-B-movie-actor Reagan years.
Pretty much every presidential candidate ever has had a less a ridiculous haircut than Trump, going all the way back to the powdered wig days and even through the era when the bald were still eligible for the job, and none of them ever became famous for saying “you’re fired” to the sorts of desperate attention-seekers who co-star on cheesy reality television shows, and even the egotistical likes of John Kerry and Barack Obama preferred to let their allies in the mainstream press talk about how they would be the greatest presidents God ever created, and all of these things also figure into our definition of successful. By our accounting Donald Trump isn’t anywhere near the most successful person to run for president, and we have no doubt he’d be a spectacularly unsuccessful president, and his candidacy seems the quixotic quest of one of those desperately attention-seeking sorts you find on cheesy reality shows. The money and the name recognition and the desire of much of the media to portray the Republican nomination race as a freak show will bring him plenty of attention, and the fabulously wealthy and downright ridiculous Ross Perot has already proved that a certain percentage of the country can fall for it, but the sooner he’s out of this race the better.

— Bud Norman

Our Favorite Street Artist of the Moment

We’ve been avid art lovers ever since that long ago day when our mother first dragged us along to the Wichita Art Museum to see the Mary Cassatt and the John Steuart Curry and the Albert Pinkham Ryder and the Thomas Eakins and the Winslow Homer and the three — count ’em, three — Edward Hoppers, two of which are very major works, along with the rest of the city’s surprisingly strong collection, but for the past many years we’ve found precious little to like among the new stuff. It’s not just the pointless and overdone abstraction, or the obviously intentional ugliness of it, or that ever-present preachy and polemic quality that Tom Wolfe so brutally described in “The Painted Word,” or even the rigid conformity of the ugly and polemical point that almost all of it seems to be making, but mostly the annoying air of self-righteousness by all those college-educated artists who think themselves “brave” and “transgressive” and “outsider” for scribbling works that are clearly meant to convey the consensus of bien pensant arty world opinion and be safely ignored by the rest of society.
Imagine our delight, then, to hear about the fellow who calls himself Sabo and has lately been creating a bona fide artistic controversy by plastering the streets of Los Angeles with his works. So far as we can tell from the internet images his work is at least somewhat abstractly modern, with the requisite intentional ugliness, and it’s polemic as all get-out, but we have to credit his bravery and transgression and outsider status, because he clearly intends to mock the consensus of bien pensant arty world opinion and let the rest of the society in on his very amusing jokes. One doesn’t need a post-graduate degree in deconstruction theory to see that Sabo is an unrepentant right-wing bastard like ourselves, which is about as brave and transgressive and outsider-y as someone hoping to make an artistic reputation for himself can get, and even the credentialed deconstruction theorists will have to admit that there’s a certain jiu-jitsu genius about using all the stale conventions of “street art” and “guerrilla art” and all the rest of those brave and transgressive and outsider cliches to fight the powers that actually prevail.
Sabo’s latest news-making work is of the conceptual variety, and involves those flashing traffic-signaling signs that the more high-brow critics will note are a poignant symbol of our carbon-emitting automotive society and societal retreat into the stifling hell of suburbia, but he and his co-conspirators have been placing them along the home-to-the-suburb routes inconvenienced by the royal motorcades attendant to the fund-raising of President Barack Obama and presumptive president Hillary Clinton, with such messages as “Democrats Begging 4 Money” and “Hillary Back Begging.” He’d previously attracted Los Angeles’ attention with the more visually polemic works he had ironically and post-modernly mass-produced and then transgressively stuck on bus benches and other public spaces around the city, such as his depiction of one of those scary flying monkeys from “The Wizard of Oz” carrying a Hillary 2016 sign, and failed Texas gubernatorial candidate and left-wing darling Wendy Davis depicted as a pro-abortion Barbie doll, and his pictures of beloved liberals rendered in an obvious allusion to the style of that Shepard Fairey poster of Barack Obama that was so ubiquitous back in ’08, only with the painted word “Drone” rather than “Hope” at the bottom.
So far our favorite Sabo is a portrait of his apparent choice for president, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who is depicted with a cigarette dangling from his sneering lips and a riot of gangsta tattoos on his bare-chested and muscle-bound physique. Cruz apparently likes it, too, as he jocularly “tweeted” that the only inaccuracy he noticed was that he doesn’t smoke cigarettes, and in an ironic and post-modern way it reminds us of what we like about the very suit-and-tied and very Republican Cruz’ very brave and transgressive and bareknuckled style of politics, and we suspect that many of the young and hip former Obama voters who fell for that stupid Shepard Fairey poster back in ’08 might at long last have their conformist assumptions challenged in the way that modern art has always claimed to do while they await a bus or straggle down a Los Angeles street. We’re hoping so, at least, because it’s about time the squares started shocking the avante garde.
Back in ’08 pretty much the entirety of the art world was lined up behind Obama, along with academia and Hollywood and journalism and the rest of the opinion-making establishment, and none of them raised any fuss when one of his lackeys in the federal arts-funding establishment made clear that commissions and subsidies and other official considerations were entirely dependent on their continued support of his agenda, and they all adopted the same noticeably worshipful and therefore un-hip attitude toward their Messiah, which seemed so conformist and unthinking and unsophisticated to us retrograde Christians who already had a Messiah, so Sabo is at least something of a breath of fresh air. Over at the longstanding conservative publication The National Review they’re talking about how the Republicans might regain some “cool” in the next election, what with our own early-choice-for-president Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker looking so very bad-ass on that Wisconsin-built Harley-Davidson motorcycle he likes to ride, and the Democrat’s presumptive nominee looking so very grandmotherly with her pant-suits and back-to-the-’90s rhetoric, and although that seems hopeful, what with transgenderism and a wholly fictional Republican war against contraception and the rest of it being the big stories of the day, this Sabo fellow makes us cautiously optimistic they might be right. Perhaps some other aspiringly brave and transgressive artists will also notice how very cowardly and conforming the art world has become, and add some mockery of their own, and the arty world will at long last help us fight the powers actually be.
Sabo has already attracted the attention of The Huffington Post and The Hollywood Reporter and the bus-riding hipsters of Los Angeles, as well as The Central Standard Times way out here in Wichita, and that’s heartening. We don’t expect that his works will outlast Cassatt or Curry or Ryder or Eakins or Homer or Hopper, or any of those other great artists in the Wichita Art Museum’s surprisingly strong collection just around the corner from our Riverside home, all of whom captured those timeless moments of the human condition that anyone on the left or right could recognize and relish, but for right now and right here at this damned moment in time we think he’s doing a hell of a job.

— Bud Norman

That White Woman in Seattle and All the New Rules

By now you’ve probably heard about the white woman who was “passing” for black in Seattle, well enough to have to become the president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and are aware of the chuckles it provoked in the conservative media and the indignant outrage that has resulted over in the liberal press. Count us among the amused rather than outraged, as we’re the live-and-let-live types who indulge people in all sorts of amusing foolishness, but we must admit we’re finding all the new rules hard to keep up with.
Why does that once-august civil rights organization retain the now-offensive term “Colored People” in its name, just to begin with, and why is that term offensive while the eerily similar “people of color” is considered impeccably polite? We’re also confused about why a white person can’t head the local chapter of a national association devoted to the advancement of people of certain colors, because a whole a lot of well-intentioned white people were involved in its founding, and a whole lot of other well-intentioned white people have devoted themselves to the same admirable cause in a variety of other and even more heroic ways, and the advancement of just about everyone in this fissiparously diverse country depends on everyone getting along with one another. Of course there’s also the frequently asked question of why a man who insists on being regarded as a woman must be indulged in his fantasy, but a white woman who insists on being regarded as a black woman is subject to the usual chuckles from the right and the full indignant outrage of the left. We’re further confused about why, given all the hectoring we endure about our supposedly privileged position as heterosexual white Christian males, nobody seems to be trying to pass as something like us.
Way back in our childhood we’d stay up well past our bedtime to catch such old-time late-night movies as “Imitation of Life,” “Pinky,” and “Showboat,” all of which involved light-skinned black women trying to “pass” as white in order to escape the undeniable racial injustice of that black-and-white era, which lasted well into the technicolor days of the “Imitation of Life” and “Showboat” re-makes, and even into our own childhood, but these days all the race-crossing traffic seems to go the other way. That white woman from Seattle is only the most recent to make the news for colorizing her heritage, following the news of some Indian-American sit-com actress’ brother shaving his head and adopting a black-sounding name to get admitted to a medical school with a surfeit of Asian-American applicants and a dire shortage of black ones, and that visibly white Massachusetts Senator whose career at Harvard benefited from her claims to be a high cheek-boned Native American and is currently the fantasy presidential nominee of all the same people who are tsk-tsking about that white woman in Seattle, and even old hippy-dippy folk-singing and obviously white Joni Mitchell’s claims to authentic blackness. The phenomenon of white folks acting and wanting to actually be black is at least as old as Norman Mailer’s famous ’50s essay on the “The White Negro: Superficial Reflections on the Hipster,” was quite apparent at our junior high school in the early ’70s when almost all of the white kids eagerly adopted the slang and fashions and defiant attitude of the black kids who were too often fearful of being accused of “acting white” to keep up with the lessons, and by 1978 the great heroin-addicted Lou Reed was singing a hilariously vulgar song about how “I Wanna Be Black” rather than an, ahem, neurotic middle class college student any mo’. Since then it’s become all the cooler to be black and all the dorkier to be white, whatever “privilege” whiteness might confer on bills-paying and sexually-frustrated honky schlubs such as ourselves, and we can hardly blame that white woman from Seattle for wanting to get in on it.
Still, it hasn’t been adequately explained why her racial preference should be any more controversial than her sexual preference. Had she insisted that her prosthetic status as a male be met with unquestioning social acceptance we doubt that the such respectable liberal publications as Salon.com would be giving her grieve about it, and we notice that most of the surgical crossing of sexual barriers are also away from our side, despite whatever “privilege” our seemingly irrelevant sex might confer. There’s the usual blather about how “gender” is merely a social construct, and “race” a biological fact, but from way back in our childhood we can remember all the blather about how “race” was a social construct and “gender” a biological fact that proved the superiority of women, and the evolution of polite opinion has never been explained. A few years ago those foul-mouthed wags at “South Park” had a vulgar but worth-watching episode about the transgendered teacher and the addled dad who thought he was a dolphin, and how we’re supposed to recognize certain implausible claims but not others, so the subsequent confusion makes it all the more confusing.
There’s something in the arguments we read about “cultural appropriation” and its insidiously racist effects, but we’re only further confused. We have some belly-dancing white women friends who have been accused of degrading the Oriental cultures they’re intending to perpetuate, and we’ve read countless column inches from college-educated black columnists about how Elvis Presley stole the sounds that he couldn’t help hearing through the open windows of his subsidized housing right next to Beale Street and the heart of the blues, and we’ve yet to read a single word about Kathleen Battle or Jessye Norman or Wynton Marsalis or any of the other truly great black musicians who have done similarly well with the undeniably European repertoire of classical music, and we dare anyone to say anything bad about Johnny Otis, who was the undeniably white son of Greek immigrants who grew up in a black neighborhood and went on to be one of the notable and best-selling in the black neighborhoods rhythm and blues artists of the “race record” days, and all of this racial purity cultural stuff, even from the most well-intentioned of the liberal press, has a slightly odious Nazi whiff about it.
Straight and Christian suddenly seems unfashionable, too, and we wonder about how few people are now pretending to be either of them. Way back in our childhood we’d stay up late enough to come across such old movies as “Tea and Sympathy” and “The Trial of Oscar Wilde” which oh-so-subtly conveyed the hard time homosexuals had in the world we were growing up in, and even by the time “La Cage aux Folles” was the fabulously gay hit of ’78 it was about how a homosexual couple had to hide their identities from society. Now the same guy who made the original French “La Cage aux Folles” has a Francophile hit about a man who pretends to be homosexual in order to enjoy social and legal protection from being fired for his incompetence, and the American popular culture acknowledges the same preference. The obscure professional athlete who was about outspoken about his homosexuality got a congratulatory call from the president of the united, the male athlete who was once prominent about was outspoken about his self-proclaimed identity as a woman got the cover of Vanity Fair, and the more recently prominent football play who was outspoken about his Christianity was widely rebuked to keep his crazy beliefs to himself. None of this has been adequately explained, either, but that seems to be where we are.
That white woman in Seattle should be able to survive all the chuckling and indignant outrage according the theories of white prevail, once she re-straightens her hair and stays away from the tanning salons long enough to regain her freckles, and that recently prominent football player should be able to take of himself, judging by his undeniably male physique, but all this talk about racial and sexual and religious identity won’t come to any happy conclusions. Let that white woman pursue all that is appealing about the undeniably cool black people of America, let that prominent football player proclaim his love for Christ, and hope that it has some similarly salutary effect on others, and stop hectoring those bill-playing white male schlubs, and let the likes of Elvis grind out rhythm and blues and those great black divas sing their arias, and perhaps most importantly let those poor black kids out there start learning their lessons in reading and writing and arithmetic without fear of “acting white.” Act however you want, and however will make for your happiest life, and so long as it contributes to everyone with getting along with one another it should further advancement of just about everyone, even such unfashionably straight and white and male and Christian bill-paying schlubs such as ourselves.

— Bud Norman

Free Trade and No Winners

At the same time the guy who is still doing the Doonesbury cartoon and the rest of conventional wisdom were for some reason or another were ridiculing the Republicans for their knee-jerk opposition to anything our first African-American president does, the congressional GOP was lining up behind fast-track authority for President Barack Obama to negotiate some sort of deal or another with the vast Asian economy. Given the instincts and the luck of the Republican party, it’s not surprising that the very rare occasions when they sided when with the president was also one on of those rare occasions when he might have been right and even one of those rarer occasions when it all turned out to be a political disaster.
Although we’re disinclined to believe anything the National Broadcasting Company’s news network has to say, we’re inclined to believe their latest poll showing that a clear majority of the American is either outright opposed or at at the very east skeptical about providing Obama with fast-track authority to negotiate a trade weal with the vast Asian economy. That number would naturally include all the trade unions and workers and voters in the susceptible-to-foreign-competition economies in both Republican and Democrat districts, as well as all the ideologically protectionists types in every district, nor matter how cushy their big-media sinecures might be, along with all the more economically insecure grumpy free-trade and laissez faire types living in export-economies such as ourselves who simply wouldn’t trust the president with any sort of authority to do anything. Throw in the president’s usual secrecy about the deal, and the nagging suspicion that at worst it’s some of redistribute-the-wealth-to-Asia and scheme and an old-fashioned snookering of the Iranian nuclear bomb that the president is also negotiating on on uncomfortably fast track, and the latest revelations that’s something about illegal immigration in there, along with all the phony-baloney arguments against a reasonably negotiated fair trade deal, and we’re surprised the numbers weren’t even more toxic.
There’s some consolation in the way the president is castigating his usual Democratic allies in the same way he usually castigates his usual Republican allies, and an undeniable amusement how the mainstream press suddenly doesn’t seem to know who’s side to take, There’s also a certain interest regarding the crowded Republican presidential candidates, with some of the more intriguing candidates taking careful position against the unpopular legislation and some staking a worth-considering argument for it, and a partisan reassurance that even the dumbest Republicans were at least taking a stand for free trade, but on the whole it’s a debacle. If the president and his suddenly chummy Republicans allies get their way it will likely wind up re-destributing America’s wealth, if they don’t it will mostly be because of wrong-headed protectionist arguments that the likes of the Democrats believe, and the best-case scenario is that a reasonable fair-trade agreement will await another two years for the possibility that one of those Republicans who figured it out winds up in office and there aren’t too many Democrats to along. We’ll cling to that long-shot chance, and hope to find something more heartening out there.

— Bud Norman

Why We’re Publishing Today

One of our longstanding friends was murdered last week, another friend of even longer standing is currently clinging to his hard-luck life through a labyrinth of tubes and syringes and some sorts of electrical cords in the surgical intensive care wing of a nearby hospital, the memories of other friends are haunting us as if we were Ebenezer Scrooge on an ill-fated Christmas Eve, there are still bills to be paid and chores to be done, the weather has lately been incongruously perfect, and we’re still here in Wichita and out there through the vast internet to the rest of the troubled world.
We were out there through the internet to the rest of the troubled world even yesterday, with one of those rare and usually-on-a-holiday three-paragraph essays we crank out just to keep our perfect streak of Monday-through-Friday publications going, despite the double-whammy of the news about our old friend’s grave illness. The three paragraphs had a certain literary quality and satirical edge and necessary insouciance about them, as we far we were concerned, but one of our faceless readers, a faithful but frequently contentious sort who often adds his admirably agreeable disagreements to the comments section, read between the lines well enough to message us that “I hope that you don’t feel you owe regular posts to a bunch of faceless strangers.” We much appreciate the obviously sincere concern of our correspondent, but we want to reassure him that our typing is very much therapeutic, that the unbroken record of Monday-through-Friday publications is of some inexplicable importance that our more pressing friends would understand, and that the relationship between writers and readers somehow isn’t exactly the same as one of faceless strangers. Our hope is that is our novels and even some of this internet stuff will outlast even our own mortality, and that we’ll somehow enjoy something very human with anyone who stumbles across our humble scribblings in our afterlife, and that we’re certainly grateful for anyone who drops even an agreeably contentious note in the meantime. A new-found reader drawn here by the long obituary of our mutual recently murdered friend was kind enough to type, “Thanks for that Bud, I know that was something you had to do, and probably was not easy,” and such excellent between-the-lines reading and eloquent writing also makes our daily postings worth the effort.
We’re also glad to be here in Wichita, too, for all the problems it suddenly seems to provide. Our visit to the nearby hospital didn’t allow us any meaningful contact with our very longstanding but heavily sedated friend, but we were able to share the pain of it with his three beautiful and outstandingly grown-up children and two wonderful brothers, and on a subsequent visit to a favorite local dive we ran into a delightful fellow who’s known as “Fix-it” for his locally legendary ability to fix whatever automotive or other problems a struggling rock ‘n’ roll band might encounter on its shoe-string tours, who also shares our love for both our murdered friend and our clinging-to-life friend, and although he couldn’t fix any of our latest travails his company very much helped. On the day of that perfunctory three-paragraph posting shortly after the double-whammy hit us we were out with our most longstanding friend, soaking up such perfect weather that  even his cold-weather tastes and our own hot-weather tastes were well-satisfied, and talking about the searing pains and subtle joys of our city. We remarked that it was as good a place as any for a writer, given its seemingly never-ending supply of all the good and bad of life that makes for writing, and he seemed to understand what we’re talking about, and we’re grateful to note that he also paid for a delicious bowl of steak soup at this terrific Mexican place we know on Waco Street. It hasn’t left much time to keep up with the news, the usual raw materials of our writing, but for a few days at least that’s just as well.
If you’re stumbling across these words inadvertently, as people often do on the internet, be advised we’re usually serving up some right-wing rant or another about the latest outrages of the damned guv’mint or the most mindlessly touch-feely aspects of the popular culture, and we promise to get back to that often hilarious stuff soon. So far as we an tell from all the Facebook postings our friends have been making in the past few days, which we’ve been uncharacteristically checking in on to keep abreast of the latest bad news, most of them won’t agree with us about any of it. We hope they’ll understand how we share their grief and worries about our mutual friends, and will be just as agreeable in their disagreements as one of our faceless friends, and we hope that all our right-wing readers will also be appreciative of their friends, no matter how crazily left-wing their opinions, and we hope that all you of will indulge our worried ramblings. For what it’s worth, that’s the view from the middle of America.

-Bud Norman

The News of the Day, For All It’s Worth

Well, let’s see, what else is there in the news these day? During the past few days of sunny weather there’s been a sudden spate of incongruously bad personal news, some of which of which has spilled onto to the local news and none of which should be of concern for the most of you, so we thought we’d find something amusing or at least diverting in the broader news sources we regularly devour.
The big headline at the usually reliable Drudge Report is about a deadly strain of tuberculosis that has recently arrived in the country, but that’s neither amusing nor particularly scary. We’ve survived too many swine flus and bird flus and pig flus and other zoological epidemics to worry about any disease du jour, and at the moment we’re preoccupied with more likely possibilities. The usually reliable Matt Drudge also has links to the Disney Corporation’s most profitable year ever, a horrific gang rape by some illegal immigrants, a supercell tornado in nearby Colorado, and the Dow Jones Industrial Averages’s in -the-red-for-the-year performance, but none of it does the trick.
There’s plenty of other stuff  to fuel our usual witty outraged rants, and you really should be paying attention to all of it, and we urge you to dip into all of it, but there’s an early morning visit to a hospital visit to be paid  and a memorial service to be attended, and we’ll have to promise to get to back to the rest of it with our usual puck very soon.

— Bud Norman

Reflections on the Eleventh Homicide of the Year in Our City

We awoke Friday morning to the news that more than 20 years of excellent friendship with an extraordinary woman had come to a sudden end with her brutal and senseless murder, and for now everything else in the papers seems unimportant, and nothing at all seems to make any sense.
Tanya Tandoc was one of those “most memorable character” types, although very much of the post-modern variety you’d be unlikely to encounter in Readers’ Digest, and even after so many years we retain a vivid memory of the very first time we met her. A friend had invited us to a party, something we desperately needed at the time, but when we arrived at the address he’d given us, which turned out to be an aging apartment building in a particularly rough part of the generally rough north end, we were embarrassed to have only a half-dressed young woman in an otherwise empty studio answer our knock at the door. We apologetically explained our reason for being there, and she laughingly replied that our mutual friend had given us the right address but the wrong time, as she wasn’t expecting guests for another hour or so, so with more embarrassment and profuse apologies we offered to return later, but she laughingly insisted that we come right on in and provide her with company while she finished her preparations. A most enjoyable conversation somehow ensued, with her characteristic graciousness and charm and gift for small talk overcoming our characteristic embarrassment and awkwardness and reticence with half-dressed strangers, and by the time the other guests started arriving and inevitably crowding us away from her magnetic presence we had commenced an excellent friendship that would last to her dying day.
That party was a significant event for much of the rest of our humble prairie hometown, too, as it announced the arrival of Tanya Tandoc as an inexorable force on the economic and social and cultural history of Wichita, Kansas. We learned in that first conversation that she’d grown up in the nearby and charmingly Frank Capra-esque but too-small-for-the-likes-of-Tanya town of Newton, then gone off to some fancy culinary school in the seemingly-perfect-for-the-likes-of-Tanya city of San Francisco, but then decided for some reason she could never quite explain to us to split the difference by making her mark in the big-by-prairie-standards city of Wichita. Her master plan for the domination of our city started in that empty studio apartment in that aging building in a particularly rough part of the generally rough north end, but even then she was able to attract the cream of the city’s hipster crop to her swinging barrio debutante ball, and to the observant eye of an ink-stained newspaper wretch and aspiring serious writer it was already apparent that something of importance would surely follow.
Tanya Tandoc could play the cello well, converse about even our arcane choice of topics with the delightful flair of a witty and worldly and well-read woman, riposte our friendly verbal jabs and innocuous flirtations with the élan of a screwball comedy heroine, and oh how that woman could cook. She was drop-dead gorgeous, too, with an exotic beauty of almond eyes and Betty Boop lips and an enviable mane of somehow perfectly askew hair inherited from her Filipino father and white American mother, all packed into a petite but formidable frame and adorned in the most impeccably hip fashion sense, and given the obvious enjoyment she derived from it we’re sure she wouldn’t be the least bit offended that we mention this important fact of her life. In a variety of other ways she was just so damned interesting, but it all might have proved forgettable if she hadn’t also been such a surprisingly shrewd and hard-headed and quintessentially Kansas capitalist.
She first started making the papers around here when she became chef at The Larkspur, the swankest joint in the Old Town dining-and-drinking district that the city government created out of an abandoned warehouse area to give the impression of a hip and up-to-date metropolis, and whipped it into such stellar shape that the local aviation executives weren’t at all embarrassed to take a client from San Francisco or any other fancy-pants city. We were going through the last of a devastating disintegration of a marriage at the time, and found Tanya’s upbeat personality and heartfelt encouragements and innocuous flirtations most ameliorative, and The Larkspur was right across the street from the newspaper where we wearily labored, so we spent enough time at its bar to notice how very efficiently our weird hipster friend ran a business. When she announced her intention to start her own restaurant, an idea which attracted the attention of all the local media and food aficionados, it was the first and only time we ever advised a friend her business plan seemed a good idea.
Tanya’s Soup Kitchen soon opened in an old train station right next door to the newspaper, and in short order everyone in the newsroom and the rest of the nearby office buildings were lining up for the friendly and efficient service, especially from that pretty and friendly redhead we’re still pleased to run into now and then, as well as its impeccably hip atmosphere, reasonable even-by-Wichita’s-stingy-standards prices, of course the gracious and charming encounters with the owner, and mostly because of oh how that woman could cook. Our newspaper couldn’t resist several enthusiastic reviews, the local television stations soon followed with feature stories about the damned interesting and drop-dead gorgeous woman and her red-hot restaurant near downtown, and the resulting long lines inevitably crowded us out of Tanya Tandoc’s magnetic presence and over to the greasy spoon diner on the other side of newspaper building where they made a good enough and quick enough patty melt and fries to get us through an afternoon, but we were delighted by our friend’s success.
A big cable television company bought out the property where Tanya’s Soup Kitchen had thrived, and for a while she did catering and teaching and food preparation for commercial photo shoots and whatever else her considerable talents would bear on the Wichita culinary market, much to the dismay of ourselves and the rest of the newsroom and all those other downtown office workers who had lined up for her yummy soups and simple yet delicious sandwiches. We’d still run into her frequently on the local arts and music and culinary and hipster scenes, and get some valued invitations to her parties full of local swells and interesting oddballs and terrific food, and it was always damned interesting and a delight. She got married to our mutual friend Wayne Gottstine, a very talented musician and damned interesting fellow in his own right, who is a leader of the band called Split Lip Rayfield, which has earned a small but fervent and international cult following for its offbeat and uptempo punk-bluegrass style, and their wedding was the social event of the year and their marriage was the hippest in town. At the time we were dating Tanya’s much younger and equally drop-dead gorgeous and just as damned interesting sister, who was so much younger than ourselves that it was something of a local scandal, but our friendship was happily unaffected by any of it. She seemed to find it amusing that the friends she had always joshed about being so straitlaced and old-fashioned found themselves temporarily scandalized, and given her own admitted knack for creating far juicier scandals she wasn’t one to judge, and the situation with the sister ended harmlessly enough, and Tanya’a apparent happiness as a respectable married woman and doting stepmother and attentive guardian of some so-ugly-they’re-cute Pugs somehow made her all the more delightful to be around in our occasional encounters.
Eventually Tanya’s Soup Kitchen re-opened at an unlikely location on a starkly commercial strip of East Douglas well past downtown, where the lines once again became so long for our impatient temperament that we were crowded out of her magnetic presence, even if the service was still friendly and efficient and the prices still reasonable even by Wichita standards and oh how that woman could still cook, but with the local art and music and cuisine and hipster scenes being so small around here we’d still have those occasional delightful encounters. Her local legend continued to grow, with her popular restaurant reviews on the local public radio station and her generous fund-raising efforts on behalf of several worthy causes and the continued slavish devotion of all the local media, not to mention the ever-expanding circle of friends irresistibly drawn to her magnetic personality, but during those occasional delightful encounters and the swinging parties she hosted with the fashionable crowds and great food, she continued to generously share the rest of her damned interesting life with us, for better and worse.
Married life proved difficult even for the hippest couple in Wichita, and probably all the more difficult with one being a very talented musician with a fervent cult following and the other being such an inexorable force and both being so damned interesting, and although we heard rumors heard of the split some months ago the divorce apparently became final just in the past week or so. The passage of more than 20 years and a constant proximity to such tempting food as Tanya created had added a few pounds to her formerly petite but formidable frame, and her exotic beauty had matured in the usual ways, and her collection of tattoos grew beyond what our admittedly straitlaced and old-fashioned tastes would prefer, but she was still eager to show off her hard-earned voluptuousness and ripened beauty during the public belly dancing performances and burlesque shows that became her favorite hobby, and it further increased her local legend as many of the women who once were spitefully envious of her came to appreciate her public demonstration that a few years and a few pounds couldn’t stop such an inexorable force from being drop-dead gorgeous and perpetually alluring and unashamed to flaunt it.
Tanya Tandoc had flaws, of course, but she always readily forgave ours and hers were so essentially tied in with the best of her and had so little to do with our own lives that they were in turn easily forgivable. One of the local photographers who employed her food preparation skills still rolls his eyes as he recounts the salty things she’d say to shock the staid corporate clients hovering around his shoots, but we found that rather amusing, and we were frequently warned to never get on her bad side, but we can’t imagine any reason we’d ever want to do that anyway, and women being women there was some unavoidable gossip about cat fights, but in most cases we chalked that up to the difficulty some women will always have with exotic beauties and inexorable forces. We’d sometimes kid her about how much she seemed to relish her local celebrity, or the exorbitant number of photos of herself she would post on Facebook, in turn she would playfully chide us about our reluctance to trumpet the noteworthy qualities that she always stubbornly insisted we possessed, and as usual we think she got the better of the exchange. Her very high opinion of herself was entirely justified by her undeniable fabulousness, as far as we were concerned, and she still had plenty of love left over for the rest of us. We were just one of the many hundreds of her friends around here, and probably not among the most damned interesting of them, but on every single occasional encounter there was nothing perfunctory about her questions regarding how we were doing, and she was always genuinely delighted to hear the good news and sincerely saddened by the bad, which we felt blissfully free to share in either case, and even the jaded soul of an ink-stained wretch and aspiring serious writer would always walk away with the slight but essential amelioration of an excellent friendship with an extraordinary woman.
The brutal and senseless murder of a local celebrity chef has been the big story in all the local media lately, and the mayor issued a statement of regret, and it’s being talked about everywhere from the boardrooms to the hipster dives and all sorts of places in between, which we’re sure Tanya would have appreciated. All those feature stories the papers and televisions stations did over the years have provided enough video footage and file photos of the newsworthily fabulous victim to make for some tear-jerking coverage, and our former newspaper has unleashed a retrospective of pictures dating back to her early smokin’ hot days not long after that cheap studio apartment party on the north end, and KAKE news has re-posted an old “Hatteberg’s People” segment about her, sort of the local television equivalent of the Readers’ Digest’s “Most Memorable Character” feature, which is not bad and has an added poignance because of her quotes about living each day to the fullest because one never knows when it might end and how she was always eager to wake up and begin a new day because she figured she could she sleep when she was dead. Still, none of the local media’s best efforts, of course, are at all satisfactory.
Those poor fellows who now occupy our former desk at the local newspaper are understandably constrained by the questions of who, what, where, when, and why, and the ostensible necessity of fitting them all into the “tweet”-sized characters of an inverted pyramid lead paragraph, and after writing more murder stories than Agatha Christie our long and desultory experience of the task suggests that it simply can’t be done. The when and where of it are facts that can be objectively established, and what happened is just as undeniable, but the matter of who would require an epic novel far greater than our talents could render, and the matter of why will never be explained. We also knew the man who has reportedly confessed to Tanya’s murder, although not nearly so well, only to an extent that we’d formed a tentative conclusion that we didn’t really care to know him any better. He was a minor figure on the local music scene, with a reputation for being a charming enough fellow while sober but not otherwise, and apparently he had been living in Tanya’s basement for some months prior to the murder, and our friends on the music scene describe the rapid deterioration of the confessed “suspect’s” already dubious mental health following the failure of the guitar shop he’d operated across the street from Tanya’s Soup Kitchen, and the trial will eventually yield more and better established details, and we’re sure the local media will be on the story, but it will never amount to why. In any case we’ll be pleased not to run into that guy ever again, and whatever the justice system metes out we won’t be having any more of those delightful encounters with  Tanya.
To explain the who of Tanya Tandoc, you’d need more than the clips about her surprisingly shrewd and hard-headed and quintessentially Kansas capitalism, or footage of her cello-playing and inspiring quotations about eating and drinking and being merry for tomorrow we might die, or file photos of her exotic beauty with the almond eyes and Betty Boop lips and perfectly askew hair, or the rave reviews of her mostly women fans about her belly-dancing, or the audio of her own rave reviews for the other fine locally-owned restaurants, or the voluminous testimonials about oh how that woman could cook, or our own futile efforts to convey how very gratifying it was to have an occasional encounter and such an excellent friendship with an extraordinary woman. To explain the why of it you’d have to note that such a witty and worldly and well-read and shrewd and hard-headed and quintessentially Kansas capitalist and exotically beautiful woman was still somehow a Kansas girl from a Frank Capra-esque small town at heart, the sort of vain but gentle and loving soul who laughingly invited even the most unlikely lonely souls who inadvertently knocked on her door to come right on in and keep her company while she made her preparations for the rest of her fabulous life, and that the very best of her might have led to her demise just doesn’t make any sense at all.
We’ll also forever remember and cherish our last encounter with Tanya Tandoc, not so long ago, when she was out at a favorite dive of ours in the very roughest part of the north end, escorted by a graying but still-handsome and very fine fellow we’ve happily known for many years, and how the notorious Queen Bee laughed heartily at a slightly heteronormative Jewish mother joke we like to tell, and how ready and eager she seemed to wake up early and get on with the rest of the long and damned interesting life that a more perfect world would have granted her. Tanya Tandoc was ten tantalizing years younger than us, and she would have made a damned interesting old lady, so our excellent friendship with this extraordinary woman should have lasted to our dying day, not hers, and the way it’s turned out also doesn’t make any sense. We’ll forever remember and cherish all those occasional encounters in between those memorable first and last ones, as well, and what she taught us about the hottest peppers being the smallest ones, and we’ve spent the last few days dropping in on the hipster dives and musical joints and sharing old and excellent friendships with the most extraordinary and lovable losers we find there, who were of course also friends of Tanya Tandoc and are suddenly asking about our well-being with the same sincerity as when she asked us, and we’ve shared tears and fond wishes, and we feel a certain sense that the exquisitely human-to-human thing about our excellent friendship with that extraordinary woman will somehow inexorably persist in our humble prairie hometown. We surely hope so, as we’ll need it in such a cruel world as this.

— Bud Norman

Second Thoughts on a Sexual Revolution

One of the compensating advantages of growing older is that one’s sex drive eventually diminishes to a point it no longer overwhelms dignity, dispassionate analysis, common sense, simple courtesy, and other higher impulses of the human soul. At least that used to be so, until modern pharmacology and Madison Avenue started selling perpetually teenaged libidinousness, but now it seems that the older the United States of America gets the more its public square becomes obsessed with private parts.
The economy is contracting and the national debt is rising, murders are up in the recently burned-down sections of Baltimore and other cities where the police are in retreat, a head-chopping gang of Islamist psychopaths calling themselves the Islamic State are conquering more of the Middle East, and similarly significant stories abound for those still interested in finding them, but dip into a random magazine story or coffeehouse conversation and the subject is more likely to have something to do with sex. If it’s not the former Bruce Jenner’s glamour girl appearance on the cover of Vanity Fair or that hipster co-ed hauling a mattress around Columbia University to protest a “culture of rape” in higher education, it’s the latest court ruling on same-sex marriage or one of those stories that keep popping up lately about women teachers in the middle schools with an unaccountable attraction to schoolboys. There also the usual tawdry sex scandals in Washington and every state capital, all the tiresome and un-erotic babble about the intersectionality of race and class and gender categories and the fluidity of sexual identity and the rest of that cacophonous jargon one suddenly needs in order to be conversant down at the coffeehouse, and of course there are still plenty of those biennial election-cycle allegations about the Republicans’ insidious plot to revive the Comstock Law and restore the patriarchy and roll back the glorious sexual revolution that has brought about these happy times.
The entertainment media are similarly sexually obsessed, as we suppose they have been at least since the silent movie days of Clara “The It Girl” Bow, and judging by what we see on models on the high-fashion runways and the starlets at the award show red carpets and the scantily-clad women staggering on the cracked sidewalks outside the low places of our prairie hometown the entire women’s clothing industry is as well. Sit-coms, hip-hop records, television advertisements, magazine covers, “reality shows,” late night cable programming, all the fawning attention paid to that naked fat woman from HBO’s “Girls,” entire departments of modern academia, along with the rest of our culture, including the more up-to-date churches, all proclaim an age of unfettered sexual freedom and endless bacchanal and infernal bickering over the proper terminology and protocol to make it all go smoothly. People who used to explain themselves to strangers in terms of their occupation or denominational affiliation or number of children now identify themselves by their sexual preference or “gender identity,” any sexual predilection, no matter how arcane or disconcerting to normal sensibilities, now has a web site and a lobbying group and “community” of like-minded people to provide encouragement, and the Roe v. Wade decision and an Obamacare law that mandates contraception and abortifacient coverage for everyone from nuns to Baptist businessmen and a host of other public policies make it all official, and anybody who admits any discomfort with this state of affairs is routinely dismissed from polite conversation as a blue-nosed puritan.
So far as we can glean from the snippets of boisterous conversation we involuntarily overhear from the fashionably hirsute fellows and their tattooed but otherwise comely young women companions in the next booth at a coffeehouse where we drink beer and grouse about foreign policy and economics and baseball with a gray-haired pal of ours, and from the often tragic gossip we can’t avoid despite our best efforts in our infrequent social encounters elsewhere, as well as the conspicuous lack of non-political and non-sports conversation we share with our gray-haired friend, it doesn’t seem to be working out very well for anyone. As we read the news, with agedly skeptical eyes unaffected by modern pharmacology and largely immune to the blandishments of Madison Avenue, we find further confirmation that no one out there seems genuinely satisfied with the situation.
That campus “culture of rape” that the young woman with the mattress and the Senator from California and the editorialists at the big papers and the rest of the feminist establishment are so worried about doesn’t seem to be so much an epidemic of college boys forcing themselves with brute strength onto unwilling young innocents as it is a widespread regret with the consensual albeit slightly reluctant “hook-up” encounters that have become so common since universities stopped being in loco parentis and started being simply loco. We’re sympathetic to the young women’s plight, as our hazy memories still recall the social pressures that accompany sexual desire and how very powerfully they can affect someone who hasn’t yet acquired advanced age and diminished sex drive, and how very grave the consequences can be, yet we find ourselves averse to their cause. Unable to come right out and call for a return to chivalry and chastity and the rest of that religious ’50s-era repression stuff, the “culture of rape” critics and their friends at the Department of Justice are urging that due process be suspended for any college boy accused of letting his sex drive overwhelm his dignity, dispassionate analysis, common sense, courtesy, and other higher impulses of the human soul, even if it didn’t cross any established legal boundaries, and was well within the standards of unfettered sexual freedom and endless bacchanal that has been officially established as the societal norm, and we don’t believe that will work.
Nor do we believe that the former Bruce Jenner will likely find genuine satisfaction by having his penis and testes amputated, no matter how comely he might appear through the miracles of Vanity Fair’s photographic and make-up and air-brushing experts. That’s not just our admittedly uniformed opinion, as even a doctor at Johns Hopkins University, which was once the first hospital in America to perform “sex-change operations,” argues that the procedure doesn’t really change a person’s sex, tends to result in a suicide rate 20 times that of the general population, and is no longer done at his institution because some patients’ claims to be “‘satisfied’ but ‘still troubled'” are “an inadequate reason for surgically amputating normal organs.” The social consensus seems to be otherwise, what with the all-powerful ESPN sports network awarding the former Bruce Jenner its “Arthur Ashe Courage Award” rather than to an Iraq War veteran who became a successful athlete and “Dancing on the Stars” competitor despite the double amputations he endured from his service to his country, but we don’t think that will work, either.
All that blather about people basing their self-estem and personal identities on their sexual predilections seems equally futile, as a person’s occupation and numbers of children and denominational affiliation will ultimately have more important social consequences, and little of the rest of it makes any sense from our admittedly straight white Christian Republican conservative perspective here in the middle of America. Straight white male Christian Republican conservatives in the middle of America that we are, over the years we’ve had a number of dear friends who were homosexual or bisexual or something for which we’re not even sure what the currently polite terminology would be, but all had admirable attributes we found in common which seemed entirely unrelated to either their sexuality or ours. They seemed to find something in common with us as well, and some valuable friendships have resulted, so we are inclined to believe that social interactions are best conducted on such terms. By now we are inured to even the most lurid tales of heterosexual and homosexual and bisexual and whatever your might call it behavior, and you don’t even need to couch your back alley encounter in terms of “love,” as the homosexual lobby and broader sexual freedom movement routinely does, but we can’t help noticing that the tellers of these tales never sound genuinely satisfied, and that the fulfillment of their overwhelming sexual desires has come at the expense of some noticeable measure of dignity, dispassionate analysis, common sense, simple courtesy, and other higher impulses of the human soul. This surely marks us as blue-nosed puritans, but we suppose we’ll just have to declare that an oppressed identity and start a web site and hire some lobbyists and find a community of like-minded individuals to encourage such anti-social tendencies.
We have no hope or even any desire of reviving the Comstock Laws or restoring the patriarchy or rolling back the glorious sexual revolution that has brought us such happy times, nor do we believe that any other straight white male Christian Republican conservatives entertain such fanciful fantasies, but of course those allegations will continue. During the last presidential election the former Clinton family operative and putative American Broadcasting Company “journalist” George Stephanopoulos quizzed all the Republican presidential contenders about their stand on banning contraception, and despite all of those candidates’ obviously sincere confusion about what the hell he was talking about we were overhearing coffeehouse conversation about the Republicans’ attempts to revive the Comstock Laws and how it was far more important than the national debt or the deteriorating situation in the Middle East or the economy of any of that that asexual stuff. As a matter of fact, which is still out there for those who take in an interest in such outdated concepts as facts, the congressional Republicans are currently pressing for over-the-counter contraception deregulations that the Democrats and their doctor-lobby pals oppose, but in the end this will matter even less than the fact that former Bruce Jenner will still won’t be a woman even after his normal male organs have been lopped off.
We’ve also given up any hope of restoring the patriarchy, and won’t lament the worst of it, and we continue to wish our best to all those women who find fulfillment in the workplace and other non-traditional niches of our society but can’t help noticing that its passing is not without some unfortunate consequences. The patriarchy has already been quite thoroughly smashed in such places as those burned-out neighborhoods in Baltimore and the other murder-ridden jurisdictions where fathers are rare and even  the police are in retreat, and the social consequences don’t seem nearly so idyllic as what was promised, and we’re skeptical that whatever comes in its wake in the rest of the country will be any more successful. This will also mark us as blue-nosed puritans, but we suppose that we’ll just have to start a web site and hire a lobbyist and seek the company of like minded-indivuals as well as stocking up on whatever guns and ammunition are still legally available to deal with that.
Our personal inclination, after so many years of being young and libidinous and our many dear friendships with heterosexuals and homosexuals and bisexuals and whatever you’re supposed to call them, is to live and let live. That’s why we’re still affiliated with a Republican party that isn’t really calling for a revival of the Comstock Laws or fighting for the maintenance of an imperfect patriarchy or hoping to roll back the sexual revolution to the point that the married sit-com characters are still sleeping in separate beds, as Rob and Laura Petrie did on the “Dick Van Dyke Show” of our innocent youth, but we would appreciate a more agedly asexual and dignified and dispassionate and commonly courteous assessment of the rest of it.
The left’s reaction to oppressing gender discrimination of the Islamic world has been heartening to us, and we believe its revulsion of that culture’s murderous homophobia is entirely justified, but for the sake of solidarity we’d like to see it must some outrage about Islamism’s executions of Christians and Jews and the rest of the privileged people they’ve lately been executing. It would also  be nice if the oh-so-sensitive sensibiliies of the left would consider one parent homes affected those inner-city neighborhoods they claim to care about . We further suspect that the left’s indifference to the matter of national debt also derives fro the fact that it will eventually be dealt with by the children they never had, thanks to Roe v. Wade and all those contraceptive mandates and the rest of the popular culture and official mandates, and that all of these issues are being considered from the perspective of a society that by virtue of modern pharmacology and Madison Avenue are considering these issues from the perspective of perpetually teenaged libidos, and at the risk of sounding blue-nosed and puritan we’d like to see an end to that. It would be nice, too, if the left’s preference for unfettered freedom were extended beyond the bedroom and into the workplace and the rest of those boring areas of life. We’d also prefer that the facts of biology and economics and basic human nature prevail, and a world where women don’t freely admit to voting with their private parts rather than their brains, but that’s about as likely as a revival of the Comstock Law.

— Bud Norman


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