The Riot This Time Around

Yet another riot is raging after yet another fatal police shooting of a young black man, and in most respects it seems all too familiar. Al Sharpton and the New Black Panther Party and Eric Holder’s Justice Department and the national press and all the other usual rabble-rousers are once again on the scene, once again the facts of the shooting are infuriatingly unclear, and once again individuals and businesses and public institutions that obviously had nothing to with it are among the victims. What’s different this time around, in the previously unheard of town of Ferguson, Missouri, is the reaction from the right and left ends of the political spectrum.
On the right there have been the usual denunciations of the pathological lawlessness that pervades too many majority African-American communities, the same wondering why the death of a young black man at the hands of the police warrants so much more outrage than the vastly more numerous deaths of young black men at the hands of other young black men, and the routine insistence that a police officer deserves the same presumption of innocence that would be afford to any person accused of a crime. Such obvious truths must be stated, and if not for right-wing bastards such as ourselves as they would go unsaid, so the points are by now almost obligatory. This time, though, there’s been a different emphasis from the conservative side. From the most robustly right-wing talk radio ranters to the more reserved columns of the venerable National Review, there’s been a painstakingly made acknowledgement that the most damning version of  the police officer’s actions might well be true and that the response to the predictable demonstrations might be dangerously heavy-handed. The heavily militarized police forces that many conservatives have lately decried has been on full display in Ferguson, where armored vehicles and the sorts of machine guns once trained on Iraqi terrorists have been on the streets of a little-known midwestern town, and those critics have stubbornly refused to recant their views even when such military might is deployed against opportunistic looters and the more criminally inclined sorts of Fergusonians that would not ordinarily inspire a conservative’s sympathy.
Some on the left will go ahead and charge those critics with hypocrisy for a failure to speak out about the issue now, lacking any sufficiently incendiary soundbites from any prominent Republicans, but this is easily refuted. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky was singled out for his silence on the armored response to the riots, but that was only because he was busily composing an updated diatribe against such law enforcement for Time Magazine. Those eminently respectable scribes at The National Review have remained consistent, too, as has the brilliantly pugnacious Canuck conservative Mark Steyn. Throw in Texas Sen. Mark Cruz and Michigan Rep. Justin Amash and our own misgivings about all that armor on the streets of Ferguson, and its fair to say that conservatism has been quite intellectually consistent. The only hypocrisy is on the part of the left, which is suddenly scandalized by a police force that was militarized by its beloved Obama administration. Even the Obama is administration is scandalized by inevitable results of its policies, it seems, and is apparently confident that it won’t be forcefully confronted with the contradiction.
No one on the right is abandoning conservatism’s inherent preference for law and order, of course, but as National Review’s headline writers put it, “More bobby sticks, fewer M-16s, please. The sort of rioting that has lately occurred in Ferguson is unfortunately routine in American history, and has traditionally been quelled with more low-tech methods, so traditionalists have good cause for continuing this policy. Almost all of those meddlesome bureaucracies now have their own armies to enforce their ever-expanding array of regulations, most of which aren’t so commonsensical as “don’t burn down the neighborhood convenience store,” and it no longer seems mere paranoia to wonder what sort of popular uprisings all that military power might yet be unleashed upon. The Department of Homeland Security has identified veterans and advocates of low taxes and limited government as national security threats, the “tea party” is routinely vilified as a brewing violent revolution, strict adherence to government’s wise mandates is the stated goal of modern liberalism, and no can seriously believe that President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder intended all that military might at your local police force to intimidate some black youths angered by the plausible but yet unproved claim that a policeman in a previously unheard of Missouri town unnecessarily caused a young black man’s death.
On the left there is the usual talk of income inequality and racial prejudice and economic deprivation and all the usual rationalizations for burning down the neighborhood convenience store, but without the usual enthusiasm. This comes more than six years into the post-racial era of hope and change, after all, and by now even the thugs burning down the neighborhood convenience store have noticed that the current administration has done nothing to improve their lot in life. They might never notice that the right is demanding a thorough and unbiased investigation of their grievances, or protesting the harsh methods used to put down even their most peaceable protests, or advocating policies on issues ranging from immigration to entrepreneurship to gun rights that would improve their economic fortunesErick, or that Republicans aren’t the racist rednecks they’ve been led to believe, but it seems unlikely that the left will derive any benefit from the latest riot. That’s something different about this time around, and something hopeful.

– Bud Norman

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Christians, Yazidis, and Islamism

We have nothing against Yazidis, never having even heard of the people until we heard the alarming news that they were being slaughtered in Iraq by the terrorist army calling itself the Islamic State in Levant, but it does strike us a strange that they seem to enjoy such a favored status in the west. Many different kinds of people are being slaughtered by ISIL, after all, but it seems to have taken the Yazidis’ extreme misfortune to draw the rest of the world’s attention to the situation.
Those being slaughtered, and often by such brutal methods as beheading and crucifixion, are anyone in ISIL’s path who won’t willingly embrace its ancient and insane version of Islam. This includes any Shiite Muslim or even those Sunni Muslims who prefer a more peaceable approach to Islam, but also the adherents of a variety of other little-known religions as well as a significant number of Christians. ISIL was dismissed months ago by the President of the United States as a “jayvee team” of terrorists, and his officials continued to scoff even as it spilled over from its successful campaigns in Syria deep into Iraq, and it wasn’t until they had forced the last of Iraq’s Yazidis into the tenuous refuge of Mount Sinjar that he took the politically risky step of ordering air strikes and a limited American military presence in a country from which he had once proudly pulled all American troops. The speech explaining the decision was long on heartbreaking details about the Yazidis’ suffering, but strangely short on any mention of the threat that ISIL posed to the rest of a country that America had fought long and hard to liberate from such brutality.
The chilling thought that a religious minority in any country might be so brutally extinguished is ample justification for American action, and we welcome any reason for intervening in Iraq’s tragedy, even on such a limited and likely ineffectual basis, but it’s disappointing that the non-Yazidi victims of ISIL’s rampage didn’t warrant the same attention. We take a rooting interest in Christianity, and thus were particularly disappointed that our co-religionists who are being forced by ISIL to abandon their faith, be subjected to a harsh dhimmitude, or die didn’t rate more prominent mention as a causus belli. Nothing against Yazidis, as we mentioned earlier, but we’d like to think that America still regards a Christian’s life as having equal value.
There’s a plausible argument that the eradication of Iraq’s Yazidi population would represent a religious genocide, whereas the faiths of ISIL’s other victims would survive elsewhere, but we are unconvinced. What we can find of this Yazidi on the internet is inconclusive, with some sources saying it traces back to pre-Islamic faiths such as Zoroastrianism and other describing it as one of the many idiosyncratic variations of Islam, but almost all agree that it has a few adherents who had the good sense to vacate Iraq and head to more tolerant countries, and in any case all of ISIL’s infidel targets are danger of being eradicated from whatever land it manages to occupy. There’s also an understandable reluctance to take sides in the longstanding blood feud between Shiite and Sunni Muslims, on which we are also quite neutral, but we would expect American policy to favor the non-beheading and non-crucifying sorts of Muslims over the likes of ISIL. The apparent lack of concern for the rapidly diminishing population of Christians in a country where Christianity has been faithfully practiced since the Apostle Thomas first evangelized there in the first century will likely go unexplained.
One explanation might be that the administration does not wish to inflame more moderate Muslim sensibilities with any implication that the west’s resistance to Islamism Islamism is a Christian crusade, a point that even such a confessed Christian and stalwart anti-Islamist as George W. Bush went to great pains to make, but when you reel off all the sympathetic victims of ISIL it wouldn’t do any real harm to add Christians in passing. Perhaps it’s just the paranoia that is begin to infect the American Christian community, but we suspect it has more to with the modern left’s antipathy to our faith. The same administration that has made no mention of ISIL’s genocidal efforts against Christians has been in court arguing that evangelical businessmen and Catholic nuns should be obliged to pay for their less sexually repressed employees’ contraception, and is as insistent that “America is not a Christian country” as it is that “The future should belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.” Islamists might be beheading homosexuals and adulterers elsewhere, but here in the United States some Christians are still opposing gay marriage or declining to pony up for Sandra Fluke’s contraceptives, and the left has made clear its preference for the exotic “other.”
The ISIL leader who was freed from American captivity during our occupation of Iraq told his former captors that “I’ll see you in New York,” but until then the left will figure that he’s somebody else’s problem and only wish that he’d leave alone such a little-known and therefore sympathetic group as the Yazidis. They won’t notice that the only portion of the world that subscribes to anything like their values of tolerance and secular government and women’s right and gay rights and the rest of the leftist agenda is what used to be known as Christendom, or that a world rid of those stuffy Christians won’t be at all agreeable. The Caliphate that is being established in what used to be Syria and Iraq has no intention of stopping there, and must be resisted by everyone that doesn’t share its sadistic and insane beliefs. That includes the secular left, and it might as well reconcile itself to the fact that it also includes Christians.

– Bud Norman

Another Vacation From History

Why did Nero fiddle as Rome burned? Because golf had not yet been invented.
That’s about the best joke we can come up with in these glum days of the republic, and of course it was inspired by President Barack Obama’s latest vacation. We don’t mean to begrudge the poor fellow some rest and relaxation, as he has a lot of responsibilities to dodge, but now does seem an odd to be heading off to the links. Not that we think it would do any good for him to be hanging around the White House during the ongoing crises, but even such supportive press pundits as the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank are thinking it makes for “bad optics,” as they say in the politics biz, and it leaves him wide open to cheap shots from less sympathetic pundits such as ourselves.
At least he was on the job right up to the very moment his helicopter whisked him away, dodging responsibility at a news conference for the current crucifixions-and-everything mess in Iraq. One of the reporters had the lese-majeste to ask if the current slaughter being inflicted on that unfortunate nation by the Islamic State in Levant gang that the president had recently dismissed as a “jayvee team” of terrorists had caused him to reconsider his decision in 2011 to remove all the American troops that had successfully been keeping a sort of peace there. “What I find it interesting is the degree to which this issue keeps on coming up,’ he replied, “as if this was my decision.”
We find it interesting that the president finds it interesting such an obvious question keeps coming up, and quite surprising that he would now claim it wasn’t his decision to bug out of the country. He ran for election on promise to do so, ran for re-election on the boast that he had kept that promise, and had cited the stable and peaceable Iraq that he had left behind as one of his administration’s greatest achievement. There was also some talk about the status of forces agreement that his predecessor had negotiated, although that always went unmentioned when he was boasting about the withdrawal, and some more talk about the impossibility of negotiating a new treaty that might have averted the present catastrophe, but it won’t make much difference except to the more dedicated people who voted for him because of the decision he now disavows.
Those die-hard fans will happily credit Obama with the decision to pull all of America’s troops from Iraq and simultaneously blame his predecessor for the catastrophic consequences, as is their wont. Back when the Solyndra company opened its shiny new factory Obama was eager to credit it to his stimulus bill, when it went belly-up he blamed it on a Bush-era program, and at both points his loyal fans nodded in agreement. The president tells the die-hard environmentalists that he’s fighting domestic coal and oil production tooth-and-nail, tells the rest of the country that he’s presided over an energy boom, and gets the same hearty applause on both occasions. He rails against the stingy Republican nay-sayers who won’t fund his transformative and expensive agenda, boasts about he’s halved the budget deficit since they took over from a rubber-stamp Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, and can count on none of his fans getting suspicious. Until recently he could also count on the major media to politely ignore the contradictions. He can even rail against income inequality in between opulent vacations on fashionable Martha’s Vineyard and golfs on a famed course with well-heeled ex-jocks without the utter hypocrisy being highlighted on the late night comedy shows.
None of this does any does any good for the Christians or Yazidis ofr the less fruitcake varieties of Muslims who have lately been slaughtered in the most archaic ways by that jayvee team that the president had laughingly dismissed as nothing to worry about, and at this point we don’t think it will do any better for the Democratic candidates trying to win congressional seats in the upcoming mid-term elections. The press is starting to notice that the world is unraveling from a lack of American leadership, not just in Iraq but in Syria and Libya and Gaza and Ukraine and the South China sea, and and that 99 percent that the president stands for is starting to notice that they’re not invited.

– Bud Norman

Gloom and Doom and Whom to Blame

We’ve been espousing gloom and doom for the past many years, and it seems the rest of the country has at last caught up to us. No less a mainstream source than the Politico web site has taken measure of the latest public opinion polling and distilled it into the headline “Everything is terrible.”
A cursory glance at the latest headlines easily explains the widespread sentiment. The post-war international order is breaking down across the globe, the social order is unraveling around St. Louis in a series of riots, an invasion of unaccompanied minors continues on the disappearing southern border, and as the youngsters head back to school their parents’ and teachers’ bake sales are being subjected to bureaucratic bullying. There are stray stories about a suspiciously strong market and an improving labor market, although if a closer look that the former is a result of inflationary money-printing by the Fed and the latter its mostly a matter of part-time jobs going to those invaders from the southern border, and most people seem more convinced by their diminishing bottom lines than by the press. At this point, judging by the Politico analysis, it’s just a matter of assigning blame.
The left-leaning publication seems hopeful that there’s enough of it go around stave off another mid-term shellacking by the Republicans, and cites the example of a Senate race in North Carolina where the Democratic incumbent holds a lead despite some being unfavorably regarded by a majority of the state, but it seems unlikely to be apportioned in equal measures. Foreign policy is mostly a presidential prerogative, and efforts to blame the current mess on the president who left office six years ago are growing tiresome, especially when they’re a result of decisions the current president has repeatedly bragged about. There’s no way of knowing what happened in the police shooting that touched off that St. Louis rioting, although it’s a safe bet that the liquors stores and Taco Bells that are being targeted had anything do it, and in any case it is yet another reminder that the president’s promised post-racial America has not yet arrived. That invasion on the southern border can hardly be blamed on the welcoming attitude of Republicans, not after they’ve been relentlessly portrayed as xenophobic racist rednecks, and the president’s executive actions to defer deportations of unaccompanied minors seems a far more likely explanation. The crackdown on school bake sales is directly attributable to to the current administration, as are countless other burdensome and silly regulations. Despite the best efforts of the press to pretend that Sen. Harry Reid isn’t the majority leader in the do-nothing half of Congress the Republicans only control one half of one branch of the government, and given the president’s low ratings on his economic policies there’s not likely to be much of a market for the idea that our current sluggishness is a result of too little Obamanomics.
There is plenty of blame to go around, of course, and among those registering their disgust to the pollsters are bound to be a number of liberals who believe the president just hasn’t been appeasing enough in his foreign policy or angry enough in his racial denunciations or friendly enough in his attitudes to southern border invaders or exhaustive enough in his micro-regulation of America’s diet, and that just a few more trillion dollars of federal spending would have set everything right, but we doubt there are enough of them who will march to the polls with hope and change in their hearts to affect the mid-term elections.

– Bud Norman

Distance From the Boss

Looking at the utter catastrophe that is America’s foreign policy, with bad actors ascendent from the South China Sea to Eastern Europe to almost everywhere in the Middle East, one might reasonably conclude that “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.”
As much as we’d love to claim credit for this pithy summation of our current problems, a obvious reference to some smug administration functionary’s infamous description of the Obama foreign policy that of course substituted a more vulgar synonym for “stuff,” the quotation must be credited to none other than Hillary Clinton. The past Secretary of State made the statement to the once-venerable Atlantic Monthly, making clear that in her future presidential campaign she will distance herself from her former boss, even if she felt obliged to clear it with him first, and these days it seems that no one outside the White House or the State Department or the more stubborn sections of the New York Times is willing to defend the current foreign policy.
Clinton’s critique of Obama is fairly astute, albeit tempered by an undue respect for the last of the president’s supporters and informed by a great deal of hindsight, but but we expect she will find it difficult to sufficiently distance herself from the foreign policy that she executed for the first four years of his presidency. She’s quite right to criticize Obama’s unwillingness to arm the less jihadi elements of the Syrian opposition early on in that country’s civil war, and if her claims of urging him to act at the time are true she deserves some small credit, but whatever arguments she was making behind closed doors her description of the Syrian tyrant Bashir Assad as “a reformer” were made in public and can be endlessly replayed by her future opponents. She’s now standing steadfastly with Israel in its war against the genocidal terror gang Hamas, which is also good, but she was recently on the airwaves making implausible excuses for Hamas’ despicable tactic of launching rockets from schools and hospitals to force Israeli relation there. She claims to have privately urged the president not to withdraw all of America’s troops from Iraq, which is retrospectively sage if true, but she was publicly an outspoken critic of the war she had voted for when campaigning for president last time around will once again be obliged to sound dovish when the Democratic primaries next roll around. She’s also talking tough about Russia, which we suppose is a welcome development, but the pictures of her presenting them with that ridiculous “reset” button will come in handy for future opponents.
Any Republican opponent except perhaps Sen. Rand Paul will make best use of this baggage, but the Democratic field will also try exploit what the party’s leftist base considers the Obama administration’s failings and will eventually force her back to less prudent positions. Likely left-wing contender Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is insisting that Iraq’s current difficulties require a negotiated rather than military solution, as if the Islamic State in Levant terror gang that is currently beheading and quite literally crucifying anyone in their path that won’t subscribe to their insane theology will be willing to negotiate a peace satisfactory to anyone else. Obama’s Kenyan heritage and boyhood days in an Indonesian madrassa were supposed to placate the Islamist bloodlust, and it seems unlikely that Warren’s fake American Indian heritage will fare any better, but Clinton will have to make a calculation that much of the Democratic primary electorate still clings to such idealistic hopes.
Sooner rather than later everyone will also be trying to distance themselves from Obama’s domestic policies, on everything from Obamacare to illegal immigration to all that deficit spending that Obama claims to have halved after doubling it while still blaming the Republicans for not spending more, and we’ll be eager to see how Clinton handles that chore.

– Bud Norman

A Sexual Counter-Revolution

Our carefree college days were long ago, back in the era of raccoon coats and ukeleles and goldfish-swallowing, but we try to keep abreast of what’s current in higher education. Imagine our horror, then, to discover that the once-idyllic campus life has degenerated into a culture of rape.
This isn’t our usual grumpy old man’s anti-intellectual assessment of those pointy-headed academics, but rather the conclusion of academia itself. The more-or-less official feminist line is that one in five currently enrolled co-eds will be sexually assaulted while in college, an alarming statistic that has been repeated by the President of the United States, and the term “culture of rape” is frequently invoked to explain the epidemic. Many colleges have responded by adopting a “preponderance of evidence” standard when considering allegations of sexual assault, and now that the Department of Education has made federal funding contingent on such measures the rest will eventually do so, while there seems to be a serious movement afoot to eradicate whatever culture is causing all this rape.
Let us make clear at this point that we do not wish to make light of rape, which is as heinous a crime as man can commit and should always be punished with the utmost severity whenever guilt of it has been proved, but only a heart of stone can’t find some bemusement in academia’s clumsy response to this eternal problem. That one-in-five number is laughable at first glance, and would be the most damning indictment of higher education yet if it were true. One would almost certainly reach something approaching that ratio if the definition of “sexual assault” were expanded to include any regrettable experience a young woman might have in today’s hyper-sexualized society, and we have great sympathy for all of them insufficiently wary young women who have fallen victim to our cultural depredations, but it’s disquieting to see colleges denying due process to young men accused of violating the cultural norms that academia has long sought to abolish.
Back in the bad old days of sexual repression a patriarchy imposed virginity on the yearning-to-be-unleashed libidos of young women, especially those bold and brilliant enough to a pursue a college education, but academic feminism was at the forefront of liberating society from such archaic restrictions. Colleges used to promise the tuition-paying parents that they would act in loco parentis, meaning they would assume the role of nosy and puritanical parents, but by now they are acting those loco sorts of parents who provide condoms and encouragement for a nice robust romp in the dorm. There’s an inadvertently hilarious Hollywood movie set in the ’50s called “Mona Lisa Smile” that features the comely Julia Roberts as a heroic professor in the “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” mode who encourages her female charges to pursue promiscuity as self-expression, another called “Kinsey” that features the handsome Liam Neeson portraying the titular perverted Indiana University sexologist as a hero of the sexual revolution, and they accurately reflect the role colleges played in eradicating the old sexual etiquette. We suspect the sexual pioneers intended that their distaff charges would all have enlightening affairs with sensitive poetry majors, which would somehow enhance their procreative marriages to more boring but lucrative business majors, but it turned out that the main beneficiaries of the new rules were the buff frat boys and their infuriatingly anti-feminist “bro culture.”
(We’ll note in passing that a Democratic Senatorial candidate in Kentucky is running on her party’s familiar claim that the Republicans are engaged in a “war on women,” but is the heiress to a “breastaurant” called “Hugh Jass” that caters to the local fraternity clientele with a double-entendre-laden menu and scantily-clad waitresses.)
This is probably the real reason for feminism’s sudden concern with the “culture of rape,” and we have some sympathy. Our disdain for the womanizing frat boy culture is not based on feminist principles, but rather the old-fashioned respect for womanhood that our Christian mother inculcated in us at an early age, but we hope that one way or another it will soon wither from public scorn. The irrecoverable end of the old rules of courtship is not at all limited to that sub-culture, however, and until academia is willing to embrace more old-fashioned notions of sexual propriety it is unlikely to correct what truly is, in some unsettling if not strictly legal sense, a culture of rape.

– Bud Norman

Choosing One’s Outrage

There’s no telling what will offend some people’s moral sensibilities, or what will not.
A rare look at our Facebook page found several friends grousing about Israel’s meticulously limited response to the thousands of rockets that have lately been lobbed at its people by the Islamist terror gang Hamas, with one friend rather angrily demanding Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s appearance before a international war crimes tribunal, but none seemed at all troubled that an Islamist terror gang was raining rockets down on the random civilians of a civilized and democratic nation, or demanded that the perpetrators be treated as war criminal. A far greater number of Muslims have recently perished in the fighting in Syria and Libya and Iraq and Afghanistan and all the other places where internecine Islamist warfare rages, and for far less justifiable reasons, but judging by the relative lack of mainstream media coverage and Facebook chatter that doesn’t seem to trouble many consciences.
The guest list at that fancy White House gathering of African leaders is a similarly curious example of selective outrage. Among those getting the red carpet treatment and presidential promises of massive wealth redistribution are Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Oblang Nguema Mbasago, fresh from a killing spree that left all of his prominent political opponents dead, and Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh, who advocates a policy of beheading homosexuals, along with the usual assortment of seedy Afro-Marxist thugs who have made such a mess of post-colonial Africa. These elegantly embossed invitations to the White House were handed out by the same administration that routinely derides its domestic political opponents as extremists bent on dirty air and dirty water, and who are implored in faux-hip-hop fashion to “Just stop hatin’,” and it strikes us as odd. Even the most stubborn American adherents of the millennia-old notions about same sex-same marriage draw the line well short of beheading homosexuals, and thus far even the kookiest musket-weilding and tricorner-hat-wearing “tea party” types haven’t offed anybody.
The beheading-of-homosexuals part might yet yet provoke some justifiable moral outrage among the left, where anything having to do with homosexuality gets some traction, and certainly arouses more outrage than the all-too-tempting idea of simply killing all of one’s prominent political opponents, but that also seems oddly selective. We are as appalled as anyone on the left by the treatment of homosexuals in the Islamic world and throughout sub-Saharan Africa, and would welcome  a more consistent American policy of protesting it, but we’d love to see the left make the same exceptions to its multi-cultural and morally relativist rules to protest the appalling treatment of Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and other religious minorities in much of the world. The womenfolk are getting a raw deal in most of these fondly regarded underdog countries, too, and it seems especially odd that a modern feminism obsessed with the mating rituals of horny frat boys is indifferent to the forced genital mutilations and other brutal abuses that are common throughout a romanticized Third World.
Sometimes moral outrage is selected according to partisan obligations, like the Facebook friend who was fuming about our Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s reckless tax cuts and the resulting slight downgrade from one of the bond-rating agencies, but didn’t seem to mind when the nation’s creit ratings were downgraded after years of trillion dollar deficits under President Barack Obama. That same partisan prejudice prevented the press from highlighting Vice President Joe Biden’s hilarious repeated references to “the nation of Africa,” which is precisely the sort of thing that would have been endlessly re-played on the late night comedy shows if only Dan Quayle or Sarah Palin had said it. Oftentimes it’s that multi-cultural moral relativism that tolerates beheadings of homosexuals and genital mutilations in the more primitive and thus more spiritually pure countries, all in the name of progressivism, but insists that anyone from their supposedly more intellectually enlightened culture should be willing to bake a cake for a same-sex marriage or sign a consent form before a drunken college hook-up. In either case, one’s instincts should be set aside for a moment of more thoughtful consideration.

– Bud Norman

A Swell Party in Kansas

Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas’ Fourth Congressional District threw a swell party Tuesday night. The event was held at the fashionably old-fashioned Candle Club over on the east side, where a private club status left over from the pre-liquor-by-the-drink days ordinarily allows for smoking and enhances a slightly ’60s-era Vegas atmosphere enhanced by painted portraits of all the prominent Rat Pack members, although it was more brightly lit and smoke-free than usual and a portrait of Pompeo had been added to the pantheon of Frank, Dean, and Sammy, and the free food was quite delicious and so was the free beer that a waitress friend of ours provided. Some old friends were in attendance, including a couple of the other waitresses and the newspaper reporter and photographer who were there on the job, and the convivial atmosphere was further enlivened by the numbers scrolling along the bottom of the several big screen televisions that showed Pompeo’s comfortable victory in his contested primary.
Pompeo’s victory pleased us, to the point that we donned one of the oversized “I Like Mike” campaign buttons that were being passed around, and almost all of the numbers that were scrolling across the bottom of those big-screen televisions were heartening. At least here in Kansas, the Republican Party seems in fighting form. The pre-ordained Democratic candidates will head into the general election unsullied by any of the mud that was slung in the Republican primary races, almost all of which were hotly contested, but they’ll face a Republican slate that has been distilled to its conservative essence and is ready to make its convincing case to a Republican state that is hopping mad about Democratic policies.
All the national media attention will be paid to the Senate race, where entrenched establishment incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts survived a challenge from one of those under-funded amateur “tea party” insurgents, but even that surprisingly close call demonstrates the appropriately angry mood of the state’s Republicans. After 47 years of representing Kansas in Washington Roberts won less than 50 percent of his party’s vote, and if not for a couple of crank candidates who split the anti-incumbent vote with Dr. Milton Wolf, a Kansas City-area radiologist best known for posting his patients’ x-rays on his Facebook page with sarcastic comments, the upset would have been the national political story of the day. We expect that a duly chastened Roberts will campaign on the full-throated conservatism that he’s shrewdly advocated the past few years, and that even the disappointed Republicans will prefer him to the Democratic alternative.
Some national attention will also be paid to a couple of the state’s Congressional races, where the usual storyline was inverted and incumbents were the radical “tea party” insurgent types while the challengers were more establishmentarian. Here in the Fourth District, to which we mistakenly included Hutchinson in a previous post, an error due to re-districting that was politely pointed out to us by a well-informed friend at the Candle Club, Pompeo and his principled opposition to pork barrel spending and publicly funded but privately profitable economic schemes was challenged by his predecessor, Todd Tiahrt, who promised to bring home the bacon the way he did back in the good old days George W. Bush’s spending spree. Tiahrt’s pitch included promises aplenty about reviving Wichita’s beleaguered airplane industry, but it’s nice to note that Pompeo’s past success as an aviation entrepreneur and his advocacy of de-regulation and lower taxes proved more persuasive to a solid majority of the district’s Republicans.
Over in the First District, which covers that great big empty space west of Wichita all the way to the Colorado border and then snakes northeast all way to to the edge of Topeka, and which we feel obligated to add also includes the very fine town of Hutchinson, an even more radical “tea party” insurgent type survived a challenge from an even more establishment-minded challenger. Rep. Tim Huelskamp became a talk radio sensation and a national hero to the radical insurgent “tea party” types with his denunciations of the Republican House leadership’s timidity in the government shutdown and other efforts to rebuff President Barack Obama, but the House leadership responded by stripping him of his seat on the Agriculture Committee and thus provided an opening to farmer and former teacher Alan LaPolice, who promised a more polite sort of politics. Huelskamp’s stubbornness on the obligatory Farm Bill, which the Democrats always turn into a welfare bill, as well as his admirable opposition to the ethanol subsidies that enrich many western Kansas farmers, made for a very competitive race. That the First District preferred the more impolite and principled candidate makes us all the more eager to take another drive through that beautifully empty space west of Wichita.
There will also be some gleeful speculation by the national media about the primary victory of Gov. Sam Brownback, who won his party’s nomination but lost nearly a fourth of its votes to a little-known and under-funded challenger. Democrats everywhere, but especially here, hate Brownback with the sort of red-hot passion once reserved for the likes of Dick Cheney or Sarah Palin, so they’ll no doubt predict an upset in the general election, but we think they misread the result. When we cast our votes over at the local Gloria Dei Lutheran Church we ran into an old friend we know to be stark raving liberal, and when we expressed our surprise that she had bothered to show up for the uncontested Democratic races she said that she had switched parties in time to vote to the more “moderate” Republicans, and when we headed home we found a Facebook posting by another Democratic friend gloating how he had switched in order to cast a vote against the hated Brownback, and given the lack of any reason to vote in the Democratic primary we suspect that many others like them contributed to the relatively close count. Brownback will need a good campaign to win, but he knows how to do that and the pre-ordained liberal Democrat from the college town of Lawrence doesn’t look all that intimidating.
We left what turned out to be Pompeo’s victory party before the big speech, as the National Baseball Congress’ annual semi-pro world championship tournament over at the westside’s Lawrence-Dumont Stadium beckoned, but since it was almost on the way we stopped at Kirby’s Beer Store to check on the numbers scrolling at the bottom of the bar’s small television. Kirby’s is a hipster bar rife with Democrats, and one of our favorites, a delightfully dissolute lawyer whose professional fortunes are tied to the party, was watching with dismay. He was surprised by Pompeo’s victory, due to his outdated belief that Tiahrt’s popularity with the local anti-abortion activists would carry the day, and even expressed amazement that nationally-known anti-illegal-immigration stalwart Kris Kobach had cruised to re-nomination as Secretary of State, even though the voter identification laws that he championed are hugely popular here and everywhere else. He expressed the predictable optimism about knocking off Brownback, although he sounded somewhat hesitant, and admitted that Roberts and the rest were likely to cruise to re-election. He also said he hadn’t dared to switch parties to vote in the primary, if only for professional reasons, and we thanked him heartily and promised to forever return the favor.
The national media will pay no mind whatsoever to Sedgwick County’s Fourth District Commission race, but forgive our local rooting interest and allow us to note that Richard Ranzau survived a well-funded challenge from oh-so-moderate State Sen. Carolyn McGinn. Ranzau is locally notorious for voting against any of those Chamber of Commerce-inspired “eco deco” deals that promise jobs and prosperity and a chicken in every pot, even when the feds are picking up the tab, and we’re delighted that a slim majority of our neighboring Republicans have his back. He’ll face a tough race in the general election against the Democrats’ pre-ordained Melody McCray-Miller, the heiress to a local black political dynasty that has the undying loyalty of a large slice of the districts as well as a winning personality that makes her formidable in the paler portions of the district, but we also like his chances in November. There’s no telling what the rest of the country is thinking, but here in the county district and the congressional district and the state at large the Republican party seems more or less on the right track.

– Bud Norman

Our Primary Duty

At some point today we will lace up our Converse All-Stars and walk the few blocks through our picturesque old neighborhood to the Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, where we will emphatically cast our votes in Kansas’ Republican primary. Voting is a favorite pastime of ours, right up there with minor league baseball and rock ‘n’ roll shows at sleazy dives and worship services at the West Douglas Church of Christ and the rest of the best of the glorious American heritage, so we never miss an opportunity.
Part of the fun is running into the liberal Democrat neighbors and friends whose votes we are gleefully canceling, but we don’t expect that many of them will bother to show up today. The Democratic party’s slate was pretty much pre-determined at a committee meeting last winter, where they seem to have concluded that this unfavorable election cycle doesn’t call for running any candidates who might come in handy at some later and more fortuitous time, so all the action is on the Republican side. Some of the Republican races have involved in much slinging of mud, a bit of which will stick to even the victor through the upcoming general election, and a few incumbents who would ordinarily cruise to re-election have been forced to dip into their campaign chests to stave off challenges from pesky insurgents,  but given the Republican mood in this Republican state these internecine squabbles should not prove a problem come November.
The most noteworthy challenges by pesky insurgents are an odd mix of politics by stereotype. There’s been some national attention paid to the senatorial race, where the facts rather neatly fit the press’ preferred narrative. Sen. Pat Roberts is about as establishment as one can get, having started his career in Washington a full 47 years ago as an aide to Sen. Frank Carlson, a name that only Kansans of a certain advanced age still associate with the the very establishment Kansas Republicanism of long ago, and he’s being challenged by Dr. Milton Wolf, a political neophyte best known but hardly known at all as a distant relative and vituperative critic of President Barack Obama and a radiologist who posted some of his patients’ x-rays on his Facebook page with sarcastic comments. We’ll still be debating the choice as we wander over to Gloria Dei, but at this point we’re leaning toward Roberts. He was always enjoyably salty company when we covered his previous perfunctory campaigns for major state newspaper, and although this Dr. Wolf fellow makes a pretty compelling case about the votes that Roberts and the rest of those longtime Washington guys have made over the past 47 years we don’t know him with the same familiarity. There’s a certain national talk radio host who will deride us as sell-out RINOs if we follow this instinct, but it’s such fun to hear him fulminate about establishment victories.
The state’s two contested congressional primaries turn the familiar narrative on its head. Here in the Fourth District, which is basically the relatively big city of Wichita and the relatively big town of Hutchinson and a lot of sparsely populated small towns and farmland, the impeccably conservative and unabashedly Tea Party incumbent Rep. Mike Pompeo is being challenged by his Bush-era predecessor, former Rep. Todd Tiahrt, who stepped down two terms ago to make an ill-fated stab at a Republican Senate nomination and now is arguing to get his old job back on the old promises of delivering federal spending and favorable “economic development” deals. We’ll march to Gloria Dei with enthusiasm for Pompeo, as we’ve promised the several campaign staffers who have called the house in the past few days, partly because we prefer his free market approach and partly because we find him the far more impressive individual. We hope this will placate that national radio host who fulminates against RINOs, and are fairly confident the majority of the Fourth District will reach the same conclusion.
Over in the First District, which is comprised by that huge empty place stretching from the Colorado border clear into northeastern Kansas, the race pits famously irascible Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp, who became a talk radio sensation and national Tea Party favorite with his full-throated rants about Obamaism, against the more politely Republican Alan LaPolice. The First is close enough to the Fourth that the political advertisements are permeating the local airwaves, and we note that LaPolice is trying to make hay of the fact that Huelskamp lost his seat on the Agriculture Committee by offending the more delicate sensibilities of House Speaker John Boehner and the rest of the RINO Republican leadership. It will be interesting to see how the Republican voters of the First District assess this, but we trust the judgement of a majority voters who can somehow live such enviable lives on the harsh high plains of western Kansas.
There’s an intriguing race between a deal-brokering Chamber of Commerce Republican and a stalwart stingy anti-government incumbent for the Fourth District Sedgwick County Commission seat, too, but that would probably exhaust your interest in our local politics. Suffice to say that we’re foursquare for the nay-saying skinflint, and will almost certainly wind up voting for the Republican in any case. These Democrats that the committee came up with are just awful, and even the most mud-soaked Republicans look good by comparison.

– Bud Norman

The Young and Undecided

The very smart folks over at City Journal, which is about as high-brow a conservative publication as you’re likely to find, have been pondering the young folks. We are relieved to learn that they’re as flummoxed by the subject as we are, and that apparently so are both of America’s major political parties.
Our limited contact with the “Millennials,” as the 18-to-33-year-olds of the moment are fashionably known, is almost always desultory. We currently know some encouraging examples of young adulthood, including most of our friends’ newly grown children, but our typical attempts at conversation with this demographic cohort are discouraging. Perhaps it’s our penchant for such disreputable dives as The Vagabond and Kirby’s Beer Store, where the younger clientele tend to be of the hipster variety, but we’ve found that most of them are as stupid as that old friend’s dog that used to run headlong into closed doors.
They voted voted in overwhelming numbers for President Barack Obama, which should tell you something, but according to the very smart folks over at City Journal they have “already proven cagey about their political alliances.” Polling indicates they have liberal views regarding social issues, which corresponds with our own observation, but are more conservative regarding fiscal issues, which we find dubious. The same date indicate that “millenials” are distrustful of all institutions, from government bureaucracies to corporations to churches, which seems plausible enough, but at the same time they vote for more government and spend as much as their meager incomes will allow on the products on corporate America and trust that a certain Judeo-Christian standard of civil society will continue to prevail. This convoluted miss-mash of ideas leaves the “millenials” susceptible to the blandishments of either party, according to the conventional wisdom, but we suspect the Democrats will continue to enjoy an advantage.
Although the “millennials” comprise a frightening 25 percent of the voting age population, we expect they’ll play a less prominent role in the next few elections. Most of the youngsters we encounter are determinedly apolitical, and their higher-than-usual turn-out in the past two elections was mainly due a fad that is not likely to be replicated by Hillary Clinton or any of the other likely Democratic contenders. Those who do bother vote to vote for the un-hyped candidates in the mid-term elections are are more likely to be the disillusioned, which will diminish the Democrats’ advantage, but a majority are still likely to vote for the free stuff the Democrats are offering and be put off the the stuffy reputation the Republicans will always endure. Our experience of today’s young people suggests they are very keen to be thought cool, and until the Republicans jettison their stands on abortion and same-sex marriage and the rest of those Judeo-Christian standards they’ll be at a severe disadvantage in courting this cohort.
Most of these young people will never get an abortion or marry someone of the same sex or benefit in any way from the end of the Judeo-Christian epoch of western civilization, and they will be limited by the slow-growth economy and burdened by the nation’s swelling debt and diminished by the society’s decline, but we don’t expect they’ll ever figure it out. The youngest of the “millennials” was 12 years old when Obama was elected on a utopian platform of hope and change, and some were even recruited for those awful cult-of-personality videos of schoolchildren singing his praises, but we hope the dismal job market and over-priced educational opportunities that wait them as they enter adulthood will jar a certain common sense into their hairy heads. The older ones, alas, we expect to keep rushing headlong into that closed door.

– Bud Norman


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