The Importance of Impertinent Questions

A reporter asked a tough question at a presidential news conference Wednesday, and it was one of the big stories of the day. Not the continued imprisonment of American hostages by our new best friends in Iran that prompted the question, nor the president’s newsworthy indignant non-response, but just the fact that a reporter had asked a tough question at a presidential news conference. This might seem odd, given all that’s going on the world, but by now there’s a certain dog-bites-man aspect to riots in Greece and Chinese stock market slides and American capitulations to nutcase regimes, while presidential news conferences are rare and tough questions being asked there even rarer.
The question was posed by Major Garrett, of all people, from CBS News, of all places, so that makes it all the more notable. After some gloating by the president about his newly-made deal with the government of Iran, Garrett asked: “Thank you, Mr. President. As you well know, there are four Americans in Iran, three held on trumped-up charges according to your administration and one whereabouts unknown. Can you tell the country, sir, why you are content with all the fanfare around this deal to leave the conscience of this nation, the strength of this nation unaccounted for in relation to these four Americans?” In non-response, the president offered a widely reported glare and replied, “I’ve got to give you credit for how you craft these questions. The notion that I’m content as I celebrate with American citizens languishing in Iranian jails, Major, that’s — that’s nonsense, and you should know better.”
How Garrett should have known better was not explained in the president’s remarks, given the president’s apparent contentment with the deal, and that from the outset of his give-away-the-store negotiations he had agreed not to raise any “non-nuclear issues” such as the four Americans languishing in Iranian jails, and that the latest incidents in Iran’s long history of American hostage-taking would have once again gone entirely unmentioned if not for the impertinent question. Still, the rest of the assembled press corps, who took up the rest of the time asking tossing softballs and refusing to play defense against the presidential’s questionable assertions about his gloating, were quite shocked by the lese majeste of the query, and the president’s dwindling cadre of supports immediately took to Twitter and other social media to express their indignation.
The indignant panelists on CNN even spent a couple of hours of airtime that could have been devoted to the myriad flaws in the president’s deal or the rioting in Greece or the scary economic developments in China with much huffing and puffing about such flagrant disrespect for a president. Those panelists cited their long experience of covering presidential press conferences, but apparently it doesn’t stretch back far enough to recall the rough treatment that George W. Bush and other previous presidents used to get it. The second Bush considered it a good press conference when he didn’t have to dodge any shoes being thrown at him, or endure the cheerleading for the shoe-thrower from the rest of the press corps, and even the Democratic presidents of our recollection all were subjected to more pointed questions.
Perhaps Garrett’s question was crafted to imply a certain presidential insouciance about the hostage Americans, and perhaps we should more generously assume that the president does truly care about those Americans but just not enough to let it interfere with his capitulation to Iran’s nuclear ambitions for the sake of his legacy, but we’re glad it was asked nonetheless, and we’re pleased that Garrett thus far isn’t backing down to the criticism. That hostage-taking remains a part of Iran’s as defiant-as-ever anti-western crusade, and that the deal the president is gloating about does nothing to deter that country’s constant global trouble-making and instead provides them with hundreds of billions of dollars to do more of it, deserves some attention, and should raise doubts about the rest of it. A better press corps would have followed up on that question, but the one we’ve got was more offended that one of their own would be so gauche as the ask a rude question of this particular president.

— Bud Norman

An Awful, Awful Deal

The deal with Iran has been made, and is unlikely to be undone by Congress or public opinion or any last vestige of common sense, but it is awful. It is historically awful, catastrophically awful, worse even than Chamberlain-in-Munich awful, and so awful it would be impossible to overstate its awfulness.
The deal does not require the Iranians to disclose anything regarding their previous efforts at building nuclear weapons, allows them to keep centrifuges spinning, the Arak heavy water reactor and plutonium production plant stays open, as does the fortified underground uranium enrichment facility at Fordow, the country’s missile program also continues, along with its nuclear research and development, rather than being subject to “anywhere, anytime” inspections the regime will be given advance warnings and “consultations” and other courtesies, no procedures are outlined to deal with violations that might somehow be discovered, there is no requirement that the regime halt its support of the Hezbollah terror group or turn over the countless other terrorists under their protection who have struck everywhere from Buenos Aires to Washington, D.C., and it even frees up $150 billion dollars worth of previously frozen assets with another $50 billion of the American taxpayer’s money thrown in as a signing bonus, all of which they can now spend on missiles and other sophisticated weaponry as well as low-tech terrorism because the deal also does away with a longstanding arms embargo. In return, the apocalyptic suicide cult has promised the Great Satan that it won’t acquire any nuclear bombs for at least 10 years, and they seem quite pleased with the bargain.
That’s good enough for the president, who is staking his historical reputation on Iran’s mad mullahs at long last keeping a promise, but the Israelis and the Sunni Arabs are within closer range of those ballistic missiles and have even more at stake, and they’re not at all reassured by the deal. Perhaps that’s also because they’re more familiar than the Madrassa-educated president with such Islamic concepts as hudna, meaning a tactical retreat disguised as a peace agreement, and taqqiya, a Koranic loophole that countenances lies told in the furtherance of Islam, and they don’t have the modern left’s peculiar notion that the only religious fanaticism afoot in the world is some Baptist confectioners who don’t care to bake a gay wedding cake, and they’ve not been able to avoid noticing Iran’s decades-old bellicosity. Even if the mad mullahs conclude that armageddon can wait another 10 years they’ll be just as troublesome in the meantime, and not only does the deal do nothing about it gives them more money and international legitimacy to keep doing blowing up Jewish centers in South America and plant roadside bombs in Afghanistan and lob rockets into Israeli schoolyards and prop up equally troublesome regimes fund those fervent rallies where everyone chants “Death to America.” The administration would have us believe that we can take the Iranian regime as its word when they sign the deal, but not when they’re leading those chants. One can argue that the sanctions never stopped them, but at least such global troublemaking wasn’t being subsidized and excused.
Nothing we’ve read satisfactorily explains why the deal isn’t subject to the Constitution’s requirement of ratification by two-thirds of the Senate, a threshold it would never meet, but everything we’ve read suggests that the best Congress can do is pass a resolution of disapproval that would surely be vetoed and require two-thirds of both chambers to override, another threshold that cannot be met. Any vote that expresses disapproval of the deal will be welcome, however, no matter how futile, because the Iranian regime should at least know that the country isn’t so gullible as its president, nor as willing to assist their rise to regional hegemony. If the deal isn’t a treaty according to the legal definition that would require the Senate’s ratification it’s just a deal, and a resounding vote of disapproval would emphasize that it’s the president’s deal and not the country’s, and just maybe that will help some more clear-eyed president to someday resist rather than facilitate Iran’s insane ambitions. We hope it’s soon, and not too late, as the present policy is awful.

— Bud Norman

Stormy Monday, and Tuesday’s Just as Bad

Please forgive us if we’re not at the cutting edge of conservative commentary today, as we reportedly were yesterday when no less a personage than Rush Limbaugh took up our already-published rant about the Obama administration’s war on the suburbs, but Monday was one of those Mondays we all encounter from time to time.
The first part of the day was devoted to some freelance copy-editing work we’ve lately picked up, which got us out of bed far too early but at least introduced us to the charming Japanese woman who translated the confounding Japanese copy that so confounded us, and after we worked out that problem the rest of the afternoon and early evening was devoted to a confounding and expensive problem with our e-mails that were futilely sent correcting the confusing copy. Some tech support fellow with reassuringly foreign accent spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening getting our corrected copy sent through e-mail, which had a inexplicable and stubborn resistance to our usually reliable password,but as of now everything seems jake about our relationship with the almighty internet. Around the same time we got a call from our good ol’ kid brother in California, of all places, who wanted to let us know that Rush Limbaugh had been railing about the same thing we’d been earlier railing about, and how his lawyer business is going well, and some gloating about his University of Kansas’ Jayhawks’ basketball team and its recent impressive performance in an international competition, and we were tempted to engage in and argument that the Wichita State University’s Wheatshockers would once again be the superior squad, but by then we were already missing the first innings of the Wichita Wingnuts’ baseball competition against the Kansas City Wingnuts’ over at the nearby Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, and on a night when the local Kwik=Shop convenience store chain provided tickets at the low, low price of a dollar, so we hung up and headed over to the riverside to watch the game.
The Wingnuts were already down a couple of runs when we joined a couple of cigar-chomping old pals in the smoking section, which wasn’t suffering from its usual evening glare because of a monstrous thunderstorm cloud hovering just to the west of us, which is usually the worst place for a Kansas thunderstorm to be hovering, but in any case the Wingnuts wound up losing by three runs and falling father back in the double-A American Association division, although we’re pleased to report that the late-inning conversation with our cigar-chomping friends recalled such great guitar–players as Dick Dale and Link Wray and James Burton and Pops Staples, and some coarse old Hellen Keller jokes.
In between we’ve tried to keep up with the news, but it’s all been a blur. It looks like we’ll sign on to an agreement that the mad mullahs of Iran have a nuclear weapon that we’ll subsidize, the City of Chicago won’t be able to pay its debts, that Greece’s far greater debts will also be somehow forgiven,and the formerly dominant Wingnuts are now trailing in their American Association division.Those westward clouds might yet spill some cooling rain on our hometown, though, and the interest issues seem to be resolved, and there’s always hope that the Iranians will walk away from even the most favorable deal that the west might offer, and fall is a long time away. We noted that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has entered the presidential race, and we love that guy, and that for now the final death throes of Greece and Chicago and the remote possibility of a non-socialist president and the Wingnuts being within striking distance and the Yankees having a 3.5 game lead in the American League East suggests there’e still hope for western civilization.
They call it Stormy Monday, according to an old song, but Tuesday’s just as bsd. We surely hope not, and will be back on Wednesday with what he hope will be a more optimistic report.

— Bud Norman

The City, the Suburbs, the Country, and Free Choice

We prefer to live here in town, rather than the suburbs or the very sparsely populated country that stretches out endlessly just beyond the exurbs, but we can well understand why others might choose differently. Our town is Wichita, where there are single unit houses and backyards and barbecues and happily homogenous neighborhoods and all the other amenities of suburban life to go along with the proximity to an art museum and botanical garden and parks and ethnic restaurants and downtown night life and all the other amenities of more or less urban life, and we have no children to attend the rather mediocre local public schools, and even here we can respect the decisions of many of our friends to head for the suburbs or beyond. In any case, we can’t understand the federal government’s efforts to herd everyone into some hell-hole big city.
Rural folk are by now properly paranoid and overwhelmingly voting Republican, but the suburbanites haven’t yet figured out that the left is successfully proceeding with a program to eliminate their chosen way of life. The anti-suburban agenda is motivated by ecological, cultural, and nakedly political motivations, and is now the policy of a President of the United States who who proudly told The Associated Press during his first campaign that “I’m not interested in the suburbs, the suburbs bore me,” yet somehow wound up winning a crucial share of suburban votes in two elections. Various policies to vex those boring suburbs have since been enacted, and now the Department of Housing and Urban Development is telling more than 1,200 municipalities that federal funds will be withheld from them if they don’t comply with new regulations regarding low-income housing and minority representation, and they’re newly fortified by a Supreme Court decision that was largely overlooked during all the hubbub about same-sex marriage and how the Obamacare doesn’t really mean what it plainly says, but the reporters on the real estate beat all realized how it’s likely to affect the average suburbanite’s property values, and sooner or the public will realize that President Barack Obama is far more interested in the suburbs than he admits.
The left’s hostility to the suburbs is as old as the suburbs themselves. The most frequent complaint heard these days is all those suburbanites’ sports utility vehicles are frying the planet as they chug along to downtown jobs, and doing all manner of other damage to the planet, but that’s just the latest explanation. An alarmist friend of ours who was very much enamored of the “peak oil” theory used to present sparsely attended screenings of a documentary promising that it would bring about “The End of Suburbia,” but fracking has forestalled that much-hoped-for outcome and now the left is demanding more immediate solutions. This appeal to Gaia will likely have some guilt-inducing effect on a few of the more more recent arrivals in suburbia, but when they weigh this impending environmental catastrophe against sending their kids to a typical urban school district we expect many of them will decide to vote for the life decisions they’ve made. They might even notice that the anti-suburban animus pre-dates such reasoning.
The last time the suburbs were given respectful treatment by Hollywood was when Fred MacMurray moved “MY Three Sons” to some placidly bland neighborhood within the Los Angeles sprawl, and since then every movie and television show and pop hit since The Monkees’ “Pleasant Valley Sunday” has portrayed anything outside the urban core as a dull and racist and homophobic and sexist to the point of “Stepford Wives” den of hypocrites who were carrying on affairs and perpetuating income inequality. Urbanites, on the other hand, were all tolerant and broad-minded and sophisticated and sexually satisfied and on board with progressive agenda, while the rural folk were such an insignificant demographic that were relegated to comic relief and subplots about sexual deviance. The universities and television networks and political machines and the rest of the opinion-making establishment were still stuck in the cities, and the resulting opinion is of course in favor of cities.
Of course there’s also that nakedly political calculation. The cities are mostly dominated by Democratic machines, and in cities the stark reality of of income inequality has its usual salutary effects on the fortunes of the Democratic party, and ethnic animosities between otherwise happily homogenous neighborhoods are more easily exploited, and the public education systems produce a population that is too ignorant to figure it out, and everyone is densely packed into more easily controlled areas. Take away the backyards and barbecues and cohesive homogeneity of a neighborhood, and the sense of individual rights and the rest of those damnable suburban amenities, and the population will be more easily controlled.
Despite the government’s best efforts, though, the suburbs continue to draw ever more people. There was hope that the younger and hipper generation would stay away, and that so would the mass influx of immigrants both legal and illegal, but the lure of the backyard and the better schools and the happy homogeneity has overcome all the official efforts. We still prefer to live in town, but we wish those outside the city limits of this or any other town well. We also hope they’ll wise up soon, and realize who is intent on denying them their choices.

— Bud Norman

On Indifference and Outrage

Those high-brow fellows over at Commentary magazine recently published a fine essay on the art world’s self-inflected irrelevance, and we recommend it to all our culture vulture readers who still take an interest in such things. We’ve already fulminated a few times on these pages about pretty much the same unhappy point, though, and what most struck us was an opening anecdote that nicely illustrates an even bigger problem with what people are now indifferent to and what still offends them.
The author, who seems such a reasonable thinker that we are pleasantly surprised to note he is somehow the Faison-Pierson-Stoddard Professor of Art at Williams College, recalls showing one of his classes the grainy black-and-white film documentation of a 1971 performance art piece by the late Chris Burden, which involved having a friend shoot him in the arm with .22-calibre rifle at close range. We can still recall how the alleged artwork provoked a wide range of reactions even at such a late date in modernity as 1971, but the 21st Century students who watched were mostly interested in the legal ramifications and tried hard to it put into the context that savvy art students now understand their professors expect, but were otherwise indifferent. The professor seems somewhat surprised at such a dispassionate reaction to the spectacle of a man being shot in the arm at close range by .22-calibre rifle, but we are not. As the professor notes in the rest of his essay, even by the time Burns got around to it this sort of shock-the-squares stuff had already been going in the art world since approximately the end of World War I, and that Burns had to top it by having himself famously crucified atop a Volkswagen Beetle, and that subsequent attempts at giving offense have required ever more over-the-top outrages, so by now indifference to such efforts is both the sophisticated and sensible reaction.
What strikes us as odd, and went unmentioned by the professor, is that these same 21st Century students are the ones who require “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces” and protection from “micro-aggressions” and outright censorship of Ovid or Mark Twain or The Bible or that vaguely Republican commencement speaker or any other vestige of pre-World War I Western Civilization that might call into question the comforting consensus of academic opinion. Such strangely differing standards of what should be met with indifference and what should be met with offense are by no means confined to the academy, or to those corners of the world only culture vultures still take an interest in, but also define the broader public’s approach to politics.
Thus The New York Times is outraged by the four traffic tickets that Republican presidential contender Sen. Marco Rubio has received over the past 20 years, but seemingly indifferent to the four brave Americans who were killed in an American consulate in Libya that failed to receive requested security from Democratic presidential contender and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton following her ill-fated war against Libya. Thus the civil rights establishment is aroused to hash-tagging “black lives matter” and rioting in the streets when a black man is killed by police in even the most justifiable circumstances, yet indifferent to the vastly greater number of black men killed by other black men, and further indifferent when that horrible number inevitably increases after the hash-tagging and rioting inevitably hamper law enforcement efforts in poor black neighborhoods. Thus it is that polite opinion holds the insane profligacy of the Greek government is not only to be tolerated but forever to be subsidized, while a corporation that prefers not to pay its minimum wage employees any more than they produce is considered outrageously greedy. Thus it is that the mass executions of homosexuals in the Islamic world is met with sincere attempts to understand context and generally with indifference, while some Baptist confectioner’s reluctance to bake a gay wedding cake is met with widespread outrage.
A couple of years after Burden’s performance art piece provoked widespread outrage the public was so shocked by executive lawlessness that President Richard Nixon was forced to resign, with the second article of impeachment being that he had dared raise the possibility of using the Internal Revenue Service to harass his political opponents, but these days the president flouts immigration law with powers that even he had previously stated he does not constitutionally possess, and the stories about how the IRS actually did harass his political enemies and then engage in a Nixonian but up-to-date cover-up continue to trickle out, yet it is met with indifference. Perhaps it’s the same process of the public becoming inured to indifference by endless repetition, but that can’t explain why there’s still plenty of outrage left for far less inconsequential matters.
We continue to read about those high-brow culture vulture issues even in this age of art’s irrelevance, and to follow all those silly academic quarrels going on within the “safe spaces” from “micro-aggressions,” even as we recognize that by now they are of far less importance than the first four dead Americans from a failed foreign policy and the overlooked black lives that are taken while the police are under indictment and the eventual global consequences of the profligacy of the Greeks and just about everyone and the horrible fate of homosexuals in the Islamic world and the injustice being done to traditionalist confectioners in the name of homosexual rights, because we think they also matter. A society that can no longer recognize the difference between art and some nihilistic nutcase inviting a friend to shoot him in the arm, or prefers the comforting consensus of contemporary academic opinion to the challenging truths of of Ovid and Mark Twain and The Bible and that vaguely Republican commencement speaker or any of the rest of pre-World War I western civilization, is unlikely to choose wisely about what should be met with indifference and what should be met with outrage.

— Bud Norman

Defending Miss Schumer

We long ago cut off our cable television connection, and do our best to keep the rest of contemporary popular culture out of the house, but we must admit that we have succumbed to the comedic charms of Amy Schumer. She’s suddenly quite controversial, of course, and the criticisms are yet another example of how very humorless the modern left has become.
If you were not already aware of Schumer’s existence, it was bound to happen sooner or later. We only heard of her a few months ago when a friend recommended her work, following one of our frequent rants about the sorry state of comedy, but since then she’s become a full-blown media sensation. Her eponymous “Inside Amy Schumer” is a hit on the Comedy Channel, with the best of it showing up free and widely watched on YouTube, she has a new movie out that’s been heavily hyped, and her hard-to-define style of satire has inspired countless think pieces in the the more high-brow publications. In the old days of Lennie Bruce and Ed Sullivan the controversy would have been about her exceedingly profane language and shockingly frank sexuality, but these days that’s unlikely to raise any eyebrows and instead all the tsk-tsking concerns her occasional heresies against the left’s received wisdom on the holy trinity of race, class, and gender.
An adjunct professor of African-American history and an associate professor of something called “critical culture, race, and gender studies” teamed up to write an op-ed for The Washington Post that found a few of Schumer’s stand-up comedy lines offensive. One was an observation that “nothing works 100 percent of the time, except Mexicans,” which strikes us a vast improvement on the old Jose Jimenez routines and their now-outdated stereotypes of the siesta-taking Mexican that the Sullivan show used to feature. Another was Schumer’s confession that she used to date Latino men but decided she liked consensual sex better, which does seem to imply that Latino culture is more tolerant of rape, but the professors seem to make the same point by claiming that 80 percent of the Central American women and girls who illegally immigrate to the United States are raped while en route through Mexico. Another joke included in the montage of offense that accompanies the article has Schumer talking about “hanging out with literally all my black friend,” whose name is “Tamimba or whatever, Tapestry, something wild,” and includes a very stereotypical impersonation of a white girl acting like a stereotypical black girl and a throwaway line about black people being noisy at the movies, but to us the joke seemed mostly about herself.
Thus far Schumer has largely avoided any criticism on gender grounds, partly because she is a woman, albeit a white woman, and partly because she skewers the most boorish aspects of dude culture with such savage wit she is routinely described as a “feminist comedian,” but we expect that will last only until her fans get the bigger joke. Not long ago one of the world’s foremost scientists, Nobel laureate Tim Hunt, was forced to resign from his post at University College London and a committee seat with London’s Royal Society because of a brief public jape that seemed to imply women are too often overly emotional, which of course caused many women to become overly emotional and demand that his distinguished career of making great advances in the live-saving field of biochemistry be halted, but Schumer seems to be making the same point in a masterpiece sketch titled “How to Fight Like a Girl,” and she seems genuinely sympathetic to the men who have to put up with it, yet her feminist credentials remain temporarily unquestioned. She has a sketch about football and rape that is traditionally feminist yet still very funny, and another very funny sketch about a beleaguered secretary back in the beleaguered secretary days, but she’s more likely to turn her satirical sights on the fairer sex. Like Mary McCarthy and Barbara Pym and Muriel Spark and Dorothy Parker and all the great distaff literary wits, Schumer is a keen observer of the peculiarities of other women, with hilarious takes on the unexplainable tendency of modern young women to respond to every compliment with a self-deprecating denial, their one-upwomanship over such matters as whose “rescue dog” was rescued from the most heartbreaking circumstances, the age-old cattiness of womankind’s inhumanity to woman, and of course women’s more recently liberated sexuality.
Schumer convincingly plays a wide range of roles in her skits, which are much better than her stand-up comedy, but her usual comic persona is that of an alcoholic, narcissistic but insecure, not very bright, and recklessly promiscuous modern woman, which is apparently confusing to many of both her most ardent fans and dissatisfied critics. Several young women we know don’t like Schumer because they don’t like alcoholic, narcissistic but insecure, not very bright, and recklessly promiscuous modern women, several men we know are fans because her character seems an attainable ideal, and we think both are missing the joke. Perhaps we’re reading more into a late-night cable sketch comedy program than is actually there, but to us Schumer is casting an observant eye on the post-sexual revolution American culture and rightly finding it ridiculous. Her account of a one night stand, and the wildly divergent reactions of the man and woman involved, is another scathing satire of dude culture but comes down even harder on the naive young women who go along with it. Another sketch, charmingly titled “Gang Bang,” is first-rate satire about the second wave feminism’s strange notion that sluttiness is somehow empowering. An encounter with God during a herpes scare is a surprisingly funny reminder about the other problems that come with her comic persona. We don’t know what to make of Schumer’s “Time Travel” skit, except that she’s always self-deprecating and smart. None of this sort of sexual counter-revolutionary humor is exactly feminist, at least not as the term is now understood, and we eagerly await the maelstrom when her fans figure this out.
When they do, we expect there will be the usual charges regarding class. We have no idea about Schumer’s background, but by now she’s surely rich enough to expect some criticism regarding that. She’s an attractive woman, with blonde hair and a round face and a pleasingly plump figure that the friend who introduced us to her work describes as “hot, but in a realistic way,” and her debatable appeal is a recurring joke in her comedy, and already she’s getting criticized for making jokes that only attractive women can appreciate, which Schumer’s comedy convincingly suggests is also a class issue. That should give the left another reason not to laugh, no matter how funny the jokes are, and another reason to insist that all the laughing stop unless the approved targets are in the punchline. It’s no way to make comedy, or run a society, but we’re glad that a few counter-revolutionary humorists are still out there.

— Bud Norman

Sanders’ Candor and its Concerns

That Sen. Bernie Sanders fellow has been has lately been filling big halls with enthusiastic crowds during his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, even though he admits to being a socialist but won’t admit to being a Democrat, and it has a certain worrisome entertainment value for right-wing bastards such as ourselves. There’s some fun in watching former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton being challenged with such populist lese majeste, and seeing how very far left she’ll have to veer in order to satisfy her party, but so far the very best part has been hearing him bad-mouth the American economy.
In a speech before more than 3,000 avid supporters in Council Bluffs, in the crucial first-to-vote state of Iowa, where the latest polls have him within striking distance of an unthinkable upset, and which clocked in at a Castro-esque 75 minutes, Sanders admitted that whatever rosy numbers of the Bureau of Labor Statistics might be publishing the actual unemployment rate still exceeds a recessionary 10-and-a-half percent. Right-wing bastards such as ourselves have been repeatedly making the same dire point for some time now, while the more respectable media have been enthusiastically reporting whatever rosy numbers the Bureau of Labor Statistics has been publishing, so there is some satisfaction in hearing the left wing’s latest darling concede the fact while having standing-room-only crowds of left wingers cheer him on. We can’t agree with his proposed solutions of higher taxes on the rich and ever more regulations on the businesses that might actually bring that unhappy unemployment number down and fewer choices of deodorant and sneakers on the store shelves, but we do acknowledge Sanders’ unusual candor, and we hope that it will allow the debate about what to do about this unfortunate situation to proceed in accordance with the facts rather than the latest rosy numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Thus far the the Clinton campaign’s cautious line has been that she’s female, offering the public the historic achievement of following the failed the administration of the African-American president with the failed administration of the first Female American president, and that the Republicans would prevent you from buying contraceptives, or at least balk at subsidizing your contraception with taxpayers’ dollars, and that the world is a much more placid place as a result of her four years as Secretary of State and will be downright idyllic once Iran gets a nuclear bomb or two or three, and that she’ll continue the same Sanders-esque but slightly saner economic policies that have brought us those latest rosy numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Sanders line seems to be that the past six years of the Obama administration have only brought us an unemployment rate that is actually at a recessionary 10-and-a-half percent unemployment, and that far more of the same is therefore needed. Even the most limpid of the Republican candidates who becomes the party’s nominee will wind up arguing that something entirely different is required, and at least he’ll have a significant portion of the opposition agreeing that there is a problem to be solved.
As much entertainment value as this has, it’s still worrisome. At this point we rate Sanders’ chances of an upset win as about fifty-fifty, and expect that his strong showings in the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primaries will inspire more credible challenges to Clinton’s supposed inevitability, and we’re aware of our many fellow right-wing bastards who hope that it will result in something akin to Nixon’s trouncing of the far-left McGovern way back in ’72, but by now we’re careful what we wish for. Surely few Americans believe those latest rosy numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and that actual number that Sanders candidly admits will undoubtedly be the bigger issue come Election Day, but a lot has changed since ’72 and we are no longer certain that an electoral majority of Americans will disagree that higher taxes and more regulations and fewer choices of deodorants are the correct response to a moribund economy.

— Bud Norman

On Sanctuary Cities and Senseless Murders

When an innocent young woman is randomly murdered by an illegal immigrant with multiple felony convictions, who despite was living in San Francisco despite multiple deportations because it is sanctimoniously a “sanctuary” city that will not cooperate with any attempt at enforcing immigration law, it is hard for those of who advocate the strictest possible enforcement of immigration law to avoid the tempting political implications of such a tragedy. We had resolved to keep a respectful silence on the matter, in deference to the apparently fine and lovely young woman who was killed, and being ever mindful that the complicated issues involved require more dispassionate consideration that such tragedies allow, but we cannot let it go unremarked that White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest could not resist the temptation to blame the murder on those of us who advocated the strictest possible enforcement of immigration law.
Such an obviously counter-intuitive slur takes some doing, the administration’s spokesman made either a joshing or earnest attempt. He explained that the president’s y’all come immigration policies, which have been enacted through executive authority that the president spent the first five years of his presidency insisting he did not have the power enact, were mainly intended to ensure “we were focusing our law enforcement efforts on those individuals who pose a genuine threat. Alas, Earnest explained, due to factors apparently still beyond the president’s control, “Too often we see those limited law enforcement resources to be focused on breaking up families.” This situation is inconsistent with the president’s values, Earnest earnestly asserts, and if you’re still wondering why the president hasn’t been able to fix this awful situation it’s because “these efforts would be significantly augmented had Republicans not blocked comprehensive immigration reform.” He also had the gall to say “I recognize people will want to play politics on this,” and then the even greater and more irony-infused gall to go on to say “But the fact is that the president has done everything within his power to make sure we are focusing our law enforcement resources on criminals and those who pose a threat to public safety and it’s because of Republicans that we have not been able to make the kind of investment that we’d like to make in securing our border and making our communities safe.”
So far as we can gather from the news reports and YouTube videos, Earnest didn’t have any similar criticisms of the City of San Francisco, whose stated municipal policy is to not cooperate and actively interfere with any efforts to enforce immigration law, no matter of many felony convictions might have at long last aroused the attention of the federal authorities, or Rep. Nancy Pelosi or any other of the hippie-dippie but reliably Democratic leaders of that sanctimoniously tolerant town. The blame of course entirely lies with that pesky opposition party and its racist knee-jerk reaction to the president’s principled proposal to unilaterally re-write immigration law and allow in many hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants, including trainloads of unaccompanied minors from the worst slums of Central America, most of whom didn’t bother to show up at their deportation hearings, but also give him a few more billions of dollars to make sure they’re all good and hard-working and law-abiding types who will fill the tax coffers and keep your pool clean and never commit a horrible crime. If only those darned Republicans and the enforce-the-law-dammit crowd hadn’t slowed the administration’s progress, and if only all the arguments about the cultural and economic and political consequences of an historically unprecedented wave of immigration hadn’t been made, we all surely would have had filled tax coffers and clean pools and no crime.
We won’t lower ourselves to Josh Earnest’s level by suggesting that the policies those Republicans fought for would have prevented this tragedy, or get into the arguments about immigration that are best considered dispassionately, but we will assert that those of us who advocate the strictest possible enforcement of immigration law are not responsible, and that we grieve for this outcome.

— Bud Norman

Ancient Greece and the Modern Madness

Greece, once the ancient birthplace of reason, seems to have gone stark raving mad in a very modern way.
On Sunday the Greek people rejected the European Union’s offer of yet another multi-billion Euro bailout for its disastrous economy, apparently persuaded by their Prime Minister’s argument that doing so will enable him to negotiate an even bigger bailout without any pesky conditions that Greece enact economic reforms that are necessary if it ever hopes to repay any of it. The argument might yet prove true, as the EU has been so eager to keep all its members on board that it’s gone along with all of the previous bailouts and might yet be willing to dole out another one rather than  admit that its one-size-fits-all currency scheme and post-nationalist political philosophy doesn’t work with a fissiparous coalition of vastly different-sized economies in countries that stubbornly retain their national self-interests, but then again it might decide sooner rather than later that Greece is simply more trouble than it’s worth. In either case the citizens of Greece will soon collide with the reality that it can’t keep on sending out government checks that total more than the economic output of the country, and that their fellow Europeans who are counting on their own generous government checks won’t keep making up the difference forever, and that the rest of the world hasn’t even any illusory reasons to help out, but in the meantime that great Greek invention of democracy allows them to vote against reality.
Although the futility of voting against reality is especially conspicuous in Greece, where the store shelves are empty and more than half the young people are unemployed and most 50-somethings are retired and the lines of the few gainfully employed are already long at banks that are readying to stop any withdrawals, the modern tendency to do so is nonetheless apparent everywhere. You’ll find it in Puerto Rico, where a similarly dire default situation is brewing, and in China, a more significant economy, and in Chicago, where the public sector unions are protesting the fact that their too-good-to-be-true contracts are at last proving too good to be true, as well as the debt-swamped broader American economy, and at the Supreme Court, where the latest rulings declare that a law doesn’t mean what it clearly says and that somewhere in between the lines of the Constitution there is definitive re-definition of the institution of marriage as it has been understood almost everywhere on Earth from the dawn of civilization until a couple of weeks ago, and you’ll find it in the electronic opinion pages of The New York Times, where a couple of white guys start talking about “whiteness” and wind up agreeing that the whole notion of reasoning from the objective facts of reality is a “white male Euro-Christian construction” and that such a useful and verifiably true concept as “true north” is “Nordo-centrism” and somehow rendered invalid by “insensitivity to people who live in the southern hemisphere.”
You’ll also find it on the cover of Vanity Fair, where a man quite artfully made to appear as a woman is expected to be regarded by polite opinion as a woman, at the Spokane chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, where the former president insists that despite her white ancestry she be regarded as black, in the ongoing debate about law enforcement that insists “black lives matter” when they are taken by police but that the far greater number of black lives taken by black criminals because of a lack of policing don’t matter, and of course in all those frustrating conversations with the ordinary people you no doubt frequently encounter who can’t see any fair reason why American government isn’t sending out evermore generous checks that total to more than the American economy produces.
The tendency is readily understandable to any observer of human nature and the rest of reality. Reality is so often unpleasant, and the alternatives that even the most limited imaginations might conceive are so much more desirable, that it is in the nature of human beings to vote against it. In this age of “virtual reality” it is tempting to conclude that better everyone should get that check in the mail, that the laws should mean whatever a majority of the Supreme Court thinks they should mean, that people should get to be whatever sex and race and species they prefer to be, that true north and other objectively verifiable facts be abandoned for their “Nordo-centrism” and insensitivity to the peoples of the southern hemisphere, and that the last rich person left on Earth should be made to pay for it all. After that we’ll all face the inevitable mathematical and biological and human nature reality, but until then at least the Greeks have bequeathed us all the right to vote against it.

— Bud Norman

Badgering in the Badger State

President Barack Obama was warmly welcomed to Wisconsin by Gov. Scott Walker on Thursday, then let loose with another one of his characteristic petty partisan screeds, this one ridiculing his host. The characteristically petty partisan crowd roared its approval, of course, and the characteristically petty partisan press described it as part of a “victory lap” after a week of favorable legislation and Supreme Court rulings, of course, but not a word of it bears more skeptical scrutiny.
Speaking to an adoring throng in LaCrosse, Obama likened the entire Republican to a senile “Uncle Harry” making nonsensical statements at a family Thanksgiving dinner, adding that “You still love him. He’s still a member of your family. Right? But you’ve got to correct him. You don’t want to put him charge of stuff.” He also compared Wisconsin’s government under Walker to that of neighboring and more-Democratic Minnesota, noting that Minnesota had raised taxes on the wealthy, increased the minimum wage, expanded Medicaid, implemented all-day kindergarten, offered subsidies for college, and had a lower unemployment rate and higher median income. With the applause indicating that he had an audience willing to believe that higher taxes and higher labor costs and increased government spending is the obvious explanation for Minnesota’s relatively healthier economy, Obama then boasted of his own successes with this same formula, and contrasted his humane approach with the Republicans’ policy of giving tax breaks to the wealthy and letting everyone else fend for themselves. Such callous economics was the cause of the ’08 financial crisis, Obama told the crowd, anding that “Being an American is not about taking as much as you can from your neighbor before they take as much as they can from you. We are not a bunch of individuals out here on our own. We are a community, we are family. We are in this together.”
One hardly knows where to begin rebutting such hogwash, but it might as well be at the beginning with that crack about the crazy uncle. This comes from the World’s Greatest Orator, who was going to end the era of partisan division and facilitate a serious discussion about the nature’s future. It also comes from the leader of a party that features a crazy and foul-mouthed Uncle Joe and a creepy face-lifted Aunt Nancy and a perverted Cousin Anthony who keeps sending pictures of his underwear-clas private parts over his cell phone and a First Mom who insists that everyone eat their vegetables while she wolfs down what the fancy chefs who’ve been flown have created and a cackling evil stepmother Hillary who seems next in line to lead our very dysfunctional national family, and we can’t share the audience’s satisfaction that everything has worked out so well since they’ve been “put in charge of stuff.”
Walker does a fine enough job defending his controversial policies in an op-ed article at Real Clear Politics, graciously headlined “Welcome to Wisconsin, Mr. President,” noting the significant economic gains that have lately occurred in his state in spite of the sluggish national economy. He didn’t anticipate the part about Minnesota, so for his benefit we’ll add that the high tax rates on job-creators cannot possibly explain the state’s job creations, the minimum wage increase is less than a year old and hasn’t yet pushed up overall wages and has almost certainly eliminated many minimum-wage jobs, the Medicaid expansion wouldn’t have been necessary if the Minnesota economy were as robust as he represents it, and probably was made more necessary by the many Minnesotans who lost the suddenly more-expensive health plans they liked and were promised they could keep but were relegated to Medicaid by Obamacare, there’s no proof that all-day kindergarten does children much good, somebody’s still paying those ever-increasing college costs that always go up further with the subsidies, and a more telling basis for comparison would be the relative improvement of the Wisconsin and Minnesota economies over the past few years.
Nor does the broader American economy seem to justify such arrogance. The labor participation rate is at a low unseen since Jimmy Carter’s presidency, wages remain stagnant, the Gross Domestic Product contracted the first quarter of this year and the most optimistic predictions having it growing at around 2 percent or a fraction over the full year, such meager advances have added more than $8 trillion to the national debt during the Obama presidency, and no one who isn’t within clapping distance of the presidents anticipates that happy days will soon be here again. We’re not heartened by the rest of the president’s great week, either. The Supreme Court ruled that the Obamacare law doesn’t say what it says on the written 2,000-plus, but that instead it means whatever five justice of the Supreme Court would prefer it said, and then on the big same-sex marriage decision it pretty much concluded the same thing about the Constitution, and whatever political benefits might redound to the president neither development is likely to do much good for the rule of law and Constitutional restraints on the federal government. A lot of Republicans and a few cowed Democrats also gave the president “fast track” authority to negotiate a top-secret free-trade deal with numerous Asian nations, and although we’re generally free traders we don’t like the top-secret and remain worried that it will allow him to pull some immigration and environmental shenanigans.
Most annoying, though, were his descriptions of capitalism and socialism. The natural rights of individuals to voluntarily trade and contract with another in a free market, an arrangement that has produced greater wealth and one more to advance civilization than any cockamamie bureaucratic regulatory scheme, is explained in terms of “taking as much as you can from your neighbor before they take as much as they can from you.” Any individual who has become self-sufficient by voluntarily trading and contract with another individual in a free market should be grievously offended by this, and we daresay their neighbors should be as well. But then again, we’re “not a bunch of individuals” in Obama’s America, we are a “family.” Obama is presumably the father, although regrettably not the absent sort of father figure he grew up without, and as that cheering throng of hipsters in LaCrosse would probably tell you, with all their progressive sophistication, father knows best.
On second thought, the very most annoying part of Obama’s speech was that line about how the unregulated avarice of that ruthless capitalist system that leaves everyone to fend for themselves was the cause of the ’08 financial crisis. The lie is so oft-repeated that it goes almost unnoticed and almost entirely unquestioned, but the pesky fact remains that it wasn’t caused by lack of regulations that prevented greedy bankers from making home loans to people who clearly could never repay them, but rather because of presumably well-intentioned government interventions in the free market, which encouraged and cajoled and eventually coerced the bankers to make those loans in the cause of affordable housing and civil rights and fairness and all sorts of focus-group tested themes. Obama surely knows this, as he did pro bono work for some subprime borrowers that forced Citibank to write them mortgage, and was a member of the Congressional Black Caucus was it was screaming racism at the regulatory “watchdogs” who were warning of the coming collapse and successfully resisting George W. Bush’s efforts to stop it, and he surely knows that as a result of his efforts housing became less affordable and black Americans wound up disproportionately poorer, as they remain today, and that in the end it was disastrously unfair to all the more credit-worthy homeowners and their creditors as well as just about everyone else.
Obama’s at least a deft enough orator to leave that part out.. We’re looking forward to Walker’s announcement that he’ll be running for president, and expect much better from him, and although he seems a nice and Wisconsin sort of fellow who won’t resort to petty partisanship and sneering ridicule we hope he will bluntly talk back to such hogwash.

— Bud Norman

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