Small Blue Dots and Big Red Splotches

Our humble hometown of Wichita is perfectly situated here in the middle of the country, we often boast, because if it were any farther from New York City it would just be that much closer to Los Angeles. This old jest came to mind as we were perusing a state-by-state rundown of the president’s approval ratings, which suggest that his low numbers are being propped up by a few densely populated spots far away from our discontented heartland.
The data was brought to our attention by the smart fellows over at the Powerline web site, who rightly conclude that the president’s unpopularity is even more widespread than the headline numbers would suggest, and it seemed full of interesting implications. Having some familiarity with all of the 48 contiguous states, and with a stereotype in mind for each, we were most interested to see where the president retains some following.
The president is most popular in Maryland, which is mostly Baltimore and the suburbs of the District of Columbia, both of which have a vested interest in federal largesse, yet only 56 percent of the state registers approval. Next up is the president’s native Hawaii, where 53 percent are still on board, a slight majority we attribute to the famously potent marijuana of the state. Coming in third is Vermont, which is basically a vast hippie commune with maple syrup, at 52 percent. The only other states where the president wasn’t below 50 percent were New York and Massachusetts, which requires no explanation, and even in those liberal redoubts he was right at the halfway mark. The combined populations of these states skews the overall results so, and that vexing 40 percent approval we keep seeing is mostly buoyed by a few other crowded states where the president’s standing hasn’t yet caved.
California remains the most populous state in the union, despite its best efforts to drive people away, and the president has only now dipped to 49 percent approval there, although we suspect the numbers drop drastically once your start polling outside of Los Angeles and San Francisco and a few of their more well-heeled suburbs. New York remains the second most populous state, despite its best efforts, and we further suspect that the president finds less approval the farther one gets away from the epicenter of New York City. In his adopted home state of Illinois, which also has a sizable population, the president is above the national average with an otherwise discouraging 45 percent, and we’d wager that number is far lower outside Chicago. A few other populous states are dragging the president’s approval ratings between below 50 percent but keeping it above 40, with the utan centers probably accounting for the crucial difference, and elsewhere the numbers are downright dismal.
Even in formerly supportive states such as Colorado, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida the president’s disapproval ratings are in the high 50s. In those deep red states that never did fall for the president’s promises of hope and change, the disapproval rates range from the high 60s to mid-70s. These numbers are unusual in American politics, where any Democrat’s 52 percent is routinely described as a landslide, and do much to explain some of the recent mid-term election stories.
Watch almost any Republican’s campaign commercials and you’ll see a scary-looking photograph of the president juxtaposed against a picture of the Democratic opponent, and listen to almost any Democrat’s campaign speeches and you’ll hear mention that the president isn’t the ballot. Both pitches are perfectly explained by the polling data. The president himself has declared that although he’s not on the ballot all of his policies are, which can only be explained by his characteristic belief that everything is about him, but the numbers are probably the reason he’s hitting the fund-raising circuit in those last remaining true-blue urban enclaves rather than hitting the campaign trail for the Democratic candidates he’ll need to get his policies enacted as law.
As encouraging as the numbers might to be to those of hoping for Republican victories in the coming mid-term elections, they’re discouraging to anyone with a vested interest in the continued union of these states. When small majorities of voters in a few densely populated urban areas can impose their political preferences on large but sparsely populated swaths of the nation where those policies are overwhelmingly hated it cannot help but fray the national unity. In the past such regional differences were ameliorated by federalism, an ingenious concept that allows California to be California and West Virginia to be West Virginia, but that’s one of the policies that urban enclaves seem intent on eliminating. The polling data suggest that the Republican party will have some greater degree of influence in the government following the elections, and if this proves true they would do well to make that old-fashioned notion a fighting principle.

– Bud Norman

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The End of Satire

The art of satire, according our well-considered literary theory, should be rendered with a certain subtlety. A burlesque too broad is bound to be vulgar, and it also robs the more sophisticated reader of that smug self-satisfaction that comes with recognizing an inconspicuous joke. Alas, The Daily Mail’s account of President Barack Obama’s remarks before and during a recent high-dollar fund-raiser falls well short of this high standard.
The article is presented as straightforward journalism, in keeping with the Fleet Street mainstay’s usual offerings, but despite the paper’s impeccable reputation for accuracy it seems the work of a rather ham-fisted satirist. It claims that Obama sent one of those poverty-pleading e-mails soliciting donations from the basement-dwelling Democratic hoi polloi, in which he lambasted the Republican opposition as the party of the fabulously wealthy, then flew to Connecticut to headline a $32,400-dollar-per-ticket fund-raiser in the Greenwich home of a real estate mogul named Rich Richman. This is irony cut with a chain saw, rather than the requisite scalpel, and had we been the editors we would have insisted in the interest of verisimilitude on something slightly less gaudy.
Take the small detail of that mogul host’s improbable name, for instance. We’ve dabbled in fiction enough to know the exhilirating sense of omnipotence that comes with naming our creations, and have always looked to the hilariously overstated nomenclature of the great Evelyn Waugh as our model, but calling the rich, rich man “Rich RIchman” is a bit lazy and self-indulgent to our tastes. Not since Arthur Miller named the lowly protagonist of “Death of a Salesman” Willy Loman has a name been so uncomfortably pregnant with ponderous significance. At the very least, we would have insisted it be transliterated into French or some other obscure language. Other reports joshingly indicate that the president’s middle name is “Hussein,” however, so  we commend the authors for omitting that rather over-the-top invention.
A wryer sort of satire can be found at The Weekly Standard, which quotes the president at length during another pricey fund-raiser, this one at a swank Manhattan restaurant. According the this account, the president acknowledged to his well-heeled supporters in the fight against income inequality that “there’s a sense possibly that the world is spinning so fast and nobody is able to control it,” then reassured them by citing his recent successes against the Islamic State terror gang, which continues its territorial gains in a key swath of the Middle East, rallying the North Atlantic Treaty Organization against the Russians, who currently control much of what used to be Ukraine, and mobilizing the entire “world community” against the carbon emissions causing global warming, which hasn’t been happening for the past 18 years. This is all quite droll, especially the implied suggestion that people would really pay $32,400 to hear such apparent balderdash, which should be especially satisfying to the class-envying sorts or who worry about income inequality, and we appreciate the painstaking effort to make it sound like something the president might have actually said.
There’s a disconcerting possibility, though, that both stories by these usually reliable publications are actually true. If so, we fear that the ancient art of satire might be rendered obsolete.

– Bud Norman

Earning Respect for a Religion

Has the President of the United States sent an emissary to your house of worship to commend it for its good works? Our humble little low church on the near westside hasn’t yet been so honored, despite its many commendable efforts on behalf on the poor and unfortunate, so we’re feeling a bit slighted. The Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City recently got a high-ranking visit and official effusive thanks, after all, and none of our congregation have beheaded anyone.
The mosque wasn’t being thanked for the beheading, we are assured, but rather for its past support of the rescue and recovery efforts in the aftermath of a devastating tornado last year in the nearby town of Moore. We don’t mean to diminish the mosque’s good works, and will freely acknowledge Islam’s longstanding reputation for charity, but there’s no shaking a suspicion that the official effusive thanks from our government has more to do with the more recent beheading committed by one of the mosque’s newest converts against a former co-worker in that very same nearby town. Islam also suffers a longstanding reputation for such brutality, especially lately, and by now it’s an obligatory rite to respond to every Islamist outrage with official pronouncements that Islam is a religion of peace and has contributed greatly to world civilization and most Muslims aren’t going to chop your head off and the rest of the familiar boilerplate. The practice began shortly after Islamist terrorists slammed airliners full of terrified passengers into the World Trade Center Towers and the Pentagon, when even good old President George W. Bush felt compelled to immediately rush to the nearest mosque and pose for a religiously tolerant photo-op, and after nearly six years of the current administration it has become an act of prostration.
The murderer had been fired from the food distribution plant where he committed his horrific crime, so polite opinion can conclude that it was just another one of those instances of “workplace violence” that happen so often in our capitalist society, like the time that poor fellow shot up the Fort Hood Army Base while shouting “allahu akbar,” but this requires an extraordinary politeness. In this case the murderer had been fired for making his female co-workers uncomfortable with talk of stoning them to death for their wanton western ways, had a Facebook page full of rants about jihad and sharia, and chose an unusual method of murder that had recently been recommended by the Islamic State terror gang currently running amok in the Middle East. Such an obvious Islamic angle to the crime requires an extra amount of distraction, so the murderer’s mosque is not only to be absolved of any suspicion but praised for its past largesse.
The obvious and understandable rationale for such obfuscation is to prevent a violent nativist purge of that vast majority of Muslims who probably won’t chop your head off, but by now that is no longer convincing. Similar outrages by people espousing Islam have been frequent for the peat several decades, but the people attacked for the religion are mostly Jews, and the torchlights and pitchforks never seem to materialize. There are reports that the mosque has received threatening messages, and we don’t doubt it, as Oklahoma City is full of people and we can’t vouch for the friendliness and tolerance of all of them, but our long experience of the city tells us that it’s not likely to embark on any ethnic or religious cleansing. Oklahoma City is a city of peace, has contributed greatly to world civilization, and the vast majority of its citizens will not chop your head off or otherwise molest you, but somehow our government never gets around to making such official pronouncements on its behalf and instead makes high-ranking visits to mosques to imply they’re all a bunch of Islamophobic rednecks ready at a moments ‘s head off to another crusade with shotguns on the racks of their pickup trucks. We’d like to think this notion isn’t all wrong, but it’s wrong enough that the government can please spare us another round of the usual cliches.
As annoying as they are to us, we can only imagine that the next nutcase plotting to chop someone’s head off finds such apologia a siren call. The multi-cultural theory behind all this praise for Islam holds that Muslims crave only respect, and that once it has been properly supplied they will take their rightful place in the glorious tapestry that is the global community, but by now the more criminally inclined among the faith have surely noticed that it is skyjackings and bombings and beheadings that prompt the official pronouncements of respects from the infidels. When an Islamist terror gang killed an ambassador and four other Americans at our country’s consulate in Benghazi, Libya, the president blamed it on an obscure internet video and the country’s lamentable constitutional practice of allowing such free speech, and told the General Assembly of the United Nations that “The future must not belong to those who slander the Prophet of Islam,” and those who believe that anyone who harbors doubt about the Prophet of Islam are slandering him were no doubt encouraged.
Thinking back to the culture wars of past decades, when crucifixes were being dunked in urine and pictures of the Virgin Mary were being covered in elephant dung on the taxpayers’ dime, and polite opinion regarded it as the height of religious fanaticism to object to such free expression, we find it hard to imagine President Barack Obama or any of his acolytes scolding that the future must not belong those who slander the Christian faith. Nor can we imagine the administration taking a stand on behalf of the rights of Jews to defend themselves against Islamist terror or to rent an apartment in Jerusalem, and for that matter we can’t even see it siding with the homosexuals or women who are routinely targeted for the most horrible abuse in an enlightened Europe that already routinely turns a blind eye to such offenses.
In the absence of anything more governmental or official, let us give our thanks to Oklahoma City and its well-above-average number of churches, and we’ll assume there are at least two synagogues down there and offer them our thanks as well. We trust that you’ve also chipped in generously on a variety of worthy community causes, that none of your congregants have chopped anybody’s head office, and we believe that it’s important what we celebrate in our culture.

– Bud Norman

Sex, Social Science, and the Single Obese Girl

One of our favorite old jokes, which unfortunately does not bear repeating in this family-friendly publication, concerns a government agency so anxious to spend the entirety of its budget before the end of the fiscal year that it commissions an expensive scientific inquiry into an amusing question which we must also demur to repeat. To our embarrassment we always recall the risqué punchline whenever reading the frequent stories we encounter about the arcane research being funded by the taxpayers’ dime, such as the one at the invaluable Washington Free Beacon about the National Institutes of Health’s nearly half-million dollar study of why obese women tend to get fewer dates than thinner women.
For half that parsimonious-by-government-standards amount we will gladly write a report to the National Institutes of Health speculating that the average man finds thinner women more physically attractive, and that physical attractiveness is the average man’s foremost consideration when deciding which women he will attempt to date, a hypothesis for which we already have such ample anecdotal evidence that we’re sick of hearing it, but the big brains at the NIH seem more intrigued by the alternative theory that there might be some hitherto unknown link between obesity and deficient social skills. This is contrary to our ample anecdotal evidence, which includes countless acquaintances with obese women who seemed quite socially skillful, as well as some who seemed bitter and withdrawn, with the former getting seeming to get more action than the latter, just as we’ve known some very thin and attractive women who were seemingly well-adjusted to society and others who were dangerously psychotic, with both sorts seeming to have the same overwhelming appeal to the average man, so we’re skeptical of the theory that obese women don’t have the great personality always promised by those trying to set them up on blind dates.
Should modern science somehow prove a link between obesity and lack of social skills, we expect the reason will be the inherent sexism of our patriarchal society. If not, the NIH will have to explain to the feminist lobby why they’re spending nearly half a million dollars for the social science equivalent of one of those “No Fat Chicks” signs with the red circle and red diagonal line. The First Lady can devote herself to molding overweight girls into her own mannish image without invoking the ire of the left, but any pasty-faced male in a white lab coat who runs afoul of the obese woman voting bloc is asking for more than a half-million dollars’ worth of trouble. If the root cause of obese women having dating difficulties is proved to be sexism, on the other hand, a Nobel Prize might well be in the offing.
Such a scientifically-proved social inequality might even provoke a political revolution. Armed with evidence that obese women have been rendered socially deficient and therefor can’t get their constitutionally guaranteed share of shrimp cocktails and apple-tinis and flattering conversation in between text messages on Saturday nights, along with the rest of the tawdry rewards of the contemporary dating scene, the progressive movement will have no trouble persuading the government to institute a new regulatory regime. Achieving dating equality will require the random matching of couples, of course, lest one’s racist or sexist or heterosexist or weightist prejudices give offense, but surely that’s a small price to pay for social justice. This arrangement improves that odds that the gal with great personality winds up at Cannes with that buff Hollywood hunk that’s actually a jerk according to all the tabloids, and it’s pretty much our only shot of scoring a date with one of those slinky movie starlets, so it seems worthy of society’s consideration.
In any case, we’re eagerly anticipating the NIH’s final report on the matter. Nearly a half-million bucks’ worth of social science should make for fascinating reading, and we’ll be especially intrigued to see how the methodology accounted for such variables as the spectrum from stuck-to-the-toilet-seat fat to pleasantly plump to downright zaftig, and how they manage to couch in terms that won’t offend feminine sensibilities.

– Bud Norman

Bitterly Clinging to the Last Remaining Certainties

During the past week our usually quiet and placid block of this prairie city was rocked by an earthquake and a home invasion. Both are almost unheard of around here, and therefore unlikely to reoccur, but that’s only contributed to what was already an unsettling sense of uncertainty about the state of the world.
The earthquake was minor and momentary and caused no reported damage, but it was sufficient to rattle our rolling chair and then our nerves. It wasn’t so bad as the one that happened late last year, which was several seconds longer and so much stronger it shook the lamp fixtures, but it was all the more unnerving because it was happening a second time. We had lived more than a half century on the plains before experiencing an earthquake, and our childhood education included annually rehearsed instructions on what to do in case of tornadoes but no one had ever bothered to tell us how to respond an earthquake, so the idea that this might now be a regular event seemed yet another irksome thing to worry about. All the local lefties are blaming it on the hydraulic fracking for oil and natural gas that’s been going on down in Oklahoma, which we cannot disprove, but we are reassured to note that on that same day fracking was going on in places where there weren’t earthquakes and earthquakes were happening where there wasn’t any fracking, Some sort of end times scenario from the Book of Revelation seems at least as a likely, and if human agency isn’t involved we will be glad.
The home invasion that happened just across the street and a couple of doors down cannot be blamed on anything other than humans, which makes it all the more threatening. We first heard about it on the local talk radio station, with the mention of our neighborhood and our street and our block piquing our attention, and then got the rest of the details from a couple of alarmed neighbors. It seems the 60-year-old woman at the home was chatting with a 50-year-old woman friend when two men burst through the door wielding handguns, forced the women into a bathroom while ransacking the house for a small amount of cash and booty, then sped away into the night. A few years back the “Riverside Rapist” terrorized women in the neighborhood for several months until he was apprehended, and since then the occasional bike has been swiped from a back porch and the police have been infrequently dispatched to adjudicate the domestic disputes that happen in even the best neighborhoods, but otherwise the violent crime seemed anomalous. Our fashionably old-fashioned neighborhood isn’t so swank that a criminal would expect to find an especially risk-worthy reward here, and it’s the sort of well kept and seemingly solid area that the Broken Windows Theory predicts will deter crime, but it’s still not possible to believe that it can’t happen here.
The neighborhood is so fashionably old-fashioned that it’s become a liberal enclave in this otherwise conservative city, with a conspicuous number of hipsters and homosexual and other childless households, and the vast majority of yard signs that pop up every election season advertising that the homes probably aren’t protected by a firearm, and we suspect the crime is even more discomforting to our neighbors. The two we spoke with about the crime are both single women, who rightly suspect that such cowardly criminals are more likely to target a home without a male, but they still seemed embarrassed to divulge the pertinent information that the men who invaded their neighbor’s home were black. Another man who also happened to be black was recently spotted on another neighbor’s porch late at night, both women told us, and they apologetically advised that that we be lookout for similar activity. We noted that the recent spate of ideal weather had drawn large numbers of homeless people to the picturesque riverbanks that border the neighborhood, and that their number had lately spilled into the streets, and both women acknowledged the same concern with an apparent sense of guilt. Riverside doesn’t like to believe that race and homelessness can ever be predictive of criminal behavior, and being forced to do so upsets the certainties that people rely on.
As wised-up right-wing bastards we have no compunction about regarding the saggy-pantsed black men or the old men carrying their belongings in a shopping cart with some suspicion when they appear on our lily-white and middle-class street, and we have a white male’s privilege in knowing that knowing that invading our home carries a slightly higher and probably effective risk of anyone on the street invading our home, but there’s no shaking a sense that everything is a little less certain. Deadly diseases that we once thought were confined only to the most third world regions of Africa are now in a Dallas hospital. The people of Moore, Oklahoma, once thought that of all the many things they had to worry about beheadings by radical Islamists were not of concern. It was once unthinkable that the Internal Revenue Service would be used to harass an administration’s political enemies, or that people who millennia-old definition of marriage would be denied employment opportunities because of their opinions, or that our country would be at war while the politicians refused to call it that, or that a Republican Senator in Kansas would would find himself in danger of not being re-elected. Each days’s perusal of the Drudge Report reveals another story we never thought would have happened, and the comments sections at each story has responses we never thought we’d hear, and it’s getting harder to think of anything we can be certain about.
The door is locked and weapons are ready in the unlikely case of a home invasion, and we’re boned on what to do in the even more unlikely case of the earth shaking until the buildings collapse, and the rest of it we’ll just have to get used to. God and guns and our own abilities are still certainties in life, and we’ll bitterly cling to them.

– Bud Norman

Ebola, Zombies, Government, and Other Things to Worry About

Having survived the outbreaks of Bird Flu and Swine Flu and Mad Cow Disease and the entire menagerie of epidemics that were supposed to have decimated the world’s population by now, we’ve not yet been panicked by the recent news of the spread of the Ebola virus. Having watched the government’s inept responses to other crises over the past several years, however, we are starting to get at least a bit nervous.
We had always regarded the Ebola virus as one of those unfortunate phenomena that seem to inflict only Africa, but now it has come to the quintessentially American city of Dallas. It flew in on a jetliner from Liberia, hitching a ride on an infected passenger from that stricken country, and now it is feared that as many as 100 Americans have come in contact. Each of those has presumably come in contact with another 100 or so people, who in turn would have come in contract with another 100, and although the risk of transmission is said to be remote in every case the extrapolation is still unsettling. Whatever degree of risk is entailed, it could have been eliminated entirely by the sorts of travel restrictions that such countries as Great Britain and France have instituted, which shakes one faith that a governmental and medical system which declined to take such measures to deal will be able to effectively deal with the consequences of not doing so.
The extraordinary amount of press coverage devoted to the disease has already revealed several instances where the most up-to-date protocols for dealing with the disease with have not been followed, including an unpleasant account the infected patient’s vomit being cleaned off a sidewalk by power hoses that no doubt sent dangerous bacteria flying off into the atmosphere, and one shudders to think what mistakes might come next. So far as we can tell the government decided not restrict flights from infected countries partly because that had been a Bush administration idea, and partly because it was thought that discriminating on the basis of a deadly disease might offend African sensibilities. Such pointless political considerations are likely to override medical necessity again in the coming days, if the government’s recent history of border security and presidential security are any guide, it does not inspire confidence.
American troops have been deployed to Africa to fight the Ebola virus, as if it were the sort of enemy that can be vanquished by military might, and for the usual rationale that it’s better to fight abroad rather than at home. Letting the disease fly into the homeland at the same time seems rather odd, though, and we hope this policy will soon be rescinded. A more discriminatory policy regarding who gets into the country even without the Ebola virus would also be welcomed, for medical and national security and economic and cultural reasons, but that seems too much to hope for.
The situation has already prompted the survivalists to take precautions beyond their usual paranoid preparedness, and the Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan is predictably blaming it all on a white supremacist conspiracy to kill black people which is currently being carried out by the first black president, although it was apparently launched at some nonexistent point in history when Henry Kissinger was serving as Secretary of State to President George H.W. Bush, but we’re remaining relatively calm. We’re counting on those reportedly low transmissions rates, though, and not the government. There have been strange accounts of Ebola victims awakening from the dead, and we note proudly that this is  “Zombie Apocalypse Preparedness Month” here in Kansas, but otherwise the government doesn’t seem ready for the coming challenges.

– Bud Norman

Kansas Lurks Back to Normalcy

The Kansas economy has lately been swelled by the expense accounts of big city newspaper reporters, as much of the national media have rushed to our usually overlooked state to cover its Senate race. There’s no wondering why there’s a national interest in the story, as it could wind up determining which party controls the Senate, and it provides some reason for the reporters to hope that it will  be the Democrats who somehow prevail, and it is a most intriguing tale. The latest developments are more hopeful to the Republicans, however, and even the most partisan presses seem to have noticed.
Ordinarily even the reporters in Wichita and Topeka wouldn’t get out of their newsrooms to cover a Senate race in Kansas, which hasn’t sent anything other than a Republican to Washington since that one time everyone lost their minds early in the New Deal and Dust Bowl days, but this is not an ordinary year. Long-time incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts has been around a long enough time to have found disfavor with the Republican party’s anti-incumbent mood, and he barely survived a challenge to a little known and under-funded and underwhelming neophyte with a Facebook scandal only because a couple of crank candidates split the majority of the party’s throw-the-bums-out vote. Roberts then went into a three-way general election adorned with the out-of-touch and out-of-state label stuck upon him in the primary, hoping that another split of the anti-Roberts vote would save him, but the Democrats went to court insisting that they shouldn’t be compelled to run a candidate just because their party had gone to the expensive trouble of nominating one, and it was suddenly plausible that a well-heeled and largely self-financed independent candidate who was running on an appealing platform of common sense solutions and bipartisanship would win. That the most reliably Republican state in the Union over the past century and a half might allow the Democrats to retain control of the Senate was a tantalizing possibility, and thus the influx of national media to Kansas.
What they’ve found, however, is an impressive all-out effort by the Republicans that casts doubt on the upset storyline. Local newscasts have been saturated with advertisements for Roberts, almost all of which make the essential point that a Republican loss could allow the Democrats to retain control of the Senate, complete with scary pictures of the wildly unpopular President Barack Obama. There are also radio ads that combat the unfortunately true charge from the primary that Roberts hasn’t had a legitimate Kansas residence for years by touting his Kansas birth and Marine service and twangy-gravelly voice and weather-beaten visage and generally conservative voting record to remind voters that he’s still a Kansas kind of guy. Our internet browsing keeps popping up ads from the National Rifle Association touting Robert’s support for Second Amendment rights, the spots running on the local right-wing talk radio stations sound tailored to the concerns of those staunch conservatives who might be tempted to stay at home rather than for a man whose lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union is a mere 86 percent, and such anti-establishment heroes as former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin have taken to the hustings to shore up the base. With the Democrats successfully suing in court to avoid the ignominy of a third place finish the anti-Roberts vote won’t be split, but that and the annoying minority of Kansas’ liberals full-throated support for the indendepent have made it easier to portray him as the de facto Democrat in a state where the Democrats are begging to be left of the ballot.
Meanwhile, independent Greg Orman’s campaign has seemed unready for both Roberts’ sudden aggressiveness and the inevitable scrutiny that falls upon a frontrunner even when he’s front-running against a Republican. At first he tried to dodge the question of whether he would caucus with the Democrats and potentially retain their control of the Senate, then said he’d join whichever side held a clear majority on his inauguration day, and is now trying out the line that it doesn’t much matter which party controls the Senate. He’s also dodged such obvious questions as whether he’d vote to repeal Obamacare, telling a random curious citizen at a small town parade that it’s an “interesting question,” and has otherwise been vague about what he considers a common sense and bipartisan solution on such issues as gun control and the XL Keystone Pipeline. He can’t deny his past campaign contributions to Obama and Democratic Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid and other hated Democrats, or his past attempt to run for Senate as a Democrat, or the loud support he’s getting from that annoying minority of liberals, and in his rebuttal ads he’s been reduced to saying that Roberts’ criticism of the Obama agenda is “only half right” and that an equal portion of blame should be allotted to those who oppose that agenda. The argument is likely to fall flat with the vast majority of Kansas who express disapproval of Obama, even if it resonates with those confounded low-information voters who don’t stop to think about such claims,  and if Orman has some third way that both parties will follow toward a golden age, he doesn’t explain it in these 30-second spots.
There’s still plenty of time left for an October surprise, and if it comes it will be during a most peculiar election season, but we sense that Kansas is turning back to its traditional Republican form.

– Bud Norman

When the Scapegoats Bite Back

Having grown up on cloak-and-dagger movies, a favorite genre of our father, we know better than to provoke the wrath of an espionage agency. Those guys are always portrayed as ruthlessly efficient sorts, and they’ve put more athletic and handsome men than ourselves in perilous situations we do not wish to endure, so we make it a point not to say anything unflattering about them. President Barack Obama has apparently been watching too many “chick flicks” and arty independent releases, however, as he’s foolhardily started a public relations fight with the entire intelligence community.
It’s all a result of that Islamic State terror gang that’s lately been conquering huge swaths of Syria and Iraq and spreading the most gruesome sort of mayhem along the way, including the widely publicized beheadings of two Americans and other westerners. The situation is all the more embarrassing for the president because he had run for re-election on the boasts that American troops had been withdrawn from a stable and secure Iraq, that Islamist terrorism was “on the run” and “the tide of war is receding,” and that as recently as last winter he was telling a fawning interviewer that the Islamic State terror gang was the “jayvee team” of Islamist terrorism and nothing to worry about. Now that the “jayvees” are within a mile or so of Baghdad that the president is insisting he never called them that, a claim so preposterous that even the friendliest press won’t pretend otherwise, so he’s been casting about for another explanation that confirms his infallibility. What he came up with during a recent interview with “60 Minutes,” which is where Democratic presidents go to get some much-needed sympathy, is that his Director of National Intelligence has already volunteered that the intelligence community got it wrong.
The Director of National Intelligence might have professional reasons to throw himself under the proverbial bus, but his underlings in the various agencies are apparently less willing to take the blame. They’ve responded not with wristwatch-laser beams fountain pen explosives or the other high-tech gadgetry that always figures in the movies, but rather by reaching into their old fashioned Rolodexes for the phone numbers of well-placed reporters who owe them favors. No less a fancy-schmantzy newspaper than The New York Times, which has previously been willing to re-write the history of the Iraq war and the rules of English grammar to accommodate the president, was indebted enough to its deep-cover sources to produce a damning rebuttal to the administration line. According to the inevitably unnamed but assuredly senior intelligence and military sources, the president had been warned in alarmed language as early as late last year about the rising threat of the Islamic State but failed to pay heed.
One wonders that those unnamed sources were owed, because a close reading of the article buttresses conservatives articles that The New York Times is usually inclined to ridicule. Even the token right-winger at The Washington Post was allowed to note that it shows that Obama’s decision to withdraw all troops from Iraq rather than negotiate a new status of forces agreement has proved unwise, that the resulting sectarian violence was foreseeable, and that the president ignored the intelligence community’s warnings for political and ideological reasons. All of these revelations feed a growing public perception that the president is too busy with golf and fund-raising to be a serious steward of America’s foreign policy, and it doesn’t help to have new revelations about how often he skips his national security briefings altogether. The last time this was in the news was right after the tragic fiasco at the American consulate in Benghazi, when the administration laughed it off with claims that the president didn’t need to question is advisers because unlike his illiterate predecessor he could read reports and was “among the most sophisticated consumers of intelligence on the planet.” That explanation was sufficient to win the president re-election, but with the Islamic State at the gates of Baghdad and the cloak-and-dagger guys now in full revolt it might not prove as effective in the upcoming mid-terms.

– Bud Norman

Keeping the President Alive

Back when President Barack Obama was first elected, during that delusional era of hope and change and boundless “Yes we can” optimism, it was a widely held belief among our liberal friends that he would soon be assassinated.
The notion that the James Earl Rays of America would never tolerate a black president had been a staple of black stand-up comedy for years, and the more progressive white folks seemed to assume that conservatives harbored the same murderous fantasies that they’d indulged in all through the George W. Bush era. Our nation’s unhappy history compelled us to concede that there was a risk, but we tried to reassure our friends that it didn’t seem any more dire than usual. There are no doubt a few would-be James Earl Rays left out there, but by now even the dimmest of them are well aware that modern society won’t confer them the heroic status that their hero mistakenly thought he would acquire, and every conservative of our acquaintance was especially anxious to see the president serve out his term. Not just for the usual patriotic and moral reasons, or the prospect of a Joe Biden presidency, but also from a nagging fear that a martyred Obama would usher in an era of unrestrained liberalism more effectively than even a live one.
If an assassination attempt were made, we figured, it would most likely be by another of the deranged anarchists or disgruntled office-seekers or Fair Play for Cuba activists or Manson family members or man-hating feminists or love-struck movie fans or assorted other nut cases who have taken shots at presidents in the past. The thought has reoccured to us with the news that one such nut case was recently able to climb over the White House fence, walk through the unlocked front door, manhandle his way past an undersized woman security guard, and then penetrate deep into the president’s residence. Throw in the the past several years’ worth of stories about Secret Service agents boozing it up and consorting with prostitutes, party-crashers making their way to within hand-shaking distance of the president, known criminals  pretending to provide deaf language interpretation right next to the president, along with some of the other Secret Service scandals so numerous we can’t quite recall them all of the top of our head, and there is reason to believe that a president whose survival is of paramount importance to both liberals and conservatives is not being adequately protected.
Congressional hearings regarding the matter are scheduled for today, with the woman in charge of presidential security summoned to provide testimony, and we expect the Republicans will pose the more aggressive questions and insist on the more robust solutions. The president is ultimately responsible for own security, as we all are, and as usual it would be embarrassing for the Democrats to too closely scrutinize his job performance. The Republicans, remembering how much more saintly and perfectly liberal President John F. Kennedy was in death than he ever was  in life, and knowing full well that they will be blamed for any misfortune, just as Dallas’ “riight-wing  climate of hate” was blamed for that Fair Play for Cuba activist’s lucky shots, will have a greater stake in keeping the president alive.

– Bud Norman

Another Useless Story From Moore, Oklahoma

The hard luck town of Moore, Oklahoma, was back in the news last week. This time it wasn’t yet another F-5 tornado tearing the town apart but rather the beheading of a woman and the stabbing of another by a former co-worker at a local food distribution plant, the sort of gruesome crime that usually dominates the tabloid headlines for days, but we suspect will quickly fade away.
That disgruntled ex-employee angle would ordinarily have some appeal to the popular press, with its subtle implication of a man driven to madness after being callously tossed aside by heartless capitalism, but the rest of the details in this story are not the sort of news that The New York Times ordinarily deems fit to print. The assailant had a long and disturbing history of violent criminal conduct long before he was hired by the company where he committed his horrific crime, which raises questions about the current administration’s policy of suing businesses who prefer not to hire job applicants with felony convictions. He was reportedly fired for the very good cause of constantly haranguing with his co-workers with rants that women should be stoned for a variety of offenses generally tolerated in the more feminist-informed United States, a consequence of his recent embrace of Islam that will also be uncomfortable for the more polite press organs to report, and it will thus be impossible to broach the subject of beheading without reminding readers that the practice has lately been revived in the Middle East by others proclaiming the very same Religion of Peace. No guns were involved except for the one legally wielded under Oklahoma’s wise laws by a company executive to prevent even more murders. the assailant is black and cannot be plausibly be tied to the “tea party” or other Republican causes, and nothing but the peripheral involvement of a little-known and seemingly blameless corporation serves the press’ preferred narratives.
Although the story is useless to the mainstream press, we think it highly useful to anyone seeking a more honest understanding of reality. A more frank look at the story would suggest that companies should be able to shield their employees from people with known histories of violence, that Islam does condone beheadings, that sometimes it’s good to have a gun around, and that the “tea party” and other Republican causes are not the most pressing threats to public safety. That the story carries yet another unhappy Moore dateline should also make it prominent, as it proves that such outrages can happen anywhere.
Although we’ve only passed through on our way to Dallas and points south, we retain a strong affection for Moore because that is where our beloved Pop grew up. Moore was where he learned to shoot all sorts of firearms with an remarkable accuracy, and where he was taught the hard work and hard math that enabled him to slide through engineering school and into a successful career in avionics, and we don’t need the gloating sign at the city limits to tell us that it’s an All-American City. What was once a distinct small town has now been engulfed by the sprawling boom of right-wing Oklahoma City, and our Pop tells us that on his last visit he found only a couple of old city buildings that had survived all the progress and tornados, but we don’t doubt that the same quintessentially All-American heart still beats there.
A darker urge from centuries ago now lurks there, too, and that story is unlikely to fade away anytime soon.

– Bud Norman

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