An Almost Perfect Evening at the Ballpark

Tuesday provided us an almost perfect evening of Americana at the elegantly aging old Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, just across the swelling Arkansas River from downtown Wichita.
The temperature was appropriately but not excessively high as the Sioux Falls Canaries took a worrisome lead at the top of the first, but as the Wichita Wingnuts kept within striking distance over the subsequent innings a picturesque prairie sunset descended upon the hallowed field and the clean Kansas air achieved an optimum warmth. We enjoyed hearing the familiar corny advertising promos that accompany almost every possible play of minor league baseball as we sat in the sun-blinding smoking section with a couple of stogie-loving pals, chatted amiably with a couple of late-arriving friends about some of the city’s more notorious crime stories of the past few decades in between our game commentary, and amused ourselves by annoying the more stridently liberal of the two with our speculation that a black baserunner on the opposing team was a threat to steal second. At the top of the eighth we overhead a young mother consoling her adorably chubby and mitt-wearing daughter that one doesn’t get to take home a foul ball every game, and in the bottom of the inning a sharply hit foul bonked off the head of our liberal friend’s sister and landed softly in the hands of that very girl. Better yet, the hometown team took its first lead, and the only one it needed, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.
The combined talents of Norman Rockwell and George M. Cohan could not have concocted a more satisfyingly old-fashioned American night, and with the free admission coupon we obtained from a local convenience store chain it was a bargain despite the over-priced beer, but it was made infuriatingly imperfect from the moment we had to pass through a wand-weilding security guard to gain admittance. Security at the elegantly aging old Lawrence-Dumont Stadium isn’t so intrusive and insulting as what the jet set routinely endures, but it entails a pat on the pants pockets and is annoying enough to spoil the illusion that we’re still living in the old America of the brave and free.
There’s no telling why such measures are thought necessary by the ballpark’s otherwise astute management. Even the most unambitious jihadist is unlikely to bomb an elegantly aging old ballpark where an unaffiliated double-A team called the Wingnuts is battling a team called the Canaries, and even the most culturally savvy of them would be unlikely to realize what a pregnantly symbolic target it would be. If those heavily-armed and rather ferocious-looking guards are concerned that a unmedicated nutcase is going to start abusing his concealed-carry permit they should spend some time in the stands, where the folks are both reassuringly normal by modern standards and yet somehow still well-equipped to take care of things in any contingency even by old-fashioned standards. The Wichita Wingnuts draw their rather modest crowds mostly from the inelegantly aging white working class near-westside neighborhood that abuts the ballpark, an area that was once one of the Wild West’s wildest townships, and it’s an intriguing mix of family values and biker tattoos that we sit among with complete confidence that they won’t attempt mass murder nor put up with any such nonsense.
Perhaps the Wingnuts’ management is following the lead of the far more fabled and lucrative Wichita State University Wheatshockers basketball squad, which subjects its more aged and well-heeled and less likely to defend themselves fans to the same inexplicable scrutiny, Anything governmental around here is even nosier, and more behavior-altering. Our country boy Pop once inculcated in us the habit of carrying a Swiss Army knife, but we long ago abandoned that useful trait because of the Osama Bin Laden-like treatment we got from those guards at the city and county halls and federal courtrooms we were required by our profession to cover. Sometimes we find ourselves in need of the scissors or corkscrews that those devices put at our disposal, and we long for a bygone era.
Wingnuts games always draw a lot of cute young all-American kids, usually accompanied by parents who look as if they would otherwise be in one of the nearby dives, and it does our heart good to see them playing catch in between innings by the beer stand as we head off to a post-game beer with our pal at a local dive. Satchel Paige and Ron Guidry and Arky Vaughn and the all-steroid outfield of Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, and Pete Incaviglia once played in that ballpark, and we like to think those urchins are feeling some connection to those happier days. We think it would be good if they could take their own kids to a ballgame some day, and to walk in unmolested by the irrational fears that pervaded their childhoods, sure in the good intentions of their fellow Americans.

– Bud Norman

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What’s the Matter With Kansas Democrats?

One of those internecine Republican primary challenges is happening right here in Kansas’ fourth congressional district, but what little national attention it has received is because it is so atypical. Instead of a tri-corner hat-wearing tea party amateur challenging a squishy moderate incumbent, which is the modern media’s preferred matchup, this race has a second-term incumbent with impeccable conservative credentials being challenged by a former longtime congressman promising a return to the good old George W. Bush-era days of earmarking porkbarrel spending for the district.
There’s plenty to say about this peculiar political tactic, and at some point before the August primary we’ll get around to saying it, but at this point we’re most intrigued by the widely varied perceptions of the race we’ve been hearing. Almost all of our Republican friends expect an easy win by Mike Pompeo, the incumbent with the impeccable conservative credentials, while almost all of our Democrat friends are confidently predicting a victory by Todd Tiahrt, the former congressman promising to once again bring home the federal bacon.
The Democratic prognosticators don’t expect that any Republicans in these parts share their enthusiasm for porkbarrel spending, but instead expect Tiahrt to win because they well remember how very popular he was the anti-abortion forces in the district. Way back in ’94 Tiahrt knocked off a more-or-less moderate Democrat who had held the seat for 18 years by appealing to the union dues-paying machinists in the local airplane plants and the would-be sophisticates in the white collar jobs as well as wooing enough of the farm vote to complete a coalition, and Tiahrt did it with a lot of help from the religious right activists who were singing “Oh, What a Mighty God” at the election night victory party. The scene scared the bejeezus out of the local Democrats, who continued to attribute Tiahrt’s electoral success solely to the religious right even as his margins of victory swelled with voters who found that he was a more-or-less moderate sort of Republican who brought home the bacon and was predictably unable to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision.
We try to explain to our Democrat friends that the anti-abortion movement is not a cult of personality that blindly follows any politician, and note that Pompeo’s voting record on abortion issues has been just as consistent and ineffectual, but they won’t believe it. We also try to tell them that while social issues such as abortion are still of importance to Republicans they are lately less important to the average primary voter than economic matters such as the outrageous national debt that Tiahrt wants to increase, but this is usually dismissed as crazy talk.
Kansas Democrats remain enamored of the “What’s the Matter With Kansas” thesis that Thomas Frank cooked up, which holds that no one really believes that capitalism and freedom nonsense except for the Koch brothers and a few other well-heeled plutocrats who have been hoodwinked the proletarian rubes into voting against their economic self-interests with a bunch of religious hooey. We note that conservative media ranging from National Review to the Rush Limbaugh show rarely mention the social issues these days, and then only because their liberal counterparts have forced the discussion with efforts to subsidize contraception and abortion or are employing McCarthyite tactics against religious dissenters, but of course they never pay heed to these voices and prefer to assume that it’s a non-stop Billy Sunday sermon. They can’t imagine any other reason that the district’s voters have consistently rejected the Democrats’ kindly offer to redistribute some wealth this way.
The past six years of stubborn unemployment and underemployment and falling wages and skyrocketing debt and even increased income inequality have done nothing to shake this faith, which could be described as religious if you really wanted to irk a local Democrat. Even those union dues-paying machinists at the airplane plants are finding it hard to see how it’s in their economic interests to support a president who routinely rails against “corporate jets,” and the thousands of locals employed by the much-hated Koch brothers have the same qualms, but the Democratic party that seeks their votes continue to regard their views as a result of some sort of snake-handling ritual. They might be right about the Republican primary, although we’re more inclined to the views of our Republican friends, but the Democrats are likely to find themselves out of power around here for at least another decade if they continue to believe in appealing myths.

– Bud Norman

Once the Bottom is Reached

President Barack Obama’s poll numbers have been plunging lately, to the point that a plurality of Americans now consider him the worst chief executive of the post-war era, and the rightward side of the political aisle has been pleased. The rising disapproval bodes well for the Republican Party’s chances in the upcoming mid-term elections, which would make it even harder for Obama achieve the transformation of America that he once promised, and it might even suggest that the public was wised up enough that Obama’s style of liberalism will still be out of fashion even when the next presidential race rolls around, so the schadenfreude is forgivable.
We hope this is so, but still can’t shake a nagging worry that a lack of public adulation will only provoke more outrageous behavior by the president. Once the president gets down to that 35 percent or so that is his absolute floor of public support, most of it coming from black Americans emotionally invested in the first black president and Hispanics eager for more ethnic company and whites dependent on his largesse or unwilling to admit that their naive hero-worship was unfounded, he might well decide there’s use trying to please the ingrates who comprise the rest of the country and just charge ahead on his agenda with no regard for the public’s opinion. We’ve been watching the fellow carefully over the past six years, and he strikes us as that sort of guy.
A more pragmatic president would be moving to the center at a time of plummeting popularity, seeking some sort sort of compromise with the opposition on any number of issues in order to reassure his former supporters that he’s still playing the game on their behalf according to the usual rules, but Obama has ramped up the rhetoric that seems calculated to prevent any deals with the hated Republicans and instead vowed to proceed by rules of his own making. The Supreme Court has lately been finding fault with those new rules, oftentimes even by unanimous decisions that include Obama’s own appointees, but he’s still cocky enough to taunt his opponents by saying “So sue me.” The policies he’s inviting lawsuits over are unpopular enough to cause consternation for the Democratic congressional candidates that he needs to get the policies enacted by constitutional methods, but he seems to have already concluded that such old-fashioned techniques are no longer tenable. Once the voters have ratified their objections at the ballot box, we suspect he’ll only be more insistent on overruling the views of the rubes he has so long despised as bitter clingers to guns and God and the most base prejudices.
That base of support that Obama cannot drop below seems to like that he’s abandoned the usual means of enacting public policy, and won’t mind a bit if he goes even further from that archaic old constitution written by dead white men to give them what the publicly-financed goodies they want. The bitter tone of the president’s recent pronouncements suggest that he no longer cares about the rest of us, and indeed feels betrayed by the public’s disapproval, so once he reaches that rock bottom he’ll probably start smoking in public and berating the less liberal Democrats and letting his freak flag fly. At that point, God help us all.

– Bud Norman

Independence Day

The past several Independence Days have been bittersweet. It is still sweet to celebrate the ideas of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that gave birth to our nation, but there’s no escaping a bitterness when looking around at what has become of them.
Almost everywhere is evidence of the decline and fall of America. The news briefs on the radio invited us to take heart in the latest job numbers that have pushed the unemployment rate down to a more or less respectable 6.1 percent, but they were too brief to mention that the number of working age Americans not working actually increased, that the number of full-time jobs actually decreased, and that the more the U-6 rate which includes the underemployed and involuntary part-time workers and discouraged workers remained at a Depression-era 12.1 percent. That $17 trillion of debt and all the bubble-inflating money printing that has kept the numbers even at these sluggish levels also went unmentioned, and of course there was no time to consider if the looming disaster of Obamacare and its incentives for employers to hire part-time workers who rather than pony up for the mandates on full-time workers has anything to do with it.
Obamacare and all the rest of the thousands of regulations and taxes and assorted governmental intrusions into the economy are clearly part of the problem, but there’s a nagging suspicion that it’s not all that’s gone wrong. The government is bossier and more lawless and as as incompetent as ever, as shown by the relentless storers about everything from its use of the almighty Internal Revenue Service to punish the dissenters to the endless waivers and delays and recess appointments and far-reaching executive orders issued by the president to the infuriating mistreatment of American veterans by their health care service or the administration-made invasion of illegal immigrants unfolding on the nation’s southern border, but none of that would have happened if the public hadn’t allowed it.
Another one of the great ideas that gave birth to our nation was a notion that America and its and government aren’t quite the same thing. The government had important work to do, and over the years it has done it with varying degrees of success and ethical behavior, but the heavy lifting was done by the likes of Thomas Edison in his laboratories and Duke Ellington at the Cotton Club and Milton Friedman in his office at the University of Chicago’s School of Economics and those guys eating lunch on the beam of the New York City skyscraper in that iconic photograph. The people used to do great things, and the government would let them, but for whatever reason we’re seeing less of it these days. Nowadays the great inventions are new social media and libido-boosting pills, the music no longer swings or bops or boogies or rocks but rather just thuds a monotonous nihilism, the big economic idea seems to be that no one should be allowed to get rich, and the photographer in search of an iconic image will have to find a disgruntled fellow in casual Fridays attire sitting glumly in an office cubicle. There’s still some space left between the government and the people, but it isn’t being put to good use.
Fireworks are already being ignited around our neighborhood in defiance of the city’s ridiculous ban, though, and the people of a small town in southern California have just risked the wrath of the high-minded media to repel an invasion of illegal immigrants, and some encouraging polls show people are wising up about the government. Ideas such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are not easily extinguished, and might yet reassert themselves. There’s still some room left to make them happen again, and people who still prefer them to free contraceptives or the state’s protection from an oversized soft drink, and reason for hope.
A former Miss Texas has invited over to her swank lakeside home for a party, and a hipster pal down the street has asked that we join him in blowing things up along the banks of the nearby Arkansas River, and we’ll charcoal some hamburgers and bratwurst in between and revel in the sweetness of the American idea. Come Monday we’ll resume our modest efforts to make it come true again, and we urge you to do the same.

– Bud Norman

Resisting the Invasion in a Small Town

The tiny southern California town of Murrieta had entirely escaped our notice until Wednesday, when a large group of Murrietans blocked at the city limits a convoy of Homeland Security Agency buses that were attempting to bring in some of the tens of thousands of illegal aliens detained during the recent invasion of unaccompanied minors, but we now admire its spunk.
Such a bold act of civil disobedience is especially remarkable in California, a one party state where the one party is enthusiastic about illegal immigration and intolerant of any dissent, and the media reaction has been predictably disapproving. The Los Angeles Times devoted most of its coverage to the views of a local resident who had hoped to welcome the illegal immigrants into the warm embrace and financial support of the community, and was appalled by the alleged lack of compassion shown by her townsfolk, while other outlets seemed distressed by the American flags that were waved at the blockade. Perhaps the heroine of that Times story is correct about the self and xenophobic motives of her neighbors, and there is no doubting that her own intentions are altruistic, but even if we assume the worst about the the town it is still right to resist.
Impoverished youngsters seeking the freedom and prosperity of America are ordinarily sympathetic subjects for a sob story, but not when they’re mostly precociously tough teenagers from some of the Third World’s most notorious slums and are coming in overwhelming numbers that include a sizable share of gang members and disease-carriers and future wards of the welfare state. The concerned young woman in the Times story could surely muster some compassion for the legal residents of her town who are reluctant to assume the considerable cost of dealing with a sudden infusion of unskilled and unemployable and very much uninvited youths, or at least for the victims of the crimes and social disruptions that are sure to follow. If Murrieta is indeed the hotbed of unkind bigotry that the times would have us believe it only seems all the more unlikely that infusion of a few hundred foreigners will work out well for anyone.
If Murrieta were to offer its warm embrace and financial support and unthinking compassion to the unaccompanied alien minors it would have the even more unfortunate result of inviting a few more tens of thousands of them to join the invasion. Already the invaders are overwhelming the ability of the federal government to care for them, with social service agencies as far away and well-funded as New York City pleading for relief, so it seems inevitable that tiny towns such as Murrieta will soon exhaust both their resources and compassion. The president’s oh-so-compassionate executive order to defer deportation of unaccompanied minor aliens for two years started the invasion, and even he is now trying to stave it off with threats of sending the invaders home.
We don’t take those threats seriously, and we doubt that anyone in the slums of Central America does, so it is likely the invasion will continue and the blockades will pop up at the city limits of other tiny towns. The blockaders are advised to avoid anything so offensive to media sensibilities as an American flag, and to add the words “Sorry” and “We’d really like to help” to their placards, but we hope that one way or another they’ll hold the line.

– Bud Norman

Let the World Keep Its Cup

Some fellow on the radio tells us that the United States’ soccer squad has been eliminated from the World Cup competition by a team from some country called Belgium. Being properly patriotic sports rooters we were disappointed to hear it, especially as Belgians are apparently some sort of Europeans, and it’s always embarrassing to lose to those guys in anything, but we must confess some relief that the nation’s attention can once again be diverted from our pressing economic and political problems by baseball.
Go ahead and watch soccer if you want to, as we are of a libertarian bent and therefore tolerate all kinds of cultural rot, but as a mindless distraction from the world’s woes we much prefer baseball this time of year. This prejudice might well be proof of what old-fashioned fuddy-duddies we’ve become in our middle age, as well as the nativist xenophobia and heterosexist preoccupation with phallic symbols and all that stuff that is so typical of people with our right-wing political views, but we make no apologies. We’re Americans, damn it, and prefer an American game.
We’re Americans of a certain age, too, which we means grew up playing sports other than soccer and haven’t failed at the game nearly enough to appreciate the talents of those who play it well. Soccer fans have tried to convince us of the aesthetically-pleasing athleticism and subtle strategies that they swear are involved in the seemingly random meanderings of the players, but we remain unconvinced. Despite our best efforts at objectivity, we find the sport suspect for several reasons.
You can’t use your hands in soccer, for one thing, and this strikes us as an offense against both God and sport. We used to suspect that soccer was a communist plot to keep America’s youth from hurling hand grenades against the invading Russky hordes, and although soccer seems to have outlasted the Soviet Union and we can’t think of any other plausible conspirators it still strikes us as damned suspicious.
All those foreigners in the game are troublesome, too. Soccer fans seem to regard the overwhelming presence of foreigners in the sport as proof of its worthiness, and will wax poetic about the “world’s game” and cite their affinity for the game as evidence of how very cosmopolitan they are, but we are unimpressed by their claims of being citizens of the world. When the world ratifies a constitution that guarantees our rights of freedom of speech and bearing arms and not having soldiers quartered in our homes we will consider renouncing our American citizenship and embracing a game that doesn’t allow the use of hands, but at the moment the world seems downright hostile to these ideals and unhealthily willing to forego the use of hands.
Nor does the rest of the world seem any more civilized than the average American baseball, basketball, or football fans. The stadia where the National Football League conducts its brutal contests are famous for the fisticuffs and boorish behavior that pervade the stands, but the most face-painted fans there are a veritable PGA gallery compared to the hooligans that predominate at soccer games. Even the Oakland Raiders don’t have such a grisly death toll as soccer, and their fans are more well-behaved than the hooligans who populate the seats at soccer games around the world. Racists taunts are reportedly common at soccer games, by both players and fans, but rarely heard at American sporting events where almost everyone has a rooting interest in a competitor of another race. One of the more intriguing side stories of the World Cup was about the Mexican fans’ traditional chant of “puto” against a certain hated foes, which we’re told translates as “homosexual prostitute” and is intended as a most hateful epithet, and it was fun hearing the politically correct press reconcile its revulsion for anything homophobic with its indulgence for anything foreign.
Such exquisite sensitivities seem an essential part of soccer’s appeal, and another reason we’re indifferent to the game. When soccer first became a part of the American sporting scene it was through the American Youth Soccer Organization, and all the bumper stickers that adorned the minivans hauling the kiddies to the little league “pitch” promised that “Everyone plays.” This is taking egalitarianism too far, as even the most carefully raised youngster intuitively understands that playing time should be earned by superior performances, but has an understandable appeal to the doting modern mom. Those “soccer moms,” so assiduously courted by Democratic candidates for the past many election cycles, also seemed to prefer soccer to baseball because it didn’t involve the supposedly soul-crushing failure involved in a sport where even the best major league teams will lose 60 games a season and the most skilled batters fail to get a hit more than 60 percent of the time. Soccer is a fairly rough sport, judging by all the melodramatic flopping that the players indulge in whenever they make contact with a momentarily outstretched limb, but we can’t imagine that it inures a kid to life’s inevitable failures the way an 0-for-4 day at the plate does.
Go ahead and watch soccer if you want to, though, and we’ll hope you enjoy it. Perhaps you’ll notice that aesthetically-pleasing athleticism and those subtle strategies we keep hearing about, and we really wouldn’t want to deny the satisfaction. None of the teams will be wearing “USA” on their jerseys, but feel free to root for any country that isn’t currently at war with us. The Wichita Wingnuts have a home stand coming up, though, so we’ll be down at the ballpark watching men use their hands.

– Bud Norman

Hobby Lobby and the End of the World

The Supreme Court released a rather minor ruling in favor of religious freedom on Monday, and from the reaction on the left one might have thought that American womanhood had been consigned to a cruel fate of bare feet and pregnancy. All the wailing and gnashing of teeth resulted from a decision that the staunchly Christian and anti-abortion people who own the Hobby Lobby chain of stores, as well as a relatively small number of other similar-minded owners of “closely held” companies won’t be required by Obamacare to provide insurance coverage for their employees ‘abortifacient costs, and it would seem that a “Handmaiden’s Tale” type of theocratic patriarchy has been instituted as a result.
Any women toiling for the Hobby Lobby chain of stores will still be able to purchase contraceptive coverage that the company will still be be forced to pay for under an arrangement that provides a mere fig leaf of moral distance, and of course they can fornicate to their hearts’ content with the easily affordable coverage they can purchase out of their own pockets, but the Court’s failure to force the company’s owners to directly participate is regarded as a dangerous blow to women’s rights. The White House grouched that “women’s health will be jeopardized,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg served up an outraged dissenting opinion that predicted “havoc,” journalists were bemoaning “an enormous expansion of corporate rights,” and the “Tweets from the left spewed a more foul-mouthed assessment. It all seems disproportionate, given how very narrow the decision was, but at least those foul-mouthed “Tweets” had the virtue of unvarnished honesty,
The White House’s claim that women’s health is jeopardized only makes sense if the life-saving contraceptives in question work only when paid for by employers with a fig-leaf arrangement to provide them moral distance, and its official claim that “women should make personal health decisions for themselves” will be quickly recanted when it argues in an upcoming case that the nuns of the Little Sisters of the Poor shouldn’t be able to decide to forgo contraceptive coverage. Ginsburg is predicting “havoc” because of the slippery slope that slides down from a decision that people should be allowed to follow their own consciences rather than a Democrat-passed and Democrat-signed law about contraceptives, apparently because an unruly populace will start to wonder why it has to put up with any number of other bossy and stupid rules that it never voted for, but she’ll ever admit that on the other side of that metaphorical mountain there is a slippery slope that descends into her preferred judicial precedent that if the government can force staunchly Christian and anti-abortion people to pay for abortifacients there’s nothing it can’t do. Those journalistic complaints about the “enormous expansion of corporate rights” come from journalists employed by fat-corporations that have no moral objections to anything except Republicans, and as always eager they’re to follow the storyline about the Republicans’ “war on women” and their mythical crusade against contraception.
So we’ll at least acknowledge the frankness of that fellow calling himself “ginge” who tweeted an obscene suggestion for Hobby Lobby, religion, and America. In the requisite 26-or-less characters he succinctly summed up the left’s disregard for the rights of businessmen or anybody else with viewpoints differing from the post-modern consensus, for the ancient religious convictions that still give rise to such irritating disagreements, and for a country that has traditionally allowed such dissent. The modern left expects conformity, on almost every issue but especially on matters of sexual behavior, and anyone with qualms about the extermination of fetuses or the celebration of homosexuality are to keep quiet about it, so even a narrow and five-to-four Supreme Court decision to the contrary is irksome. One might well wonder who is trying to impose their moral values on others in this case, but such wonderings are an invitation to anarchy.

– Bud Norman

For the Children’s Sake

May God bless Nancy Pelosi’s bleeding heart. The former Speaker of the House and current Democratic minority leader recently traveled where the recent invasion of unaccompanied illegal immigrant minors is being stacked up in hellish makeshift detention centers, and with admirable empathy declared that she would like to take them all home with her.
Even the fabulously wealthy Pelosi’s multiple mansions apparently aren’t quite big enough to accommodate the tens of thousands of illegal youngsters who have crossed the border in the month, alas, but we’ll graciously assume that it was only out of a sense of fairness that Pelosi returned to her swank San Francisco digs without even the few hundred or so of the youngsters that she could have housed and fed. Still, she described the humanitarian crisis on the border as a “humanitarian opportunity” for those politically powerless communities that will be welcoming the invasion and those ungenerous taxpayers she expects to pick up the tab. The poor souls who traveled across Mexico from Central America are mostly “children,” as Pelosi pointed out, and she simply couldn’t bear the thought of anything so cruel as sending them home to their families.
The vast majority of these children are over the age of 16, an advanced enough age in the slums of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador that they managed the long trek across Mexico atop freight trains and drug-smuggling routes and are now causing problems in those makeshift detention camps with their rampant sexual activity, but such an exquisitely sensitive soul as Pelosi’s regards them as children nonetheless. That in many cases they carry disease, gang loyalties, no skills that might contribute to the American economy, and considerable costs for their care is of matter once the word “children” has been invoked.
That the invasion began after the president signed an executive order deferring deportation of minor illegal immigrants and this “humanitarian opportunity” is a direct result of that oh-so-compassionate policy is also to be overlooked, lest one be indifferent to the plight of mere children cast upon our land by cruel fate. The sight of illegal immigrants stacked up in makeshift camps and being flown around the country to cash-strapped communities unable to afford their care should even make Americans all the more amenable to a comprehensive immigration reform law that would bring millions more similarly burdensome immigrants to a land that already has a record number of people out of work.

If this doesn’t strike as a caring policy, then you just don’t care as much about the children as Pelosi’s bleeding heart.

– Bud Norman

When Winter Lingers into Summer

You might not have noticed, what with all the political scandals and foreign crises and invasions of unaccompanied minors and soccer games vying for your attention, but the American economy remains very, very lousy. According to the ultimately official numbers that were released with little fanfare this week, the American economy is lousier than it’s been since the bad old days of the ’08 meltdown.
The first and most ballyhooed estimate of the first quarter’s Gross Domestic Product was for 0.1 percent growth, which was horrible enough but at least kept alive a streak of anemic growth and could plausibly be blamed on the miserably cold winter that had afflicted much of the nation. That was more quietly followed by a revised estimate of a 1.1 percent decline, and the administration’s apologists arguing that the winter was even worse than they’d realized and it would have been more dire if not for the miracle of Obamacare causing an uptick in health care spending. Only the most nervous sorts of investors and the hard-core news junkies would have heard about the final report of a 2.9 percent decrease in GDP, which is even harsher than the past winter and includes the unsettling news that Americans actually spent less money on their health. Upon closer examination the numbers become even more dismal, with declines in private inventory investment, exports, state and local government spending, and residential and non-residential fixed investment that cannot be explained by snowy roads and falling temperatures.
Still, those ever-bullish proponents of Obamanomics in the popular press are reassuring their readers that the lazy, hazy days of summer will correct the situation. Presumably this is the time of year when a young executive’s fancy turns to thoughts of private inventory investment, and everyone will be herding the kids into the car and hitting the road to a relaxing yet economically stimulative vacation despite the gas prices rising from all those foreign crises that have nudged the economy off the front pages. Those of us less enamored of the high-tax, high-regulation, high-minded anti-caplitalist scheme that has been imposed on the American economy the past six or so years remain bearish.
The smart fellows over at zerohedge.com note that after the miserable winter even if spring and summer and fall bring the rosy 3 percent growth rates that the government has been promising it will average out to a meager 1.5 percent growth for the year. They don’t seem at all confident of that, either, noting that the past 50 years of economic history have never found two years with growth of less than 2.6 percent that weren’t followed by a recession. After a long stretch below that economic Mendoza line another quarter of contraction would force the headline writers to use that dreaded “R word,” and the economy would be once again jostling with the latest scandals at home and catastrophes abroad for news space.
Such dire news should make the stock markets happy, as it will likely force the Federal Reserve Board to keep printing up money and pushing down interest rates at least through the mid-term elections next fall, but it will have an unsettling effect on those portions of economy that make their money honestly. All those scandals and crises don’t inspire much confidence in the nation’s leadership, either, nor do they bode well for the price of energy. Perhaps that invasion of unaccompanied minors from will rescue the economy, but even in the midst of a wet and warm summer we’re still feeling those wintertime blues.

– Bud Norman

A Sorry State in Mississippi

Our policy regarding primary contests between the “tea party” and “establishment” factions of the Republican Party has been to support the more conservative candidate anywhere he can win the general election, to settle for the more moderate candidate in those states and districts where he would be the only plausible hope of defeating an even more liberal Democrat, and to urge both sides to unite behind whichever candidate comes out on top against whatever damned Democrat he’ll be up against. This seems to us a both amicable and sensible policy, but it is hard to apply after that Senate primary on Tuesday in Mississippi.
Entrenched incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran beat the more rock-ribbed Republican challenger Chris McDaniel in the run-off race, but he did so by such sleazy methods that it will be hard for any principled conservative to muster any enthusiasm for any candidacy. Although Cochran had won a solid plurality in the preliminary round of the primary he fell short of the 50 percent needed to secure the nomination, and because contested primaries are always a referendum on the incumbent it was widely expected that the throw-the-bums-out sentiment within the party would prevail, so Cochran won by luring people outside the party into the state’s unaccountably open primary. Worse yet, he did so by arguing for more federal pork spending and with a naked racial appeal to the African-Americans of his state that implied conservatism is essentially racist. The effort included automated phone messages and old-fashioned fliers warning that the “tea party” was seeking to prevent blacks from voting, that McDaniel was opposed to federal financing of public education, and that he was determined to eliminate “food stamps.”
These are the same misleading smears that Democrats have long used against the populist brand of conservatism that has been dubbed “tea party,” and their use by a Republican candidate is unforgivable. Pork barrel politics has been wisely reject by a critics number of today’s Republican voters, even in such cash-strapped states as Mississippi, and imputing racist motives to this view is outrageous. The scurrilous charge of preventing blacks from voting can only be understood as a reference to photo identification requirements for voting and other common sense safeguards against election fraud, and every wised-up Republican and even most of the general public understand the need for these policies. Mississippians and Americans everywhere should welcome the opportunity of local control of their children’s public education, which is only attainable with local funding, and any suggestion otherwise is an affront to Republican or even republican sensibilities. Any critics of the ever-expanding welfare state who truthfully observe that minorities are disproportionately represented on the assistance roles is derided as a racist, and is simultaneously derided as a racist for the “disparate impact” their proposed cuts would have on minorities, but no one taking such a sensible stand should be subjected to these inane and contradicting indictments from a putative Republican.
Still, it worked well enough that a proponent of deficit-funded pork barrel spending and federal control of local school curricula and rampant voter fraud and the most toxic sort of racial identity politics is likely the Republican Party’s candidate in for Senate in Mississippi, and the most callous sorts of professional Republicans have dealt a blow to the party’s populist base. This leaves the Mississippi Republican with only bad choices, and we cannot offer any advice. Weasel that he is Cochran was at least among the unified Republican Party that voted against Obamacare, and any Democrat would be prone to repeat such a mistake, but it is disheartening and infuriating to settle for that. We’ll maintain our usual policy when the establishment candidates prevailing the states where they need to ward off even more liberal Democrats, so long as they do as they do so by ethical means, but we might make an exception in Mississippi.

– Bud Norman

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