A Consummation Devoutly Not to Be Wished

A recurring theme in the spate of dystopian futurist movies popular in our youth was that someday the government would start killing off all the old people. The notion provided a memorable scene in “Soylent Green” where Edward G. Robinson shuffled off to the local suicide center where the aged were treated to soothing music and images as they ceased to be a burden, and the entire plot of “Logan’s Run” was based on a society that maintained its perfectly organized order by offing anyone over the age of 30. In the late ’60s and early ’70s audiences found this plausible, with the younger and hipper movie-goers smugly assuming it was just the sort of thing that President Richard Nixon and his right-wing buddies would love to do, but it’s not been until the era of hope and change and the left-wing ascendancy that we’ve started to worry about it.
Our worries were heightened by the once-venerable Atlantic Monthly’s recent publication of an article by Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel in which he expresses his desire to die at age 75 and urges the rest of us to do the same. This morbid advice would ordinarily be easy to ignore, but Emanuel is the brother of former Obama White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, has served as a special advisor to the Obama White House’s Office of Management and Budget, and is currently a fellow at the Obama White House-affiliated Center for American Progress. He painstakingly insists that he’s not advocating euthanasia, and he couches his argument mostly in terms of the individual’s best interests rather than society’s or the government’s bottom line, but there’s no shaking a discomfiting feeling that his enthusiasm for a mass early exit from this earthly plane isn’t entirely apolitical, or that it won’t have some appeal to the bureaucrats charged with balancing Obamacare’s hard-to-balance books.
His arguments for dying at age 75 probably won’t be persuasive to anybody else. He correctly notes that people tend to have more aches and pains and get around less energetically after 75 than they did in their younger days, but throughout history most people have found that more tolerable than the proposed alternative. Some people are afflicted with aches and pains and limited mobility early in life, too, and although Emanuel isn’t quite so bold as the Nazis were in suggesting that these unfortunate folks should also cash it in neither does he bother to discount the idea. He further notes that the vast majority of people are less productive after the age of 75, and cites some studies suggesting the decline begins well before that point, but the notion that an individual’s life is only of value to the extent that it serves the collective is also abhorrent. He acknowledges that some people retain great creativity and usefulness late into life, without considering how someone might know if they’re one of them until they reach an age well beyond 75, and he begrudgingly concedes that even the most debilitated oldsters still provide love and meaning to the lives of the families and friends, although he seems to regard this as a silly sentimentality, but he still insists that the rather arbitrary age of 75 is when shuffling off this mortal coil is a consummation devoutly to be wished.
What’s most unsettling, however, is that Emanuel’s arguments are so consistent with a predominant anti-life strain in modern liberalism. The enthusiasm for abortion even when a baby has survived the procedure, the advocacy for other extreme means of population control, the antipathy toward the scientific advances that have allowed agriculture to sustain the lives of untold billions around the world, and the younger generations’ apparent aversion to procreation and preference for polar bears, all reflect a peculiar post-religious belief that human life is not a precious gift granted by God to each human being but rather a problematic privilege conferred or revoked by more earthly ruling elites. Throw in the facts that the president of the United States has told the daughter of a centenarian that her mother should “take a pill” rather than get the expensive surgery she needs to continue a vital life, and his former Secretary of Health Human Services has explained a decision to deny a young girl life-saving treatment because “some people live and some people die,” and one of his former advisors is advocating death at age 75, and those old dystopian futurist flicks no longer seem so far-fetched. Nixon and his right-wing buddies have nothing to do with it, but otherwise they’re starting seem to prophetic.

– Bud Norman

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The Politics of Procrastination

So it turns out that President Barack Obama won’t be signing any executive orders granting amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants until after the mid-term elections, apparently on the assumption that uniformed voters won’t punish his party for an unpopular policy that he promises but hasn’t quite yet enacted. How very frustrating to realize that he might well be right.
The ploy has worked well enough before, after all. Various unpopular aspects of the Obamacare law were delayed until after the past presidential election and some are still being delayed for the benefit of Democratic congressional incumbents, and the many millions of Americans who like their health care plans and have been promised that they can keep their health care plans thus far don’t seem to mind that sooner or later they are going to lose their health care plans. During the past campaign the president was overheard promising the Russian leadership that after the election he could be “more flexible” regarding that country’s avaricious geo-political ambitions, and it wasn’t until after the president was re-elected that the public noticed an unfortunately flexible the post-war world order has suddenly become. A reported plan to stick the country with economy-crippling carbon emissions by means of an unratified “climate change” treaty that not even the most die-hard Democratic Senator from the most deep-blue state would vote will probably wait until after the elections and go largely unnoticed until the pink slips start showing up during some other Democratic schmuck’s election cycle, at which point the press will helpfully provide explanations about how it’s all the Republican’s fault.
The president doesn’t seem the least bit embarrassed by the brazenly political motive for his ploy. In an otherwise hilariously disingenuous interview on “Meet the Press,” the president frankly acknowledged that after a widely-publicized invasion of the southern border by unaccompanied illegal minors who had heard of his executive order to delay deportations of unaccompanied illegal minors “the politics did shift mid-summer because of that problem.” He further explained that delaying another equally ill-advised executive order that would surely lure a few million more unskilled and non-English-speaking and ultimately dependent people to our cash-strapped and largely unemployed nation would thus be more “sustainable” if he inflicted it on the country after the voting was completed. He has to make the case for his policy, the president explained, and an election just isn’t the right time.
Some Republicans are already screaming about the coming amnesty, cand those who are inclined to listen to them will likely take heed. Some Latino activists are also screaming about the delay, and a few Hispanic voters might be disinclined to get out and vote. Blacks and low-wage workers and trade union members and other loyal Democratic constituencies harmed by the policy will gladly delay their outrage until the deal actually goes down, however, and a large number of people who dislike the president’s plan simply won’t hear about it.
The Democrats’ policies on illegal immigration will be a problem for them in the upcoming elections, as will Obamacare and the Russians and everything else they’ve put off, but the president has probably mitigated the damage by delaying his plans. How very frustrating.

– Bud Norman

A Good Time For a Sex Scandal

Now would be the perfect time to make a full confession of our lurid sex scandal, if only we could muster the energy to have one. There are so many stories of earth-shaking significance afoot at the moment that even the most Clintonian sorts of escapades would attract little notice, and by the time anyone got around to paying heed we could dismiss the whole mess as old news and utterly irrelevant to our candidacy for philosopher king or whatever office we might be seeking. Summertime is when the living is easy, according to the usually reliable lyrics of Gershwin music, but this summer we’re finding it hard to keep up with the headlines.
There is still fierce fighting in Ukraine and Syria and Iraq and probably a few other places that have escaped our attention, but of course all the news is about the relatively limited conflict between the humane and democratic state of Israel and the genocidal and totalitarian terror gang Hamas. For some reason or another Muslims can kill one another by the hundreds of thousands and the toll will be mentioned in the fifth and final paragraph of a story buried as deep as you can bury a story in today’s thin newspapers, but when a few million Jews from a humane and democratic state excruciating limit Muslim casualties in response to the thousands of rockets fired at its civilian population by a genocidal and totalitarian terror gang it warrants more prominent scrutiny. Despite the tsk-tsking of polite opinion we’re firmly on the side of the humane and democratic state, and hope they persist in the fighting long enough put a permanent stop to those rockets and the rest of the deadly threats to its people, but our country’s State Department seems to be siding with the genocidal and totalitarian terror gang. Israel being forced to defend itself against genocidal and totalitarian enemies is nothing new, but the United States’ new policies regarding the conflict are a worrisome twist on an otherwise familiar plot.
Polling indicates that a reassuring majority of Americans share our preference for the humane and democratic state over the genocidal and totalitarian terror gang, and the administration seems just as indifferent to the public opinion regarding the recent invasion of the United States by the unaccompanied minors of gang-ridden Central America. A percentage of Americans that a red-state Democrat would regard as overwhelming are wanting to send the urchins back home to the embracing of their dubiously loving families as soon as possible, but the administration is sending signals that it intends to welcome them into the arms of a deficit-spending welfare state and offer millions the very amnesty deal that provoked the invasion. The Congressional response is far too convoluted to recap here, involving as it does such arcane parliamentary maneuvers as “waiving the tree” and the bizarre mix of fecklessness and incompetence that too often characterizes the House Speakership of Rep. John Boehner, but suffice to say that it’s all been scuttled for now by a torrent of public outrage and the sensible stand of Alabama’s Sen. Jeff Sessions. Sessions is our very favorite Senator, and we think he’d be a front-running presidential candidate if he didn’t sound so very much like an Alabaman.
The immigration story is going loom large through the mid-term elections, and the administration’s preference for genocidal and totalitarian terror gangs over humane and democratic states might prove an issue in some districts, so it’s easy to lose sight of such an intriguing story as the District of Columbia Court of Appeals ruling that Obamacare should be enforced according to the language in the bill rather than the language that it’s dwindling number of supporters would prefer. The bill’s dwindling number of apologists insist that that subsidies shouldn’t be paid only to people who singed up in the 14 states that were willing to set up their own exchanges, but their efforts have only added to a growing number of reasons to believe that was the explicitly stated intention of the people who passed the law without reading it so they could find out what was in it. This doesn’t mean that a Supreme Court Justice would want to uphold the plain language of the law, but it makes it slightly more likely that Obamacare and all its embarrassments will remain in the news through the fall.
There’s that Argentinian default and the country’s rather comely but entirely incompetent president blaming it all on America, and the big drop in the stock market that might have been caused by the relatively good news about Gross Domestic Product that might just result in a 2.3 percent growth rate after that the dip in the last quarter, and something about some homosexual football player and some ex-coach who said something about him. Just the links that Matt Drudge daily provides about the border invasion are all too exhausting, and trying to figure out the administration’s apparent belief that the Muslim Brotherhood is crucial to world peace is downright vexing, so we’re wishing we’d spent the time on a good lurid sex scandal.

– Bud Norman

Heckling to the Choir

Regular readers of this publication are aware that we disagree with almost everything President Barack Obama says and does, but we wish he wouldn’t take it personally. Some of our friends say and would do equally stupid things, and for the most part our disagreements do not become disagreeable. The president seems to believe that it’s all about him, however, and on Wednesday was pouting to another crowd of hand-picked adorers in Kansas City that his critics should “Stop being mad all the time, stop just hatin’ all the time.”
The hand-picked crowd of adorers started chanting “We love you,” laughed raucously at all the boilerplate ridicule of Republicans, and the president was temporarily transported back in time to those happier days of ’08 when hope and change were in the air and it actually was all about him. Perhaps the president hasn’t noticed that hand-picking such adoring crowds has become a harder chore for his aides as his cult of personality has dwindled down to Jonestown levels, or that a majority of disapproving Americans outside the arenas are no longer paying any attention by his very un-presidential act. It’s not just the phony hip-hop folksiness of that dropped “g” at the end of “hatin’,” and the petulant foot-stomping about that stupid Constitution that allows those mean old congressmen to spitefully vote for what their constituents want rather than what he wants, but mostly how very obvious it is that the ridicule is being offered in lieu of a reasonable argument.
Surely you’ve encountered liberals at the right sorts of cocktail parties who respond to any unfashionable opinion with a dismissive laugh and a sneering put-down, and when asked have nothing to explain the response except another dismissive laugh and sneering put-down, but one expects better from a president of the United States. We recall the president ridiculing Mitt Romney’s statement that Russian President Vladimir Putin should be regarded as a “geo-political” by recycling an old “Seinfeld” gag and chortling that “The ’80s called and they want their foreign policy back.” Now the ’80s are calling back, and America wishes that Ronald Reagan were still around to answer the phone. We also recall another hand-picked crowd of adorers laughing it up about complaints that the southern border isn’t secure, with such zingers as “next they’ll want us to build a moat, and put alligators in it,” and you would have gotten the sense that those crazy Republicans truly believed a hundred thousand or so minors could just waltz across the border unaccompanied. Those crazy Republicans’ paranoid fantasy that if you liked your health insurance plan you wouldn’t be able to keep it under Obamacare got a lot of laughs from those hand-picked crowds of adorers, too, and a lot of the president’s other frequent forays into ridicule now look just as ridiculous.
At this point an argument, complete with facts and logic and a proper respect for the swelling opposing opinion, would probably be more effective. We’re not hatin’, just hoping.

– Bud Norman

Dueling Opinions on Obamacare

Two separate federal courts hearing two separate cases issued contradictory opinions Tuesday regarding the legality of subsidies being provided to people in states with federally-run health care exchanges, and Obamacare and all its embarrassments are back in the news. It’s all very complicated, as is the case with everything Obamacare, but well worth delving into if only for the comic relief.
The dispute in both cases arises from a few words among the 2,000-plus pages of the hilariously named Affordable Care Health Act, which state in unusually clear language that the subsidies shall be made to those who are eligible by their lack of income and had enrolled in exchanges “established by the State.” Only 14 states were willing to go along with the Obamacare boondoggle by establishing their own exchanges, so in the other 36 states the law as written would stick those under-funded suckers who signed up with the full cost of their over-priced plans, which would cause many of them to stop paying their premiums and pay the much smaller fine instead, thus leaving the insurers with a sicker and less profitable pool of customers, thereby raising the poor folks’  ire and everyone else’s premiums and further endangering the already unpopular law’s chances of political survival.
The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, in a two-to-one ruling in the Halbig v. Burwell case, insisted that the law says what it says and should be enforced accordingly. A few hours later the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in the King v. Burwell case that the law doesn’t really say what it says, and in no case should be enforced according to something so silly  as the law’s  plain text. The unfortunate Burwell, whoever he or she might be, seems headed to the Supreme Court for a final resolution.
Until then, it will be amusing to hear Obamacare’s dwindling number of defenders argue that it is the most brilliantly written legislation in American history while simultaneously arguing that it should not be read as written because of its absurdity. The oxymoronically named White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest helpfully explains that “You don’t need a fancy legal degree to understand that Congress intended for every eligible American to have access to tax credit that would lower their health care costs regardless of whether it was state officials or federal officials who are running the marketplace,” but it takes an especially fancy legal education to conclude that is not what Congress wrote into the law. Some argue that the language was quite deliberate, and intended to force recalcitrant Republican governors into starting state exchanges or face the wrath of their dependent class voters, although the estimated four to five million people being subsidized are hardly a formidable voting bloc when spread across 36 states, and far outnumbered by the voters being asked to pick up the tab for the subsidies, but if the Democrats now want to insist that it was just one of those typographical errors that are bound to happen when you’re hastily ramming an unpopular law down the public’s throat in the literal dead of night without a single vote from the opposition party they are free to do so. The D.C. Court of Appeals rejected the government’s argument that the plain text of the Affordable Care Act “renders other provisions of the ACA absurd,” which seems reasonable given that the absurdity standard would render most of the Obama administration’s actions illegal, and any Republicans who insist that the law should be enforced according to what it says are also free to do so.
We’re not such reckless gamblers that we would wager any amount of the final resolution of this matter, but we hopefully note that Professor Laurence Tribe of the impeccably fancy Harvard Law School has said “I wouldn’t bet the family farm on this coming out in a way that preserves Obamacare.” The good professor probably doesn’t have a family farm, and even if he does we can’t imagine him plowing its fields, so we take his comment as merely allegorical, but it’s heartening nonetheless. Even if the argument that a law shouldn’t be enforced as it is written just because it’s written that way does prevail, it will be nice to at last be done with the archaic pretense that the law has any meaning other than what the president wants it to mean.

– 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

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

Lingering Headlines, Dwindling Hope

Some cynics have suggested that President Barack Obama’s release of five high-ranking terrorists from the Guantanamo Bay war prison in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was timed to detract attention from the scandalous mismanagement of the Veterans Administration that had dominated the headlines in the preceding days. If so, the stratagem seems to have succeeded. The prisoner swap isn’t following the script of  the heart-warming remake of “Saving Private Ryan” that the administration intended, and is instead getting panned by even the most supportive critics, who find the story less rousing when everyone in Private Ryan’s unit is telling anyone who will listen that he was a deserter whose desertion cost the lives of the other men, which has forced the administration to resort to slandering those men, but at least no one is talking about the VA.
They’re still talking about it in Congress, where a deal in the works to pass a bill that will fix everything that’s been wrong with the VA the past many years. According to the few reports still being filed about the issue, the bill would cough up another $2 billion and allow whoever was tabbed to replace that Gen. Shinseki guy to actually fire someone. Negotiations have apparently stalled over how much power the VA Secretary should have to fire someone, with those crazy Republicans and their private sector predilections insisting on unlimited discretions and those sober Democrats with their public sector principles insisting on three-week appeals and other proprieties. While the negotiations drag on honorable veterans dependent on VA care will continue to sit on off-the-books waiting lists to get medical care, but the truly compassionate will be relieved to know that Private Bradley Manning’s sex-change operation won’t be delayed during his stay in prison for leaking government secrets,
Leading the negotiations are Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona and independent socialist Bernie Sanders of Vermont, which also does not inspire hope, but we’re hoping that McCain’s tougher approach will prevail. our experience of institutions tell us that fixing the broken ones requires that somebody be fired, although it seems unlikely that anyone appointed by the current administration will be reluctant to do so even if given the authority. The authority to clean house seems more important than that niggling $2 billion, given that the VA’s funding has tripled since 2001 even as the number of veterans has declined from 25.5 million to 21.9 million. Some loyal Democrats are still grousing that the VA is underfunded, but veterans are a key Republican constituency and even their non-veteran voters tear up at the mention of military service, so “full funding” is one of the few campaign promises that Obama has actually kept. All those dollars spent divided by the much smaller number of veterans actually seeking care from the VA would amount to a substantial voucher check, which would allow those patients to fire at will any doctors putting them on a waiting list and find other providers for care far more essential than a sex-change operation, but that is probably too much to hope for from the current government.
The situation is infuriating enough that the administration would probably just as soon have us talking about that ill-advised and extra-legal prisoner swap, and there aren’t many other promising topics of conversation to take up. The economy leaves record numbers of Americans out of work and in poverty and on government assistance, more problems with Obamacare keep popping up, that lady from the Internal Revenue Service is still pleading the Fifth Amendment to avoid answering questions about the agency’s harassment of dissident groups, and from the increasingly bloody Ukraine to the rout in Syria to the still-chugging nuclear program in Iran to the latest Chinese aggressions in eastern Asia there is little to boast about. Even those kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls that Obama frequently mentioned in his recent triumphalist major foreign policy address at West Point are still in captivity. The outraged headlines shift from topic to topic with every few days, but none inspire any faith in the administration.
Nor does the news inspire any hope in the change that will comes from the administration’s broader aspirations. The prisoner swap was probably intended to make the administration’s long-stated goal of closing Guantanamo Bay more attainable by releasing its most dangerous prisoners, but the backlash makes any further releases a provocation to impeachment. That continuing mess at the VA raises doubts about the government’s ability to manage manage health care for the rest of the country through Obamacare, especially when the Democrats are so stubborn about firing anyone, and the liberal argument that these people know best and should be allowed to run every aspect of your life seems all the more implausible. That prisoner swap is proving a fiasco for the administration, but it still might be a useful distraction.

– Bud Norman

Two More Scandals to Consider

So many scandals are afoot that it’s hard to muster the necessary outrage for any new ones, but the recent revelations about the Veterans Administration and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency are worth noting. Both are outrageous even by the jaded standards of the moment, and both make important points about ongoing debates.
Some government officials are still insisting that there’s no proof anybody died as a result of what happened at a VA hospitals in Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Wyoming, and elsewhere, but that’s the best spin they’ve been able to put on it. There are allegations that hospitals in those states used off-the-books waiting lists to get around a federal requirement that veterans in need of care be seen within 14 days of calling for an appointment, which had been made after widespread complaints of dangerous delays, and the claims are being taken seriously. Congress has launched yet another investigation, and some Republicans have already joined the American Legion in calling for the secretary of veterans’ affairs to resigns. The president has appointed his deputy chief of staff to investigate the matter, and the even the usually respectful reporters at Reuters acknowledge that “The move demonstrated White House concern that the issue is taking on growing political weight.”
Less attention has been paid, for some reason, to the release by ICE of 36,007 criminals who were awaiting deportation hearings last year. The agency’s catch-and-release program freed 193 illegal aliens who had been convicted of homicide, including one who had murdered a public official, 426 with sexual assault convictions, 303 convicted kidnappers, and more than 16,000 with drunk or drugged driving records. Texas’ Rep. Lamar Smith said it “would be considered the worst prison break in American history, except that it was sanctioned by the president and perpetrated by our own immigration officials,” but few others were willing to address the matter with such candor. Another 36,0007 criminals on the streets doesn’t warrant much attention from the press, which seems more concerned that photo identification requirements might prevent the undocumented fellows from voting, but to the extent that the public is aware it will likely be miffed.
These stories will have to compete for space with the Benghazi and Internal Revenue Service scandals and the continuing sluggishness of the economy and all the crisis that are popping up from the South China Sea to Iran to Ukraine and beyond, but we hope they’ll find some room as the country considers what to do about Obamacare and the millions of people illegally in the country. The poor care being provided for the nation’s relatively small number of veterans should raise doubts about the government’s ability to run health care for the rest of the country, and the administration’s willingness to unloose 36,007 convicted on the streets should bolster arguments that it can’t trusted to enforce any closed-border provisions that might be tacked onto an amnesty plan. If the stories raise further doubts about the government’s ability to manage the entire economy and maintain some semblance of international order, so much the better.

– Bud Norman

Hard Times in Hollywood

The President of the United States was hobnobbing with a roomful of super-rich show biz folks the other day, and he sounded rather glum. He spoke of a “disquiet around the country,” “an anxiety, and a sense of frustration,” a widely held belief that “the challenges out there remain daunting and we have a Washington that’s not working,” and his fear it will cause Americans to become disengaged from the political process to an extent that “we got this downward spiral of even more cynicism and more dysfunction.” All in all, it seemed an incongruously downbeat message for such an upscale occasion.
We did not attend the fundraiser at Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn’s palatial Bel-Air home, but we read all about in Variety, which is a usually reliable source for all matters entertainment. The event was a bit pricey for our budget, with a donation of $10,000 buying only dinner and a photo-op, and $34,000 needed to get into the VIP reception and $68,000 the cost of something called a “VIP clutch,” so we stayed home and watched Netflix instead, but it sounds like we missed a swank affair. Pop diva Barbra Streisand and big-time movie mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg were reportedly in attendance, and presumably involved in the “VIP clutch,” which for that kind of money should have involved a happy ending, and we can only guess that everyone was good-looking and well-dressed and wealthy enough to pony up serious cash for the president’s ongoing crusade against income inequality. We like to imagine there’s a certain amount of gaiety at these glamorous Hollywood shindigs, with comely young starlets swinging from the chandeliers and handsome young gigolos snorting copious amounts of cocaine off the ample breasts of some sultry sex symbol or another, so it strikes us as slightly rude that the president would bring everyone down with a rambling rehash of Jimmy Carter’s infamous “Malaise Speech.”
Show people are funny, though, so perhaps they got their money’s worth from the frisson of pseudo-seriousness they felt listening to the President of the United States spout such self-pitying drivel. The president was quite correct about the disquiet and the anxiety and the frustration and the sense that Washington isn’t working, and right to worry about the cynicism and dysfunction it causes, but the rest of it was as far removed from reality as Hollywood’s latest comic book epic. The nation’s unhappy mood derives from the record number of working-age Americans who have given up look for work in a perpetually sluggish economy, the record number of Americans living in poverty and on government assistance, the rising costs and diminished benefits of our health care system, the emboldened belligerence of America’s enemies across the globe, the increasing coarseness and meanness of our popular culture and political discourse, and a growing realization that after more than five years in office the President of the United States has something to do with it.
According to the President of the United States, however, it’s all those other guys’ fault. If not for their unaccountable obstruction he could spent enough money to solve all the economic problems, people would be happily giving up the health care plans they liked and paying more for the plans they are forced to accept, America’s enemies would be soothed into submission, Hollywood would be rewarded for its brave transgressive art with a continuation of its myriad tax breaks, and no one would be the least bit cynical about any of these claims. That the opposition has at least been successful enough in thwarting the president’s ambitions to put in such a dour mood actually bolsters our faith in the constitutional system, but the president seems intent on sowing cynicism about that. It’s cynicism about him that he finds alarming, and no matter what lies he tells about Benghazi or Obamacare or any of the “phony scandals” that have highly-placed allies pleading the Fifth Amendment it is those other guys’ fault if anyone doubts him.
Those Hollywood swells ate it up like a catered $10,000-a-plate meal, so far as we can tell, and probably offered some well-rehearsed sympathy. The president assured his star-struck audience that he and his party had the vast majority of Americans on their side on every issue that would matter in the upcoming mid-term elections, and Variety does not mention any guffaws. At least they know that their donations are unlikely to arouse the attention of the Internal Revenue Service, which has been auditing donors to conservative causes at a rate ten times greater than the national average, and they can assure themselves that they’re not cynics.
The same speech would get a markedly different reaction here in our proudly unglamorous home of Wichita, even at the Machinists’ Hall, where the guys make those corporate jets that the president likes to rail against when he flies off to a golf course on Air Force One, and we suspect the coal miners in West Virginia and the oil boomers in North Dakota and the unemployed almost everywhere would be just as cynical. The president’s problem is that such cynicism won’t cause them to be disengaged, but rather to show up at the polls in a surly mood come November.

– Bud Norman

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