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A Hip-Hop Heave-Ho to “Suge” Knight

As caucasian and conservative Kansans of a certain age, our musical tastes tend  more to Peggy Lee and Hank Williams and the Duke Ellington Orchestra and Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys and Chuck Berry and The Ramones than the latest cacophony, but we’re familiar enough with the “gangsta’ rap” genre that we took note “Suge” Knight has pleaded guilty to a manslaughter charge which might result in what amounts to a life sentence.
If you’re not familiar with the oeuvre of Knight’s Death Row Records label we envy you, but you should know that over the past few decades it has exerted an undeniable influence on America’s popular culture. Back in the early hip-hop days that the youngsters now call “back in the day,” Death Row Records records made a ton of money peddling the most violent and misogynistic and generally nihilistic “gangsta’ rap” available on the open market. The shockingly violent lyrics were always delivered with a machine-gun staccato over a scary bass line, and they eerily echoed what we were reading in the local crime stories, and judging by the thudding music we’d hear every time we were stopped at a red light in certain parts of town it was a very lucrative trade.
At the time we covering the music beat for the local newspaper, and had interviewed Ice-T after his “Cop Killa'” peaked on the charts and one of the “Niggaz With Attitude” when they were the hottest thing going with equally anti-law enforcement sentiments, and even though  we witnessed the violence at their concerts we couldn’t argue with their rationalization that they were only expressing their reality. Even so, we argued with both that surely something more hopeful was going on in the ‘hood, and that things might better in the ‘hood if they stressed the best of it rather than glorifying the worst of it, and worried that “gangsta’ rap” might be both a cause and effect of the worst of it.
Back in the day, as the youngsters fondly call it, “gangsta’ rappers” used to shoot one another with alarming regularity. Death Row Records’ “artists” were often among both the victims and perpetrators, and Knight himself wound up facing various felony charges following various shoot-outs, but his record business was all the more brisk. Young black men of lesser renown were also gunning one another down at an alarming rate, here and everywhere else, and Death Row Records provided much of the soundtrack.
Since then things seem have calmed down a bit. Death Row Records is no long a major player on the music scene, and the few music critics we still occasionally read tell us that hip-hop is now about black empowerment and spirituality and other upbeat things. Ice-T has spent the last few decades playing cops on network television dramas, and that surprisingly friendly guy from “Niggaz With Attitude” has been playing the Dad character in some charmingly family-friendly blaxploitation flicks, and so far as we can tell from our red light stops in certain parts of town the latest hip-hop is less heavy on drive-by shootings and slapping  women and around and  generally defying law-enforcement and social norms. Except for a few mostly Democratic-run outlier big cities the black-on-black crime and the crime rate in general has been steadily declining since the heyday of “gangsta’ rap,” and we suspect both trends are both cause as well as effect.
It makes us feel suddenly aged to see that that this newfangled rap stuff is now so old that Knight is a rpideed 53 years old. Back in the day he’d have earned some valuable street cred by copping to a 28-year sentence, which would have been a mere 22 years if it weren’t his third felony strike, but these days he’s a hip-hop has-been who will go to prison for what might be the rest of his life with little notice.
C’est la vie, Suge. We well remember a better age of black music when Aretha and Sly and Otis and the Staple Singers were laying down far more musical tracks promising a new age of peace and brotherhood and equality, not to mention the likes of the great Duke Ellington Orchestra and Chuck Berry, and we hope it will long outlive the legacy of Death Row Records.

— Bud Norman

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Our Very Reluctant Reflections on a Current Presidential Topic

Once upon a more polite time in American politics we would never have considered writing a word about a president’s penis, but in the age of President Donald Trump it’s yet another one of those many unprecedented topics one can’t quite avoid. Trump’s appendage first made its debut in the political conversation during the ’16 Republican primaries, when he assured his supporters that “I guarantee you there’s no problem, I guarantee,” and now it’s back in the news with a pornographic video performer and director’s far less flattering assessment.
The best-selling non-fiction book in America at the moment is journalism legend Bob Woodward’s “Fear: Trump in the White House,” which depicts an administration full of people worried that the chief executive is dangerously unfit for office, but we expect that next week’s chart-topper will be by a pornographic video performer and director called Stormy Daniels. Recently released by the courts from a $130,000 non-disclosure contract to not talk about an alleged tryst with Trump back when his youngest son by his third wife was 4-months-old, Daniels has a “tell-all” book coming out that will surely be far more lucrative, and the most salacious parts have already leaked out, and what she says will probably offend Trump more than anything in that Woodward book.
Ever since the editor of the once-fashonable and still-well-remembered but long-defunct Spy Magazine in New York City wrote that then local celebrity Trump was a “short-fingered vulgarian” the current president has been famously touchy about the size of his hands, which is why his penis came up in the news in the first place. Late in the death throes of his ill-fated presidential candidacy Florida Sen. Marco Rubio decided to give Trump’s undeniably successful insult comic shtick a try, and poked at that button he knew Trump had about his hand size, and very subtly suggested that Trump had other insecurities as well. Rubio was widely denounced in most corners for getting down to Trump’s gutter level, however, and Trump’s guarantees on a Republican presidential debate stage that there was no problem down there brought roars of approval from his mostly male die-hard supporters.
At the time we thought it more even embarrassing than the era of President Bill Clinton and its unavoidable fellatio jokes about a naive intern, but the latest developments are worse yet. We suppose there’s an chance that Trump didn’t cheat on third wife a few months after the birth of his fifth child with a pornographic video performer and a Playboy centerfold model, and paid them both six-figure amounts not to say so because he’s just that kind of stand-up guy who wants to protect his wife, but other tawdry scenarios seem more likely. Which makes the porn star’s assessment of Trump’s penis more plausible, which Trump will surely find more infuriating than anything that Pulitzer Prize-winning Wood might claim.
Given that this is the age of President Donald Trump, after all, we’ll just go ahead and write out that a porn star called Stormy Daniels is now alleging that the presidential penis is “smaller than average” but “not freakishly small,” and resembles a certain mushroom-shaped character in a popular video game, along with other details which have since gone viral. This is all on the public record where you’re bound to run into it sooner or later, but we apologize if you saw it here first.
To be fair to Trump, we concede that Daniels is a pornographic video performer, and thus probably has an unrealistic idea of what constitutes an average penis size, and that perhaps she’s lying about what she calls the “least impressive sex I’ve ever had,” and that in fact Trump is the most well-endowed and selfless lover he’s ever experienced/.” At this point we’re inclined to believe she’s been in a position to know, however, and with great anxiety we await Trump’s reassurances about the presidential package.
Worst yet, all of this tawdry nonsense seems dangerously tied up with the rest of it. On issues ranging from international trade to longstanding military alliances to the currently swelling national deficit Trump has promised that only his uniquely endowed alpha maleness can rescue the country from his the nefarious plots of critics, but at this point we’re more inclined to believe a pornographic video performer and director that Trump isn’t all he claims to be. If Daniel’s descriptions of the presidential junk are at all accurate they might also exacerbate the current frostiness between the president and his First Lady, which is another one of those unavoidable stories these days.
In the meantime Trump’s Supreme Court nomination is stalled by credible charges of attempted rape, the “Russia thing” racks up ever-closer-to-Trump guilty pleas and cooperating witnesses, the president keeps feuding with his Attorney General, yet the economy seems to keep humming along. We don’t expect that in the end the president’s penis will have much to do with it one way or the other, but in this weird day and age it will likely play some part. For now all those snarky late-night television comics are having great fun with it, however, and we can’t say we  blame them.

— Bud Norman

The Story That Drowned in the Flood

If the easternmost cities and towns of North Carolina weren’t underwater, and a Supreme Court nomination wasn’t facing equally stormy weather, the big story on Tuesday probably would have been President Donald Trump declassifying several documents related to the Justice Department’s ongoing investigation into the “Russia thing.”
Trump has “tweeted” that “Very bad things were happening, but now they are being exposed. Big stuff!” His critics have countered that it’s yet another out-in-the-open obstruction of justice based on yet another unconvincing conspiracy theory, and threatens to expose the Justice Department’s sources and methods and thus pose a threat to national security. In either case, we figure it would be a very big deal in a slower news cycle.
The documents include a very top-secret filing for a warrant from the very top-secret court established by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, some internal e-mails sent by several DOJ and Federal Bureau of Investigations suspected of a “deep state” conspiracy to overthrow Trump’s presidency, and various other “big stuff.” If you haven’t been keeping up with the whole “Russia thing,” the FBI and all the intelligence agencies and even the Trump appointees who now run them agree that the Russians meddled in America’s past presidential election on Trump’s behalf, but Trump and all of his talk radio apologists agree that it was actually Democratic nominee “Crooked” Hillary Clinton who colluded in the effort.
Although that Clinton woman was indeed pretty damned crooked we have to admit she’s at least shrewd enough that this conspiracy theory makes no sense to us, but these days nothing does, so we can’t rule out the possibility that the declassified documents will definitively prove that Trump is the blameless victim of a “deep state” coup. We’ll not be wagering any of our meager amount of money on that outcome, though, and those damned Democrats’ sudden and opportunistic fussiness about sources and methods and national security seems a surer bet.
As horrible as it’s been the storm in the Carolinas will eventually dissipate, and one way or another a conservative jurist will eventually take a seat on the Supreme Court, but one way or another this “Russia thing” isn’t going away anytime soon.

— Bud Norman

Manafort’s Deal and the Rest of It

The news is quite jam-packed these days, what with the catastrophic flooding in the Carolinas and that unexpected plot twist temporarily tying up a Supreme Court nomination, but the latest development in the ongoing “Russia thing” is still worth noting. A former campaign chairman for President Donald Trump’s improbable yet winning candidacy has lately pleaded guilty to some serious charges involving his shady dealings with Russians, and in exchange for a lighter sentence on those charges and some other serious financial crimes he was recently convicted of in another trial he’s now offering cooperation with a special counsel investigation into the ongoing “Russia thing.”
This might or might not yet prove the development that brings down Trump’s presidency, but it in almost any case we can’t imagine it’s good news for Trump. Even in his pre-felon days former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was boastfully a lobbyist for the Russia-friendly Ukrainian government that was overthrown in a pro-freedom coup, the stereotypically cruel and corrupt African warlord Jonas Savimbi, and various other authoritarian strongmen around the world. One of his partners in the lobbying firm was Roger Stone, one of the self-described “Rat Fucker” dirty tricksters in President Richard Nixon’s Watergate-era campaign, who has freely admitted to several newspapers and various cable news networks that he’s clearly “Person A” in previous indictments and the next one to be charged with various crimes. Another named partner in that notorious lobbying firm was Rick Gates, who long ago pleaded guilty to various serious charges and has since provided evidence against Manafort in that recent trial which ended so unfortunately for Manafort.
It remains to be seen what the former campaign chairman might testify about the next-higher-up in the campaign hierarchy, but at this point it’s unlikely to redound to the benefit of Trump. Manafort guided the campaign through a slightly reluctant Republican party nominating convention, which suspiciously changed its platform about arming the Ukrainian nationalists resisting Russian occupation, and he was in on the Trump Tower meeting with some shady Russians who had clearly indicated in an undisputed e-mail chain released by Donald Trump Jr. that they were offering campaign assistance on behalf of the Russian government, and we guess he potentially has all sorts of other tales to tell.
Trump had “tweeted” his profound respect for Manafort’s character back when his friend was still holding out against extreme prosecutorial pressure to “flip,” but we notice that since Manafort’s apparent “flipping” Trump’s “twitter” feed has been conspicuously silent on the subject. Trump has plenty else to “tweet” about these days, given the catastrophic flooding in the Carolinas and the unnecessarily renewed controversy about the horrific death toll in last year’s hurricane in Puerto Rico, not to mention that complicated situation with the Supreme Court nominee, and we can well understand why he’d rather not we were thinking about that ongoing “Russia thing.”
Meanwhile the unemployment rate is down and the stock markets are still up, and despite Trump’s stupid trade wars and the swelling national deficit the economy seems swell enough, but it’s hard for even all that to crowd out the rest of a jam-packed news cycle. The past and present hurricanes and a Supreme Court nominee credibly accused of sexual assault and everything we already now about the “Russia thing” make for a perform storm, even without all the hush-money payments to porn stars and Playboy playmates and all the rest of it, so we predict a few more unfavorable news cycles leading up to the mid-term elections. After that, we’ll not be at all surprised by anything that might happen.

— Bud Norman

An Anonymous Accuser Comes Forward, and Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings to Come to a Sudden Halt

When federal Judge Brett Kavanaugh was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Donald Trump we figured the confirmation by the Senate was pretty much a done deal, and that was all right by us. Over the weekend Kavanaugh’s promotion became less certain, though, and by now that’s also all right by us.
Kavanaugh’s requisite testimony before the majority Republican Senate judiciary committee was a predictably partisan affair, with the Democrats trotting out all their usual alarmist about what might happen if the Supreme Court starts deciding things according to what the Constitution plainly says and its ratifiers plainly understood. Even so, the Democrats also had some admittedly more compelling complaints about all the documents that Kavanaugh had withheld until the last moment and some potentially perjruous statements he made during the hearings and especially the quite expansive view of executive privilege that he’d described in some undeniable documents that had been obtained, which is will well worth noting given all the Trump-related cases that might eventually wind up in the Supreme Court.
Our admittedly amateur opinion is that the Democrats are on less firm constitutional ground as they worry that Kavanaugh might be the fifth vote need to overturn the abortion rights declared in Roe v. Wade, but our more expert political is that they’ve got a winning electoral issue if it does come to pass, so of course they made a bit deal of that.
None of that was likely to prevent Kavanaugh’s nomination, however, and none of it kept us from being more or less all right with that. Even when that oh-so-California-Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein spoke at the end of the week of an anonymous source who alleged that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her way back in his prep school days, Kavanaugh seemed a safe pick. He had a long list of character witnesses, including the girls’ basketball teams he’d coached and his fellow prep school carpoolers and their children, and that was to be weighed against an anonymous accuser’s accusations vaguely described by an undeniably partisan Democrat.
Over the weekend, however, a 51-year-old-professor of research psychology with appointments at both Palo Alto University and Stanford Univerity named Christine Blasey Ford went on the record as Kavanaugh’s accuser, and even after so many years she seems to have some corroborating evidence for an account that is quite unpleasantly specific. She claims that during a teenaged party in the early ’80s at a house in the tony little town in Maryland’s Montgomery County, two drunken boys from a nearby elite prep school cornered in her a room, and proceed to grope and rub themselves against as one held a hand over her mouth. She now names the two boys as Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and bus fellow classmate Mark Judge, a filmmaker and author who has written for publications ranging from The Washington Post to the Weekly Standard. Both have plenty of character witnesses, but so does Ford, and sh’e released a family therapist’s record that show she’s been telling the same story long before anyone ever heard of Kavanaugh, and she can no longer be accused of hiding her reputation behind anonymous charges.
Judge was also the author of a roman a clef titled “Wasted: Tales of a Gen-x Drunk,” which mentions a classmate named “Bart O’Kavanaugh” puking in cars and passing out on the way home from parties. That’s by no means conclusive proof of anything more nefarious than the usual teenaged obnoxiousness, of course, but given everything else it suggests that there might something to the tale a well-credentialed professor by the name of Christine Blasey Ford is staking her reputation on. At the very least, it should tie up the confirmation process for a few more news cycles.
Given everything else, it might even wind up preventing Kavanaugh’s confirmation. All that talk about Roe v. Wade already had two abortion rights-favoring women Republican Senators from quirkily Republic states wavering on Kavanaugh’s nomination, which is decisive given the Republican’s razor thing margin in the upper chamber, and credible accusations of sexual assault will also further scare off those Democrats running for re-election in the states won by Trump. Not to mention the concerns about Trump packing the Supreme Court for his inevitable cases there.
If we were betting types and had any money to wager, we’d still be inclined to bet a few measly bucks on Kavanaugh’s confirmation, but at this point we’d insist on better odds than we did before, and we’ll hold out some hope that one way or the other the truth will prevail.

— Bud Norman

On the Going On’s in Nearby Texas

Although we’re comfortably fifty miles of Kansas and a whole big ol’ state of Oklahoma away from Texas, there’s no looking away from the surprisingly close Senate race going on down there. Incumbent Sen. Rafael “Ted” Cruz should be well ahead in such a reliably Republican state, but all the polls show Democratic nominee Rep. Robert “Beto” O’Rourke well within striking distance, and it has national implications for both politics and country-and-western music, two matters of great importance to us.
All politics is indeed local, but Texas is such an outsized state that we follow its politics closely, or at least closely enough to understand that it’s a darn complicated state where such an unapologetic liberal such as O’Rourke is getting within the margin of error against such as unabashedly conservative as Cruz, and to know that what’s going on in the equally dysfunctional Democratic and Republican parties in the rest of the nation have something to do with it.
Despite its admirable stubborn streak the great state of Texas is by now very much a part of the modern media world, where that O’Rourke fellow is undeniably more telegenic than that Cruz guy, and we think that has a lot to do with those poll numbers. O’Rourke is objectively youthful and trim and handsome, can talk convincingly about growing up in the multi-racial yet exceptionally crime-free border town of El Paso, which he currently represents in Congress, and he has the same well-spoken appeal even when he spouts the national Democratic party’s most far-left looniness.
Cruz’ carefully considered and well-stated conservatism won him a national collegiate debate championship and such a successful tenure as a Texas state attorney that he was elected to the Senate, where he was lauded by all the conservative talk radio show hosts for single-handedly causing a government shutdown overcome thing or another, and he finished as the runner-up in the last Republican presidential primary. Even so, he’s not a noticeably handsome fellow nor an especially likable guy, no matter how sound those conservative principles he espouses might be.
So for, alas, Cruz has run a clumsy campaign. He started it off after the Democratic primary by sneering that Robert O’Rourke went by “Beto” only to endure him to Latino voters, but O”Rourke responded with a kindergarten photo of himself in a “Beto” sweatshirt, and rightly noted that the ethnically Cuban Rafael Cruz had long by “Ted” to endear himself to more anglophile Texans, and from the start Cruz has been leading with his chin. He’s made some hay of a long driving-under-the-influence charge, but President George W. Bush won the state’s electoral votes despite the same blot, and many women on “twitter” remarked that O’Rourke looked handsome in the arrest photo, and attempts to shame O’Rourke for his past membership in a punk rock band have fallen flat in the state that gave America both Ronnie D. and the Buttonhole Surfers.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has named Texas as one of the several races where he might lose his majority, and another administration official has also told the press that Cruz might not be “likable enough” to win reelection even in Texas. Back when they were vying for the Republican nomination, President Donald Trump opined that “The truth is he’s a nasty guy. No one likes him, nobody anywhere likes him once they got to to know him. He’s got an edge that’s not good. You can’t make deal with people like that, and it’s not a good thing, not a good thing for the country. He’s a very nasty guy.”
Trump also peddled “birther” conspiracies about Cruz’ admitted and well-documented Canadian birthplace, “re-tweeted” a “meme” suggesting that his third wife was way hotter than that the bride of Cruz’ youth, and nominated The National Enquirer for a Pulitzer prize after its article suggesting that Cruz’ dad was in on the JFK assassination. Cruz responded that Trump was a narcissist and pathological liar and utterly unfit for the presidency, and a cowardly punk who had better not ever again mention Cruz’ wife, and even at the Republican convention he was urging his party and fellow conservatives to “vote your conscience.”
Since then Trump and Cruz have buried the proverbial hatchet, if you’ll forgive a potentially politically incorrect proverb. Family pride notwithstanding, Cruz has realized that he needs Trump’s support in a state the president carried by almost the usual Republican margins, Trump has realized he badly needs another Republican Senate seat to preserve his razor-thin margin in the chamber, especially if the House races go as badly as expected, and thus they have achieved the Art of the Deal. Trump is promising to pack the biggest stadium in Texas — where everything is the biggest — with a rally on Cruz’ behalf, and Cruz has promised to sign off on whatever cockamamie thing Trump might think of.
Our cynical guess from two states away is that this tawdry show of Republican unity should be enough to put Cruz past the finish line in his race with O’Rourke, but these days there’s no telling, even in Texas or even up here in Kansas. The Democrat down in Texas is bringing in enough denotations from Texas and the other 49 states to put up billboards along the busy interstates that remind motorists of how much Trump once hated “Lyin’ Ted” and how much Cruz once hated the sociopathic Trump, however, and their past quotes are more are more convincing than their current posterior-kissing, so we expect a close even in reliably Republican Texas.
Even if “Beto” does lose a close race, at least he’ll have inflicted sone damage on the Republican party, and will have a bright future in the Democratic party. All the time and money and presidential attention the Republicans now have to invest in a reliably Republican Senate seat must now be diverted from all those other close Senate races that the for-now majority leader is worrying about, and O’Rourke is getting much attention and many donations from all those Democratic states on those crazy coastal areas, and he seems by far the better guy to have a beer with at Kirby’s Beer Store or your local dive, and he might ultimately outlast Cruz.
Which seems a shame, as we quite disagree with most of this liberal nonsense that O’Rourke is so charmingly peddling, and are more inclined to agree to with most of the right-wing rhetoric that Cruz is so so convincingly but un-charmingly peddling. If it’s a choice between O’Rourke style progressivism and Trump-ism we’re not sure how we’d vote, but if it’s a choice between O’Rourke and Trump and what Cruz was once saying about Trump back when he voted for him and shook his hand during the ’16 Kansas Republican caucus, we’ll let the good people of Texas decide.
Meanwhile, Willie Nelson is scheduled to play a concert for O’Rourke, and we read that many of his reliably Republican Texas fans are appalled. So far as we can tell they never noted the long pony-tail and tie-dyed shirts of the “Red Headed Stranger,” nor the red cast of his eyes and the ever-present reefer in his lips, and based on his true-to-God country singing they assumed he was politically simpatico. Nelson never was, we hate to say, but with Johnny Cash and George Jones and and Merle Haggard having died in the past few years he and Dolly Parton are the last singing voices of the last great era of country music, and we much prefer it to all this recent politics on the glorious plains and elsewhere.

— Bud Norman

Grading Hurricanes on the Curve

As Hurricane Florence heads toward the mid-Atlantic coast, threatening 130 mile an hour winds and 83-foot waves and severe flooding, President Donald Trump is promising another one of his A-plus efforts to deal with it. He’s also describing his response to last year’s Hurricane Maria as an A-plus effort, though, which should give pause to anyone in Florence’s path.
Most Puerto Ricans give Trump’s efforts a much lower grade, according to a recent poll commissioned by The Washington Post and the Kaiser family foundation. Only 15 percent of the respondents describe Trump as doing an “excellent” or “very good” or merely “good” job, with 52 percent rating his performance as “poor” and another 28 percent calling it “fair.” The Puerto Rican government and the territory’s governor fared only slightly better, with 25 percent giving high to the former and 31 percent to the latter, while the federal government’s overall response got favorable reviews from 39 percent and 41 percent approved on their local government’s efforts.
Such dissatisfaction is understandable. Sixty-four people died during the storm — a low number compared to other recent hurricanes, which Trump proudly touted in the immediate aftermath — but the lack of potable water and fresh food and medical services caused the storm’s death toll to rise to 2,975, making it the second deadliest natural disaster in American history. A year later large parts of the island remain without electricity and power outages remain common almost everywhere, the roads to several remote towns remain closed, and re-building efforts are moving slowly.
Trump is right to note that the Puerto Rican government had let its infrastructure to deteriorate to a vulnerable state, as most Puerto Ricans apparently agree, and he’s also right that getting needed supplies and personnel to a far-off island is more difficult than responding to a hurricane on the mainland. Even so, we can’t argue with any Puerto Rican who gives Trump a lower grade than A-plus. Nor can we blame them if they still resent Trump’s “tweets” about how the lazy Puerto Ricans wanted everyone else to take care of their problems, or his petty feud with the San Juan mayor who was wading through waist-deep waters to deliver help while the president was playing golf on one of his own courses.
The states and municipalities along the projected path of Hurricane Florence are more well-run and better built to withstand a hurricane than Puerto Rico, and their English-speaking citizens can probably expect more presidential attention in the lead-up to a mid-term election they’re eligible to vote in, but it looks a hard rain that’s gonna fall. We’ll be hoping for an honestly -earned A-plus to help out.

— Bud Norman

Sunny Days and Stormy Forecasts

The weather here in south-central Kansas has been pretty much perfect the last couple of days, with the forecast calling for at least another a full week of it, but we’re reading that a strong hurricane is likely bringing near-biblical floods and God only knows what else to our friends on the mid-Atlantic coast. The rest of the news seems just as foreboding, despite the the admittedly healthy economic figures, but we’re holding out hope for a few more sunny days.
The states and counties and localities that are targeted by the latest forecast of Hurricane Florence are generally well-run, and no matter what we think of their crazy liberal taxes and regulatory policies we have to admit they’ve endured a couple of centuries of hurricane catastrophes, so no matter how hard of time of it they have we’ll bet on them to endure yet another storm or two. Certainly they’ll do better than New Orleans or Puerto Rico or any of those other badly run jurisdictions after their hurricane catastrophes, so at at least the debates about it will be short lived. If Hurricane Florence takes her way to Washington, D.C., however, all bets are off.
The Bible is provably right that the rain always falls on both on the just and unjust alike, as our blameless souls souls can testify after last week’s rainy weather around here, but at this point we expect it will be another rare ante=deluvian epoch before we see the Washington swamp and all the nation’s bi-partisan sins washed away.
In the meantime we’ll try to enjoy whatever warm and  sunny weather is left around here, and try our best to steer the rest of of the world to its best destination, an wherever your are we urge you to do the same.

–Bud Norman

Try to Remember a Time in September

September is perhaps the most sporting month of the year in America, and usually provides some refuge from all the political and cultural squabbles that dominate the rest of the papers, but not this year.
This year the big story at the United States Open tennis championship was the women’s final singles match, which ended with a big brouhaha about sexism and racism. The professional football season started with the same acrimonious debate about free speech rights and proper respect for the national anthem that had already taken so much out of the past two seasons. Most of the baseball races in the big leagues have already been run, and around this double-A city our beloved Wichita Wingnuts have played their last-ever game in the gorgeous and history-laden Lawrence-Dumont Stadium that is scheduled for the bulldozer, which has the home folks arguing.
Not having followed tennis closely since way back when the undersized by scrappy Australian Rod Laver was winning his calendar Grand Slam sweep, we’ll not venture any strong opinions about what happened in the finals match between American Serena Williams and Japan’s Naomi Osaka. As even such casual fans as ourselves well know Williams has dominated her sport for the past couple of decades, but after the recent birth of a child and at the ripe old age of 36 her dominance is soon coming to and end, so fans were eager to see how she’d fare against an-up-coming who was three months old when Williams won her first Gland Slam title, but everyone hated out it turned out.
Youth proved better than experience in the first set, with Osaka racking up an easy win, but Williams has a long history of impassioned but calm comebacks in the second and third matches, and everyone was expecting another classic effort to tie Margaret Court’s record of 25 Grand Slam singles titles. The umpire made a couple of calls that annoyed Williams, one of them claiming she had illegally been getting coaching from the sidelines, which Williams took quite personally, and she wound up screaming loud and long at the referee and breaking her racket on the court and eventually getting penalized by two games, which put the set and match out of reach against such formidable competition.
A hard-earned win by either the aging superstar or the youthful newcomer who was playing against her life-long idol in her first Grand Slam final should have made for one of those corny feel-good stories we always look for on the sports pages, but in this case it ended for the aforementioned brouhaha about racism and sexism.
Some observers opined that tennis umpires routinely endure far worse verbal abuse from male players, and should extend the same courtesy to female players, while others suggested that the fact it was a strong black woman doing the screaming and racket-smashing might have had something to do with it. We don’t follow tennis closely enough to judge all the arguments about the calls or how commonly cheating violations are called or that particular umpire’s history of enduring verbal abuse from male players, but by now we’re all too familiar with the sexual and racial contretemps, so we’ll venture an admittedly ambivalent opinion that it’s much ado about nothing.
Ever since the days of America’s superstar tennis brats Jimmy Conner and Pat McEnroe those poor umpire’s in tall white chairs have indeed been putting up with a whole lot of verbal abuse from the male players, but we’d rather they stop doing that and start handing out game penalties rather than begin putting up with such nonsense from the fairer sex. Tennis is perhaps the most international and multiracial played on this increasingly interconnected globe, too, and in a match between a black woman and an Asian in front of an umpire with a Latin-sounding name, with Williams chasing a 25th Grand Slam title, it’s hard to imagine racism was much of a factor.
We fondly remember the days when tennis was a game of white shorts and shirts and friendly post-match handshakes and the most genteel standards of sportsmanship and decorum, with such great African-American champions as Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe best exemplifying the best of it, and if tennis wants to return to that better era we wish the sport well.
As for all that fuss about football and the flag, we’ve pretty much lost interest in the sport and are fed up with both sides of its ensuing controversies. Let the players rack up the debilitating brain injuries along with the hits that will likely hobble them into a premature old age, as that’s their choice and they make plenty of money for it, but we’ll choose to watch baseball and then wait until basketball season comes along. If we get to go to any more games around we’ll stand and hold our ever-present hat over our heart as the national anthem plays, with due respect to the freedoms the flag represents, and the men who fought and died for those freedoms, but we’ll not worry how some football player we won’t be watching exercises his freedom.
The Nike sneaker company has recently signed a promotional deal with one-time star quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who started the whole kneeling-during-the-anthem fuss and is now out of the league, partly because defenses started figuring him out and largely because of his politics, and we note that their sales have since gone up, but that others are burning their Nikes and vowing to never buy another pair from the oh-so-liberal company that makes its products mostly in Asian sweatshops. There’s no point in us boycotting Nike even if we were inclined to do so, as we’re old and creatures of habit and plan stick with the classic Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star footwear that have adorned our feet since our junior high days on the pickup courts, and as far as we’re concerned you can wear whatever you want.
The demise of the Wichita Wingnuts and the destruction of that grand old Lawrence-Dumont Stadium hits closer to home, of course, and serves as a sad reminder that politics will always prevail over sports. The mayor and some local capitalists are promising a far grander stadium somewhere along the same picturesque location on the west bank of the Arkansas River, with the same postcard view of downtown, and the preliminary sketches indicate there will be luxury boxes on a second deck, and they’ve already signed up a major league-affiliated triple-A team that wasn’t drawing well down in New Orleans. What’s left of the local media is making a big deal, and the talk is that if you build it they will come in far great numbers than the few thousand who showed up to watch independent and double-A Wingnuts in an aging old park for the very last time.
That “if you build it they will come” stuff is straight from a bad Kevin Costner movie, though, and we have our doubts about all the rest of it. No matter how fancy a park they build you won’t be able to tell your kid that Satchel Paige once pitched there, or how ‘Shocker and Toronto Blue Jays star Joe Carter once hit a homer clear across the street and into the Arkansas River, or share any of other history that the seventh-oldest professional ballpark in America has racked up over the years. Nor do we expect that whatever the losing “New Orleans Baby Cakes” are re-named will be as entertaining as the desperate outsiders’ hustle of the winning Wingnuts, and there probably won’t be a smoking section where we can watch with our cigar-chomping friends, and they’re even talking about how it’s going to screw up the scenic MacLean Boulevard drive along the river.
You can call all these developments social progress, we suppose, and there’s no denying that all the players in all the sports these days are bigger and faster and more scientifically conditioned than the heroes of our long-ago youth. Still, the kiddos should know of a happier time long ago when September offered a few more weeks of respite from the most brutal game of politics.

–Bud Norman

A Who-Wrote-It Mystery

The most popular parlor game in political circles lately is speculating about the identify of the senior administration  official who penned an op-ed in The New York Times that was scathingly critical of President Donald Trump.
The piece cited Trump’s “amorality,” described him as uninformed and impulsive, claimed that several high-ranking officials routinely hide documents and do other things to prevent the president from endangering national security, and generally confirmed the reporting in a soon-to-be-released Bob Woodward book that the White House is “crazy town.” Trump is reportedly furious about it and eager to find and the fire the author, and during a recent rally he described he called the author an “anenimonous” coward who should be tried for treason. By now even Trump isn’t claiming that The New York Times just made it up, and naturally everyone else is also wondering who the senior White House official might be.
There was some speculation that he’s Vice President Mike Pence, because the relatively rarely used word “lodestar” is in the piece and Pence frequently uses the term, and chief of staff John Kelly has been suspected because some of his favorite phrases also appear, but both possibilities strike us a quite remote. More likely is that the author was shrewd enough to add these details as a diversion, and subject both men to Trump’s inevitable questions.
Pretty much everyone at a senior level in the administration is still a suspect, but most of the attention seems to be focused on national security advisor Dan Coats and part-time “senior adviser” and full-time presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner.
The case against Coats strikes us especially strong, for several reasons. Coats found out about Trump’s decision to invite Russian dictator Vladimir Putin to the White House while being interviewed on national television, and was clearly both surprised and displeased, and the op-ed stresses the danger of Trump’s tendency to make impulsive decisions without consulting any of the experts he’s hired. The piece also defends some of the more traditionally Republican aspects of Trump’s domestic policy, and back when Coats was in the House of Representatives and then the Senate he very much a traditional Republican. He’s now nearing retirement age, too, and at this point might well care more about what the country thinks of his party than what his party thinks of him.
Kushner seems a less likely suspect, but we’d love to believe it just as much the next Never Trumper, and there are reasons to do so. Both Kushner and First Daughter Ivanka Trump Kushner were social-climbing Manhattanites and fashionable Democrats when they took their “senior advisor” positions in the White House, and both promised their appalled friends that they were only there to be a moderating influence on Trump’s more populist impulses. Kushner and his wife and pretty all of his in-laws have their own expensive legal troubles, too, and it was widely speculated even before the op-ed that both Kushners would be heading back to New York at any moment, and whenever they eventually do we’re sure they’ll want to reassure the fashionably Democratic socialites of Gotham that they did their part for the resistance.
Whoever it was wrote the op-ed shouldn’t expect a hero’s welcome anywhere, however, as almost everyone thinks the author has been cowardly. According to Trump and his die-hard fans the “aneniminous” writer should forthwith face a traitor’s fate on that gallows, while Trump’s critics on both the left and right would have preferred a principled resignation and an on-the-record account to corroborate all the recent reliable reporting on the “crazy town” inside the White House. We’re more inclined to the latter view, and find the former downright scary, but we’ll judge not lest we be judged, as we’re not sure what we’d do if we found ourselves in the writer’s unusual situation.
If it turns out to be Coats we’ll take stock of his long congressional career as a traditional Republican and distinguished diplomat from the old school, and assume his cowardly efforts had the best intentions and might of done some good. If it turns out to be Kushner, we’ll go right ahead and and indulge in some sinful schadenfreude, and let him find his apologists somewhere in New York City’s high society.
In any case, even Trump seems to agree that there is indeed at least one high-rankking senior official in the White House who worries about the president’s moral and intellectual and temperamental qualifications for the office. According to that soon–to-be-released book by a veteran reporter with a far better truth-telling record than Trump there are several other senior officials in the White House with the same qualms, which pretty much accords with a book by a less reputable author and then one of Trump’s former reality show co-stars, and based on what we’re seeing of Trump’s televised and “tweeted” statements we don’t doubt that at least a few senior White House officials are similarly alarmed.
We’d like to think so, at least, and we hate to speculate how this might all turn out.

— Bud Norman