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An Unconvenional Convention

There’s no definitive word yet on how many Americans were paying any attention to this week’s Republican National Convention, but to whatever extent people were watching the GOP probably helped itself with the proceedings.

Those Americans who have already made up their minds that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are evil incarnate simply won’t be convinced otherwise, but anyone still willing take an objective look at the candidate likely came away with a favorable impression. Several strong speeches by a diverse group of impressive speakers made a compelling case against the current administration, offered a reasonable argument for the opposition’s credentials and policies, got in a few good lines, and unless you’ve got one of those secret decoder rings that allows you to discern the nefarious racist intent of such terms as “Chicago” and “golf” they did so without resorting to ad hominen attacks or uncivil rhetoric.

The speeches by Romney and Ryan were especially good. Ryan’s address was a masterpiece, full of the cold, hard facts that had previously made him famous and the hot passion and soft friendliness that have emerged since his selection as the vice-presidential candidate. In addition to cataloguing the various failures of the Obama administration, outlining a free-market alternative, and issuing a stern and believable warning that “We don’t have much time,” the speech also shrewdly acknowledged the appealing squareness of Mitt Romney and demonstrated an appealing personality. There was also a nice line about the young people staring up at the fading Obama posters in the parental basements that a bad economy has forced them to live in, and the image has played so well that the Republicans are already building an advertising campaign around it.

The only objection to Ryan’s speech was that it was so very strong it threatened to overshadow the top of ticket’s acceptance speech, but Romney followed it with a very strong oration of his own. Critics are quibbling that the speech was short on specifics, but there’s no point to specificity about plans that are going to be run through too many committees and compromises to emerge in anything like their original form. What’s needed, rather, is a statement of the underlying principles and political and economic philosophies that will apply throughout the legislative process, and Romney made it clear that he will tack a far more capitalistic and libertarian course than the present administration.

More importantly, as far as winning over those persuadable voters who might have tuned it, Romney came off as a nice guy. The mere absence of horns and a pitchfork did much to rebut the Democrats’ caricature of him, but he also managed the difficult feat of making a strong case for himself without seeming egotistical. There were no Greek columns or talk of turning back the tides, and the contrast to his opposition was striking.

The contrast to the hateful response of various media commentators, political activists, and Democratic politicians was also stark. That response also suggests that the Republicans did pretty well, and it will be interesting to see if the Democrats can keep their temper through their convention.

— Bud Norman

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Feeling the Hate

Being so darned loveable, and hewing so faithfully to a live-and-let-live philosophy of life, we’re always surprised to be reminded how very much some people hate us. Perhaps we shouldn’t take it personally, as many of the people who loudly proclaim their hate for us don’t actually know us at all, but it’s rather disconcerting nonetheless.

Just as the tropical storm Isaac has unleashed a flood of water on many an unfortunate fortunate soul in Louisiana, the Republican National Convention in Florida seems to have caused a torrent of vile emotion among the left that has breached the metaphorical levees of civility and threatens to drown the proceedings in hatred. As registered members of the Grand Old Party, who have consistently voted in its primaries and usually wind up voting for its members, we can’t help feeling a bit offended.

The actress Ellen Barkin, for instance, is hoping that some act of God or another will smite us. She reportedly “tweeted,” in reference to the Republican conventioneers, “C’mon #Isaac! Wash every pro-life, anti-education, anti-woman, xenophobic, gay-bashing, racist SOB right into the ocean!” We’ll admit that we’re not the least bit anti-life, but we very much favor an educational system that will teach people to communicate without resort to numeral signs, we have no quarrel with womankind — only certain women — and we’re not irrationally fearful of foreigners, we haven’t bashed any gays, and we can’t think of anything racist we’ve done lately, but we expect that we’re still Republican enough that she’d like us to see come to hurricane-related harm.

Our pain is slightly alleviated by the realization that we have only vaguest idea of who Ellen Barkin is, and that she’s apparently not the Hollywood hottie such used to be, but we’re stung by the similarly angry death wishes of the somewhat more familiar Samuel L. Jackson. The actor, who specializes in playing angry criminals, took to his “Twitter” account to lament that God had spared the Republicans His angry wrath. Littering his vengeful theology with numerous profanities, Jackson declared the lack of carnage at the convention “unfair shit,” although he later apologized to “God, Tampa, da GOP & Isaac(sp)!,” adding the equally illiterate “Who played the Race card?!”

Racist and sexist though we may be, we were quite taken with the convention speech delivered by Mia Love, a small town mayor and congressional candidate who looked to be both African-American and female. Because Love was speaking at a Republican convention, however, we found that some disapproving on-line vandals had altered a Wikipedia page about her to describe her as a “nigger” and a “whore.” Such language apparently proves one’s anti-racist and anti-sexist bona fides on the modern left, but it struck us as rather rude.

Love wasn’t the only proud black woman being abused at the convention, as no less an impressive person as Condoleezza Rice was subjected to an attempted citizens’ arrest by the radical leftist Code Pink organization, which had already found her guilty of war crimes. Groups such as Code Pink never seem to attempt citizens arrests of dictators such as Saddam Hussein, who killed more Iraqis than Rice ever did, but we suspect that’s because it would entail more risk and less self-righteous satisfaction.

There numerous other examples of such hateful rhetoric, coming from sources ranging from journalists to anonymous “Twitter” account-holders, and little of it bears repeating here. We think it worth noting, though, that the convention which inspired such fevered language was strikingly free of racial slurs, sexist epithets, and wishes for the deaths of others. Republicans are devious that way.

— Bud Norman

About Those Speeches

The art of political oratory has become so degraded in America that Barack Obama was able to pass himself off as a silver-tongued speaker just four years ago, but we still enjoy hearing what passes for speechifying these days. What we heard on the radio Tuesday from the Republican National Convention was mostly pretty good, at least by contemporary standards, and likely to compare well with next week’s efforts by the Democrats.

We missed most of the address by Mia Love, the mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, candidate for congress, and a rising star of the conservative movement, but saw that her address won plaudits from the right-wing commentators and by all accounts “electrified” the crowd. The portion we did hear was indeed rousing, stressing the traditional Republican values of self-reliance and personal responsibility with a convincingly personal touch, and we expect we’ll be hearing more from her in the comings months. Those watching the convention on MSNBC apparently missed all of the speech, as the left-wing network simply cut away from all of the black and Latino speakers lest their audience be confused about why a crowd full of racists were cheering so loudly for a black woman such as Love.

Former Pennsylvania senator and failed presidential contender Rick Santorum also spoke, and while he probably managed to get his many supporters enthused about the Romney candidacy we don’t expect the speech had much appeal beyond his fans. The speech was a strange extended metaphor about hands, starting with the gnarled but strong hands of his coal-mining father and running through the various sorts of hands he shook while campaigning, and although it had some kind words for traditional Judeo-Christian values it was light on the hellfire-and-brimstone stuff that scared the children and the secular reporters during the campaign.

Even the ABC reporters who kept interrupting the speakers on the radio were hard-pressed to find much fault with a rousing speech by the nominee’s wife, Ann Romney, who gave an endearingly personal account of her husband’s career. The main chore facing the Romney campaign, which has been besieged by the most extravagant sort of negative advertising, seems to be convincing the public that he’s not a top-hatted villain who ties damsels to railroad tracks for cackling laughs, and the speech was probably effective at countering that cartoonish image. By hearing it on the radio we missed out on the full effect of her classy good looks, but even so we found it very compelling and just the sort of thing that should have particular appeal to the kind of women who are susceptible to the Democrats’ most outrageous slanders.

Keynote speaker Chris Christie gave a good speech, but that was disappointing because we’d been expecting a great one. The famously burly governor of New Jersey has some heretical views typical of his region, especially on gun rights and radical Islamist jurists, but on the crucial issue of fiscal sanity he’s been heroic, and he’s achieved great things in a stubbornly liberal state by stating the cold, hard facts of life with his legendary bluntness, so it seemed certain that he’d lay it on with extra gusto in a prime time spot. Alas, although he talked about being blunt he failed to do so, and left us wanting more.

Perhaps we’ll get it when Romney and running mate Paul Ryan make their acceptance speeches. Both will probably attempt to be at their most likeable, but they’re genuinely likeable guys if you don’t happen to hate successful people, so the effort shouldn’t prevent them from laying out the difficult truths that Christie spoke of. We don’t anticipate anything along the lines of Patrick Henry’s “The War Inevitable” or Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address, but it should be pretty good.

— Bud Norman

Conventional Wisdom

There was no Republican convention on Monday, with the day’s scheduled proceedings blown away by the same tropical storm system that is now threatening New Orleans with another hurricane, but it’s likely that few noticed.

Young people will find it hard to believe, but the two major party’s quadrennial get-togethers used to be the best shows on television. They were the only shows on television at this time of the leap year back in the days of three networks, another fact of the dark ages that will astonish the youngsters, but the conventions would have fared well against any competition. Conventions used to have drama, suspense, intrigue, convoluted sub-plots, and people in funny hats, all with the added rooting interest of a big time sports event.

That all changed after the Democrats’ debacle of a convention in Chicago in ’68, when the hippies rioted and Mayor Daley’s cops knocked enough hairy heads together that the parties were shocked into adopting a more small-d democratic system that took the power away from smoke-filled rooms full of party bosses and handed it over to the sorts of ideological voters who actually show up for primaries and party caucuses. The debate still rages about the relative advantages of the two systems, and of course the rooms would be non-smoking now, but it’s worth noting that exactly half of the old-time conventions picked losing candidates and even the winning tickets often fell short of the ideal. Whatever the political merits of the current system, though, there’s no denying that the old way provided far more satisfying television viewing.

With the sole exception of the ’76 Republican gathering in Kansas City, where Ronald Reagan still had an outside chance at unseating the incumbent Gerald Ford as the delegates convened, every convention since ’68 has been a foregone conclusion and a rather boring affair. The networks continued to provide “gavel-to-gavel” coverage for several election cycles, apparently out of habit, but as the conventions degenerated into ever more slickly produced infomercials for the campaigns the networks began losing viewers to the cable competition and started cutting back on the hours of airtime devoted to the speeches and other machinations. Now the day-long coverage is relegated to the cable networks, with the networks interrupting their usual fare only for an hour or so a night, and it’s probable that the only people tuned in are the political enthusiasts who have long since made up their minds about who they’ll be voting for.

Those few hours of prime-time network coverage are still considered important, however, and we read that some savvy political operatives even regard Mitt Romney’s upcoming acceptance speech “the most important moment of his campaign.” If so, we except that he’ll make the best of it, not just because he’s a capable orator with a strong argument for his candidacy but also because the Democrats have gone so far over the top in their attempts at character assassination that he’ll allay many fears just by showing up without horns, a tail, and a pitchfork. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie should also draw a few persuadable voters during his keynote address, and we expect that his famously blunt style of oratory should be successful in laying out the dire facts of life that justify the Republican’s hard medicine.

Thus far it seems unlikely that the loony left will be able to mount any protests that rival the newsworthiness of the ’68 fiasco, which is disappointing. We had hoped that the remains of the Occupy Wall Street or some other fringe movement would provoke the same disgusted reaction that helped propel Richard Nixon to victory of Hubert Humphrey, but on Monday the best the left could do was a couple of hundred protestors, a few vagina costumes, and one measly arrest. The protestors are blaming the bad weather for the meager effort, but in fact they’re just far lazier than the hippies ever were, and that’s a pretty damning indictment

Our cable subscription was cancelled long ago, so we’ll miss out on much of the blah-blah-blah that’s been planned by both parties, but we’ll do our best to keep apprised through the miracles of the internet and talk radio. Something interesting might well develop, but in the meantime we’re offering enticing odds that Romney will be the nominee.

— Bud Norman

A Kenyan, a Hawaiian and a Birther Walk Into a Bar

Jokes rarely withstand scrutiny, and even more rarely merit it, but a jest tossed out by Mitt Romney last week deserves some consideration.

Speaking to a large and enthusiastic crowd in Commerce, Michigan, the Republican presidential nominee made an obligatory appeal to home state pride by reminding his supporters that he and his wife were born in nearby hospitals. He then added that “No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place where we were born and raised.”

It’s not nearly a knee-slapper, even by the low standards of presidential campaign humor, but it apparently achieved its desired effect. Reporter Jan Crawford of the CBS network was in attendance and immediately issued a “tweet” that there were “two reactions to his birth certificate joke: reporters gasped — and a crowd of thousands laughed and cheered.” Getting a crowd to laugh and cheer is the primary purpose of any joke, of course, but with the added benefit of causing reporters to gasp the line must be considered a success.

Not only the reporters were scandalized by the reference to birth certificates, however, as many of the president’s other supporters also expressed shock and indignation that Romney would “go there.” Although a more objective listener might surmise that the line merely acknowledged the widely known fact that some Americans question whether Obama was born in the United States, Romney’s more excitable critics leaped to conclusion that it was intended as an endorsement of what has come to be known as the “birther” theory. Although Romney has long disputed the theory, and insisted that he is satisfied Obama was born in Hawaii, the folks at the lefty activist group MoveOn.org even rented a plane with an hilariously misspelled banner proclaiming that “America is better then birtherism.”

Such a reaction was so easily predictable that even some of Romney’s supporters have been moved to speculate why he would provoke it. The estimable Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds and Ann Althouse, both law professors and widely-read internet commentators, simultaneously seized on the same idea that Romney had intended to imply to his audience, and to the millions more who would eventually hear of the line, that Obama has taken a “post-American” approach to the presidency and that Romney is “more truly and fundamentally American.” This seems a fair argument, given how Obama’s campaign in ’08 stressed his foreign background and global citizenship, that his own literary agent had peddled the born-in-Kenya story as a way of enhancing his exotic appeal, and that his approach to the presidency has indeed been “post-American,” so perhaps Reynolds and Althouse are on to something.

On the other hand, perhaps the joke was intended to provoke its predictable reaction merely to demonstrate how very thin-skinned and humorless the president and his supporters have become. Many of the president’s admirers insist that he be immune from the usual jabs and jibes of campaigning, a rule that John McCain slavishly obeyed to no useful effect in the ’08 race, and it’s also possible that Romney intended the joke to announce that he’s not going to be so constrained.

Then again, maybe it was a just a joke.

— Bud Norman

Bad News in Two Directions

We take a back seat to no one when it comes to gloominess and doomsaying, but the number-crunching folks at the Congressional Budget Office are almost our equal in that regard.

The putatively non-partisan agency released an update to its “Budget and Economic Outlook” this week, and it can be quickly summarized by saying that the outlook is bleak. There are two forecasts included in the report, and both are quite glum, so the CBO’s outlook could actually be said to be doubly bleak.

After starting off with the sobering statistic that the federal budget deficit for the year will total $1.1 trillion, bringing the federal debt held by the public to 73 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product, the CBO assures policy-makers that all of that stimulus has at least ensured that the “economic recovery” will “continue at a modest pace for the remainder of the calendar year 2012.” This modest achievement will doubtless suffice as vindication for Obama’s more stalwart supporters, but after that the CBO sees trouble in either direction it looks.

The CBO has prepared a “baseline projection” based on the assumption that current laws will continue, meaning that in January all of the Bush era tax cuts will expire, the extension of unemployment benefits and the 2 percent reduction in the Social Security payroll tax also disappear, and a number of mandatory budget cuts go into effect. Under this scenario, the CBO expects that the unemployment rate will climb to 9.2 percent, the gross domestic product will shrink by 2.9 percent, and the situation “will probably be considered a recession.” They add the cheery note that the deficit would likely shrink to 4 percent of the gross domestic product, which could delay the day of fiscal reckoning by a few weeks or so, but it is not clear if that is based on assumption that all the tax hikes won’t actually result in less government revenue and more social spending as a result of all the economic carnage.

It is still possible that the government will act to extend all of the Bush era tax cuts — although the president seems ruthlessly determined to raise taxes on the higher earners, and quite confident that the public will blame the Republicans if everyone’s taxes get raised as a result — so the CBO has prepared an “alternative fiscal scenario” that envisions such an action as well as ignoring the mandatory spending cuts. Under this scenario the country goes another $1 trillion in debt for yet another year, but the economy grows by an unimpressive 1.7 percent and the unemployment rates stays stuck at around 8 percent.

All of which leaves one hoping for some possible third scenario. Ideally it would avoid tax increases and the resulting drag on economic activity, allowing the private sector to spend the available capital more productively than the various “czars” has done the past four years, with the ensuing growth and some well-chosen spending cuts whittling down the debt to manageable levels. The CBO does not speculate about such a course, but we suspect it would lead to a happier future.

— Bud Norman

A Fluke Convention

The nation’s political discourse has been blissfully free of talk about abortion in recent years, one of the few benefits accrued from an avalanche of bad economic news, but the Democratic party seems eager to revive all the old arguments.

Emboldened by the widely publicized flap over Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin’s universally scorned misstatements about rape and abortion, and ever eager to talk about anything other than all that bad economic news, the Democrats are planning to turn their upcoming convention into a week-long abortion rights rally. The speakers chosen for the event are an all-star roster of abortion rights advocates, and the party’s web site is excitedly proclaiming that “Romney, Ryan, Akin and the GOP want to take women back to the dark ages,” which is apparently a reference to that medieval era of American history prior to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

Among those taking the podium are Nancy Keenan, president of the National Abortion Rights Action League’s Pro-Choice America group, Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and Sandra Fluke, the celebrity law student who demanded that her Catholic university supply her contraceptives and became a feminist martyr of sorts when a radio host called her a “slut.” The lineup also includes Caroline Kennedy, one of the stars of the long-running Kennedy family reality show, the actress Eva Longoria, who is said to be very hot, and Barbara Mikulski, who is merely a senator from Maryland. All can be expected to wax indignant about the Republicans’ devious schemes to subjugate women in a “Handmaid’s Tale” dystopia just like 1972.

It should be a riveting spectacle for the handful of viewers who will be watching on cable, but we suspect that any women susceptible to this line of argument have probably already decided to vote for Obama. With abortion rights set in constitutional stone for the foreseeable future, and more pressing matters looming in the meantime, most are likely to cast their votes based on other issues. To the extent that the Republicans also seem more concerned with those other issues, they should benefit.

Nor should the Democrats be certain that they enjoy majority support on the social issues. Even many of the Americans who call themselves “pro-life” will sadly allow exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother, but even many of those who call themselves “pro-choice” are opposed to late term abortions or abortions without parental consent, are in favor of allowing medical professionals and religious institutions to act according their own consciences, and don’t share the same unabashed enthusiasm for the procedure as the average Democratic convention speaker, so both parties have staked out positions that potentially alienate much of the country.

The Democratic strategy is also hindered by the obvious fact that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan aren’t Todd Akin. The pair have been admirably consistent in pressing the economic arguments that are of more interest to Americans at the moment, and are unlikely to be lured into a pointless brouhaha of the Democrats’ choosing.

— Bud Norman

Mindset Over Matter

One of the annual journalistic rites of the back-to-school season is the feature story about the latest Beloit College Mindset List, that famous compendium of fun facts about the technological, cultural, and political forces that have influenced the newest freshman class of college students.

The list was originally devised to help Beloit College professors understand their empty-headed young charges, but has since become the little-known institution’s most important source of publicity. It’s less expensive than fielding a championship-contending football team, and doesn’t entail the risk of a recruiting scandal. At any rate, we always look forward to these articles, as they always provide ample material for grumbling about these fool youngsters, a favorite pastime of ours, and often feature a revealing tidbit or two.

This year’s list includes the usual observations about the relatively recent technological innovations that the incoming freshmen take for granted. It is noted that the new students “have always lived in cyberspace, addicted to a new generation of ‘electronic narcotics,’” leaving baby boomers to lament that the youngsters don’t know the old-fashioned pleasures of pharmaceutical narcotics, and that they have grown up with MP3s and iPods and “never listen to music on the car radio and really have no use for radio at all,” meaning they also don’t know how to lay a needle down on a 33 rpm record to hear music the way God intended. The list doesn’t note that this year’s freshmen grew up with very little new music worth listening to on any device, but perhaps that just goes without saying.

The cultural changes cited on the list are just as depressing. It is noted that the “ditzy dumb blonde female” stereotype has largely faded from entertainment, which could be considered progress, but that “it has been replaced by a couple of Dumb and Dumber males.” The freshman “have lived in an era of instant stardom and self-proclaimed celebrities, famous for being famous,” and the prototype reality show “The Real World” has been on television their entire lives. They’re apparently a very irreligious lot, as “The Biblical sources of terms such as ‘Forbidden Fruit,’ ‘the writing on the wall,’ ‘Good Samaritan’ and ‘The Promised Land’ are unknown to most of them,” although we’ve noticed that this sort of ignorance is not a recent phenomenon.

The political influences on the youngsters have also been baleful. “Since they’ve been born, the United States has measured progress by a 2 percent jump in unemployment and a 16 cent rise in the price of a first class postage stamp,” the list notes, and “They have come to political consciousness during a time of increasing doubts about America’s future.” It is unclear how conscious of politics they have become, however, as the list also notes that “If the miss The Daily Show, they can always get their news on YouTube.”

Despite such generational handicaps, we suspect that the students entering academia will somehow muddle through to the day when they will read of the latest Mindset List and shake their heads sadly at the young whippersnappers who have followed. In the meantime, we take some consolation in know that we’re not professors at Beloit College.

— Bud Norman

And Then You Go and Blow It All By Saying Something Stupid

People say regrettably stupid things every day, as you’ve no doubt noticed, but rarely are they as consequential as the stupid things that Missouri’s Rep. Todd Akin recently said about rape and abortion.

As most Americans within earshot of a television or radio know by now, the Republican congressman was asked by an interviewer if he opposed abortion even in cases and responded that in cases of “legitimate rape” a woman’s body has “ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” This is medically incorrect and inarguably stupid, and so clearly and outrageously stupid that the Democrats immediately pounced on it, the Republican presidential challenger and other party stalwarts just as quickly denounced it, and even Akin himself took to the airwaves to acknowledge the stupidity and apologize profusely.

The remarks would be just another one of the countless stupid things politicians have said, as readily forgotten as the rest of them, except that Akin is running for the Senate against the extremely unpopular Sen. Claire McCaskill. The race offered the Republicans a good chance to pick up another much-needed Senate seat, but Akin’s stupid remarks have almost certainly changed the odds in McCaskill’s favor.

Which is a shame, because for many years McCaskill has not only been saying stupid things but has done such consequentially stupid things as voting for Obamacare and hundreds of billions of dollars of other wasteful spending. In a more perfect world this long record of stupid actions would outweigh one stupid remark, even one so astoundingly stupid as Akin’s, but in this world the fresher sound bite almost always carries the greatest weight.

Many Republicans are therefore calling on Akin to withdraw from the race and allow the state party to choose an untainted candidate, and we hereby add another voice to the chorus. There have been conflicting reports about Akin’s willingness to bow out, but as of Monday he was on the Sean Hannity radio program vowing to stay in the fight even as the host pleaded with him to reconsider, but there is still time for the Republicans to cobble together a winning campaign by a new candidate.

It would be unfortunate if the Republicans failed to take the Senate and missed a crucial opportunity to repeal Obamacare and repair some of the damage done by Democrats such as McCaskill because of a stupid remark and an even stupider stubborn pride.

— Bud Norman

The Screaming of the Modern World

The modern world has become an unbearably noisy place.

Saturday night provided a typical example of this unhappy phenomenon. We ventured out to join a friend’s bi-monthly karaoke party at a certain working class tavern, not in order to sing — no one wants to hear that — but because the event usually attracts at least a few people worth chatting with. On this occasion, however, there was a highly amplified band of middle-aged musicians on the patio blasting out songs from Grand Funk Railroad and other rock ‘n’ roll acts from the early days of their ongoing adolescence, so the karaoke singers retaliated by cranking up the volume of their warbling, the patrons began shouting their drink orders and chit-chat in order to be heard, all joining together to create a cacophony that made conversation impossible.

Seeing no point in shouting out our flirtations, and starting to suffer a severe headache, we motored to a nearby coffeehouse to sit outside and talk foreign policy and old movies with a savvy older hipster who hangs out there. The blaring bad band that usually holds forth from the bar across the street was luckily absent, and the alt-rock satellite station playing on the tinny speakers was held to a reasonable volume, but our conversation was routinely interrupted by an intermittent parade of Harley-Davidson motorcycles and neon-lit muscle cars that had all been tuned to an attention-grabbing roar. Eventually we abandoned our futile quest for conversation and retreated to the quiet of home, but at every stoplight along the way we were serenaded by the thudding rap and heavy metal of the cars that pulled up alongside.

Nobody else seemed to notice, much less find all the noise objectionable, but we suspect that is only because it has become so very omnipresent and unremarkable. The soundtracks on the movies at the local bijou, the shock jocks and the ranters on the radio, the advertisements on television, the patrons at the next table in the restaurant, the guy with the complaint about the donuts at the convenience store, all are loud and getting ever louder just to be heard over the din. Even in such a sedate neighborhood as ours the quiet at night is often violated by the thunderous sound systems of passing automobiles or the oldies concerts at a nearby park.

Some people seem to thrive on it, we’ve noticed, and even grow anxious in solitude or quiet. Perhaps they’ve grown addicted to the relentless sensory stimulus provided by our quick-cut popular culture, or maybe they simply fear the loneliness of being left alone with their thoughts. It’s possible, on the other hand, that they’ve never had the opportunity to learn the serenity that can be found in silence.

We offer no solutions to this modern annoyance, only a softly stated lament and a hope that if more people notice all the noise there might be some sort of cultural revolution against it. Let the silent majority prevail.

— Bud Norman