A Blast From the Past

The youngsters among you might not appreciate the irony of Bob Woodward’s recent feud with the Obama administration. You really had to be there back in the early ‘70s, those halcyon days of the Watergate scandal when the Woodward legend was born, to fully savor its deliciousness.
Woodward was a superstar back then, famed as the late night cop reporter for the Washington Post who covered a third-rate burglary at the Democratic National Headquarters and teamed with Carl Bernstein to doggedly pursue it all the way to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. The left reviled Nixon with a red-hot hatred that is difficult to describe today, although it might be likened to Bush-hatred exacerbated by an all-out culture war between the hippies and squares, and thus Woodward was revered with an equal passion by the left for his heroic role in bringing in at long last bringing down their favorite villain. “All the President’s Men,” Woodward’s and Bernstein’s account of the Watergate scandal, became a runaway best-seller. The hit movie starred the famously handsome Robert Redford as Woodward. A Pulitzer Prize and other plaudits were lavished on the duo, and Woodward and Bernstein both enjoyed a celebrity that had never before been attained by mere newspaper scribes. Journalism schools saw a sudden surge in enrollments, and a generation of reporters set out to win the same kind of scandal-driven fame.
Like all legends it was rather overblown, ignoring the role that other reporters and especially the congressional investigating committees played in forcing Nixon’s resignation, and subsequent revelations about the identity of the anonymous sourced dubbed “Deep Throat” have given rise to a revisionist account about his motives. Still, it was true to the extent that Woodward had done an impressive job of reporting, and Woodward would henceforth be referred to as a “journalistic icon.” He continued to do solid work over the decades, focusing on his daily duties as a Post editor and his meticulously researched books about the passing administrations while the rest of the press tried to duplicate his past glories by digging up the hot scandal, and although he would sometimes uncover something embarrassing to a Democrat or flattering to a Republican he retained his reputation as a reliably liberal reporter.
Until now, at least. While meticulously researching “The Price of Politics,” a book about the Obama administration’s dealings with the congressional Republicans over budget matters, Woodward learned from his sources that the idea for a “sequester” had originated at the White House. The revelation attracted little notice at the time of the book’s publication, but now that President Barack Obama is jetting around the country to blame the Republicans for the impending budget cuts that have resulted the claim is suddenly the source of much controversy. Woodward stood by his story even after an indignant White House denial, then further offended the administration by insisting that the earlier deal struck by the administration did not include the tax hikes the president now insists on. White House press secretary Jay Carney went so far as to call Woodward’s allegation “willfully wrong,” the most serious allegation that can be made against a journalist. Not backing down, Woodward has become increasingly critical of the president’s handling of the sequester issue, even going on the left-wing MSNBC network’s “Morning Joe” program to describe Obama’s budgetary threats to withdraw an aircraft carrier from the Persian Gulf as “a kind of madness I haven’t seen in a long time.”
This presents a dilemma for the press, which much choose between two heroes, but we suspect that most reporters will opt for Obama’s version. That story features villainous Republicans, and besides, Watergate was a long time ago and Obama has done more for their side lately.
Woodward’s latest scoop probably won’t bring down another presidency, we’re sad to say, and certainly won’t make its way to the silver screen, where Woodward would undoubtedly be portrayed by a more homely actor, but it does seem to have complicated Obama’s efforts to blame the latest mess on his opponents. For that Woodward deserves another round of applause, this time from the right, and perhaps some grudging acknowledgment that his earlier work was more about a pursuit of the truth rather than just partisan politics.

— Bud Norman

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The Cruelest Cut

Oh, what a marvel of efficiency is the federal government. Most organizations that spend $3.8 trillion in a year are probably wasting at least a small portion of it, but the federal government has apparently gone about it with such frugality and cost-effectiveness that cutting a mere $44 billion will result in all sorts of calamities.
If the Republicans don’t immediately agree to a “fair” and “balanced” policy of soaking the rich even further, President Barack Obama said on Tuesday, he will have no choice but to institute the painful spending cuts required by the “sequester” agreement. Even before Friday’s deadline illegal immigrants were being released from custody, nightmarish air travel conditions were being threatened, and Obama was telling a shipyard full of anxious workers that he would be forced to choose between “funding for the disabled kid or the poor kid.” Elsewhere the White House was warning that sequestration would mean meat plants would be unable to ship beef for a lack of food inspectors, hurricanes and tornadoes will go undetected because weather satellites aren’t being launched, “special needs” students will be denied an education, leaking underground storage tanks will continue to leak, criminals will run amok with guns they obtained because background checks were halted, poor children will be denied the dubious benefits of Head Start, home weatherization subsidies will halt, and drugs will become less intelligent as the National Drug Intelligence Center loses $2 million of funding.
That last item isn’t so very worrisome, given that the National Drug Intelligence Center ceased to exist last summer, and the end of home weatherization subsidies will likely go unnoticed, as did the existence of the program, but the rest of it sounds just awful. Although the government assures that the released illegal immigrants are “non-criminal,” other than the crime of being in the country illegally, it is frightening to consider that Obama now has a fiscal excuse for failing to secure the border. Air travel is already nightmarish enough, and even if the Federal Aviation Administration is now handling less traffic with more employees than in the recent past we take Obama’s threat to make it worse very seriously. We’re against leaking underground storage tanks and amok-running criminals on principle, and as Kansans we are eager for tornado detection and absolutely horrified at the prospect of being relegated to a vegetarian diet. We’d also hate to choose between disabled kids and poor kids, both of them being so darned cute, so the president certainly has our sympathy.
Those top-hatted, moustache-twirling Republicans leave the president with no other options, however, as everything else in the federal budget seems to be more essential than even poor kids, disabled kids, poor disabled kids, and beef. The past election made clear that it would be unthinkable to cut subsidies to the Sesame Street producers, despite the gazillions they rake in, and Sen. Harry Reid has made clear the Cowboy Poetry Festival in Elko, Nevada, is sacrosanct, and no one dare take that scary Cleveland woman’s Obamaphone away, so surely the kindest cuts are the ones the president has proposed.
Obama’s many fans will be relieved to learn that his own salary and generous package of perquisites have been protected from any budget-slashing, and we hope this will offer some comfort to those poor and disabled kids. The more-costly-than-expected Obamacare program will stay in place, and its accompanying Medicare cuts will go on schedule, too, and fans of big government can be assured that spending is still up over the past four years. Even in these troubled times, there must be priorities.

— Bud Norman

The “What, Me Worry?” Administration

Vice President Joe Biden was sounding quite bullish during his remarks at the White House on Monday, going so far as to say that Americans are no longer worried about the economy or “America’s ability to be in position to lead the world in the 21st Century.”
He was obviously making an overstatement, as proved by our own incessant worrying about these matters, but we suppose that vice presidents are obligated to engage in such hyperbole. There’s something troubling about it in this case, though, and for a couple of reasons.
One is the frightening possibility that he’s right, and Americans actually have stopped worrying about the economy. Not all Americans, as the many millions of unemployed and the millions more struggling to get by on their more highly taxed wages are no doubt as worried as ever, but at least enough of them to keep the pressure off the administration to do something about it. Anyone still feeling secure in a well-paid job who gets his information from the usual news sources could easily believe that the economy no longer requires worry, as the usual news sources now mostly concern themselves with sequesters and pointless gun control proposals and an illegal immigration problem that has largely gone away due to the lousy economy. The average news consumer has likely also gleaned a general impression that to whatever extent the economy is still struggling it is because of those darned Republicans and their bizarre fetish about the national debt, a view that might even be especially common among the unemployed and the working poor.
Even more frightening is the possibility that Biden and his boss also believe there is nothing to worry about, which would neatly explain the Obama administration’s economic program. Obama’s main preoccupation seems to be punitive tax rates on the rich, which is always couched in terms of “fairness” and never in terms of economic growth or job creation. Whatever arguments one might make for the “fairness” of the administration’s signature legislation, derisively known as “Obamacare,” it unquestionably provides hugely expensive disincentives for every business to hire no more than 49 employees or any new workers at more than 29 hours a week. The ever-expansive regulatory state that Obama seeks might also provide some benefit, but no one is arguing that it will cause an economic boom any time soon. There are still the occasional calls for more stimulus spending, even as the president poses as a fiscally sober sort, but at this point it seems rather perfunctory.
Everything on the Obama agenda seems to be sorts of things that liberals want to do when the economy is churning along, confident that the great engine of free enterprises will withstand a few tweaks, but it’s not all the sort of thing that one does during times of economic contraction. Biden might be offering the obligatory pep talk, but the scarier possibility is that he’s being sincere.

— Bud Norman

La Dolce Vita

Italy has given much to the world over the centuries, from Cicero to Michelangelo to Lollobrigida, but in recent decades its chief contribution has been making other countries feel better about their own dysfunctional politics. The election in Italy today might be its most generous gift yet.
The results are still unknown, but it is hard to envision any happy outcome. On the ballot for Prime Minister is the usual mélange of neo-fascists, socialists, ultra-socialists, outright communists, and assorted crackpots, with four front-runners who represent only a slight improvement. Italy’s economy is moribund, its debt suffocating, its institutions corrupt, and each of the candidates are offering only different varieties of wishful thinking.
One is the incumbent, Mario Monti. A former Senator for Life who is invariably described as a “technocrat,” Monti is the favorite of the continent’s political establishment due to his policy of raising taxes, slashing spending, and otherwise adhering to the dictates of the country’s nervous European Union creditors. This what is President Barack Obama likes to call a “balanced approach” to deficit reduction, but it hasn’t done much to balance Italy’s budget. The taxes have had their predictable dampening effect on the already-reeling private sector, the cuts have inflicted the expected pain on a country that has become reliant on government spending, and the supposed blessing of continued EU membership only means that Italy can’t devalue its way to competitiveness. To his credit Monti has attempted to de-regulate the country’s straitjacketed labor market, but he has failed to persuade the country’s left-leaning legislators.
Another contender is the former Prime Minister, Sylvio Berlusconi. A super-rich media and sports magnate once considered something of a conservative by European standards, Berlusconi is promising tax cuts and rebates to go along with continued austerity, a plan likely to worsen the nation’s debt crises absent the sort of deregulation that the more politically adept Monti failed to achieve. The tax cuts are naturally popular with the voters, as is Berlusconi’s offer to pay off €4 billion of the nation’s debt with his money, but his campaign has been plagued by the sorts of scandals that would be fatal to any conservative American politician. In addition to countless bribery and abuse of power accusations, the 76-year-old Berlusconi is currently on trial for having sex with an underage prostitute during what Reuters calls a “bunga bunga” orgy at his Milan villa, and he’s even reported to have made suggestive remarks to a woman who shared a stage with him at a business event. Political corruption and sexual harassment are longstanding Italian traditions, but Berlusconi was nonetheless protested by a group of topless women who apparently believe that the proper punishment for a dirty old man is to wave bare breasts in his face.
The campaign’s dark horse is Beppe Grillo, a former television comedian. His newly-formed Five Star Movement party is promising lower taxes, a 20-hour work week, free internet and electronic tablets for all schoolchildren, and a “green economy” that will replace the gross domestic product with “gross domestic happiness.” None of this is intended as a joke, apparently, despite Grillo’s past occupation.
As we post this the betting favorite seems to be Pier Luigi Bersani, a longtime political leader of the center-left Democratic Party. Bersani’s prescription for the economy is higher taxes on the rich, a favored solution of center-left Democratic parties everywhere, but the idea hasn’t worked anywhere yet and is even more likely to fail in Italy. There’s a dwindling supply of rich Italians , and they will soon find that there are any number of more accommodating tax jurisdictions where they can spend their euros.
There is some comfort in knowing that there are still places that make America look relatively sane, but it is nonetheless sobering to contemplate how bad things might yet get. America has a staggering economy and skyrocketing debt of its own, and its political leadership is reduced to the same failed notions of “balance,” class resentments, and resistance to freeing the private sector from burdensome government control. We also have allegedly underage-prostitute-loving politicians of our own, too, along with cronyism, elected officials who are both literally and figuratively comedians, and a wishful-thinking public that seems bored rather than outraged by it all. It’s easy to sneer at the Italians, and quite fun, but they should serve as a warning.

— Bud Norman

Our Dumber World

A long-held suspicion of ours has at last been confirmed by science. Mankind truly is becoming dumber.
This welcome reassurance that we’re not crazy comes courtesy of the Natural Society’s web site, which reports on Stanford University geneticist Dr. Gerald Crabtree’s finding that “humans are losing cognitive capabilities and becoming more emotionally unstable.” The trend is so far advanced, Crabtree has written, “I would wager that if an average citizen from Athens of 1000 BC were to appear suddenly among us, he or she would be among the brightest and most intellectually alive of our colleagues and companions, with a good memory, a broad range of ideas, and a clear-sighted view of important issues.”
Alas, as we survey the contemporary scene it seems the good doctor is damning that long lost Athenian with faint praise. Although the article does not explain how genetics has proved the diminution of human intelligence, the sociological evidence abounds. The decline is especially apparent in cocktail party conversations about politics, but can also be found in the futile attempts to receive change from convenience store clerks, the proliferation of neck tattoos bearing the names of ex-spouses, the backwards ball caps and saggy britches that now pass for proper funeral attire, and any number of other encounters with the average citizen.
There’s a possibility that we are unusually unlucky in our encounters, but corroborating evidence of the decline of human intelligence can be found not only in the past election results but also in the most popular products of today’s popular culture. One needn’t go back to the age of Aeschylus to notice that the entertainment industry once believed it could expect a greater level of knowledge from its audience than the producers of modern reality shows and actions flicks would dare demand. The eminent pessimist Mark Steyn likes to point to the introductory lines of “Just One of Those Things,” in which Cole Porter assumes that the pop music listeners of his time would recognize a witty reference to Abelard and Heloise, the tragic literary lovers of the 12th Century, but an even better example of the better-educated audiences of the recent past might be a Looney Tunes cartoon from 1949 called “The Scarlet Pumpernickel,” which finds Daffy “Dumas” Duck in the midst of the French Revolution and hilariously pronouncing “Robespierre” with his distinctive spittle-spewing emphasis on the “p.” It’s a low-brow bit of humor, perhaps, but it’s in service of a rather sophisticated and surreal show-within-a-show-within-a-show plot that requires a familiarity with history one no longer anticipates when making high-brow art-house fare, much less a children’s cartoon. A friend recently related a conversation with some local college students who had seen the new movie about Abraham Lincoln, and he tells us that although they enjoyed the movie they were disturbed by the surprise ending when the main character got shot, which is about the level of education that a moviemaker should now accommodate.
Even the smart people of the modern age are dumber than the smart people of the past. The political class is exhibit A, of course, with academia close behind, but the decline is also apparent in the sciences and the arts. An amazing array of gizmos are constantly being created, but nothing so original and consequential as the printing press, steam engine, light bulb, or polo vaccine, and we can think of no one in the visual arts, theater, dance, or any other corner of high culture that is seriously compared to the towering figures of the past century. The letters of self-taught farmers and housewives in the 18th Century feature livelier prose than can be found in today’s best-sellers, and offer more honest and insightful accounts of their times than the dreary work of today’s highly educated journalists.
Crabtree attributes this decline to the diminishing effects of natural selection, as agriculture and then urbanization and industrialization allowed the stupid to survive and procreate, and while this seems reasonable enough it doesn’t explain the severe acceleration in the trend over the past 50 years or so. The writer for the Natural Society, being a natural kind of guy, blames pesticides, processed foods, and fluoridated water, but we’re inclined to think that enduring pests is dumb, processed foods seem not to have affected the atypical smart people we know, and we witness a great deal of stupidity while living in a town that has long been ridiculed for its steadfast rejection of fluoridated water.
We look to the culture, rather than genetic or chemical reasons, and especially the contemporary trend of the most dim-witted people being the most fecund. In his splendid satire “Idiocracy” the filmmaker Mike Judge envisions what society will look like after another 500 years of the high-IQ couples endlessly delaying parenthood while the low-IQ types reproduce like proverbial rabbits, and our only quibble with his scenario is that we don’t think it will take nearly so long for the America to reach the comically moronic level he depicts.
Crabtree doesn’t offer any solutions to the problem that he has identified, and neither do we, but these days one is doing well just to be aware.

— Bud Norman

The Sequester Question

To hear the president tell it, this “sequester” business is darned scary.
According to the president’s account, if those rich-folk-loving Republicans don’t accede to his demand for more taxes there is absolutely nothing he can do to prevent “about a trillion dollars” of “arbitrary budget cuts.” This will be about the worst thing that ever happened, the president explained on Tuesday, as this “meat cleaver approach” will hinder the nation’s military readiness, “eviscerate job-creating investments in education and energy and medical research,” reduce the hours worked by Border Patrol agents, furlough agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, force prosecutors to let criminals run amok, cause further delays at airports, lay off thousands of teachers, cause tens of thousands of parents to “scramble to find childcare for their kids,” and leave hundreds of thousands of Americans without health care. The president also noted, as a group of uniformed emergency responders sat grimly behind him, that “their ability to help communities respond to and recover from disasters will be degraded.”
None of which, the president seemed quite pleased to report, is in any way his fault. It’s all because Congress passed a law which forced itself to agree on a plan to cut $4 trillion of deficits or face this dire outcome. Alas, the president sadly noted, “They haven’t come together and done their jobs, so as a consequence, we’ve got these automatic, brutal spending cuts that are poised to happen next Friday.” Being a reasonable sort of fellow, the president assured those emergency responders and the rest of the nation that he would have preferred a “balanced approach” of tax hikes and “smart cuts” to “spending that we don’t need” and “programs that aren’t working,” but that he can’t bring himself to sign any bill that doesn’t further soak the rich because it “would hurt the middle class.”
This makes the sequester seem so frightening, and the president so sensible, that one might not notice that it’s all nonsense.
The president was the one who cooked up the sequester plan, as the formerly revered Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward has documented, and anyone with a “Schoolhouse Rocks” level of education knows that the bill Congress passed didn’t become a law until the president signed it. Furthermore, the Republican-controlled House has passed two attempts to undo the sequestration agreement but could not get them through the Democrat-controlled Senate, and a series of more sensible cuts could still be quickly agreed upon if the president were willing to compromise his redistributionist principles.
One should also note that none of the dire consequences that the president describes will come to pass unless he wills it, as the executive branch will decide how the mandatory cuts to each agency are enacted. Competent chief executives of many enterprises have made similar cuts in their organizations without calamity, so the smartest president ever should be able to do the same.
Nor is there any reason to believe that the consequences will be so dire as the president claims. The defense cuts are worrisome, but not nearly so much as a country that will believe Barack Obama’s accusation that it is the Republicans who are eager to undermine the nation’s military readiness. Those job-creating “investments” in energy are creating jobs at a cost of $4.8 million a piece, a rate that will bankrupt the country long before it reaches full employment. Border Patrol administrators rather than agents could have their hours cut, although that might have the unintended consequence of making the border more secure. Teachers and emergency responders will still be generously funded at the state and local level, assuming the economy doesn’t collapse under the weight of the national debt. Better prioritizing could prevent the other horrific outcomes, as well, although we’d still be treated to sob stories about the poor bureaucrats tossed out of their plush offices by the heartless Republicans.
If the president truly believes that there is “money we don’t have to spend” and “government programs that don’t work” he could easily arrange an agreement with the Republican leadership to cut those, but so far he has failed to identify anything in government that he doesn’t want. During the past campaign he made clear that subsidies to the multi-million dollar Sesame Street producers were sacrosanct, so it is hard to imagine anything else the federal government is doing that the president won’t deem essential.
No cuts will be entirely pain-free, of course, but a failure to get the government’s spending within the nation’s ability to pay for them will soon wind up hurting a great deal more. The president should know this, but he seems confident that the Republicans will wind up with the blame and he’ll avoid the scariest consequence of all.

— Bud Norman

Unrequited Love

Pity the poor White House press corps, tortured by unrequited love. No matter how hard they try to please their man, no matter how servile they become, they are given nothing in return but scorn.
Like a teary guest on an afternoon talk show, the White House press corps has at last begun to speak up for itself and demand the respect that its endless devotion to President Barack Obama has surely earned. The White House Correspondents’ Association didn’t formally protest Obama’s stonewalling on Fast and Furious, Solyndra, Benghazi, or any of the administration’s other serious scandals, only a lack of access during the most recent presidential vacation, but at least it is a start. As any afternoon talk show host will tell you, every emotional journey begins with a single small step.
One can certainly sympathize with the reporters, who were confined to a “party bus” while the president enjoyed a round of golf at a swank country club. Aside from the horrors of their hours-long confinement in the “party bus,” which according to one reporter “may sound more fun than it is,” the reporters were understandably miffed that they were kept away from a newsworthy event. Obama was playing against Tiger Woods, after all, and the mismatch of the century would certainly have made for interesting spectating.
Nor is there any apparent reason for such appalling treatment of a press corps that has always served the president well. Great Britain’s Daily Mail insinuates that Obama thought it might look bad to be photographed playing a stereotypically upper-class game at a ritzy Florida resort with the most notorious womanizer since Bill Clinton, and at a time when the nation’s economy is struggling and Obama is railing against the rich, but the British press is always much cheekier about these sorts of things than its American counterpart. We expect the reporters would have endeavored to make the event sound very glamorous and Camelot-y, yet not at all inconsistent with his populist rhetoric, and perhaps even kicked a few balls out of the rough for the president.
Typical of the press coverage was the Los Angeles Times’ story on “a more relaxed Obama,” which explained that “Obama’s vacations have been rare, brief and regularly interrupted by crises at home and overseas.” We do not know what the Times’ vacation policy provides, but if the paper truly considers Obama’s vacation schedule so pitiably stingy we will be sending them a resume forthwith. As for the regular interruptions by crises at home and overseas, we can’t recall the Times offering any such excuses for the previous president’s less frequent retreats to his family ranch. Of course the Bush family ranch was in Crawford, Texas, a hard-scrabble patch of prairie where the sun shines mercilessly in the summer and there’s not a decent bistro for miles, so even the free-ranging reporters of that era found it more onerous than even the most primitive “party bus.”
There’s no stopping the dogged determination of the White House press corps, though, and fans of a free press will be heartened to know that when the reporters finally got an opportunity to shout a question at Obama it was to find out if he had beaten Tiger Woods. The American press might not be so love-struck as the North Korean press that reported Kim Jong Il had shot a sizzling 38-under-par on his first try at the game, but it is getting there.

— Bud Norman

The Facebook Fad Fades

Fads come and go, as they always have, yet some people are still surprised when they go. So it is with Facebook, which was once widely touted as a permanent change in human interaction but now seems to be heading the way of bell bottom pants, eight-track tapes, and the Occupy Wall Street movement.
This welcome news comes to us via the Washington Examiner, which reports that Americans are abandoning Facebook “in droves.” The paper cites a poll conducted by the Pew Center in which 61 percent of the respondents said they are taking long breaks from the social media site, with 38 percent of the all-important 18- to 29-year-old users saying they plan to cut back on their Facebook time. One of every five adults, probably the most intelligent of them, said they planned to quit altogether.
Various explanations are offered for this phenomenon. About 21 percent of the poll respondents said they have “run out of time,” leading one to wonder why they have suddenly become so busy, while 20 percent cited either a lack of “compelling content” or a “general lack of interest in the site,” which requires no explanation. Another 9 percent said there was too much gossip at the site, which is admirable, although perhaps they meant the gossip was too mundane. Reuters reports that some German researchers have concluded that Facebook causes feelings of envy and loneliness in some people who read of their friends’ vacations, love affairs, and other happy occasions, although our usual reaction is a sense of relief that the lives of our friends and acquaintances are as dull as our own. Yet another report indicates that Facebook is figuring in a large number of divorces, however, so perhaps those friends’ lives aren’t so dull after all.
Politics wasn’t mentioned in the poll, but we suspect that is always driving a few people away from Facebook. A friend of ours was quite avid about the site until recently, when he finally decided he’d had enough of the liberal screeds that were routinely posted on his page. The final straw, he told us, was someone’s exuberant rant about the commanding hand gestures that Hillary Clinton used during her congressional testimony to fend off questions about her incompetence and dishonesty in the Benghazi scandal. There are no doubt liberals equally annoyed by the conservative rants of some of their friends, but we’ve noticed that for some reason the right is less likely to express itself on Facebook.
The Facebook company seems to have its own liberal biases. An anti-Obama posting was censored by Facebook during the presidential campaign until a number of complaints forced them to allow it, while a “Kill Romney” site was countenanced until another round of complaints finally forced it off the site. Facebook apparently has used the same sort of Cayman Islands accounts for which Romney was pilloried during the campaign, and pays surprisingly little in taxes, and one of its founders even renounced his American citizenship rather than pay any taxes at all but of course such shenanigans can be forgiven a company with such impeccable liberal credentials.
Still, the rise and fall of Facebook will no doubt take many by surprise. The company was so celebrated there was a hit movie about it, it’s initial public offering was the most ballyhooed financial event of the past year, and some supposedly smart business analysts fretted that its declining stock prices would drag the entire economy down with it. We suspect the world will get along nicely with a diminished Facebook, and it might even find something better to do.
Now if we could only get that tattoo fad to go away.

— Bud Norman

Minimum Logic

Raising the minimum wage is not a good idea, but that is of no importance. All that matters is that it sounds like a good idea.
The proposal sounds very compassionate, at least, and for some strange reason many people think compassion is always a good thing. Anyone wishing to give someone else’s an employee a raise will therefore be given credit for the best of intentions, while anyone who would deny the presumably hard-working and underpaid fellow an extra pittance or two will be assumed a heartless cad, and it is not difficult to predict which side will reap the political benefit.
One could argue that raising the minimum wage isn’t compassionate at all because it results in higher unemployment among the very unskilled workers that it is intended to benefit, and hurts them over the long run by denying them the entry-level jobs that could lead to better-paying work, but it would be of no use. Such arguments take more time than most people will devote to political questions, and require a level of abstract thought that the typical minimum wage-earner won’t bother to muster. There’s no way of pointing to the jobs that were never created as a result of increasing wages beyond what an employer can pay what an employee can contribute to a business, after all, while those favoring an increase can readily demonstrate the benefits to those workers lucky enough to get a job at the higher wage.
The better-read liberals will cite studies, and of course there will always be studies purporting to show that raising the cost of something somehow doesn’t decrease the demand for it. Other studies suggest otherwise, of course, and they conform to economic logic that has held true for centuries, but such appeals to common sense and the practical experiences of employers no longer seem to carry much weight with the better-read liberals. Compassion is what counts with these people, along with the political advantages that come with it, and the cruel results are just a cost of doing business.

— Bud Norman

Madness

Chris Dorner is dead, and that is probably for the best. There is no knowing what pushed the ex-police officer into madness, but whatever it was had clearly pushed him so far that he would allow his murderous rampage to end only with his death.
There remains a madness in our society, however, which will be harder to eradicate. As Dorner was cold-bloodedly killing four of his fellow human beings he was being cheered on by his many admirers at Facebook, Twitter, and other internet sites, with many urging that he continue to “fight the power,” while numerous cars through the state of California wore adorned with exhortations to “go, Chris, go.” Almost all of the media politely declined to expose the political ideology that Dorner had explicitly stated in a rambling manifesto as the rationale for his crimes, and even in the most respectable broadcast circles some supposedly intellectual sources seemed to almost celebrate the murder spree. Such enthusiastic apologetics for evil are as difficult to comprehend as the evil itself.
Part of the explanation can be found in that rambling manifesto, which offers a self-serving and self-pitying account of Dorner’s firing from the Los Angeles police department along with simmering racial animosities, superficial statements of support for such liberal causes as tighter gun control, and strangely chummy shout-outs to such favorite political and media figures as President Barack Obama, news commentator Chris Matthews, and the famously drug-addled television actor Charlie Sheen. Many people can sympathize with someone who has lost a job under any circumstances, the Los Angeles police have apparently earned an unfavorable reputation among many of the citizens they are sworn to serve, race relations remain a problem everywhere, and it seems that most of California shares Dorner’s preferences in politicians and has the same false familiarity with the celebrities.
The fact that Dorner reacted to his firing by going on a killing spree obviously vindicates the department’s action, though, and his crimes against entirely innocent victims did so little to bolster race relations or advance any other liberal cause that most news outlets deemed them not worth mentioning.
Had Dorner chosen to espouse conservative causes and praise the likes of House Speaker John Boehner, Rush Limbaugh, and Clint Eastwood it would have been a prominent part of the story for most reporters, but to the extent that his political views were made known they were treated with a respect not usually afforded to the ramblings of serial killers. A panel discussion on the Cable News Network featured Columbia University professor Mark Lamont Hill likening Dorner’s murders to “’Django Unchained’ in real life,” an allusion to a currently popular movie about a former slave killing slave-holders, Buzzfeed Sports editor Jack Moore finding it resembling “a Denzel Washington movie,” and all but one agreeing that Dorner had helpfully drawn attention to police brutality and other issues. None thought to question a popular culture that peddles such mindless violence as entertainment, nor note the irony of an anti-gun crusader protesting police brutality by shooting people, nor express any real sympathy for the four human beings who had been sacrificed for the cause.
The estimable Andrew Klavan argues that such violence is inherent in leftism, which can only impose its well-intentioned dictates on free individuals by such means, and we believe he has a point. Some people in Eric Rudolph’s backwoods home cheered him on in the late ‘90s when he went on a murderous bombing spree motivated by extreme conservative views, but the mainstream of conservatism was pleased when he was brought to justice by the notoriously right-wing Attorney General John Ashcroft, and Timothy McVeigh committed the deadliest act of domestic terrorism after taking a logical conservative critique of big government to an illogical extremist conclusion, but we recall nothing but denunciations coming from the conservative press. Left-wing violence, from the eco-terrorism of the Unibomber to the have wreaked at every multi-national gathering by black-masked anarchists to the old-fashioned thuggery of the union movement, are always more likely to go unmentioned or excused.
The madness that afflicted Chris Dorner is not unique to any political philosophy, but the madness that celebrates it is mostly found on the left.

— Bud Norman