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Haysville and the Streisand Effect

Over the years we’ve covered countless controversies, but have rarely been in the middle of any of them. Now we find ourselves at least tangentially related to a minor local brouhaha, however, and are not quite sure how we stand on the matter.
As local theater-goers and regular readers of this publication might already know, every year we play a small role or two in the annual “Gridiron” show. It’s an exceedingly amateur production that has been put on the for the past 47 years by the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists as a fund-raiser for journalism scholarships, and features song parodies, skits, topical humor, and enough booze to make it all seem tolerably amusing. The show regularly draws three nights of good-sized crowds to the musty old Orpheum Theater downtown, mostly well-heeled and well-connected regulars who are in on the in-jokes and have come to expect certain recurring gags.
One of the show’s longstanding traditions is making jokes about Haysville, a small community just south of Wichita. These jokes vary wildly in content and quality, but the gist of all of them is that Haysville folks aren’t so sophisticated and cosmopolitan as those of us here in the big city. For years the practice went largely unnoticed, except by the Sedgwick County Commissioner representing Haysville, whose humorous shouted responses from the audience have lately become another recurring gag, but this year several prominent Haysville residents have publicly objected to the practice. Because their angry e-mails were addressed to members of the local media, the story has wound up on the local radio and television stations as well as the daily newspaper, and by local standards it can almost be considered a kerfuffle.
Our first response was that the folks in Haysville are being rather touchy. Most of the Haysville jokes are good-natured, with our own self-effacing contributions to the genre often playing on the absurdity of Wichitans looking down on anybody, and the meaner ones have usually fallen flat. Last year a couple of Okie cousins from Luther came up to catch the show, despite our warnings that about the local humor, and they found the Haysville jokes especially funny because they were reminded of their own disparaged town just north of sophisticated and cosmopolitan Oklahoma City. Besides, Gridiron is so easily ignored that we’d say that Haysville residents have better things to worry about, but that would leave us at the risk of making yet another Haysville joke.
On the other hand, we catch enough Wichita jokes made by the bigger city folks on television to understand the resentment. The jokes have grown rather outdated, too, as the relentless expansion of the Wichita metropolitan area has turned Haysville into a rather affluent bedroom community in the south part of town rather than the isolated rural outpost of ramshackle houses that it was when the jokes started. As insensitive as we are to other people’s feelings, and despite our constitutional traditionalism, our instincts as strictly realist humorists are inclined to find a more appropriate target.
To the extent that we are concerned with Haysville feelings, we think they’d have been better off leaving the jokes unremarked. The resulting controversy has made Haysville jokes more widely known in Wichita than ever before, and no doubt spawned a few new ones. This is sometimes known as “The Streisand Effect,” so named for the widespread viewing of photographs of her palatial home that had been posted on a government web site that was little seen until her objections were widely publicized, and we’re surprised that no one in Haysville was hip to the phenomenon.
Despite our ambivalence about the matter, we’ll continue doing the show the as usual. The only reference to Haysville in any our scripts is a mention of a fictional reality show called “The Real Housewives of Haysville,” and we’ll leave it unchanged because we can’t think of any suitable alterations. The rest of the cast can do as they please, as far as we’re concerned, and we’d like to think that most of Haysville is just as tolerant.

— Bud Norman

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The Write Stuff

Back in our newspaper days we watched the typesetters, inserters, many of the pressmen, and even much of the clerical staff gradually fade away from the industry, all victims of the relentless progress of automation. We were especially saddened to see the departure of the typesetters, whose painstakingly learned sleight of hand was as entertaining to watch as any of those plate-spinners who used to perform on the Ed Sullivan Show, but we always reassured ourselves that a flesh-and-ink-stained-blood human being would always be required to write the stories.
Now we learn that even the all-too-human art of writing news stories can be mastered by mere machines. The Los Angeles Times has already run a story written by what is ominously called a “writer-bot,” and according to the chief technical officer of a company called Narrative Science, another ominous coinage, as much of 90 percent of all news stories will be computer-generated rather than human-written by 2030. This is after our hoped-for retirement date, but the apparent advent of the automated reporter is still a sobering enough development to make us reconsider our career path.
It seems a shame to leave so many decades of journalistic experience unused, however, so we’re thinking of getting on this computer-generated news racket. The classical economists’ answer to automation has always been that it creates a new job for every one it destroys, as people as required to design and build and maintain the machines doing the work, so we’ll simply get involved in the program-writing end of the biz. How hard can it be, after all? There’s something to do with algorithms, we’re told, and so far as we can tell that has nothing to do with Al Gore, but we’ll just get some unemployed computer geek to take care of that gobbledygook while we provide the necessary instructions. Many decades of being reprimanded by mainstream news editors have taught us all the rules of modern journalism, and it should be a relatively simple task to get a machine to obey them.
At the risk of revealing proprietary information, we’ll share with any potential investors out there a few of the stylebook entries we’ll have programmed into our machines. By following these few simple rules our computer-written copy should meet all the requirements of modern journalism.
First of all, any political story with the word “scandal” should omit any mention of the subject’s party affiliation unless he is a Republican. Any economics story bearing bad news should include the word “unexpectedly,” unless a Republican occupies the White House, in which case the words “dire” and “cataclysmic” will be added. All reports of Islamist-inspired terrorism must include a reference to the “religion of peace,” as well as some vague allusion to Israeli intransigence. Stories regarding the Internal Revenue Service’s harassment of conservative activist groups will not be written at all, but immediately replaced with the salacious details of the Kardashian clan’s most recent sexual exploits. Partial-birth abortions will described as “what opponents call partial-birth abortions,” at least until proponents can decide what to call it. All stories making reference to the Koch brothers must include the phrase “billionaire businessman, while those mentioning George Soros should use “philanthropist” and “social activist.” Crime stories must omit any mention of race or sex, unless the suspect is white and male, and just to be safe the neighborhood in which the crime occurred should also go unmentioned. Any mention of President Barack Obama should be free of any unflattering adjectives, and any accompanying photographs should be altered to include a suitably hagiographic halo effect.
There are lots more rules, as we have learned through hard experience, but that just means plenty of lucrative work for the aspiring journalistic programmer. The rules keep changing, too, depending on who’s in office, so this scam might yet get us over until the hoped-for retirement date.

— Bud Norman

The News on a Cold and Rainy Day

On a dreary and drizzly Wednesday, with the winds rattling the windows and winter still clinging bitterly to the gray-and-brown landscape, we dipped into the warmth and brightness of the Drudge Report. There was nothing particularly earth-shaking to be found there, unless you’re heavily invested in Twitter stock, but a few items provided the needed distraction.
We noted with some interest that the Democrats are contemplating using marijuana to improve their seemingly poor chances in the mid-term elections. It’s not that they plan to get everyone stoned on the way the polls, although we’ve long suspected a similar plot was involved in the last two presidential elections, but rather that they hope to bring out otherwise unenthused younger voters by putting various sorts of marijuana legalization referenda on the ballots. This seems a plausible plan, as marijuana is polling much better than the president these days, but hardly sure-fire. Even the most addled youngsters showing up to vote for legal weed might be inclined to ignore the Democratic congressional candidates intent on retaining an Obamacare law that redistributes what little wealth the young have acquired to well-to-do baby boomers in need of erectile dysfunction remedies, and a lot of pot-smokers tend to be libertarian types who also insist on gun rights and free speech and low taxes on everything. If the Democrats promise to make medical marijuana available to everyone through Obamacare the ploy would prove very effective, but thus far the Democrats aren’t so desperate.
The big headline of the was that President Barack Obama will be seeking the blessing of Pope Francis. Drudge’s waggish headline writers meant that figuratively, as we read the article, but we suppose an actual blessing from the Pope wouldn’t do any harm and would probably work better than one from the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. The two apparently plan to talk about income inequality, a topic they unfortunately agree upon, but we hope the conversation will eventually get around to why Obama is forcing the Little Sisters of the Poor to pay for contraceptive coverage. For all his misguided liberation theology about economic issues the Pope is steadfastly conservative on abortion and promiscuity and other causes dear to Democratic hearts, so he should be of limited usefulness to the efforts to bring out those pot-smoking hipsters the party is counting on.
In a sort of sports story, we read that Northwestern University’s football will be allowed to form a labor union. The team’s sluggish and inefficient play over the past several decades had led us to believe they’d been unionized all along, but it appears this is a new development. Sports journalists are speculating that the union movement could sweep across college athletics, and of course they tend to be enthusiastic about the possibility, but we have our doubts. The best football schools tend to be in right-to-work states, which is probably not a coincidence, and we expect that the best players there will simply opt to forgo paying union dues and keep taking their pay under-the-table. Time-outs are already long and frequent enough in college football games, too, and we dread the interminable work stoppages that will no doubt occur in unionized games.
That missing Malyasian airliner seems to have gone missing from the news, and without any definitive answers, and there’s yet another round of strange Obamacare delays and the frightening prospect of immigration reform and any number of other looming disasters, but they’re not fit for comment on such a dreary and drizzly day.

— Bud Norman

What the Other 80 Percent Thinks

As much as we prefer the conversation of our fellow right-wing bastards, we habitually seek out the political opinions of a wide variety of people. It’s an odious chore, entailing dreary hours of hearing the most outlandish nonsense from the most uninformed folks, but it helps avoid the kind of cocooned thinking that afflicts our Democrat friends.
They have a different set of priorities, these Democrats. Not just different from us right-wing bastards, who tend to grouse about individual liberty and the national debt and the deteriorating international scene and other things the Democrats never seem the least bit concerned about, but different from those blissfully apolitical people we usually encounter in our daily lives. Most of the regular folk we run into are worried about Obamacare and getting by, more or less in that order, while the local lefties seem mostly worked up about the Koch brothers and efforts to limit voting in American elections to American citizens.
Given all that’s going on in the world these days this things strike us as rather piddling concerns, but the Democrats are clearly convinced that they will make everyone forget about paying for over-priced Obamacare while trying to find a job. Every time they get together to talk about everyone agrees that these are the greatest threats facing the nation, it seems, and except for our occasional intrusions into their conversation they don’t know anyone who isn’t going to vote accordingly. Should they ever bother to strike up a conversation with the lady in front of them in the Dillon’s check-out aisle or the guy at the next barstool in any workingman’s tavern, however, they’d probably be surprised by the perplexed looks these topics provoke.
Perhaps Wichita is an outlier, as Koch Industries is an essential local business that contributes generously to local causes ranging from the Sedgwick County Zoo to that excellent exhibit of buffalo paintings currently on exhibit at the Wichita Art Museum, and our duly-elected Secretary of State is one of the nation’s most stalwart advocates of electoral integrity, but we have reason to suspect that the nation at large has more pressing worries. We have a brother in Colorado who prefers skiing to politics, which strikes us as quite sensible, and he unabashedly admits that he’s never heard of the Koch brothers, while even our most left-leaning bartenders say they’ve checked enough drivers’ licenses that they can’t see why it shouldn’t be required voting, so that seems a representative sampling. The pollsters survey an ever wider group, and they confirm our suspicions.
Sen. Harry Reid has recently taken to bashing the Koch brothers as way to maintain his increasingly tenuous grasp on the Senate Majority Leader post, but the polls show that most Americans dislike him more than both Koch brothers combined. Offered a choice between the Koch brothers’ conspiracy to keep the government out of everyone’s business and Reid’s conspiracy to run everything, we would expect the public to make the same choice. Even here in Kansas the Democrats are likely to run a candidate against Secretary of State Kobach on a platform of making it easier for illegal immigrants to vote, but the latest poll shows that a whopping 78 percent of the country disagrees and we’re sure that the margin is evening whoppinger here.
The Republicans might well find a way to blow the mid-term elections, as they’re very adept at that, but the Democrats will need to start striking up some conversations with people outside their circles for that happen.

— Bud Norman

The End of the Season

Basketball season is over in Kansas, spring has not yet arrived on these windy plains, and gloominess has settled over the Sunflower State.
Spring will get here sooner or later, we hope, and basketball will be back next year, we can be sure, but for now there’s simply no shaking that pervasive sense of gloom. The collegiate tournament lingers on, the professionals will keep playing until the sun is hot, and the local driveways and park courts will then be full of aspiring young Kansas hoopsters, but another year of diabolical basketball disappointment was entered into the state’s record books this past weekend. Kansas State University’s Wildcat squad went down with a fight in the first round of the tourney to the Wildcats of the University of Kentucky, the University of Kansas Jayhawks lost a close game in the round of thirty-two to the Stanford University Cardinal, and our beloved Wichita State University Wheatshockers missed a last-second three-point attempt in an epic battle to fall at the same point in the tournament to that pesky Kentucky team.
In other states where football or NASCAR racing or surfing some other such nonsense dominate the sporting scene it will be hard to understand, but in Kansas this is a rather devastating development. We take our basketball all too seriously here in Kansas, no matter how the loyalties are divided. The KSU team has enjoyed some notable success over the years, and gave the world Tex Winter and his sophisticated triangle offense, as any stereotypically hayseed fan of that fine cow college will tell you, so first-round losses to even the most storied programs are hard to take there. The KU squad has been playing the game since its inventor joined the faculty and has won the whole she-bang on three separate occasions, as any of its alumni will tell you ad nauseum, so losing to an even snootier school such as Stanford is a bitter disappointment, especially when they had one of those one-and-done pro prospects that was supposed to wow the world. Even lowly WSU has had some good years, too, and although many of them ended in second-round losses there were tantalizingly plausible reasons to believe that this season would be stretch deep into the competition.
The ‘Shockers hadn’t lost since last April, after all, when they took the eventual national champions to the wire in the semi=final round of the tournament. Since then the plucky band of overlooked recruits had beaten all comers, including four tournament teams along with the mid-major nobodies, and after steamrollering a hapless Cal-Poly University squad they went into the second round with an unprecedented 35-game winning streak. It was only unprecedented because Indiana University’s ’76 squad didn’t get as many games, and a couple of UCLA teams from the dynasty days stretched their much longer winning streaks over consecutive seasons, but by any measure it was a good run. Even the most fatalistic long-time ‘Shocker fans were emboldened to an unfamiliar hope, and the city at large was awash in the black-and-gold of the hometown team. Almost everyone around here had become fond of these lads, including a friend of ours who works at a local restaurant where the team had a weekly meal, who swears they’re the most respectful college students she’d ever encountered, and the city seemed to gained a pep in its economically depressed step because of their efforts.
A predictably bad break of bracketing luck had put them against a blue-chip laden team from Kentucky, which has won the whole she-bang five times more than even almighty KU and was the pre-season favorite to add that total, and in the end their height and talent and a some questionable calls and few missed ‘Shocker free-throw attempts made the two-point difference. There was considerable satisfaction in a 35-and-one season, and seeing the our blue-collar local boys put up such a spirited fight against the blue bloods, but we will always look back on this great season with a nagging realization of what might have been. That was a damned good team that could have shown those pro prospect blue chippers how it’s done, and the city will have to take an immense satisfaction in that.
Spring will be here sooner or later, we still hope, and soon our attention will turn once again to the Wichita Wingnuts. Our local unaffiliated minor-league baseball team tore up the American Association’s roster of similarly odd-named teams from similarly mid-sized cities last year but lost in an upset in the championship series, and we’re hoping that another summer of drinking beer in the smoking section of our charmingly antiquated ballpark will provide the same welcome distraction from dreary reality. In the meantime our most wonderful mother is battling a serious illness in a San Diego hospital, and we’re awaiting a call to assure that all is well, and even in this basketball-crazed state we are reminded of what’s really important.

— Bud Norman

The Grand Tour

Way back in our younger days it was a widely accepted truism that only Nixon could go to China, but these days anyone with the airfare and cost of a decent hotel can do it. Even First Lady Michelle Obama, who can simply put the trip on the taxpayers’ ever-swelling tab, is currently on tour on in China.
First Ladies usually get the kid-glove treatment from the press, especially the First Ladies’ of Democrat presidents, and most especially the First Ladies’ of Democrat presidents who can claim some historic ethnic first or another, but this trip has garnered some unusually critical coverage. That’s partly because of Obama’s inexplicable decision to not bring along her usually adoring media groupies, partly because of the explanation that it’s a “non-political” trip makes the undisclosed but easily guessed-at price-tag seem all the more extravagant, and to no small extent because she has come across as what in our younger days was known as an ugly American.
Granted, the sneering coverage has come from British press that is always snarkier and less politically-correct than its American counterpart. The reliably conservative Telegraph headlined that because of the refined behavior of Chinese President Xi Jingping’s wife “China Claims Victory in Battle of First Ladies.” The even snarkier but less reliably conservative Daily Mail reported that the Obama entourage was racking up an $8,350-per-night lodging bill for their 3,400-square-foot suit, and that despite such amenities as a 24-hour butler the First Lady’s mother was driving the hotel staff to distraction with her constant demands and criticisms. The temptation to crack the inevitable mother-in-law jokes must have been difficult for the American press, but they resisted admirably and contented themselves with straight-forward coverage of Obama’s public pronouncements.
Even the most straightforward accounts could not help embarrassing to the First Lady, however. At one point Obama was lecturing the Chinese on the need to tolerate dissent and political criticism, noting with pride the unending tolerance she and her husband have for such lese majeste, but the reports’ failure to mention the Internal Revenue Service’s harassment of conservative groups or its vilification of prominent opponents was conspicuous. Other reports proudly quoted Obama urging the Chinese to undertake educational reforms, with USA Today adding that “she has won praise for her approachability and admiration for her comments supporting freedom of speech,” but surely only the most star-struck readers weren’t reminded of her husband’s obeisance to the teachers’ unions and opposition to charter schools or vouchers or any other serious educational reform. One hopes that the first kids are enjoying the pricey visit, and not proving too much a pain in the neck to the hotel staff, but otherwise it’s hard to see what the taxpayer is getting for his money in this visit.

— Bud Norman

One of Our Aircraft is Missing

We freely admit that we haven’t the slightest idea what happened to that missing Malaysian airliner, but the rules of modern media apparently require that we offer some baseless theory about the matter. The best we can come up with is that those darned Koch brothers had something to do with it, and that they somehow landed it at the same tiny airport here in Wichita where that gigantic cargo plane accidentally landed a while back, and that the Citizens United decision has something do with it, so we’re going to go with that.
Although this is completely absurd, at least it is more plausible than a CNN anchor’s recent on-air speculation that the plane was swallowed by a black hole. Our theory also avoids the racist implications of the term “black hole,” which some people have actually griped about, and these days even the Washington Post will believe almost any fanciful conspiracy theory you can cook up about the Koch Brothers. We note that CNN’s constant coverage of the missing Malaysian airplane story and it’s blatantly racist speculating about it has been a ratings bonanza for the beleaguered network, so we can hope that our more politically-correct musings will have a similarly helpful effect on our traffic.
There has already been considerable media coverage about the media coverage of the missing Malaysian airliner, which will no doubt prompt some serious media coverage of the media coverage of the media coverage, but at the risk of being redundant we also have a theory about that. The more high-minded media critics have objected to the pointless theorizing in absence of any meaningful facts to be reported, and rightly so, but then they engage in their own fact-free theories about the motive. Ratings and ad revenues and a need to fill all that air time they aren’t devoting to the Internal Revenue Service scandal or the disintegration o the world order are all valid reasons, obviously enough, but we believe it’s mostly because deep down in their ink-stained souls journalists loathe admitting they don’t know what the hell is going on.
Aside from its prima facie plausibility, this theory is also bolstered by decades of experience with journalists. Our many years of journalism brought us into contact with hundreds of these people, and we can confidently generalize that by and large they are about the most cocksure bunch of know-it-alls you’ll ever have the misfortune to come across. Most truly believe that the people still look to them for the truth, and for that matter The Truth, and whenever they’re fresh out of the stuff they’re simply too embarrassed to admit it. Almost every editor of our experience has insisted on knowing even the unknowable, and such excuses as the votes haven’t been counted yet or they haven’t brought all the bodies out yet have always been found unacceptable. It’s a fateful hubris that has led to many a red-faced retraction, but it is bred in the journalistic bone.
The happy result of all of those restractions is that the public takes this nonsense less seriously, even as it tunes in ever-greater numbers for the sheer entertainment value, and one can only hope they note the absurdity of the rest of it.

— Bud Norman

Politics, Hoops, and the Politics of Hoops

March madness has descended over the globe, and we don’t mean the mess in Ukraine and the South China Sea and all over the Middle East and at the Federal Reserve Board or any of the rest of the world’s reigning insanity. We’re talking about the excitement attending the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s championship basketball tournament, a matter that is arguably of less importance but generates far more wagers and press coverage. At least the president’s priorities are in order, as he has once again found time in his presumably busy schedule to fill out his brackets.
The presidential picks have become a much-ballyhooed annual event over the past five years, and are always presented with appropriate pomp and circumstance on the almighty ESPN cable network. So far the president’s picks haven’t proved more prescient than any other office-bound amateur’s, but ESPN takes them seriously enough to have come up with some fancy “Barack-etology” graphics and a nauseatingly fawning program featuring the president himself, and the rest of the media are obliged to take note. No one ever notes that the president seems to be watching an awful lot of college basketball while the world comes apart at the seams and the economy continues to sputter, so the White House can assume with some confidence that enhancing the president’s basketball-watching regular guy image compensates for any damage to done to his reputation as a serious statesman.
Our main interest in the story was that the president did not predict our beloved Wichita State University Wheatshockers squad would prevail, despite their thus-far- unblemished record and number one seeding, but this did not surprise us. The ‘Shockers are lightly regarded by many experts because they play in the lightly-regarded Missouri Valley Conference rather than one of those fancy-schmantzy football-playing conferences, and their impeccable underdog credentials are offset by their undeniable political incorrectness. Our boys play in the Charles Koch Arena, named for the local half of the billionaire businessmen brothers who are the Democratic party’s favorite boogeymen, the defensive-minded coach makes his recruiting trips on corporate jets loaned by the local corporate jet-makers, another popular whipping post of the progressive movement, and the team is whole-heartedly embraced by the God-and-gun-clutching denizens of this old-fashioned town smack dab in the middle of that vexing red splotch on the electoral map. There’s no political point in the president pandering to Wichita or anywhere in Kansas except perhaps Lawrence and the more, ahem, “urban” portions of Kansas City, Kansas, so most ‘Shocker fans were not expecting his endorsement.
The president apparently prefers the Spartans of Michigan State University, which is also unsurprising. Michigan is a bluer state than Kansas, although the unions have recently been on the run there and it seems in danger of growing purple, and the Spartans are  a good team who also play in one of those fancy-schmantzy football-playing conferences. Just as the pridefully egalitarian types tend to insist on Ivy League credentials for high public office, they also tend to be downright elitist in their basketball prognasticating. While perusing the comment boards on the latest college basketball news the other day we saw a posting by a fellow we happen to know who was dismissing our beloved ‘Shockers as the equivalent of Cowley County Community College, and we found it amusing because we happen to know him as a self-professed Marxist professor of some sort at at some prestigious College Back East. He went to the University of Kansas, where James friggin’ Naismith himself once coached and Wilt Chamberlain once roamed the lanes and there are more storied basketball stories than you can bear to hear to a KU alum recount, and we think it a hoot that our friend learned both his Marxism and his basketball snobbery there.
As is our strict policy here, we offer no predictions regarding the outcome of anything. Such prudence ensures that we’ll have a better track record than the president, whose picks from the Baltics to the brackets have proved questionable, and we don’t claim his expertise in these matters. We certainly can’t say we have the spare time to devote to scouting every team in the field that the president apparently enjoys. Even so, we’ll admit to a faint hope that a politically incorrect underdog from that God-and-gun-clinging red splotch in the middle of the U.S.A. will do well.

— Bud Norman

The Sweet Taste of Freedom

If you know anyone in need of a pastry chef, we can heartily recommend the services of Bill Yosses. Although we’ve never met him nor had the opportunity to taste his work, Yosses has an excellent reputation and is obviously a most conscientious sort of pastry chef.
Yosses was previously the executive pastry chef at the White House, serving both the Bush and Obama families with his famous cookie plates and elaborate sugar sculptures, but has recently resigned in protest against administration policies. We’ve been expecting other high officials to take a similarly principled stand, given the administration’s disastrous policies on everything from the economy to education to foreign affairs, but thus far Yosses has been the only one with sufficient self-respect. He might not disagree with the rest of the nonsense emanating from the White House, but he draws the line at the First Lady’s insistence on using fruit puree and honey and agave and other fashionably healthful ingredients in his heartfelt creations, telling the press that “I don’t want to demonize cream, butter, sugar, and eggs.”
News stories about Yosses usually mention that he is openly homosexual, which strikes us as a rather extraneous detail, unless it is meant to explain the kind words the First Lady sent out after his departure, but he has an admirably old-fashioned understanding that dessert is not supposed to be good for you. Whatever liberalism Yosses’ homosexuality might have instilled in him, his steadfast defense of such bedrock values of western civilization as cream, butter, sugar, and eggs is downright Burkean to our thinking and deserving of conservative praise. The administration’s annoying nutritional authoritarianism is typical of its approach to almost everything, and is as good a point as any to draw a sugary line in the sand.

— Bud Norman

Monday Blues

The latest headlines have induced in us a severe case of nostalgia for those heady days of ’08, when hope and change and all that jazz were ascendant. Things were so much simpler then, as it was widely understood that getting rid of all that cowboy capitalism and foreign policy of the previous administration and following the simpler and kinder path of community organizing by a new and darker one would surely set things right, while the latest batch of news has brought nothing but despair and importance and complexity.
One would be hard-pressed to describe a simpler and kinder path than the one America has followed since that hopeful year, yet the resulting change doesn’t seem to have set things at all set right. The economy has not yet roared back to its pre-bubble-popping expansiveness despite the inflation of new bubbles, the world seems as dangerous a place as ever, and at best the elections of ’14 only offer less of the same.
There’s not much point in reciting the glum economic statistics, which will be made all the clearer at your next fill-up, bit it might be worth noting that the Russians are laughing at America’s efforts to counter its recent annexation of the Crimean region of Ukraine’s old borders. Pulling missile defense out of Poland and the Czech Republic and offering nuclear reductions and otherwise “re-setting” relations with Russian has somehow failed to prevent this unfortunate turn of events, any better than tossing around printed-up money to Democratic constituencies did in reviving the economy, and if except for the occasional green shoots in the economy there’s little reason for optimism out there.
We’re told that the Republicans will do well amidst the gloom and intractability of ’14, which provides some hope of a sor-of change, but there’s always a likelihood that they’ll blow that so we’re left thinking of those good days of ‘-08. It was all so simple then.

— Bud Norman