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The Scandal is the Press

The terrorist attack on America’s consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which resulted in the deaths an ambassador and three other Americans, was a multi-faceted scandal. There was the ill-advised “leading from behind” military strike that deposed a despicable but defanged dictatorship and created an anarchy where terror groups thrived, the shockingly lax security provided to the Americans sent into that chaos, the bald-faced lie that the subsequent deaths were a result of a spontaneous demonstration rather than an organized al Qaeda terror attack, the scapegoating and eventual imprisonment of a filmmaker who had exercised his constitutional right to criticize Islam, and the ongoing attempts to cover it all up. The lack of interest by the most prominent media is a scandal, too.
Despite the indifference of the big papers and wire services and television networks, more information about the Benghazi affair is slowly being made public. A newly released batch of e-mails offer further proof that White House officials were directly involved in concocting the false story that United Nations ambassador Susan Rice and other officials, including President Barack Obama, told the American public in the days leading up to the 2012 presidential election. In one of the e-mails White House Deputy Communications Director clearly states that among the “goals” of the story were “to underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, not a broader failure of policy,” and “to reinforce the President and the Administration’s strength and steadiness in dealing with difficult challenges.”
Such intriguing information was not unearthed by The New York Times or The Washington Post or CBS News, but rather by a conservative group called Judicial Watch. A search of The New York Times’ web site finds that the Paper of Record’s last mention of Benghazi came in a short item about Rhode’s account of the affair in the “Sunday Breakfast Menu” of last January. The Washington Post’s only forthright account of the new e-mails came in a blog post by token and tepid conservative Jennifer Rubin. Over at CBS News, where Rhodes’ brother is the head honcho and ace reporter Sharyl Attkisson has quit in frustration over the network’s resistance to her reporting on Benghazi and other administration scandals, there was a story about how Republicans are still demanding answers about the terror attack, as well as another story about a Central Intelligence Agency official’s assurances that there’s nothing political going on here. USA Today also went with the partisan, prefacing a rather straightforward account of the facts with the words “Republicans say.”
They could just as easily write that “newly released e-mails say,” but that sounds rather damning. The ladies and gentlemen of the press are quite busy these days explaining a fresh batch of foreign policy blunders, from the “apartheid state” of Israel to the formerly independent portions of Ukraine to those countries neighboring an increasingly aggressive China where Obama was recently trying to convince the nervous populations that the president and administration is strong and steady in dealing with difficult challenges, and what with racist basketball team owners in Los Angeles and botched executions in Oklahoma they have little time for four brave Americans who died more than a year-and-a-half ago. They might even be wondering what difference, at this point, does it make?
The truth still matters, though, and the woman who notoriously first asked that callous question is a front-runner to be the next strong and steadfast question. A lack of outrage is perhaps the biggest scandal of them all.

— Bud Norman

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Another Tape-Recorded Rant of Stupidity

By now just about everybody in America is feeling a satisfying sense of outrage about that creepy octogenarian basketball team owner’s stupid comments to his gold-digging girlfriend, but we hope the country can spare some indignation for the stupid comments Secretary of State John Kerry has lately been making.
Kerry has been making stupid comments ever since he launched his public service career by slandering his fellow veterans back during the Vietnam War, and made enough of them during his ill-fated presidential campaign to lose to George W. Bush, but his efforts to negotiate a peace between Israel and the Palestinian territories has inspired him to new heights of stupidity. The latest was his complaint to a roomful of influential world leaders that if Israel doesn’t agree to his preposterous proposal it will become an “apartheid state.” As with the case of that creepy octogenarian basketball team owner the remarks were surreptitiously taped and leaked to the press, causing considerable embarrassment.
Members of Congress from both parties quickly denounced the statement, with Texas’ Sen. Ted Cruz going so far as to call for Kerry’s resignation, and even the administration’s most loyal media have expressed disapproval. Even President Barack Obama has explicitly rejected the “apartheid” characterization of Israel, despite his own apparent disdain for the country, and outside the most Jew-hating corners of the Muslim world few have come to Kerry’s defense. The outcry wasn’t so loud as the one over the creepy octogenarian basketball team owner, probably because there was no comely 26-year-old mistress involved, but it was sufficient to cause Kerry to offer a half-hearted apology. “I have been around long enough to also know the power of words to create a misimpression, even when unintentional,” Kerry wrote in a State Department press release, “and if I could rewind the tape I would have chosen a different word to describe my firm belief that the only way in the long term to have a Jewish state and two nations and two peoples living side by side in peace and security is through a two state solution.”
Which is yet another stupid comment. Kerry is reiterating his previous stupid comment that the peace negotiations went “poof” because the Israelis were too slow in releasing several terrorists who would immediately resume their war against the Jewish state, and reluctant to agree to other of Kerry’s outrageous demands, ignoring that the Palestinian Authority negotiators had announced their intention of forming a coalition government with the Hamas terrorist organization that remains openly committed to the destruction of Israel. Kerry might wish he had found a more artful term to express his obvious hostility toward Israel, but he is clearly unwilling to apology for the animus itself. This is as stupid as Kerry’s arrogant belief that he could bring peace to the Middle East by forcing the Israelis to accept a suicidal capitulation to a Palestinian people who won’t accept anything less than another Holocaust, and merits public scorn.
Kerry’s comments aren’t quite so salacious as those by the creepy octogenarian basketball team owner, now can their stupidity be as easily understood by the sports talk radio audience, but they’re far more consequentially stupid.

— Bud Norman

Contretemps on the Court

The best players in the world are showcasing their skills in the National Basketball Association’s playoffs, but all the sports world can talk about is a spat between one of the team owners and his girlfriend.
For unknown reasons the spat between Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling and paramour V. Stiviano was recorded on audio tape, for unknown reasons the tape wound up in the hands of the widely-read TMZ.com celebrity gossip internet site, and for obvious reasons it has since become the biggest basketball brouhaha in a while. Any argument between a married and fabulously wealthy white 81-year-old sports mogul and his 26-year-old half-black, half-Mexican girlfriend will provoke a certain amount of prurient interest in the readers of celebrity gossip sites, but this argument concerned his objections to her publicizing her friendships with blacks and Hispanics on social media. Add the element of race to such a salacious story and the media coverage goes into the full-press mode usually reserved for missing Malaysian airliners, other celebrities weigh in with their indignation, major figures in the sport call for the offender’s banishment, and even the President of the United States feels obliged to interrupt a trade mission to Asia to add his disapproving comment.
This all seems rather inordinate, although there’s certainly no defending the comments Sterling can be heard making. We listened to the entirety of his telephoned confrontation with his girlfriend, despite the creepy voyeuristic feelings it induced, and could not escape the consensus conclusion that he’s a racist as well as an all-around jerk. The world is rife with racists of all colors, however, and if the media intend to occupy themselves with chastising all the all-around jerks there won’t be time left cover any of the issues of real significance. When the controversy starts to overshadow the scores, some perspective is required.
Having duly acknowledged the repugnant racism of Sterling’s side of the conversation, we’d like to note a few other issues that will be largely overlooked among the mass harrumphing. There’s a troubling matter of how we wound up listening to what an American citizen had every right to expect was a private conversation, for one thing. We are as ardent defenders of freedom of the press as any of the big media that are piling scorn on Sterling, but we also believe in a sufficient sphere of privacy to allow for contentious conversations with girlfriends. Our suspicion is that all of Sterling’s critics, right up to the President, would also prefer some privacy regarding such matters.
Also worth noting is how very odd Sterling’s views seem. Aside from the oddity of a octogenarian white man spouting racist opinions to his 20-something mixed-race girlfriend, and the irony of a registered Democrat who routinely signs multi-million paychecks to the black employees who have lately made his business successful objecting to any association with minorities, Sterling’s rant is strikingly archaic. At one point in the conversation he tells his girlfriend that he objects her being seen in the company of other minorities because “I live in a culture,” and he insists that culture will bring its opprobrium down on any inter-ethnic friendships. Apparently being an 81-year-old multi-billionaire can leave one so very disassociated with modern society that Sterling did not realize that now society brings its opprobrium down on anyone who doesn’t conscientiously seek out such relationships, but we assume he has by now been brought up to date. Some critics have seized the opportunity to lament how very common Sterling’s views are, but they’d be hard-pressed to explain why they’re still newsworthy.
Calls for Sterling’s banishment from the NBA further raise the question of whether someone’s property rights should be voided as a result of his opinions, no matter how repulsive those opinions might be. The owner of the Dallas Mavericks franchise has endorsed the “911 truther” conspiracy theories, which we find highly offensive, and professional sports team owners in general are a sleazy lot ever-eager to reach into the taxpayers’ wallets and gorge their most loyal customers, but purging the business of all but the righteous will leave us with an insufficient amount of sports.
There’s something uncomfortable, too, about the way that contemporary society so severely punishes any deviation from its latest orthodoxy on race. The same scorn that is heaped on the likes of outright racists such as Sterling also falls on the likes of Charles Murray, the brilliant sociologist who inspired the welfare reform that did so much to benefit black America, or Clarence Thomas, the black Supreme Court Justice who bravely works for a truly color-blind legal system, or countless others who criticize the policies that have lately brought high unemployment and declining wealth to the minorities of America.
Then again, we never did care for Sterling. Old-time basketball fans will recall the decades when the Clippers were the laughingstocks of professional American sports, with Sterling’s tightfistedness and propensity to overrule the basketball experts in his employ the obvious causes of their ineptitude, and we’re disinclined to root for any team located in Los Angeles. We have an admiration for the play of former University of Oklahoma Sooner Blake Griffin and the unabashedly nerdish Chris Paul, and like that they have supplanted the hated Los Angeles Lakers as the city’s top team, but even before the latest revelations we were never Clippers fans. The Clippers’ owner is apparently a racist and an all-around jerk, but we’ll just keep hoping the Boston Celtics can get another Bill Russell or Larry Bird and turn our attention to more consequential stories.

–Bud Norman

Even Better Than Bit-Coins

(The following info-mercial was originally presented at the recent “Gridiron” show. The show and its producers are not responsible for its content, no matter what your fancy-schmantzy lawyer might say.)
Hello, I’m Bud Norman. You might remember me from such Gridiron skits as “God Testifies at the David Brace Trial,” “North High Honky Mofos,” and “Chip Wilson and the Museum of Random Crap.” Or maybe you vaguely recall me as that kid you used to beat up in the boys’ room at Brooks Junior High.
In any case, you know me to be an honest man. Why, back in my hometown of Wichita they call me “Honest Bud,” a nickname I have proudly carried ever since the day I found that glass eye on the bar at Kirby’s Beer Store and returned it to its rightful owner. With that kind of rock-solid integrity on the line, I’m proud to offer you fine folks the investment opportunity of a lifetime.
Now, to the untrained eye this might look like an ordinary small piece of stamped metal (holds up an ordinary small piece of stamped metal), but in fact it is a revolutionary new financial instrument that will transform the world economy. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a “Bud-coin.”
Every Bud-coin is made from the finest tin, supplied by local gypsy scrap metal merchants, and is emblazoned on one side with a rendering of my own smiling face. On the other side are the words “Caveat emptor.” This is Latin, I’m told, and roughly translates as “You can trust this guy, he’s all right.”
That doesn’t really matter, though, because we aren’t actually going to make any of the things. Instead, every purchase of a Bud-coin will duly recorded on the Bud-Co Industries super-computer. When you make a purchase with a Bud-coin, the amount will be subtracted to your account and transferred to the person or company you are buying from. This is what’s known as a “virtual currency,” and you have to admit that sounds pretty darned high-tech and up-to-date.
Still, you might be wondering why you shouldn’t keep on making as your financial transactions with those dirty, wrinkled dollar bills that you’re used to. They were good enough for Grandpa, you might be thinking, so why quit now? Well, for one thing, how much do you really know about your grandfather? God only knows what that old coot was up to when you weren’t around, and if you think back you’ll remember that your grandmother was always giving him that suspicious look. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, Bud-coins offer a number of important advantages over those low-tech, old-fashioned dollars that are currently cluttering your wallet.
For one thing, transactions made with Bud-coins are not taxable. Ordinarily you would have to move to Montana and arm yourself to the gills in order to achieve zero tax liability, but thanks to the miracle of Bud-coins you can now reach that blissful state right in your own home town. We still recommend a concealed carry permit, just to be on the safe side, but for now the feds aren’t on to us.
Also, Bud-coins have no serial numbers or other identifying marks that allow the authorities to follow your transactions. This makes Bud-coins ideal for purchasing a gift for that special someone in your life that your spouse doesn’t know about, or even something so simple and mundane as buying a bag of weed. Even when weed is legalized you’re still going to want to buy the tax-free good stuff from that old hippie with the grow light in his closet, and Bud-coins are the perfect way to make that all-important score.
What’s more, your holdings in Bud-coins could significantly increase in value. Some financial experts are calling Bud-coins a 21st Century version of the Beanie Baby craze, and others are saying it could be the next dot-com or housing bubble. For those who got out in time, as I plan to do, all of those worked out very well.
As an added bonus, every purchase of a Bud-coin gives you a copy of my latest album, “The Many Moods of Bud.” The crooning on this collection expresses the full range of my emotions, from ennui to despair.
I know, I know, despite all these advantages you still have questions. You’re probably wondering what happens to all your money if the Bud-Co Industries super-computer crashes while I’m watching one of those kinky Japanese porn videos with the pixilated private parts. Not to worry, as every entry is backed up on what the IT guys call “hard copy” on an official Big Chief table. To ensure your security, every entry is indecipherably encrypted in my completely illegible handwriting.
You might even be thinking that this all sounds like some convoluted scam. You might be thinking “I’m paying this guy to add a few digits to a computer program? What’s backing this up? Where’s the real value in this currency?” Well, Mr. Picky-picky-picky, I would point out that Bud-coins operate on the same basic economy theory as the Federal Reserve System. If that doesn’t make you feel confident about your financial future, well, that is not my fault.
So, if you’re bold enough and imaginative to trade some of those low-tech, old-fashioned dollars for something more high-tech and up-to-date, just drop us a line. Don’t be a luddy duddy. Don’t be a moon calf. Don’t be a jabbernowl. You’re not those, are you? Step right up, and we’ll be glad to let you in on this exciting new venture.
By the way, bit-coins and other virtual currencies are not accepted. We deal strictly in cash.

— Bud Norman

A False but Accurate News Conference

The following transcript is not an an actual White House news conference, and is instead something we dreamed up for the recent “Gridiron” show, but we offer it in a belief that it has a greater verisimilitude than the real thing. Also, we’re busy with chores and friends’ personal problems and have no energy for that ridiculous New York Times story on income inequality, so in the interest of the environment we’re going to recycle.
CHIP WILSON: Hello, I’m Chip Wilson. Jay Carney is taking an extended leave of absence in order to grow a real beard, and in the meantime I’ll be the acting White House Press Secretary. Do you have any questions?
REPORTER ONE: About Obamacare …
WILSON: I’m sorry, but let me interrupt you right there. This is just my first day on the job, and I was hoping I wouldn’t have to deal with Obamacare. Does anybody have a question about something other than Obamacare? No? Damn it. Well, OK, what was your question?
REPORTER ONE: The president said that under Obamacare people the average American would be paying less for his health care insurance than his cell phone bills, but instead most people are seeing rate increases. Isn’t this another broken promise?
WILSON: I can assure you the president is working hard to keep that promise. He’s already proposed legislation that would drastically increase the average American’s cell phone bill. If our do-nothing Congress won’t act on this pressing matter, you can hardly blame the the president.
REPORTER TWO: What about the president’s promise that “If you like your health care plan, you can keep you health care plan”? Millions have already lost their coverage, and millions more will when you finally get around to enforcing the employer mandate.
WILSON: I think you need to go back and check that quote. You’ll see that what he actually said was “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan, period, end of story.”
REPORTER TWO: How does that make it better?
WILSON: Well, where I come from, “period, end of story” is generally understood to mean that you won’t be able to keep your health care plan.
REPORTER TWO: Where do you come from?
WILSON: I come from the post-modern world, pal, where words can mean whatever the hell you want them to mean. What hick town do you come from?
REPORTER THREE: You say that eight million people have signed up for Obamacare, but can you tell us how many of them have actually made a payment?
WILSON: I’m sorry, I don’t know.
REPORTER FOUR: Can you tell us how many of them previously were covered, but lost their plans due to Obamacare?
WILSON: I don’t know.
REPORTER FIVE: Can you tell us how many wound up on Medicaid?
WILSON: I don’t know.
REPORTER SIX: Can you tell us how many of them are the young, healthy people with no need for these comprehensive plans that you need to make this boondoggle work?
WILSON: I don’t know.
REPORTER ONE: Why don’t you know?
WILSON: Trust me, you don’t want to know.
REPORTER TWO: The law is currently being challenged in the courts by the Little Sisters of the Poor, who can’t understand why they’re being compelled to pay for contraceptive coverage. How do you respond to that?
WILSON: The Little Sisters of the Poor, as you know, are a notorious street gang that oppose everything this administration does because of the threat we pose to their nefarious traffic in prostitution and narcotics.
REPORTER TWO: Actually, it’s an order of nuns who provide care to the indigent elderly.
WILSON: A perfect cover, don’t you think?
REPORTER THREE: What about the report from the Congressional Budget Office that more than two million Americans will leave the labor force rather than taking a low wage job that would force them to relinquish their Obamacare subsidies?
WILSON: These fortunate people have been freed from the bondage of work. Do you want them to be wage slaves? Of course not. And what makes wage slaves? Wages, that’s what. Thanks to the miracle of Obamacare, these Americans can now devote their energies to more creative pursuits. We’re expecting a veritable renaissance of macrame and beer can sculpture.
REPORTER FOUR: Despite these assurances, all the polls show that most Americans disapprove of Obamacare.
WILSON: The administration is hard at work on that, as well. We’ve launched a multi-million dollar advertising campaign to to convince Americans they do approve of Obamacare. We’ve got some NBA stars, some healthy and pretty young models, and we’re in negotiations with that “Flo” woman from the Progressive ads.
REPORTER FOUR: And you think this will make Americans approve of paying more for less?
WILSON: Well, we believe that if the public can be persuaded to watch mixed martial arts fighting and the “Real Housewives of Haysville,” they can be persuaded to do just about anything. They did vote for my boss twice, after all, and he’s not nearly as likable as that “Flo” woman from the Progressive ads. Also, we’re counting on you on the media to help out in the effort. I mean, come on, it’s Obama.
(Reporters all murmur their general agreement.)

A Good Day at the Court

The Supreme Court has ruled that Michigan doesn’t have to practice racial discrimination if it doesn’t want to, and this is a double dose of good news.
By upholding a ballot measure banning affirmative action in state university admissions, which passed by a 58 to 42 percent margin, the court has struck yet another legal blow to that insipid policy. These thinly-vieled quota systems exacerbate racial tensions, diminish the accomplishments of the most capable minorities, funnel less capable minorities into failure at elite colleges rather than success at more suitable institutions, punish meritocratic notions in the process, produce a less educated country as a result, and are an affront to the essential ideal of a color-blind society. They do little to rectify the past injustices they are meant to atone for, and add new ones by punishing Asians and Jews and other historically oppressed minority groups that nonetheless produce students deserving of admission in numbers greater than their share of the overall population. They certainly do nothing to address the continuing failure of America’s public schools to educate their black and Hispanic students as well they do their white and Asian charges, a social catastrophe which affirmative action implicitly acknowledges, and enables the failure to continue without provoking the wrath of the teachers’ unions.
The court’s decision does not ban the practice of affirmative action, but it does affirm the right of the people of Michigan or any other state to do so. This is a heartening development, too, as it represents an all-too-rare victory for public opinion over the supposedly superior wisdom of the judiciary. There are certain fundamental rights explicitly enumerated in the Constitution which no popular vote can revoke, and the courts have a duty to thwart any temporary public passions about these matters, but on issues ranging from same-sex marriage to affirmative action to environmental regulations the courts routinely substitute their judgment for the clearly stated desires of legislatures and even public referenda. When a priestly caste of black-robed men and women can discern that the Constitution confers an absolute to homosexual marriage or a student of one race’s right to admission to a state university over a more qualified applicant of another race or the Environmental Protection Agency’s right to regulate the exhalations of every citizen, all of which would have been anathema to men who wrote and ratified that Constitution, the document ceases to have any meaning. When the court defers to public opinion, as it did on Tuesday, there’s still a chance of restoring some semblance of constitutional order.
It’s bad news that such a commonsensical ruling seems such welcome good news, and those inclined to worry can note that two justices dissented and a third would have had she not been forced to recuse herself because of a previous involvement in the case. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a 58-page dissenting opinion that asserted those 58 percent of Michiganders who voted for the ban are nasty old racists, and argued that a ballot measure which states that Michigan may not “discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual on the basis of race, sex, ethnicity, or national origin” is somehow a violation of the 14th Amendment. In keeping with the currently fashionable sensibilities she added some balderdash about how affirmative action had benefited her own career, although she stopped short of admitting that she owes her appointment to the court to the practice, but a majority of people in Michigan and the other 49 states are entitled to conclude that she’s another persuasive argument against it.

— Bud Norman

Senatorial Slapstick

The good folks at Netflix have lately been sending us the classic films of Harold Lloyd, the great silent-era comedian, and we’ve been lamenting the demise of the great American sight gag. For pure gut-busting slapstick, though, it’s hard to top a recent effort by Sen. Richard Blumenthal.
The Connecticut Democrat was recently on the platform at an Amtrak station lecturing the public on commuter train safety, which is apparently a subject of some importance to Connecticuters, and for some reason chose to deliver his speech well within those yellow lines that travelers are loudly advised to stay beyond. As if one cue from Hal Roach or some other suitably low-brow comedy director a train speeds by mid-speech, knocking Blumenthal’s visual aids askew, nearly squashing an unidentified man standing even closer to the track, and leaving an expression on Blumenthal’s face that even Buster Keaton would have been hard-pressed to top. In a seeming homage to Lloyd’s famous “Safety First,” the near-death experience occurs just as Blumenthal declares that “safety is paramount.”
Aside from its sheer entertainment value, the awkward moment seems worth briefly noting for a few reasons. It’s the sort of thing that would be endlessly replayed on the late night comedy shows if the Senator were a Republican, for one thing, and it seems only fair to to heap on our small measure of ridicule when it happens to a Democrat. Republicans frequently do similarly stupid things, of course, but we will proudly note it’s not likely to happen while they’re haranguing their fellow citizens about how to not get hit by a train. Most importantly, Blumenthal is among that breed of Democrat that seeks ever great control of our lives, and it’s useful to be reminded that he’s an idiot.

— Bud Norman

Two Holidays in One

Yesterday was Easter Sunday, of course, but this year it coincided with the far more secular holiday of 4-20. For the sake of the squares among you we will explain that “4-20” is a sub-cultural slang term for marijuana. Some marijuana enthusiasts make a ritual of indulging each day at 4:20, although we’re not sure if it’s supposed to be A.M. or P.M, or perhaps both, if your sleep schedule is accommodating, and the 20th day of the fourth month of the year has become an unofficial national 24 hours of marijuana celebration. Easter didn’t prove a distraction for the large crowds that gathered in various cities across the country, and in The Mile High City of Denver 4-20 pushed the holiest day in Christendom right off the front page.
Tens of thousands gathered in a Denver park, according to the Associated Press, to smoke enough marijuana to make the nearby buildings look quite hazy in the news photographs. The state of Colorado has recently legalized the sale and possession of small amounts of marijuana, and although it remains in violation of federal laws and it is still illegal to smoke marijuana in public there seems to be a considerable degree of tolerance regarding the drug. Reports indicated that only 103 of those tends of thousands were cited, and only 92 of them marijuana violations. The rest were presumably handed a more expensive ticket for consuming tobacco in one of the nearby taverns. There seems to have been no violence or other problems associated with the party, and it can be assumed that the nearby fast-food outlets and convenience stores did a brisk business, so the event might become an annual tradition if anyone can remember the location. Most years it won’t fall on Easter, and a few more pious potheads might join in.
A bunch of grubby neo-hippies littering a park and giving a contact high to an entire neighborhood might not seem the most persuasive image that the pro-legalization movement might send to a wary non-pot-smoking public, which thus far retains a political majority in the country, and would probably be more sympathetic to the respectable Saab-driving suburban pothead who tries to hide it from the kids, but they do seem to be on a roll lately. Polling shows public sentiment moving toward legalization with the dizzying speed of same-sex marriage, legislation and referenda are being considered in several states, prominent politicians from both parties have offered their endorsements, and a certain sweet scent of inevitably is wafting across the land like the smoke from that rally in the park. It’s partly the Baby Boomer’s dominance of the Democratic party, and partly the increasing influence of libertarians and libertarianism in the Republic Party, but we suspect it’s mainly because everybody in government at every level is increasingly desperate for more and more revenues. Just as the Great Depression brought and end to the prohibition of alcohol, the current never-ending recession will prompt the government to cut itself in on the enormous trade in marijuana.
When it does happen, all those 4-20 types around the country won’t necessarily be celebrating. They’ve been smoking tax-free so far, and will be surprised to find how very expensive is the government’s fair share. Pot has previously been free of regulatory oversight, as well, and bureaucrats are notorious buzz-kills. In our newspaper days checking the fly-sheets at the local jail we noticed that the only people who ever got arrested for marijuana were selling large amounts in a careless way or had small amounts in their pockets while they were being arrested for something else, but we’re sure law enforcement will take a more active interest in the matter when state funds are stake. They’ll miss that slight outlaw frisson, too, and some will consider take up tobacco to regain that rebel stand.
State governments are all in the numbers racket already, with their lotteries and casinos ruthlessly protected monopolies, and government itself can be understood as sanctified protection racket. In Puerto Rico they’re considering getting in on the prostitution to trade to erase a debilitating debt, along with other ideas ranging from legalizing weed to reviving the country’s once-great coffee trade, and the more indebted states will be tempted to do the same after they’ve taxed all their rich people into other jurisdictions. State-sanctioned marijuana, which would be far more palatable to those aging Baby Boomer Democrats and their haranguing feminist wives as well those libertarian Republicans and their religious friends, will soon be an easy sell to a cash-strapped public.
A better way to fill the public coffers would be to expand the broader economy with tax and regulatory incentives to create more productive goods and services, but that’s a harder sell. There are good arguments against putting someone in prison at taxpayer cost for smoking marijuana, and good arguments for taking small cut on that marijuana to keep someone in prison for something more detrimental to the society, but parks full of grubby neo-hippies and agencies full of rapacious bureaucrats is not going to be a successful combination.

— Bud Norman

The Wising-Up of a Country

In such strange times as these we were heartened to read that 61 percent of America of thinks the president is a liar. Ordinarily we would find this a worrisome development, but in these extraordinary circumstances we consider it good news that the suckers are wising up.
The poll was conducted on behalf of the Fox News network, so feel free to dismiss it as just another fabrication by the vast right-wing conspiracy. There’s lately been a conspicuous lack of polling that indicates widespread trust in the president’s honesty, however, and we’re inclined to think the 61 percent figure sounds suspiciously low. Only a plurality of 37 percent of the poll’s respondents believe the president lies “most of the time,” with another 24 percent who will only go so far as to say he lies “some of the time,” and we’re left wondering what the rest could possibly be thinking.
Just off the top of our head we can recall the president assuring Americans that they if they liked their health care plans that they could keep them under Obamacare, that the average American family would save $2,500 a year on his premiums, and that all Americans would be covered. We remember a campaign promise that his health care reforms would not include an individual mandate, along with promises that no one making less than $250,000 a year would see any sort of tax increase, that the irresponsible and un-patriotic deficits of the Bush administration would be halved with four years, and that after too many years of drone strikes and interventions America’s international standing would be restored by smart diplomacy. There was that whopper on the late night comedy show about the murderous attacks on America’s consulate in Benghazi being a spontaneous reaction to some obscure YouTube video, and the whole bit about al Qaeda being on the run, the Internal Revenue Service’s harassment of conservative groups being the work of a few rogue agents in Cincinnati, and talk of the “most transparent administration ever,” and if we were inclined to spend the next several days on Google we’re sure we could come up a long list of other things that can be described as blatant lies.
Die-hard apologists for the administration could probably come up with numerous examples of the president being more or less honest, and if you count all his idle chit-chat about the weather and sleeping time they might even make a case that his lies don’t fill “most of the time,” but it’s hard to fathom how anyone could think they don’t take up at last “some of the time.” Another 20 percent allowed only that the president lies “now and then,” which seems overly generous, and 15 percent insist the president “never” lies, which seems downright worshipful and ridiculous. It’s been a couple of millennia since there was anyone on Earth who never lied, and the president clearly is not the second coming of that fellow.
The same poll shows the president’s approval rating at 42 percent with only 51 percent disapproving, so apparently there is a large number of Americans who believe he is a liar but don’t mind. We’ve even met a few earnest liberals who have offered apparently sincere explanations that the lies were told in the service of some greater good, such as foisting a health care reform law on the country that doesn’t keep any of its promises but screws things up badly enough to make an even worse single-payer system possible, and they clearly believe they are justified in telling further lies. They are acting out of deeply-felt affection for the average working American, as they explain it, and apparently the poor fellows are just stupid to handle the truth.
The latest poll shows that 39 percent of Americans haven’t yet figured out that the president lies somewhere been “most” and “some” of the time, so maybe those earnest liberals are on to something.

— Bud Norman

A Race We’d Like to See

A headline on the Drudge Report announced that “Sebelius Eyes Senate Run,” and we couldn’t resist clicking to the story to find out what state she had in mind. Imagine our amusement when we learned it was Kansas.
The story was from The New York Times, a notoriously humorless newspaper, so we assume it isn’t jest. Even so, the notion of Kathleen Sebelius coming back to Kansas for another campaign struck us as every bit as preposterous as anything we’ve encountered lately in the more fanciful internet parody publications. Had the story mentioned Maryland or Virginia or whatever state she’s been living in during her disastrous tenure as Secretary of Health and Human Services the idea would have sounded far-fetched but frighteningly within the realm of possibility, and taking her carpetbag to a dementedly Democratic state such as Massachusetts or California would have seemed slightly more plausible, but a Sebelius for Senate campaign here in Kansas left us waiting for a punchline.
It is embarrassingly true that Sebelius was twice elected governor of the state, as the Times hopefully notes, but that was long ago in the pre-Obama age. At a time when things were going well enough in the state that it seemed safe to elect a Democrat she managed to beat a couple of fire-breathing radicals nominated by the more stridently religious elements of the Republican party by presenting herself as as a respectably center-right sort of technocrat. Immediately after her re-election she veered sharply to the left in an apparent bid to endear herself to the national party, and it worked well enough to earn her a cabinet position that would forever associate her with Barack Obama, Obamaism, and its historic achievement of Obamacare. This would be a political impediment in almost any American jurisdiction east of Los Angeles or west of the Upper East Side of Manhattan, but in Kansas it is now a provocation to tar and feathers.
Since Sebelius’ last win in the state Kansas has voted overwhelmingly against Obama in both of the past presidential elections, chosen a governor conservative enough to drive all the local lefties crazy, and sent a delegation of rather rock-ribbed Republicans to Congress. Even the most fire-breathing radicals that the religious right might serve up now seem center-right and technocratic compared to Democrats such as Sebelius, and it looks to last at least another election cycle. We ran recently ran into a friend who owes his professional fortunes to the Democratic Party, and we eager to hear his insider’s view on who the party would be running next November. He waved off the question with a groan and a long swig of his drink, then admitted that he didn’t think it mattered. He’s been trying to endear himself to the occasional visitors from the aforementioned conservative governor’s office, even though our friend is among the liberals driven crazy by the governor, and has written off all the other races as well.
The motive for Sebelius’ possible run into this unfriendly environment, according to the Times, is “revenge.” Sen. Pat Roberts is up for re-election this year, and although Roberts once enjoyed a friendly relationship with Sebelius and voted for her confirmation to the HHS post he later accused her of “gross incompetence” and called for her resignation. The accusation was accurate, and the resignation was eventually forthcoming, but reportedly Sebelius wants satisfaction. She’s been out of the state long enough that she might well have deluded herself that she could beat Roberts, and Roberts probably hopes that she has.
Roberts has a slightly better chance of getting knocked off in the primary by a guy named Dr. Milton Wolf. He’s a Kansas City area radiologist who is waging one of those anti-establishment insurgencies that are popping up around the country. Although he’s gotten some traction with the argument that Roberts has been in Washington for a long time and no longer has a residence in Kansas, and that Roberts did after all vote for Sebelius’ confirmation, Wolf is under-funded and made some outrageous and widely-publicized Facebook gaffes with x-rays of his patients, and he is clearly an amateur running against an old pro who is generally well-liked in the state and has lately been toeing the conservative line. We expect a relatively easy win for Roberts in the primary, and an easier one in the general election against anyone the Democrats might put up. If the Democrats put up Sebelius, that would almost be too easy.
The state’s Democrats would probably put her on the ballot, however, if Sebelius is sufficiently self-deluded to make a run. Whenever they know a race is un-winnable the Democrats around here like to run the full-blown lefty lunatics that would win by landslides in the Kansas of their dreams, and when they lose by an ever larger-than-usual margin it allows them to feel superior to an even larger percentage of the state. Sebelius might be willing to sacrifice what little is left of her dignity to the cause of lefty smugness in the Sunflower State, but even the Times story is cautious about that possibility. Several unnamed Democrats are urging Sebelius to run, according to the story, and another unnamed person is said to have said that she’s thinking about it, but that’s pretty much the extent of what the nation’s erstwhile paper of record has to go on. We can’t shake a suspicion that the story was a run as a trial balloon to re-pay some past favor Sebelius did the Times, and that the amused reaction out here will quickly put an end to such ridiculous speculation.

— Bud Norman