Bending the Moral Arc

The Russians are invading Ukraine, the Islamic State terror gang is beheading and crucifying and otherwise slaughtering thousands of people across a wide swath of Iraq and Syria and Libya, and another American aircraft carrier is heading to the contentious South China Sea, but not to worry. Speaking recently about the Islamic State’s beheading of an American journalist, just before another tee time, President Barack Obama assured the country that “the future is won by those who build and not destroy.”
At a news conference on Thursday Obama admitted in so many words that “We don’t have a strategy yet” for dealing with the Islamic State, but he seemed to retain his usual faith in history’s happy predestination nonetheless. He and his Secretary of State have dismissed Russia’s massive land grab as a sign of weakness and an embarrassingly out-dated way of doing things, assurances have been made that all of that even more old-fashioned beheading and crucifying and slaughtering that the Islamic State gang has been up to certainly “has no place in the 21st Century,” and thus far these messes have dominated the news thoroughly enough that no one in the administration has been obliged by the press to explain why another aircraft carrier is needed in the South China Sea. “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice,” as the president is fond of saying, to the point that he had it woven into the Oval Office carpet, and we are expected to share his confidence that the aphorism will prove true no matter what befuddled efforts America might make.
A couple of smarter fellows over at National Review have already written convincingly about Obama’s childish faith that the good guys always win in the end, no matter how wimpy their good guy ways nor how ruthlessly bad the bad guys might be, but we would add that such fantastical notions are characteristic of modern liberal thinking about almost everything. Not just foreign policy, but  economics, social issues, and the very nature of man.
Liberal foreign policy presupposes that the rest of the world closely resembles one of those impeccably multicultural Benneton clothing ads with the rainbow coalition of good-looking hipsters that you can tell are so much cooler and up-to-date than any of those troglodyte Republicans we’ve got around here in America, and that if we just stopped doing the things that mean old George W. Bush used to do humanity would resume its normal state of peace and cooperation. This theory cannot explain why a troublesome portion of the rest of the world remains intent on beheading and crucifying and slaughtering or reestablishing Soviet Empires or making other sorts of mischief, no matter how unlike George W. Bush the American president might be, but this has not shaken the liberal faith. Those Islamic State terrorists with American or other western passports will still be waved past airport security while the wheelchair-bound old white woman heading from Cleveland to see her son in Chicago is given the full search, lest Islamic sensibilities be offended by our outrageous profiling, and it remains a moral imperative that we not acquire any information about the plots afoot by harshly interrogating a prisoner at Guantamo Bay. Diplomacy and sanctions and a chin-up moral superiority will surely sway those who are beheading and crucifying and slaughtering or reestablishing Soviet Empires, and we’ll not ask about that aircraft carrier heading to the South China Sea, and if those miscreants continue such out-of-date behaviors they’ll just look all the worse, at least in the eyes of American liberals.
The same sort of cocksureness infects liberal economics. For all their railing against unfettered American capitalism, liberals apparently believe it is such a magical cornucopia of prosperity that no matter what taxes and regulations and energy costs and cultural scorn that is imposed on it the invulnerable machine will continue to generate enough wealth that it’s just a matter of divvying it out to the right interest groups. When people and companies flee a city, county, state, or country to avoid such impediments they are derided for their lack of patriotism, which liberals define as a mindless obeisance to their agenda, and the resulting economic decline is more than offset by the increase in the liberal sense of moral superiority. America is such a rich country that surely we can do this generous thing or that compassionate thing, we are constantly told, even when those things are entirely antithetical to the capitalist ethos that once upon a time made America rich.
Liberalism similarly holds that you can smash the patriarchy and an army of social workers will fill in nicely for fathers, despite the results apparent on the streets of slums from New York City to Los Angeles to Ferguson, Missouri, and that a moral society can exist absent a moral framework that stigmatizes anything other than a lack of appreciation for homosexuality and contraception and the rest of the sexual revolution. When such rampant licentiousness results in what the feminists are now calling a “culture of rape” at the nation’s colleges we can simply do away with due process and a presumption of innocence for those nasty frat boys who seem the main beneficiaries of that still-lauded sexual revolution, while nuns can compelled to pitch in for the contraception of the more willing co-ed sexual revolutionaries, and with a few other coercive measures we should be able to maintain a more perfect sexual freedom. Some of those mean old Republican rednecks and those dastardly nuns won’t like it, but the addition of a few million more illiterate and unskilled workers from Third World countries to their benighted communities should provide just the right enlightenment and communal peace.
All of this derives from the liberals’ touching but ridiculous belief in the inherent goodness of man. The idea that a noble human spirit once held sway in a pre-agricultural epoch is as old as Jean Jacques-Rousseau’s 18th-century musings on the supposedly idyllic “State of Nature,” and it has done more damage to mankind than all the carbon it ever emitted. Rousseau’s philosophical opposite Thomas Hobbes was more correct in describing the state of nature as “nasty, brutish, and short,” and all the good that have been accomplished over the years was achieved by fierce resistance to the beheaders and crucifiers and slaughterers, all the wealth that has enriched mankind was created by individuals acting in their own enlightened self-interest, and the most tolerant and the most well-ordered societies in human history have been informed by the dour postlapsarian view of the Judeo-Christian tradition. It would be tempting to believe that the moral arc of the universe bends toward the justice that can be found in these timeless truths, but history shows that we have to do the bending, and it looks as if we’re blowing it.

— Bud Norman

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The Climate and the Political Climate

Perhaps it would all make perfect sense if only we held the fashionable faith in the gospel of anthropogenic global warming, or the divine omniscience of President Barack Obama, but a reported plan for the administration to go around the usual constitutional requirements and oblige the United States to a treaty that would restrict its carbon emissions and thus save the world from climatic catastrophe seems wrong in every way.
As heretical as it might sound in this devoutly post-religious age, we remain skeptical that there is any anthropogenic global warming going on. Such skepticism is now considered somehow anti-science, an odd state of affairs, but we’ve read the hacked e-mails where the global warming alarmists were alarmed by the 18-year-pause their almighty models didn’t anticipate, and noticed the lack of predicted hurricanes and tornados and other calamities that were confidently predicted but have not materialized on schedule, and find ample reason to suspect the science isn’t so darn settled that we should hobble the American economy because of its tentative conclusions.
Even if there is a problem, there’s no reason to believe that the proposed treaty would solve it. Most countries will ignore it, including such heavy carbon-emitters as China and India as well as such erstwhile economic allies as Australia and Canada, and happily take up whatever profitable and job-creating enterprises the United States high-mindedly relinquishes for the sake of a futile gesture. The New York Times’ hopeful description of the plan says it would “name and shame” countries to force them into compliance, but it’s hard to imagine any country sacrificing economic growth for fear of being named and shamed by Obama. We’re nearly six years into the Age of Obama, and thus far the rest of the world still seems to be acting in its own perceived self-interest without much regard for Obama what thinks about it.
That part about going around the usual constitutional requirements is troubling, too. On issues ranging from those pesky immigrations laws that the president never liked to the eponymous Obamacare legislation that the president himself signed into law, Obama has already drawn criticism not just from his usual Republican critics but also the more principle liberals about his disregard for the constitutional restraints on his power, and this treaty ploy or a rumored amnesty for millions of illegal aliens and especially a combination of the two would have to be considered a constitutional crisis. We rather like the constitution, and would prefer to see it survive the present administration, and we’re sure most liberals would as well if the next administration turns out to be Republican, and a non-solution to a non-problem seems an especially poor reason to jettison such a successful system of governance.
There might be some political advantage that the president stands to gain from the gambit, but we can’t spot it. Heretical skepticism about global warming is widespread, and even most of the people who read about it in the paper and figure it must be true are not going to pleased that Obama has kept his campaign promise to make electricity rates “skyrocket.” Administration officials freely concede that they’ll try to bypass the 67 votes in the Senate that the constitution requires for ratification of a treaty because there’s not a snowball’s chance is global warming that they’ll ever find enough suckers in the chamber to vote for this awful policy, and that implicitly acknowledges that public sentiment is such that even in the most red states even the most entrenched senators would fear the wrath of their constituents. Like the threatened executive action granting amnesty this might be meant to provoke an impeachment, which would rally all those dispirited Democrats who see no reason that Obama shouldn’t be granted dictatorial powers, but he’s picking the fight over stands that the public overwhelmingly oppose and are likely to bring those opponents to the polls in record numbers.
The only explanation is that the president has not only a fashionable but a very sincere belief in the gospel of anthropogenic global warming, and an even more fervent faith in his own divine omniscience. That is not reassuring.

— Bud Norman

Have It Your Way, or the Federal Government’s

On those rare occasions when we resort to fast food we’ll sometimes drop by a Burger King. There’s one nearby, and although it’s on a shady strip of North Broadway the drive-through service is usually prompt and the food is a more or less fair trade for the meager amount of money being charged, especially by the standards of two o’clock in the morning in our early-to-bed town, and we don’t always insist on gourmet fare. Now that Burger King is becoming Canadian we’ll probably be expected to boycott the chain, but we won’t willingly forgo those greasy burgers and salty fries for any political reasons.
According to news reports the Burger King company is purchasing a controlling share of the Tim Horton’s chain of coffee and donut stores in Canada in order to reincorporate itself as a Canadian entity, which means it will be paying a cumulative corporate income tax rate of slightly more than 26 percent rather than the world-decor 40 percent that the federal and state and local governments take here in the United States. This strikes us as a sound business move, and a good way to keep those Whoppers and fries affordable and the pimply-faced fellows at the drive-through windows employed, but the left is already denouncing the chain for its lack of “economic patriotism.” So far as we understand the concept, it means that when companies respond to the economic incentives that the federal government has created according to a rational self-interest rather than the way the government would prefer it is somehow the company’s fault rather than the government’s. This hardly seems a good reason not to have our burgers our way, which involves lots of mustard and no ketchup or mayonnaise and little regard for the tax liabilities of the burger chain.
America’s high corporate tax rates have been driving an increasing number of American corporations to friendlier shores in recent years, including most of the country’s former pharmaceutical giants, and the administration’s response has been to ratchet up the attacks on those companies’ reputations. This does nothing to increase the revenues to the federal government, of course, but it seems to make the administration happy. A better idea would be to make America’s tax code competitive with such countries as a Canada, which would almost certain provide the feds more money to spend on punitive corporation regulations and any other nonsense they might come up with, but that would be good for corporations and thus anathema to the modern left.
If you’ve seen any movies from the big-time and tax-coddled Hollywood movie studios lately you already know how much the left hates those dastardly corporations, which are supposedly so evil that they substituted for the International Communist Conspiracy in a remake of “The Manchurian Candidate” a few years ago. The left’s more idealistic sorts are constantly sending out anti-corporate messages on Facebook over their Apple computers while driving their General Motors hybrid cars to the local Starbucks, usually with money they’ve been paid by some profit-driven corporation, and they always seem surprised that while their war on corporations is going so well the economy doesn’t seem to be gaining any steam. They’ll definitely be boycotting Burger King, which will probably provide the next villain for the next bit action-adventure epic starring some muscle-bound Hollywood leftist, but at least we won’t have to sit behind them in line at the franchise at North Broadway.

— Bud Norman

Race, Ferguson, and the Movies

Hollywood used to love making movies about brave independent thinkers standing up against the mindless passions of the mob. Dipping into a rich tradition of American literature and drama they came up with such motion pictures as “The Ox Bow Incident,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Twelve Angry Men,” “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” “Bad Day at Black Rock,” “The Crucible,” all those “Billy Jack” flicks, and several others that we’ll later kick ourselves for failing to mention. These movies vary widely in quality, but all share an annoying self-congratulatory quality. Hollywood types like to think themselves brave independent thinkers standing up against the mindless passions of the American mob, even as they pander to its basest instincts, so the oh-so-noble protagonists of those movies always seemed to derive in some saccharine way from the filmmaker’s heroic self-image.
That was back when the mobs were still likely to be central casting southern rednecks itching for some ad hoc justice against a black man or an Asian-American or a communist or a hippie freak or a space alien or some other sort of sympathetic “other,” and the consensus of bien pensant opinion was always solidly on the side of the brave independent thinker. These days the mob is invariably of a more politically correct hue, the polite people with the right credentials are therefore obliged to go along with whatever they say, the lone dissenters are such unwashed and un-photogenic right-wing bastards as ourselves, and Hollywood seems to have moved on to zombie movies. We don’t expect to see any big-budget epics about the lynch mob brewing in Ferguson, Missouri, or any of the other recent outburst of mob mentality, and if we do the movies will have to stand the old conventions on their head.
Monday’s funeral for the unarmed black teenager who was fatally shot in Ferguson by a white police officer, as he is invariably described in press reports, was a perfectly cinematic bit of mob mania that will never portrayed as such by any Hollywood director. Among the eulogists was the exaggeratedly buffoonish Rev. Al Sharpton, whose long disgraceful history of whipping up fatal programs against Jews in particular and racial animosities against  peopler another color in general would make him a perfect stock character if only he could have been portrayed by Strother Martin, the mourners included the former filmmaker Spike Lee, who became a Hollywood darling by romanticizing race riots in his breakthrough movie “Do the Right Thing” and such blatantly anti-Semitic fare as “Mo’ Better Blues,” and all were crying out for justice. By “justice” they didn’t mean a dispassionate examination of the facts of the shooting, but rather an immediate execution of the harsh verdict that the mob had already reached based on most dubious sort of hearsay and its pre-existing prejudices.
The facts of the matter are frustratingly unclear, but the intense media coverage has already yielded reports that suggest the mob’s verdict is premature. A popular narrative that the decedent was gunned down for no possible reason other than racial animus while peacefully surrounding himself to the unfairly suspicious police has been disproved by the independent autopsy conducted by his own family, an embarrassing video of the oversized decedent manhandling a diminutive convenience store clerk for a box of Swisher Sweets cigars just before his fatal encounter with the police has effectively undermined the heart-warming tale of a college-bound young exemplar heading to his grandmother’s house, and stories about injuries to the police officer’s face add credence to his apparent explanation that the decedent was going for his gun and it was all a case of self-defense. All these facts of the matter have been muddied by the ham-fisted response of the Ferguson Police Department, which managed to offend even the most law-and-order sorts of Republicans with its heavily militarized presence during the inevitable looting, but there’s still ample reason that at this point in the plot of a movie a brave independent thinking hero might start to harbor doubts about the mob. It would make a compelling scene, especially if interposed with a montage of headlines about the race-baiting Attorney General and all the fashionable media promising to placate the mob, but Hollywood is the fashionable media and is thus unable to get the scene quite right. Nor will they ever make a convincing movie about the fraudulent accusations of rape against the Duke University lacrosse team, which had a disgraceful 88 members of that supposedly august faculty proudly sign on the lynch mob that judged them by the holy trinity of race, class, and gender of the team and its accuser rather than the scientifically incontrovertible and entirely exculpating evidence, or the case of that “white Hispanic” down in Florida who shot a young black man for no reason except that the young black man was banging the “crazy ass crackers'” head against the pavement, or any of the other recent failed attempts at demonstrating the overpowering white racism that the independent thinkers of Hollywood still desire to bravely oppose.
By far the contemporary classic account of these ginned-up racial contretemps is the great Tom Wolfe’s novel “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” which somehow grows more classic with every new brouhaha. There are no heroes in that forlorn masterpiece, especially not the unexceptional young black decedent who hilariously becomes an “honor student” in all the frenzied media coverage, a peculiar feature of every racial controversy that has since come up, and the only character willing to defy the mob for principled reasons is a cranky old Jewish man who inadvertently suborns perjury in his court by the tale’s flawed protagonist. Hollywood completely ruined the book, of course, and changed the cranky old Jewish man to a more heroic black woman, but we suppose this is as close as we’ll get to a new take on the old brave independent thinking hero standing up to the mindless passions of the mob genre. It’s a shame, because we always liked those movies for all their self-congratulatory flaws and we need them more than ever.

— Bud Norman

The Islamist Threat Survives the Charm Offensive

As recently as the past presidential election the administration was assuring the country that the threat of Islamist terrorism had all but disappeared. Osama bin Laden was dead and General Motors was alive, the stable and democratic Iraq that America had left behind was one of the administration’s greatest achievements, that unpleasantness in Libya was a mere matter of an internet video that had unnecessarily offended Muslim sensibilities, and a deft mix of multi-cultural sensitivity and lethal drone strikes had left the Islamists on the run. There was no longer any need for an American military presence in the Middle East, such such measures as the previous administration’s harsh interrogation policy and Guantanamo Bay prisoner of war camp were no longer necessary, and the number of guns could now be reduced to pre-World War II levels in order to pay pay more butter.
It was an appealing point of view, and if you were willing to overlook that 13 deaths that resulted from the “workplace violence” of a man shouting Alahu Akhbar at a Texas army base or the ambassador and the three other Americans who died as a result of that unnecessarily offensive internet video or the slaughter being inflicted by Islamists in a variety of countries it was persuasive enough to win the administration re-election. Lately, however, the administration has been striking a more worrisome tone. No less an administration official than the Secretary of Defense is describing the Islamic State in Levant, the terrorist group that the president dismissed as a “jayvee” team last January and has since conquered a portion of Syria and Iraq the size of Belgium, as “beyond anything we’ve seen.” Among assets ranging from captured American military equipment to billions of dollars of stolen money to an overpowering ruthlessness, the group also claims more than 500 soldiers who hold western passports that will be waved through any airport in the United States, and a Democratic Senator loyal to the administration is among those warning that the president’s hometown Chicago seems a likely target. Even the president himself was obliged to delay his tee time at the Martha’s Vineyard golf course to deliver an impassioned remark about the beheading of an American journalist captured by ISIL, although he did assure the public that his Attorney General was working up an indictment and that the good guys always win.
The more worrisome tone has resulted in some action, including air strikes against ISIl that have apparently slowed its advance toward Baghdad, some of those always foreboding military advisors heading back to the once stable and democratic Iraq they had left behind, and a complete withdrawal from the Libya that our earlier airstrikes had liberated from a quiescent dictator and descended into the chaos that led to all the unpleasantness over that unnecessarily offensive internet video and where the Islamists now control the airport on the shores on the Tripoli. All of this is well and good, we suppose, and the administration should be commended for what must be a painful acknowledgment that the president’s Cairo speech and his boyhood days in an Indonesian madrassa and his uncanny ability to not do stupid stuff haven’t resulted in the promised world peace. We doubt that this administration is willing to deviate any further from its past campaign poses, though, and that leave us all the more worrisome.
Those western passports flying in from Syria and Iraq probably won’t get any more scrutiny than those of the wheelchair-bound old Eglish ladies behind them in the the line, lest the administration be accused of racial profiling, which it only countenances in the case of white police officers involved in a shooting. Our intelligence community might get wise to a terror plot against Chicago if it runs through your phone or internet connection, but they won’t learn about it by harshly interrogating a prisoner who has been brought to Guantanamo Bay. We’ll continue to seek diplomatic solutions, much like the ones that that have been going on with Iran during the past many years of their progress toward a nuclear weapon, but it’s hard to imagine even the most diplomatic diplomatic gaining any substantial concessions from the people who chop the heads off American journalists. Another aircraft carrier has been sent to the South China Sea to counter the aggressions that the Chinese hate lately made to take advantage of America’s suddenly many distractions in the Middle East and eastern Europe, but we don’t expect that the administration’s next budget proposal will include the money for what the Navy says it needs. Those military advisors might have some good ideas for the under-funded and under-armed allies who face our same enemies, but perhaps they’ll also tell them to fight with the same restraint that has been urged on our Israeli allies in their most recent fight against the same barbarism.
The Islamist threat to the world order has been around since it started attacking trade caravans some 1,300 years ago, and has driven as far into the western world as the Iberian Peninsula and the gates of Venice, and was seizing American sailors before our country had been around long enough to give any offense to Muslim sensibilities, and was never going to be pacified with profound oratory or even the most exquisitely sensitive treatment. The good guys have gotten the better of it for most of that that arduous time, and might yet ultimately prevail, but it’s going to take guns rather than butter and a willingness to admit that a war is ongoing.

— Bud Norman

As Long as You’re Looking Good

By happenstance we found ourselves chatting with a most affable Venezuelan fellow the other night at a local bistro. We don’t mean to pretend we’re so cosmopolitan as this atypical evening at a West Douglas hipster dive in Wichita would suggest, but there was also a delightfully bawdy Englishwoman and a couple of polite but circumspect Poles in attendance. At any rate, we commiserated with our newly-fledged Venezuelan friend about the political and economic woes in his homeland, which are even more socialistic and screwed-up than the situation here, and he shrugged his shoulders and waved his hands and said it had been a bad 14 years for his country. We joked that we were surprised President Cristina Kirchner had proved so awful, given that she was kind of hot when the country elected her, but he seemed to take our jest in earnest as he sighed the same disappointment.
From our conversation we had gathered that the fellow has made something of a success of himself in our ruthless local capitalism, and he seemed quite sensible, so it was surprising to surmise that he had apparently expected the stark raving left-wing Kirchner to lead his country anywhere but bankruptcy just because of her past comeliness. Although we’ve long been enamored the sultry appeal of the Latin bombshells, from Lupe Velez and Dolores Del Rio to the invariably naked Sonia Braga of ’80s and the latest offerings from multi-cutural Hollywood, but we’d like to think we’re not such suckers for a pretty face that we’d entrust any of them with a head-of-state position, especially if they were stark raving left-wingers, as most of the probably are. By that point in the evening we were starting to overlook the tattoos on that delightfully bawdy Englishwomen, though, and we had to admit that personal appearance plays a disproportionate role even in our own politics.
In vain we tried to remember the last American major party presidential nominee who was outright ugly. Nixon, maybe, although we expect that in ’68 a still-significant silent majority of the country foun his receding hairline and ski-slope nose somehow reassuringly seasoned, and that in the hirsute year of ’72 it didn’t matter what he looked like against such a grizzled old hippie freak as George McGovern. We got a lot of laughs back in ’04 by asking “Why the long face, John Kerry,” but even he was rescued from outright ugliness by a certain Boston Brahmin quality to his visage. Kerry still lost to the good-old-boyish looks of George W. Bush, Nixon got edged out by the more photogenic John F. Kennedy, and the most physically appealing candidates have usually prevailed in almost every election as far back as we can remember. The buff young fighter pilot that was once Sen. John McCain might have stood a fighting chance against the smooth-skinned Barack Obama and his ivy-covered Afro-cool, but the war-wounded old man who ran instead never had a prayer. Mitt Romney’s wholesome handsomeness was too redolent of those corny old ’50s sit-coms, and were thus trumped by the grayness and wrinkles that four years of fruitless administration had gadded to his opponent’s already ivy-covered Afro-cool. Lincoln is generally regarded as the great of all presidents, even by the egomaniacal current occupation of the office, and he was widely derided for his ugliness at the time of his administration, but that was a pre-electronic age of media that will unfortunately never be recovered.
This disturbing human tendency toward superficiality might yet provide our collective rescue, however. The conventional wisdom’s horrifying conclusion is that Hillary Clinton will be the next President of the United States, and it is reassuring to think we might spared that eventuality by her increasingly haggard and harridan looks. There are ample other reasons to oppose this awful woman’s ascendance to the presidency, but in her case we’ll take whatever we can get. It would be nice if the country could up with a majority for some bland-looking but high-performing chief executive such as Texas Gov. Rick Perry or even better yet but less-handsme Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, but we’ll be hoping for an outright ugly Democrat to oppose them.

— Bud Norman

Happy Birthday to Us

Our apologies to you faithful few who drop by every day to read our take on the latest news, but Wednesday marked the fifty-fifth anniversary of our birth and we took a day off from the latest headlines to honor the occasion. We have no idea what sort of shenanigans that darned president of ours was up to, or whether the stock market has yet wised up to the present economic calamity, or what those head-chopping barbarians of the new caliphate are lately inflicting on the 21st Century, or whether the hitherto unknown Missouri town of Ferguson still exists in the wake of its race riot, or any of the latest developments in the rest of it, and our conscience is untroubled by our temporary ignorance of these matters.
We had hoped that the achievement of such an advanced age would deliver some all-encompassing and melodious truth that we might eloquently impart to the internet, but no such luck. Instead we slept until a decadent hour of the afternoon, drank the usual two large cups of coffee, and ambled about aimlessly until the early evening while reading the numerous happy birthday wishes that arrived via the miracle of Facebook. After a briskly cold bath we headed out to a favorite tavern for the free beer it generously provides to all the regulars on their birthdays. We won’t mention the name of the establishment because the bartender, an old friend who has been pouring us beer since since the Spot Recreation was still extant, reminded us that the policy of offering free beer was illegal in this state. He’s a good guy but he’s homosexual and staunchly democrat and he meant this to chide us for our law-and-order Repblucan ways, but we noted that we’re the radical anti-government type of Republicans that chafes against all those silly laws and regulations, so we commended the establishment on its scofflaw ways and drank the beer without qualms.

After a delicious drive-thru meal of Mexican food from one of those many fine restaurants that have resulted from the influx of legal and illegal immigrants we dropped by a tavern in the more  nearby Delnao district that was once of the wild west’s more notorious districts. A delightfully bawdy Englishwomwn that drops by from time to time treated to us another free beer in honor of our birthday, and we wound up in a conversation with her and a couple of nice Polish fellows and a very charming Venezuelan fellow, and it was all quite convivial and multi-cultural for a night on West Douglas in the prairie city of Wichita. There might be some all-encompassing and melodious truth about the modern world in that, but at that point we didn’t care any more than we cared about what shenanigans our president was up to. It was a good birthday, and all the good wishes were much appreciated,

— Bud Norman

Two Towns, Two Police Shootings

Our favorite news-and-talk radio station informed us of another fatal police shooting Tuesday afternoon. Not the one in St. Louis that you’ve probably heard about, which happened just a few miles from the one in Ferguson that even the head-chopping terrorists in Iraq have heard about, but the one that happened just south of Wichita in the small town of Haysville. If you live outside the limited broadcast range of Wichita’s radio and television stations or the shrinking circulation zone of the Wichita Eagle, it has almost certainly escaped your attention.
Even if you are within shouting distance of the Wichita media the facts of the matter are frustratingly few. Authorities responded to a domestic disturbance call at an apartment complex during mid-morning, a man is dead and a woman injured, and official investigations are underway. That’s about all we can glean from the local coverage, and we’re regarding even that scant information with the requisite skepticism. The more enterprising local reporters will probably harass the incident’s neighbors into making off-the-record speculations of dubious value to fill air time and news hole in the next few days, and there will be another spate of stories when those official investigations are concluded, but if you’re somewhere out in the ethernet beyond the south-central Kansas media don’t expect to hear about any of that.
No matter what facts might emerge in the Haysville shooting it almost certainly won’t pique any national interest, except perhaps a passing mention in some trend piece about police brutality at one of the more fashionable and thorough publications. None of the local news coverage makes any mention of the decedent’s race, from which we can reasonably infer that he was white, and without a racial angle police shootings lose much of their press appeal. The undisputed fact that the shooting happened in Haysville also suggests a very high probability that the decedent was white, and ensures that there won’t be any of the rioting or looting or other expressions of supposedly righteous anger that so enthrall the national media.
Our only previous mention of Haysville in this space was about the town’s public indignation at being made the butt of all of the hick town jokes we tell at our annual Gridiron Show, but we can testify that it’s not a bad place. We pass through occasionally on our way to the Fabulous Tahitian Room near Peck,  which has recently re-opened under the new management of a dear old friend of ours, and we’ve always found the town quite pleasantly bland, and not at all a place where we were in fear of our lives. There’s still a bit of the old hick Kansas town charm we so affectionately satirize, but it’s now surrounded by a few miles of nice but cliched split-levels and a few cookie-cutter apartment complexes that rub right up against the vast Wichita sprawl, and it’s still just rural enough to lure the urban-weary workers in the nearby aircraft factories. It’s the kind of town that might well harbor some hostile male who would threaten the police while brutalizing a woman, or could screw up and hire some trigger-happy cop who overreacted to a lovers’ spat, or could provide for some fatal combination of the two, but in any case it’s not at all the kind of town that will respond to any of these possibilities by burning down the local convenience stores. Instead we expect the Haysvillians to await the results of those official investigations, accept their conclusions in the absence of any overwhelming contradictory evidence, and to get work on time.
In such an imperfect world where police occasionally fatally shoot citizens this is about the best outcome one can hope for. Apologists for the rioters and looters and convenience store arsonists in Ferguson will attribute Haysville’s more restrained response to white privilege and all the rest of that academic nonsense, but they’ve never passed through the town and heard its hard-luck stories or sat in a relatively big city show where Haysville was the butt of hick small town jokes. If Hasyville is a bastion of white privilege, the concept is utterly meaningless. The shooting in Haysville warrants the same intense scrutiny aa the ones in St. Louis and Ferguson and all the other more racially-charged towns, and its citizens deserve the same guarantees against abuses of police power, and it speaks well of the town that it won’t get any attention.

— Bud Norman

Making Conservatism a Crime

That grand jury indictment of Texas Gov. Rick Perry is outrageous, dangerous, and unsurprising. Such blatant abuses of the judicial process are by now an all too familiar tactic of the Democratic party.

Similarly heavy-handed legal actions have been employed with varying degrees of success against former Texas Rep. Tom DeLay, who was forced to resign his post as House Majority leader during a years-long process of clearing his name,  Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, whose prosecutorial investigators never came up with anything but allowed the media to report that he was being investigated by prosecutors, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who might or might not have had anything to do with a bridge closing that did actually occur but is getting far more media scrutiny thnt the Democratic governor suspected of equally appalling behavior over in neighboring New York. There’s a former Attorney General here in Kansas who is still trying to get his law license back after offending the state’s legal establishment with his anti-abortion stances, some past political opponents of the president who had their ballot eligibility questioned or their divorce records unsealed, a prominent conservative writer is being sued by a mad climate scientist, and we expect there are many more we haven’t heard of.
Each of them should feel honored, as such brusque treatment is usually reserved for politicians the Democratic Party regards as threatening, but we can well understand their outrage. Being subjected to the vicissitudes of the court for one’s political opinions is the sort of thing that was widely decried back in the bad old days of McCarthysim, and they’re entitled to wonder why they aren’t afford the same sympathy that Hollywood and bon pensant opinion routinely bestows on those old screenwriting commies who were dragged before the House Un-American Activities Committee. That the legal tactics are often far more effective than the blacklist ever was in keeping the movies all-American must be all the frustrating, but in Perry’s case there’s some hope for an old-fashioned happy ending.
The Perry indictment is a result of the night that the Travis County District Attorney got rip-roaring drunk and was arrested for driving while intoxicated on her way home. A dashboard camera in the arresting officer’s vehicle showed that she was staggering and surly during the arrests, tests showed she had twice the legal blood alcohol contest allowed by law, and videos that became a YouTube sensation show she was abusive to the officers and attempted to use her political position during her booking. Like many other Texans, Perry thought this was conduct unbecoming the official in charge of enforcing the laws of a Texas county and demanded her resignation. As governor, Perry also threatened to exercise his constitutionally granted right to veto funding for her “Office of Public Integrity” unit if she didn’t resign, and he eventually made good on that threat. The subsequent Travis County District Attorney has now convinced a grand jury that this amounts to threatening and coercing a public official, both felony charges that entail lengthy prison sentences, and Perry is now officially indicted for the purposes of any headline writers who want to smear him and is obligated to defend in his innocence in a years-long series of appellate state and probably federal courts. This will probably play according to the Democratic script in Travis County, which is mostly Austin, which is mostly state bureaucrats and a typically progressive university and some high-tech yuppies and God only knows how many tattooed hippie freaks, and is the same Democratic bastion in that otherwise Republican state that started the ordeal of Tom DeLay, but it’s unlikely to have the same appeal in the rest of Texas or the rest of the country.
Those YouTube videos are well worth watching, as they’re the best drunken comedy since the heyday of the late Foster Brooks, and anyone familiar with the story will surely concur with Perry that the star did not deserve public funding to enforce the integrity of her fellow public officials. After so many years of Republican governors the state court system probably has enough sensible judges to ultimately conclude that it is quite legal for a governor issue a veto on such grounds, too, and Perry will prevail in both the court of public opinion and the actual court. In so doing he might he even draw the public’s attention and even its scorn on the under-handed tactic of making conservatism a crime. Already some of the more principled liberals are fretting about where this might lead if conservatives should ever decide to take up the game, and we expect even those uninformed types who are spooked by the word “indictment” in a headline will eventually grow wise.

— Bud Norman

The Cities Farther to West and Further to the Right

The Wichita Wingnuts baseball team has a wide lead in its Double-A American Association division, the Wichita State University Wheatshockers basketball squad will likely be ranked among the top 10 or so teams in the National Collegiate Athletic Association when the pre-season polls come out, and despite everything the Wichita unemployment rate is a bit below the national average, so our civic pride is holding up pretty well these days. Still, we were a bit embarrassed to learn that we are only the 17th most conservative city in the country.
This alarmingly low ranking comes from no less an authority than The Economist, a very high-brow and oh-so-Tory publication from England that we have come trust. We have no idea how they compiled these rankings, conservatism being a rather hard-to-define and even harder-to-quantify concept, but the list does seem plausible. Coming in at the coveted number one spot is Mesa, Arizona, and our limited experience of the city suggests that it’s pretty darned conservative. There seem to be a lot of military veterans there, which does wonders for a community’s conservatism, and it seems fairly affluent, which is another good sign. Arizona is also the home of the late Sen. Barry Goldwater, peace be upon him, and they clearly have an enviable number of wised-up old folks and a paucity of tattooed hippie freaks, so we won’t begrudge them the distinction.
Coming in at number two is Oklahoma City, a city we know well, as it is our ancestral hometown, and we think that if anything it is underrated. As recently as our grandfathers’ Dust Bowl days it was a yellow dog Democrat city in a yellow dog Democrat state, but as the party has moved away from the ferociously church-going and defiantly individualistic Okies the city and state have become even more Republican than even Wichita and Kansas, which have been solidly Republican since the Bleeding Kansas days when those slave-owning Democrats were slaughtering the local abolitionists. We still have plenty of beloved kinfolk in the Oklahoma City area, even if most of them have fled north to the Mesa-like suburbs, and will humbly acknowledge the more conservative nature of their communities.
Virginia Beach, which of course is in Virginia, and Colorado Springs, which of course is in Colorado, took the next two spots. Both are also rife with military veterans, sailors in the former case and airmen in the latter, and we are glad to see them ranked so high even at the expense of Wichita. Virginia and Colorado are both “purple,” prone to vote for either Republicans or Democrats in presidential elections, and it’s good to see some solid outposts of resistance in these crucial states. Jacksonville, Florida, is next up, and we don’t know what to make of that. Our only experience of the city was on an extended hitch-hike, which involves a hard-luck fellow we encountered under a bridge during a rainstorm outside Lakeland, and is too involved to allow re-telling here, but suffice to say we were more struck by the cacophony of different languages and the cosmopolitan feel of the dock areas than the city’s conservatism. Arlington, Texas, was next, and although there’s a distinctly George W. Bush aura to the city our most vivid memory of it was a bachelor party at the most elaborate and upscale strip bar we’d ever encountered. Anaheim, California, ranked seventh, making it an essential outpost of Republicanism in a Democratic state, and we are therefore proud to report that a brother of ours stranded in southern California is rooting for the Angels of Anaheim rather than the Dodgers of very liberal Los Angeles.
Omaha, Nebraska, comes in next, and despite our affection for The Economist we must object. The University of Nebraska Cornhuskers have abandoned the Big 12, the Creighton University Bluejays have split the Missouri Valley Conference, Omaha is the hometown of the notorious crony capitalist Warren Buffet, and we will never concede they are more conservative than Wichita. Tulsa, Oklahoma, is right behind, and we have mixed feelings about that. It’s one of those sui generis towns you have to experience first-hand, a strange and always enjoyable mix of Christianity and capitalism and criminality, but we’re not quite sure that the home of Cain’s Ballroom and Hot Lips Page and the Gap Band can ever be quite so conservative as our town. Then there’s Aurora, Colorado, another important bloc of votes in that purple state, and a nice a place to visit, and Anchorage, Alaska, which we suspect is ranked so high because the population is 95 percent single white males and only 5 percent exhausted women. Fresno, California, adds a few more votes against that state’s lopsided Democratic majority at number 13, Corpus Christi and San Antonio add to Texas’ lopsided Republican majority at numbers 14 and 15, and Nashville, Tennessee, also edges out Wichita, probably on the strength of its reputation as the capital of country music.
All of these are fine cities, but a certain chauvinism still resents seeing them considered more conservative than Wichita. Strange, too, to come in just head of Las Vegas, Nevada, also known as “Sin City.” If we could just trade a few of our hometown hipsters and dues-paying machinists for a couple of those grizzled old veterans in the military towns we’re sure we’d move up on the chart, and we also blame the trade unionism of the local aircraft plants and the subversive effect of a state university. Even so, we’re plum prairie proud to be so far ahead of the likes of Kansas City and St. Louis, Missouri, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Los Angeles and San Franscico, California, and Washington, D.C. We’ve spent enough time in each of these places to know what Wichita is far more livable, and that so are all of the cities ranked ahead of them in The Economist’s rankings of most conservative cities, and we don’t doubt that our relative conservatism is the reason why.

— Bud Norman