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Two Scenes From the Campaign Trail

We spent much of Thursday celebrating the folks’ 60th wedding anniversary, which is such a rare accomplishment these days that we thought it worth mentioning, but we spent enough time perusing our usual news sources to come across two intriguing and starkly disparate accounts from the day in the still-slightly-in-doubt Republican presidential race.
The first was a report by Roger L. Simon of the much-ridiculed but usually reliable PJ Media, about a large and enthusiastic crowd at a rally for Donald J. Trump in California. If you’re not familiar with his work, Simon is a former hippy-dippy leftist who had some success in Hollywood as a screenwriter and some best-selling mysteries about a hippy-dippy detective, but at some point he went over to the right and became mostly a entertaining internet writer, until his more recent move to the Trump side. We still don’t doubt his veracity, and will glumly concede that the crowd was indeed as large and enthusiastic and even as diverse as he describes, and we’re old enough we can dig where the formerly hippy-dippy leftist is coming from when he likened it to a “happening,” nor do we disagree at all when he says “It’s all a little ‘Cult of Personality,'” but we’re starting to question his judgment when he adds after a dash that “but what the hell?”
We’re wondering what the hell ourselves when someone who had previously seemed so sensible concludes that a “little ‘Cult of Personality'” is gaining such momentum that it’s about to seize control of the executive branch of the federal government, and then sanguinely dismisses the thought with a hackneyed profanity. Considering that we’re talking about the bombastic, bumptious, braggadocious, buffoonish, bull-in-a-China-shop personality of self-described billionaire Trump, a real-estate-and-gambling-and-strip-joint-and-scam-university-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul whose newfound conservatism is clearly as negotiable as anything else in his entire life, we’d think that someone who’s already been so thoroughly duped as Simon once was would be careful, as The Who might sing, that he “Won’t Be Fooled Again.” Simon likens the Trump crowd to the ones he once saw rallying to the cause of Bobby Kennedy, and the analogy is both apt and seasoned enough that it makes his writing still worth reading, but we suspect that something in the young and hippy-dippy writer that once yearned for the faux-revolutionary appeal of Kennedy’s cult of personality still lurks in the soul of an otherwise wised-up aging right-wing internet writer.
Meanwhile, long-shot lone challenger Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was wandering around the crowd at a more traditional campaign event in Elkhart, Indiana, where a young man strutted up and asked the candidate to sign his well-worn copy of “The Writings of Karl Marx.” Cruz smiled and agreed to sign, and the young punk was forced to admit that “You have a good sense of humor.” Cruz then told the cameras that he’d written “Millions of people have suffered because of this,” and added that as a son of of a Cuban immigrant he knew well of what he spoke, and the impudent young man had nothing to say but “Thank you, Sen. Cruz.” We found it a touching moment, and would like to think this sort of of human-to-human politics can still prevail in our fractious country. We can’t imagine Trump coming into such close contact with any of his adoring and likely to rip-his-clothes-off-like-teeny-boppers crowds, although we have managed to shake Cruz’s hand during this campaign, and if any of them were wielding any book other than “The Art of the Deal” or his other ghost-written tomes we can only imagine what would have happened, given his frequent invocations for his crowds to get rough with any protestors.
Once upon a time in America people of decent moral character and unobjectionable personalities would get elected to high public office by walking around the public square and meeting with both friends and the foes who can be engaged on a reasonable level and making persuasive arguments about what the country could and should do, but at the moment it seems that was way back when people could get married and if they were lucky enough to live long enough they’d be married for sixty mostly good years.

— Bud Norman

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The Only One Who Can Solve, God Help Us

Once upon a happier time in America, not even a full year ago, we would have paid no more attention to Donald J. Trump’s pronouncements on American foreign policy than we would to those of that Snooki woman from that “Jersey Shore” program or one of the “Real Housewives of Wherever” or any of those other obnoxious reality television show stars. Somehow he’s now the clear front-runner in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, however, so we felt a civic duty to duly consider his big address on Wednesday. It was not at all reassuring.
The oration before the fancy-schmantzy Center for the National Interest was noteworthy merely by the fact that Trump was reading from a prepared text, complete with some entire parseable sentences and paragraphs, and was meant to convey a more presidential demeanor than his usual fourth-grade-level and off-the-cuff Don Rickles riffs. There was still some of the usual Trump rhetorical style in the speech, with such two-word sentences as “No vision,” and “Not good,” as well as the usual Trump bravado with such claims as “I am the only person running for the presidency who understands this and this is a serious problem.” To emphasize the point he once again insisted the listener believe him, one of those “tells” that better gamblers than the former owner of a bankrupt casino know to look for, adding “I’m the only one, believe me, I know them all, I’m the only one who knows how to fix it.” All in all it was slightly more stylish than his previous “tweet” about the Islamic State that “Only I can solve,” but not quite Reagan-esque.
Nor did it help that his scathing critique of the entirety of the post-Reagan era of American foreign policy also had him saying that “Logic was replaced with foolishness and arrogance, which led to one disaster after another.” If you find yourself on “Family Feud” and the category is “Things People Associate With Donald Trump,” we can confidently advise you that the survey will surely say “foolish” and “arrogant” and “one disaster after another” came well ahead of “logical.” He was also arrogant enough to explain how none of those disasters would have occurred if only “I Can Who Solve” were in charge at that moment of history, which is quite provably foolish.
The very reliable Andrew McCarthy of the determinedly anti-Trump National Review, who was prosecuting the original World Trade Center bombers on terrorism charges back when Trump was firing Dennis Rodman on “The Apprentice” and has been a consistently correct commentator on radical Islamic terrorism issues ever since, has the unassailable citations to prove that the disasters Trump now laments in Libya, Iraq, and Syria were met with his on-the-record approval at the time. No one was paying any attention to the foreign policy pronouncements of a reality show star back in those good old days, so Trump can be assured that his so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters won’t bother to follow the the links, but he did seem put off his usual Vegas lounge game by the perfunctory applause he was getting from the fancy-schmaltzy establishment types of the Center for the National Interest who might have played some role in the one disaster after another but who have been paying keen attention to these matters since before Trump was firing Meatloaf on “The Apprentice” and aren’t so arrogant that they won’t admit their mistakes in an attempt to get it right next time. Although we claim no particularly foreign policy expertise, we share their skepticism.
There was some perfunctory applause for Trump’s now familiar promise of “America First,” although such fancy-schmantzy types probably know enough American history to associate the phrase with the isolationists of the late ’30s and early ’40s who would have allowed an Axis-dominated rest-of-the-world if served American interests. Ever since Pearl Harbor there’s been a bi-partisan consensus that an Axis-dominated rest-of-the-wirkd would not have been the long-term best interests of the country, and so far as we can tell only Trump cheerleader and past populist-nationalist “insurgent Republican” Patrick Buchanan is still in dissent, but we can’t shake a nagging suspicion that the current Republican front-runner has similarly wrong notions of what’s in America’s interests. The continued talk about making our North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies pay up for what he seems to regard as a protection racket might make some sense if it somehow worked out in “The Art of the Deal,” but the whole “you’ve got a nice a country here, shame if anything happened to it” approach seems reckless on the part of a diplomatic amateur, and his expressed eager to make a deal with Russia, “a deal that’s great — not good, but great — for America, but also for Russia,” should make it all the worrisome for those erstwhile NATO allies who have long banded together against the ongoing Russian threat.
Such eggheads are also like aware that Trump’s new campaign manager has longstanding ties with former Russian ally and deposed Ukrainian dictator Viktor Yanukovych, as well as former Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos and a former Bahamian Prime Minister ousted from power because of his drug gang ties, and that one of the “best people” Trump always claims to hire is a notorious apologist for Russia’s more-or-less dictator who also has business ties to the country. According to The Huffington Post some of the very best people, such as former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton and Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes and the surge-winning General David Petraeus have declined his offers to serve his campaign or administration, and pretty much everyone who takes these matters seriously are expressing doubts, so we suppose we’ll just have to believe Trump that only he can solve.
Trump got the more usual enthusiasm at a rally in Indiana with the state university’s former “Hoosier” basketball coach Bob Knight, who told an enthusiastic crowd of so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters that “There has never been a presidential candidate prepared to go to the length that this man is.” Knight once had a decided knack for whipping undersized white boys and athletically-challenged black boys into an occasional national championship, and is still much revered in the state for it, but he was also a notoriously rude and inconsiderate sort who waved soiled toilet paper in his players’ face and threw vases at secretaries and threw chairs at referees and punched cops and bad-mouthed his university’s administration and always claimed he was only trying to teach his players proper respect for authority, and he inevitably wound up on the tail end of Trump’s catch-phrase of “You’re fired.” We don’t take his pronouncements on who should be running America’s foreign policy any more than we would that Snooki woman from that “Jersey Shore” reality show or “The Real Housewives of Wherever” or any other obnoxious reality show star.

— Bud Norman

A Dark and Stormy Night

As we glumly contemplate the increasing likelihood that the next President of the United States will be either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, arguably the two most awful people in the country, some of our more upbeat friends try to console us that at least it couldn’t be possibly be worse than the past seven-and-a-half years or so have been. President Barack Obama’s recent tour of Europe lends some credence to the theory, but it doesn’t hold out any hope that things will get better.
In case you were too riveted by the two party’s competing reality shows, Obama did pretty much everything wrong on his trip. In England he offered an obviously inadequate excuse for sending a bust of Winston Churchill back home and threatened¬†that if the country chose to opt out of the European Union in a referendum scheduled for June that he would put the country at “the end of queue” in trade negotiations, and in Germany he endorsed Chancellor Angela Merkel’s catastrophic immigration policies and touted their work together on the trade deal that Germany is first in queue for and most of the German public also understandably opposes.
Back in the “Hope and Change” days of Obama’s ’08 campaign a majority of the American electorate had some crazy hope hope that he would change the rest of the world’s mind about America after eight years of George W. Bush’s cowboy foreign policy, and the rest of the world fell for it, too. Most of England had high hopes for change that were dashed when Obama not only snubbed Winston Churchill but the current prime minister and the two countries longstanding special relationship at large. By the time he showed up seven-and-a-half-years later to try and bully the English into the sticking with the EU even the polite chap from the British Broadcasting System was emboldened to ask him what business of it was his.
There was a huge crowd of Germans at the Brandenburg Gate when Obama gave that wildly-reviewed speech about how communism and the Berlin Wall had fallen because the whole world stood together, even though he and all the people he’s appointed stood against the controversial Reagan policies that brought it about, but by now even the Germans are wised up. They hate the Islamization of their country that Merkel’s insane policies are bound to cause, they’re in a protectionist mood that is understandable if not quite logical, and they’re very much over that “hope and change” thing from ’08 and nearly nostalgic for that crazy cowboy George W. Bush.
As bad as it was, we can’t see it getting any better any time soon. Clinton’s victories on Tuesday made her nomination once again inevitable, and she was the Secretary of State during the first disastrous first years of Obama’s presidency. She was the one who sold out the Czechs and Poles and Hondurans and Israelis and countless other allies and offered that laughably mistranslated “re-set” button to the Russians, who are now as problematic for Englishmen and Germans and other European folk as the Islamists that Clinton insists have nothing to do with terrorism, and she doesn’t seem much of an improvement. There’s still faint hope she’ll be indicted or otherwise somehow be overcome by popular Democratic Party opinion and the self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, but we can’t see that working out any better.
Trump’s victories on Tuesday made him slightly less but still worrisomely inevitable as the Republican nominee, but we have no hope that change would be for the better. He wouldn’t be endorsing Merkel’s culturally suicidal immigration policies, at least, although there’s no telling how what he’ll say about Britain and the European Union, but he’d probably be ridiculing the looks of both country’s leaders and making unmeetable demands, and his past praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his top-notch foreign policy expert’s long record of business dealings with and profuse apologies for Putin suggest he’d re-set relations with that country to something along the lines of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. We’re not entirely sure that long-shot Republican challenger Sen. Ted Cruz would be much better, given that even he uses “neocon” as a pejorative, but at this point he’s our best hope for a positive change.
Sorry to be so glum, but it was a dark and stormy day here on the prairie, and the evening’s news was even worse.

— Bud Norman

The Real Rules of Debate

A pleasant chore had us driving across town and listening to talk radio on the AM radio Monday afternoon, so by chance we heard one of those occasional few-second sound bites that somehow explain everything. Donald J. Trump, the self-described billionaire and real-estate-and-gambling-and-strip-joint-and-professional-wrestling-and-scam-university-and-reality-show mogul who is somehow the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, was entertaining another huge crowd of his so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters with his usual Don Rickles riffs on his opponents. This time he was laughing off Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s challenge to a one-on-one debate over the important issues of the day, and gloating that although Cruz was a former national collegiate debate champion “in college debate I don’t get to interrupt him every 15 seconds.”
Which pretty much explains why the likes of Trump is front-running against a former national collegiate debate champion who is described by his most liberal professors as brilliant and described by everyone as a rock-ribbed conservative and was fighting the “establishment” that Trump so effectively rails against way back when Trump was still writing five- and six-figure contribution checks to it. Cruz and his long record as Texas’ Solicitor General and maverick Senator has a persuasive case to make for his candidacy in a supposedly rock-ribbed conservative party, and he makes it quite well if you’re one of those political junkies who will listen to it in more than a few-second soundbites, but it’s not at all an overstatement to say that in the ears of the rest of the public it has indeed been interrupted at least every fifteen seconds by Trump.
That liberal media all of Trump’s so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters abhor has given him more air time and column inches and whatever the on-line equivalent of column inches is than the rest of the Republican field combined, and until he clinches the nomination will continue to withhold all the really damning stuff they undeniably have on him, and at this point even that unfortunate reality talk show guest who really does sort of bear a certain resemblance to a female Ted Cruz and took up an offer to perform in a porn video because of it had to admit that she hadn’t previously heard of the guy.
Trump has already proclaimed his love for the “poorly educated,” and we’re sure that his many so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters will share his scorn for collegiate debaters and other fancy-pants egghead types, but at the risk of sounding metrosexual or something we’d still rather see the important issues of the day settled according to the rules we followed during our own high school and collegiate debate careers. There were no interruptions every 15 seconds, which Trump actually brags about, although he once criticized the formidable Carly Fiorina for doing because she is after all a mere woman, and both sides got to state their case, answer interrogations about their arguments, offer rebuttals, and make closing statements that addressed each relevant point. Factual evidence was required, some logical conclusion from that evidence was expected, and an ability to express oneself at a grade level required for the complexity of the question at hand also counted. If it were conducted on these strict terms, we would very much love to see a one-on-one debate between Trump and Cruz.
Trump is shrewd enough to understand all the professional wrestling and reality show and scam university rules that he’s now playing by, though, and even the guy whose Atlantic City house-rules casino and strip joint went bankrupt is smart enough to avoid that sucker’s game. Still, these days he might even carry the day the in a Marquis de Queensbury sort of verbal brawl.
One of the most memorable epiphanies of our epiphany-fllled debate career came when we were high schoolers arguing against some rural team’s case to ban super-sonic jet transports based on claims they would cause disastrous air pollution, an arguments we had good evidence to refute even then, and has long since turned out to be another one of those ’70s worries that never came to pass. Our colleague, an hilarious and charismatic and quirky and even further right-wing fellow than us whose late Dad was not only a John Bircher but a Minuteman, and who wasn’t so inclined to research things or seek a rational argument as we were, simply laughed off the very idea because of course, as everyone knows, a super-sonic aircraft would be moving too fast to leave any air pollution. We grimaced at the absurdity of the argument, because even though our marks in English were higher than in Science we could immediately see the utter stupidity of it, but even through our determinedly shut eyes we could see the judge nodding in agreement and the opposing team panicking at such an irrefutable refutation of their seemingly well-sourced argument. It was sophistry carried to a point best described by a familiar barnyard epithet, but it did carry us into the elimination rounds where the judges were more carefully chosen and the opposition was not quite so stupid, where as it turns out even our best evidenced and rational arguments efforts did not carry the day.
Such sophistry might yet carry Trump to the Republican party’s nomination, which might arguably be a a fitting retribution for its sins, and his last remaining opposition will surely have to deal with the every-15-seconds-interruptions, but we wonder how well it will play in the elimination rounds where the judges are more serious. The opposition will either be a self-described socialist and thus easily-refuted Senator or a former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State whose character flaws rival those of her pal the Republican front-runner, and if the Republicans don’t choose the thrice-married bragging-about-his-affairs with married women failed gamblig-and-strip-joint mogul the alternative will inevitably be smeared as a Bible-thumping theocrat who according to Trump’s friends at The National Enquirer is also a womanizing hypocrite with a wife who’s not as hot as Trump’s latest trophy wife and a dad who was in on the JFK assassination, so who knows how it will all turn out. Not by collegiate debate rules, certainly, and that’s a shame. This is the real world where a plane emitting so many air pollutants in a flight does so regardless of how fast it’s flying, the better argument is being made no matter how often its interrupts, and an the incredulous reactions of the poorly educated voters don’t really care in the end.

— Bud Norman

What Enquiring Minds Want to Know

On a recent trip to our nearest supermarket we perused the covers of all the gossip rags on display during the long wait at the check-out stand, and were surprised to learn that the father of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. After losing some hope in the long-shot prospects for the presidential campaign of Cruz, we were pleased to see that he’s at least still as newsworthy as some Kardashian or another.
Our budget is lately pared down to the bare essentials, so we didn’t purchase the latest edition of The National Enquirer, but as internet access remains a bare essential we did the usual search engine enquiry into the matter. Apparently the notoriously unreliable supermarket tabloid has come up with a picture that shows Lee Harvey Oswald handing out some Fair Play for Cuba Committee literature in New Orleans with a guy who might or might not be Cruz’s father standing nearby. They even have a couple of credentialed “experts” willing to say to The National Enquirer that the guy in the photograph might or might not be Cruz’s father, and so the reader is invited to extrapolate that Cruz’s father was obviously the second gunman in the Grassy Knoll, and that Cruz is obviously continuing this insidious plot to keep America from being great again.
Although we are harsh critics of the more respectable press, we reluctantly concede that this doesn’t even rise to their low level. The National Enquirer has previously insinuated that Cruz has cheated on his wife with at least five different mistresses, with only the admittedly sybaritic Nixon-era dirty-trickster going on the record about alleged rumors that it might or might nor have happened, and they’ve tried to tie him to a District of Columbia madam scandal by noting that one of her cell phone records came from Texas, which might or might not have come from Texan Cruz, and so far we their efforts have convinced that Cruz must be a remarkably upright fellow if this is the best The National Enquirer can up with.
The more conspiracy-minded sorts will note that the publisher of The National Enquirer is the aptly-named David Pecker, who happens to be an old friend of fellow bankruptcy-filer Donald J. Trump, the self-described billionaire real-estate-and-gambling-and-strip-joint-and-reality-show mogul’s whose last remaining obstacle to the Republican nomination is somehow the allegedly adulterous and whore-mongering and Kennedy-killing Cruz. We also note that Trump’s not only admitted but much bragged-about sex scandals don’t rate a mention in The National Enquirer despite his reality-show-star status, and that Cruz seems to be the only Republican target of their thinly-sourced and clearly-linked-to-Trump insinuations.
Even the most respectable press have steered clear of such disreputable reportage, except for a few skeptical accounts of what’s going on the supermarket check-out lane tabloids, and we don’t worry that much of the still-undecided public will buy any of it. Much of the public that’s already decided on Trump will believe every word of it, though, just as they still contend that Cruz is actually a Canadian even after countess courts and election boards have ruled otherwise, and endlessly repeat that lie about the brain-addled neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson being lied about just before the Iowa caucus, and pretend that Cruz wasn’t for a border fence back when Trump was calling Mitt Romney’s relatively milquetoast self-deportation policies “mean.”
One hates to think that the likes of The National Enquirer’s Pecker can influence an election, but these days it remains to be seen.

— Bud Norman

Politics Goes into the Toilet

America is $19 trillion in debt, Russian warplanes are buzzing our naval ships with impunity, and there are other similarly pressing problems afoot both at home and abroad, but all the talk lately is about transgendered rights and restrooms. Interestingly, Republican presidential front-runner Donald J. Trump has utterly failed to seize the moment.
The currently fashionable notion that any pervert who wants hang around public women’s restrooms and showers has every right to do so, which is backed by everyone from big business to aging rock stars to all the polite media, is the perfect example of “political correctness” run amok. Yet Trump, whose improbable rise to front-runner status has been largely fueled by his carefully cultivated politically incorrect public image, has thrown in with big business and the aging rock stars and all the polite media and the perverts who want to hang around public women’s restrooms and showers.
Asked about the recent North Carolina law that requires state institutions to restrict their current dual restrooms and showers to people with the genitalia usual to those facilities, which was a response to the predictably liberal dcapital city’s local government’s decision to enshrine that hanging around the ladies’ room right to any creepy guy who might want to avail himself of it, and wound up provoking boycotts by big business and aging rock stars and getting a former pitching star fired from ESPN and much opprobrium from all the rest of the polite media, the great controversialist and defier of conventional wisdom said the state was wrong because it “did something that was very strong” and “they’re paying a big price” and “there’s a lot of problems.” The “at least he fights” candidate, as he’s known to his so-loyal-could-shoot-someone loyalists, was essentially saying that North Carolina should allow any old pervert to hang around public women’s restrooms and showers rather than provoke the wrath of big business and aging rock stars and all the polite media and all the rest of who legitimately constitute that “establishment” he’s always railing against.
He’s been rewarded with the rare approval of the the polite press, and who find his stand on behalf of creepy old men hanging around women’s restrooms and showers “moderate,” and his most loyal-he-could-shoot-someone loyalists will consider it a shrewd and admirably insincere tactic with a slew of primaries and caucuses coming up in assumedly liberal northeastern states, but it strikes us as an obvious miscalculation. That polite press is going to start unleashing the obvious facts of the undeniable flaws in Trump’s character the moment he clinches the Republican nomination, those northeastern states aren’t going to vote for a Republican nominee in any case, and even the Republicans there are in those benighted northeastern states aren’t comfortable with creepy men hanging around the women’s rooms that their daughters are visiting, and even in those assumedly liberal states there are probably few transgendered people among them who will be persuaded to vote Trump. In the western states where Trump will almost certainly need the first-round delegates, even in the last remaining Republican portions of California, we are confident that most Republicans will prefer pesky challenger Sen. Ted Cruz’ full-throated and politically-incorrect and very populist view that the biologically-verifiable men should be confined to men’s rooms and showers that the those without the usual genitalia should be denied to entry to women’s rooms and showers.
In the same disastrous interview Trump was asked about Harriet Tubman’s elevation to to the $20 bill over former President Andrew Jackson, another one of those relatively unimportant issues that dominate the news, and we liked his response that the government should leave the currency alone. He didn’t articulate our objections to the Taliban-like tendency of the left to erase history, though, or make his usual objection to the politically correct impulse to favor Dead Black Females over Dead White Males, but instead chose to laud Jackson as a great president and dismiss the gun-toting and Bible-thumping and thoroughly Republican badass Tubman as a nobody. Jackson was the founder of the Democratic Party, the first vulgarian to occupy the White House, a calculating populist who exploited the economic ignorance of his understandably annoyed so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone loyalists and wound up plunging the country into its worst-yet Depression because of his crazy anti-financial-ector ideas, and a cruel slaver and the fellow who sent the admirable and patriotic Cherokee people on the Trail of Tears, but that probably won’t matter as much as the creepy guys hanging around the women’s restrooms and showers.
Trump’s so loyal-he-could-shoot-someone loyalists will assure themselves he doesn’t really mean it, and they’ll be satisfied when he once again walks back that shoot-from-the-hip style they so admire, but that persistent 60 percent of the Republican party that is reluctant about his politically incorrect “at least he fights” style won’t be impressed, and even the creepy old men hanging around the women’s rooms and showers will wind up voting for the Democrat.

— Bud Norman

The Era of Post-Religious Manias

Although it’s been a long time coming, this seems to be the year that America officially enters its post-religious phase. Aside from those Little Sisters of the Poor and Hobby Lobby folks having to go all the way to the Supreme Court to opt out of paying for abortifacient coverage, and some bakers reluctant about baking same-sex wedding cakes being fined and sent off to re-education camps, not to mention the current presidential campaigns, this was also the year that The Holy Bible first cracked the American Library Association’s top-ten-most-challenged book lists.
The rest of the list is admittedly the sort of thing that the more sternly religious have long objected to public funds being spent on, which is a difficult question for such strict free speech advocates and staunch stewards of publics funds and lifelong library lovers and committed cultural conservatives and occasional readers of subversive literature such as ourselves, but c’mon, The Holy Bible? Even those who would dismiss the book as a bunch of Abrahamic hooey should acknowledge that it has nonetheless exerted a significant influence on the history of the West in general and America in particular, at least until recently, and that there is some poetically good and still-relevant stuff in there, and that surely it should be available to inquisitive readers at the local library. Given the recent stridency of the anti-Judeo-Christian elements of America, though, we’re not at all surprised.
This is also a year when the front-runners in both of the two major political parties still claim some religious affiliation, even if no one takes either claim any more seriously than they did the claims of the current two-term president, but the Democratic challenger is doing quite well despite freely admitting he has no religious beliefs and the Republican challenger seems at a disadvantage because of his unabashed religiosity. The Little Sisters of the Poor might yet have to pay for abortifacient coverage, and those recalcitrant bakers are being mocked, and even that unabashedly religious Republican is reduced to defending the right of the last remaining dissenters to opt out of the cultural revolution that’s been unleashed, and by now the left’s long-feared “Handmaiden’s Tale” Christian theocracy seems rather far-fetched. The irreligious aren’t so fecund as the religious, which suggests ominous long-term trends, but for the moment, at least, they seem to have won out.
This will come as good news to the anti-religious sorts who can rightly note all the religious manias that have often beset mankind, even if they have to overstate the crimes of Judeo-Christian civilization and make elaborate excuses for other religions that are best left unmentioned, but we note that humans of all theological beliefs or un-beliefs have always been prone to manias. Russia and the subsequent Soviet Union were rigorously atheist and extraordinary murderous, as was Maoist China, and their imitators from Cambodia to Cuba to Uganda as well, even as a still more-or-less Judeo-Christian West still thrived, even here in the last-holdout land of America the post-religious manias are at least as crazy as anything religion ever produced. Rock stars are canceling shows in states that won’t allow creepy men claiming to be women to hang around women’s restrooms, as are self-proclaimed women’s rights advocates, and we’re not at all sure if the “Saturday Night Live” arbiters of public opinion are actually mocking a woman who doesn’t want to bake a same-sex wedding cake, and any objection to the conviction that mankind bit of the technological apple and was removed from a state of nature into Anthropological Global Warming should be punished by the law are now mainstream ideas.
We’re not electing a preacher-in-chief, as we’re constantly told by the supporters of the front-runners in both parties, but we’d like to think that we’re electing someone who holds to the traditions that have until recently made the West great. We’re willing to let all the pro-same-sex-marriage and kind bondage stuff have a place in the library, so long as The Holy Bible also has a place there, and you can get married to someone of the same sex so far as we’re concerned if you don’t force someone to bake a cake for it, but a society raised by “baby mommas” and “baby daddies” isn’t going to fare are well as one raised by husbands and wives, and that creepy guy claiming to be a woman in the local restroom is going to be a problem, and the post-religious manias won’t be any better than the religious ones.

— Bud Norman

New York Plays Its Role

New York gave its expected stamp of approval to two of the worst presidential candidates ever on Tuesday, with both Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton scoring big and much-needed wins in the primaries of their home state. Both regained their front-runner status after some embarrassing losses to pesky rivals in the hinterlands, but we hold out hope the Empire State is no longer able to deliver either an inevitable nomination.
Trump at long last broke into majority territory with a convincing 61 percent of the statewide vote, and his pesky rival finished third with a paltry 15 percent, which will keep a pointless third candidate in the race to continue splitting the anti-Trump vote in some upcoming friendly northeastern states, and he won 88 of the available 95 delegates to further pad his lead, so there’s no denying he had another good night. He’s still off the pace to win the needed number of delegates for a first-ballot nomination, though, and thus far his pesky rival has been far better at the complicated and by-now-unfamiliar-to-anyone game of winning on a second or third ballot. New York’s Republican primary electorate is also atypical of the party’s at large, we are happy to say, and that pesky rival should fare better as the race moves out of the northeast.
Trump’s pesky rival is Sen. Ted Cruz, an unabashed Christian and red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalist and strict constitutionalist and described-by-everyone-as-conservative and unmistakeable Texan, so he never did stand a chance up there against a self-described billionaire real-estate-and-gambling-and-strip-joint-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul such as Trump, who is someone that the subway riders seem to want to be. New York’s invaluable contributions to conservatism runs from Alexander Hamilton through William F. Buckley to those fine folks at the Manhattan Institute, but even in New York City there are only so many eggheads, and we have to admit that the remaining 61 percent of the state’s Republicans are pretty much Archie Bunker, that left-wing caricature of a stereotypically bigoted and sexist and uninformed conservative from the ’70s left-wing sit-com “All in the Family.” As Trump is pretty much the self-described billionaire real-estate-and-gambling-and-strip-joint-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul version of Bunker, we can easily understand the results.
The Democratic outcome was even more easily understandable, and almost as unlikely to settle matters. The Democrats in New York, who will certainly deliver the state’s still sizable share of electoral votes to the Democrats no matter what combination of nominees this crazy race turns up, are well contented with the status quo that former First Lady and carpet-bagging-homestate Senator and Secretary of State and long-presumed First Woman President Clinton represents. They own the state’s politics, its still outsized share of political power in the country at large, the lucrative arrangement with those evil Wall Street folks that her pesky rival is always railing against is largely satisfactory to the locals, the rich retain their power and the poor retain their benefits, and those Archie Bunkers in the middle are vastly out-numbered and voting in an increasingly insignificant Republican primary, so even a self-described socialist such as pesky rival self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sander isn’t likely to fare well there. We sense a certain dissatisfaction with the status quo among Democrats elsewhere, though, and there are those pesky coughing fits that the seemingly tired front-runner has been enduring as well as a pesky ongoing Federal Bureau of Investigation inquiry that cannot end well, and nothing is certain in this crazy year.
We’ve always enjoyed our occasional visits to New York, with several trips to the City and a leisurely hitchhiking trek through its upstate cities and towns and hamlets, and we can’t deny its many contributions to the enrichment and degradation of American culture, but we’re glad the rest of the country also has a say.

— Bud Norman

Broadway and Dead White Men and the Current Race

Once again we have been shut out of the Pulitzer Prizes, a slight we’re starting to take personally, but in looking over the mostly uninspiring list of this year’s winners we were tentatively pleased to note that someone named Lin-Manuel Miranda won the drama award for a big Broadway hit called “Hamilton.” We haven’t yet seen the show, as we’re located way the hell off Broadway and are a few hundred bucks short of the price of a constantly sold-out ticket, but by all accounts and the snippets we’ve seen on YouTube it’s a hip-hop musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton, so we can’t help but love the idea.
Although we aren’t particularly avid aficionados of the hip-hop genre, save for a cherished 12″ 45-rpm copy of The Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” and De La Soul’s more hippie-than-hip-hop “Three Feet High and Rising” album with the Johnny Cash samples, and a few other albums that mark us as “old school,” we are huge fans of Alexander Hamilton, the most controversial and under-rated of the Founding Fathers, and we think he’d be pleased to know that after all these years he’s a hip-hop star.
The idea seems counter-intuitive at first, given that Hamilton is a Dead White Male and one of the guys who established the Establishment and created Wall Street and was arguably the man most responsible for laissez-faire American capitalism, and would surely be a Republican freaking out over the national debt if he were alive today, which is pretty much the sum of all the fashionable and hip-hoppy left’s bogeymen. On the other hand, he was born out of wedlock in the Caribbean, he did immigrate to New York City to hustle his way into some sweet gigs, he did prove his bad-ass machismo in the Revolutionary War, he did have some undeniable sex scandals, he did wind up getting fatally shot in a duel over a “dis,” and all those bling-laden and soon-to-be-shot rappers obviously aren’t entirely averse to some red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalism no matter how often they vote for Democrats, so there’s definitely some hip-hop material there as well. Call it the internal contradictions of anti-capitalism.
Hamilton was also blameless of America’s original sin of slavery, too, as he never owned slaves and was outspoken in his opposition to the practice and contributed generously to abolitionist causes despite having the rather modest income of a scrupulously honest public servant, so there’s no reason that a hip-hopper can’t embrace him, or any reason to think he might refuse that embrace. Given how Hamilton embraced all sorts of good ideas from all sorts of places, even from the English systems of government and economics that he had urged and fought a revolution against, we don’t think he’d at all resent a mostly Black and Latino and Asian cast trying to find the truth of his dead white male self in what was a pretty much all-white moment in American history. When white people avail themselves of the best ideas of other people’s cultures it’s now derided as “cultural appropriation,” which is one of the dumbest ideas that’s come along since Hamilton’s time, but at least the rest of the world can still help itself to the best what of white people have come up with. Call it the internal contradictions of cultural Marxism.
The once-prestitigious Pulitzer Prize is just the latest wet kiss planted on Miranda’s face by what’s left of the cultural establishment, which has already rewarded him with countless glowing reviews and Tony Awards and a reception at the White House where the First Black President admitted he found the whole idea rather counter-intuitive, but of course there’s lately been a backlash. Nobody’s complaining about “cultural appropriation,” yet, but now some are complaining that Hamilton is still a Dead White Male no matter how hip-hoppy his story might might be, and of course others are noting that he failed to end slavery, and at Salon they’re worried the play’s popularity might prevent Hamilton from being kicked off the $10 bill to make room for a woman or better yet a woman of color and maybe even a trans-gendered woman of color. The ethnic and sexual and otherwise diversification of America’s currency could just as easily be accomplished by kicking the slave-owning and Indian-oppressing President Andrew Jackson off the twenty-note, but Jackson was the founder of the Democratic party and plunged his country into the second-worst depression ever by his populist stand against the Central Bank that Hamilton had championed, so Hamilton might have to settle for a Broadway hit and hip-hop hero status.
Sooner or later a roadshow of “Hamilton” will hit Wichita, and we’ll try to scrape the cost of a ticket, which shouldn’t be three figures by the point. We might not like the show, but we like the idea.
One of the most Pulitzer Prizer-worthy reads we’ve come across about Hamilton lately was written by The Weekly Standard’s excellent Noemi Emery, who wondered “What Would Hamilton Do” as she¬†recalled how he swung the presidential election of 1800 to longstanding political enemy Thomas Jefferson, who championed an agrarian and aristocratic notion of individual liberty at odds with his own vision of an urban and classless notion of individual, because the alternative was Aaron Burr. Although Burr’s stated political views were far closer to Hamilton’s than were Jefferson’s, Hamilton’s personal political and professional dealings with Burr in New York City with had convinced him the alternative was “unprincipled both as a public and private man … for or against nothing but as it suits his interests or ambition,” and that “no agreement with him could be relied upon,” and that his presidency “would disgrace our country abroad,” and despite his own admitted failings he went with the flawed man who at least showed some indications of a sense of moral restraint. There was a best-selling novel by left-wing nutcase Gore Vidal about Burr, who luckily escaped two treason trials and shot Hamilton in the most cowardly way, but his life doesn’t offer the same lessons as the flawed but more admirable Hamilton.

— Bud Norman

Netflixing, Chillin’ and Feelin’ the Bern

(Scene opens with a MIDDLE AGED MAN sitting on a park bench looking with a perplexed expression at a laptop computer. He notices a YOUNG WOMAN walking by.)
MAM: Pardon me, miss.
YW: Yes?
MAM: You look to be a rather young woman.
YW: Thank you.
MAM: Well, I didn’t mean that as a compliment, but you’re welcome. Actually, I was thinking you might be able to provide me some assistance, if you can spare me just a moment of your time.
YW: All right, what can I do for you?
MAM: A young woman of my acquaintance has sent me one of those electronic mail messages on my computer thingamajig, and I’m hoping you can help me make some sense of it, because she speaks in the latest jive.
YW: Jive?
MAM: You know, the latest hep-cat lingo.
YW: Hep-cat? Lingo?
MAM: She speaks in an unfamiliar young people’s argot.
YW: Oh, an argot. A specialized idiomatic vocabulary peculiar to a particular group or class of people. Yeah, I know what you’re talking about. So what does she say?
MAM: Well, she starts out by inviting me to “Netflix and chill.” What on earth could that possibly mean?
YW: Ooh, that sounds promising.
MAM: Really?
YW: Yes, she’s asking you over to watch something on Netflix, which is an on-line streaming service …
MAM: I’m familiar with the company, I just didn’t know it was a verb.
YW: … and she wants to “chill,” so you know what that means.
MAM: That’s a synonym for “relax,” I believe. As in, “chillin’ like a chili bean.”
YW: That’s not bad, actually.
MAM: Thanks. I remember overhearing a black man say that once.
YW: Wow, how cool is that?
MAM: Well, Netflixing and chilling sounds harmless enough, I must say, even if the gerund form of that noun really grates on my ears.
YW: Oh, but it’s more than that. An invitation to Netflix and chill has certain, you know, implications.
MAM: You mean like “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” implications?
YW: Maybe, depending on whatever the hell it is you’re talking about. It’s kind of like way back in the olden days when a would woman invite a man up for a drink.
MAM: Ah, good times. I’m a little worried, though, that in this next like she says she’s “Feelin’ the Bern.” Because she doesn’t say where she’s feeling it, and at my age I’d hate to catch anything.
YW: Don’t worry, that just means she’s an enthusiastic supporter of the presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders. You have heard of him, haven’t you?
MAM: But of course. I do try to keep up on the latest political news. It’s an ingrained habit from back when I held out some hope about that stuff.
YW: So you know he’s leading the revolution that’s going to bring about perfect economic justice, and not only make those billionaires pay for their crimes but also my multi-cultural studies degree.
MAM: Yes, and that’s all well and good, I suppose, but then again, he is a pinko, you know.
YW: Really?
MAM: You mean you hadn’t noticed?
YW: No, not at all. What’s a pinko? Is that some kind of gay thing?
MAM: Well, no, not necessarily. A pinko is anyone who might not be fully a Red, but he’s Red enough that he’s pink.
YW: Oh. And by “Red,” do you mean “red state”? Because Bernie’s from Vermont, so he’s certainly not one of those.
MAM: No, no, by “Red” I mean “Commie.”
YW: Commie?

MAM: You know, a communist.
YW: Oh. And that’s a bad thing?
MAM: Well, people used to think so, back in the good old days when a woman would just invite you up for a drink and you didn’t have to mess around with Netflixing and chilling and all these other damn neologisms. Oh, well, what difference, at this point, does it make? This young woman of my acquaintance also says she’s planning to “tweet” me soon, so I guess that sounds pretty promising as well.
YW: Sorry, but that’s not as promising at it sounds.
MAM: Oh, well. There’s also a bunch of pound sign this and Instagram that, and something about something called a “meme,” and bunch of initials like “YOLO” and “BLM” and it all looks like those indecipherable vanity license plates.
YW: You’ll get the hang of it.
MAM: I was just starting to get the hang of CB slang.
YW: Don’t worry about it. Just Netflix and chill, that’s my advice, if you know what I mean.
MAM: I’m not sure I do at all.
YW: I’m sure you don’t, but the best of luck to you.
MAM: You, too, and ten-four, good buddy.
YW: What?
MAM: Never mind.
(Lights fade.)

— Bud Norman