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“Tweeting” Away a Tax Bill

President Donald Trump took to the road Wednesday to rally popular support for the congressional Republicans’ attempts to pass a tax bill, which so far are widely unpopular, but as is his wont he first undermined the effort with a street of outrageous “tweets.” His even busier-than-usual thumbs “re-tweeted” some links to anti-Muslim videos, expressed the usual complaints about the “fake news,” gloated about the firing of a network news anchor for alleged sexual improprieties, and seemed to suggest that another of one of media critics might be guilty of murder.
The outbursts not only gave all the media plenty to talk about other Trump’s sales pitch for whatever tax bill the Republicans might come up, they also made those arguments harder to believe.
Those anti-Muslim videos that Trump “re-tweeted” came from a fringe group calling itself Britain First, which the British government blames for a recent spate of hate crimes against its Muslim citizens, so some controversy ensued. The leader of the the fringe group and former Ku Klux Klan leeader David Duke both “tweeted” their appreciation for the “re-tweet” to to Trump’s millions of “Twitter followers,” but British Prime Minister Theresa May “tweeted” her own opinion that “It is wrong for the president to have done this,” and that seemed more in line with the mainstream media’s reaction.
Then the government of the Netherlands “tweeted” its objection that the video purporting to show a handicapped Dutch youth being savagely beaten by a Muslim immigrant was misleading, because although the depicted attack did occur the crime was not committed by a Muslim immigrant, and that assaulters has since been severely punished by Dutch law. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders would not vouch for the authenticity of any of the videos, and was reduced to defending their “re-tweeting” by insisting the president was making a valid point by arguing that mass Muslim immigration has resulted in problems for Europe.
That is indeed a valid point, and there is plenty of valid evidence for it, and it doesn’t need to be couched in hateful terms, so we would have to hear Huckabee-Sanders why Trump chose to cite some phony-baloney videos from a far-away fringe hate group that’s lately become a problem for a key American ally, and wind up annoying another American ally in the process.
Another big story of the day was the National Broadcasting Company firing longtime “Today Show” host Matt Lauer after a co-worker accused him of sexual harassment and assault, so of course Trump couldn’t resist the chance to insert himself in the middle of that. Even though Trump also stands credibly accused of similar charges, and is championing a Republican Senate candidate down in Alabama who stands credibly accused of even worse, and had just been called out by the Dutch for disseminating inaccurate informations, Trump gloated about Lauer’s firing and wondered “when will the top executives at NBC & Comcast be fired for putting out so much fake news” and urged his followers to “check out” the past of the news division’s chief for some unspecified dirt.
Then he took aim at the NBC-affiliated MSNBC network’s Joe Scarborough, host of the “Morning Joe” program and a frequent target of of Trump’s ad hominem criticism, writing “And will they terminate low ratings Joe Scarborough based on the ‘unsolved mystery’ that took place in Florida years ago. Investigate!” So far as any one can tell, Trump was referring to the 2001 death of a 28-year-old employee who died in Scarborough home district office when he was Florida congressman.
Of course the incident was thoroughly investigated by both the local authorities and the local press, with the local medical examiner concluding the the poor woman had died when an abnormal heart rhythm caused to her to lose consciousness and strike her head on a desk, and the local reporter who’s know a journalism professor at Duke University recalls he could find no evidence of foul play, and for the past 16 years only the kookiest conspiracy theory web sites have suggested that Scarborough had anything to with it.
Trump’s “tweets” don’t offer any reason to suspect Scarborough, either, so it looks an awful like Trump’s suggestion that one time political rival Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s father had something to do with the Kennedy assassination. Which is hardly how to begin a speech making all sorts of dubious claims whatever tax bill the Republicans might come up.
Trump’s oration before a mid-sized crowd of adoring fans in St. Charles, Missouri, was largely devoted to bragging about his overwhelming electoral victory and how he’s since been making America great again even more rapidly than even he expected, but for the most part he focused on how America would be even greater after he signs whatever tax bill the Republicans might come up with. He touched on all the venerable Republican arguments about tax cuts freeing up money for investments that spur economic growth and thus winds up helping everybody, rightly noted that America’s corporate tax rate is the highest in the industrialized word and thus hinders American competitiveness and create perverse incentives for doing business elsewhere, and all things considered we expected worse.
We’re old enough to remember when President Ronald Reagan was making those arguments, though, so we hoped for better. Back when good ol’ Ronnie Ray-Gun was making the pitch for a Republican tax bill the economic circumstances were starkly different, he thoroughly understood the complicated theories underlying the legislation that had been carefully crafted through hotly-debated hearings and thorough analysis by various nonpartisan agencies, and he had the sunny disposition and a sufficient command of the English language to persuade quite a few Democratic congressmen and a sufficient majority of the American to go along without resorting to any bald-faced lies. This is a different time, though, and Trump is a different president.
One of the obvious reasons that whatever tax bill the Republicans might come up with is so polling so horribly is because it is perceived as giving a massive tax cut to the richest Americans, which is inconveniently but undeniably true according to every analysis we’ve seen by any credible nonpartisan agency or think-tank or business publication on either the left or the right margins of the reasonable middle. Rather than winsomely explaining the complicated theories about why that’s actually a good idea for everyone, as Reagan did back when it was undeniably true of his plan, which worked out well enough for everyone, Trump prefers to deny it.
Trump assures the public that such a famously and fabulously wealthy person as himself is going to take a real hit with whatever tax bill the Republicans might come up with, and he mimics the slightly Jewish-sounding exasperation of his accountant at what he’s doing, and he brags about all the rich friends he has who are angry at him. He then adds his catchphrase “Believe me.” He tells the fans in St. Charles and elsewhere that he doesn’t mind losing all that money or any of those phony rich friends because he’s got the love of all the pipe fitters and coal miners and construction workers out there in the real America, and says “believe me” twice.
We’ll have to take his word for it, of course, because Trump hasn’t released his tax returns or given a full public accounting of the complex world-wide business he continues to hold, and there’s no telling what all those rich friends of his might be up to. All of the credible nonpartisan agencies and think-tanks and business publications are saying that Trump and his dues-paying pals at Mar-a-Lago will come fine, though, and at this point they seem more credible than the guys who’s often “re-tweeting” fake news from all sorts of kooky conspiracy theory internet sites. Most of the analysis from the serious sources we’ve seen suggest that the sorts of lower-income workers who voted in large numbers for Trump are going to take a hit, but we can’t say for sure if that’s fake news, so we’ll leave it to lower-income Trump voters to decide.
Back when Reagan was around the top tax rates were truly exorbitant and the economy was deep into an era of stagflation, while today the top rates are still halved and Trump can’t stop talking about how great the stock market and everything else is going just because he’s there, but there’s still an honest argument to be made for Republican economics. Perhaps Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell or House Speaker Paul Ryan will stun us by persuasively making that case, but Trump’s obviously dishonest arguments are unlikely to nudge those awful poll numbers upwards, and his “tweets” about “Chuck and Nancy” and the rest of the congressional Democrats are even more unlikely to win any of their much-needed votes.

— Bud Norman

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The Press Strikes Back

Say what you want about The Washington Post, that hated embodiment of the establishment press, but they won their latest battle with their anti-establishment critics in a rout. Despite our frequent criticisms of the newspaper, something in our Republican souls relished the victory.
One of the unfortunate features of this moment in American history is the average person’s tendency to dismiss any story he doesn’t want to hear as “fake news.” It’s an old and bipartisan problem, but lately it seems more problematic among too many of our fellow Republicans. President Donald Trump didn’t create the problem, nor did he coin the phase “fake news,” as he improbably claims to have done, but he and his most die-hard apologists have been eager to exploit it.
To hear Trump and his die-hard apologists tell it, anything you might read in The New York Times or The Washington Post or almost any newspaper or magazine, or anything you might hear on any broadcast network other than Fox News or the Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh radio shows, can be dismissed as purely fabricated propaganda. To hear the more die-hard apologists tell it, they’re doing it at the behest of a cabal of “deep state” “globalist” “elites” and other “establishment” types who seek to oppress all the real Americans, and the president himself has repeatedly refuted any stories he doesn’t want to hear calling them “fake news.”
There are valid criticisms of the press coverage Trump has received, and God and the internet archives know we’ve also done our own share of media criticism over the past years, but far too many of those “fake news” stories have lately been corroborated by sworn testimony before congressional committees and a special counsel investigation, or been backed up by court documents or other official records, or acknowledged after the release of audiotape and videotape evidence, to dismiss them all as purely fabricated propaganda. The right-wing radio hosts like to sneer about the “The Washington Compost,” but it has lately had a far better record for accuracy than Trump’s “tweets” or his AM band apologists.
Which brings us back to the Post’s latest win by a rout. The story starts with that special senatorial election down in Alabama, where Republican candidate and self-proclaimed champion of Christian values Roy Moore was heavily favored until the Post ran a story about three women who claimed Moore had pursued them when he was a 32-year-old assistant district attorney and they were teenagers, with of them claiming he molested her when she was 14 years old. All three women gave their names, the paper had dozens of unnamed women who recalled the women giving the same accounts contemporaneously, another six women came forward to various media on the record with a slew of unnamed women recalling the same contemporaneous accounts, and other media found mall employees and district attorney’s office workers who recalled Moore’s reputation for liking them young.
Following Trump’s successful playbook Moore as his dismissed it all as “fake news” and assailing the liberal reputation of The Washington Post, and although the race has clearly tightened the wildly disparate polls suggest it just might work down in Alabama. Elsewhere it doesn’t seem to be playing as well, so an anti-establishment media outfit calling itself Project Veritas set out to discredit the post with one of its sting operations.
If you’ve not been following the anti-establishment media over the past many years, Project Veritas is a small but well-funded group that prides itself on such guerrilla tactics as ambush interviews and undercover hidden camera investigations of left-wing foes. They made quite a splash with their widely-disseminated video of a white actor posing hilariously as an inner-city pimp to seek help starting his prostitution at a notoriously left-wing community organizing scam, which led to the scam losing its congressional funding and at long last going away, so although Project Veritas wound up paying a six-figure settlement due to some admitted selective editing they were widely hailed as conservative champions.
Since then Project Veritas has pretty much proved a bust. The guy who runs the outfit wound up pleading guilty to a misdemeanor for his attempt to bug a congressman’s office, over some controversy of the moment we can’t recall, and since then his biggest hit was a non-viral video of himself crossing the Rio Grande dressed as Osama bin Laden, and after that his latest failure was some video of some Cable News Network workers saying they don’t agree with everything their employers do. Hoping to regain his anti-establishment mojo, he apparently hired a woman to tell The Washington Post that Moore had an affair with her when she was 15 years and persuaded her to abort the ensuing love child. Had the Post fallen for the scam it would have been humiliating, and a grand route for Project Veritas, but it didn’t work out that way.
We can vouch that the reporters at any old mainstream paper, such as the double-A and triple-A ones we long toiled for, are mostly damned liberals, but there and especially at such major league papers as The Washington Post they’re not damned fools and they know it’s not good business in the long run to purely fabricate propaganda, so of course they checked out their sources. In this case the amateurish if well-funded scam quickly fell apart, with the undercover operative caught on embarrassing videotape and the guy who runs Project Veritas being surprised by a videotaped interview and winding up telling his donors that he got caught and therefore needs their money all the more. All those stories in the Post and elsewhere about Moore’s proclivities for teenaged girls as a 30-something prosecutor seemed all the more believable, too.
There are reports that Trump is lately telling friends that the embarrassing “Access Hollywood” tape he once acknowledged and even apologized for is fake, and that even after saying that “Barack Obama was born in the States, period” he still has doubts about it, and he’s still insisting he was robbed of the popular vote by millions of illegally-cast ballots even as the commission he assigned to prove it is falling apart, and he’s “tweeting” links to to the magapill.com website that provides the real news about all his accomplishments and all the nefarious and far-fetched conspiracies trying to thwart them.
We still have no affinity for the Post’s undeniable liberalism, but at this point we’re no fonder of Trump or Moore or a a disturbing portion of our Republican party, and by now our only rooting interest is in the truth. On matters ranging from the growing nuclear threat on the Korean peninsula to the whole “Russia thing” to the ongoing problem of how some men treat women, we expect the truth will be a story that none of us will want to hear, but we’ll gird ourselves and hope the truth somehow wins out at the end of this dreary story.

— Bud Norman

Just Another Manic Monday

President Donald Trump was largely out of the news over the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend, but he made up for with it a manic Monday of mostly embarrassing headlines.
The day began with Trump’s Office of Management and Budget director showing up at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to take control as acting director, which was already being contested in federal court by the woman who was tapped for the job by the outgoing director. Although Trump has every legal right to appoint a permanent director to the bureau, the specific law that created the bureau spells out that until the appointment is confirmed by Congress the the outgoing director’s choice is in charge, so there’s a good chance that the courts will quickly bring more embarrassing headlines about the matter over the next few news cycles.
Which is a shame, because there’s a strong case for the changes Trump is clearly eager to bring about at the CFPB. The bureau’s defenders can rightly point to cases where it’s helped out average folks, even if the big one is the Wells Fargo fake-account scandal that the bureaucrats first found out about by the reading the free press, but all those too-big-to-fail banks it was meant to combat keep getting bigger, and so do the fees they charge their customers, and the acting director Trump appointed rightly pointed out that the agency’s quasi-governmental status and non-congressional funding give it power that anyRepublican should fear a Democrat wielding, and any Democrat should fear a Trump appointee weilding
The smart move would have been to quickly appoint a permanent director to make the necessary changes and have all his good friends in the Republican majorities in Congress quickly confirm, and quietly suffer whatever indignities some President Barack Obama administration holdover might cause in the brief interim, but that’s not Trump’s style.
Later in the day Trump had a photo opportunity with three aging Navajo “code talkers,” who were one of the great stories of World II, and the smart move would have been to act solemn and grateful and not cause any racial controversy, but that’s also not Trump’s style.
The youngest of the nonagenarian Marine veterans was only 15 years old when he signed up for a bloody war in Guadalcanal and Iowa Jima and the worst of the Pacific theater, and was able to give an eloquent account of how he and his Navajo colleagues helped win that war by sending in-the-middle-of-it radio reports in their indecipherable-to-the-Japanese native language, and how it proved that America is invincible when all sorts of Americans are truly united. Trump was so moved that he said wasn’t going to use the speech that had been written for him, which he handed to one of the veterans as a gift, which would have been a moving gesture if he’d left it at that, but in his extemporaneous remarks he wound up slipping into his campaign rally insult comic mode with an oft-used joke about “Pocahontas.”
“Pocahontas” is of course  Trump’s nickname for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth, who was largely responsible for the creation of the CFPB but has nothing whatsoever to do with Navajo code talkers’ heroism, and he couldn’t resist the opportunity of having Indians on hand to bring up his favorite Indian joke. During her first Senate campaign it was revealed she had long claimed some small amount of American Indian blood and counted herself among some group of Native American scholars or another, which was widely ridiculed at the time by such conservative outlets as this, so Trump has always responded to her frequent criticisms by taunting her as “Pocahontas.” The wittier wags used to call her “Faux-cahontas,” but that’s either too subtle for Trump’s tastes or he figures that hard-core fans wouldn’t get it.
By the now the joke is pretty much played out, and at a ceremony that was supposed to be about Navajo code talkers and a united America’s invincibility it didn’t play nearly so well as it used to at the campaign rallies. The honored guests couldn’t have looked more unamused if they were made of wood and standing outside a cigar shop, the National Congress of American Indians the president of the Navajo Nation was offended by the remark, so was Oklahoma’s Chickasaw and Republican Rep. Tom Cole. White House press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders assured her interrogators that the president didn’t indent any offense to American Indians, and that everyone should be more offended by Warren’s unsubstantiated claims “which should be constantly covered,” but no one in that audience found it convincing.
Trump had already “tweeted” routine gripes about the “fake news” media, this time singling out the Cable News Network, writing with his characteristically random capitalizations that “@FoxNews is MUCH more important in the United States than CNN, but outside of the U.S., CNN is still a source of (Fake) news, and they represent our Nation to the WORLD very poorly. The outside world does not see the truth from them!” The fans still love this familiar routine at the campaign rallies, but elsewhere the timing was once again a bit off.
Trump’s tweets came just after Russian dictator Vladimir Putin announced his intention to start restricting such foreign media organizations as CNN, and while the governments in Poland and Turkey and the Philippines and other countries that Trump has a similar affinity for are increasingly threatening their own independent journalists, so Trump’s media critiques have an ominously authoritarian tone. They also come at a time Trump’s Department of Justice is challenging a complicated merger of a couple of big-time media giants that involves CNN, and although it’s too complicated for us to say who’s right we can’t blame any court that suspects the administration is pursuing a political vendetta against a perceived enemy among the free press.
There were also stories about Trump telling friends that the notorious “Access Hollywood” tape with him talking about grabbing women by the wherevers and all the rest of it  is also fake news, even though he not only owned up to but actually apologized for it way back when it came out, with all the links to the related story about the credibly accused child molester he’s backing in an Alabama senatorial race. Not to mention the ongoing speculation about why his former national security advisor’s legal team has stopped sharing information with Trump’s legal team regarding a special counsel investigation into the “Russia thing,” which seems likely to generate a lot of future embarrassing headlines.
Today is Tuesday, though, and the rest of the week should be clear sailing.

— Bud Norman

From Thanksgiving to the Secular World

The extended Thanksgiving weekend went well for us, with plenty of exhilarating gratitude for God’s blessings, but today is another Monday and the secular world seems as sorry as ever. Over the weekend President Donald Trump “tweeted” his apparent endorsement of that very credibly accused child molester of a Republican candidate who’s running for a Senate seat in Alabama, while the Democrats are awkwardly dealing with some unseemly accusations of sexual misconduct of their own against some beloved figures, and all the rest of our politics are just as messy.
We’ll further thank God that at least we’re not in the same tight spot Trump is regarding that Alabama senate race. Republican candidate Roy Moore was twice elected to the Alabama Supreme Court and twice removed from that bench for defying federal authority on a stand of Christian principle, but now stands quite credibly accused of once being the 30-something local prosecutor who creepily preyed on teenaged girls in at the local malls and high school. Trump himself has been caught on audiotape bragging about he he can grab women by their wherever and talking about invading teenaged beauty pageants’ dressings rooms, and has since been credibly accused by numerous woman about doing exactly that, so he’s caught between the metaphorical Scylla of admitting that so many women’s allegations should be taken serious or the metaphorical Charybdis of arguing that it’s no big deal even if true.
Trump split the difference by ignoring the charges against Moore and instead noting that his Democratic opponent Doug Jones is a Democrat, which many an Alabama Republican will agree, perhaps plausibly enough, is way worse than being an credibly accused child molester. This also avoids the messy inference that the numerous and very credible women accusing men of sexual misconduct be believed, so it seems a shrewd move on Trump’s part. The Republicans’ senate majority leader and House Speaker and the party’s congressional committees have also demurred from supporting Moore, as have such grass-roots sorts of old-fashioned Kansas Republicans such as ourselves, but by now that that only bolsters Trump’s and Moore’s case that the establishment is out to get them.
Meanwhile the Democrats have to deal with the now undeniable facts that many of their members stand credibly accused of being quite creepy, including a Senator beloved for his antagonistic rhetoric and a longstanding Representative who once took a beating down in Alabama for his righteous civil rights stands, along with with all those Hollywood allies who so generously donated to the cause, so it remains to be seen if they’ll benefit from any of this. So far the Democrats seem willing to defenestrate any politicians who get in the way of their condemnation of sexual misbehavior, even if that means the once-beloved President Bill Clinton or his long-suffering wife, but by now it might be too late.
By now we’re not on either side, and stand instead with the old-fashioned notion that there’s a right way and a wrong way to treat women. By now we’re hoping that by the end of the Christmas season things will be somewhat better.

— Bud Norman

Christmas in the Information Age

Today is Black Friday, when the annual Christmas shopping season begins with bargain-hunters duking it out over some Chinese-made gewgaw or another in the store aisles, and as usual we’ll pass on the ritual. This is expected to be the first Christmas when on-line sales surpass those in the old-fashioned brick-and-mortar stores that you have to drive to and walk into and then interact with other people, but we’ll also take a pass on that.
As much as we resent all the current stores on the east and west sides of town for driving away Gateway Sporting Goods and Reader’s Bookstore and all the other locally-owned retailers who used to transform downtown Wichita, Kansas, into a winter wonderland during our youth, we don’t want to see them driven away by the computer or other newfangled device you’re using to read this. That would leave a lot of empty buildings, and a lot of unemployed shop clerks, and what with the drones Amazon is already using and the driverless trucks that Google is threatening to unleash it’s hard to see what space-filling businesses and jobs the new economy might offer them.
Such potentially dire economic consequences aside, the technological tectonic shift that’s expected to occur this Christmas season has a cultural effect we also don’t care for. Although today’s stores lack the personal touch of the mom-and-pop operations we so fondly recall, there’s still something to be said for driving to a store and walking into it and interacting with other people. The drive takes you past places that evoke fond memories and gives you a chance to hear the local radio, and if you don’t get hit by a car the walk across the parking lot is healthful, and maybe it’s just a Wichita thing but we find that most of our interactions with other people are generally quite pleasant and often have a very salutary effect on our mood.
Somehow, despite the crass commercialism and creeping secularism of this modern age, people always seem to become more pleasant to interact with the closer it gets to Christmas. Lay off the Black Friday sales or the Cyber Monday bargains, hunt down some fascinating shop some local oddball opened, and it might just instill some Christmas spirit. We also suggest you call your far-away family rather than texting them, and meet face-to-face if at all possible, and gratefully accept any invitations you might receive to a holiday party, and except for your daily visits here spend less time looking at some sort of screen.
There’s no fending off progress, even when it goes too far, but we’ll be damned before we go along with it.

— Bud Norman

Happy Thanksgiving

Our usual habit here is to lament what’s going on in the news, with whatever wit we can muster, but this is no day for that. Today is Thanksgiving, and we’re going to give thanks for everything that’s going right in the world.
We advise you to do the same, and enjoy some good food and the company of family and friends, and steer the conversation away from what’s going on in the news. Thanks for dropping by, though, and Happy Thanksgiving.

— Bud Norman

On the Bipartisan Problem of Misbehaving Men

The economy seems to humming along well enough and the stock market is humming along a bit too far ahead of it for our feverous tastes, and for the moment none of the nuclear threats around the world seem especially imminent, but every day seems to bring more stories about men behaving badly toward women. As much as we’d prefers to mull other matters, there’s no ignoring it.
The latest round-up of men credibly accused of sexual misbehavior includes an impeccably Democratic senator who was once considered a presidential contender, a star of the impeccably liberal Public Broadcasting System, and a New York Times reporter who has been a very effective tormenter of Republican President Donald Trump. All the Republican talk radio hosts are having a grand old time of it, and one can hardly blame them, but they also have to deal with a Republican president who has been credibly accused and caught on tape bragging about his bad behavior towards women and is still standing by a Republican senate candidate in Alabama who still stands credibly accused of even worse misbehavior toward considerably younger women, not to mention all the undeniable Fox News scandals.
It’s such a bipartisan mess that neither party or any political ideology will emerge unscathed, which is fine by us, but there’s no avoiding it even when you stop reading the news. Last week we stopped for a beer at a favorite dive of ours on the north end, and an old friend invited us to join her and a couple of other women on the still-warm patio, and we found ourselves in the middle of yet another conversation about men behaving badly toward women. All of their hair-raising tails about fellow students and co-workers and passersby seemed completely believable, based on what we’ve observed over the past decades of American life, and when our friend frankly declared that women have a certain unshakeable fear of men we could only sympathize.
Being the nocturnal sorts given to long brooding walks, we’ve often found ourselves on an an empty and dimly street-lighted avenue when suddenly a woman will round the corner just ahead of us and start walking in the same direction, and we assured our friend and her friends that from half a block away we can palpably sense her anxiety about the big scary man who is suddenly following her. Just to let them know there are still some nice guys out there, we explained how we always handled the situation by stopping to tie a shoe, even though it’s not come untied, and then crossing the street and looking at nothing in particular in shop window for a while, and then taking a smoke break until she gets safely behind a locked door or turns a corner or at least gets far enough ahead of us that we are no longer shivering with that uncomfortable sense of her fear of us.
God knows that woman’s fear of us isn’t our fault, but she doesn’t know that, and God knows and we know that it’s also not her fault. Some big and scary men have suddenly been suddenly been following us as rounded the corner on some empty and dimly street during some of our late night walks, so we can empathize with their anxiety, and for reasons that have nothing to do with partisan politics we strive not to menace anyone. Nor do we remark on women’s breasts and buttocks, no matter how remarkable they might be, and we most certainly don’t touch them without an explicit request, and we even try to lay off the saltier jokes in our repertoire until a woman has made clear she’s likely to re-tell them to her friends,.
Our old friend vouched to her friends that we’re among the rare good guys, although she also noted that we’re old-fashioned Republicans and she’s a newfangled Democrat. We asked them what percentage of men they figured were among the good guys, and were distressed to hear them all agree that about 80 percent of men are irredeemable pigs. The next day we ran into an older woman friend of longstanding who still performs in the local burlesque revues and is quite a colorful character in her own right, and when we put the same question to her she figured that only one out of five men are irredeemable pigs, which seemed more right to us, and she also vouched that we’re among the good guys even though we’re old-fashioned Republicans and of course she’s another one of those new fangled Democrats.
There seems to be a bipartisan consensus about men not behaving badly toward women, and we hope it prevails despite how awful both parties are at the moment. One of those friends of our old friend at the north side dive was a very young and very attractive woman who paid us a very welcome compliment that might be construed as sexual harassment if it had come from some big scary man, but instead of filing a human rights complaint we’ll relish the non-threatening remark and hold out hope that whatever percentage of men are irredeemable pigs, no matter what party or ideology, they’ll eventually figure it out.

— Bud Norman

A Taxing Situation for the GOP

There’s a good chance that the Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress will sooner or later pass some tax bill or another, and a certainty that President Donald Trump will make a big show of signing whatever they might come up with, but at the the moment it seems likely to prove a pyrrhic victory. All of the tax bills that are under consideration are currently polling even worse than all the repeal-and-replace-Obamacare bills that never got passed, the inevitable devils in the details spell trouble for those Republican representatives in the Democratic states, and they way that Trump and the rest of the Republicans are going about it are also problematic.
Despite all the desperate Republican attempts to deny it, there’s really no denying that all of the potential bills really do amount to that hated huge tax cut for the rich that Democrats are always accusing of them of seeking, which largely explains the bad poll numbers. As old-fashioned Republicans we’re sympathetic to the case that the rich shoulder an unfair share of tax burden and that allowing them to spend some greater amount of of their mostly hard-earned money on private sector investments, but these newfangled sorts of Republicans are ill-suited to making that case. Trump claims he’s going to take a huge hit on his taxes with any of the Republican bills, but he’s the first president in decades who hasn’t made his tax returns publicly available to prove such claims, and according to all the polls most Americans don’t believe him when he says “believe me.”
Trump also likes to brag about how well the American economy is doing since his inauguration, which undercuts the argument President Ronald Reagan persuasively used to sell the even bigger tax cut for the rich that rescued the economy from the stagflation of the ’70s, and he doesn’t seem to have the same Reagan-esque understanding of the complex theory to explain it to the American public. Even such old-fashioned Republicans as House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell seem incapable of making the time-honored arguments for a low-taxed and lightly-regulated economy, and seem to prefer desperate arguments denying that there really is a big tax cut for the rich involved. The Republicans still have a strong case for a significant cut in the world’s highest corporate tax rate, which still figures prominently in all the still viable bills, but the Democrats can rightly note that the only corporations who actually pay that rate have very bad accountants, and what with all those corporations doing so well under Trump’s leadership it’s a harder sell to the general public.
Almost all of those still-viable Republican bills would also eliminate a longstanding federal tax deduction for state and local taxes, which will wind up meaning a tax increase for many middle-and-upper-class Republican voters who find themselves residing in a high-tax Democratic state, and since those voters tend to reside in certain upper-crust Republican districts in those Democratic states that can’t help the Grand Old Party’s chances of keeping its narrow majorities in Congress. Upper-crust Republicans are already uncomfortable with the party’s recent populist turn, and if they’re going to be betrayed by their party even on such hard-core convictions as tax cuts that’s bound to a problem.
There are valid Republican arguments to be made against all of those still-viable bills, too, and Republicans being such cussedly hard-to-herd contrarians many of them are making those arguments. Some of the last die-hard deficit hawks are objecting the to projected and pretty much undeniable increases in the national debt, God bless ’em, those Republican members from those upper-crust districts in otherwise Democratic states are of course speaking out. in the Senate that nice lady from Maine has her usual liberal-leaning objections and that staunch fellow from Kentucky is suggesting none of the still-viable alternatives are nearly conservative enough, and the Republicans might yet snatch defeat from the jaws of a pyrrhic victory.
The House has already passed a badly-polling bill but has some sticking points with each of the remaining viable Senate bills, and the Senate majority is razor-thin, so of course Trump re-started a “twitter” feud with a Republican senator whose vote is badly needed. Arizona’s Sen. Jeff Flake has been a reliable vote for consensus Republican causes during his first term, but he also wrote a book critical of Trump’s combative rhetoric and more populist tendencies, and was recently caught on a live microphone saying that if the Republicans become the party of Trump and Alabama senate candidate Ray Moore it is “toast,” so Trump promptly “tweeted” that Flake — or “Flake(y)” as Trump put it — was therefore a “no vote” on any Republican bill. Our guess is that Flake will vote as usual with the consensus of Republican opinion, and since he’s already announced he won’t run for reelection given the current climate we’re sure he’ll cast his vote with concern for the political consequences, so we won’t blame him whether he hands Trump yet another legislative defeat or allows Trump a pyrrhic victory.
If the process drags out long enough it might come to down a special Senate race down in Alabama, where the aforementioned Moore seems in danger of losing that reliably Republican state’s Senate seat to a Democrat, of all people. Moore stands credibly accused by numerous woman of being that creepy guy who preys on teenaged girls, and by now many of the old-fashioned Republicans have renounced his campaign, but Trump has preferred to “tweet” about a Democratic senator’s sexual misconduct while White House spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway was on television urging Alabamans to vote for the credibly accused child molester in order to pass whatever tax bill the Republicans come up with. This might work for no, but in the long run it strikes us as an especially pyrrhic victory.
The economy will probably chug along in any case, and the national debt will just as surely swell, the inevitable reckoning will  hopefully occur after we do, and as far as we’re concerned both parties deserve whatever they get.

— Bud Norman

Trump and Elephants and Elephant Jokes

After the past two years or so of close observation we can usually predict President Donald Trump’s “tweets,” but over the weekend he surprised us by “tweeting” some misgivings about allowing trophies from elephant hunts into the United States.
The practice was forbidden by one of President Barack Obama’s gazillion or so regulations, and that’s usually reason enough to expect Trump would insist otherwise. Elephants are also one of those politically correct bleeding-heart liberal causes, which is ironic given America’s political symbology, so Trump would typically be even more opposed to the idea. Trump’s two elder sons are fond of posting pictures of themselves with the kills from their frequent big game hunts in Africa on the internet, too, so it’s triply surprising that Trump would deny them a tusk or two to show off to their friends.
Trump’s “tweets” aren’t in any way definitive, and he might yet go along with his own administration’s proposal to end the prohibition, but even Trump’s harshest media critics admit he seems to have a soft spot in his oft-questioned heart for elephants. Back during the campaign his sons were widely criticized by the politically correct bleeding heart types for all those pictures of the big game animals they’d killed — we recall chuckling at Triumph the Insult Comic Dog’s defense that they were actually aiming at the natives — and Trump surprised us by failing to come to their defense. The politically correct and bleeding-heart liberal diva Cher was a particularly outspoken critic on “twitter,” and a particularly inviting target for Trump’s “twitter” counter-punching, but Trump responded with “Old story, one of which I publicly disapproved. My sons love hunting, I don’t.”
At this point we don’t what to make of it. There’s a persuasive conservative argument to be made that managed big game hunting offers the natives with economic incentives to perpetuate the species, but even Trump seems sympathetic to the politically correct and bleeding heart argument against shooting elephants. We have no fondness for Trump or his two elder sons, and we’ve been railing against politically correct bleeding-heart liberalism and Obama’s over-regulating tendencies for a lot longer than any of them have, so for now our favorite characters in this tale are the elephants.
No elephant has ever done us any harm, and they’ve provided us many jokes. Every time we’d see one of the younger Trumps posing over a dead elephant we’d recall Groucho Marx as Captain Spaulding bragging that on his African safari he’d shot an elephant in his pajamas, “and how he got in my pajamas I’ll never know.” There was that great Jimmy Durante moment when he was being followed by an elephant and told a questioning passerby, “What elephant?,” and after looking over his shoulder said, “Oh, that elephant.” There are countless others, but our favorite elephant joke is about why the elephant drinks, and the punchline is “to forget.”
On a memorable visit to the Sedgwick County Zoo we once saw a zookeeper running a couple of the elephants through their daily calisthenics, which is really something to see, and they seem such magnificent examples of God’s creation that we can’t imagine any reason some rich kid would want to travel all the way to Africa to kill one. There are some stupid rules about selling pianos with ivory keys cut from the tusks of elephants that were killed a long time ago, and we wouldn’t mind seeing that deregulated, and a there are lot of those politically correct bleeding-heart regulations about animals that we’d also happily undo, but we won’t mind a bit if those rich kids who go all the way to Africa to kill an elephant don’t get to bring a trophy home.
If that puts us in the uncomfortable position of being on the side of both Trump and those politically correct bleeding-heart liberals, then so be it.

— Bud Norman

Sen. Franken Takes the Spotlight

The latest in a long, long list of prominent men accused of sexual misbehavior is Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, and the former comedian’s timing couldn’t be worse. Not so very long go the Democratic party and its media allies would have rallied to the defense of a such a stalwart liberal soldier, but at the moment they’re unable to do so.
A popular Los Angeles radio and television personality named Leeann Twidden told the local American Broadcasting Company affiliate that Franken forced a kiss on her and briefly groped her while they were rehearsing a skit on a USO tour of of the middle east in 2006, and she had a picture of Franken grinning as he reached to fondle her breasts as she slept on the flight back home. Franken issued a statement that said he remembered the rehearsal differently but apologized but apologized nonetheless, and described the photo as a joke that he know admits wasn’t funny, and after that was met with widespread criticism by his fellow Democrats and their media allies, he offered an even more apologetic apology.
That once would have sufficed for Franken, who is beloved in the Democratic party for his undeniably sharp with and his fund-raising prowess as a celebrity politician, but fellow Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar was still demanding an ethics investigation, and so was minority leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York and so were several other prominent congressional Democrats, and by day’s end Franken himself was demanding an investigation and promising his full cooperation. Our guess is he’ll probably keep his job, but might well be censured by the Senate and that all the crazy talk about him launching a presidential race will be quashed for a while, and will never again be quite so beloved in the Democratic party.
Which is fine by us, as we never liked the guy. He was often funny back when he was writing and starring on “Saturday Night Live,” which was reportedly a drug-drenched den of rampant sexual harassment backstage at the time, but the wit devolved into witless ad hominem attacks when he switched to politics, and he first won election with some suspicious vote-counting, and despite all the religion-bashing he did back in his show biz days he’s also posed as a paradigm of political correctness and therefore more righteous than any of those holier-than-thou types on the Republican side. Franken has a goofy smile and endearing self-effacing quality, but he also has a well-documented temper that occasionally becomes violent and is widely considered something of a jerk by those who run into him off-camera. He’s long claimed to be the loyal long-time husband of a wife bravely battling alcoholism, but he was married to her during that USO tour and his apology didn’t mention his wife or family.
Franken is also an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, but as one of the first politicians to substitute celebrity for credentials in a run for office and making witless ad hominem insults a part of the political discourse we also blame him in part for Trump’s presidency.
As awful as Franken’s behavior apparently was, though, it’s just one woman and it happened a while back and was not nearly so awful as what several other Democratic politicians have done without suffering the opprobrium of their party. President Bill Clinton immediately comes to mind, more recently even New York Rep. Anthony Weiner got a tentative defense for his weird sexual proclivities right up until he went to jail for them, and that’s not to mention all the decades of indulgences for the entire Kennedy family. The Democrats haven’t claimed to champion old-fashioned values of chivalrous manhood and chaste womanhood for a long time, which has long spared them the added charge of hypocrisy when these things pop up, so the party used to take a more forgiving attitude toward their own members if not any Republican who stood similarly charged.
Lately, though, the Democrats find themselves obliged to be more strict. The long list of prominent men who have recently been accused of sexual misbehavior includes a lot of heavyweight Hollywood types who of course were big Democrat donors and previously added some glitzy cache to the party’s image, as well as some media and academic types who are also associated with the party’s high-brow image, and having one of its sitting Senators on the list is no longer tolerate. By now well more than half of the party’s voters are women, as demonstrated by all the exit polls in every race everywhere for the past few decades, and by now many of them — ranging from movie stars to office workers to waitresses — are throughly fed up with such behavior no matter the party affiliation of the accused.
The Democrats suddenly find themselves the champions of chivalrous behavior, even as they write polemics against toxic masculinity, and the defenders of chaste womanhood, even as they celebrate women’s sexual empowerment and freedom to choose whatever is required to deal with the consequences, and as complicated as that is it clearly doesn’t allow any forgiveness for Franken or any of those other Hollywood guys. For now the Democrats and their media allies are no longer making even any excuses for Clinton, and for all his fund-raising prowess Franken never did achieve that level of influence in the party. There’s also another reason all Democratic men are advised to go straight home to their wives and avoid any sort of encounters with other women along the way for the foreseeable future.
As ridiculous as the Democratic party looks at the moment, the Republicans have more pressing problems of their own that the Democrats are eager to exploit. The Grand Old Party is currently running a candidate in a special senatorial election down in Alabama who stands credibly accused by nine named women of far-creepier-than-Franken behavior, and so far he still has the half-hearted endorsement of a Republican president still stands credibly accused by more than a dozen named women of the creepier-than-Frank behavior that everyone in America heard him bragging about on that “Access Hollywood” tape. One can hardly blame the Democrats for wanting to be known as the party with zero tolerance for such behavior, and concluding that giving a pass to the small-fry likes of Franken is hardly worth blowing the opportunity.
Up until Trump was nominated and elected the Republicans used to enjoy that zero tolerance reputation, even if it did get them branded as the party of self-righteous old fuddy-duddies back during the go-go ’90s of the Clinton era, and it’s hard to see how they’ll get it back.
Alabama senatorial candidate Roy Moore poses as a champion of old-fashioned chivalrous manhood and chaste womanhood, and with an admirable contempt for that newfangled gobbledygook about toxic masculinity and empowered female sexuality, but by now you’d have to be a die-hard fan not to conclude that he used to be that creepy 30-something guy hitting on teenage girls at the mall and is now lying about it attempting to trash the reputation of the women he once preyed on. No matter what Trump is eventually forced to say about it, the creepier-than-Frank accusations against still stand as credibly as ever, and so long as he remains in office the party won’t have any claim to zero tolerance for such behavior.
The Republican party’s senatorial campaign office and Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell have said they believe Moore’s accusers and have withdrawn their support of his campaign, as have many other Republicans officials, as well as such such rank-and-file Republicans as ourselves, and Trump might yet join us, but it won’t amount to a complete reputation of such conduct. Even if they’re not a majority of the electorate a lot of those Alabama Republicans who defiantly vote for Moore, Trump will still be the president and putative leader of the party, and neither the religious nor the secular wings of the party will go untainted.
As cynical and opportunistic as the Democrats’ newfound religion clearly is, we welcome it nonetheless. All of those women who make up more than half of their reliable votes are quite right to be outraged by Moore and Trump, as far as we’re concerned, and they’re just as right to be outraged by Franken and all the rest of those sleazy show-biz types. There are a few Republican politicians who have staked out a similarly non-partisan position on all the bi-partisan sexual misconduct that has come up over the past several decades, along with such grass-roots Republicans as ourselves, by now by they’re all considered “establishment” and Trump is still the president.
Just maybe, though, there’s a chance that both parties will someday agree not to put up with stuff any longer. Our hope is that chivalrous manhood long endures, and that whatever “toxic masculinity” is it disappears, and that women are sexually empowered, whatever that means, yet chaste womanhood is still protected. At this point we’re no counting on either party to bring that happy day, though.

— Bud Norman