Tucker Carlson, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, and Their Asymmetrical War of Words

We don’t have cable and rarely watch television, but we’re well aware of Fox News host Tucker Carlson. He’s a bowtie-wearing know-it-all who frequently makes news by saying things that cause his advertisers to bolt, an we watch the clips. Carlson is back in the news because of a feud with Democratic Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, and so far he’s getting the worst of it.
The brouhaha began Carlson called Duckworth “a deeply silly and unimpressive person” who “hates America” for telling a television interviewer that there should be “a national dialogue” about such slave-holding founding fathers as President George Washington. Duckworth responded by “tweeting” that Carlson “should walk a mile in my legs and tell me whether or not I love America.” Carlson then responded by calling Duckworth a “coward,” “fraud,” and “moron.”
At that point Carlson had lost the argument, and we expect he’ll lose even more advertisers. Duckworth invited Carlson to walk a mile in her legs because both were amputated from the knee down after the Blackhawk helicopter she was co-piloting was shot down during a 2004 rescue mission in Iraq. That’s pretty convincing proof of her patriotism and courage, as far as we’re concerned, as is her service in the United States Congress as a Senator elected by the good on people of Illinois. Carlson never served in the military, and although we won’t question his patriotism we wonder what credentials he has.
Carlson has complained that he’s not allowed to criticize a veteran, but that’s balderdash. For all her bravery and sacrifice and resilience Duckworth is still a damn Democrat, and one is still free to criticize her positions on any issue. We’re unafraid to say we disagree with Duckworth on many issues, and will be happy to engage in a national dialogue about America’s history and argue that despite their shameful slave-holding both Washington and Thomas Jefferson should remain forever in the nation’s pantheon of heroes, but we have no standing to question Duckworth’s courage and patriotism and authenticity, and we don’t think she’s a moron. Carlson’s resort to ad hominem attacks and name-calling rather than making a substantive case against Duckworth’s opinion strike us as, well, cowardly.
Conservatives and Republicans used to honor military valor, but that changed on 2016 when presidential candidate Donald Trump sneered on camera that Sen. John McCain — who endured two years of torture in a North Vietnamese prison camp after being shot down on his 23rd combat mission, then another three year after refusing an offer of early release because it would require him to leave his men behind and hand the enemy a propaganda — “was only a hero because he captured. I like a guy who didn’t get captured, OK?” Trump won somehow won the nomination anyway, and wound up President Donald Trump, and since then even the most draft-dodging Republicans have been freed to question the patriotism such of decorated and high-ranking officers as Robert Mueller, James Comey, John Kelly, Alexander Vindman, and H.R. McMaster, among others.
Trump is currently at odds with his military’s leadership on a number of things, from honorifics to the Confederacy to its deployment against American citizens, and we think he’s losing that argument. He dearly loves to boast about his military, so he can’t come right out and say they’re all “deep state” traitors.
According to all the press speculation Duckworth is on the short list for presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s vice presidential pick, and Carlson’s set with her has probably helped her move up that list. She’s not only half-Asian and female and a decorated veteran but a double-amputee, which checks off a lot of boxes. so we think she’d be a shrewd choice. Duckworth’s a damn Democrat with a lot of dumb ideas, but Trump doesn’t want to debate with her about that. He can say that she’s only a hero because she lost two legs, and that he likes someone who didn’t lose two legs, OK?, but that probably wouldn’t work this time around.

— Bud Norman

The Rough and Rowdy Republican Senate Primary Here in the Sunflower State

There’s an open Senate seat up for grabs in Kansas, which only happens every generation or so, and it’s proving very interesting. The Republican field is now down to three viable candidates, and they’re now going after one another with a ferocity unfamiliar to this politely Republican state.
The three Republicans left standing are Kris Kobach, a former Kansas Secretary of State, Roger Marshall, a former obstetric an gynecology doctor and two-term Congressman for the vast and rural First District of the state, and Bob Hamilton, a successful plumbing and heating and air conditioning entrepreneur from the Kansas City suburbs. At first their advertising in our mail boxes and on the local news broadcasts was all about who was most loyal to President Donald Trump, which struck us as odd given that Trump has never been very popular even among the state’s Republicans, but lately they and their allied political action committees have taken to accusing one another of all sorts of horrible things, ranging from Republican heresies to outright corrupt and criminal behavior.
At the beginning of the race the presumptive frontrunner was Kobach, but even then he had problems. As Secretary of State he instituted to such seemingly commonsensical rules as as requiring a photo identification to vote, but his anti-immigration zealotry soon led to rules that were challenged in the courts, and the Yale Law School graduate Kobach not only wound up losing the American Civil Liberties Union but having to pay fines for contempt of court. He was rewarded for his efforts by Trump, who appointed him to chair a commission to prove that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton only won the popular vote because Democrats conspired to have more than three million illegal ballots cast, but the effort was disbanded because of opposition from both Democratic and Republican Secretaries of State, and even Kansas ws restricted by law from providing some of the information Kobach demanded, and the commission never issued a report.
Nonetheless, Trump so appreciated the effort that he offered Kobach the job of “immigration czar,” which we find nowhere in the Constitution, but that didn’t happen after Kobach gave a list of demands that included regular use of government jets for his weekly inspections of the southern border. Still, it was enough that a political action committee funded by the free-market Club For Growth could accuse of him of letting Trump down. Kobach responded that the Club For Growth is an anti-Trump organization, which was true when there were when still other Republicans vying for the Republican presidential nomination, but since Trump seized the nomination they’ve been pretty docile, and Kobach can’t claimed to have done Trump much good.
Worse yet, less than two years ago Kobach managed to lose a gubernatorial to a Democrat, and a woman Democrat at that. Gov. Laura Kelly is the sort of centrist Democrat that Kansans elect now and then, and Kobach’s anti-immigration didn’t prevail in a state where immigrants are sustaining the economy in the southwest quadrant of the state and are providing hard work and great food and friendly interactions everywhere else. All the Republican poobahs back in D.C. were horrified by the possibility that that he might lose a seat the Republicans had held for 100 years, and polls where showing that the presumptive woman Democratic nominee was ahead, and even Trump was urging former Kansas Congressman and Central Intelligence Agency director and current United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to run for the seat, but the ambitious Pompeo decided for reasons indiscernible to us to stay put in the Trump administration,
For now the Republican establishment seems to prefer Marshall, who won his Congressional seat by winning a primary against Rep. Tim Huelskamp, whose anti-establishment zealotry had so annoyed the party’s leadership that he lost Kansas’ place on the House Agriculture Committee. Since then Marshall has continued to campaign as a moderate voice of reason, but he also trumpets that he’s a loyal soldier in the party of Trump. There have been ads showing him express doubts about a border wall while addressing Wichita Pachyderm Party, and endorsing notoriously moderate Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich for president over Trump, and that won’t play well with the significant portion of Kansas Republicans are pro-Trump and anti-establishment. It’s also come out that he was once charged with reckless driving, and had the charges and sentenced reduced by a politically-connected judge.
Hamilton seems anodyne enough, the sort of pragmatic self-made businessman that Kansas Republicans like, but a group called Kansans for Marshall accuse him of “tweeting” nice things about Hillary Clinton, supporting the lesbian and gay and bisexual and transgendered rights movement, and various other wrongdoings. So far as we can tell from what’s left of the Kansas media there’s some truth to it but has been overblown.
At this point someone stands accused of wanting to give thousands of jobs to foreigners, but that’s because of H1B visas that only go to people with rare educational credentials and are unlikely to join a street gang and are need to keep America’s high-tech industry competitive, but at this point we can’t keep up with it, or who’s funding which ad and what their motives might be. The only thing we’re sure of is that who ever winds up winning will emerge victorious but dirtied.
In an ordinary election year in Kansas that wouldn’t matter much. Since it came into the Union as a proudly Republican Free State in 1861 Kansas had only three Democratic Senators, the last one elected in 1932, and usually the Democrats nominate someone who will placate the liberal base but won’t put up a real fight. The Republicans usually nominate someone sensibly Republican and conservative and more less centrist, who won’t get kicked off the Ag Committee, and everyone in the the state is accustomed to Republicans winning.
The annus horribillis of 2020 is not an ordinary election year, however, in Kansas or anywhere else, and from the barstool where we’re watching all those internecine attack ads on the evening news from political sidelines we think the Republicans should be worried. The only times Kansas ever gave its few electoral votes to a Democratic presidential nominee were in the landslide elections of 1932 and ’64, and even then the margin was slim, but the latest polling shows the presidential race is tight not only in Kansas but also in Texas and Georgia and Arizona and other reliably Republican states, with Trump trailing in the “swing states.”
The presumptive Democratic nominee for the Kansas seat is Barbara Bollier, a retired anesthesiologist who has long served in the Kansas legislature without any scandals or taint of left-wing tendencies, and is facing only token opposition from cranks with no name recognition or funds to launch any attacks on her character or record. The Democrats who nominated all those far-left sacrificial lambs in past elections will decry her centrism, but they’ll show up on Election Day to vote against whatever Republican she’s running against, as she’ll come out of the primary un-muddied, and for now she’s neck-to neck with all the Republican contenders.
At the moment the polling suggests that presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden is slightly ahead of Trump in Kansas, which means he’ll need to spend time and money here that usually would have spent elsewhere, and with Texas and Florida and Arizona and Colorado and other once-reliable Republican states in play it could be a disaster for Trump and his Grand Old Party, even here in Kansas.

— Bud Norman

Three Cheers for the GOP’s “Human Scum”

Lately we’ve been binge-watching videos from both the Lincoln Project and Republican Voters Against Trump, as they make us feel lonely and give us hope that the Republican Party might eventually recover from President Donald Trump.
If you’re not familiar with either organization, you probably will be by Election Day. The Lincoln Project is a political action committee formed by some prominent Never Trump Republicans, including conservative lawyer George Conway, now best known as the husband of senior Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway, former managers of Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaigns Steve Schmidt and John Weaver, former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party Jennifer Horn, and former California Republican Party political director Mike Madrid. Republicans Voting Against Trump is a more grass roots organization posting videos of dozens of disillusioned rank-and-file Republicans explaining the conservative and Republican reasons they’ll be voting against Trump.
Both groups make a more persuasive case against Trump than anything the damn Democrats have come up with so far, and both are a problem for the president.
The well-funded Lincoln Project’s videos are very professionally produced by political professionals who know a thing or two about how to make an effective attack ad and can speak to Republicans in Republican language. Last time around Trump had the advantage of running against spineless Republicans who didn’t want to alienate his supporters during the primary, and then against an inept Democratic nominee whose long history prevented her from exploiting Trump’s moral weakness. This time around he’ll presumably be running against presumptive Democrat nominee “Sleepy” Joe Biden, whose blandness will contrast favorably with Trump’s overly energetic persona, and he’s also got to contend with some bare-knuckle political pugilists who won’t be intimidated by a “tweet.”
All the YouTube views being racked up the Republican Voters Against Trump should be more worrisome. They’re not at all slick, just ordinary-looking Republicans looking into a video camera and stating their reasons for voting against Trump. Most of them have stories about how they’ve been Republicans since Trump was a Democrat, several talk about their military service and careers in law enforcement and their time in public office as Republicans, others talk about their Christian faith and belief that character counts, and none of them come across as “human scum,” as Trump has called any Republicans who don’t support everything says and does. They talk about how Trump has abandoned traditional Republican positions on free trade and maintaining the alliances that have largely kept the world peaceful and prosperous since World War II and lowering federal deficits and telling the truth, and as they rack up thousands of “views” on the internet they’re bound to win over more Republicans.
With coronavirus cases spiking and unemployment at levels not seen since the Great Depression and peaceful protests and the occasional riot popping up around the country because of racial injustice, Trump is betting that his defense of the the lost cause of the Confederacy is the best thing he’s got going for him. That will appeal to a certain segment of supporters, but we can’t see how it will win him any new voters nor appease any of the disillusioned Republican voters who continue to believe in the Grand Old Party’s traditional-since-its-founding pro-Union stance.
Most Republicans still like Trump, which we attribute to the fact he’s the Republican nominee, like it or not, but all the polls show that party support slowly eroding. The Lincoln Project and Republican Voters Against Trump likely accelerate that trend, and Trump will be hard-pressed to recruit replacements.

— Bud Norman

Aging Politics in a Young Republic

Even by President Donald Trump’s debased standards, the speech he delivered on the Third of July at the base of Mount Rushmore was what President George W. Bush might call “some weird shit.”
Weird that he would use the occasion of a holiday intended to promote national unity by assailing not only the rioters and looters but also the vastly more numerous protestors objecting to the racism and police brutality that undeniably exists in our country. Weird that in a time when millions of Americans are sickened and tens of thousands of of them have died from a rampaging epidemic, and tens of millions of Americans are out of work as a result, and foreign adversaries from Russia to China to North Korea are exploiting America’s moment of distraction and weakness, he would identify the mostly peaceful domestic protestors against statues glorifying the Confederacy’s attempts to secede from the union as the the great threat to America’s existence as a Republic. Weird that Trump said those who disagreed with him want to “defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children,” and accuse of them of wanting to crush dissent and impose what he called “toe-tally-terry-tism.”
That mangled pronunciation of totalitarianism, along with the rest of the generally sloppy and slurry and low-energy reading of the speech, should be of greater to concern to Trump and his hard-pressed apologists. At one point in the speech, where he recounted America’s great military feats, he was caught on video saying that “in the jungles of Vietnam they delivered a swift and swiffying, you know that’s sweeping, it was swift and sweeping like nobody’s ever seen anything happen, a victory in Operation Desert Storm. A lot of you were involved in that, a lot of you were involved. That was a quick one.”
>We’re hopeful that Trump knows Operation Desert Storm wasn’t a swift and swiffying and sweeping victory in the Vietnam, War, and even some in “lame stream” “fake news” media who are always out to get Trump noted that if you read the speech there was a period and a pause between the part about Vietnam and the first Gulf War, but if you were listening to the speech as it was delivered rather than reading it as written it sure sounded like Trump thought that Operation Desert Storm was how America won a quick and sweeping victory in the jungles of Vietnam.
For all the late-night comics who revel in ridiculing the Trump it’s his greatest gift since said he talked about how the Continental Army, which was named after General George Washington, stormed the ramparts and seized the airports during the Revolutionary War, and other the rockets’ red glare over Fort McHenry, which happened in the war of 1812, “had nothing but victory.” We’re sure that Trump knows the Continental Army didn’t seize any airports during the Revolutionary War, although we’re not so sure he knows the difference between that war and the unpleasantness of 1812, and can believe that it was just another of those embarrassing misreadings of a teleprompter that might happen to anyone.
Still, that’s a problem for Trump. By nature he cannot admit making the sort of mistakes that might happen to anyone, and he clearly hopes to run for reelection on the argument that the gaffe-prone presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe is far less physically fit far and more senile than himself. Biden has lately been rising in the polls by mostly biding his time in his basement, occasionally reading carefully-written and mostly well-delivered speeches about national unity and such boilerplate blather, and following the public health guidelines and not making any conspicuous mistakes. Trump spent 15 minutes at his sparsely-attended and widely-panned rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, explaining why he walked so gingerly down a ramp because of his leather-soled shows and used to two hands to take a sip of water to avoid staining his silk tie at his West Point commencement speech, and letting Trump hog all the media seems a winning strategy for Biden.
Both septuagenarian options are older than any previous presidential nominees, both show it, and that is a matter of concern. So is the fact that the Congressional leadership of both parties is, to put it charitably, seasoned. As much as we value the wisdom of old age, and decry ageism, the years eventually take the same toll on the brain as the rest of the body. We’re a mere 60 years old, but have already noticed we don’t play speed chess at the far-above average level we used to, and when the country oldies station played “Oh, Lonesome Me” as we were driving around today it took as a frustrating minute or so to remember that it was the great Don Gibson singing it. Our parents are octogenarians who continue to acquire to wisdom every day, and we don’t hope to ever catch up with them, but both will wisely say they’re not up the rigors of the presidency.
Not a one of those many millions of young American whippersnappers out there have won their party’s heart, however, and on both sides they’re an uninspiring lot. We can’t identify any potentially earthshaking 40-somethings such as Republican Teddy Roosevelt or Democratic John Kennedy among them, and this time around no one dared challenge Trump for the Republican nomination the last Democrat standing and the darling of the youthful left was self-proclaimed socialist and Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is even older and crankier. Our generation has made quite a mess of things, but for now we’re the only options, and soon we’ll leave it to all those many millions of young whippersnappers out there to set things right. We wish them the best, and will be glad if we don’t live long enough to see how things turn out.

— Bud Norman

Happy Independence Day, Despite Everything

Independence Day has always been one of our favorite days of the year. It brings hot weather, fireworks, charcoals grilling beef, ice chests cooling beer, and a collective sense of the great feeling that comes from being a citizen of the United States of America. This Independence Day, though, will feel different.
This Independence Day comes as the country suffers daily record increases in coronavirus infections, even as the rest of the industrialized first world is seeing daily declines, which puts a damper on the usual Fourth of July festivities. Even in such stubbornly Republican and individualistic states as Kansas and Texas the citizenry will be compelled to wear face masks and stay six feet of social distance from one another in small gatherings. The unemployment rate has fallen to a still-appalling 11 percent, but filings for unemployment insurance have continued to grow and the recent spike in infections will surely slow any further economic recovery.
America’s undeniably imperfect history of providing equal justice and opportunity for all has also been much in the news lately, driven by both peaceful protests and violent riots, and that has doesn’t anything to lighten the national mood. A recent polls shows that pride in America has hit its lowest point in a century, global polls show the country’s standing with the rest of the world also plummeting, and based on what we can observe while staying mostly at home here in Wichita we’re inclined to believe it.
President Donald Trump will kick off the holiday today with fireworks and a fiery speech to the faithful at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, which might have seemed an anodyne act of patriotism is simpler times but these days creates several controversies. National Park Service experts and local fire marshals have warned Trump that the fireworks could cause a forest fire, which would be a metaphor for the Trump presidency that most of the media will not be able to resist, but Trump is willing to take his chances. Trump plans on having some 7,000 or so people in the audience, most of the presumably not wearing masks or standing six feet apart, but Trump is also willing to risk a viral wildfire.
Mount Rushmore is a stunning monument to four of America’s greatest presidents, so Trump also risks looking puny by comparison, but the sort of fiery speeches Trump likes to give are bound to create more controversy. The Native Americans who live in South Dakota still resent what they consider sacred land being taken by the United States of America, and having what they considered an especially sacred mountain carved up in the image of four white men, two of whom were slave-holders and none of which were very good friends to the Indians. It doesn’t help that admittedly ingenious sculptor who created it was a Ku Klux Klan member who also carved the Stone Mountain monument to the confederacy in Georgia.
An eloquent president with a nuanced understanding of how history fitfully proceeds might give a compelling speech about how despite its imperfections America has attained greatness, groping its way towards equal justice and opportunity and defeating the global threats of totalitarianism and helping the world prosper, and how the four imperfect men in the background helped lead this country in that noble direction, and then call for unity and shared sacrifice in this time of national crisis. We’re not holding out any hope that Trump will deliver that speech, however, and instead expect he’ll ad-lib himself into another divisive brouhaha.
Even though this will be a different Independence Day from any we remember, it’s still the Fourth of July, damn it, and we plan on charcoaled beef and ice cold deer and whatever contact we can responsibly have with our fellow citizens, and we’ll be watching the fireworks neighborhood kids are shooting off, and despite everything we’ll hold out hope for America.
We wish you all as happy an Independence Day as possible.

— Bud Norman

Holding Steady in Changing Winds

The state of Mississippi has removed a confederate symbol from its flag, the state of Oklahoma has voted to expand Medicaid coverage, Kansans are mostly willing to go along with mandatory face masks, and the latest polling also shows that such reliably Republican states as Georgia and North Carolina and Texas are up for grabs in the next presidential election. This should be frightening to President Donald Trump, but he’s still stubbornly defending the confederacy, trying to undo “Obamacare” and leave millions uninsured during a pandemic, and refusing to be seen in a face mask.
Trump has an undying faith in his gut instincts about public opinion, which made him a reality television star and somehow got him elected to the presidency despite losing the popular vote by some three million ballots, but his reelection strategy strikes us as counter-intuitive.
If the great state of Mississippi — or “Mississippi Goddamn,” as the great jazz singer Nina Simone called it — is abandoning the confederal cause, and so is the NASCAR stock car racing circuit and the Navy and Marines, we think that at long last the confederacy truly is a lost cause. There seems to be an emerging social consensus that black lives matter, and despite the sporadic violence that’s come of it Trump’s 1968-era “law and order” message isn’t playing well in 2020..
We had our clearly stated ideological objections to “Obamacare” when it barely won congressional approval and was signed into law, and to such big government programs in general, but at the moment even Oklahomans are wanting to expand health insurance to their fellow citizens. Trump promised to not only repeal “Obamacare” but replace it with something that would cover everybody at a greatly reduced cost, but he hasn’t announced it after three and a half years in office, and once again he seems out of step with these crazy times.
We hate wearing face masks as much as the next guy, and will miss the erotic frisson of full facial nudity, but the know-it-all experts say it will help us from getting infected and infecting others, so we’re willing to put up with it for a while. Even here in Kansas most of our fellow live-free-or-die citizens seem to agree, and we think there’s a chance the Democrats might pick up their firste Senate seat since the Great Depression. Trump moved the Republican convention from North Carolina to Florida because of face mask and social distancing rules, but Florida’s seen a very scary spike in coronavirus cases and now has similar rules, and Trump once again seems behind the news cycle.
Trump is still promising that the coronavirus will magically disappear, the economy will once again roar, and that America’s race problems can be “very quickly and easily solved,” but he only has four months to pull that off. Trump’s gut instincts not withstanding, it seems a risky strategy for reelection

— Bud Norman

On How Things are Going

Despite everything we still run into friends occasionally, and from a social distance we’ll ask how things are going for them. In most cases they shrug and tell us that they’re hanging in there, but we haven’t had anyone recently tell us that things are going great.
This admittedly anecdotal evidence is corroborated by a fresh poll from the Columbia Broadcasting System showing that only 5 percent of Americans say that things are going vey well for them. At this rate it will take us a while to ask 100 people how things are going, and if we find five among them who saying things are going very well we’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Pretty much everything is undeniably awful at the moment, after all, and only the luckiest 5 precent or so are having a good time. Coronavirus infections and COVID-19 deaths continue to mount at the fastest rate in the world, tens of millions of Americans are out of work as a result, people are once again bickering both peacefully and violently about race, there are no sports or campaign rallies to divert our attention, and around here it’s hotter than hell and theres’s even Saharan dust in the air.
Not all of this is President Donald Trump’s fault, of course, but everything seems to have gone to hell on his watch, which is how Trump judged all the previous presidents of his lifetime, and nobody seems to be “sick and tired of winning,” as Trump promised they would beat this point in his presidency. His boasts about “Only I can solve” and making America great again and building a big and beautiful wall across the southern border that Mexico would pay pay for haven’t been backed up. The budget deficit is up by trillions and trade deficits are up by billions, and Trump is boasting about how great things were last January and how great they will be when the coronavirus magically disappears before inauguration day next January,
We’ll see how it turns out, but Trump seems to be one of the 95 percent who don’t think things are going very well.

— Bud Norman<.

Full Facial Nudity is Banned in Kansas

Starting Friday, full facial nudity will no longer be allowed in Kansas, at least for the duration of the coronavirus problem. Gov. Laura Kelly has ordered that as of Friday all Kansans must wear face masks when in public, and it will be interesting to see how that turns out.
The measure is in response to a worrisome increase in the state’s coronavirus infections, especially here in mostly urban Sedgwick County and the suburban Kansas City counties to the northeast, but it’s also happening in the rural counties, which are sparsely populated and as always socially-distanced but have an average age over 65 and scant medical care, so any outbreak would be disastrous. Despite such compelling public health arguments, however, we expect that Kelly will face some harsh criticism.
Kansans tend to have an instinctive sense of civic duty, and come together in a crisis and fill sandbags in times of flooding and refrain from tossing cigarettes out of a car window during times of drought and tak\e up arms in time of war, but otherwise they tend to follow Walt Whitman’s advice to “resist much, obey little,” and don’t care for being told what to do. Which Kansas instinct prevails remains to be seen, but it surely won’t be a unanimous decision around here.
Here, as everywhere else in America, people tend to disregard the arguments and choose sides based on their previous political affiliations. Our liberal Democratic friends all agree that wearing a face mask is the least you can do for your fellow citizens, and far less onerous than what previous generations of civic-minded Kansans have one, but when our President Donald Trump-loving conservative Republican friends complain that wearing a mask in public very much sucks they also make an undeniably damned good point.
To fully confess to any revolutionary cadres out there, we’ve rarely worn a mask when buying beer and other essential groceries over the past many interminable months. We wore one to a small town Church of Christ funeral, where about a third of the mourners wore masks, but only on a couple of other occasions. In our beer and grocery shopping and other occasional appearances in public at an outdoor coffee shop and a beer joint with a small client tell and spacious patio seating, we’ve noticed that only about a third of our fellow citizens have been wearing face masks. We expect that percentage will go up when it becomes mandatory, but don’t anticipate full compliance. It might turn out to be the most widely broken law around here since Prohibition or the 55 mile per hour speed limit.
There’s also a chance it will redound to those liberals’ benefit. This coronavirus problem is undeniably serious, even so serious that the Trump-loving Republican governors of Florida and Texas are bringing back economic restrictions in response to recent worrisome spikes, and the Vice President and Republican Senate majority are urging Americans to wear face masks in public. Even in this traditionally Republican state our Democratic governor won handily against and a very-very-Trump-loving Republican just two years ago and won’t have to run again for another two years, by which time she might look both courageous and smart, and Trump might be long gone. Trump moved the Republican convention from Asheville, N.C, because to Jacksonville, Fla., because of Asheville’s coronavirus regulations, Jacksonville is adopting stricter coronavirus restrictions, and that’s embarrassing.
At this point there’s really no telling how Kelly’s executive order will be enforced, and what legal authority counties have the rights to countermand it, and what the cops can do about it, although she promises explanations about that by Thursday. If the inevitable court battles result in the counties getting their way, the Sedgwick County Commission, mostly comprised of the Wichita metropolitan area, which is currently seeing a worrisome rise in coronavirus cases, would probably vote to damn the face masks and full go speed ahead. The lone hold-out against and pro-business consensus for ignoring the coronavirus is a tattooed folk-singing single mom who represents our inordinately homosexual and lesbian and atypically liberal district of the county.
Once again we’re sitting on the political sidelines with no rooting interest in any of the players. We recognize the dangers of the coronavirus, but damn how we hate wearing those damn masks, and instinctively hate bossy government, and miss enjoying full facial nudity. We don’t regret that we voted for that Democratic governor or that hippy-dippy County Commissioner, and starting Friday we’ll comply with the face mask rule, and hating every moment of it and wondering whom to blame, and keep hoping that curve i flattened and eventually the center will hold and something like normalcy will eventually be restored.

— Bud Norman

Freddy Cole, RIP

For reasons we cannot explain we’ve long been fascinated by the famous people who were overshadowed by an even more famous people. Our two brothers have certain talents we do not possess, but not to the extent we ever felt overshadowed, so that can’t explain our affinity for all those less-famous siblings.
Bob Crosby’s Bobcats was a popular and top-notch if slightly outdated dixieland jazz band during the swing era, but he was never as famous as his brother Bing. Dom DiMaggio was an outstanding pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, but his brother Joe won championships with the New York Yankees and was by far the bigger star. Warren “Baby” Dodds is regarded as the first great jazz drummer, but he was always called “Baby” because his older brother Johnny is regarded as the first great jazz clarinetist. Here in Kansas you’ll see roads and buildings named for Milton Eisenhower, well regarded as president of Kansas State University and two other institutions of higher learning, but his brother Dwight was President of the United States. Liza Minelli and Betty Hutton and June Carter all had sisters who were so talented it’s a shame they’re largely overlooked.
We were reminded of this by an obituary in the Washington Post for Freddy Cole, who died Saturday at the age of 88. You’ve probably never heard of him, but he was a terrific jazz and soul and standards singer and pianist, and he was very popular in some unlikely foreign markets and managed to live comfortably off his talents over many decades, even though he never achieved the fame of older brother Nat “King” Cole.
Nat “King” Cole was one of the all the time greats, especially with his jazz trio but also with all the heavily-arranged pop stuff that made him rich, but his younger brother was pretty damn good. At first the younger brother was satisfied that his all-state status playing high school basketball surpassed what his brother had done on the athletic fields, but after an injury he decided to go with his musical talent. Freddy Cole was 12 years younger than Nat Cole, and by the time he started his musical career the older brother was the first black man to host a national television show and one of the most popular singers in the world, which didn’t do the younger brother much good.
Freddy Cole had a gorgeous voice and smooth piano patter similar to his older brother, but he mostly resisted the club owners and record producers who wanted him to cover the songs and imitate the style of Nat’s records. He had a bluesier sound than his brother, informed by a dozen years of musical trends trending toward to soul music, and it kept him steadily employed at fancy nightclubs and dives and honky-tonks. Along the way he had some regional hits, and was briefly a big deal in Brazil. When he turned 60, decades after his brother’s premature death, he started to get some recognition, racking up major label deals and several grammy nominations.
Freddy Cole left us on Saturday with an impressive body of work, even if you’ve never heard of him, and we think Nat “King” Cole would have been proud of his kid brother.

— Bud Norman

America Persists

Despite the coronavirus pandemic and the second Great Depression and all the protests and occasional rioting for social justice that’s been going on lately, Thursday was a pretty good day for us. The weather here in Wichita was sunny and hot, as we like it, and we got insurance for the brand new used car we boought the other day, which isn’t a convertible but is an immaculate six-year-9ld car with only 60,000 or miles at a very good price from trusted friends, and we took care of a trash payment that kept getting rejected, and we had a nice chat at Kirby’s Beer Store with some old and valued friends,
All in all it was a pretty good day, until we got home and started reading and hearing the news. The coronavirus is as bad as ever, the economy is not the best anybody ever’s seen an economic revival seems months away, and the racism causing the protests and riots seems likely to linger for a while.Try as we might, can’t find any good news in the news.
Which is no reason, we’ve found, why you shouldn’t have a nice day despite everything. That’s what we wish for all of you on this dismal Friday.

— Bud Norman