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Those Thai Kids are Safe, and We Hold Out Hope for the Rest of Us

Tuesday’s news was full of the usual worrisome developments, but at least those dozen Thai boys and their soccer coach were at long last rescued from that awful cave they’ve been trapped in since June 23, which gave us a hopeful feeling about all the rest of it.
In case you’ve been trapped in a cave of your own for the past few weeks, the youth soccer team and its coach went on a routine spelunking adventure but found themselves trapped beneath a mountain when an unexpected torrential rain storm flooded all the exit routes. Nine days passed before a SCUBA-diving rescue crew could find them hungrily huddled in an improbable air pocket, a seeming miracle that was broadcast around the world by waterproof television cameras, but even then it seemed another 13miracles would be required for all of them to get out alive. More torrential rains made it difficult to bring food and oxygen to the unlikely survivors, a brave Thai naval frogman and former Buddhist monk died in the effort, and getting them all through the tunnels filled with muddy water and back to safety seemed impossible.
All of which made for compelling television around the world, even though the realists and fatalists among us figured all along that this hit reality show would end tragically for everyone involved. Four of the children were eventually rescued and rushed to hospitals by heroic methods a few days ago, though, and another four were treated to the same action-adventure movie heroics the next day, but it wasn’t until Tuesday that the rescuers beat the torrential rains and rescued the final four players and the 25-year-old coach who had bravely volunteered to be the last one out, and only then did such such realistic and fatalistic sorts as ourselves breath a sigh of a relief that miracles do indeed happen and that some times they even come in bunches of 14 or more.
The ingenious and heroic exploits of the rescuers make for a riveting based-on-a-true-story action adventure movie that will surely be coming soon to a theater near you, and there are all sorts of feel-good subplots to the story. Thailand’s dubious government came through for those poor kids and and their soccer coach, and an entire world offered its sympathy and help. Even President Donald Trump took time out from his “America First” agenda to “tweet” his sympathy and offer some American help that proved somewhat useful, but it was the brave and ingenious Thai and more nearby Australian and British divers who pulled off the miracle, and in a rare moment of global unity everyone everywhere celebrated the feat.
Despite our realistic and fatalistic sensibilities, it reaffirms our religious faith in miracles and bolsters our hope that the rest of the news might also turn out more or less well. Here’s hoping that all those Thai kids and their selfless soccer coach lead long and satisfactory lives, and that so do the rest of us.

— Bud Norman

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Winning Friends and Influencing People, Trump Style

Some people voted for President Donald Trump because of his speak-first-and-think-later style, on the theory that all those carefully worded opinions that politicians tend to offer had led only to American carnage so surely some crazed off-the-cuff bluster would set things right, but we suspect that most of the people who voted for him did so in spite of it lest Hillary Clinton win. The prospect of a Clinton presidency remains horrifying, but Thursday offered reminders of how very bad the choices were in the last election.
The National Prayer Breakfast was awful enough, with Trump using the solemn occasion to get a couple of childish digs in against former action movie star and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s low-ratings on the “Apprentice” reality show that made the future president a national celebrity after years of New York tabloid fame. Except for making the President of the United States look petty and vain it didn’t do much harm, and the ongoing feud might help goose the ratings for a show he retains an executive producer credit on, but his reportedly testy telephone conversation with the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is more worrisome.
Those reports suggest that Trump spent much of the call boasting in exaggerated terms about his election victory, then went sour when the talk turned to a deal that President Barack Obama had negotiated for America to take in 1,250 middle eastern refugees being held in Australian detention centers, and ended with Trump angrily telling Turnbull that it was the worst conversation he’d had with a foreign leader all day and then abruptly ending it less than halfway through the time that had been scheduled. Spokespeople for both leaders insisted it had all been very cordial and productive, but the reports from multiple media had multiple sources at both ends, the part about Trump’s exaggerated boasting seems altogether believable given his recent on-the-record and on-video speeches, numerous Republican officials did feel obliged to go on the record about their support for Australia, and the “tweet” Trump issued right afterward about the “dumb deal” lend further credence to the reporting, as does pretty much the entirety of Trump’s career.
The deal that Obama negotiated regarding the refugees is arguably dumb, as so many of Obama’s deals were, but given that it only involved 1,250 people, not the 2,000 that Trump claims, and that the agreement also allowed for American officials to screen out the riskier sorts, we can’t see how it’s dumber than giving offense to an Australian Prime Minister and all the people Australians who elected him. America’s friendship with Australia has included their stalwart support through two world wars and a cold war and the hotter wars in Korea and Vietnam and the more recent battles against radical Islam in Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria, and it makes an American president look vain and petty to cut short a conversation about such a relatively trivial matter. Despite the name Turnbull’s Liberal Party is the Australian counterpart of America’s Republican party, too, and undermining him helps the more anti-American opposition in the same way that Trump’s gruff approach to the Mexican President Pena Nieto helps the far-left Marxist who is lately rising in the polls. It might make Trump look tough to those who voted for him because of his talk-first-and-think-later style, but at this point the rest of the world’s opinion also matters.
No matter how dumb the refugee deal might have been it was an agreement that a longtime friend made with a duly-elected American government, too, and Trump’s penchant for suggesting that such agreements won’t survive our quadrennial elections can’t give his future negotiating partners much long-term faith in what he might come up with. The allies we’ve had in Europe through two world wars and a cold war and the more recent conflicts are already worried about his talk about not honoring the North Atlantic Treaty Organizations that have been so essential to the world’s relative peace and prosperity over the past 70 years, and an unnecessary spat with such a reliable ally as Australia over such a small matter as 1,250 refugees we’re allowed to vet will not be reassuring.

— Bud Norman

Friends and Enemies and Their Proper Treatment

There was little mention of it in the American press, which was understandably preoccupied with the the president’s executive orders regarding illegal immigration and the upcoming race riot in Missouri and other pressing domestic matters, but last week President Barack Obama thoroughly annoyed Australia.
En route back from China’s Asia-Pacific conference, where he’d grandly announced a deal with the host country that would reduce America’s carbon emissions in exchange for a guffawed promise that in 16 years the Chinese would consider doing the same pointless damage to their own economy, Obama stopped his jetliner in Australia to continue his efforts against anthropogenic global warming. During a speech in Brisbane that was added at the last minute to the president’s schedule he made repeated references to climate change, spoke in worried tones about the ecological health of the Great Barrier Reef, and.seemed to criticize Australia for inefficient use of energy. Australians, the vast majority of whom recently voted in a conservative government because of the depressing economic effects of the previous government’s cap-and-trade policies, and who have taken expensive steps to ensure the ecological health of the Great Barrier Reef, and whose fondness for their freedom of mobility around their vast empty country can only be explained by the “Mad Max” movies, understandably took it as an insult. One of the big Australian newspapers found that the American embassy staff had advised against the speech, reported that the Australian Prime Minister and other officials were not given the usual diplomatic courtesy of an advance copy, and noted that “Historians of the US-Australia relationship are unable to nominate a case of a visiting president making such a hostile speech for the host government.”
Such disrespect for America’s most stalwart allies has been a consistent trait of the Obama administration. It started with his decision to return a bust of Sir Winston Churchill to Great Britain and honor its queen with an I-pod full of his own speeches, then went on with the reneging on a missile defense deal with Poland and the Czech Republic, continued through the undiplomatic treatment and anonymously foul-mouthed descriptions of Israel’s Prime Minister, and is still playing out over the XL Keystone Pipeline and a conspicuously nit-picky enforcement of the norther border and other petty issues with Canada, among numerous other examples. The “open hands” and “reset buttons” have been reserved for such adversaries as the Iranians and Russians, who have benefitted greatly such friendliness while offering little in return but bomb-making and land-grabbing trouble, which seems a peculiar way to conduct a foreign policy.
At this late point in his presidency, however, Obama seems to care little about public opinion in any country except perhaps the ones where he hopes to redistribute the west’s wealth. The same cap-and-trade policies that the Australians rejected were also rejected by America’s Congress even when Nancy Pelosi was Speaker of the House and Harry Reid controlled a supermajority in the Senate, but Obama continues to impose as much of them as he can through executive action. The long delays in construction of the XL Keystone Pipeline that are infuriating the Canadian government are also infuriating the American public, but expect a veto that will bring at least another two year’s delay. An executive order to stop enforcing America’s immigration laws for an estimated five million illegal aliens is proving so widely unpopular that even such formerly steadfast supporters as the black American punditry and the “Saturday Night Live” writing staff are critical, but he seems ready to defend it to the point of a politically advantageous government shutdown. If the Australians feel insulted by the president’s blatant disregard for their opinions, at least they have some idea how Americans feel.

— Bud Norman

The Climate and the Political Climate

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

— Bud Norman

O Canada

We’re old enough to have been around when Pierre Trudeau was transforming Canada into the one of the world’s wussiest nations, and well remember how very envious was the American left. Trudeau was unabashedly socialist, considered an intellectual, and had a tabloid-worthy sex life, so he embodied everything Americans liberals would be looking for in a national leader over the subsequent decades. Even after Trudeau’s disastrous reign came to an end Canada retained a reputation for enlightened liberalism, with its health care system and gun-shyness and apologetic foreign policy and exquisitely sensitive multi-culturalism constantly cited by the likes of Michael Moore to shame the relatively conservative rubes south of its border.
We’re also old enough, alas, to have arrived at a point in our lives when we’re pining for the sort of national leadership that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is now providing Canada. The sobering thought occurred to us again when Harper released a statement of unequivocal support for Israel’s right to respond however it wishes to the murderous rocket attacks on its people by the despicable terror gang Hamas, with none of the absurd moral relativism or bossy insistence on a suicidal two-state solution with a Hamas-affiliated government that our own abashedly socialist and considered-an-intellectual national leader was propounding in an op-ed piece in an Israeli magazine just before the latest attacks by that very same despicable terror gang starting lobbing rockets at civilian targets across Israel. Admitting the wisdom of the Canadian way is still uncomfortable for us, but it’s becoming all too familiar.
Harper is also quite right about the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would benefit both Canada and America and keep inexpensive oil out of the hands of Chinese industries that will use it in more environmentally unfriendly ways, but our political leadership is too beholden to environmental fantasists to allow it. Canada’s economy was largely unscathed by the financial meltdown that occurred in America and elsewhere because it had wisely declined to require its banks to loan gazillions of dollars to un-creditworthy home buyers, has further enriched itself under Harper’s leadership by encouraging rather than discouraging the exploitation of its vast natural resources through new technologies, and is now several spots ahead of the United States on the Heritage Foundation’s reliable rankings of each country’s economic freedom. Harper has even begun an anti-carbon tax coalition with the conservative government of Australia, which came to power after the liberals’ insane cap-and-trade scheme proved calamitous for that island continent’s economy, and it’s almost enough to make us think that punting on third down isn’t such a bad idea.
One of those famously smart French intellectuals is warning Britons that the European Union is demographically dying and they’d be better off casting their lot with the Anglosphere, which strikes us as good advice, but for the first time in our long lives we don’t expect for the Americans to take their usual lead in that coalition. Perhaps in another two-and-a-half years the United States can assume its rightful position among that handful of nations that the only ones to be on the right side of every battle against tyranny during the 20th Century, but until then we can only envy the leadership to the north. There’s some consolation is knowing that the once-envious liberals are just as discombobulated by it all, but it is faint.

— Bud Norman

A Murder in Oklahoma

A young man was senselessly shot and killed Tuesday in small town Oklahoma, and yet another racial controversy has followed.
The usual admonitions about the questionable reliability of early press reports and the presumption of innocence are hereby made, but the known facts of the case are sufficient to provoke an emotional debate. Christopher Lane, a handsome and by all accounts likeable 22-year-old who was attending Oklahoma’s East Central University on a baseball scholarship, was shot in the back while jogging in a well-to-do neighborhood of his girlfriend’s hometown of Duncan. A short time later three teenagers were arrested for the crime, and police say that one confessed they had committed the murder with the explanation that it was done “for fun” to relieve the boredom of their last days of summer vacation.
As horrific as the crime and its shocking motive might be, the story would probably have never been heard of outside south-central Oklahoma if not for the fact that Lane is from Melbourne, Australia, and the papers there regard such a murder as big news. The angle there is America’s murderous culture, of course, and the Australian media seem as eager as their American counterparts to exploit any story that will advance the cause of draconian gun control. America’s difficult race relations are apparently of less interest to the Australian media, but neither are they bound by the rules of racial etiquette that prevail in American newsrooms and the reports all included photographs revealing that Lane is white and two of his three alleged killers are black.
The race of the victim and his alleged killers might or might not have anything to do with the murder, but most American media are disinclined to report on any crime involving white victims and black perpetrators. Matt Drudge of the Drudge Report seems to relish such stories, however, and trumpeted his links to the Australian news reports with a banner headline. The Drudge Report has more readers than all the famous American newspapers put together, and is therefore hated by the mainstream American media with a especially intense passion, so its interest in Lane’s death has forced it into the national conversation. Such reliably liberal commentators as MSNBC’s Piers Morgan have quickly seized on the murderous culture and draconian gun control angle, while others have hewed to the usual rules and either left out the racial identifications or ignored the story altogether, but the more daringly conservative outlets have addressed the racial aspects of the story with a startling frankness.
This reaction was quite predictable in the wake of months of relentless coverage of the trial of George Zimmerman for shooting Tryon Martin in far away in Florida, which was widely portrayed in the media and by prominent politicians as a typical case of a racist white man gunning down an unarmed black teenager in murderous America with its insanely permissive gun laws. That trial ended with an acquittal after evidence clearly demonstrated Zimmerman, who is mostly Hispanic and a former Bema supporter, was being severely beaten by Martin, who turned out to be something less than the angelic child in the years-old photographs that routinely accompanied the stories, and since then press critics have been waiting for the chance to see how the press might cover a story with less promising racial implications. They might have expected that they would see the story of an law-abiding man being killed at random by people flouting the guns laws as further proof that more laws are needed for the law-abiding to abide by, just as they had seen the case of a law-abiding man protecting himself from a potentially deadly assault as proof that more guns laws are needed for the law-abiding to abide by, but Lane’s death still provides an irresistible opportunity to expose the hypocrisy.
Those critics have a point, given that black-on-white violence is eight times more common than white-on-black violence yet receives far less attention from the media, and in the case of Lane’s tragic death there are early indications that race might have played a deadly role. The first thing a reporter in the modern age does when reporting on a crime is to check the social media postings of the suspects, and in this case they reveal two young men steeped in the violent ghetto sub-culture with an unabashed hatred of white people. Both of the suspects had posted pictures of themselves in gang paraphernalia and flashing gang signs as well as various firearms, and one “tweeted” a claim that “90% of white people are nasty” and a boast that he had “knocced out 5 woods since Zimmerrman court!” For those unfamiliar with the latest slang, “knocced” is a spelling of “knocked” that employs a popular signature of the Crips street gang, and “woods” is an abbreviation of “peckerwoods,” a racial slur against white people. The reference to “Zimmerman court” should be self-explanatory.
Some good might come of this if the story forces a frank acknowledgement of the violent sub-culture that has affected far too many young black men and women, and mitigates some of the hysteria that shows up in the “tweets” of accused murderers in the wake of the relentless hyping of the Zimmerman trial. If the story reminds America that the last notable murder of an Australian occurred during the Crown Heights riots in Brooklyn, when the eminently respectable Rev. Al Sharpton whipped the mob into such a frenzy that Yeshiva student Yankel Rosenbaum was stabbed by a man who would later be acquitted by a sympathetic jury, all the better. It will be of little comfort, however, to those who knew and loved Christopher Lane. Whatever the facts of his tragic death, we can only hope that there will be some measure of justice to comfort his loved ones.

— Bud Norman