A Presidential Conspiracy Theory

President Donald Trump frequently “tweets” up a distracting news cycle’s worth of controversy, most of which are best ignored, but the latest brouhaha seems more consequential and worth considering.
By now you’ve probably seen the videotape of two policemen at the front of a phalanx of riot-gear-clad officers descending on a protest demonstration in Buffalo, New York, pushing a 75-year-old protester onto the sidewalk, then all of the officers walking past the man’s prone body as he bled from the ear. Most viewers see a shocking example of the sort of police brutality that was being protested, but Trump saw it differently. He tweeted that “Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur. 75 year old Martin Gugino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment. @OANN I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?”
Which we find troubling for several reasons.
To begin with, it’s worrisome that a president of the United States could could even entertain such fanciful conjecture. The idea that a septuagenarian with a decades-long history of peaceful protesting intentionally injured himself to an extent that he required days hospitalization in hopes that someone was videotaping it to make the cops look bad is far-fetched enough. That he was using what looks to be his self phone to knock out police communications to knock out police communications is all the more implausible.
Trump apparently got such outlandish ideas by watching a report on the America One News Network, an obscure television outlet that has won Trump’s affection with its sycophantic coverage of his administration, which in turn got the scoop from Conservative Treehouse, an even more obscure internet site that traffics in wild conspiracy theories, which in turn got the idea from some anonymous poster on some even more obscure conspiracy theory message board. That a president of the United States is getting his information from such dubious sources is another matter of concern.
The evidence-free allusion to antifa is also worrying. Trump had previously tried to blame the rioting and looting and other mayhem that has occurred during the recent protests on antifa, and even tweeted that he would have it designated a “terrorist organization.” So far as we can tell from reading a wide variety of usually reliable sources, antifa isn’t an organization at all, just a catchall phrase for the pathetic left-wing punks who like to show up at demonstrations and brawl on the streets with any pathetic “alt-right” punks who might also be itching for a fight. We dislike the people calling themselves antifa, and consider them a public nuisance, but we don’t worry they’re much of a threat to the republic, and find no evidence that they’re responsible for any of the rioting and looting and arson that’s lately occurred.
We’re more convinced by the evidence that “alt-right” internet trolls have been instigating trouble to make the protesters look bad, but we don’t care to traffic in conspiracy theories. The mass demonstrations that have sprung up around the country and across the world aren’t because of any conspiracy, as even the most cunning conspiracists couldn’t pull that off, but rather are the result of many, many years of legitimate grievances culminating in an understandable rage. If the president of the United States can’t see that, and prefers to speculate without evidence that an American citizen is part of a criminal conspiracy, that’s more alarming than anything he might “tweet.”

— Bud Norman

Trump and Twitter and the Truth

President Donald Trump is known for using Twitter to hurl insults and accusations at his political opponents, and now he’s feuding with Twitter itself. Which makes for an interesting feud, and raises some important questions.
The social media platform has lately appended warnings to two of Trump’s recent “tweets” about the dangers of voting by mail, directing readers to stories by the Cable News Network and the Washington Post and The Hill and other sources, which prompted Trump to “tweet” that Twitter “is now interfering in the 2020 presidential election. They are saying my statement about Mail-In ballots, which will lead to massive corruption and fraud, is incorrect, based on fact-checking by Fake News CNN and the Amazon Washington Post.” Twitter has also apologized to the family of a woman Trump has repeatedly “tweeted” was possibly murdered by cable news host and frequent critic Joe Scarborough, although it hasn’t deleted or added any warnings to any of the apparently baseless claims.
Twitter and Facebook and all the other social media have long allowed users to promulgate all sorts of patently false propaganda, but have lately made promises to crack down on that, which has led to a public debate about free speech in the internet age. Twitter and Facebook and all the other social media are now an important part of the public square, where the soap box orators go to express whatever crackpot opinions they might have, and Trump’s supporters share his “tweeted” concern that “the Radical Left is in total command of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google.”and they fear for their free speech rights.
We have liberal friends who contend they’ve had Facebook posts deleted because of all the right-wingers running the company, though, and our old-fashioned and pre-Trump conservative instinct is to side with the right of any company to conduct its business in any that doesn’t present a clear danger to the public. Every print publication we ever worked for retained its right not to publish what we wrote, and although they occasionally did so we were annoyed but never felt we’d been deprived of our rights in any meaningful way, and we occasionally decline to publish some of the asinine comments we get in our small portion of the internet public square.
The internet is still a giant free-for-all, and if any Trump conservatives or pre-Trump conservatives or Trump-hating liberals or white supremacists or communist revolutionaries don’t like it they can still find a space on the infinite internet. It’s so easy, in fact, that even such Luddites as ourselves figured out how to do it. There are still the mimeograph machines that the lunatic fringes of the left and and right used to use, too. You can still compete in the marketplace of ideas, and see how you fare.
>President Donald Trump is President of the United States of America, so he needn’t worry that people won’t hear what he has to say. They’ll also hear what other people have to say, but as much as Trump hates that it’s just another peril of being president in a constitutional republic that allows a free press and free speech, so he needs to come up with more persuasive arguments. Which raises an even more interesting and troubling question for us, which is why Trump daily “tweets” the most embarrassingly misspelled and grammatically incorrect and provably dishonest and undeniably vulgar and unbecoming of his high office things?
The Washington Post and CNN and The Hill and those other fact-checkers have the better case about mail-in voting, which Trump himself and all the military deployed overseas and millions of other Americans have long used, but at least we can understand his political reasons for opposing it. Why he’s taking to Twitter to accuse a “low-rated” cable morning show host of murdering an aide nearly two decades ago seems inexplicable.
If you haven’t been following this sordid subplot of the Trump reality show, Trump is “tweeting” about the 2001 death of Laurie Klausutis, who was working for then-Rep. Joe Scarborough in his central Florida office, where she died of a head wound. A coroner’s report found that she fainted from an undiagnosed heart condition and suffered a fatal blow, Scarborough was in Washington at the time, and the police found new evidence of foul play. Scarborough was a Republican know for his tight-fisted fiscal conservatusm, however, and such loony lefties as Michael Moore spun conspiracy theories that Scarborough murdered her to cover their illicit affair. Because there was absolutely no proof for any of it, the theory faded away until Trump revived it.
Does Trump believe that this will win him any new votes in his reelection campaign? There’s a coronavirus pandemic and a Great Depression going on at the moment, and most people have more pressing concerns than age-old loony left conspiracy theories revived by Trump about a morning show host that he derides for having poor ratings. To the extent that people do follow the story, they’ll likely conclude that Trump is crazy. Trump fans will be satisfied that at least he fights, but they wouldn’t have noticed that he didn’t make any baseless charges of murder against low-rated cable news critic, and we can’t see how any way this furthers a political agenda to make America great again or expands that base.
We’ll all see how it plays out, and in the meantime we’ll continue to take our place on the soap box in this thing portion of the internet’s public square and fail against the way things are.

— Bud Norman

On a Stormy Day at Home

Stuck at home on a cold and stormy Kansas day, we spent most of it reading the news. Needless to say, it did not cheer us up.
Turning to Facebook, which is the closest thing we have to hanging out with friends, we found some of nutty right wing friends recommending the latest conspiracy theory video and insisting that the coronavirus death toll is being grossly exaggerated if not entirely fabricated to further a left-wing “deep state” plot to keep everyone at home. They’re all avid supporters of President Donald Trump, so we wonder if they’re disappointed that their hero hasn’t yet thwarted this dastardly plot and locked up the conspirators, but for now they don’t say and we don’t dare ask.
One day Trump will tout the strict guidelines his administration came up with for easing the emergency restrictions, the next day he’ll be “tweeting” his encouragement to states to reopen businesses, and when he’s not vacillating between the positions he’s blaming China and President Barack Obama and distracting Democratic oversight hearings for the problem, and noting that things could be worse. What he hasn’t done, so far at least, is embrace the conspiracy theory that most of the executive branch of the federal government he’s in charge of, including the expert scientists Trump has praised and allowed to speak freely, are carrying out the most elaborate conspiracy in the history of conspiracies.
We also have many friends who are pretty loony left, but for now even the looniest of them are sounding compartively sane. They’re all posting words of encouragement to keep up the social distancing and hand-washing and face-masking-wearing to fight what they perceive as a major public health crisis, and we give them credit for posting ample amounts of information from credible sources to refute the conspiracy theories coming from sources of very dubious repute. They have their own theories that Trump has underestimated the threat posed by the coronavirus and is urging a premature return to business as usual for purely self-interested political reasons, but damn it, we find it harder to argue that.
One of our loony left friends is a very gentle and generous and loving soul but possibly the looniest of them all, and she’s still siding with Trump’s endorsement of hydroxychloroquine even after Trump and his allies on Fox News and talk radio have abandoned the cause, but we noticed all the comments tried to dissuade her and had ample amounts of information from credible sources. We were surprised to see a couple of liberal friends charge that there is a plot to create a false crisis and keep us all at home, but that Trump is in on it, but most on the left prefer the theory that the crisis is real and Trump has failed to adequately respond.
In a rare non-coronavirus story, charges against former Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn were dropped by the Department of Justice. What one makes of that is also determined by whether he’s looking at it from the right or the left. If you’re on the overwhelming majority of what’s now the right that supports Trump no matter what it’s a victory for justice, a happy case of a solid soldier and good man prevailing over false accusations wrought by President Barack Obama’s conspiracy with corrupt federal officials to bring down Trump. If you’re on the left, it’s a case of a man who had already pleaded guilty to lying to public officials and was getting money as a lobbyist from Turkey while he advised the president on foreign getting a get-out-of-jail card from a politicized Trump Justice Department.
The other non-coronavirus news that penetrated the front pages and was talk of our Facebook friends circle was that two man have been charged for the murder of a 25-year-old man named Ahmoud Arbery in Georgia. Arbery is black, the two men charged with his murder are white, and as always in America that matters.
By all accounts so far Arbery was an average unarmed American guy with no criminal record out for his daily 2 mile jog when he was gunned down on an empty stretch of road between a forest. The two men charged with his murder are an ex-sheriff and his son, who by all accounts roamed the roads as an unofficial patrol, and there’s video that’s surfaced of them confronting Arbery as a burglary suspect and Arbery being subsequently shot, which after more than two weeks led to the arrest of the two men after two local district attorneys recused themself an the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over.
The left is calling it another example of America’s racist strain, and rightly so, but the right isn’t disputing that. Georgia’s Republican governor praised the GBI’s work, Trump said that Arbery’s death was “a very sad thing,” and no one we know is posting any offensive “memes” about Arbery’s deaths. Our diverse group of black friends often have diverse opinions about the topics of the day, but they all share the same worry that Arbery won’t get justice in an American court, and we try to reassure them that this time will be one of the many times justice has prevailed in America.
Perhaps the worst thing we hate about the Trump era even before all this coronavirus catastrophe is how often find ourselves siding with those damned Democrats we’ve been squabbling with for years, since way back when Trump was a Democrat. At this peculiar moment in history we find ourselves stuck at home and on the political sidelines, our only rooting interest being our hope the center somehow holds. We hopefully retain some hope in the principles and the institutions and American spirit that have somehow guided this nation toward greatness through hard times, no matter what sort of corrupt and incompetent officials had been elected to high office.

— Bud Norman

Saving Dr. Fauci

In one of the many depressing stories about the coronavirus, we read that Dr. Anthony Fauci now requires an enhanced security detail due to several death threats against him. As the government’s top expert on infectious is perhaps America’s most essential worker at the moment, but his willingness to present hard facts and occasionally contradict President Donald Trump’s statements seems to have some provoked a murderous rage in some deranged individuals.
They’ve been encouraged by some of the Trump-friendly media, who believe that the measures Fauci has advocated to fight the coronavirus outbreak cause harm to the economy that outweighs the number of lives they might save. They also believe that Fauci isn’t helping to get Trump reelected, and that also outweighs the number of lives that might saved.
The cache of e-mails that were hacked from the Democratic National Committee and leaked to the public during the last election included a missive from Fauci praising Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, and although Fauci has served every administration since President Ronald Reagan brought him on board that was enough for internet publications such as Gateway Pundit and American Thinker to tar him as a Hillary-loving partisan. His long and distinguished career as a public servant are considered suspect in certain circles, as it suggests he part of the “deep state” conspiracy against Trump and everything good. When Trump referred to the State Department as the “Deep State Department” during a press briefing Fauci could be seen slapping his forehead, and that was proof of his complicity to a number of viewers.
The Trump-friendly made a general distrust of scientific experts, as well, as they’re seen as pointy-headed know-it-all “elites” undermining democracy. As recently as last week radio-talker Rush Limbaugh was advising his listeners that “the ‘deep state’ extends very deeply, we did not elect a bunch of health experts that we don’t know. We didn’t elect a president to defer to a bunch of health experts that we don’t know.”
Trump has lately begun striking the same somber tone and citing the same grim projections as Fauci, though, and seems to be taking Fauci’s advice more seriously than he does Limbaugh’s. We hope the Trump-friendly media will lighten up, and that Fauci survives not only the coronavirus but also the result craziness.

— Bud Norman

The Debacle in Iowa

This was supposed to be an analysis of the results of the Iowa Caucus, which officially kicks off the Democratic presidential primary race, but it’s getting very late and no results are yet available. The Iowa Democratic Party blames the delay on “quality checks” to clear up “inconsistencies.”
Which is pretty damned embarrassing for the Iowa Democratic Party, which be able to pull off its quadrennial big event by now. Given the political paranoia of the moment, on the other hand, we can understand why the the party would rather slow and safe than hasty and perhaps sorry. Four years former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton beat Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders by a razor thin margin in the caucus, close enough to leave some Sanders supporters convinced the vote had been rigged.
Sanders’ supporters were right that the state national party establishments preferred Clinton, and they were right that game was rigged with “super delegates” who earned a vote at the convention with their party credentials. Clinton wound up winning a slight majority of the votes cast in the primaries and caucuses, but Sanders’ famously ardent admirers are still seething. As the Republican nominee President Donald Trump fanned the flames of their resentment reduce Democratic turnout for Clinton, which arguably worked to some extent in the states where Trump won his electoral majority by thin margins, and this time around his campaign manager and his son were suggesting that the Democratic bigwigs are once again out to get Sanders.
According to the polls Sanders was the heavy favorite in the race, but the Des Moines Registers usually final poll wasn’t published after someone noticed South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s name was left of the list of candidates some poll respondents wee asked about, and there seemed to be a lot of volatility in the standings the late stages of the race, so we can’t blame the Democrats for being even overly cautious.
Still, it’s pretty damned embarrassing for the Democratic Party.

— Bud Norman

Dueling Conspiracy Theories

As any right wing talk radio listener well knows, there’s a “deep state” conspiracy of intelligence and law enforcement officials, along with the legacy media and the Ukrainians, that’s been out to President Donald Trump since the day he announced his campaign. So far the conspirators haven’t been successful in their efforts, but at least they haven’t been caught.
An inspector general for the Department of Justice named Michael Horowitz was dispatched to expose the conspiracy’s efforts to launch a phony investigation of Russia’s alleged election meddling and spy on his campaign with informants and phone taps, but on Monday he issued a report concluding the investigation was based on solid evidence of wrongdoing rather than political bias and that no spying occurred. That won’t satisfy the die-hard Trump fans, though, and the conspiracy theorizing will continue.
Attorney General William Barr focused on the serious mistakes investigators had made in seeking a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court, and reached his own conclusion “that the (Federal Bureau of Investigation) laughed an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken.” He’s already launched another investigation led by U.S. Attorney John Durham, who took the unusual step of releasing a statement casting doubt on the inspector general’s report.
Perhaps Durham will be better luck exposing the conspiracy, but it won’t be easy. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, after all, and the “deep state” conspiracy theory makes some very extraordinary claims. All of America’s intelligence heads have confirmed that Russia ran a disinformation campaign hacked into Democratic party e-mail system and selectively leaked the most embarrassing missive, even the Trump appointees have confirmed the finding, as did a special counsel investigation that won an indictment of 13 Russians allegedly involved, and a bipartisan report by the Senate Intelligence agency also agreed. So far no one’s come up with any evidence that Russia was blameless and it was Ukraine that did the meddling, or a even a reasonable explanation for why Ukraine would be hacking and leaking Democratic e-mails and planting internet pro-Trump internet trolls to get Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton elected.
Also hard to explain is why a presumably left-wing “deep state” conspiracy is still conspiring to get Vice President Mike Pence promoted. Perhaps Pence is on it, as are a number of hand-picked Trump appointees, but that’s another extraordinary claim requiring extraordinary proof.
At this point we not sure why Trump remains concerned about Russia’s meddling in the election, as it fizzled as an impeachment case and the die-hard fans don’t care if he was in on it, and it makes the Ukraine business look all the fishier, Our best guess is that Trump believes the die-hard fans will cling to the dangling possibility of Russia’s vindication also vindicating him, and neatly explain why he was heroically withholding congressional appropriated military from those nefarious Ukrainians, and that even if the House impeaches him none of the Republicans in the Senate would dare vote to remove him from office. That’s not a bad bet, as the die-hard fans have thus far proved willing to believe even Trump’s most extraordinary claims without any proof at all.
The strategy might not be sufficient by election day, however, as you have to be a pretty die-hard fan to believe any of it. If they’ve been paying any attention, all of the damned Democrats and most of those squishy independents and at least a few of us fed-up pre-Trump Republicans will conclude that Russia meddled on Trump’s behalf in the last election and intends to do so with Trump’s blessing next time around, that Trump withheld military aid from a country that is largely occupied with Russian troops, and that a president shouldn’t be doing such things.
Between the die-hard fans and all the people who aren’t paying any attention, and given the very strong possibility that the Democrats will again nominate an extraordinarily awful candidate, Trump still has a fighting chance. The unemployment rate is undeniably low despite his trade wars, even if they have hit the farming and manufacturing sectors Trump relies on particularly hard. No new wars have broken out, even if Trump has made a mess of the old ones in Iraq and Syria and Afghanistan, and he’s lately having a scary lover’s spat with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. If his luck holds up, and his voters are optimally spread around the electoral map, it might not matter about what happened in such faraway places with such unfamiliar people as Ukraine and Russia.
There’s always an outside chance the Democrats won’t once again nominate someone too extraordinarily awful, however, and with the manufacturing sector in a technical recession and farm foreclosures on the rise and much of the relative economic boom going on in states and suburbs where Trump does not poll well there’s no telling how the economy will play come election day. The dictator Kim has lately threatened to once again call Trump a dotard if Trump ever calls him “Rocket Man,” and is further threatening a more belligerent stance during the upcoming election, and given the state of the world and America relationships with it there’s no telling what’s likely to come up by next November.
If Trump’s luck doesn’t hold up, as it didn’t during his career as a casino mogul, his impeachment by the House and acquittal despite clear evidence in the Senate will be a problem.

— Bud Norman

The Last Straw

One of the weirdest of our many weird friends drinks her beer through a plastic straw, which isn’t even the weirdest thing about her. She’s a terrific friend and a very adept and energetic drummer for one of the best hard-rock bands in town, but she also believes that the Illuminati are secretly running everything with help from shape-shifting reptilian extraterrestrials, and she explained to us on Monday afternoon at Kirby’s Beer Store that Hillary Clinton is still dead but Jeffrey Epstein is still alive and well on some tropical island paradise.
Our friend’s political preferences when it comes down to a ballot choice are hard to predict, although we assume she usually votes for the fringe candidates at the bottom of the ballot, but President Donald Trump might have endeared himself to her with his steadfast opposition to those nosy know-it-all-liberals who want to ban plastic straws. The eco-fascists in several fancy cities have already banned plastic straws, there’s an organized effort afoot to ban them nationwide, and Trump has responded brilliantly responded by raising some $670 million in campaign funds selling Trump-branded plastic straws.
As much as we both dislike the guy, we and our weird friend would probably agree Trump is on the right side of this arcane issue. The paper straws that liberals prefer over the plastic variety don’t always last through an entire milkshake or malted milk, and we’re told by a weird friend of ours they can’t even survive a bottle of beer, and we can’t be fully convinced that the environmental impact of a few hundred millions of plastic straws justifies such a nosy intrusion into the way we and our weird friends live our lives.
We’ll gladly gulp down the melted-down last of a milk shake or malted milk if it comes down to it, and it’s not going to be a decisive issue for us when we cast our futile protest vote for some down-ballot fringe candidate in the next presidential election, but we think the Democrats would do well to stop being so damned bossy. We have a lot of very weird friends who would agree.

— Bud Norman

Let the Conspiracy Theorizing Begin

The world’s most infamous sex offender died by a reported suicide while in federal custody on Saturday, and already the internet is abuzz with various conspiracy theories about it. Jeffrey Epstein was far wealthier and better connected than your average sex offender, counting former President Bill Clinton and current President Donald Trump among his past party pals, and his death prevented a trial that might have embarrassed a lot of other wealthy and well-connected people, and there are the usual hard questions to be asked about what happened, so naturally the conspiracy theorists already have all the shocking answers.
Unsurprisingly, yet still disappointingly, Trump was quick to “re-tweet” a little-known comedian’s wholly unsubstantiated suggestion that Clinton and his wife Hillary had something to do with Epstein’s death.
Died of SUICIDE on on 24/7 SUICIDE WATCH? Yeah, right! How does that happen,” the original poorly spelled and punctuated and capitalized “tweet” from someone named Terrence K. Williams said. “#JefferyEpstein had information on Bill Clinton and now he’s dead I see #Trumpbodycount now trending but we know who did this! RT if you’re not surprised. #EpsteinSuicide#ClintonBodycount#ClintonCrime Family”
We’re not fully fluent in internet lingo and its abbreviations and “hash tags” and various other offenses against standard English, but so far as we can tell a sitting President of the United States is passing along to his millions of “twitter followers” an entirely unproved allegation that a former President of the United States ordered a hit on a federal prisoner. The die-hard fans will probably give him credit for telling it like it is, and ramp up their chants of “lock her up” at the next campaign rally, but we’re hopeful the rest of us are properly appalled by such unpresidential and un-American behavior.
Not that we’ve ever been fans of the hound dog Clinton or his harridan wife, and we wouldn’t be entirely surprised by almost any awful thing you might prove about either of them, but we do demand a high degree of proof before convicting anyone accused of murder, even the Clintons. Even after so many years we’ve not been convinced that Vince Foster’s long ago suicide was actually a Clinton hit, nor that Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring in the basement of a Washington pizzeria, and the rest of the hash-tagged #ClintonBodyCount also seems dubious. The plain facts about the Clintons disqualify them from prominence in the public square, as far we’re concerned, and we don’t see why the rally mobs want to lock ’em up on such baseless claims.
Trump should also know that his conspiracy-mongering could be counter-productive, as there are plenty of plausible questions about his own friendly relationship with Epstein, and the fact that Epstein died in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, which answers to the Department of Justice, which answers to Trump’s appointed Attorney General, and the buck still stops somewhere higher up. Trump’s many detractors wouldn’t be surprised by any awful thing you might prove abut him, and most of them won’t demand much more proof than some comedian’s unproved insinuations, and that Williams guy does ask a hard question about how a federal prisoner died under the watch of the Trump administration.
Perhaps the diabolical #ClintonCrimeFamily somehow managed to kill America’s most infamous sex offender in a federal prison cell to cover up their role in an international sex ring of globalist elites, but even so there’s no denying that it happened on the Trump administration’s watch. If you follow the fascinating QAnon conspiracy theory, with t-shirts that regularly show up at Trump rallies, you know that Epstein and the Clintons were part of an elite international conspiracy of child-raping bankers and politicians, and that Trump was providentially sent to bring them to justice, despite his own friendly relationship with Epstein. Still, it’s hard-pressed to explain why Epstein is undeniably dead.
Conspiracy theories are entertaining and downright tantalizing, but for our final judgments we rely on Occam’s Razor, which holds that the simplest explanation is usually the best. We can easily believe that Epstein, already convicted of abusing underage girls and facing more severe penalties on the same charges, chose to end his life rather than live the rest of it in circumstances far less pleasurable circumstances than what he was accustomed to. Easy to believe, too, that a bureaucratic foul-up would let Epstein off himself even in the age of Trump.

— Bud Norman

What’s Happened Since Last Tuesday

The midterm elections were held way back last Tuesday, which seems an awfully long time ago, yet in some states around the country the results weren’t known until Monday, and of course in the great yet undeniably wacky state of Florida the votes are still being counted and hotly contested.
Not so long ago elections were almost always settled by at least the next Wednesday afternoon, but that was before the newfangled rules about vote-by-mail and provisional ballots and other get-out-the-vote innovations. We used to oppose these bleeding heart reforms on an old-fashioned Republican principle that voting should involve the small patriotic sacrifice of registering down at the county hall showing up at the polls come rain or shine, as it tends to keep out the riff-raff, but nowadays we have some aging and still patriotic parents who voted by mail because a trip to a polling place ad a wait in line is a rather onerous imposition, so we suppose we’ll put up the new rules so long as they are strictly enforced according the letter of the law, no matter how it turns out.
So far all that meticulous vote-counting hasn’t turned out well for the Republicans. On election night the Fox News Network was the first to call a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, all the other networks confirmed that a few cautious hours later, and since then the Democrats have padded that majority with several more seats, including one held by the unabashedly pro-Trump and pro-Russian Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in a usually reliable district of suburban southern California. On election night Republican senatorial nominee Martha McSally was leading Democratic nominee Krysten Simena, which gave the Republicans some brief bragging rights about their slightly padded slim majority in the Senate races where they should have done better, but by Monday afternoon McSally and her cute dog Boomer were giving an endearingly gracious concession speech with best wishes to her victorious Democratic opponent.
The Republicans might yet win the hotly-contested and already-litigated races for governor and senator down in the great yet undeniably wacky state of Florida, but no matter how it turns out we aren’t expecting any gracious concession speeches. So far as we can tell from this distance the Democrats running the show in Florida’s astoundingly populous and reliably Democratic Broward County areas usual utterly inept, but we’ve not yet heard any convincing evidence from President Donald Trump or any other Republican conspiracy-theorists that they’re corrupt. We’re hopeful
that those wonderful if wacky Floridians will have every one of their votes more or less counted accurately, and from this distance we figure the Republicans will win if that happens, and should be glad to have their victory approved by the courts and all objective observers, but the races are always so close down there that we’re not expecting any comity on either side not matter how it turns out.
Even so, we’re pleased to note that crucial institutions and rules of law and old-fashioned political traditions seem to persist in most places. That Arizona senate race featured an impressive centrist Republican against an impressive centrist Democrat vying to be the state’s first woman senator for the reliably Republican state of arch-conservative Sen. Barry Goldwater and swing-vote Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and maverick Sen. John McCain. We’re sure all those iconic Republican Arizonans would be proud that their Republican-run and law-and-order state counted all the votes, even if it did mean a damned Democrat won a Senate seat, and that their candidate showed such class in defeat.
The Republicans lost a senate seat in Arizona and a House seat and a governorship in Kansas, along with losses in several reliably Republican districts of such Democratic states as California and suburban districts everywhere, including some crucial swing states, but they should be glad the votes are all being counted and that old-fashioned Republicans are signing off on it,and upholding the party’s law-and-order reputation. Sooner or later, and we’re hoping sooner rather than later, that will work out for them.

— Bud Norman

The “Tweets” of Crazed Celebrities

If America had a more cerebral and less celebrity-addled popular culture few people would much care what the likes of Roseanne Barr “tweets,” and that guy from “The Apprentice” wouldn’t be President of the United States. As things stand now, though, attention must be paid to both.
For those of you spent Tuesday in a coma, the American Broadcasting Company abruptly cancelled the highly-rated “Roseanne” sitcom after its eponymous star unleashed a series of stunningly stupid “tweets.” One claimed that former First Daughter Chelsea Clinton had married into the family of controversial left-wing billionaire George Soros. Another alleged Soros had collaborated with the Nazis when they occupied his native Hungary. In the one that got her fired just a few hours later, she joked that Valerie Jarrett, a black woman and former top advisor to President Barack Obama, was the offspring of the Muslim Brotherhood and “Planet of the Apes.”
We’ve never cared much for Clinton or either of her parents, but she clearly got the better of the exchange when she classily and correctly “tweeted” back that in fact her husband has no relation to Soros. Although we don’t think much of Soros, either, we’ve seen no proof that as a 14-year-old Jew in an occupied country he was ever friendly to the Nazis. Over the Obama years we had our complaints about Jarrett, too, but we always took care to state them without resort to such flat-out and stone-cold racist tropes as comparing her to a monkey. As far as we’re concerned, ABC made the right call.
The “tweets” were somehow shocking to bien pensant sensibilities even though they were not at all surprising. Barr has always been an obnoxious crazy-pants conspiracy theorist, going back to the days when the original “Roseanne” was a critically-acclaimed hit in the late ’80s and early ’90s, when only the people on the right seemed to notice.
The first run of her sitcom depicted a white working class family struggling to make ends meet during the supposedly horrible Reagan-Bush era, ostentatiously featured several homosexual characters, and delivered even the funny lines with an unmistakably feminist smugness, so the left largely adored her. When she delivered a deliberately screeching rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” at a major league baseball game and followed it with a crotch-grab and a spit it was lauded as daring satire. When she embraced the “truther” conspiracy theory that President George W. Bush was responsible for the terror attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon she was defended on free speech principles. When she posed for a magazine as Hitler making “Jew cookies” some tried to explain it as satire.
By the time Barr tried to win the far-left Green Party’s presidential nomination and wound up running as the nominee of something called the Peace and Freedom Party we largely ignored by almost everyone. Her sitcom had concluded with a low-rated final season that was widely panned by the critics and hated by the fans, her limited acting range had yielded only a couple of roles in flop movies, a reality show on an obscure cable network yielded minuscule ratings, and at first no one seemed to notice what a strange turn her craziness had taken. She embraced the “birther” theory that Obama had been born in Kenya and was constitutionally ineligible to be president, insisted that all the hotter stars in Hollywood were manipulated agents of the Central Intelligence Agency through its “MK-Ultra Mind Control” projects, appeared frequently on the Russian dictatorship’s “Russia Today” propaganda network on your cable dial, and wound up as one of the few Hollywood celebrities who endorsed the presidential campaign of that guy from “The Apprentice.”
After the inauguration of President Donald Trump, however, the programming executives at ABC were suddenly receptive to the pitch that a re-boot of “Roseanne” catching up with that same wisecracking struggling-to-make-ends-meet white working class family in this glorious Trumpian new day might have some appeal to the popular minority but electoral majority of Americans who ushered it in. The re-boot featured the entire original cast, including including the critically-acclaimed and generically Hollywood thespians who played the husband and daughter and sister of the title character, as well as the former child actor who had to take time off from an even bigger hit sit-com, but the advance publicity made clear that Barr’s titular and obviously autobiographical character was decidedly pro-Trump, and the premiere episode drew 18 million viewers and even some grudgingly positive reviews by critics who noted that the husband and daughter and sister got in a few jabs of their own. Shortly after that, he show was renewed for a second season.
Back in the three-network days of “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “The Fugitive” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” a mere 18 million viewers would have cancelled a show before its second episode, much less the 10 million viewers that the season finale drew, but in these days of a billion or so cable channels and the gazillion or so options on the internet those are both pretty impressive numbers for any old American broadcasting company. Trump gloated about it at one of his still ongoing campaign rallies, telling his die-hard fans that “the show is about us” and predicting that Hollywood’s greed would force it to adhere once again to their all-American values. After that, it was the post-Trump right that overlooked Barr’s craziness.
Trump was an even more prominent “birther,” so that craziness was easily forgivable. Although Trump never was a “truther,” be did win the Republican party’s presidential nomination parroting the left’s “Bush lied, people died” lie about the intelligence reports of intelligence about the Iraq War. Even Trump has never mentioned the “MK-Ultra Mind Control Project” during his conspiracy theorizing, but he and his die-hard fans and even ourselves have to admit there’s something pretty darned suspicious about who’s hot in Hollywood these days. As for the appearances on “Russia Today,” the Trump campaign’s foreign policy and the Trump administration’s first National Security Advisor was paid to sit next next to the Russian dictator at a dinner in honor of the propaganda network, so that’s no big deal. At this point, all the die-hard fans who hate those pro football players for kneeling during the national anthem have long-forgotten bar’s screeching and crotch-grabbing and spitting rendition of their beloved song. Trump didn’t mention Barr at his latest campaign rally, but he did recall some rapper at a Hillary Clinton campaign two years ago using the same foul language he had used at his events, and his apologists on talk radio and other conservative media rightly recalled all the leftist entertainers’ outrageous statements and outright craziness.
At this point pretty much everyone’s a hypocrite, except for those of us on the left and right who always spotted Barr as the pure product of a stupid and celebrity-addled popular culture. From our current vantage point on the sidelines of America’s cultural and political wars we feel free to make the calls against either side, and we say good riddance to both Barr and all the fashionable causes and crazy-pants conspiracy theories and reality show candidates se ever championed.

— Bud Norman