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As the Sands of the Hourglass, So are the Days of the Democrats

The Republican Party’s reality show is getting the bigger ratings and all the critical attention, but the Democrats’ presidential nomination race is also well worth binge-watching. In case you’ve missed the more recent gripping episodes, there’s now a tantalizing possibility that the heroine of the tale will face federal indictment on criminal charges, her husband’s past and recent sex scandals are starting to affect the plot, the lovably eccentric kook who was once a minor comic-relief character is now within striking distance of her in all the polls, and there’s enough behind-the-scenes court intrigue to fuel another few seasons of “The Tudors” and “House of Cards.”
Although the lovably eccentric kook who was originally included for only comic relief has generously declared that he’s “damned sick and tired” of hearing about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, which viewers might recall from previous episodes were transmitted by an unsecured and seemingly illegal private server, the Federal Bureau of Investigation keeps anonymously leaking to the press and openly testifying to Congress that they remain very interested in the matter. The latest news has the FBI leaking that they’re also looking into the big-bucks donations from foreign countries that were flowing into the Bill and Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation while the eponymous Hillary was dealing with those same foreign countries as Secretary of State, and a best-selling book and a large number of reports indicate there is also something of interest to be found there. No matter what is uncovered by the investigation an indictment will have to be brought by an Attorney General appointed by President Barack Obama, who still looms as large as the Darth Vader or Obi-Wan Kenobi characters from the all-important prequels, depending on your tastes, which makes for some darned intriguing court intrigue.
Almost all of our Republican friends glumly assume that no Obama appointee would ever allow even the most undeniably evidence-backed federal indictment on criminal charges against a prominent Democrat, especially the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, and even more especially one named Clinton, and the long-awaited First Woman President, at that, and most of our Democrat friends gleefully make the assumption. Their glum and gleeful cynicism might well prove justified, given the conspicuous lack of indictments in countless scandals that the press would have happily made a federal case of during Republican administrations, from Fast and Furious to Solyndra to that Obamacare web site to the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservatives and right up to Clinton’s e-mailing and fund-raising methods, but by now we’re cynical enough to hold out hope for one of those truth-is-stranger-than-fiction plot twists.
Having followed the soon-to-close but still-awaiting-that-final-cliffhanger Obama reality show over the past eight years or so, we’ve long noticed that he doesn’t much like any of the Clintons and is quite petty enough to let such personal dislikes affect his judgments. Nor does he seem to have any loyalty to his political party, which has been reduced to 1920s-levels in Congress and state legislatures and governorships even as he has seized unprecedented presidential powers, and his press spokespeople and his equally dutiful press people have strangely silent about Clinton’s legal matters. An indictment could either usher in a Republican presidency, which could be easily blamed for everything that happens in the four-year aftermath of the Obama administration, or hands the Democratic nomination to that lovable kook or any of the other Obama-approved eccentrics who have been waiting in the wings, and they somehow prevail over some equally unpopular Republican villain to institute yet another four years of left-wing craziness, and in either case Obama’s purposes are served. We’re not making any predictions, but it’s tantalizingly possible enough to keep us tuned in.
In any case, it signals more perils for the Pauline heroine of the Democrats’ reality show. We no longer cling to any boyish fantasy that the FBI is staffed by the likes of Efrem Zimbalist Jr. or Jimmy Stewart, but given the agency’s recent leakiness there is reason to hope that they’ll at least let some enterprising reporter or another know about they case they’ve built, which is sure to be unhelpful to Clinton’s candidacy. The cynics in both parties will glumly and gleefully note that Clinton’s have always gotten away with everything, and all the shrewd gamblers have always advised to never bet against a streak, but our cynicism is such that we glumly note that time changes everything. The Bill Clinton sex scandals that were easily overlooked during the cultural right scare of the ’90s aren’t so easily forgiven in the ‘teens, when Democrats believe a “culture of rape” is permeating the undeniably leftist-dominated campuses but not the town squares of European cities suddenly overrun by immigration from less feminist cultures that best go unnamed, and the Republican front-runner is a thrice-married casino mogul who can’t quote a single Bible verse, and suddenly that whole “war on women” that the distaff Clinton was supposed to win seems laughable. Besides, the masculine Clinton is best remembered for the Welfare Reform Act he was forced to sign and President Obama unraveled with executive orders, and the decrease in crime that resulted “mass incarceration” laws that are now the bane of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, and for Republican-imposed balanced budgets that Democrats no longer care about.
Throw in the fact that in the Democratic voters are now mostly concerned about income inequality and those evil bastards on Wall Street, and it’s no surprise that the lovable kook and self-described socialist and relatively penurious Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is now catching up in the national polls and within striking distance in the first two crucial rounds of the race of the suspiciously wealthy and Wall Street-supported “front-runner.” Once the supposed front-runner is either indicted on federal criminal charges or not indicted for the most obviously suspicious reasons, you’ve got a real race going on rather than the promised coronation. Even the most polite press can’t help noticing such things, and hopefully speculating about some eccentric waiting on the wings to inherit Obama’s still on-going campaign operation, and of course that will further twist the plot.
There’s plenty of drama left on the Republican side, where another character unpopular with the broader audience seems to be winning, but these Democrats are well worth watching.

— Bud Norman

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Cultures of Rape, Cultures of Denial

Few Americans are up to date on the latest events in Cologne, Germany, or Rotherham, England, or Malmo, Sweden, and far too many Americans are altogether unaware that such places even exist, which is a shame. Here in America we’re understandably preoccupied with our own problems ranging from rape to immigration to our entirely unsatisfactory presidential contest, but the events elsewhere should provide some applicable lessons.
It took a few days for even the most knowledgable Germans to learn to about it, but the New Year’s Eve celebrations in Cologne and Hamburg were marred by the coordinated attacks of gangs of as many as a thousand young men robbing and groping and often raping young women revelers in the public squares. It took a few years for the English to learn that more than 1,400 young women and girls in Rotherham were systematically abused by organized gangs over a 16-year period. Even now most Swedish media would rather not admit that their country rivals Lesotho, South Africa, as the “rape capital of the world,” and that its third-largest city of Malmo can probably claim that awful distinction. The American media are mostly just as reticent about the matter, and not just because of their audience’s stubborn parochialism.
Even the most polite press have been forced to admit that those gangs in Cologne and Hamburg were described by their victims of being “North African or Arab,” the gangs that terrorized Rotherham are described by even the most discreet British presses as “Asian,” and by now only the most steadfastly proper publications in Sweden deny that the horrific rise in their country’s rape rate is caused by its carefully undefined “immigrant population.” Most of the American media are just as reticent as about it, given their fealty to a variety of storylines that are severely complicated by these facts.
When forced to confront such inconvenient truths, the more forthright of the liberals will bravely argue that tales of rape and pillage have always been used by white folks to oppress the “other,” from “The Birth of a Nation” to lurid pulp tales of the Sheik of Araby’s harem to the white slavery of the Yellow Peril, and that after all a rapist of color is no more deplorable than the more pallid sorts of rapists, and we’ll stipulate to all of that. We’ll also stipulate to the undeniable fact that most “North African and Middle Eastern” and “Asian” and immigrant people and whatever else you want to call Muslims are not inclined to rape. Such arguments are of little consolation to the victims of Cologne and Rotherham or Malmo or countless other cities throughout the west, however, or to those who love them, and there’s no denying that the victims are increasing in number or that is has something to do with a policy of admitting large numbers of immigrants from cultures with vastly different notions from the west regarding women and their rights as fully-fledged human beings.
Better to leave to such matters unmentioned, so far as the polite press is concerned. The polite press is more concerned with the “culture of rape” that supposedly permeates the modern American campus, where the administration and other smart folks claim that one in five co-eds endure a rape along with that all that crushing student loan debt, and celebrates a Columbia student who hauled a mattress around campus for years to protest the treatment of her thoroughly-debunked claim she was raped by a foreign student, and worries about such sexist micro-aggressions as presuming a student’s preferred pronouns, and never seems to notice that the modern American campus is the most liberal institution in America. They’re also busy promoting an open-door policy toward parts of the world that have vastly different notions regarding women and their rights as fully-fledged human beings, not to mention the rights of homosexuals and transgendered reality television show stars, so they’d rather not get into a discussion of how that fits with the happy rainbow multi-cultural storyline. They’ve also got the difficult chore of sustaining the candidacy of a feminist heroine whose husband has been believably charged with everything from groping to rape to jet trips with pedophile billionaires to islands full of underage sex slaves.
The modern liberal can somehow reconcile all of this. Bill Clinton’s worst offenses can be forgiven because of his support of abortion, and of course of his wife shouldn’t be held responsible for the behavior she merely enabled. Multi-culturalism trumps feminism, just as everything else always seems to trump feminism in liberal politics, and if Donald Trump is predictably rude enough to point that out, well, Donald Trump is easily ridiculed in liberal circles. The feminist hero is insisting that all should be welcome and that Islam has nothing to with anything but peace, and that all victims of sexual abuse save her husband’s should be believed, and the news from Cologne, Rotherham and Malmo will go largely unmentioned, and the crackdown on collegiate sex and the welcoming of millions of unassimilable young men from parts of the world with vastly different views regarding women and their rights as fully-fledged human beings will all somehow make sense.

— Bud Norman

The Democrats’ Shrewdly Boring Show

The Democrats might well be pursuing a sensible political strategy, but from a television programmer’s point of view they simply have no idea how to put on a reality show. Saturday night’s debate, carefully scheduled against football games and other more compelling fare to make sure no one was watching, is a perfect example.
We had high hopes for the episode, given the intriguing plot twists that had somehow seeped into the news prior to the broadcast, but they were quickly dashed by a group hug reminiscent of the final “Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Those who are still following this yawn-fest already know that someone on the campaign staff of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the plucky David character in the tale, had been caught reading confidential material on the computer system of former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who plays the role of Goliath in this all-too-familiar storyline. There was briefly some uncharacteristic acrimony, with Clinton likening the incident to the Watergate break-in, and Sanders grousing that the Democratic National Committee’s threat to deny him access to the party’s voter records was just its latest attempt to sabotage his upstart campaign, but it all ended with Sanders’ groveling apology for the fired employee’s actions and Clinton’s magnanimous forgiveness. If the Kardashians or the Real Housewives of Wherever or the Republican Party behaved so wussily their reality shows would have been cancelled several seasons ago, but somehow the Democrats always get renewed.
To those who have been following the more action-packed cage match that is the Republican primary, it all seems unaccountable. There are plausible reports that the Sanders staffer inadvertently wound up with access to the DNC computer, which is apparently about as fool-proof as that Obamacare web site or the unsecured and illegal e-mail server that Clinton used for all her diplomatic electronic correspondence as Secretary of State, so Sanders had some pretty good spin if it he’d been willing to use it. He’d already declared that he was “sick and tired of hearing about her damn e-mails,” and of course he’s not going to make any more general complaints about the Democratic party’s apparent high-tech incompetence, but still, it’s hard to imagine even the most genteel of the Republicans passing up such a golden opportunity.
Even the viewers who are still rooting for Clinton will admit that she’s thoroughly dishonest, corrupt, ruthlessly amoral and entirely self-interested, just like all the most popular characters on all the reality shows, and just like all the ones who are the last to be kicked off the island or wind up with the hunky bachelor, and Sanders strategy of ignoring those unpleasant facts are hard to explain. Sanders is an unmitigated kook whose only domestic policy is to rip that goose wide open and grab all the golden eggs and whose foreign policy is to pretend that people aren’t trying to kill us, but at least he’s honest enough to concede that he’s a socialist and there’s little doubt he actually believes all that nonsense he spouts, which is pretty refreshing these days and is no doubt the source of Sanders’ limited appeal. He should pressing that advantage rather than retreating with an apology, and exploiting the plain fact that the Democratic Party is indeed thwarting the democratic process on Clinton’s behalf.
Sanders probably spends more time with Democrats than we do, so perhaps he’s correct in assuming they’re not quite so fed up with their party’s leadership as the Republicans clearly are with their own, but he’d surely benefit from stirring that pot at least a little bit. He’s probably also right that his supporters don’t regard Clinton with the same seething hatred that Republicans have for her, or for their own inter-party opponents, but given that Clinton is nearly as far left as he is his only advantage is on the character issue. A Democratic Party that demonizes wealth in general and Wall Street in particular and is suddenly more concerned with climate change and student debt and a “culture of rape” and “Black Lives Matter” than terrorism is expected to nominate a woman richer than Romney with a war chest of Goldman Sachs donations who flies around in private jets and charges universities $300,000 for a half-hour speech and enabled her husband serial sexual assaults and supported his mass incarceration and other tough-on-crime stances. That’s all Sanders has, given that Clinton is pretending to be as far left as he is, and it’s the reason he’s ahead in New Hampshire and within shouting distance elsewhere, and if he’s too high-minded to address this crucial point, just as he’s too high-minded address himself to that radical Islamic terrorism thing, there’s really no reason for him to stay in the race.
The obvious conspiracy theory for the right, which at least imbues some interest in the Democrats’ boring race, is that Sanders is only following the pre-written script needed to fill the obligatory time in a contracted-with-the-networks show about a supposed democratic process. By now it’s starting to seem plausible, but we do find him quite convincing in the role, and we know from countless conversations that his supporters are entirely on board. They’ll all glumly switch to Clinton if she wins, but only for fear of whatever crazed right-wing monster those hated Republicans come up with, so we think there’s still a chance of an embarrassingly real race, and that in any case Clinton will not emerged unscathed.
No matter how gentlemanly the Vermont socialist treats the former First Lady, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is continuing to look into that unsecured and illegal e-mail server of hers, and her assurances that none of her classified communications were breached by China or Russia or the surprisingly savvy IT guys in ISIS are surely undermined by the revelation that some stoned hippy-dippy staffer on the Bernie Sanders campaign was reading her campaign’s most cherished voter information, and sooner or later even the most compliant press will be forced to write something about. Whatever crazed right-wing monster the Republicans come up with will say that’s no lady, that’s Bill Clinton’s wife, and make sure to spend enough money that the matter will be brought to the public’s attention. Throw in all the subpoenaed e-mails that demonstrate how Clinton didn’t know how to use e-mail, and her public excuses about not wanting to use multiple devices and not knowing what “wiping a server” means or any of that other newfangled gadgetry, and of course that famously failed Obamacare web site, and at the very least she’ll look rather out-of-date.
Dishonest, corrupt, ruthlessly amoral and self-interested are one thing, but out-of-date is also the death knell for reality show star. If the Republicans can come up with a crazed right-wing monster who somehow managed to stay on the island didn’t get fired by the the star of “The Apprentice,” the Democrats would probably do well to go with that apologetic Bernie guy.

— Bud Norman

On the Current Craziness

America is now nearly seven years into the era of Hope and Change, which we were promised would stop the rise of the oceans and begin to heal our planet, and thus far almost no one seems pleased with the results. It’s not just those awful “right track-wrong track” polling numbers, or the discontented popular culture’s output of angry hip-hop tracks and big-budget dystopian zombie movies, or the slumping stock markets and sluggish economy and the seeming disintegration of any semblance of a world order, or the stubbornness of nature, or the conspicuous lack of happy talk anywhere except the White House press office, but it also manifests itself in a sort of insanity on both the left and the right of political spectrum.
The craziness is currently most conspicuous on the left, what with a self-described socialist surging in the Democratic Party’s presidential race and the most godawful woman ever desperately clinging to her presumed front-runner status while a criminal investigation of her outrageous e-mail practices suspiciously proceeds, despite the obvious politicization of the Justice Department, and all the revolting students on college campuses across the country suddenly making the most outrageous and expensive demands, and the promised post-racial era resulting in a bi-partisan repudiation of the policies that had happily led to a decline in the deaths of minorities, and the partisan press more preoccupied with whatever inconsequential scandals they can come up with about some Republican nominee. By now even the news-averse people in the middle have gotten wind of it, we suppose, and share that unease which keep showing up in all those polls.
That self-described socialist’s chances of winning the nomination of one of America’s two major political parties seem pretty good at the moment, given that his only plausible opposition is the most godawful woman ever. It’s not just the suspiciously on-going investigation about her outrageous e-mail practices, or her incompetence and dishonesty and disastrous results in her handling of the terrorist attack on an American consulate in Libya, or her utter lack of accomplishments and Grand Central Station-sized collection of baggage, but her even more damning-to-Democrat-thinking associations with Wall Street and billionaires and the boards of those confounded corporations. The current craziness of the left cannot abide such corporate heresies, even from a bona fide female and one who stood by him during all his sex scandals in order to save women’s reproductive rights from the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, and we clearly have arrived at a moment when being a self-described socialist no longer disqualifies someone for a Democratic nomination.
Even such a once-radical self-designation as “socialist” might no longer suffice on many of America’s college campuses, where there’s suddenly a spate of protests over systemic racism and a “culture of rape” and “micro-aggressions” and such. Apparently some redneck shouted a racial slur from a pickup at the University of Missouri, some otherwise exquisitely politically correct professor at Yale University was insufficiently offended by the prospect of some frat boy donning an offensive Halloween costume, and suddenly students across the country are demanding free tuition and forgiveness of more than one trillion dollars of debt and that their college years be so care-free that not one confront them when with sort of reality. The argument seems to be that America’s colleges and universities are hellholes of pickup truck-drving rednecks and gang-raping frat boys, and that the taxpayer should be obliged to pay for every citizen’s admission to this elite Democratic indoctrination program, and that perfect harmony on Earth is just a few more hashtag campaigns and lavishly-funded diversity programs away, and that surely just a few guillotined billionaires could pay for it all. How this will play with those uninformed folks in the middle who are paying off their junior college wages with a plumbing job remains to be seen, but we expect the partisan press will do its best.
That same partisan press will prefer to emphasize the Republicans’ crazy right-wing insistence on border enforcement and some modicum of sanity on fiscal issues and an old-fashioned notion of constitutional order and a general preference for the First Amendment over political correctness, all of which poll well, while overlooking a more worrisome craziness on the right. One smart fellow over at The Wall Street Journal noticed, though, and his think-piece was headlined “Populism on the Rise in GOP Race for President.” The author noticed the same anti-Wall Street and anti-big business rhetoric in the past Republican presidential debate that has characterized the the recent Democratic debates, as well as some similarly strong anti-free-trade sentiment, as well as some ideas about the Federal Reserve and the gold standard and other arcane issues that differ from the latest consensus of conservative economists. Throw in the fact that the two front-runners in the Republican race have never held any elective office, which seems to be their foremost credentials, and that the billionaire businessman who might yet have the advantage is a past Democrat who unabashedly loves eminent domain and bankruptcy loopholes and a pay-for-play political system, and there’s an undeniable craziness occurring on the right as well.
For the most part, at least, the Republicans’ and the rest of the right’s annoyance with crony capitalism has more to do with the cronyism than the capitalism. In the last debate most most of the criticism was for the Dodd-Frank law and hyper-regulation in particular, and the bail-outs the press loves to credit for the survival of the American economy were damned mostly for bailing out some and not others, and that increasingly irrelevant governor from the swing state of Ohio was roundly booed for saying he would have bailed out some and not others and For now he “populism” that the Wall Street Journal frets about seems to prefer a more red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalism that most investors have become accustomed to, which is fine by us, but we hope it won’t succumb to populism’s historically characteristic animosity toward for-profit commerce in general. Not at a time when even much of that uninformed middle has retirement accounts and pension plans pegged to the stock market, and when what’s left of western civilization is dependent on for-profit commerce, as always. We’re inclined to latest consensus of conservative economists about the Federal Reserve and the gold standard and other issues, too, and worry that our conservative brethren are more inclined to make up their minds because of some instinctive revulsion to the Democratic busy-bodies who are trying to shut down their coal mines and force them to bake homosexual wedding cakes, so we don’t count on the Republican primaries turning out well.
We can count on the Democratic primaries turning out badly, though, and we expect that the college kids and the popular culture and general consensus will be increasingly dissatisfied.

— Bud Norman

Ahmed’s Clock and Its Ominous Ticking

Those sharp-eyed news aggregators over at the invaluable Instapundit.com web site routinely run stories about public school students victimized by paranoid educators and their ridiculous zero-tolerance policies, but so far the only one that’s been invited to White House is a 14-year-old from Texas named Ahmed Mohamad. Why he should be singled out for such a honor is unclear, but we have our suspicions.
Ahmed’s case is rather typical, after all, except that he was subject to arrest rather than just the suspensions and expulsions and public shaming that other victims of overzealousness have endured. Apparently the lad, an aspiring engineer, was showing off some sort of Rube Goldberg-esque electronic clock that he had been tinkering with, the clock was encased in a brief case and brimming with wires and looked enough like a bomb to a panicked English teacher that the police were called to the scene. The suspicions of the police were further aroused by Ahmed’s “passive aggressive” answers to their questions and his refusal to “offer any explanation about what it was,” and the student thus wound up in police custody on the class A misdemeanor charge of possession of a fake bomb before his release. One can imagine any number of reasons for Ahmed’s recalcitrance, some exculpatory and some damning, but given the facts as they were eventually established it does seem just another one of those numerous cases of students being victimized by paranoid educators and their ridiculous zero-tolerance policies.
It’s hardly the most outrageous case, though. For that title we’d recommend the case of the 7-year-old boy who was suspended from his Baltimore-area elementary school for chewing his toaster pastry into the shape of a gun, or perhaps the fifth-grade student in Milford, Massachusetts, who was kicked out of school because he made his hand into the shape of gun and cocked his thumb and said “bang,” or the high schooler who was arrested for wearing a t-shirt advertising the National Rifle Association. There are similar stories about first-graders being labeled as sexual harassers and subjected to police interrogation because of a pat on a classmate’s buttocks, 6-year-olds being suspended for kissing a girl’s hand, and other outsized responses to what once was considered normal childhood behavior. None of these students declined to explain their behavior, which in any case did not involve anything that could have possibly posed a threat to the safety of their schools, yet none rated an invitation to the White House for their travails.
Which is not all surprising. The current occupant of the White House is unlikely to make any gesture that could be interpreted as chastising the educational establishment’s gun phobias or its aversion to ordinary boyish behavior or its eagerness to censor the Second Amendment. With its Justice Department and Department of Education and the rest of the Democratic Party insisting on a guilty until proved innocent standard for any student accused of sexual impropriety on America’s college campuses, where a supposed “culture of rape” is the result of the left’s 50-year-old sexual revolution, the White House is even less likely to protest a crackdown on butt-patting and hand-kissing on the nation’s elementary school playgrounds. When the victim has a name such as Ahmed Mohamad, however, there’s an irresistible opportunity to blame it on that long-awaited anti-Muslim backlash rather than paranoid educators and their ridiculous zero-tolerance policies.
Ahmed’s name and Muslim faith might well have had something to do with that English teacher’s suspicions, as the student’s father angrily claims, as we can’t claim the White House’s ability to look into the heart of an English teacher in a Texas high school, but at this point we assume that every American public school employee has been properly taught to be exceedingly non-judgmental about Islam and downright paranoid about everything else, and the White House can’t wait around forever for that anti-Muslim backlash to materialize. There is indeed religious intolerance afoot in the land, but better to have a photo-op with some nerdy-looking would-be engineer as a photo op than any of the Jews who are victims of hate crimes at five times the rate of Muslims, or those nuns who are forced to purchase contraceptive coverage to subsidize the sex lives of those colleges girls at the mercy of the “culture of rape” that the sexual revolution wrought, or some protestant bakers who have been fined and forced into re-education camp for declining to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding, or certainly some southern Christian white boy wearing an NRA t-shirt.
Better to send the loud and clear message that henceforth any nerdy-looking people with Arabic names and Muslim faith bringing brief cases full of funny-looking and unexplained wires into public building must be presumed innocent, even if paranoia is the appropriate response to nuns and dangerously-chewed toaster pastries and loaded fingers and schoolyard crushes and everything else. We expect that White House security will continue to take a more suspicious approach to their job, based on its recent paranoid reaction to an unattended coffee cup, and we suppose that is a good thing.

— Bud Norman

Safe Rooms in an Unsafe World

One of our longstanding literary ambitions has been to write a satirical novel about the modern university, something along the lines of Mary McCarthy’s “The Groves of Academe” or Kingsley Amis’ “Lucky Jim” or Tom Wolfe’s “I Am Charlotte Simmons,” but it looks as if we’ll have to abandon the project. Academia is now more ripe for ridicule than ever, but apparently to the point that it is beyond satire.
Such a humorless publication as The New York Times recently ran a rather straightforward story that the latest campus contretemps that the combined talents of Jonathan Swift, Mark Twain, and the usual gang of idiots at Mad Magazine could not have rendered anything more comical. Headlined “In College and Hiding From Scary Ideas,” the story told how Brown University hosted a debate between the founder of a feminist web site called feministing.com and a female libertarian on the topic of the “culture of rape” that now reportedly pervades the American campus, and how members of the school’s Sexual Assault Task Force responded to this exchange of ideas. Worried that the libertarian’s perspective on the issue “could serve to invalidate people’s experiences,” and might even be “damaging,” the Sexual Assault Task Force members created a “safe space” for traumatized listeners to retreat from the debate, complete with “cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies, as well as students and staff members trained to deal with trauma.” Even if we had the imagination to concoct such absurd details, we would have rejected them as too obvious a burlesque of the infantilizing nature of modern higher education.
As The New York Times ruefully notes, such episodes are now common at America’s colleges and universities. Almost every day tells of a student being disciplined for merely questioning the veracity of that highly questionable “one if five women on campus are victims of sexual assault” claim, or professors being charged with “micro-aggressions” for patting the arm of a student angered by an opposing viewpoint, textbooks coming with “trigger warning” to alert the possibility of unapproved ideas, or women’s rights activists being barred from campus because they’re advocating the rights of women in the wrong cultures, or some other more mundane case of campus activists chasing dissenting views off campus. Institutions of higher learning once insisted on vigorous debate and an unflinching look at facts as necessary tools to the discovery of truth, but they’ve now determined they have all the truth they need and no longer anything as potentially traumatizing as debate and unwelcome facts. Little good is likely to come of it, and certainly less than one would expect for the tuition prices being charged today.
The same censorious instincts are found in the broader left, and score the occasional victories against free speech, but they are unlikely to prevail outside the campus. Reality intrudes outside the campus, as well as what’s left of the First Amendment, and most people who haven’t undergone an expensive indoctrination at such elite institutions as Brown University find it very annoying. Nor will anyone who has been so carefully shielded from opposing opinions and unpleasant realities be likely to prevail in the rough-and-tumble of American politics. Worse yet for those who took refuge with the cookies and coloring books and videos of frolicking puppies, they’ll be up against conservative foes who spent their years of higher education being constantly bullied, ridiculed, and shouted down for their beliefs, not just by their professors and deans but also by all the movies and television shows and the rest of the popular culture. The right’s arguments will be honed and its spines stiffened by the college experience, if they get nothing else out of it except perhaps for a still-lucrative degree in math or science or engineering or one those other suspiciously “objective” disciplines.
Even those supposedly oppressed sub-cultures that the left presumes to speak for are unlikely to offer the same sort of refuge as the modern university. If those people retreating to the “safe rooms” of Brown University are planning on community organizing in America’s poor neighborhoods, they’ll find that there are no cookies or coloring books or videos of frolicking puppies, and plenty of uncomfortable facts that they’d rather not face.

— Bud Norman

The Rape of Journalism

Celebrity sex scandals rarely interest us, and we follow political scandals more from a sense of civic obligation than any voyeuristic fascination, but we do love a good journalism scandal. The recent flap over Rolling Stone magazine’s latest discredited story is also an academic scandal, another of our favorite pastimes, so we have been enrapt.

The story that was featured on the cover of the Rolling Stone, once such a counter-cultural honor that Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show had a hit song about it, was incendiary stuff. It told of a brutal gang-rape that occurred as part of a fraternity initiation rite at the University of Virginia, complete with such shocking details as the broken glass that littered the floor where she was attacked. Such a sordid story not only corroborated the academic left’s recent claims of a “culture of rape” on the nation’s campuses, it also confirmed its longstanding prejudices against fraternities, the south, and the brutally sexist nature of American society generally. All in all the story was too good to be true, so it should have come as no surprise that it turned out be false.
Some readers were skeptical from the start, noting the abundance of unnamed sources and a striking failure to even ask for a response from the accused, and of course those who expressed their skepticism were widely denounced for their insensitivity. Even so the points they raised about the numerous deviations from standard journalistic practice were sound enough to instigate an investigation by The Washington Post, a publication ordinarily inclined to believe the academic left’s claims and think the worst of fraternities and the south and the American society generally, and its reporters quickly found several problems with Rolling Stone’s reporting. Among other things, the very specific description of the appearance and occupation of the man who allegedly lured the victim to the party did not remotely match any of the fraternity’s members, and the victim’s friends’ recollections of the aftermath of the incident did not include the visible injuries that would have inevitably occurred if her story were true. A short time after the Post’s story ran Rolling Stone issued a statement acknowledging discrepancies in the subject’s claims and admitting that “We have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced.”
Rolling Stone’s liberal readership was of course angered that the magazine was blaming the putative victim, even though at that point there was no evidence she was a victim of anything, and more reason to believe that she had victimized the fraternity with a false claim of rape, so the magazine has since altered its statement to say that the mistakes were entirely its own fault. Some of the accuser’s friends remain plausibly convinced that something bad happened to her at the fraternity even as they say that it could have not been precisely what she described, so at this point it is probably for the best that Rolling Stone simply admits its own responsibility for the story and leave it at that, but the fraternity members deserve a presumption of innocence that the phrasing seems to deny them.
Presumption of innocence is an unfashionable concept on the modern left, however. The University of Virginia’s president had no use for it when she suspended all fraternity activities in the immediate aftermath of the publication of the Rolling Stone story, the Department of Justice is using the government’s funding of higher education to coerce other schools to to expel students accused of all manner of sexual misbehavior without due process, and claims that no woman has ever made a false of claim of rape is being chanted on campus around the country. An exception seem to be made for Juanita Broderick’s very believable claim that she was raped by former President Bill Clinton when he was the Attorney General of Arkansas, and the radical left’s defense of Scottsboro Boys and other black men accused of raping white women in the Jim Crow era of the south is still to be regarded as a heroic chapter in the history of liberalism, but otherwise any woman’s claim of rape is to be believed no matter how little evidence supports the charge or how much evidence refutes it.
To believe otherwise opens one to a charge of denying that rape is a continuing problem, but those who insist on believing every charge without reason are not helping the many women who truly are victims of this heinous crime. Every false charge that is ultimately disproved makes it harder for the public to believe the true claims, and those who fall for those false charges similarly discredit themselves. Rolling Stone has done great harm to a fraternity at the University of Virginia, and will probably wind up paying for it in a libel suit, but one can only hope that it will pay for the great harm it has done to rape victims with declining sales and ad revenue and public scorn.

— Bud Norman

Race, Class, Gender, and the New Rules

Race, gender, and class are the trinity of modern liberalism, and all three are becoming increasingly complicated.
While growing up in the heroic era of the civil rights movement we were taught that the race issue was a rather simple of matter of judging a man by the content of his character rather than the color of his skin, but such simplistic notions of racial equality are apparently no longer applicable. The great civil rights cause of recent months has involved a black teenager who was fatally shot while attempting to kill a white police officer, and we read that the organizers of one of the many protests demanding the officer be punished for not allowing himself to be murdered are insisting that only “people of color” participate, although they will generously allow “non-people of color” to stand nearby in solidarity. Aside from the new civil rights movement’s curious insistence on a return to racial segregation, we’re also jarred by its terminology. “People of color” has always struck as uncomfortably close to “colored people,” a phrase that was banned from polite conversation way back in our boyhood days, except at meetings of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which seems to be exempted by some sort of grandfather clause, and we’re not sure if the unfamiliar description of “non-people of color” is meant to imply that we’re not people or just that we’re not sufficiently hued, but in any case the new rules will take some getting used to.
The latest news is also forcing us to reconsider our past lessons regarding what were once called the sexes but is now known as the genders. In our formative years the feminist movement insisted on that same simplistic notion of equal treatment that the civil rights movement once championed, to the point that such old-fashioned acts of chivalry as opening a door or offering a bus seat to a woman were considered insulting and women were allowed to be as irresponsibly promiscuous as the most libidinous man. Feminism thus defined proved predictably popular with the least chivalrous and most libidinous men, and the resulting bacchanal that is contemporary college life has predictably proved so unsatisfactory to those women who retain a traditionally feminine desire for love and commitment that it has been deemed a “culture of rape” and the feminists are now insisting that any woman who has been unhappily seduced be able to have the cad thrown out of school without due process. Contraceptives are still to be subsidized, and anyone who who thinks less of the women who choose to be irresponsibly are faulted for “slut-shaming,” but any man who still plays by the earlier rules would be well advised to get himself a lawyer. The issue is further complicated by the recent invention of several new sexual categories other than male and female, including such exotic and seemingly rare categories as transgendered and omni-gendered and a few others that we’ve had to look up on the internet because the dictionaries haven’t yet caught up with them, and we shudder to think how arcane the rules for their relationships might be.
Class used to be simpler, too. In our younger days rich people were all right so long as they earned their money in an honest and socially beneficial way, poor people were all right so long as their poverty resulted from hard luck or heredity, and most people considered themselves somewhere in between and thought themselves all right as well. Back then the rich people were presumed Republican, the poor people Democrat, and the folks in between chose sides according to their personal preferences. Now the very rich and the very poor tend to be Democrats, which imbues both with a sense of nobility, while the folks in the middle tend to vote Republican, which earns them a reputation as boobs. Because the Democrats’ candidates are invariably from the wealthier end of the party, usually having earned their wealth through political connections and speaking fees and marrying rich widows and other not very honest or socially beneficial ways, it requires a more complex theory of class than Marx and Engels ever conceived. The wealthiest and most liberal communities in America are the most segregated by both class and race, the poorest and most liberal communities can be counted on to continue voting for the policies that have created their segregated squalor, and the new rules somehow allow the former to retain their sense of moral righteousness and the latter to retain an even more spiritually satisfying sense of victimhood.
Keeping up with all these changes is proving exhausting, and we’re inclined to stop trying. Better we should keep on judging men by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin, treating women with the respect we would want for ourselves, and assuming that the rich and the poor and the folks in between are all right unless we have reason we think otherwise. This might make us racist, sexist, and classist, but we’re unlikely to avoid those charges now matter how hard we try be up-to-date.

— Bud Norman

An Impossible Essay Question

Our college days were long ago in the era of raccoon coats and ukeleles and pitching woo over a box lunch on the quad, but we still try to keep abreast of the contemporary campus scene. These days the talk seems mostly about sex, as it was even back in our day, but it’s lately been a strange conversation.
After decades of giddily deconstructing the sexually repressed patriarchy and its archaic Judeo-Christians superstitions that notoriously kept women barefoot and pregnant through the ’50s or so, academia has now decided that neither does it care for the ongoing fraternity orgy that has resulted. Unsurprisingly enough the more demure co-eds haven’t found the promised self-fulfillment of sexual freedom, and instead feel put upon by the highly sexualized new social standards, and the modern feminist academia has declared it a “Culture of Rape.” Rape is defined here more broadly than law, lexicography, and the general English-speaking public have long understood the term, to the point that it encompasses almost any sexual activity that a woman later regrets, and with prodding from the Department of Justice schools are working to stamp it out. Bringing back that sexually repressed patriarchy is of course out of the question, so the official response has to been to do away with due process and presume the guilt of any student accused of violating the nebulous new rules of sexual propriety. At Ohio State University, proving one’s innocence not only entails proving the other party’s consent but also proving they had reached agreement on why they are having sex.
Our further advice to any libidinous Buckeyes is to get the agreement in writing, not because it’s likely to keep anyone off the sex offender register but because the documents would make for such fascinating reading. Over the past many millennia the question of why we have sex has been pondered by the world’s most brilliant scientists, philosophers, poets, and advice columnists, none of whom have come up with an adequate explanation for why anyone should become involved with such messy nonsense, and it would be quite a hoot to see those kids who sit shirtless in sub-freezing football stadiums with their fraternity letters painted on their fashionably-toned tummies take a stab at the question. Psychiatrists and stand-up comedians would find a gold mine of material in comparing the stated reasons of the men and to those of the women, making the unforgivably heteronormative assumption that a man and woman are involved, and our guess is that little sexual activity would occur even on a college campus if both parties were honestly forthcoming about their motives. Even the biggest and hunkiest man on campus is likely to strike out with even the most promiscuous and plain girl after affixing his signature to a document stating that he agrees to the ensuing sexual encounter because the party of the second of the part has large breasts and he’s been on a dry spell lately. Even the comeliest campus queen would be rebuffed even by the most nerdy engineering student if she ever confessed whatever dark and twisted character flaw it is that would cause anyone, at any age, to contemplate having sex with something so hideous as a college boy.
Some couples might state the same reasons of true love and all that, but given the current offerings in popular music and motion pictures we can’t imagine where today’s college students would get such ideas. Youngsters used to get such lofty notions from their literature classes, where Shakespeare was comparing his love to a summer’s day and finding her more lovely temperate, or on the black-and-white late shows that used to be the only thing on television, where Bogie was sagely telling the highly desirable Ingrid Bergman that the problems of two little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this world, but those lessons have been lost. All that dead white male stuff is read only to expose its crimes against race, class, and gender, and anyone watching the late show rather than the latest indy films on the internet will find that the oldies are now from the ’70s when the sexual revolution still seemed a heroic cause. The college students being presumed guilty of violating the new and as yet unenunciated rules have been shaped more by popular entertainments and academic pronouncements and a political party’s promises of free contraceptions that constitutes what is, if not precisely a “culture of rape,”  a culture that encourages the behavior that the schools and the Justice Department hope to stamp out by iron-fisted governmental power rather than that nasty old social stigma that used to discourage inevitably horny college boys from pressing equally horny and inept young women into activities they later regret. Social stigma is so judgmental, after all, and although it once proved more effective than the government’s harsher measures it doesn’t pay any bureaucratic salaries.
We’ll keep an eye out for further developments, as we find it one of the more hilarious academic follies of recent years. Trying to impose some sort of sexual restraint on these college kids is going to be challenging, especially without any of that archaic Judeo-Christian superstition or any other commonsensical social rationale redolent of that still-hated patriarchy, and we’ll be interested to see how the dwindling number of male students on our college campuses react to being presumed guilty of sexual assault. Perhaps it should be a condition of enrolling in a school that the student and university sign a statement that explains their reasons for entering such an agreement. The student probably won’t mention a desire to learn the best of his civilization’s knowledge, or to prepare for a lucrative career in the soon-to-be-booming economy, and might even admit that he’s hoping to get some action for taking on a job and a wife. The school will admit that they’re interested in the tuition money that goes up every time the federal student loan program authorizes an increase in debt loads, or they’ll also admit a desire to indoctrinate another middle white class into anti-Americanism. At that point, nobody will be getting any action.

— Bud Norman

Bending the Moral Arc

The Russians are invading Ukraine, the Islamic State terror gang is beheading and crucifying and otherwise slaughtering thousands of people across a wide swath of Iraq and Syria and Libya, and another American aircraft carrier is heading to the contentious South China Sea, but not to worry. Speaking recently about the Islamic State’s beheading of an American journalist, just before another tee time, President Barack Obama assured the country that “the future is won by those who build and not destroy.”
At a news conference on Thursday Obama admitted in so many words that “We don’t have a strategy yet” for dealing with the Islamic State, but he seemed to retain his usual faith in history’s happy predestination nonetheless. He and his Secretary of State have dismissed Russia’s massive land grab as a sign of weakness and an embarrassingly out-dated way of doing things, assurances have been made that all of that even more old-fashioned beheading and crucifying and slaughtering that the Islamic State gang has been up to certainly “has no place in the 21st Century,” and thus far these messes have dominated the news thoroughly enough that no one in the administration has been obliged by the press to explain why another aircraft carrier is needed in the South China Sea. “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice,” as the president is fond of saying, to the point that he had it woven into the Oval Office carpet, and we are expected to share his confidence that the aphorism will prove true no matter what befuddled efforts America might make.
A couple of smarter fellows over at National Review have already written convincingly about Obama’s childish faith that the good guys always win in the end, no matter how wimpy their good guy ways nor how ruthlessly bad the bad guys might be, but we would add that such fantastical notions are characteristic of modern liberal thinking about almost everything. Not just foreign policy, but  economics, social issues, and the very nature of man.
Liberal foreign policy presupposes that the rest of the world closely resembles one of those impeccably multicultural Benneton clothing ads with the rainbow coalition of good-looking hipsters that you can tell are so much cooler and up-to-date than any of those troglodyte Republicans we’ve got around here in America, and that if we just stopped doing the things that mean old George W. Bush used to do humanity would resume its normal state of peace and cooperation. This theory cannot explain why a troublesome portion of the rest of the world remains intent on beheading and crucifying and slaughtering or reestablishing Soviet Empires or making other sorts of mischief, no matter how unlike George W. Bush the American president might be, but this has not shaken the liberal faith. Those Islamic State terrorists with American or other western passports will still be waved past airport security while the wheelchair-bound old white woman heading from Cleveland to see her son in Chicago is given the full search, lest Islamic sensibilities be offended by our outrageous profiling, and it remains a moral imperative that we not acquire any information about the plots afoot by harshly interrogating a prisoner at Guantamo Bay. Diplomacy and sanctions and a chin-up moral superiority will surely sway those who are beheading and crucifying and slaughtering or reestablishing Soviet Empires, and we’ll not ask about that aircraft carrier heading to the South China Sea, and if those miscreants continue such out-of-date behaviors they’ll just look all the worse, at least in the eyes of American liberals.
The same sort of cocksureness infects liberal economics. For all their railing against unfettered American capitalism, liberals apparently believe it is such a magical cornucopia of prosperity that no matter what taxes and regulations and energy costs and cultural scorn that is imposed on it the invulnerable machine will continue to generate enough wealth that it’s just a matter of divvying it out to the right interest groups. When people and companies flee a city, county, state, or country to avoid such impediments they are derided for their lack of patriotism, which liberals define as a mindless obeisance to their agenda, and the resulting economic decline is more than offset by the increase in the liberal sense of moral superiority. America is such a rich country that surely we can do this generous thing or that compassionate thing, we are constantly told, even when those things are entirely antithetical to the capitalist ethos that once upon a time made America rich.
Liberalism similarly holds that you can smash the patriarchy and an army of social workers will fill in nicely for fathers, despite the results apparent on the streets of slums from New York City to Los Angeles to Ferguson, Missouri, and that a moral society can exist absent a moral framework that stigmatizes anything other than a lack of appreciation for homosexuality and contraception and the rest of the sexual revolution. When such rampant licentiousness results in what the feminists are now calling a “culture of rape” at the nation’s colleges we can simply do away with due process and a presumption of innocence for those nasty frat boys who seem the main beneficiaries of that still-lauded sexual revolution, while nuns can compelled to pitch in for the contraception of the more willing co-ed sexual revolutionaries, and with a few other coercive measures we should be able to maintain a more perfect sexual freedom. Some of those mean old Republican rednecks and those dastardly nuns won’t like it, but the addition of a few million more illiterate and unskilled workers from Third World countries to their benighted communities should provide just the right enlightenment and communal peace.
All of this derives from the liberals’ touching but ridiculous belief in the inherent goodness of man. The idea that a noble human spirit once held sway in a pre-agricultural epoch is as old as Jean Jacques-Rousseau’s 18th-century musings on the supposedly idyllic “State of Nature,” and it has done more damage to mankind than all the carbon it ever emitted. Rousseau’s philosophical opposite Thomas Hobbes was more correct in describing the state of nature as “nasty, brutish, and short,” and all the good that have been accomplished over the years was achieved by fierce resistance to the beheaders and crucifiers and slaughterers, all the wealth that has enriched mankind was created by individuals acting in their own enlightened self-interest, and the most tolerant and the most well-ordered societies in human history have been informed by the dour postlapsarian view of the Judeo-Christian tradition. It would be tempting to believe that the moral arc of the universe bends toward the justice that can be found in these timeless truths, but history shows that we have to do the bending, and it looks as if we’re blowing it.

— Bud Norman