Begging His or Her Pardon

One of President Barack Obama’s final official acts was commuting the sentence of the former Army Private Bradley Manning, who was convicted of providing classified information to Wikileaks and is now known as prisoner Chelsea Manning, and it seems an appropriately complicated story to end one presidency and begin another.
Having harbored a slight fear that Obama would let his freak flag fly and go full-blown leftist crazy with his final pardons and commutations to unleash an army of angry convicts into the coming street wars, we’ve been somewhat relieved by his relative restraint. Some rather unsavory offenders have somehow been granted his mercy, but not in any numbers that are remarkable even by the standards of past Republican administrations, and we can easily see why Manning would be irresistibly sympathetic to someone of Obama’s liberal instincts. Obama has been even more aggressive in plugging leaks than Nixon and his infamous “plumbers,” but what Manning leaked was considered embarrassing to the previous Republican administration of George W. Bush, and since then he’s become a she, which is quite the fashion these days, and there’s an opportunistically recurring enthusiasm among for liberals for bold truth tellers.
There’s always an opportunistically recurring enthusiasm among conservatives for guarding state secrets by force of law, too, and all the Republicans were in one of those moods back when Manning caught, convicted, and sent off to prison. We cheered on the process along with the rest, and wondered aloud why a mere private with such obvious mental health issues had access to such sensitive information in the first place, and nothing that has since transpired has changed our minds about it. Even Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan refers to Manning as Chelsea when denouncing the pardon, and although we have our quibbles about we are adamant that has nothing to do with Manning’s culpability, and we hope it has nothing to do with his commutation. We are still steadfastly against the illegal public dissemination of classified information, except perhaps in one of those far-fetched dystopian nightmare scenarios that have occasionally occurred in some places from time to time, and hopefully will be able to remain so during the next administration.
The next administration seems to have a more opportunistic opposition to such leaks, though, along with most of its many supporters. By now even president-elect Donald Trump admits that he thinks the Russians probably hacked all those WikiLeak-ed Democratic e-mails that he gleefully admitted gleefully pointed to during the past campaign, at one point telling one of his raucous rallies “Boy, do I love Wikileaks,” and we also his recall his jocular remarks about how great it would be if the Russians or the that possible 400 pound fat guy in New Jersey would also hack the e-mails his Democratic rival sent while Secretary of State, and there is by now a widespread agreement on the right and in the Republican party that some hacking and leaking and violation of the law is acceptable so long as it embarrasses the left and the Democratic party. This double standard always offended us when it came from the left, as it so often did and still does during the latest controversies, and we find it no less offensive when coming from the right.
All those leaks will no doubt go unplugged for at least another four years, and we’ll continue to call for locking the leakers up and eagerly poring through whatever they leaked, and keep an eye out, as always, for that dystopian nightmare scenario that might justify it all. At this point Bradley or Chelsea Manning or whatever you want to call him or her has done all the damage that he or she is likely do, so we’ll not make any big deal out of his her or commutation and wish him or her the very best for the rest of his or her life, but we’ll be holding the next administration to the same grumpy standards as the past one.

— Bud Norman


The Scandals of Ben Carson

Some of the big media have lately trained their sights on retired neurosurgeon and Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, and thus far we are unimpressed by the effort. If the latest scandals are the best they can come up with, we have to conclude that Carson has led a more blameless life than most of us.
The Cable News Network came up with a damning report that Carson was consistently nice and studious as a boy. This is apparently damning because in his autobiography Carson wrote that in his early childhood years he was afflicted with an occasionally violent temper, and he even admitted attacking a friend with a knife and his mother with a hammer, before his own revulsion toward himself led to an epiphany and an intense period of prayerful meditation that allowed him to overcome it. Because CNN was unable to locate any eyewitnesses to these events, and instead interviewed several childhood friends who only recalled his more usually placid boyhood, they naturally concluded that the formerly sweet-natured and well-behaved boy somehow grew up to be a pathological liar whose ruthless rise to power must be stopped by any means necessary. Even the rest of the big media were unimpressed, however, so we except the report will have little effect and we won’t see many more stories about what a nice boy Carson used to be.
The rest of the big media seem to have higher hopes for a story that ran in Politico, whose first headline gloated that Carson’s suddenly highly-scrutinized autobiography “fabricated” a story about him being offered a scholarship to West Point. Some semantic hair-splitting makes this scandal possible, as one must apply for admission to West Point to be accepted, which Carson’s autobiography frankly admits he did not do, and these days the military academies do not talk of “scholarships” to describe the fully-paid tuition and room and board and stipends that come in exchange for admission the schools and the promise of two years of following military service, even though they did at the time Carson was writing about, and it seems Carson might have misremembered the date of the dinner he had with Gen. William Westmoreland as a reward for his exceptional performance in the Detroit public schools’ Reserve Officers Training Corps program, so of course the media are frothing. Carson plausibly claims that because of his stellar record he was assured by military men ranging from Westmoreland to the local ROTC commanders that he would be granted the tuition-free admission to West Point if he did apply, which he reasonably understood to mean that he was being offered a scholarship, and until all those big media are able to disprove it we’ll assume that he’s more likely accurate about the matter than they.
There are also the retired neurosurgeon’s views on Egyptology to be considered, of course, and much of the big media are predictably aghast. Carson’s recent rise to the top of the polls has brought such scrutiny that someone came up with a 1998 commencement address at a college affiliated with the Seventh-Day Adventist Church in which he speculated that one of the pyramids may have been built to store the grain being saved for the seven-year drought prophesied by Joseph, so all the Republicans-are-religious-nuts stereotypes are immediately in play, and the New York Post piled on with a photograph of a portrait that some obviously amateur friend painted of Carson and Jesus together, and Carson’s Seventh-Day Adventism is no doubt the next line of attack. None of which strikes us as all that scandalous. Egyptology is a matter of merely arcane interest to us, we rather like a candidate willing to defy the consensus of almost any scientific or historical field these days, the biblical account of Egypt’s seven years of plenty and seven years of famine contains such time-honored wisdom that it’s not out of the question it is also historically accuracy, and only us religious nuts seem to put any stock such time-honored wisdom these days, so we’re heartened to see one running for president. Whatever the theological quirks of Seventh-Day Adventism, they aren’t so anti-scientific that they prevented Carson from becoming the head of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and we’ll take it his word for that the denomination made it possible.
The famously soft-spoken Carson was somewhat more full-throated during a press conference clash about these matters with the big media, and rightly objected to a seeming double-standard regarding the autobiographies of Republican and Democratic candidates. He noted the relative lack of interest about the composite girlfriend and other dubious details in ’08 candidate Barack Obama’s wildly praised memoirs, or how the drugged and drunken teenager who admitted to be wound up in an Ivy League school, or his twenty years of attendance at a church where an anti-semitic and anti-American minister prayed for America’s damnation, and that’s not something we associate with Seventh-Day Adventism, so we think he made a fair point. He could have noted the similar lack of outrage about presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s exaggerations about dodging sniper fire in Bosnia and her outright lies about the nature of the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi and her countless other prevarications, but we guess he’s saving that for a general election. The pushback will likely play well with the Republican voters who will decide the nomination, who are by now fed up with the double standard, and he seems to have picked up a lot of donations as a result, which will come in handy, so he seems to have won this exchange.
We’re still not sold on Carson’s candidacy, as we’d prefer a more seasoned politician to be president at this perilous moment in the country’s history, but thus far the attacks make us all the more convinced of his admirable character.

— Bud Norman

Enemies Foreign and Domestic

Of all the sordid details in that horrifying child sex abuse case in the northern England town of Rotherham, one seemed especially telling. Apparently the same Strategic Director of Children’s Services who chose to ignore the sexual torture of 1,400 English girls by Pakistani  and other Muslim immigrants over a 19 year period had once removed three children from their foster parents because the couple was known to support the United Kingdom Independence Party.
For the benefit of any American readers who are not anglophile or politically obsessed enough to know, the United Kingdom Independence Party is basically a British counterpart to America’s “tea party” movement. The independence it seeks is from the European Union and its many layers of bureaucratic regulation, so its domestic policies reflect a similar preference for low taxes and relatively unfettered markets and more freedom from the increasingly bossy government. Such outlandish principles have of course appalled polite opinion in Great Britain, even among the more established Tories but especially among the Labour types who hold posts such as Strategic Director of Children’s Services in provincial towns, and it is sadly unsurprising that the political activities of the newly-fledged party would offend official sensibilities more than the ongoing gang rapes and brutal sexual torture of children by more politically correct constiuents. The rapists and torturers were from an ethnic and religious minority that can only be criticized at the career-endangering risk of accusation of racism and religious prejudice, after all, while UKIP draws its dangerously widespread support from people who were once considered quintessentially British.
The same strange double standard is all too familiar here in the United States. Those  Internal Revenue Service workers who subjected “tea party” organizations applying for tax-exempt status to more severe scrutiny would never have thought to apply the fine tooth comb treatment to any organization of an Islamist bent, and they were more eager to question the applications of any groups supporting Israel’s fight against Islamism. The President of the United States is always more impassioned when railing against his domestic political opponents than when downplaying the treat of the head-chopping and crucifying of foreign foes, a chore so onerous that it has delayed his tee times, and the same strange priorities are common in his party and on the left more generally. The modern feminist movement in America has lately been concerned with a Republican “war on women” that so far as we can tell is reluctance in some Catholic and Evangelical corners of the party of to subsidize abortifacients and a “culture of rape” on American campuses that seems to be the inevitable consequence of the sexual revolution that modern feminism once championed, but the undeniable rapes that were excused by reasons of multi-cultural tolerance have not warranted mention. By this point we’re almost accustomed to hearing cocktail party conversation that excuses the exotically swarthy fellow swinging a scimitar and ululating “Alahu Akhbar” but condemns that pasty Baptist fellow who has been living peaceably down the street for the past half-century or so as a bona fide fascist because of the sign in his yard advising against the local tax hike referendum or the pro-life bumper sticker on his car or a general suspicion that he might decline an invitation to a same-sex marriage.
Our occasional impolite questions about why anyone should hold to such obviously ridiculous opinions always yield the same answers, and always in the same offended tone. All that head-chopping and crucifying and gang-raping are going in some far away country between people of whom we know nothing, we are told with the usual confidence in this historically-fraught phrase, but all that anti-tax and pro-life talk is going on right here in a culture they feel entitled to rule without any objection from the yokels. These are the same people who routinely lecture us about the interconnectedness of of the world, and how our stubborn refusal to segregate our plastics from our tins in the bi-weekly trash hauls will surely cause the downfall of our entire planet, but in accordance with the bumper stickers on their hybrid cars they are hoping to crush dissent locally while acting with exquisitely forbearing tolerance globally . The far more offensive behavior of that misunderstood “other” has already arrived in a small northern England town, however, and if the boasts of those head-choppnng terrorists can be believed it might well be coming to a soft-target skyscraper near you soon. In that unfortunate event we don’t expect that the Strategic Directors of Children’s Services of small town Great Brtain and and their socio-economic peers in the United States will go any any easier on the UKIP or “tea party” types, but it will be interesting to see how they feel about that hose head-chopping and crucifying scimitar-swingers who were once confined to a multicultural world of which we knew little.

— Bud Norman

Bridging the Scandal Gap

So many scandals are currently afoot it has become hard to keep up. The big one seems to be the manufactured traffic jam that occurred a while back in New Jersey, judging by the media coverage, but we hope the public will find some time for the others.
The New Jersey traffic jam is a big deal, of course. We’re frustrated enough with the relatively light traffic here in Wichita that we can readily sympathize with the poor New Jerseyite souls who had to endure hours of inching across a single lane of the George Washington Bridge in order to get to their jobs in New York City, and we can’t blame them for being outraged that e-mail and text messages seem to have proved it was caused an aide to the New Jersey governor who was highly placed enough to order the lane closings as retribution for a mayor’s refusal to endorse the governor’s re-election campaign. This is not only an outrageous abuse of power that inconvenienced many thousands of innocent people, it predictably endangered the lives of people needing emergency medical treatment, violated the law and every standard of democratic behavior, and has rightly provoked severe criticism of the governor.
Even so, the attention being paid to matter seems inordinate to some of the other scandals. The good folks at, for instance, have found that in just the past 24 hours the three traditional over-the-air networks have spent more airtime on the traffic jam than they have spent in the past six months on the Internal Revenue Service’s harassment of the president’s political opponents. Dedicated news-followers might vaguely recall the IRS scandal, which involved a president rather than a governor, a political movement comprised of millions of Americans rather than the hapless commuters of a New Jersey city, and a systematic attempt to stifle the free speech rights of a significant portion of the country rather than a ridiculously petty vendetta against a mayor. The governor in question has fired the people responsible for the scandal and forthrightly accepted responsibility for hiring them, whereas nobody has suffered any consequences for the IRS misconduct and the president ultimately responsible the agency continues to dismiss it as a “phony scandal.”
Forgive our right-wing cynicism, but we can’t help suspecting that the difference in the media coverage has something to do with the governor being a Republican and the president a Democrat.
That the Republican is widely considered a contender for his party’s presidential nomination probably has something to do with it as well. From our prairie perspective it has always been hard to envision Gov. Chris Christie as the Republican nominee, given his intolerance of gun rights, tolerance of radical Islamism, post-hurricane embrace of Obama, and various other northeastern heresies against the one true Republican faith, but the east coast media take the idea quite seriously. Christie initially appalled the east coast media and impressed heartland conservatives by confronting the public sector unions and cutting his state’s budget, although his efforts paled in comparison to what our Kansas governor has gleefully done in this right-to-work state, but has since charmed the reporters to approximately the same extent he has alienated his fellow Republicans in the rest of the country. Some polls show him as his party’s best chance of beating Hillary Clinton, however, so the media are bound to seize the opportunity of an actual scandal to bring him down. Just as Sen. John McCain learned back in ’08, being the Democratic media’s favorite Republican doesn’t mean you’re not a Republican.
That the Democrat implicated in the IRS scandal is Barack Obama also makes a difference. Affiliation with a racialist religious cult, the Fast and Furious gun-running operation, politically-motivated subsidies for the soon-to-be-bankrupt Solyndra scam, the deaths of four Americans at the unprotected consulate in Benghazi, and countless other scandals that would have dominated the front pages even during a typical Democratic administration, have all been happily downplayed by the media, lest the historic presidency of the media’s anointed messiah be tarnished. After a brief surge of publicity that lasted about as long as the fiction that it was all the work of a few low-level government workers in Cleveland, the IRS scandal has received little coverage. Even the announcement that the investigator officially appointed to get to the bottom of it all is an Obama contributor, a scandal within a scandal has been largely overlooked in all rush to the George Washington Bridge.
There are plenty of other scandals, too, from the Justice Department’s demand that schools discipline students in accordance with racial quotas to the administration’s appointment of a cop-killer’s advocate to a key a civil rights post. Most of them don’t involve a Republican, though, much less a Republican that is perceived as a threat to Hillary Clinton’s historic continuation of the current administration, so there won’t be much airtime or news hole to paid heed.

— Bud Norman

One of the most peculiar features of modern liberalism is its tendency to romanticize self-proclaimed enemies abroad while vilifying anyone with a dissenting opinion at home. The dark-hued fellow swinging a scimitar over his turbaned head while chanting “death to the infidels” is to be engaged as an authentic expression of righteous post-colonial rage, while the pale Baptist who has been living peaceably down the street the past many decades is to be regarded as a dangerous religious fanatic, and the antiquated economic customs of the most impoverished third world hellholes are celebrated for their ancient wisdom while any talk of capitalism or fiscal restraint are derided as heartless extremism in any country made wealthy by these principles.
This odd bias has been on bold display lately in two separate stories that have been prominent in the news. President Barack Obama has proudly announced that he will not deign to negotiate on the debt ceiling with the congressional Republicans, whom the president’s spokesman has likened to terrorists, but almost simultaneously he has just as proudly announced his eagerness to enter negotiations with the leaders of Iran, who actually are terrorists.. Aside from the strikingly odd prejudices involved, neither decision is likely to lead to a good result.
By refusing to negotiate with the Republicans who are quite non-violently exercising their constitutionally approved prerogative to spend the public’s funds and limit its debt, Obama is not only ensuring the government shutdown that he has issued the most dire warnings but also risking the wrath of the public which he has seemingly plotted to bring down on his adversaries. There is sufficient public indignation over the Obamacare law that the Republicans have reasonably calculated they can fight it even to a point that it shuts down much of the government for an extended period of time, and if they are correct in their calculations they can throw yet another monkey wrench into the already gummed-up works of the president’s signature legislation without harm to their chances in the upcoming mid-term elections. The president’s loudly stated refusal to even consider a compromise can only help the Republicans’ efforts, and precludes the possibility of any deal that might bolster his own faltering standing with the public. If the president’s pride did not override his political instincts, he could even accept the Republicans’ gift of a one-year delay on Obamacare’s widely hated individual mandate that would buy time for his befuddled bureaucracy to try and get things right while putting off the disastrous results of the policy past the next election cycle.
No such favorable outcomes can be expected from the negotiations with Iran over its ongoing efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Iran’s recently-elected figurehead president Hassan Rouhani is touted as a “moderate” in much of the press, but nothing in his long record suggests that he isn’t a hard-line Islamist and much of his career has been spent facilitating his country’s nuclear weapons by distracting a gullible western diplomatic corps with his endless talk and empty promises. After Obama’s bungling of the Syrian crisis into the willing hands of Russian President Vladimir Putin and a nonchalant United Nations Security Council, the wily Rouhani is likely to prove a far more formidable negotiator than in anyone the Republicans have in Congress. The red lines that Obama draws against murderous dictators have proved more impermanent than the ones he draws against the likes of House Speaker John Boehner, and Rouhani has certainly noticed.
Figurative terrorists are always more frightening to the modern liberal than literal ones, however, and the results don’t seem to matter.

— Bud Norman

The Thought That Counts

According to an old joke, there are three kinds of people in the world: Those who are good at math, and those who aren’t. Apparently Barack Obama is one of the lattermost group.

Speaking to an adoring crowd in Florida, the president spoke proudly of the products sold around the world and “stamped with three proud words, ‘Made in the U.S.A.’” By our calculations that is four words, although “U.S.A.” is just another way of saying “United States of America,” so the president could even be considered off by three words.

This is no big deal, of course, just one of those inconsequential verbal slips that inevitably occur when someone’s job entails talking all day long. Still, the error should be duly noted for four reasons.

One is undeniable truth that it would have been a very big deal indeed if it had been said by any Republican. George W. Bush’s occasional and usually less ridiculous malapropisms were always widely publicized and thoroughly ridiculed, Dan Quayle was forever branded a dunce because of his failure to spot a common misspelling, Sarah Palin was pilloried for saying she could see Russia from her house even though she never said any such thing, and similar examples abound. When Mitt Romney makes some similar misstatement, or even one far less absurd, he can expect it to be endlessly replayed on all the comedy shows as proof of his stupidity, and such double standards should not be endured.

Also, while Obama’s incorrect addition is not necessarily proof of his stupidity, it does further belie his whatever is left of his reputation as the smartest man who ever lived. Some people can’t reminded of this often enough.

What’s more, the arithmetical error might very well be the result of a profound innumeracy on the president’s part. Obama’s critics have charged that the double-counting used to sell Obamacare, the phantom peace dividend used to provide an appearance of budget reduction, and the numerous large gaps between his economic projections and reality have all been proof of his dishonesty, but it may in fact be because he’s just not very good at math.

Those are only three reasons to note the error, our fact-checkers inform us, but we trust that the president won’t notice.

— Bud Norman