Ryan and the Old School of Republicanism Bow Out

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan announced Wednesday that he won’t be running for re-election, so for now his vituperative critics on both the left and right won’t have him to kick around anymore. These days we’re not sure where we land on the political spectrum, but from our current position here on the sidelines we’re going to mostly miss the guy.
Not so long ago when we and our readers considered us rock-ribbed conservative Republicans, Ryan was our guy. He not only talked the necessary talk about averting America’s quickly accruing national debt and eventual bankruptcy, but walked the necessary walk along the perilous path of the painful entitlement reforms and budget cuts that are required to keep America solvent without even more painful tax increases. Such sensible if unappetizing prescriptions naturally outraged the left, which produced widely-seen advertisements depicting Ryan throwing your beloved grandma off a cliff, and he politely but quite resolutely endured the slanders to stand his ground.
Such civil defiance of the Democratic left naturally endeared Ryan to the tax-cutting and budget-balancing “tea party” Republican right of the time, and thus he wound up way back in 2012 as the vice-presidential nominee on the Republican ticket with presidential nominee Mitt Romney to reassure the party’s conservative base that Romney was all right. Romney on his own seemed a sound enough Republican to us at the time, and we still think he’d have been a far better president than incumbent Democrat President Barack Obama, but he’d somehow once been governor of the loony left state of Massachusetts, and had wound up signing into law something that looked an awful lot like the hated-by-Republicans Obamacare act that Obama had signed, and his pick of the steadfastly anti-Obamacare Ryan as a running mate and potentially heartbeat-away-from-the-resident was reassuring to the those of us on the right as it was appalling to those of you on the left.
Both Romney and Ryan wound up enduring the slings and arrows of the left with the civility and calmly convincing arguments we’d come to expect from the best of the Republican party, but they also wound up losing to the hated Obama, and since then the Grand Old Party hasn’t been quite it as it once was. It turns out that a lot of those “tea party” types we once rallied with like their Medicare and Social Security more than they hate the welfare payments that account for a far smaller share of that once-scary national debt, and by 2016 a decisive plurality of the Republican party had concluded that civility and calmly convincing arguments were no longer a match for the slanderous slings and arrows of the left.
Which wound up with putatively Republican President Donald Trump. Trump ran on promises that he wouldn’t mess with any tea partier’s Medicaid or Social Security, somehow balance the budget without any tax increases, build a “big, beautiful” wall too keep Mexicans away and somehow force the Mexicans to pay for it, and he outdid even the right-wing talk radio hosts in talking tough about all those damned Democrats and left-wingers, and he didn’t bother with any of those dull but calmly convincing arguments. Trump wound up losing the popular election by a few million votes, so he eked out enough ballots in a few states Romney narrowly lost, including Ryan’s own Wisconsin, that the former casino mogul and reality show star wound up winning the electoral vote.
Since then it’s been a different American political landscape in general and a wholly different Republican party in particular, and at the moment neither Ryan nor ourselves seem to know where we fit in all of it. Like us Ryan took a principled Republican stand against Trump early in the Republican primary process, and even after Trump had secured his party’s nomination he gallantly declined to defend Trump’s outrageous statements on the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape about grabbing women by their where-evers, but since Trump’s election he’s been more conciliatory.
Aside from the occasional criticisms of Trump’s crudity, he successfully guided a Republican tax-cut bill through the House which also passed the Senate and wound up with Trump claiming all the credit when signed it. He made good on a promise to get the House of Representatives to repeal the hated Obamacare law, although a slimmer Republican majority in the Senate couldn’t do the same and Trump never got to sign it, and he dutifully endured the opprobrium that the right heaped on the GOP ‘establishment” and never questioned the new party’s religious faith in Trump’s divine deal-making abilities. The one-time champion of fiscal sobriety also spared Trump the political problems of a government shutdown by helping passage of a deficit-funded and worse-than-Obama budget busting spending bill that didn’t address any of the nation’s looming fiscal woes or those ginned-up immigration problems Trump is always railing about, and willingly accepted the slanderous slings and arrows of the right.
None of this will placate the newly-fangled right that regards Trump as the epitome of au courant conservatism, and the stubbornly old-fashioned left will still revile him as the son of a bitch who threw your beloved grandmother off the cliff, but from our view on the sidelines we take a more sympathetic view of Ryan’s career.
Our lazy asses don’t have to worry about reelection, however, as we never stood a chance of getting elected to anything in the first place, so we’ll not sit in judgment of a poor politician such as Ryan. Hillary Clinton was the Democratic nominee in the last presidential election, after all, and despite everything we’ll readily forgive any Republicans who went ahead and voted for Trump. It was Trump’s populist campaign that made meaningful entitlement reform impossible, so we’ll generously assume that Ryan intended to keep the government operating just long enough to confront fiscal reality, and he generously allowed Trump to take credit for the big defense spending increase, and despite the rants of the right wing talk radio hosts he did persuade a majority of the House to repeal that damned Obamacare.
None of which will squelch the left’s glee at Ryan’s departure. Even as the recent Republicans decry Ryan as a “Republican in Name only” and “establishment” “deep state” “globalist” sell-out, the current Democrats still regard him as the guy who who pushed your beloved grandmother over the cliff. The more high-brow leftists still give Ryan credit for his civility and calmly stated arguments, but that’s all the more reason that Trump-loving Republicans will regarding him as a squishy sort of beta-male.
That scant plurality of remaining Trump-loving Republicans should note, though, that Ryan is just the most prominent of an unprecedented number establishment Republicans who no longer know where they fit on the political landscape and have decided not to seek reelection. At this relatively early point in the Trump era of the Republican party several GOP House seats in suburban districts and even a Senate seat in usually reliable Alabama have flipped to the Democrats, even the Speaker of the House and erstwhile conservative hero was in danger of losing his own race, and no matter what uncivil taunts Trump might “tweet” that political landscape seems fraught for both the best and worst sorts of Republican candidate.
Ryan insists that he’s stepping down to spend more time his children, who have thus far known him as a “weekend dad,” and his more generous critics on both the left and right agree that he’s the decent sort of family man fellow who would take that into account. We’re sure it’s at least partially true, and we’ll wish him and the rest of his family well. Still, his temporary departure from the pubic stage doesn’t augur well for either the Republican Party or the rest of the political landscape, and the national debt is bigger than ever, and we expect an acrimonious outcome.

— Bud Norman

Through Hell and High Water, “Russia” Persists

Throughout all the hurricanes and mass murders and threats of war, the “Russia” story persists. On Wednesday the Senate’s intelligence committee made clear that it’s not going away soon.
The eminently Republican chairman Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina told an unusual press conference that “There is consensus among members of staff that we trust the conclusions of the (intelligence community assessment),” which concluded that the Russian government attempted to affect the past presidential election by hacking information from the Democratic party, promulgating false propaganda through the internet, and an apparently unsuccessful effort to manipulate vote-counting in several states. He also admitted that “the issue of collusion is still open.”
President Donald Trump has expressed doubt that the Russians did anything untoward at all, argued that even if they did other countries probably did as well, and repeatedly sworn that in any case he and his campaign didn’t have anything to with any Russians. Almost all of which, alas, has lately been so thoroughly disproved that even the Republicans on the Senate intelligence agency vow to continue the investigation.
You still have to rely on those intelligence officials to believe that Russia that hacked the Democratic party’s computers and leaked all those e-mails, but Trump’s own Central Intelligence Agency director agrees and by now only Trump and his most die-hard supporters doubt it. Facebook and Twitter now acknowledge that their popular social media services were extensively used by Russian interests to spread false stories clearly intended to harm the Democratic campaign. Also, Trump’s own Homeland Security Secretary has recently and belatedly advised 21 states of Russian attempts to infiltrate their computer system, then clarified that in two of them Russians had attempted to scan other state networks. At this point the intelligence community is look pretty intelligent, and so far they aren’t mentioning any other countries that might have similarly meddled or acting as if it’s no big deal if they did.
Hurricane winds and sniper fire swept away many of the headlines, but the past weeks have also brought documented news that Trump was pursuing a business deal in Moscow during his campaign, his campaign manager was offering briefings to Kremlin-connected Russians, and Trump’s son and son-in-law and former national security advisor and various other administration officials have been updating their security clearance forms with numerous meetings with Russians that they had previously forgotten to mention. Throw in the Trump campaign’s conspicuously Russia-friendly rhetoric, the way those Russian propagandists seem to know exactly which counties and precincts to target in the states Trump narrowly won to give him an electoral majority, along with all the other news that has been piling up over the past months, and even such an eminently Republican sort of fellow as Sen. Burr has to concede that the question of collusion is still very much open.
The Senate’s investigation will continue, and there’s a special counsel on the job who has a reputation for doggedness and has already executed a no-knock warrant on that former campaign manager and seems to have some serious goods on that former national security advisor, so we’ll venture to guess that the “Russia” story will persists through the coming storms and crimes and the rest of the governmental fiascos.

— Bud Norman

Comey’s Firing Is So Damned Complicated

Pretty much all the news these days is reported through the prism of President Donald Trump versus the Democrats, which makes the big story about Trump firing Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey pretty damned complicated for just about everyone. Over his long and mostly distinguished career Comey has been a villain to both the right and left wings of American politics, and during the last couple of undeniably disastrous years he’s played both roles from month to month, so by the time he got fired no one seemed to like him.
As a young rising U.S. Attorney Comey was frequently promoted by the administration of Republican George W. Bush by vigorously investigating the pardon that Democratic President Bill Clinton had scandalously granted the con man and big-time Democratic campaign contributor Marc Rich and other matters dear to Republican hearts, then clashed with the Bush administration over surveillance matters and so endeared himself to the subsequent administration of Democratic President Barack Obama that he wound up running the FBI. In that capacity he wound up heading an investigation into the highly dubious e-mail practices of former Obama administration Secretary of State and sudden Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, and at that point things got even more damned complicated.
In the middle of the messiest American presidential election ever the FBI director held a press conference to announce that he was not recommending criminal charges against the Democratic nominee, which deeply disappointed all the Republicans, but he also noted that the Democratic nominee had been darned careless about national security and plausibly implied that Republican-appointed prosecutors might have found a case against her, which the Democrats could still spin as a win but didn’t fully satisfy them. As the election grew nearer Comey had another press conference to announce that the investigation was back on after some of the Democratic nominee’s classified e-mails had been found on the laptop of close aide’s notorious sex-fiend husband, who had been targeted in a separate and even tawdrier investigation, and although Comey again fell short of recommending a prosecution and the Republicans were again disappointed that no charges were filed the Democratic nominee is still plausibly able to blame her loss to the likes of Trump on Comey’s 11th hour revelations.
All of which makes Comey’s firing pretty damned complicated, for everybody involved, but it’s actually even more complicated than that. Over at The Washington Post the front page headlines explains that “Democrats hate James Comey. But they hate the fact Trump fired him even more,” and all sorts of Republicans should have similarly conflicted feelings. The deputy attorney general who joined in with several other high-ranking officials in calling for Comey’s firing wrote that “Almost everyone agrees that the director has made serious mistakes; it is one of the few issues that united people of different perspectives,” and although that’s true enough the Republicans also have plenty to worry about.
Any president is perfectly entitled by law and precedent to fire an FBI director for any old reason, although they have rarely done so, and given all the grousing that both Republicans and Democrats have lately been doing Comey it’s hard for anybody to argue that there’s insufficient reason now, which should get Trump through the next 24-hour news cycle, but of course it’s more complicated than that. Trump’s catchphrase “you’re fired” letter to Comey thanked him for his many mostly distinguished years of public service and included his personal thanks for the three separate occasions when Comey said that Trump wasn’t under FBI investigation, but the previous day’s big story was the testimony of a fired acting attorney general and a former national intelligence director that it would divulge classified intelligence to deny that there are also ongoing investigations into people closely involved in the Trump campaign regarding the Russians’ plausibly alleged meddling in the election, which also plausibly played a part in the outcome. That’s enough for the Democrats to peg a story or two on, and they’re bound to last past the next 24-hour news cycle.
Trump should weather the inevitable storm about the firing without any damage to his poll numbers, but who he hires as a replacement will be subjected to the most extreme scrutiny by almost everyone except his most loyal supporters. If the nominee seems eager to revisit the Clinton charges even after she was sentenced to the hell of losing to the likes to Trump that will invigorate most Democrats, and if he or she  seems uninterested in the ongoing investigation about Trump’s associates and their dealing with the Russians who do at this point seem have meddled in the election on Trump’s behalf, we expect Trump will suffer yet another 24-hour news cycle or more.
However it turns out, from our vantage point on the political sidelines we’ll be among the few wishing Comey a happy and blissfully boring retirement. Most of his long career was distinguished, with all of his bi-partisan offenses against both Republican and Democratic sensibilities being arguably justified, and as awful as he’s undeniably been to almost everybody over the last couple of years we can’t think of anyone who’s come out of that dreadful timespan smelling like a rose. We wish well to anyone who replaces him, too, but we’d warn him or her that after such an awful election its going to be damned complicated.

— Bud Norman

Meanwhile, at the Democratic Ranch

There was an unusual amount of attention paid to the race for the chairmanship for the Democratic National Party in the press, and all of our Democrat friends could hardly talk about anything else. Given the currently sorry state of the party, which now finds itself out power in the White House and both chambers of Congress and any minute now in the Supreme Court and much of the rest of the federal judiciary, not to mention in the governor’s mansions and legislatures and county commissions of most states, we can well understand the interest in what’s usually a back page story about someone whose only the politically obsessed sorts would usually recognize.
As the sorts of politically obsessed and retrograde Republicans who are as distressed as ever about the state of our own party, we’re not encouraged by how the race played out. From our old-fashioned right-wing perspective it came down to the far-left Tom Perez, President Barack Obama’s former Secretary of Labor and head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, and the even farther-left Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, who is best known as the party’s left-most member and the only Muslim ever elected to Congress. Perez was naturally backed by both Obama and failed party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and the rest of what can charitably be called the Democratic establishment, so naturally all of our Democratic friends were avidly for Ellison. All of our Democratic friends are in the same anti-establishment mood that overwhelmed so much of the Republican Party last election it wound up with President Donald Trump, and we try in vain to tell them that no good ever comes of it.
All of our Democratic friends were big for self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the past primaries, who was big backer of Ellison, and they all either enthusiastically voted for Green Party nominee Jill Stein or reluctantly for Clinton in the general election, and none of them have much more regard for Clinton than we do. They all regard her as dishonest and corrupt, which causes us to respect their political integrity, and they also find her insufficiently liberal, which causes us to question their sanity. As far as we can remember any party that loses power to a more conservative or liberal platform figures that it lost because it wasn’t sufficiently conservative or liberal enough, and all our Democrat friends are repeating the pattern. Having lost a winnable presidential race to a Republican who promised a Muslim ban and an immigration crackdown had an undeniable appeal to the sorts of white working class voters who once voted for Democrats, they figure the shrewd move was to pick a black and Muslim and formerly Black Muslim and still race-baiting and left-most-in-the-party kook to head up the party apparatus.
Any honest Republican should recognize the impulse. After it lost a winnable election against Obama in ’16 a huge chunk of the Grand Old Party was hating on failed nominee Mitt Romney, convinced that he’d been far too dignified and reasonable and otherwise establishment to prevail against those hated Democrats, and after Trump’s electoral victory we’re disappointed but not at all surprised our Democrat friends have concluded that she was just too damned dignified and reasonable and otherwise establishment to beat Trump. All of our Democratic buddies are convinced that Sanders’ unabashed socialism would have won the day, especially if it had been fused to the racial identity politics that Ellsion represents, and given the eight years of darkness the Republicans endured during the Obama years it’s altogether too plausible, but we still think the Democrats would have done better last time around with those relatively moderate candidates that were the first to drop out of the primaries.
If we were inclined to offer advice to adversaries, we would remind our Democrat friends that they just went six-for-seven in the last popular presidential votes, their last redoubts are the most populous and influential states, the states that made up the electoral majority were decided by razor-thing margins, and that nothing ever lasts forever in politics. In politics as in chess the center is usually the best space to occupy, and its not as if the victorious Perez isn’t far enough to the queen side. His establishment credentials suggest he might even be more effective in spreading Democratic nonsense than Ellison would have been, which alarms all our Republican friends, but at this point we were hoping at least one party will remain relatively sane.

— Bud Norman

The Damning Non-Indictment

The big news on the Fifth of July was that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had concluded after a prolonged investigation that the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee should not be indicted on federal charges for endangering national security and attempting to avoid domestic scrutiny of her awful record as Secretary of State by conducting her official business on an unauthorized and insecure e-mail account. The presumptive Democratic nominee and the serving two-term Democratic president who was campaigning with her on the Fifth of July were well pleased by the results, but we can’t imagine why anyone else would be pleased.
The current head of J. Edgar Hoover’s and Efrem Zimbalist Jr.’s formerly well-regarded FBI had famously defied on principled terms both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, so there was some hope among thus of us on the right that at least he would force the Democratic president’s appointed Attorney General to let the presumptive Democratic nominee off the hook, but at least he didn’t let them off the hook entirely. The brief and no-questions-taken-from-the-press announcement of her clean bill of health acknowledged that her e-mail practices as Secretary of Sate were indeed unauthorized by law and might well have have led to national-security-endangering breaches by hostile foreign governments, which should be enough to disqualify any old major party’s candidate from consideration for the president of the United States, but it also slightly plausibly cited a lack of proof of criminal intent. That law the presumptive Democratic nominee for President of the United States was being investigated for breaking specifically mentions “gross negligence,” however, and if questions had been allowed and we’d somehow been in on the announcement we would have loved to ask why “criminal intent” is required to prove “gross negligence.” The announcement also refuted many  of the lies that Clinton has been telling about the matter all along, including her insistence that there was only a “security review” and not a criminal investigation, and none of it reflects well on her, but the all important headline is that once again Clinton won’t be facing charges.
Even if they did bring charges we doubt it would have much difference. A recent poll showed that half of the country’s Democrats would have wanted her to fight on in the presidential race despite an indictment, and we’re sure would all of them would reply that the only another choice in a binary election is to elect the presumptive Republican nominee. There’s still a chance that one of those hostile governments that hacked the presumptive Democratic nominee’s e-mails is Russia, whose strongman leader currently has a mutual admiration society going with the presumptive Republican nomination and will happily transmit some of those top-secret e-mais to embarrass her, and there’s still the matter of the FBI investigation regarding her family’s phony-baloney “family foundation” and the donations it received from foreign countries during her tenure as Secretary of State, but for now it seems likely that the presumptive Democratic nominee will eventually be the actual Democratic nominee. This is bad news for the presumptive Republican nominee, who has such ethical and gross negligence issues of his own that Clinton is probably the only Democrat he has an outside chance of beating, and it’s bad news for the rule of law and the country at large.

— Bud Norman

A Soggy Independence Day

The long holiday weekend has mostly been rained out around here, and even after a mostly dry but constantly cloudy Sunday the two rivers bounding our neighborhood are still swelling over the adjacent bike paths and the Big Ditch that the city fathers carved out on the west side to keep us above water at times like these is also full, but at least the forecasters are forecasting a clear and sunny Independence Day suitable for baseball and charcoaling burgers and drinking beer al fresco and shooting off fireworks without fear of setting off a grassfire in the still soggy fields. Most folks around here and around the rest of the country will happily take the day off from paying any attention to the stormy and soggy political news of this unprecedentedly crazy quadrennial presidential year, which is good news for presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
The former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and formerly presumed First Woman President had another one of those disastrous news cycles that have so frequently interrupted the usual ongoing narrative about her historic and inevitable presidency, and she can only hope that most people weren’t paying any attention. First there was a well-documented and very damning report on her conduct as Secretary of State during the undeniably disastrous Benghazi incident, co-authored by our own well-liked Kansas Fourth District’s Rep. Mike Pompeo, and because it was already well-established that her conduct at every point was utterly appalling her more daring apologists were able to dismiss it was “nothing new.” Then came the news that her husband, a former two-term president and scandal-plagued disgrace in his own right, had happened to have a conversation about his grandchildren with the Attorney General who will ultimately decide if his wife is to be indicted on the very serious charges that her underlings at the Federal Bureau of Investigation are investigating, and that it happened in her private plane at a Phoenix Airport where he had been waiting around for 30 minutes before a supposed golf game that he intended to play in the 110-degree heat. Even the media that much prefer that storyline about Hillary Clinton’s historic and inevitable presidency had to admit that it looked bad and smelled fishy, and the resulting conspiracy ranged from the reliably left-wing Kathleen Parker’s worry that Bill Clinton was sabotaging his wife’s historic and otherwise inevitable presidency due to some subconscious impulse to the reliably right-wing Rush Limbaugh’s worry that Slick Willie is once again outwitting the hapless Republicans, but in any case the presumptive Democratic nominee can only hope that few people were paying attention.
While we were attempting to navigate our way through the least water-logged streets of downtown Wichita towards home on Saturday the presumptive Democratic nominee and formerly presumed First Woman President was enduring a three-and-a-half-hour interrogation by eight agents of the FBI regarding a drearily long and still on-going criminal investigation into her e-mail and “family foundation” fund-raising practices while Secretary of State, and it all looks so hopeful she can only hope that much of the country was too preoccupied to notice. Those who have been paying attention but are somehow not committed to her historic have already concluded that she’s guilty, guilty, guilty, so she’ll either be somehow indicted or suffer yet another awful news cycle of scandal when she isn’t and that private plane meeting will suddenly look all the fishier, and in this crazy quadrennial election year she might wind as the First Woman President in any case.
She’s running against the presumptive Republican nominee, after all, and the scandal-plagued Donald J. Trump managed to create a relatively insignificant “Twitter” imbroglio that allowed the media to offer another shiny distraction from the presumptive Democratic nominee’s ongoing scandals. That will be largely overlooked, too, though, and we urge that everyone take the day off from all of it and watch some baseball and charcoal some burgers and drink a beer al fresco and shoot off fireworks and enjoy what’s left of America’s stormy and soggy independence. At least it will make it all the harder to burn it to the ground, as almost every seems intent on doing.

— Bud Norman

Skyrockets in Flight

The past month, for all its many flaws, was at least easy on the utility bills around here. Although a stubborn winter persisted into the usual spring it did not require us to run the gas-fired furnace at any point, and the few days of high temperatures had us opening windows but not running the electrified air-conditioning, so our energy costs fora the billing period seemed almost reasonable. We plan to savor the satisfaction of writing those two-digit checks we sent off over the weekend, because summer will soon be sizzling on the plains and the Obama administration is intent on making our bills skyrocket.
You could be forgiven for having missed the news, given the media obsession with that five-dangerous-terrorists-for-a-deserter swap the administration had announced a day earlier, but new rules imposed by presidential fiat that will cause electric bills to skyrocket were trotted out by the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday. The stated reason for these new regulations is to reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent over the next 16 years, which we are promised will save thousands of lives otherwise lost to asthma attacks and reduce the rate of employee absenteeism, as well as rescuing the earth from global warming and the sexual infidelity that it seems to be causing in the more affluent neighborhoods of south Florida, but we don’t doubt that it also will also cause our air-conditioning expenses during the inevitable prairie heat waves to skyrocket. We base this on the assurances of President Barack Obama himself, who was candid enough during his ’08 campaign to admit that “under my plan of a cap-and=trade system electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket”
You could be forgiven for having missed that quote during the ’08 presidential race, too, as Obama spoke it in a rare moment of candor to a San Francisco Chronicle editorial board that was not inclined to publicize the outrageous boast and instead left it embedded two or three clicks away on a web site where it seems to have gone unnoticed even by the McCain for President for campaign. This led to a President Obama appointing an Energy Secretary who desired that Americans pay as much for a gallon of gasoline as their over-charged European counterparts, which also went unmentioned by most of the media during those heady days of hope and change, but those who were paying acute attention understood that the price of staying warm in the winter and cool in the summer and getting around all year would skyrocket. It’s not cap–and-trade, which even the filibuster-proof Democratic Congress of ’08-to’10 wouldn’t dare pass, but it’s the closest Obama can come  given the the rapidly diminishing restrains of the constitutional system.
In a Memorial Day radio address that was also widely overlooked, President Obama said the newly-imposed carbon emissions would have a salutary effect on the American economy. The theory, as it’s been explained to us by the grandees of the liberal press and the hirsute hipsters who frequent the same dives we do, is that raising the cost of the most readily available and cost-effiicient sources will spur an economic boom in the the currently unaffordable sectors but politically well-cnnected sectors of the energy sector, but none of these arguments promise continued lower utility bills. The  bills will also be higher for everyone we buy things forms, and we’ll not be the only ones buying less of what everyone has to sell when they raise prices to pay for skyrocketing electricity bills, but anyone with an alternative-energy scam who has made the requisite campaign contributions should do well.
Sooner or later we’ll relent to turn on the air-conditioning, even if we’re the hardy types who wait  several days into that annual stretch of 100-plus temperatures, but we’ll take some satisfaction in the political repercussions. The EPA’s never-mind-Congress rules are likely to help Republican candidates in embattled Kentucky and by now rock- olid West Virginia and other parts of coal country, as well as Indiana and other states where 80 percent of the electrical air-conditioning comes from coal, and even in the safest Democratic districts it will be hard to blame those swelling utility bills on the Republicans. Arguing that global warming requires such expensive measures will be harder while simultaneously arguing that a harsh winter was the reason for that little noticed contraction the economy during the lat quarter, and when even National Public Radio and the America Broadcasting System and CNN are playing up the deserter angle on that five-dangerous-terrorists-for-a-deserter-swap it’s going to be hard to sell that higher-energy-costs-are-good-for-the economy claptrap.

— Bud Norman

Manipulating Democracy

America seems to have become inured to scandal, judging by the apparent lack of attention being paid to an allegation that the unemployment statistics released just before the past presidential election were manipulated to benefit the incumbent.
The claim was made in Monday’s New York Post, but except for the perfunctory scoffing by the White House spokesman, a promised probe by the implicated Commerce Department, and yet another investigation by the Republicans in the House of Representatives, it seems to have drawn little attention outside the constantly indignant conservative talk radio shows. Such insouciance is hard to account for, given the potentially history-changing implications of the charge.
The New York Post is a conservative publication by the lax standards of the New York press, and therefore lacks requisite cachet to fuel a media frenzy, but its record of accuracy compares well to its more fashionable competitors. Although the story cites an unnamed source, which is usually sufficient to ignore any scandal involving Democrats, it also documents that name a specific employee involved in the deception who is quoted as saying he acted under orders from higher-ranking bureaucrats. Given that many knowledgeable observers were skeptical of the suddenly and serendipitously rosy unemployment numbers at the time, including the former chief executive officer of General Electric, the story also has a sobering plausibility.
If true, the story warrants far more attention that it has received. Manipulating such crucial data as the unemployment rate calls into question the accuracy of all government reports, with dire consequences for the markets that rely on the information to make that the decisions that drive the economy. Doing so for partisan political reasons also calls into question the results of the election, with dire consequences for democracy and a free society. As the latest in a series of scandals involving a politicized bureaucracy acting on behalf of the one party committed to its continual growth, it could even call into question whether we still have a democracy.
The story seems all the more plausible following revelations of the Internal Revenue Service harassing conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, the Department of Justice’s apparent lack of interest in the matter or anything else that might prove embarrassing to the administration, the National Security Agency’s inordinate interest in the phone records of average Americans, the National Park Service’s heavy-handed efforts to exacerbate the inconvenience of a partial government shutdown, and numerous other cases of government gone wild. The notion that only one or two low-level employees are responsible for a deceptive jobs report is not plausible, and even if it were the notion that they expected to get away it is still scandalous.

— Bud Norman


The sun rose as usual on Wednesday, but it didn’t felt like morning in America. A bit less than half of the voting population was disconsolate, and even the victorious majority seemed to be savoring the misery more than it was anticipating a brighter future.
Within moments of Barack Obama’s re-election the internet was flooded with “tweets” repeating the same witless obscenity against white people, a striking sentiment in this supposedly post-racial age. Some woman who somehow wound up among our Facebook “friends” sent a similarly vulgar message inviting all Romney voters to kiss an especially unappealing portion of her “Obama-lovin’” anatomy, odd for a woman so worshipful of a man who had presumed to lecture the American people about civility. Countless keyed cars and vandalized yard signs expressed the same ugly schadenfreude, all from a left that loves to slur its ideological opponents as brownshirts. The very lack of dignity, standards, and simple respect that marked Obama’s ruthless campaign was on full display in its aftermath, and nowhere was the giddy sense of hope and change that had prevailed when he first won office.
A President of the United States of America closed his re-election campaign by exhorting his supporters to vote for “revenge,” and is clear that they are now eager to get it. Although he didn’t explain who this revenge would be exacted upon, or for what offense, the president’s supporters understood that he meant the old America of freedom and self-reliance, with its loathsome religiousness, individualism, and whiteness. That America had been an imperfect place, and those who had prospered there to a greater extent than others, those who acted according to their own consciences rather than the will of the collective, must be punished.
None but the delusional seem to expect that the new America will be a more prosperous place. The slow economic growth, high unemployment, and mounting debts of the past four years have too clearly demonstrated the failure of the current policies, yet much of America signed on for more of the same in hopes that the government will continue to expropriate for them a bigger slice of the shrinking pie. Obama argued during the campaign that the economic crash was caused by taxing the highest income brackets at rates a few points too low, and that reverting to the higher rate will therefore restore the nation’s economic health, but neither he nor anybody else really believes such nonsense. Those higher taxes will only fund a few hours of government spending while robbing the private sector of capital that could have funded successful enterprises, but they’ll briefly sate the mob’s self-centered notions of fairness, and that will suffice.
America has collectively decided to pretend that it doesn’t face a catastrophic debt crisis, but it won’t be able to maintain that pretense for long. When the new tax rates fail to make a perceptible dent in the deficit the administration will ask for more, and then again for even more, but at last a complete confiscation all of the wealth held by the hated “1 percent” will be insufficient to cover the nation’s tab, and efforts to tax enough the rest of the country will be politically unfeasible and economically disastrous. The election has ensured that any spending cuts won’t come from the subsidies for public television’s mostly wealthy viewership or any of the massive entitlement programs sacred to the left, and there’s only so much defense spending to cut while our interest payments to the Chinese are funding the lion’s share of that country’s increasingly belligerent military, so it’s impossible to envision any solution the administration might attempt other than hyperinflationary money-printing or default. If there are better outcomes that are possible, Obama and his supporters have been too busy gloating to explain what they might be.
We’ve been sifting through the wreckage of Tuesday’s election, trying to find something intact that might prove useful, but thus far our efforts are of no avail. Obama’s victory was just slim enough that some pundits are insisting he has no mandate, but he won’t see it that way, and what little restraint public opinion had once exerted on the president’s most radical tendencies has been entirely relinquished by the election. The House of Representatives remains under Republican control, but whatever resistance they offer to the administration’s efforts will only provide a convenient scapegoat when those policies fail, and a corrupt and compliant media will happily fan the flames of public anger. Some conservatives are hopeful that further revelations about the administration’s outrageous behavior before, during, and after the deadly raid on the Libyan embassy, or the murderous Fast and Furious fiasco, or the cases of blatantly corrupt cronyism under the guise of “investments” in a “green economy,” or any of the various other scandals will somehow cripple Obama, but a voting majority of Americans has now collectively decided that it just doesn’t care what this president does.
The left’s snarling response to their victory on Tuesday makes it tempting to simply hunker down in a heavily armed bunker to watch with bitter satisfaction as they futilely struggle to make their utopian fantasies come true, settling for the meager consolation of being proved right about their inevitable failure, but there’s something in the souls of those who once happily inhabited the old America that will not allow us stand idly by and let it die. New ideas are needed to restore the old values of freedom and self-reliance, and although no path is readily apparent there must be faith that one can still be found. This may well be the twilight of America, but we cannot go gently into that night.

— Bud Norman

Gay Marriage Gambit

Well, there seems to be no avoiding all the talk about gay marriage. President Barack Obama came out in favor of it on Wednesday, and that’s what all the chattering has been about ever since.

Shortly after Obama announced his brand new position on the issue we happened to run into one of our homosexual friends — we have a bunch of them, considering what right-wing bastards we are — who was trying to figure out the president’s political calculation. He was quite sure the president had some angle, and scoffed at the notion that Obama had undergone a genuine change of heart and felt compelled by principle to share it with the country, but he couldn’t see any way that Obama would come out better than even.

The vast majority of homosexuals are going to vote for Obama in any case, our friend pointed out, and the few who won’t probably have economic reasons that will not be overcome by the president’s lip service on the gay marriage issue. We couldn’t argue with that, but suggested that perhaps the endorsement was intended to rev up a homosexual community that is relatively affluent, with considerable influence in the entertainment and fashion industries and other opinion-making fields, in order to help with a fund-raising effort that hasn’t been as successful as expected lately. Our friend agreed that there might some small advantage gained from that, but fretted that it would be out-weighed by the lost votes of people opposed to gay marriage.

He had seen all the polls showing the country evenly divided on the issue, and said they were corroborated by his own conversations with a wide range of people, but our friend had concluded that there are still more people on the anti-gay marriage side who regard it as a voting issue. Noting that the issue has been on the ballot in 32 states, including such reputedly liberal ones as California and Oregon, and that so far gay marriage is 0-for-32, we conceded that he might have a point. The vast majority of people opposed to gay marriage are going to vote against Obama in any case, our friend contended, but he expected that at least some of the black and Hispanic ones might be lost because of the issue.

The black and Hispanic voters are a risk, we agreed, but a carefully calculated one. Obama has likely concluded that the black bloc will remain loyal to him despite its strong opposition to gay marriage, and we believe he’s likely right. The Hispanic vote is a greater risk, but Obama apparently believes that any Hispanic who’s still on board after he declared war on the Catholic church over birth control is sufficiently secular that one more heresy won’t matter. The difference could be crucial in a few swing states such as North Carolina, which voted against same-sex marriage and civil unions by a wide margin just the day before Obama’s announcement, but perhaps Obama has reason to believe that the issue will be a net advantage in more urbanized states.

We’ve seen all the polls, too, and noticed they always show that the younger respondents are already mostly in favor of gay marriage. The best guess we could offer our friend is that Obama’s sudden enthusiasm for same-sex marriage is intended to remind the youngsters that he’s hip and up-to-date on all the social issues, not like that old stick-in-the-mud Romney, and thus revive a get-out-the-youth vote effort that hasn’t been as successful as in the past. Our friend was skeptical that the ploy would work, and suggested that even the hippest-and-most up-to-date straight guys are only so interested in gay issues.

The coming weeks will reveal how Obama’s same-sex epiphany will play, and in the unlikely case that Mitt Romney takes the bait and starts running on social issues rather than economics it might even prove a master stroke, but our friend makes a strong case. It’s hard to see how Obama comes out better than even.

— Bud Norman