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

Voting Without the Slightest I.D.

Those Republican primaries in Michigan and Arizona got all the attention, but Tuesday was also an election day here in Wichita, Kansas. The only item on the ballot was a referendum on the city’s plan to give several million dollars of bed tax money to some developers who are proposing to build a downtown hotel, but that was sufficient to get us out of the house and down to the neighborhood polling place.

This was the first election since a new state law went into effect requiring a photo identification card to vote, so we were slightly surprised when the nice lady at the folding table asked to see a driver’s license. The law is intended to assure that only eligible citizens are allowed to vote, and doesn’t seem an onerous imposition, so we resisted the brief temptation to say “Lo siento, no hablo a Inglés,” and simply provided the requested license. Moments later we were standing at a computer screen, slightly disappointed that the ballot didn’t offer a “hell no” option but generally satisfied that our rights had been respected.

As we grabbed an “I Voted” sticker from a plastic bowl on our way out we overheard some of the voters in line grousing about the new rules, with one imitating a Nazi soldier demanding “Show me your papers,” presumably referring to the nice lady at the folding table, and another wishing harm on Kris Kobach, the Secretary of State who authored the law and a man much hated by what there is of a Kansas left. Judging by the comments, as well as their calculatedly hip attire, we took them for the sorts of liberals who believe the government should be able to dictate your choice of health insurance plans, light bulbs, and any number of other things, but draw the line at government asking voters to show a driver’s license, lest the dark night of fascism descend on Kansas.

While rewarding ourselves for our performance of civic duty with a beer at a local tavern we saw the bartender ask a youthful-looking customer for a driver’s license, and when the fellow wasn’t able to provide one he was shooed away. In an ensuing conversation with the bartender we discovered that he was a “yes” voter, but were pleased to hear that he didn’t think the new driver’s license requirement was a big deal.

We were also pleased to hear later in the evening that the “no” votes had prevailed, and by a landslide. The “yes” side was better funded, out-advertised the “no” faction by a least two-to-one on the local airwaves, and filled local mailboxes with promises of jobs galore if the plan were approved, but it’s becoming harder to convince taxpayers to sanction governmental “investments” in matters that have traditionally been better attended to by the private sector. Much of the credit for the outcome goes to our good friends at the invaluable Voice for Liberty in Wichita web site, as well as the local branch of the Americans for Prosperity group.

It would be nice to think that the left unwittingly helped out with its relentless anti-business rhetoric, but the voters we overheard grumbling about the driver’s licenses were probably “yes” voters. Such liberals may hate rich businessmen, but they’re ever eager to lavish taxpayer money on any corporation that strikes a deal for tubular solar panels, algae biofuels, $40,000 economy cars, yet another downtown hotel, or any other government-sponsored scheme. Without such corporate-government alliances, apparently, the dark night of fascism will descend on Kansas.

— Bud Norman