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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

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On the Murders Sunday in Las Vegas, Lawrence, and Elsewhere in the United States of America

Three people were killed and two others were injured early Sunday morning when at least 20 gunshots were fired on a crowded downtown street in Lawrence, Kansas, but you probably didn’t hear about it. Later that same day a shooter in Las Vegas killed at least 59 people and injured another 500 or so, setting a new American record, so that understandably took up almost all of Monday’s news.
By now mass shootings are almost numbingly routine, and despite the outrage and heartbreak they always provoke most Americans would be hard pressed to recall any details of the last one or the one before that, but this time might prove more memorable. There’s the record-setting death toll, the apparent use of a fully automatic weapon, the much older than usual age of the shooter, and an especially frustrating lack of any plausible explanation.
There’s never an adequate explanation for these slaughters, of course, but usually there’s some detail or two in the initial stories that gives some clue what going on the deranged mind of the shooter. Sometimes they’re named Mohammad and shout “Alahu Akbar” and had posted Islamic screeds on their Facebook pages, other times they’re white guys with haircuts and Facebook postings that announce their racial grievances, the guy who shot up the a Washington, D.C., softball field and wounded a Republican congressman had a deep-seated hatred of Republicans, and the guy shot up a political rally in Arizona and wounded Democratic congresswoman apparently did so because she had failed to an incomprehensible question he’d asked at a town hall, and usually they turn out to be kind of crazy that family and friends and neighbors had long noticed but never knew quite what to do about it.
None of that amounts to an adequate explanation, but it’s something to cling to as we humans instinctively search for some reassuring reason when tragedy occurs.
This time around the Islamic State terror gang claimed the shooter was a recent convert who had heeded their call to jihad, but they always they do that whenever someone kills random people, and it’s quite unusual for recent converts to any religion to keep quiet about it and so far everyone who knew the shooter says he never expressed any religious opinions at all. The target of the shooting was an outdoor country music festival, so there was immediate internet speculation that the shooter was someone who wanted to killed a lot of Republicans, which quickly led to some irresponsible right-wing sites fingering an innocent fellow with a lot of pro-Democratic Facebook postings, but apparently this shooter never expressed any political opinions of any sort, and was said to be a country music fan himself. According to everyone the armies of reporters have rounded up to interview, the shooter was an undeniably odd duck but not in a way that made you think he’d spray automatic rounds at a crowd of random strangers.
According to the neighbors he mostly kept to himself in his comfortable gated over-50 community in rural Nevada, and was often away from home for long periods of time during high-stakes gambling binges in Las Vegas. He’d apparently done well as an accountant and made some savvy real estate investments, and without any children to worry about he could afford the indulgence and still lavish gifts on his mother, so neither the neighbors nor his family found it worrisome. His brother gave a lengthy interview to a cluster of news cameras and microphones that was clearly too distraught to be at all disingenuous, and he was clearly surprised to learn that shooter had acquired a veritable armory or deadly weapons.
The usual post-mass-shooting debates about gun control are already underway, but this time around they’re all the more complicated for both sides. Apparently all of those weapons had been acquired legally, with the shooter’s previously pristine legal record and lack of any noticed mental health problems carrying him through all the required background checks, and automatic weapons have long been illegal, it’s too late to charge the now-dead-by-self-inflicted-gunshot shooter with the apparent crime of altering his semi-automatic rifles to fully automatic, and it’s hard to think of anything that would have stopped this guy without imposing onerous restrictions of the rights of the vast majority of peaceable gun owners. Those peaceable gun owners have long made the reasonable argument that if there’s some crazy guy shooting up a crowd you don’t want him to be the only one there with a gun, but in this case he was shooting from 400 yards away where none of those of presumably gun-toting country music fans would have known where to shoot, and if any of them had drawn their weapons during the panic the police and security on hand would have been well within their rights to shoot them.
The same dreary arguments will continue, nonetheless, along with the ancillary debates about why so many Americans wind up getting shot to death every year. Across most of America the murder rate has happily declined over the past few decades, those mass shootings and the daily carnage in Chicago and a couple of other cities notwithstanding, but the numbers are still high by first-world standards and merit national concern. Those mass shootings are by now a longstanding problem, too, dating back at least to a sniper attack from the University of Texas’ landmark tower in Austin in 1966, and back in ’76 a guy started shooting from the balcony of what was then the tallest building in our hometown of Wichita, and there was a kid shot up his junior high school in a nearby suburb back in ’85, and when we think about we can recall the schoolyard in Connecticut and the homosexual nightclub in Orlando and far too many details of other mass shootings.
An autopsy showed that the Texas shooter had brain disease, that guy in Wichita had just been jilted by his girlfriend, the junior high kid in the nearby suburb had endured the usual junior high bullying, the Connecticut shooter was so clearly crazy his mom had been warning the cops about him, the homosexual nightclub was another one of those “Alahu Akbar” incidents, and when we think about we can recall some semblance of a reason for all those other mass shootings. According to the police in the normally placid university town of Lawrence those three victims who died there early Sunday morning weren’t random targets, and that the violence was the result of some beef between low-lifes who have always used guns to settle their differences, and we note that the incident followed a rap concert at the school’s arena, so we’ll make the same stereotypical assumptions that some people make about country music concerts, and hope it’s all enough to satisfy our all too human need for some reason that tragedies occur.
None of it amounts to an adequate explanation, though, and we hope that America in its extraordinary greatness will take time out from the usual political to ponder why it has such a persistent and extraordinary problem with Americans getting shot to death, and how it might be addressed without stripping the vast majority of cherished rights.

— Bud Norman

Reality Winner and the Winners of Reality

The great British novelist Evelyn Waugh used to come up with some of fictions’ most fascinating characters and give them the most delightfully ironic names, but we doubt even he could have invented a sweet-faced multi-lingual 25-year-old Air Force veteran and outspoken liberal and alleged national security secrets leaker called Reality Winner. In the age of a reality show president and his reality show presidency, though, such an unlikely character with such an improbable name is an actual person in the news.
Winner has been arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and charged with handing a purloined National Security Agency document about Russia’s meddling in the past American presidential election, and the rest of the story is believable only because no one could have made it up. It’s a mere subplot in a broader storyline about what President Donald Trump calls “the Russia thing with Trump and Russia,” which was already darned complicated, and Winner’s tale complicates it further.
So far all we know about the Russia thing with Trump and Russia comes courtesy of people with access to information to information they have leaked to the press, and what has then been confirmed the administration’s legally plausible but not altogether reassuring claim that the information was illegally obtained. Some of the damaging and inadvertently verified information has apparently come from the feuding innermost circles of the top-most Trump administration, most of it seems to have come from the permanent government bureaucracy and the holdovers from the President Barack Obama administration that are hanging around while the Trump administration gets around to filling that remaining 78 percent of appointed positions they’ve yet to name a nominee for, and for now there’s no telling where the rest of it has come from. Except for the administrations claims that the sources are all fake and must be immediately be locked up, we’d be inclined to dismiss it all as fake news.
The Trump administration has vowed to plug all those leaks, for principled reasons of law enforcement as well as naked self-interest, but so far the only alleged leaker they’ve nabbed is the aforementioned and improbably named Winner.
In the inevitable Facebook photos of a 25-year-old she looks like one of those beguiling young hipster women who hang around The Vagabond hipster bar where we argue with a gray-ponytailed but right-wing hipster friend of ours, and from the inevitable Facebook postings she seems to share the same fashionably left-wing political opinions. Unlike most young woman of our acquaintance, though, she’s fluent in the languages of Farsi, Pashto, and Dari, only two of which we were even previously aware of, and instead of going to college she volunteered her linguistic skills to the Air Force. After an honorable discharge Winner and her hard-to-find skill set found work with a private data-analysis company that contracted with the National Security Agency, where her impeccable Air Force record earned her a high security clearance, and at that point she allegedly came across an NSA document about how the Russian meddling had extended to the point that they tried to influence some local-level vote-counting.
She’s alleged to have copied the document and passed it on to an internet news site called The Intercept, which we had also previously never heard of, and so far as we can tell that’s why she’s the first alleged leaker to be nabbed. So far even the most sympathetic press accounts don’t do her legal case much good, noting that the neophyte leaker seems to have used office copy machines with their hidden code words and made other rookie mistakes, and they unhelpfully note all those Facebook posting about her disdain for Trump, and without drawing any conclusions we’d advise she hire a better attorney than the Trump administration is able to retain these days.
Trump’s stalwart defenders will be pleased that at least one of those leakers has been allegedly nabbed, and hope that others will be deterred from releasing any further discomfiting information, but no matter Winner’s fate they might still come out losers. The charges against Winner were discovered when the Intercept news site submitted its documents for government verification, which were duly confirmed in order to bring the charges, and so far a lot of leaks from more-savvy sources have been similarly confirmed. It doesn’t amount to anything undeniable, not yet, but there’s still a torrent of leaks from the feuding innermost circles of the White House and the vast bureaucracy that’s still unmanned and all the rest of it.
Should Winner be proved guilty of the charges alleged against her she’ll deserve the prison time that entails, as far as we’re concerned, yet we’ll hope her youthful idealism will carry through the consequences. As always we’ll be hoping that reality ultimately wins, which it always does, eventually, but in these days of reality shows days there’s no telling.

— Bud Norman

Blame It on the Tango

The security forces of the entire continent of Europe are frantically scrambling to prevent an expected wave of Islamist terror attacks, the President of the United States is quite literally doing the tango in Argentina, and the Republican front-runner in the race to replace him is “tweeting” out threats to “spill the beans” on a pesky rival’s wife. That’s pretty much the news as write this, and thus we head into the weekend with an uncertain feeling about the future.
That worried-about wave of terror attacks in Europe seems well worth worrying about, and the president’s audition for his post-presidential role on “Dancing With the Stars” wasn’t at all reassuring, so that intra-Republican flap about the naked pictures of the front-runner’s third trophy wife and the unspecified threat against the pesky rival’s more plain but one-and-only wife also takes on a certain foreboding significance for us. The remaining candidates in the Democratic race to replace the tangoing current president seem equally blithe about the anticipated wave of Islamist terrorism, so we’d rather the front-running alternative wasn’t making such an ass of himself and forcing a pesky and more worthy rival to divert his attention to defending his wife’s honor against unspecified threats.
If you haven’t been following the latest episodes of the Republican Party’s version of “Dancing With the Stars,” the real-estate-and-gambling-and-titty-bar-and-reality-show mogul Donald J. Trump was much annoyed that one of the several anti-Trump political action committees had posted one of the more tame naked pictures his latest wife had posed for on a Facebook page geared to Utah, where the population is largely Mormon. Say what you want about some of their beliefs, Mormons were at least already disinclined to vote for foul-mouthed gambling-and-tatty-bar moguls no matter how hot their third wives might be, so Trump assumed that his pesky rival Sen. Ted Cruz was behind such soft-core pornographic dirty tricks, and without a shred of evidence he went to the internet to make the accusation and threw in a threat that he might reveal that unspecified information ruinous to the reputation of Cruz’s wife if unconditional surrender were not immediately announced. Cruz responded by “tweeting” that Trump was a coward, then going on international television to say that Trump was a “sniveling coward,” and we expect he’ll raise the ante face-to-face on the next televised debate stage, assuming that Trump isn’t such a sniveling coward or such a shrewd tactician he’ll avoid that confrontation.
Trump was courageous enough to issue another “tweet” with carefully chosen and perhaps photo-shopped pictures that indicate his third wife is hotter than then one Cruz has happily been married too along, which will surely prove to his celebrity-addled fans that he’s the alpha male to lead the country, and we’ll concede the Democrats are crazier yet, but it doesn’t make us feel more secure about that much-worried wave of terror attacks hitting Europe and then spreading to America.

— Bud Norman

Academia Nuts

A friend of ours is fond of citing the fact that Kansas has the third least-educated legislature in the country, and he always sounds rather embarrassed for the state when doing so. We can’t confirm that this actually is a fact, but even if it is true that our legislature’s level of educational attainment is closer to Abraham Lincoln’s than Barack Obama’s we are not bothered. William F. Buckley famously stated he’d “rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston phonebook than to the faculty of Harvard University,” and these days we’ll go even further to say that we’d vote for a randomly selected high school dropout over many of the highly credential academics we keep encountering in the news.
Almost every day brings some further news corroborating our opinion that academia has more or less gone crazy. Last week we were grousing about that British professor who wants parents who read bedtime stories to their children to feel bad about, and just yesterday we were ridiculing that Harvard professor who thinks that Christians don’t care about poverty, and on any given day we can make fun of the “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces” and “micro-aggressions” and other assaults on free speech and common sense that are fixtures of the modern campus, but today it’s the latest ravings of Boston University’s Saida Gundy.
The newly installed assistant professor of sociology and African-Amercan studies had already made the news with a series of profanely worded and randomly capitalized “tweets” that called white males a “problem population” and asserted “white masculinity is THE problem for America’s colleges,” among other similarly bigoted opinions. The statements were enough to prompt a reprimand from the university’s president and force Gundy to issue a statement of regret “that my personal passion about these issues led me to speak about them indelicately” because “I deprived them of the nuance and complexity that such subjects always deserve.” One might hope that her white male students will get a more nuanced and complex explanation of why they’re awful people just by virtue of their race and sex, but a subsequent internet rant suggests that the assistant professor’s personal passions are more likely to prevail.
It all began when a Facebook page linked to an article criticizing an actress’ Academy Award acceptance speech calling on blacks and homosexuals to support the cause of equal pay for women, and a woman who identified herself as white and a rape victim posted her disagreements, adding in usual Facebook post fashion that “I LITERALLY cry and lose sleep over this.” The post so offended Gundy that she responded in her own clumsy style that “‘I literally cry’ … While we literally die,” and added a link with the suggestion “try this article. A white woman explaining this issue to other white women … who manages NOT to cry while doing it!” This prompted a reply of “No really. I got it. You can take your claws out, thanks.” This provoked such passion in Gundy that nuance and complexity and standard English once again were lost, as she hit the capital letters key to respond “THIS IS THE SH*T I AM TALKING ABOUT. WHY DO YOU GET TO PLAY THE VICTIM EVERY TIME PEOPLE OF COLOR AND OUR ALLIES WANT TO POINT OUT RACISM. my CLAWS?? Do you see how you just took an issue that WASNT about you, MADE it about you, and NOW want to play the victim when I take the time to explain to you some sh*t that is literally $82,000 below my pay grade? And then you promote your #whitegirltears like that’s some badge you get to wear … YOU BENEFIT FROM RACISM. WE’RE EXPLAINING THAT TO YOU and you’re vilifying my act of intellectual altruism by saying I stuck my “claws into you?” This was enough for her target to post that she would “exit” the conversation, but Gundy added a final taunt to “go cry somewhere, since that’s what you do.” After another brief rant, complete with the random capitalizations and the mistaken use of “prospective” rather and perspective, she signed off with “My name is ‘Sai,’ but you can call me Dr. Gundy.”
Being foul-mouthed, illiterate, childish, insensitive, and arrogant, not to mention so conspicuously lacking in nuance and complexity, usually wouldn’t cause a professor any grief, but the fact Gundy’s passion was unleashed on a woman who identified herself as a rape victim might prove problematic. The posts have been removed from the Facebook page, although they were caught on “screen shots” by several offended readers who have passed them along to the university’s administration, and at this point Gundy isn’t saying anything about it, and so far neither has the university. Our guess is that those lucky Boston University students who are paying $46,644 in tuition for a lucrative degree in African-American studies will get plenty of Gundy for their money.
Should she find herself out of a job, Gundy could move to Kansas run for the state legislature in any of a few carefully gerrymandered districts we have out here. Her doctorate would raise that average level of education in the legislature, but we don’t think her presence would make it any smarter.

— Bud Norman

War Stories and Apologies

Much ridicule has already been heaped upon NBC News’ anchorman Brian Williams for his exaggerated war stories, and even more for the apology he posted on Facebook, so we’re loathe to add any more to the pile of scorn. Better to take the opportunity of all the distracted attention and favorable comparisons to confess our own exaggerations and offer our own apologies.
Not that we begrudge Williams’ many critics their gleeful mockery, and we don’t condone Williams’ false braggadocio or accept his seemingly insincere claims of contrition. Williams’ embarrassment is a boon to the conservative cause,  as it further calls into question the veracity of his entire reliably liberal network and provides yet another rejoinder whenever some liberal sneers about Fox News, and it even forces the press to recall presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s similarly fabulist tale of zig-zagging across the tarmac dodging Bosnian sniper fire, which is always good for a chuckle or two if you try to envision it, so some measure of schadenfreude would be too much for even the most compassionately conservative soul to resist. There’s also something slightly infuriating to a hawk’s sensibilities about an NBC anchor, of all people, trying to glom on to a bit of Iraq War glory, and when you watch the guy’s newly dredged-up appearance on the Late Night With David Letterman program, holding the audience in thrall with the umpteenth telling of a rocket propelled grenade hitting his helicopter and how “we” brought it safely down and won the day, with the supposedly wised-up host falling for it to such an extent he utters “war hero” as he heads into a commercial break, there’s a certain temptation to find out what five-star restaurant the guy will be eating at tonight and show up to punch him in the nose. Still, we humbly decline to heap any further ridicule.
Who among us, after all, has not “misremembered” being shot down in a helicopter by a rocket propelled grenade? We’ve had some bumpy airline landings in our time, and after all the drinks that it takes us to get through an airline flight we could have easily mistaken any of them for a bombing mission on the Memphis Belle. Perhaps our neighborhood is just getting a bit seedy, but it seems that lately one encounters so many rocket propelled grenades in the course of a day’s chores that it’s hard to remember when it did or didn’t happen. We note that all of the NBC crew that always accompanies Williams on his death-defying missions seem to have “misremembered” the events as well, or at least declined to offer any corrections, and the NBC management seems to have had little trust in the memories of the numerous servicemen who have written over the past 13 years of Williams’ re-tellings to offer an alternative version of events, and anyone who’s seen “Rashomon” knows how tricky memories can be.
Despite our own constant endeavor for truth, honesty, and journalistic integrity, even we have been known to exaggerate our wartime exploits. In the interest of full disclosure we will confess that, despite our claims one beery evening at the old Cedar Lounge, we were not the first to land on Omaha Beach. We were in Omaha once, and were the first to arrive at a picnic on a sand dune along the Missouri River, but the part about taking out a Nazi machine gun nest was apparently “misremembered,” as we have since learned that the D-Day invasion took place 15 years prior to our birth. We offer our apologies to Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks and all the other brave men who made that great victory possible. Contrary to what we once told a rather comely young woman at a cocktail party, we were not among the last holdouts of the French Foreign Legion at Dien Ben Phu. That battle apparently also preceded our birth, so we seem to have “conflated” it with a hazing incident at a Boy Scout camp, and in any case it made no impression on the young lady, who had never heard of Dien Ben Phu, so we regret the error. We find ourselves in the humiliating position of apologizing to the French. To retract a story we once told in a job interview, neither did we ever lead an undersea army against SPECTRE’s nuclear-armed scuba mercenaries to save Miami from total destruction, which is apparently the climactic scene of the James Bond thriller “Thunderball,” although we still insist that could have happened. We offer our apologies to Albert “Cubby” Broccoli, Harry Saltzman, and especially to Sean Connery, who actually was James Bond and actually did that.
We’ll let the taunters “tweet” their tsk-tsks, the satirists spew their snark, the pundits propound their disappointment, and the ravenous pack of press folk eat their own, but we’ll take the high ground. That’s a lesson we learned way back when we served with Gen. John Sedgwick, eponym of our very own Sedgwick County, during the Battle of Spotsylvania against those bloodthirsty rebs, but there’s a rip-roaring a story for another time.

— Bud Norman

The Uncivil War Comes to Kansas

One of the battles in the uncivil war within the Republican Party is being fought here in Kansas, where longtime Sen. Pat Roberts is being challenged in the primary by Dr. Milton Wolf. Roberts has been around too long to escape the “establishment” tag, and Wolf is a political neophyte who eagerly embraces the “Tea Party” label, so it’s one of those “Establishment versus Tea Party” races that the press loves to go on about.
The regular folk around here, on the other hand, don’t seem as interested. Wolf’s campaign initially attracted some attention due to his distant relation to President Obama from the Kansan rather than Kenyan side of the family, and his fundamental argument that Roberts is too deeply entrenched in the Washington mire was bolstered by the widely publicized revelation that Roberts has no home in Kansas, but he hasn’t sustained any momentum into the summer. Roberts’ bad press was quickly offset by the well-publicized revelation that Wolf, a radiologist in the Kansas City area, had recently posted patients’ X-rays on his Facebook page along with the sort of gallows humor that doctors usually share only with one another, and ever since his advertising budget seems to have shrunk. The angry spots that used to air on the local talk radio stations have disappeared, Roberts is now on the local television channels with slick ads featuring a handsome young fellow who’s an ex-Marine just like Roberts, and most of the people we’ve talked to recently are entirely unaware that the Republicans have a Senate race afoot. Any Washington-based reporters who decided to venture into the heartland for their think pieces on the internecine squabbles of the Republican Party are going to have a hard time coming up with those obligatory man-at-the-bar quotes.
We’ve been following the race, as we are irascibly Kansas Republicans and have far too much time on our hands, but we’d advise those Washington-based reporters not to read too much into it. Should they encounter us at one of our local haunts and agree to put a beer on their expense account we will tell them that Roberts looks like a safe bet in the primary and then a lock in the general election, but don’t go weaving that in to any obituaries for the Tea Party. At this point we’re inclined to vote for Roberts, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not sympathetic to Wolf’s quixotic campaign. Roberts has been around long enough to have voted for some of the most insipidly bipartisan legislation ever passed, we wouldn’t want to be judged some of the rather noir cracks we made back in our obituary-writing days, and our desire for the most conservative Congress possible does not have the same practical restraints here in Kansas that it does elsewhere. The case for Roberts is that his lengthy service provides seniority and experience and a generally reliable track record in coming battles against the Democrats, that at least we knew enough not to post our death-writing japes in public view, and Roberts has lately been voting and speaking pretty darned conservative. We also rather like Roberts on a personal level, having covered one of his past campaigns for a state newspapers and spending just enough time to be charmed by his gruff drollness, and he’s spent enough time on the campaign trail that a sizable share of the Republican primary electorate feel the same way.
Roberts was in especially fine fettle last week when he took to the Senate podium to deliver a rousing oration against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s slanderous obsession with the Koch brothers and the Democrat Party’s appalling hypocrisy on the subject of billionaire donors and its outrageous attempts to undermine the First Amendment and the left’s broader assaults on free speech and civility. We couldn’t find fault with a single word of it, and were pleased to have our Senator say it. It was what the lefties calling “speaking truth to power,” only it was true and was spoken to the people who are actually in power.
The few die-hard conservatives with the Wolf yard signs in their lawns would say that Roberts is only pandering to the simmering anti-establishment mood in the state, and they might be right. We’d prefer to think that Roberts had become enraged at the same steady rate as the voters who have constantly elected him, but one can never tell. If rightward drift of the Republican has been carry Roberts along, Wolf’s campaign will have accomplished something no matter the primary results. Those Washington-based reporters can write their obituaries for the Tea Party, but the bigger story is the re-birth of the Republican Party as an evermore conservative outfit.

— Bud Norman

Banning Bossiness and “Ban Bossy”

Perhaps the most bothersome aspect of the modern world is its relentless bossiness. It’s not just an increasingly authoritarian government that dictates individual choices on everything from health care plans to the light bulb in the living room lamp, or the organized do-gooders who would bully the public into eating its vegetables and wearing bicycle helmets and espousing the most up-to-date opinions regarding homosexuality, but the annoyingly prevalent opinion that one person is perfectly entitled to tell another how to live his life.
Now we are even expected to encourage this infuriating tendency in young girls, lest they be oppressed by the patriarchy or something. This outrageous notion is being aggressively promulgated by a sinister coalition of Facebook and the Girl Scouts, with help from various celebrities, who have joined forces to “Ban Bossy.” They don’t mean banning bossiness, of course, but rather banning the word “bossy” from the English language. We suppose the word will once again be permissible if a Republican ever gets back in the White House or the anti-abortion movement starts winning political victories, but “Ban Bossy” insists that in no event is the term to be applied to even the bossiest little girl.
According to the “Ban Bossy” campaign’s propaganda, this is because “When a little boy asserts himself, he’s called a ‘leader.’ Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded ‘bossy.’ Words like bossy send a message: don’t raise your hand or speak up.” This is utter nonsense, and makes one wonder how long it’s been since the “Ban Bossy” movement got out of the house.
When a little boy asserts himself these days he’s less likely to be called a “leader” than to be pumped full of Ritalin and sent off to some public school re-education program to discover his feminine side. If little girls are so intimidated by the prospect of being called “bossy” that they are fearful of raising their hands or speaking in school it somehow hasn’t prevented them from graduating at higher rates than the boys, earning most of the college degrees, and finding better employment prospects at the end of the process. There’s still a distinct difference between raising one’s hand or speaking one’s mind and being bossy, too, and while boys are as always more likely to have the lesson beaten into them on some remote corner of the playground it strikes us as downright sexist to assume that a little girl can’t figure it out on her own.
We have no objections to little girls growing up to be assertive, hand-raising, mind-speaking women, as we will be far too old to date them by that point, and we will welcome their leadership so long as they lead us in the direction of freedom and individualism and red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalism. “Ban Bossy” will only encourage bossiness, however, and there’s no need for more of that from either sex. There’s no shaking a suspicion that the movement hopes to raise a generation of women so effectively bossy that they will at long last realize the left’s cherished dream of telling others how to live their lives, and it makes us shudder.

— Bud Norman

The Privilege of Paying

One has to admire the steadfastness, if nothing else, of the president’s most die-hard supporters. Lately they must feel like Millerites on the day after the world was supposed to end, still insisting despite The Great Disappointment that all the prophecies were true.
The unfolding Obamacare debacle is especially testing for the true believer’s faith, as it is has now become indisputable that millions who liked their insurance plan their doctors won’t be able to keep them, most will see increased costs rather than a $2,500 annual windfall, millions will remain uninsured, at least one dime will be added to the national debt, and none of the other grandiose promises will ever be kept. Some will go right ahead and dispute it, insisting that it’s all lies told by hateful racists intent on preventing the president from heroically saving the country, but these days even the non-Fox media are reporting the bad news and there are more people with very authentic-looking cancellation letters than could possibly be in on even the vastest right-wing conspiracy. A more inventive apologetics is now required to justify the prophesy of hope and change, and the more inventive apologists seem to have seized on the argument people just don’t realize how lucky they are.
Consider the case of poor Lori Gottlieb, who recently penned an op-ed piece for the notoriously right-wing New York Times to lament that Obamacare had caused her to lose the insurance plan she liked and was promised she could keep and has forced her to pay an extra $5,400 a year for a plan that includes maternity coverage and other features she does not need. Her bigger gripe, though, was that when she posted her complaints on Facebook she found little sympathy for her plight and instead was peppered with comments that she was a selfish shrew who should be grateful for the privilege of contributing to a system that will provide quality medical care to everyone. Gottlieb is apparently a committed liberal, judging by the Facebook friends she keeps and the fact that she doesn’t dispute the preposterous premise that everyone will now be getting quality medical care, but she’s not so commited that she’s willing to shell out an extra $5,400 a year for utopia and she seems rather disappointed that her fellow liberals aren’t a bit more sympathetic to her own workingman’s plight.
Some of the professional Democrats trotted out the same appeal to altruism a while back, but it seems to have polled poorly or the focus groups didn’t like it as they have since moved on to inflating their enrollment numbers and downplaying the technical problems and dismissing all those part time jobs as anecdotal evidence and otherwise insisting that things are not so bad as they might seem. Trying to tell the likes of Lori Gottlieb that she should be happy to cough up a sizeable chun of her family’s income for a system that is going to lower the quality of medical care for everyone and leave millions uninsured was always going to be difficult, and the true believers’ continued efforts to do so reek of desperation.

— Bud Norman

Cell Phone Libertarianism

Our faith in the American public has been slightly bolstered by the eight-point drop President Barack Obama has suffered in the latest monthly Gallup poll, although his approval rating remains an unaccountably high 45 percent, and we are particularly heartened to note that the decline is driven largely by a precipitous 17-point drop in the approval of the young folks.
The under-30 cohort’s enthusiasm for Obama has been remarkably stubborn, especially by the dizzying standards of contemporary pop culture crazes, but it is not hard to see why the young generation’s forbearance has at last waned in the past month. All of the most damning facts about the deadly Benghazi fiasco were well known by the time of the election, and the incompetence and dishonesty and disdain for free speech rights apparently made no impression. The revelation of the Internal Revenue Services’ campaign of harassment to stomp out the Tea Party’s dissent was similarly unmoving, as the Tea Party was just a bunch of middle class white people who didn’t want to pay for the young generation’s health care and Obamaphones. News that the Justice Department had treated a Fox News investigation as a criminal conspiracy also failed to trouble the young generation’s conscience, and for some it was a welcome development to have those buzz-kills get pushed around, and the fact that it was also happening to the Associated Press made little impression on people who get their news through Facebook and rarely read newspapers. Even the persistently high youth unemployment rate didn’t seem to faze the young. When word got out that the National Security Agency was snooping through Facebook and cell phone records, though, that was crossing a generational Rubicon.
If you are ever so unfortunate as to find yourself in one of the nightspots favored by the young folks, you’ll immediately note the strange regard they have for their cell phones and tablets and other electronic gizmos. They’ll contantly caress these damnable devices in the palms of their hands, enrapt by the faint light of the high-resolution screens, texting shorthand witticisms to their most beloved hundred or so friends, “googling” the answer to some trivia question about a Saturday morning cartoon from their childhoods, buying over-priced tickets to some second-rate rock ‘n’ roll band’s concert, or God and the National Security Agency only knows what else. Whatever it is that they’re doing on those things seems to be more important than flirting with the nubile and needy-looking young hipster chicks sitting across the booth, and the latest Gallup poll suggests that young folks don’t seem to believe it’s any of the government’s business.
Some conservatives are hoping that this understandable outrage suggests a libertarian streak that the Republican party might appeal to in future elections, but our experience of young people suggests this is wishful thinking. The young people of our acquaintance are mostly inclined to hold very permissive social views on issues ranging from abortion to same-sex marriage to the right to post photos of their cats on Facebook or “tweet” a misspelling of an obscenity, but they do not embrace the red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalism and rugged individualism that define libertarianism. They certainly don’t subscribe to the notions of individual responsibility that are just as essential to the libertarian ethic, and they’ve never stopped to consider how economic freedom is essential to social freedom, so they much prefer the goodies provided by an ever-bigger government.
So long as the government can keep the goodies coming, especially during a period of persistently high youth unemployment, the young folks will likely be satisfied with some assurance that the government isn’t keeping a record of their most embarrassing internet searches or awkward post-hook up phone chats. Obama has taken to the airwaves to offer his word that he isn’t Dick Cheney, even as Dick Cheney is taking to the airwaves to defend Obama’s policies, and that might placate the youngsters for a while. Using Dick Cheney as a slur is so five years ago, though, and perhaps the young have grown tired of it. Many of them, we suspect, won’t recognize the reference at all. If the sweet talk to the youngsters doesn’t work, they might even start to notice the persistently high unemployment rates for the young, but unless the Republicans are offering more generous unemployment benefits it probably won’t make difference.

— Bud Norman