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A Bittersweet Departure

Attorney General Eric Holder has announced his resignation, yet we feel no glee. Holder was by far the worst Attorney General of our lifetime, which stretches back to the days of John Mitchell, but his departure provides no vindication and little hope.
The man’s execrable record began long before he assumed the office of Attorney General, from his days taking over campus buildings as a college radical to his role in the Clinton administration’s final days pardons of a Democrat-contributing expatriate scammer and some bomb-throwing Puerto Rican terrorists, and continued into his private sector work at a law firm that provided pro bono defense for Islamist terrorists. In the euphoria that followed the hope and change election of ’08 this record was insufficient to prevent the appointment of the first black Attorney General, however, and his outrages as Attorney General began immediately with his decision to drop charges against the paramilitary-garbed and club-weilding New Black Panther members who had already been convicted of intimidating voters outside a Philadelphia polling station and an address that branded America a “nation of cowards” for declining to talk about race on his resentful terms, then continued with a disinclination to pursue hate crime charges on behalf of white victims, his insistence that school discipline be administered by racial quotas, his apparent approval of the “Fast and Furious” program that allowed gun sales to Mexican gangsters who wound up committing hundreds of murders that included the death of American law enforcement agents, his subsequent stonewalling of congressional investigations that led to a contempt charge, his refusal to appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of his party’s political opponents, his resistance to reasonable rules regarding eligibility for voting, his prejudicial statements concerning various racial contretemps playing out in the local justice systems, and other offenses so numerous that we can’t off the top of our head recall them all.
None of this was sufficient to remove the first black Attorney General from office, however, and so far as we can tell he is rather smugly leaving for a lucrative career in the private sector of his own accord. There is speculation in the conservative press that Holder is departing under duress of those still-lingering contempt of Congress charges stemming from the “Fast and Furious” scandal, but this seems wishful thinking. All those dead Mexicans and American law enforcement officers weren’t an issue in the re-election of Holder’s boss, and are now rarely mentioned in the public discourse, so we can’t imagine that Holder or his boss feel at all concerned by it now. Disturbingly enough the more plausible explanation is Holder’s statement that six years of bedeviling American justice is enough and that he’s ready to follow his wife’s advice and take on the less stressful and more remunerative life of a very well-connected private sector lawyer. He announced his resignation with a lachrymose farewell from the President of the United States and such polite press as the Politico web site admitting that his resignation is perfectly timed to allow a replacement to be confirmed by a lame duck Democratic Senate but still gushing that he is “leaving on arguably the highest point of his personal career, after a year of progress on his plan to reform sentencing laws and just after his well-received, calming-the-waters trip to Ferguson, Missouri, during the riots in August.”
That Holder is leaving as the least popular person in the Obama administration went unremarked, as was that his trip to Ferguson calmed the waters by promising the mob its preferred decision on the police shooting that prompted the riots and it wasn’t at all well-received by the vast majority of Americans who don’t write for Politico, but otherwise the article seems credible in its assertion that Holder is leaving on his own. The publication’s posterior-kissing approach to journalism has probably given it credible sources within the administration, too, so we take seriously their list of the equally-radical and racialist candidates being considered to replace Holder. One can hope that a more Republican Senate will refuse to confirm the first few put forth, but they’ll eventually have to agree to one of them and in the meantime Holder will stay on the job. We’ll be glad to be rid of Holder, but don’t expect that anything will soon get better.

— Bud Norman

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Enemies Foreign and Domestic

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

— Bud Norman

J’Accuse

At this point we might as well divulge our suspicion that the Internal Revenue Service’s illegal harassment of the president’s political foes was ordered by the president himself. Proving such a portentous claim is difficult when a key figure in the scandal is pleading the Fifth Amendment and essential documents are missing, but that only makes it all the more suspicious, and after so many presidential lies and scandals we no longer feel obliged to make a presumption of innocence.
The explanations offered for the missing e-mails that might have proved our suspicions is dubious at best. We are to believe that two years of essential correspondence were lost to a computer crash, and that the hard drive was then destroyed for recycling purposes, which is an alibi that would not past master with the IRS if any audited company of individual taxpayer were desperate enough to offer it. It seems strange, too, that the computer crash not only deprived congressional investigators of the e-mails sent by Lois Lerner, the aforementioned Fifth-Amendment-pleading key figure in the case, but six other important players, one of whom was a frequent visitor to the White House during the time the harassment was taking place. That the crash occurred just 10 days after the IRS had received a letter from a congressman who was inquiring about reports of harassed “tea party” organizations and other conservative groups seems stranger yet.
It seems very much like criminal obstruction of justice at worst and a damning confession of bureaucratic incompetence at best, and in either case it is the sort of thing no agency would do unless there was something even worse that they didn’t want known. There is now no doubt that the president’s political foes who applied for tax-exempt status were subjected to a punitive degree of scrutiny at far higher rates than their more administration-friendly counterparts, which has been acknowledged and apologized for by the agency, so all the is left to be hidden is the identity of those responsible. After initially expressing his outrage at the scandal, and claiming that he’d only become aware of it by reading media reports, the president has since referred to the matter as a “phony scandal” and insisted there wasn’t a “smidgen of corruption” involved, but if he’s reading the same media reports we are it might have also occurred to him that the only person worth protecting by such risky and impeachable means is the president. His apparent disinterest in the matter of the missing e-mails that might have put such suspicions to rest, and the disinterest of his thoroughly politicized Justice Department, also seems strange.
A patriotic respect for the office of the president leaves on uneasy harboring such grave suspicions, but the same respect requires that we hold the occupants of the office to the highest standards and give due consideration to such well-grounded suspicions. The current occupant’s long history of disregard for the law, even the ones he lobbied for and signed, along with his outspoken disdain for those who dare disagree with him, as well as a long-established style of political combat learned from Saul Alinsky’s no-holds-barred “Rules for Radicals,” make those nagging suspicions all the more plausible. Forgive our skepticism, which the president would surely deride as the “cynicism” that prevents the public from embracing his leadership, but we just wouldn’t put it past the guy to sic the IRS on those “tea party” groups and pro-Israel organizations that he so clearly reviled.
At this point in the Watergate scandal, which ended with President Richard Nixon resigning rather than face the charge that he had unsuccessfully “endeavored” to use the IRS against his political foes, much of the media were already screaming “Guilty.” We’ll hold off on that, and eagerly await the slow trickle of damning revelations that are sure to come over the summer, but we will admit to being darned suspicious. Maybe we’re wrong, but we’d interested to hear the president make the case why we are. Perhaps the exculpatory evidence was in those e-mails that went mysteriously missing, but if so a sweet irony will prevent him from the proof.

— Bud Norman

Too Much News for a Summer’s Day

Summertime is when the living is supposed to be easy and the news slow, a time for the pundits to reach into the tickler file for a timeless think piece to fill up space, but that doesn’t seem to be the case this year. News is now flowing like a river of lava from a volcano, the living is not at all easy along its path, and there seems little time to mull what it all means.
The lazy, hazy days of summers of have brought Russian tanks rolling into Ukraine, the Syrian civil war spilling into Iraq and threatening to overwhelm Baghdad and all of America’s hard-fought gains in that ever-troublesome country, more provocations in the South China Sea, the release of five dangerous high-ranking terrorists in exchange for a soldier who seems to have deserted, and the rise of a wide range of grumpy political parties across Europe threatening to unravel that continent’s unpopular experiment in central planning and political correctness. On the domestic front there’s an invasion of unaccompanied minors on the southwest borders that is enjoying a White House reception, the shocking maltreatment of aging patriots by the Veterans Administration, a highly suspicious development in the slowly unfolding scandal of the Internal Revenue Service’s harassment of the president’s “tea party” foes, and some notable successes by that “tea party” is making the Republican party an even grumpier foe of this country’s unpopular experiment in central planning and political correctness. If Hillary Clinton planned her book tour and presidential campaign launch for a slow news cycle she was probably disappointed by the competing news, but the fact it’s gone so badly she’s probably now glad of it is also an intriguing story. All of which obscures the same old story about the sputtering economy, and supersedes past scandals such as Benghazi and the National Security Agency and such golden oldies as Solyndra and Fast and Furious and the rest of it, but otherwise does little to bolster faith in a long, hot summer.
In addition to its dizzying quantity the summer’s news also has an unmistakably significant quality to it. Those Russian tanks herald a new Cold War, the Iraq debacle heralds the revival of an Islamist strain that had been prematurely declared dead, China’s bellicosity is causing tensions that cannot be soothed by a presidential tour of the region, the sort of mischief that those five released terrorists might cause is demonstrated by the released terrorists who’s leading that charge in Iraq, and those grumpy new political parties in Europe are a reminder that the west isn’t all unified in response to such existential challenges. The children’s crusade from the Third World into America and the dying veterans at the bureaucratic hospitals and the impeachable implications of the IRS’ misbehavior all deserve consideration, and merge into a broader story that explains why those “tea party” folks are so grumpy and even the oh-so-polite-to-Democrats journalists are giving Clinton a hard time. There seems to be a common theme to all this news, but we’ve too busy following links from one internet page of bad news to another to develop a unified field theory of it all.
All that bad news hasn’t been so plentiful that it kept the president from enjoying a round of golf at a swank Florida course over the weekend, and we suppose this is meant to be reassuring. Ike used to golf through a crisis, according to popular legend, and everybody liked Ike. Somehow we are not reassured, however, and find ourselves pining for those lazy, hazy days of summer when the living was easy. We even find ourselves looking forward to the chill of fall, when an even grumpier Republican party will be on the ballot with a promise to resist central planning and political correctness and all this damnable news.

— Bud Norman

Back to the Scandalous Future

There’s a certain unsettling feeling of the 1970s to this moment. Leisure suits and platform shoes aren’t back in vogue and the current pop hits aren’t quite disco, but the fashions and the music are otherwise just as horrible. Officially there is no “stagflation,” because except at the grocery store and the gas pump the inflation rate is low, but the stagnation part of that long-forgotten portmanteau is evident in even the most gussied-up government statistics. There’s the same foreboding sense of international turmoil and domestic scandal, too, and the same nagging suspicion that no in charge has a clue. The impending fall of Baghdad is evoking unpleasant memories of the fall of Saigon, Russian tanks rolling into Ukraine bring the chill of a new Cold War, and now there’s a two-year gap in the Internal Revenue Service’s e-mails that eerily recall the 18-and-a-half minute gap in the Watergate tapes.
Those too young to have been transfixed by the Watergate scandal won’t appreciate the ominous meaning of an 18-and-a-half-minute gap, but suffice to say it was a big deal back in the day. A third-rate burglary to wire-tap the Democratic National Headquarters in the fancy-schmantzy Watergate building in Washington, D.C., had been linked to operatives of President Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign, high-ranking administration officials were implicated in a cover-up that seemed to go to the very top, and when the stone age reel-to-reel tape recordings that chronicled the White House conversations were subpoenaed by a Congressional investigation they included a suspicious gap of that famous duration just when they were getting to the good parts. The White House’s explanation that the missing portions had accidentally been erased by the president’s ever-loyal personal security was widely ridiculed, especially after photographs of her desk and the tape recorder demonstrated the strange contortions that would have been required to accomplish such an accident, and public opinion reasonably concluded that the erasure was an intelligence-insulting ploy in a broader conspiracy. Nixon eventually resigned rather than be convicted in his upcoming impeachment trial, and Pulitzer Prizes and Academy Awards and a lifelong gig on the talk shows was awarded those who had uncovered the crime.
Only the most obsessive Watergate buffs will recall that the articles of impeachment also included that Nixon had “endeavored” to use the Internal Revenue Service against his political foes. There was some evidence of this on the unexpurgated portions of those tape recordings, but they also reveal that the administration’s effort came to naught because the IRS was too thoroughly dominated by Democrats and other political foes of the president. That a president would even contemplate such a thing was then considered an impeachable offense, however, and it outraged the citizenry as much as the break-ins and huggings and the subsequent attempts to obstruct justice. Say what you will about the ’70s, and all its myriad sartorial and musical and political failings, but at least people could still rouse themselves to an appropriate degree of outrage over such things.
Nowadays there’s a story buried deep inside the local newspapers that the IRS has been caught red-handed harassing a president’s political foes, and the public seems willing to accept the president’s word that it’s just another “phony scandal” like the four dead Americans at an unprotected consulate in a Middle Eastern hell-hole, or the 200-plus Mexicans killed by guns provided to south-of-the-border drug gangs by our federal government’s gun-running operation, or the gang members being allowed entry north-of-the-border by a non-enforcement policy, or the many brave American veterans dead due to the neglector a government-run health care system, or any of countless other recent incidents that once would have had the country riled up. Now the key high-ranking figure in the IRS’ harassment of conservative groups is invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in a Congressional investigation of this “phony scandal,” there are two years of her e-mails that have been suspiciously erased by a claimed computer crash that is every bit as dubious as that accidental-erasure-during-a-yoga-routine that was offered during the Watergate days, and would be laughed at by IRS agents if a private business came up with such a flimsy excuse for failing to provide information during an audit, and yet the story is treated only briefly by the most of the media and doesn’t even rate so much as mention in “All the News That’s Fit to Print” on the pages of the New York Times. The average citizen is blissfully unaware of the story, and certainly not clamoring for impeachment.
The average citizen of the ’70s was probably no more civic-minded and beholden to higher standards that the average citizen of the day, but back in the day the media landscape was more conducive to public outrage. That old joke that just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you was never more true than in the case of Nixon, who had been hated by the sophisticated since ever since he’d defeated their progressive dream girl in his first Congressional run and rightly exposed their pal Alger Hiss as a communist spy, no matter how many Environmental Protection Agencies and affirmative action programs and wage-and-price controls and other liberal projects he gave them, and when he at long last provided them necessary rope to hang him with they pre-empted all the soap operas on the only three channels a television set could get and made sure that everyone in the country knew about it. Equally outrageous scandals by the current president are more easily hidden amongst all the the other scandals and the news about bigoted basketball team owners and homosexual football players and the latest exploits of some drug-addled celebrity other another, especially when most of the media have been eager to promote the president ever since he first emerged as an agent of hope and change and healing the planet and all the rest of nonsense.
We have no desire to return to the days of three channels and a handful of big-time newspapers rubbing the public’s nose in the scandals of their choice, nor do we care to re-live any other aspects of the ’70s except perhaps the best of Merle Haggard’s work from the era, but it would be nice to get a big of that moral outrage back. Another impeachment trial would have a nice nostalgic feel, too, but that seems as likely as a comeback of the leisure suit.

— Bud Norman

If Only Obama Knew

The scandal about the Veterans Administration grows more infuriating by the day, and we are assured by a high ranking official that the President Barack Obama is “madder than hell than about it.” Whether he is angry about the off-the-books waiting lists and substandard service that possibly cost the lives of as many as 40 people or the potential political costs of their public revelation is unclear, but in either case his anger is at least somewhat reassuring.
That “madder than hell” declaration is accompanied by the usual promises that any problems will be forthrightly addressed and quickly solved, and some high-ranking VA official or another has already resigned shortly before his long-planned retirement date, but by now it’s hard to take all that seriously. The president is still standing by the VA Secretary, who haas politely declined to upstage his boss by declaring that he is merely “mad as hell” about what was going on during his watch, and the outrage has become increasingly unconvincing with repetition. Similar outrage was expressed by the president about the Fast and Furious scandal, and he still stands by the Attorney General who was cited for contempt of Congress for stonewalling an investigation into the truth of that deadly matter. More presidential anger attended the four deaths by terrorism at the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, but the high-ranking officials are now saying “Dude, that was, like, two years ago.” The president again waxed livid about a few Cleveland-based rogue agents of the Internal Revenue Service harassing his political enemies, but when a high-ranking official invoked a Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and it became apparent that the plot seeped deep into Washington he dismissed it as one of those “phony scandals.” The pattern is so obvious that even the slow-witted wags of the Republican National Committee have noticed, putting together an amusing montage of the president’s recurring wrath, and it seems unlikely that this time around will yield actual results.
Even so, it’s heartening that the VA story has sufficient legs to force yet another statement of the president’s anger. Every time Obama goes into his angry mode he sounds so very convincing that the average voters wind up wishing that he could be president so he might do something about it, and one can only hope they’ll eventually notice that he has been president for more than five years. The president’s spokesmen are disputing reports that he knew about the VA’s deadly practices back in ’08, and insist that he only learned of it by reading the latest newspapers, and even if that date sticks he’ll have the ready excuse of blaming it on the all-purpose scapegoat of the George W. Bush administration, but there’s faint hope the public won’t buy it yet again. Presidents have traditionally been expected to know more than what they read in the newspapers, and for all his faults George W. Bush can’t plausibly be blamed for what Obama hasn’t done over the past five years.
The dangerous inadequacies of the VA certainly do stretch back to the Bush years, and probably all the way back to its very beginning. Congressional Republicans are responding to the problem with a proposal to allow the VA Secretary to actually fire someone, rather than risking any political problems by calling for the firing of a former Four Star General who became a Democratic darling by criticizing Bush’s Iraq War policies, and it demonstrates the inherent problems of efficiently running a federal government bureaucracy. This should raise questions about the ability of a federal government bureaucracy to administer health care for everyone, and not just a relatively small number of veterans, and we expect the president will be angry about that. Pretty much the entire Obama agenda is based on the argument that government knows best and can be trusted, and in any case Obama deserves such trust, and the argument is not bolstered by the latest revelations about the VA.

— Bud Norman

The American Public and Other Slow Lerners

Rarely do we offer any kind words to any Democrats, but we’re obliged to acknowledge those six brave members of that damnable party who joined a House of Representatives majority in citing Lois Lerner for contempt of Congress on Wednesday. A remarkable 26 Democrats went so far as to vote for petitioning the Attorney General to appoint a special counsel to investigate Lerner, and we suppose they also deserve some credit for their half-assed acknowledgement that there’s something seriously afoul in the Internal Revenue Service scandal.
The unanimous righteous indignation of the House’s Republican caucus was sufficient to cite Lerner, who headed the department of the IRS that was targeting conservative non-profit groups for punitive scrutiny and delays, and who has since invoked her Fifth Amendment rights to avoid any questions regarding her claim in Congressional testimony that she has broken no laws, but it’s nice to have at least a few Democrats agreeing that it all sounds mighty fishy. We don’t know any of those six Democrats, described by the ladies and gentlemen of The Washington Post as a “band of moderates and others facing difficult reelection challenges,” but we’ll generously assume that they’re genuinely outraged on First Amendment principles that the IRS was used to harass the president’s political opponents. Those 26 who settled for asking for a look into the matter by the Attorney General, who has also been held in contempt of Congress for failure to answer pertinent questions about the Fast and Furious gun-running scandal, can at least be credited with a sense of political self-preservation. The vast majority of the Democrats unified behind the it’s-all-a-racist-Republican-plot position of ranking House Oversight Committee member Rep. Elijah Cummings, although former House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi had to miss the vote because of a fund-raising engagement, so even the most tepid dissent suggests a worry that the public will eventually be outraged an iron-fisted assault on the free expression of American citizens, no matter how unfashionable their notions about balanced budgets and limited government might be.
Those 26 weasel votes for a special counsel might even be enough to give a veneer of bipartisanship to the much-needed investigation. and thus assure its rightful place before the public’s attention. They bolstered a vote that puts Lerner is serious legal peril, no matter how indifferent the president’s Justice Department might be, and added to the pressure for her to avoid a potential long prison sentencing by implicating any higher-ups that were involved. Given how how very high-up Lerner was, the testimony she doesn’t want to give could be significant.

— Bud Norman

The Write Stuff

Back in our newspaper days we watched the typesetters, inserters, many of the pressmen, and even much of the clerical staff gradually fade away from the industry, all victims of the relentless progress of automation. We were especially saddened to see the departure of the typesetters, whose painstakingly learned sleight of hand was as entertaining to watch as any of those plate-spinners who used to perform on the Ed Sullivan Show, but we always reassured ourselves that a flesh-and-ink-stained-blood human being would always be required to write the stories.
Now we learn that even the all-too-human art of writing news stories can be mastered by mere machines. The Los Angeles Times has already run a story written by what is ominously called a “writer-bot,” and according to the chief technical officer of a company called Narrative Science, another ominous coinage, as much of 90 percent of all news stories will be computer-generated rather than human-written by 2030. This is after our hoped-for retirement date, but the apparent advent of the automated reporter is still a sobering enough development to make us reconsider our career path.
It seems a shame to leave so many decades of journalistic experience unused, however, so we’re thinking of getting on this computer-generated news racket. The classical economists’ answer to automation has always been that it creates a new job for every one it destroys, as people as required to design and build and maintain the machines doing the work, so we’ll simply get involved in the program-writing end of the biz. How hard can it be, after all? There’s something to do with algorithms, we’re told, and so far as we can tell that has nothing to do with Al Gore, but we’ll just get some unemployed computer geek to take care of that gobbledygook while we provide the necessary instructions. Many decades of being reprimanded by mainstream news editors have taught us all the rules of modern journalism, and it should be a relatively simple task to get a machine to obey them.
At the risk of revealing proprietary information, we’ll share with any potential investors out there a few of the stylebook entries we’ll have programmed into our machines. By following these few simple rules our computer-written copy should meet all the requirements of modern journalism.
First of all, any political story with the word “scandal” should omit any mention of the subject’s party affiliation unless he is a Republican. Any economics story bearing bad news should include the word “unexpectedly,” unless a Republican occupies the White House, in which case the words “dire” and “cataclysmic” will be added. All reports of Islamist-inspired terrorism must include a reference to the “religion of peace,” as well as some vague allusion to Israeli intransigence. Stories regarding the Internal Revenue Service’s harassment of conservative activist groups will not be written at all, but immediately replaced with the salacious details of the Kardashian clan’s most recent sexual exploits. Partial-birth abortions will described as “what opponents call partial-birth abortions,” at least until proponents can decide what to call it. All stories making reference to the Koch brothers must include the phrase “billionaire businessman, while those mentioning George Soros should use “philanthropist” and “social activist.” Crime stories must omit any mention of race or sex, unless the suspect is white and male, and just to be safe the neighborhood in which the crime occurred should also go unmentioned. Any mention of President Barack Obama should be free of any unflattering adjectives, and any accompanying photographs should be altered to include a suitably hagiographic halo effect.
There are lots more rules, as we have learned through hard experience, but that just means plenty of lucrative work for the aspiring journalistic programmer. The rules keep changing, too, depending on who’s in office, so this scam might yet get us over until the hoped-for retirement date.

— Bud Norman

The Grand Tour

Way back in our younger days it was a widely accepted truism that only Nixon could go to China, but these days anyone with the airfare and cost of a decent hotel can do it. Even First Lady Michelle Obama, who can simply put the trip on the taxpayers’ ever-swelling tab, is currently on tour on in China.
First Ladies usually get the kid-glove treatment from the press, especially the First Ladies’ of Democrat presidents, and most especially the First Ladies’ of Democrat presidents who can claim some historic ethnic first or another, but this trip has garnered some unusually critical coverage. That’s partly because of Obama’s inexplicable decision to not bring along her usually adoring media groupies, partly because of the explanation that it’s a “non-political” trip makes the undisclosed but easily guessed-at price-tag seem all the more extravagant, and to no small extent because she has come across as what in our younger days was known as an ugly American.
Granted, the sneering coverage has come from British press that is always snarkier and less politically-correct than its American counterpart. The reliably conservative Telegraph headlined that because of the refined behavior of Chinese President Xi Jingping’s wife “China Claims Victory in Battle of First Ladies.” The even snarkier but less reliably conservative Daily Mail reported that the Obama entourage was racking up an $8,350-per-night lodging bill for their 3,400-square-foot suit, and that despite such amenities as a 24-hour butler the First Lady’s mother was driving the hotel staff to distraction with her constant demands and criticisms. The temptation to crack the inevitable mother-in-law jokes must have been difficult for the American press, but they resisted admirably and contented themselves with straight-forward coverage of Obama’s public pronouncements.
Even the most straightforward accounts could not help embarrassing to the First Lady, however. At one point Obama was lecturing the Chinese on the need to tolerate dissent and political criticism, noting with pride the unending tolerance she and her husband have for such lese majeste, but the reports’ failure to mention the Internal Revenue Service’s harassment of conservative groups or its vilification of prominent opponents was conspicuous. Other reports proudly quoted Obama urging the Chinese to undertake educational reforms, with USA Today adding that “she has won praise for her approachability and admiration for her comments supporting freedom of speech,” but surely only the most star-struck readers weren’t reminded of her husband’s obeisance to the teachers’ unions and opposition to charter schools or vouchers or any other serious educational reform. One hopes that the first kids are enjoying the pricey visit, and not proving too much a pain in the neck to the hotel staff, but otherwise it’s hard to see what the taxpayer is getting for his money in this visit.

— Bud Norman

Fair Play, Compassion, and Brass Knuckles

Modern liberalism prides itself on compassion and fair play, but modern liberals pursue these goals with a frightening ruthlessness. Two examples of this phenomenon have been featured in this week’s news.
One was the maximum pain that the Obama administration has sought to inflict on the public as a result of the partial shutdown of the federal government. Go ahead and blame that those uncompassionate and unfair Republicans in the legislative branch for the temporary furlough of the 17 percent of government employees officially deemed nonessential, but it is obviously up to the executive branch to execute whatever the people’s representatives do or do not decide upon, and the administration has chosen to go about it in the most callous ways possible. The Republicans have declared in open voting their willingness to fund cancer programs for children, air travel and other compensations for the family of fallen soldiers, and various other worthy government expenditures, but the administration and its allies in the Senate have chosen to decline the offer of a “piecemeal” re-funding in hopes of winning all its demands including full-funding and no delays in implementation of its widely hated Obamacare law. To further emphasize the necessity of unlimited government to a public that has barely noticed the brief absence of 17th of it the administration has also closed a variety of public monuments and lands, even when it would have been cheaper to keep them open, and resorted to what some would-be visitors have described as “Gestapo tactics” in doing so.
An even more chilling example is the latest revelation in the ongoing scandal of the Internal Revenue Service’s harassment of citizens opposed to the administration’s agenda. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has revealed to the invaluable Daily Caller internet publication that a top IRS official shared confidential taxpayer information about religious organizations opposed to Obamacare’s contraceptive mandates with the White House. Such violations of the law were considered an outrage back when President Richard Nixon was accused of it, but modern liberalism seems willing to make excuses when it is done in the name of compassion and fair play and subsidized contraception.
Perhaps the utopia that will surely follow from unlimited federal borrowing and Obamacare and free contraception for everyone justifies such brass-knuckled tactics, but it had better be good.

— Bud Norman