When Coronavirus Hits Home

Our hometown of Wichita largely locked down at the moment, a response to the increase in coronavirus that followed a brief unlocking, and that’s unsettling enough. Worse yet, we’ve learned that we’re in the most infected part of town.
The 67203 zip code is a nice area, comprised mostly of the picturesque Riverside neighborhood and the adjacent historic Delano district, and the folks here are mostly friendly and don’t deserve this. We attribute the high infection rate to facts that it’s in heart of the city, and that Riverside’s many parks and art museum and botanical garden as well as Delano’s popular nightspots draw many visitors from all around the city. Also, people here tend to socialize with their neighbors more than in other parts of town.
These are usually selling points for the area, but not during a coronavirus epidemic. Suddenly it’s better to be of those boring suburbs no ventures into except to deliver packages and nobody even knows his neighbors.
There’s not much to do about it except to stay at home as much as possible and wear a face mask when forced to venture outside. We’ve already been doing that for what seems an eternity, and try to be even more strict about it until given an all-clear signal by the local health officials. At this point we’re willing toke our chances, but we don’t want to put any of our nice neighbors at risk.

— Bud Norman

Holding Steady in Changing Winds

The state of Mississippi has removed a confederate symbol from its flag, the state of Oklahoma has voted to expand Medicaid coverage, Kansans are mostly willing to go along with mandatory face masks, and the latest polling also shows that such reliably Republican states as Georgia and North Carolina and Texas are up for grabs in the next presidential election. This should be frightening to President Donald Trump, but he’s still stubbornly defending the confederacy, trying to undo “Obamacare” and leave millions uninsured during a pandemic, and refusing to be seen in a face mask.
Trump has an undying faith in his gut instincts about public opinion, which made him a reality television star and somehow got him elected to the presidency despite losing the popular vote by some three million ballots, but his reelection strategy strikes us as counter-intuitive.
If the great state of Mississippi — or “Mississippi Goddamn,” as the great jazz singer Nina Simone called it — is abandoning the confederal cause, and so is the NASCAR stock car racing circuit and the Navy and Marines, we think that at long last the confederacy truly is a lost cause. There seems to be an emerging social consensus that black lives matter, and despite the sporadic violence that’s come of it Trump’s 1968-era “law and order” message isn’t playing well in 2020..
We had our clearly stated ideological objections to “Obamacare” when it barely won congressional approval and was signed into law, and to such big government programs in general, but at the moment even Oklahomans are wanting to expand health insurance to their fellow citizens. Trump promised to not only repeal “Obamacare” but replace it with something that would cover everybody at a greatly reduced cost, but he hasn’t announced it after three and a half years in office, and once again he seems out of step with these crazy times.
We hate wearing face masks as much as the next guy, and will miss the erotic frisson of full facial nudity, but the know-it-all experts say it will help us from getting infected and infecting others, so we’re willing to put up with it for a while. Even here in Kansas most of our fellow live-free-or-die citizens seem to agree, and we think there’s a chance the Democrats might pick up their firste Senate seat since the Great Depression. Trump moved the Republican convention from North Carolina to Florida because of face mask and social distancing rules, but Florida’s seen a very scary spike in coronavirus cases and now has similar rules, and Trump once again seems behind the news cycle.
Trump is still promising that the coronavirus will magically disappear, the economy will once again roar, and that America’s race problems can be “very quickly and easily solved,” but he only has four months to pull that off. Trump’s gut instincts not withstanding, it seems a risky strategy for reelection

— Bud Norman

Full Facial Nudity is Banned in Kansas

Starting Friday, full facial nudity will no longer be allowed in Kansas, at least for the duration of the coronavirus problem. Gov. Laura Kelly has ordered that as of Friday all Kansans must wear face masks when in public, and it will be interesting to see how that turns out.
The measure is in response to a worrisome increase in the state’s coronavirus infections, especially here in mostly urban Sedgwick County and the suburban Kansas City counties to the northeast, but it’s also happening in the rural counties, which are sparsely populated and as always socially-distanced but have an average age over 65 and scant medical care, so any outbreak would be disastrous. Despite such compelling public health arguments, however, we expect that Kelly will face some harsh criticism.
Kansans tend to have an instinctive sense of civic duty, and come together in a crisis and fill sandbags in times of flooding and refrain from tossing cigarettes out of a car window during times of drought and tak\e up arms in time of war, but otherwise they tend to follow Walt Whitman’s advice to “resist much, obey little,” and don’t care for being told what to do. Which Kansas instinct prevails remains to be seen, but it surely won’t be a unanimous decision around here.
Here, as everywhere else in America, people tend to disregard the arguments and choose sides based on their previous political affiliations. Our liberal Democratic friends all agree that wearing a face mask is the least you can do for your fellow citizens, and far less onerous than what previous generations of civic-minded Kansans have one, but when our President Donald Trump-loving conservative Republican friends complain that wearing a mask in public very much sucks they also make an undeniably damned good point.
To fully confess to any revolutionary cadres out there, we’ve rarely worn a mask when buying beer and other essential groceries over the past many interminable months. We wore one to a small town Church of Christ funeral, where about a third of the mourners wore masks, but only on a couple of other occasions. In our beer and grocery shopping and other occasional appearances in public at an outdoor coffee shop and a beer joint with a small client tell and spacious patio seating, we’ve noticed that only about a third of our fellow citizens have been wearing face masks. We expect that percentage will go up when it becomes mandatory, but don’t anticipate full compliance. It might turn out to be the most widely broken law around here since Prohibition or the 55 mile per hour speed limit.
There’s also a chance it will redound to those liberals’ benefit. This coronavirus problem is undeniably serious, even so serious that the Trump-loving Republican governors of Florida and Texas are bringing back economic restrictions in response to recent worrisome spikes, and the Vice President and Republican Senate majority are urging Americans to wear face masks in public. Even in this traditionally Republican state our Democratic governor won handily against and a very-very-Trump-loving Republican just two years ago and won’t have to run again for another two years, by which time she might look both courageous and smart, and Trump might be long gone. Trump moved the Republican convention from Asheville, N.C, because to Jacksonville, Fla., because of Asheville’s coronavirus regulations, Jacksonville is adopting stricter coronavirus restrictions, and that’s embarrassing.
At this point there’s really no telling how Kelly’s executive order will be enforced, and what legal authority counties have the rights to countermand it, and what the cops can do about it, although she promises explanations about that by Thursday. If the inevitable court battles result in the counties getting their way, the Sedgwick County Commission, mostly comprised of the Wichita metropolitan area, which is currently seeing a worrisome rise in coronavirus cases, would probably vote to damn the face masks and full go speed ahead. The lone hold-out against and pro-business consensus for ignoring the coronavirus is a tattooed folk-singing single mom who represents our inordinately homosexual and lesbian and atypically liberal district of the county.
Once again we’re sitting on the political sidelines with no rooting interest in any of the players. We recognize the dangers of the coronavirus, but damn how we hate wearing those damn masks, and instinctively hate bossy government, and miss enjoying full facial nudity. We don’t regret that we voted for that Democratic governor or that hippy-dippy County Commissioner, and starting Friday we’ll comply with the face mask rule, and hating every moment of it and wondering whom to blame, and keep hoping that curve i flattened and eventually the center will hold and something like normalcy will eventually be restored.

— Bud Norman

A Soft Opening in Kansas

Compared to many other places in America and around the world, Kansas has largely been spared the worst of the coronavirus. As we write this there are 4,238 confirmed cases and there have been 129 deaths, which is horrible to contemplate but not nearly so bad as what other states have suffered.
There’s no way of telling for sure, but our relatively good results might well have something to do the measures our governor took early on in the crisis. She was the first governor to close all the schools, and among the first to shut down a variety of businesses and gathering places, and several Kansas county and municipal governments followed with similar restrictions. Many critics call the shutdown an overreaction, and there’s no way of telling for sure if they were wrong, but even in such a conservative and liberty-loving and traditionally Republican state as this our Democratic governor currently enjoys betters approval rating ratings than our Republican president.
The restrictions are undeniably irksome, and have some very outspoken if perhaps outnumbered opponents. Kansas has it share of that Gadsen-flag-waving and gun-toting type of self-described patriots who hate America’s government and many of its longstanding institutions and a vast majority of their fellow citizens, and they’ve been particularly irked. Some of them are our Facebook friends, so we daily read their grousing that the harm done to the state’s economy and the liberty of its citizens cannot be justified by a few thousands sickened people and just over 100 deaths. They’re convince they’re immune to the virus and certainly immune to the argument that the toll has been so low because of the measures that were taken, and given the lack of any way to definitively proof that they’ll forever be convinced they’re right.
We doubt they’ll be placated, but Thursday Gov. Laura Kelly took the rare step of interrupting the game shows scheduled for the state’s television station and announced the was beginning a four-phased “soft opening” of the state in the coming months, with hopes that everything will be back to normal in time for the Winfield bluegrass festival and the State Fair and the statewide elections and all the other traditional early fall activities.
The first step starts today, and it’s very tentative, basically allowing restaurants to once again offer table service if they limit their customers to point they can all be “socially distanced” according to federal guidelines, and to allow churches to resume services under similar conditions. The ban on religious services was especially controversial in this more church-going than usual state, and wound up being bitterly fought in the legislature and the courts, but our very conservative and church most churches in the state stopped gathering on Sundays and Wednesdays even before the state required they do so.
Our church has such a small congregation and a such a big building that we might be able to resume worshipping together soon, and in the meantime we’re getting weekly phone calls and e-mails from our fellow congregants and are scheduled to have a gift package dropped on porch today. It looks like it will be a while longer, however, before we can get together with the gang at the Kirby’s Beer Store and quaff a beer and watch “Jeopardy!” and listen to rock ‘n’ roll and life in Kansas gets fully back to normal. That’s damned irksome, but we figure our chances of surviving that are better than our chances of surviving a coronavirus infection.
Kansas has had “clusters” of infections at the meat packing plants that are a big chunk of the state economy and crucial component of the food supply chain that’s somehow kept America fed, as well as nursing homes and in the Lansing State Penitentiary, where the inmates rioted over a lack of health care and the state’s National Guard is helping keep order and conducting testing and provide care, so we could have done better. There’s plenty of blame to go around, including President Donald Trump and all the national and global institutions he’s trying to blame, but we think our state has done fairly well even if there’s no telling for sure.
For now we’ll try to keep sheltering in place and only venture out for essential supplies and to drive around on inexpensive gasoline and enjoy the gorgeous Wichita and Kansas scenery. We don’t mind risking our lives but don’t want to risk any other Kansan’s, and it seems the patriotic thing to do.

— Bud Norman

We Kansans Is Officially Smart

The presumably fine folks at something called Safehome.org have ranked all the states according to their smartness, and our beloved Sunflower State came in a perfectly respectable seventh place. If we correctly remember what we learned about mathematics and civics in Kansas’ public schools that probably puts us in the top half of the 50 or so states, and we reckon that ain’t bad.
The Safehome.org folks based their rankings on a presumably scientific formula that takes into account the number of citizens with a bachelor’s degree, the high school graduation rate, the average score on the Scholastic Aptitude Test, and how many of the state’s students had least a passing score on the SAT’s various benchmarks, which strikes us as fair enough. Kansas might have fared better by some less hifalutin formula that takes common horse sense into account, but we suppose that is hard to objectively quantify, and given the snobbish disdain of the coastal elites we Kansans just know are laughing at us behind our backs with chips on the shoulder, seventh place seems almost comforting.
We were glad to see that New Jersey topped the list, as it’s the butt of far more jokes than Kansas will ever be. The state features some of America’s scariest ghettos, the ongoing storyline from “The Sopranos,” and frequently disgraced politicians, but much of it is quite nice, and every New Jerseyan or New Jerseyite or whatever you call them that we’ve ever met met have been very nice and very smart people. We’re not sure they’re smarter than Kansans, who spend less time in traffic on highways jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive, but we mean them no disrespect.
According to Safehome.org the second smartest state is Utah, which is not surprising, as those Mormons believe in all sorts of crazy things but are nonetheless very smart about many things. Massachusetts came in third and North Carolina fourth, which greatly annoyed us because we’ve known some very snobby and not all that smart people from both states. Montana finished fifth, and although we’e visited that very beautiful state we really don’t know enough Montanans or Montanians or what ever you call them to make a judgement about how smart they are relative to Kansans. Sixth place went to Virginia, a state that played an outsized role in American history since Washington and Jefferson, and we’ve been lucky to know many Virginians, as they like to be called, and although they’re a rather snooty bunch we have to admit we found several of them them smarter than the national average.
So seventh place ain’t bad, as we reckon it. We’re still ahead of another 43 or so states, according to our calculations, including all the neighbors we like to jibe about. Colorado and its legal marijuana came in 15th place. Missouri and its big league baseball teams came in 18th. Nebraska and whatever it has going for it was 20th. Oklahoma, a state we dearly love filled with some very smart family and friends we dearly love, came in 50th, just ahead of Idaho. The District of Columbia, which isn’t even a state so far as we can tell, came in 31st, which might account for any discrepancies you’ve noticed in our math.
Such populous and influential states as California and New York and California and Texas also lagged far behind Kansas in smartness, but as Kansans we are far too smart and refined to say “n’yah n’yah n’yah,” and will give due respect to our fellow Americans. The states have enough to quarrel about without some pseudoscientific rankings of their smartness, even if it does acknowledge how relatively smart us Kansans are, and it’s not the Kansas way to brag about such things..
Kansans have been smart enough to make vibrant cities and towns and far-flung farm houses out of this harsh and barren part of the country, and as imperfect as our state is we think it quite an accomplishment. We’ve travelled through 48 other states in our days, as well as the District of Columbia, and have found smart people and dumb people everywhere, and we hope they’ll prevail.
Our limited understanding of mathematics tell us that approximately half the people out there are below overage in smartness, though, which is a frightening thought given how often the brighter half of the population is wrong. For now the country seems to be doing a sufficient job of creating a great nation out of what was once a forbidding wilderness, even if neither of our political parties is currently helping out much with the chore, and we’ll hold out hope that the smartest people spread around the country somehow prevail.

— Bud Norman

Across the Street From Kirby’s Beer Store

While we were watching “Jeopardy!” and drinking a Pabst Blue Ribbon at Kirby’s Beer Store on Thursday there was some big news going on across the street at Wichita State University. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was back in his hometown for a photo-op at WSU’s high-tech aviation training program and a friend’s wedding, and he brought along First Daughter and White House senior advisor Ivanka Trump, as well as a lot of questions about state and international politics.
Pompeo is up to his neck in the administration’s controversial Syrian policy and that hubbub about American-Ukrainian relations that seems to be leading to President Donald Trump’s impeachment, and here in Kansas and around the nation there’s been much speculation that he’ll get out of the administration while the getting’s good and come home to run for an open Senate seat that is pretty much his for the asking. This was the fourth time the Secretary of State has taken time out from his busy schedule of globe-trotting to vista Kansas in the past few months, and all the latest national and international news makes a nice safe sinecure in the Senate look all the more tempting, so questions were inevitable.
The local television stations were understandably grateful for the more star-studded than usual photo-op, and obligingly aired footage of the Barbie-esque Ivanka Trump doing her best impersonation of Rosie the Riveter, but one of the last standing reporters from the now emaciated local newspaper where we toiled for 25 years got a lengthy interview, and we’re proud to say he gave Pompeo a good grilling. The national media were largely shut out of the visit, so the local paper’s reporting was widely quoted and linked to by  some of the nation’s biggest media, which we hope helps with its clicks.
The reporter asked Pompeo if a photo-op in Wichita was the best use of a Secretary of State’s time at the moment, if the abandonment of our Kurdish allies in Syria undercut rest of the world’s faith in America’s alliances, some pesky questions about the Ukraine matter, and of course some peskier question about his possible future in Kansas politics, which at this point is also of national interest. For the most part Pompeo handled the interrogation well, deftly blaming President Barack Obama for some of the mess and dodging some questions that weren’t related to aviation workforce development and challenging the “predicate” of others, and our experienced local news watching eyes noticed he was more genteel than the usual Trump administration in bashing the media when being interviewed by his hometown paper. The hometown paper’s reporter also works for its corporate sister at what’s left of Kansas City’s hometown paper, even though the papers used to vie for statewide scoops back our in day, so any shrewd politician seeking statewide office would be well advised to at least be polite.
Pompeo is a first-in-his-class West Point grad and Harvard Law Review editor who made a fortune in the high-tech aviation business in Wichita, easily won four terms as the Fourth District’s congressman before becoming director of the Central Intelligence and then Secretary of State, and he remains a big deal here and all around this Republican state. The old-fashioned establishment wing of the Republican party is panicked by the possibility that the nomination will go to former state Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is so much an anti-immigration zealot and Trump impersonator that he lost the last gubernatorial election to a center-left Democrat — and a woman, at that — even in such an anti-immigration-with-certain-exceptions and reluctantly pro-Trump state as this, and for now Pompeo is the establishment choice while his close association with Trump only bolsters his chances in an already certain Senate race.
Close associations with Trump have often run awry, though, and by now Pompeo is surely shrewd enough to have noticed. In the interview with the local paper that was linked to an international audience he continued to insist he was solely focused on doing his job as Secretary of State, which is what one does in such a situation, but he seemed to leave open other possibilities of public service. Things are now going swimmingly with America’s foreign policy, Pompeo argued, but that might be all the more reason to get out while the getting’s good. Assuming the getting’s still good.
The Republican party’s representatives in Congress have have already largely repudiated the Trump Syrian policy that Pompeo has gone along with, and if Trump is impeached over that Ukrainian thing Pompeo likely will be as well, as he’s up to his neck in it, which would make for a damned interesting Senate race here in Kansas. We’ve watched enough Kansas Senate races in our many years to figure that any old Republican would continue the party’s eight decades-long winning streak, no matter what happens back in Washington, but we’d hate to see the state go through it. Although we proudly voted for Pompeo to represent our beloved Forth District four times, in the next Republican Senate primary we’ll cast our ballot for some center-right establishment woman you’ve never heard of, who we’re sure would just as easily beat any nominee that the Democrats might come up with.
That’s the view from the notorious dive bar just across the street where this story of national interest was unfolding, at any rate, and for now we stand by it. One of the Kirby’s regulars is an old friend who used to be a Democratic legislator and now holds a patronage workman’s comp judgeship, and he’s convinced his party has gone almost as crazy ours, and for what it’s worth he shares our bleak assessment of the situation.

— Bud Norman

The Kansas Weather and the Rest of the News

The neighborhood tornado sirens went off Sunday evening, which seemed odd given the light rain and even lighter winds we noticed outside the window, but we nonetheless did the Kansas thing and turned on the old-fashioned AM radio and checked the newfangled internet radar. Kansas is our favorite of the 49 very fine states we’ve visited, and we urge you to pay it a visit sometime, but you do have to be careful about the weather around here.
Kansas gets hotter than Hades in the summer, colder than the proverbial well digger’s ass in the winter, and the few in-between weeks of spring and fall are either eerily perfect or downright scary. On the good days you can drive around with the top down and watch a spectacular prairie sunset of shot gold, maroon and violet, dazzling silver, emerald and fawn, with the earth’s whole amplitude and nature’s multiform power consigned for once to colors — as Walt Whitman once memorably described it — but on the bad days Mother Nature is a mean old bitch old around here. Kansas goes through droughts when the Arkansas and Little Arkansas Rivers slow to a trickle, and such rainy seasons that both rivers would have overflowed their banks and flooded our Riverside house if the damned know-it-alls at the City and County Halls hadn’t defied local anti-government opinion and dug the Big Ditch on the west side of town. Every spring, and to a lesser extent every fall, the state also gets lightning strikes and medicine-ball sized hail and ferociously high winds and car-window-shattering barometric pressure drops and torrential flash-flooding rains and Wizard of Oz-sized tornadoes that can quite literally kill you, and on several occasions we can well recall each of them have come quite close to killing us.
The Kansas weather hasn’t killed us yet, however, and we like to think the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche was right when he said “That which does not kill us makes stronger.” Life on the prairie can be harsh, but so can life be anywhere you might go, so maybe the weather has something to with Kansas being able to stumble along as well as it has since it righteously entered the Union as a Free State.
Despite the tornado sirens we only got a brief heavy rain and moderates winds on Sunday, although the unlucky neighborhoods to the west did get some hail that will probably involve an insurance claim or two, and that’s the way a lot of the media scares always seem to work out. Barring bad weather we’ll try to get back to the rest of the news today, and we’ll try not to be alarmist like some of the meteorologists around here, but we’ll also keep in mind just how bad things sometimes get.

— Bud Norman

Someone Called Lil Nas X, Some Familiar but Dangerous Old Town Roads, and the Crossroads of America on a Sleepless Weekend

After a long and mostly sleepless and stomach flu-afflicted weekend, which entailed an early-morning trip down to Oklahoma for the funeral of a beloved family member and a caffeine-fueled late afternoon drive back up I-35, and a near-wreck with some idiot who blew past a stop sign at ten miles an hour over the speed limit on the way home from the worship service we’d somehow made it to at the West Douglas Church of Christ, and then a much-needed nap and a couple of much-needed beers at Kirby’s Beer Store, we tried to catch up with the rest of the news. There was some cold comfort, at least, in finding that the rest of the world seems to have its own troubles.
One story that caught our eye was about some some rapper called Lil Nas X being removed from Billboard Magazine’s list of top-100 country-and-western top-sellers, where it had debuted in the 19th spot a few weeks ago and begun climbing up the chart. We’d previously never heard of Lil Nas X nor his his country-and-western song “Old Town Road,” but for various reasons we found it interesting nonetheless.
For the past half-century or so Billboard Magazine has been the definitive source of the weekly top 100 charts for American music and all its various branches, with all the authority of the Dow Industrial Average or the Bureau of Economic Analysis on the state of the broader economy, and for many years of our life we paid even more rapt attention to Billboard’s findings. The magazine has apparently dropped “Old Town Road” from its country-and-western charts because it’s insufficiently country-and-western, too, and as lifelong fans of country-and-western and all the other branches of the glorious tree of America’s music that all grabbed our attention. These days the debate about the culture is as dreary as the one about the economy, with the left talking all sorts of “cultural appropriation” nonsense about the interracial and cross-cultural pollinations that have made American culture in general and American music in particular so rich, and the right seemingly suddenly intent on making American great again with its own racialist agenda, and somehow some rapper called Lil Nas X and his “Old Town Road” is caught up in that.
We’re old and grew up in Kansas with all the kinfolk down in Oklahoma, so we also grew up with Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams and Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys and Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys and Buck Owens’ Buckaroos and Merle Haggard and his Strangers playing on the 8-track or AM radio, and thus have some pretty fixed ideas about what constitutes country-and-western music. We followed the internet links to hear (and watch) Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” and although it doesn’t meet our strict standards we wouldn’t kick it off the country-and-western charts. The recording has some bucolic lyrics and some banjo licks “sampled” from previous recording, the video features some old west imagery from some violent cowboy shoot-’em-up video game, and it’s as least as country-and-western as anything we find on the radio on two drives between Wichita and Oklahoma City on Saturday, or any of the godawful bumper music that New York City-born-and-bred Sean Hannity uses on the right-wing talk radio show where he’s constantly apologizing to his heartland audience for the New York-City-born and bred President Donald Trump.
“Country-and-western” is a vague enough term to encompass everything from Jimmie Rodgers’ primitivism to the string-laden elegance of Patsy Cline, “rock ‘n’ roll” ranges from the soft rock of Simon and Garfunkel to the hard rock of The Ramones, “jazz” stretches from Louis Armstrong to John Coltrane and beyond, and even the best of “it’s a black thing” “rhythm and blues” and “soul” and “hip hop” involve some talented white boys and European instruments and musical techniques who complicate the leftist racial narratives about that great stuff. Country-and-western is considered a white boy thing, but Rodgers and Williams and Wills and Monroe and Owens and Haggard always freely acknowledged everything they learned from their black friends, and we’ve found that if you want to fully enjoy the best of America’s great music you should set all of the left’s and right’s racial politics aside.
The definitions of “country-and-western” and “rock ‘n’ roll” and “jazz” and “hip hop” and the rest of American music gloriously diverse genres have mostly been defined by whatever the self-identified fans of those of genres have liked, and until recently they’ve done a pretty good job of it. Lil Nas X “Old Town” isn’t a great a recording by any of American music’s historic standards, but we’ve heard worse, and we hate to see it kicked off this week’s Billboard “country-and-western” charts, even if it’s still faring well on the “rhythm and blues” chart, which these days is the magazines old-fashioned way of saying “hip hop.” Billboard has always judged sales of “country-and-western” and “rhythm and blues” based on what the self-indentified “country and western” and “rhythm and blues” stores were selling, and although that’s harder to gauge in a time when all the kids are downloading their music off the internet it does seem that Lil Nas X was fairly popular with the country-and-western audience.
We rather like it that these young whippersnapper country-and-western fans are willing to embrace someone so obviously black he’s called Lil Nas X, and that black urban culture is culturally appropriating banjo licks and cowboy imagery, but we hope they all learn there’s better cross-cultural stuff on both sides of that divide, and start learning from that.
Meanwhile we notice that former Vice President and current Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden once again stands credibly accused of touchy creepiness toward women, and given the Democratic party’s currently strict standards that should be a problem for the him and the Democrats. We also notice that the leader of the erstwhile family values Republican party is President Donald “Grab ’em by the pussy” Trump, and that it doesn’t seem to be a problem for him or the Republicans. There’s also talk of Trump shutting down the border with Mexico, his ongoing trade wars and growing trade deficits with almost everyone else, most of the rest of the Democratic presidential field is so far to the crazy left that Biden’s creepiness toward women doesn’t seem so bad, and the economic and political news is almost as bad as what else is on the radio.
Even so, we’ll try to get a good night’s sleep and face another April Fools’ Day with help from the music and history of better times.

— Bud Norman

A Busy Day After Election Day

There’s a longstanding political tradition in America that the day after an election is blissfully boring, with both sides paying lip service to the will of the people and making phony baloney promises of bipartisan cooperation. President Donald Trump’s newfangled version of conservatism has little regard for longstanding political traditions, though, and even before all the ballots had been fully counted in some very close races he was generating several unavoidable news stores.
Everyone who’s been paying attention to the top-rated Trump reality show knew that soon after the midterm elections he was going to somehow remove and replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions, but it was still a slight surprise that it happened so suddenly. Trump did observe the longstanding tradition of giving a press conference following a mid-term election, but instead of the traditional humility and happy talk Trump insulted his interlocutors as well as the defeated Republicans who had been insufficiently supportive of his presidency, and vowed that if the soon-to-be-installed Democratic majority in the House of Representatives dares use its constitutional power to snoop into Trump’s political and financial dealings he’ll take a “war-like stance.”
The forced resignation of Sessions is an unavoidably big deal, as it’s a major plot twist in the “Russia thing” that is still an unavoidably big deal in the Trump reality show. Sessions was the first Republican Senator with undeniable conservative bona fides to endorse Trump’s anti-establishment take-over of the Republican establishment, and he pursued Trump’s immigration and civil rights and anti-pothead policies more zealously than even Trump himself, but he also committed the unforgivable sin of recusing himself from the whole “Russia thing.” Trump is temporarily replacing Sessions with someone who’s publicly on record in favor of impeding that pesky special counsel investigation into the “Russia thing,” so what with a soon-to-be-installed Democratic majority in the House that will be an unavoidably big deal in the coming days, even though a slightly-padded Republican majority in the Senate will probably confirm any permanent replacement that Trump might nominate.
There’s a longstanding yet unwritten Justice Department tradition that it not affect politics for at least sixty days before an election, and the old-fashioned establishment Republican running the special counsel investigation of the “Russia thing” rigorously hews to such to-time-honored if unwritten rules, but the subplot was bound to wind up back in the news after some respectful pause from its relentless subpoenas and indictments. Trump has chosen to immediately put the story back at the top of the news cycle, and although he might be shrewdly getting ahead of the current 24-hour-news cycle it remains to be seen how he comes out in the long run.
Based on that combative press conference we’re not at all hopeful that Trump will strike any of his promised great deals with the soon-to-be-installed Democratic majority in the House, and we think Trump is unduly cocky abut his slightly padded slim majority in the Senate, which now includes several members who are there in spite of rather than because of Trump. There are are several Republicans missing from the soon-to-be-installed Democratic majority largely because of Trump, too, including a Democratic seat won by a Native American lesbian kick-boxer here in Kansas, of all places.
Trump also wrote off all those Republicans who weren’t fully obeisant to Trump and tried to stand on their own Republican records,, but he should note that even here in Kansas there aren’t enough of the faithful to elect a governor, no matter how fulsome Trump’s endorsement might be.

— Bud Norman

An Odd and Unsettling Election Day

At some point this afternoon we’ll drive over to the lovely and friendly Woodland Methodist Church up in North Riverside to cast our midterm election votes, and although we’ve dutifully voted in every American and Kansas election since our long-ago 18th birthday this time will seem different.
This time we’ll be casting several of our votes for some damned Democrats, and in the Fourth District congressional race we’ll symbolically throw away our vote on the unknown Libertarian candidate as a “none of the above” protest, and we can’t venture any guess how any of it will turn out. In the past we’ve almost always voted a straight damned Republican ticket, and left the polling place fairly confident that at least here in Kansas we were on the winning side, but this time we’ll not venture any predictions about anything and have no rooting interest in the outcomes except for a faint hope that the center will somehow hold here in the center of the country.
The conventional wisdom of the polls and pundits is that the Democrats will gain control of the House of Representative by a slight or perhaps significant margin, and that thanks to a fortuitous electoral map the Republicans will retain control of the Senate and perhaps slightly pad its currently razor-thin margin in that chamber, and that seems both plausible and agreeable to us. We’re old-fashioned “Bleeding Kansas” Republicans from the racially egalitarian Party of Lincoln and the internationalist party of Kansas-raised President Dwight Eisenhower, but given the choice between the admittedly nationalist Republican Party of President Donald Trump and the crazier sorts of self-described socialist Democrats running in some far-away districts we’ll settle for a temporary stalemate.
Here in Kansas, at least, most of the damned Democrats seem willing to meet the damned Republicans halfway on a plan that will pave the roads and fund the schools and fulfill other essential state services without a tax hike, and we’ll note that most of the past Republican statewide and federal office-holders we once proudly voted for have also reluctantly agreed to the same desultory compromise. Even so, there’s no telling how things might turn out around here..
As for the rest of our currently  crazy country, where the damned and admittedly nationalist Republican party of Trump is apparently running neck-to-neck against the damned and admittedly socialist Democratic party of the moment, we’ll venture no predictions and just hold out faint hope that somehow the center holds.

— Bud Norman