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A Leap of Faith and Freedom

The news was full of artful evasions about “violent extremism,” a judicial order against the president’s executive order on illegal immigration, Bruce Jenner’s sexual transformation and automotive misadventures, and similarly weighty matters, but our eye was caught by the story about people jumping out of windows in Boston. It’s not a mass outbreak of suicide attempts, although we can easily imagine how a Boston winter might cause one, but rather a rash of thrill-seekers diving from two- or three-story dwellings into the gigantic snowbanks that have piled up over an especially snowy season. There have been no injuries or fatalities as a result of the pastime, so far as we can glean from the press reports, but the Mayor of Boston nonetheless felt to obliged to tell his constituents to “stop their nonsense right now.”
Which struck us as precisely the sort of bossiness that is bullying America into an increasingly risk-averse, compliant, and joyless state. The days have long passed since we would be tempted to defenestrate ourselves into even the fluffiest pile of snow, or have any more interaction with the stuff than is strictly necessary, but it’s not the sort of nonsense that a mayor should demand free citizens stop right now. If you’re young enough, and bored enough, and don’t mind being enveloped in frozen water, it might even be fun.
It could prove dangerous to jump from a second story window onto a sports utility vehicle or other hard object that is covered by just enough snow to make it look like a fluffy snowbank, and we don’t doubt that there are people in Boston dumb enough to do that, judging by the students and faculty at the city’s most elite universities, but that’s no reason not to jump into a snowbank of confirmed fluffiness. If the mayor is going to demand a stop to all the specific sorts of nonsense people are doing in his city that might prove injurious to those who are dumb enough, his press conferences are going to stretch long into the night.
Popular culture has always depicted parochial small-town Republican conservatives as the blue-nosed scolds telling those crazy youngsters with their rock ‘n’ roll dancing and free love and leaps from second story windows to “stop their nonsense right now,” but the stereotype is long out of date. Boston is about as big city and sophisticated as America gets, there hasn’t been a Republican mayor there since 1930, the last conservatives in the city were the ones who threw the eponymous “tea party” prior to the Revolutionary War. and yet it retains the traditional “banned in Boston” impulse that small town folk still chuckle about as they jump from barn lofts onto haystacks and ride sleds tethered to pick-up trucks and do backflips on motorcycles and all manner of redneck bravado. The impulse to tame such rural exuberance is not to unique to Boston, though, but typical of urban and sophisticated America.
Bans on public smoking and children playing in parks unattended and anyone riding a bicycle without a helmet are not a product of parochial small-town Republican conservatism. Nor are the consent forms that college students are being asked to sign before coupling and the speech codes being promulgated to make sure that no one is offended by anything anyone else might say, or any of the rest of the on-going effort to keep everyone safe and un-offended and not a cost to the socialized health system, no matter how dumb they might be. The small towns still have salt shakers on the table at the local diner, unlike the elegant eateries in New York City, and you can fill as a big a bucket of soda as you care to drink at the convenience store, and we daresay there’s a wider range of opinions that you can express as well.
So we are delighted to hear of Bostonians leaping from tall windows, a welcome sign that a bit of that risk-taking rebellious small town spirit still exists so far northeast as Boston. We wish them a pleasant journey on their way down, hope that they land safely in cushioning snow rather than injuriously onto a sports utility vehicle, and urge that they ignore their bossy old scold of a mayor.

— Bud Norman

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What’s Old in New York City

Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it, according to one of those indisputable old maxims, and after Tuesday’s mayoral election it is likely that the people of New York City are doomed to repeat the bad old days of the ‘70s and ‘80s.
Any New Yorker of a certain age should surely well remember that dark era, when taxes skyrocketed and city services went into the clogged and alligator-infested sewers, welfare flourished and crime was rampant, unemployment was high and spirits were low. Although we spent those days in the safe embrace of the peaceable prairie, so far away from New York City that if we were any farther we’d just be that much closer to Los Angeles, we still recall a chilling phone conversation with an old college chum who had moved to the Big Apple and described a daily hell of muggers, panhandlers, passed-out junkies that had to be stepped over on the way through trash-strewn streets to a rare job that didn’t come close to covering the exorbitant cost of living, and tales of political corruption and incompetence awaiting him on the evening news when he finally made his way back to a tiny and astoundingly over-priced apartment. Other friends made the big move to the big city, too, and most soon came back with similar horror stories.
Even the younger New Yorkers should have been reminded by any of the era’s cinematic depictions of the city that still show up on the late show, from “Taxi Driver” to “Death Wish” to “The French Connection,” or even the “Odd Couple” episodes still in re-runs that make light of the ubiquitous street crime and general shabbiness of the city, all of which confirmed an impression of a thoroughly unlivable city. Between all those movies and the vacations that people still spent in New York, as well as the official statistics on crime and tax rates and economic performance, the city had a horrible reputation with that great unwashed swath of the country beyond the Hudson River that was frequently expected to pick up the tab for its profligacy.
It all started in the ‘60s, naturally enough, when the handsome and charismatic Mayor John Lindsey began to fundamentally transform the city with hope and change and every cockamamie scheme that liberalism had ever concocted. It took nearly a decade for the city sink fully into the abyss, but by then the bureaucracy and the dependent vote and the prevailing political climate were so firmly entrenched that it was taken for granted by voters who continued to re-elect the people ruining their city. The reign of Mayor Ed Koch restored some semblance of fiscal sanity to the city’s finances, at least to the point that his famously arrogant city didn’t have to go begging those hicks out in flyover country for bail-outs, but the subsequent brief administration of David Dinkins at long last forced New Yorkers to consider the unthinkable. Dinkins had combined the worst of New York’s utopian liberalism with the mau-mau racialist sensibilities of other city’s black political machines, and the results were so horrible that New Yorkers actually elected a Republican.
The city had been known to elect “progressive” Republicans such as the legendary Fiorello LaGuardia, and even the wildly liberal Lindsey won on a GOP ticket before bolting to his natural home in the Democratic party for a failed presidential bid, but Rudy Giuliani’s win was notable because an actual Republican. The party’s primary voters in flyover country would later reject Giuliani’s presidential ambitions because of his rather northeastern views on guns and abortions and such, but when it came to taxes and regulations and welfare and the coddling of criminals and other governmental impediments to a successful society he was downright Reaganesque.
Our aforementioned college chum who moved to New York City was a die-hard Democrat, despite being a pleasant enough fellow from a small Kansas town, and we still recall the disappointment in his voice as he conceded that the city’s problems were too severe for his brand of liberalism to solve. He noted that the city’s generous welfare state had done nothing to diminish the city’s crime, and that further generosity would require raising taxes to a point that would surely drive away all the taxpayers, so he couldn’t imagine what possible solution there might be. When Giuliani raised taxes and increased revenue with his slightly smaller share of a much larger economy, then spent the money on aggressively policing the streets and drastically reducing the crime rate, even such die-hard Democrats as our friend felt compelled to vote for the Republican’s re-election. New Yorkers continued to elected Senators and Presidents who would happily inflict liberalism on the rest of the country, but in their own backyard they picked a mayor successor was also a Republican, even he quickly switched to independent rather than be embarrassed by the association with those flyover country types, and although his totalitarian instincts led him to such laughed-at initiatives as banning oversized soda cups and salt shakers they also compelled him to continue the successful policies that Giuliani had wrought. Things went well enough that New Yorkers apparently forgot the lessons they had been taught.
The newly-elected mayor, Bill DeBlasio, seems to have never learned those lessons in the first place. Famous for his past support of Nicaragua’s communist Sandinistas and other far-left causes, DeBlasio became New York City’s first Democratic mayor in 20 years by railing against the fact that some New Yorkers are richer than others and by promising to end the “stop and frisk” policy of the police department. He’s not so handsome or charismatic as John Lindsey, but he does have all the hope and change and cockamamie schemes. His jeremiad against the top one percent, currently picking up 43 percent of the city’s tab, is certain to leave the city’s economy and finances in shambles. The “stop and frisk” policy does indeed bump against the Fourth Amendment and is no doubt a burden to many of the law-abiding dark-skinned New Yorkers who are disproportionately stopped and frisked, but it has also played a crucial role in reducing the city’s murder date from six a day to less than one and it will not be the only effective police tactic that DeBlasio halts.
Our guess is that it will be less than a decade before New Yorkers are willing to try another Republican mayor, but more than a decade before they stop trying to impose liberalism on the rest of us.

— Bud Norman

How to Handle a Woman

New York City’s municipal election isn’t the only naughty sex comedy on the political stage. Out in San Diego the mayor seems determined to demonstrate that the politicians on west coast can be just as tawdry as those back east.
Mayor Bob Filner has made comments to countless women that are so far beyond even contemporary standards of public decorum that feminists such as attorney Gloria Allred are calling for his resignation, which takes some doing some considering that Filner is a Democrat. Anthony Weiner, who resigned from his congressional seat after lewd photos of himself that he had sent to various surfaced and is now being pressed to resign from New York City’s mayoral race because he kept sending even lewder photos after his resignation, and Elliott Spitzer, who was forced to resign from New York’s governorship because of his penchant for prostitutes but somehow still leads in the race for New York City comptroller, are also Democrats.
We mention these men’s party affiliation not because Republicans would never engage in such crude behavior, but rather because it is always so prominently mentioned in media reports when they do. Weiner’s unfortunate name and the high office he seeks have combined to force more media coverage that his deeds would ordinarily merit, but Spitzer’s whore-mongering past has gone largely unremarked, and there’s a suspicion that Filner’s misdeeds have been getting attention because San Diego is one of the last bastions of California Republicanism, but in none of these cases have the media been quite so gleefully outraged as they surely would be if it they were all in on a Grand Old Party. There’s certainly been no attempt to tie the scandals together into proof of some party-wide pathology, which would surely be the case if they were Republicans.
Several journalists of our acquaintance freely admit the double standard but contend that it is proper, explaining that Republicans deserve the extra scrutiny and scorn because their party presents itself as the defenders of old-fashioned “family values.” Why the Democrats should enjoy a get-out-of-scandal card because they don’t even pretend to have any standards of personal behavior is never made clear, but in any case the argument has long outlived any truth it might have. Republicans rarely push the “family values” slogan these days, being more concerned with keeping the country from insolvency and other economic concerns, while the Democrats consistently accuse their opponents of misogyny and tout themselves as the defenders of womanhood.
Such hypocrisy is more galling than that of the misbehaving Republicans. the most Bible-thumping politician who gets caught with his pants down isn’t trying to make religion compulsory, but the silly sensitivity-training workshops that the average private sector worker endures and the civil liability laws that inspired them have been imposed by the Democratic party with the force of government. These laws and the new rules of sexless behavior have done some good, and the officious way they are often enforced has done some harm, but certainly the political that is responsible should be held to the same rules.
Those rules were dispensed with entirely for the benefit of Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy, and assorted other sexual miscreants whose stands on behalf of women’s rights were said to justify their behavior, so the occasional Democratic criticisms of Filner, Weiner, and Spitzer represent a welcome development. More pushback will be needed, though, if the Democrats want to revive their campaign theme of Republican “war on women” without looking ridiculous.

— Bud Norman

What’s New in New York City

New York City is a nice place to visit, in our experience, but in accordance with the old cliché we wouldn’t want to live there. Despite all the undeniable attractions that make the Big Apple such an appealing place for a short vacation, our feelings about the city were best expressed by Buck Owens and his Buckaroos when they sang “I Wouldn’t Live in New York City (If They Gave Me the Whole Dang Town).”
One could go on at length about the traffic and crime and overcrowding and high rents and excessive taxation and regulation, as New Yorkers so often do, but perhaps the most telling example of how very unlivable New York City has become is its upcoming municipal election. Currently leading in the mayoral race is a former Congressman who was forced to resign his office after photographs of his underwear-clad genitalia that he had “texted” to various to women surfaced. In the race for Comptroller, a position that is apparently of potential importance, a former governor who was forced to resign his office after revelations of his whoremongering is leading a field that includes his former madam. In a city with more than eight million people, there are apparently no equally qualified candidates for these posts who are not tainted by sex scandal.
At the risk of sounding like some bitterly Bible-clinging prairie denizen, which we admittedly are, this strikes us as an especially sorry state of affairs. An argument can be made that public exhibitionism and a predilection for prostitutes do not preclude talent for municipal politics or comptrolling, but surely such a large city should include few candidates of similar abilities who are not exhibitionists or whoremongers. Even in our own provincial outpost of Wichita, with a population of about one-sixteenth of New York City’s, we manage to comptrol ourselves without assistance from a known whorehound or his procurer. Our mayor is prone to those fishy “public-private partnerships” that are currently fashionable and is nothing to brag about, we must confess, but at least we’ve never been exposed to any self-portraits of his private parts.
Perhaps we are being oh-so-parochial in our harsh judgments of soliciting prostitutes and transmitting semi-pornographic image to casual social media acquaintances, but we’ll not allow any New Yorker to say that it’s because our hometown is so unreasonably prudish. Smoking has been banished from the bars but it is still tolerated on the sidewalks, salt shakers are still found on every restaurant table, fat people are not a matter of public concern, and all manner of political opinions that would be considered beyond the pale by polite New York City opinion are not only tolerated but regarded as common sense. We can also muster an appropriately feminist argument against whoremongering and exhibitionism, and not just some musty appeal to millennia-old wisdom, and do not feel that our hipness is diminished by an aversion to prostitution and smutty pictures imposed upon young social acquaintances.
Besides, we are old enough to recall a pre-Bill Clinton era when our hairy-legged feminist girlfriend was railing against Sen. Bob Packwood’s undeniably and creepy off-color comments made him unfit for public service. Old-timers will recall that Packwood was a Republican, and the whoremonger and the exhibitionist in the New York City elections are Democrats, so perhaps that explains the difference. In any case, it seems that both traditional and progressive standards of behavior are being compromised by the elections in New York City.
It’s none of our business, we suppose, except that even around here someone will occasionally say that “Well, that’s the way they do it in New York City.”

— Bud Norman