New York Plays Its Role

New York gave its expected stamp of approval to two of the worst presidential candidates ever on Tuesday, with both Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton scoring big and much-needed wins in the primaries of their home state. Both regained their front-runner status after some embarrassing losses to pesky rivals in the hinterlands, but we hold out hope the Empire State is no longer able to deliver either an inevitable nomination.
Trump at long last broke into majority territory with a convincing 61 percent of the statewide vote, and his pesky rival finished third with a paltry 15 percent, which will keep a pointless third candidate in the race to continue splitting the anti-Trump vote in some upcoming friendly northeastern states, and he won 88 of the available 95 delegates to further pad his lead, so there’s no denying he had another good night. He’s still off the pace to win the needed number of delegates for a first-ballot nomination, though, and thus far his pesky rival has been far better at the complicated and by-now-unfamiliar-to-anyone game of winning on a second or third ballot. New York’s Republican primary electorate is also atypical of the party’s at large, we are happy to say, and that pesky rival should fare better as the race moves out of the northeast.
Trump’s pesky rival is Sen. Ted Cruz, an unabashed Christian and red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalist and strict constitutionalist and described-by-everyone-as-conservative and unmistakeable Texan, so he never did stand a chance up there against a self-described billionaire real-estate-and-gambling-and-strip-joint-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul such as Trump, who is someone that the subway riders seem to want to be. New York’s invaluable contributions to conservatism runs from Alexander Hamilton through William F. Buckley to those fine folks at the Manhattan Institute, but even in New York City there are only so many eggheads, and we have to admit that the remaining 61 percent of the state’s Republicans are pretty much Archie Bunker, that left-wing caricature of a stereotypically bigoted and sexist and uninformed conservative from the ’70s left-wing sit-com “All in the Family.” As Trump is pretty much the self-described billionaire real-estate-and-gambling-and-strip-joint-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul version of Bunker, we can easily understand the results.
The Democratic outcome was even more easily understandable, and almost as unlikely to settle matters. The Democrats in New York, who will certainly deliver the state’s still sizable share of electoral votes to the Democrats no matter what combination of nominees this crazy race turns up, are well contented with the status quo that former First Lady and carpet-bagging-homestate Senator and Secretary of State and long-presumed First Woman President Clinton represents. They own the state’s politics, its still outsized share of political power in the country at large, the lucrative arrangement with those evil Wall Street folks that her pesky rival is always railing against is largely satisfactory to the locals, the rich retain their power and the poor retain their benefits, and those Archie Bunkers in the middle are vastly out-numbered and voting in an increasingly insignificant Republican primary, so even a self-described socialist such as pesky rival self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sander isn’t likely to fare well there. We sense a certain dissatisfaction with the status quo among Democrats elsewhere, though, and there are those pesky coughing fits that the seemingly tired front-runner has been enduring as well as a pesky ongoing Federal Bureau of Investigation inquiry that cannot end well, and nothing is certain in this crazy year.
We’ve always enjoyed our occasional visits to New York, with several trips to the City and a leisurely hitchhiking trek through its upstate cities and towns and hamlets, and we can’t deny its many contributions to the enrichment and degradation of American culture, but we’re glad the rest of the country also has a say.

— Bud Norman

Policing the Police

The rioting has ended in Baltimore, with the mobs apparently placated by the indictments of six police officers involved in the recent death of a suspect or simply worn out and stocked up on looted supplies, but the city’s violent problems continue. With the cops in retreat the crooks have been on such on rampage that Baltimore has suffered 38 murders this month, the latest victims being a 31-year-old woman and her seven-month-old child, and although it won’t likely receive the same attention as the riots it should be considered in the nation’s ongoing debate about policing in minority neighborhoods.
Thirty-eight murders in one mere month is a lot for even such a populous city as Baltimore, and there’s no arguing that it’s a mere coincidence the spree has taken place after those six officers were indicted, the entire force was subjected to a Department of Justice investigation, and public scrutiny was focused on the city’s law enforcement. There are doubtlessly bad police officers in Baltimore, and those six indicted officers might yet be proved among them, but given the recent events it is also to be expected that even the good ones are reluctant to risk the sort of policing that once kept the local crime to more reasonable levels. Arrests are down in the city, what policing still occurs is done despite threatening groups of onlookers, and the president of the local Fraternal Order of Police freely admits to feeling “under siege” and that “criminals are taking advantage of the situation since the unrest,” and that officers “are more afraid of going to jail for doing their jobs properly than they are of getting shot on duty.”
The problem isn’t limited to Baltimore, though, because the same animus toward to police is common throughout the country. New York City elected a mayor who ran on a promise to end that city’s “stop-and-frisk” procedures and other aggressive law enforcement techniques, and he’s gained a national following despite the city’s 45 percent increase in murder since his election. There’s even talk of making him the Democratic party’s presidential nominee, and current frontrunner Hillary Clinton is already attempting to stave off the challenge by calling for an end to the “era of mass incarceration” and the other tough-on-crime policies that her husband and former President Bill Clinton once championed. With the highly-publicized deaths of black suspects in Ferguson, Missouri, Baltimore, New York City, and Charleston, South Carolina grabbing most of the headlines, and the added murders in places such as Baltimore and New York City getting less attention, and the Department of Justice seeming more concerned with the former rather than the latter, the soft-one-crime approach suddenly seems ascendant.
By the time the next presidential election rolls around, however, we expect the proverbial pendulum might swing in the other direction. That tough-on-crime stance the Democratic front-runner’s husband was once compelled to champion during the crime wave of the ’90s resulted in a 20-year decline in the nation’s crime rate, to the point that the voters in jurisdictions such as New York City and Baltimore forgot how very dangerous the nation’s big cities once were, which is why the press is now more concerned with the inevitable and sometimes entirely fictitious (as in the case of Ferguson) misdeeds by the police, but a steady stream of dead mothers and their seven-year-old children will serve as a reminder of why we started locking up prisoners and throwing away the key and the indulging the sort of aggressive policing that transformed New York City from a cinematic post-apocalyptic wasteland into a vacation destination with one of the world’s lowest big-city crime rates. Baltimore’s consistently more progressive civic government never did achieve that level of tranquility, but we can hope that 38 murder victims, including a 7-year-old and his mother, will offer a persuasive perspective even to that town.
The rest of the country should take note, as well. The bad police should face the consequences for their misdeeds, but that must be achieved without making the good ones afraid to do their very important jobs. Any presidential candidate who takes a similar stand should have an advantage over those who are more concerned with the rights of criminals to commit crime without fear of the legal consequences.

— Bud Norman

The City and the ’70s

The headline at the Drudge Report shouted “Tensions in NYC like ’70s,” and we shuddered at the thought. We well remember what New York City was like during that dismal decade, and had hoped it would never again get so bad.
Those too young to recall the urban nightmare need only watch the movies of the era, now running on late night television as cautionary tales. In “The Out of Towners” Jack Lemmon is mugged, kidnapped, beset by mass transit and sanitation strikes, nearly killed by a manhole explosion, and attacked by protestors outside a United Nations embassy, and that’s a light Neil Simon comedy to start off the decade. “Panic in Needle Park,” Fort Apache: The Bronx,” “Death Wish,” “The French Connection,” the gunning gag about Central Park muggings in “Where’s Poppa,” and of course “Taxi Driver,” with its memorable lines about a hard rain washing all the scum off the streets and its blood-splattered climax, are all more realistic accounts. “The Warriors” and “Escape From New York” belong to the decade’s vast genre of dystopian futurist movies, by they’re not far off the mark. The era is still fondly recalled by the coke-addled denizens of Studio 54 and the artsier sorts who thought all the graffiti-covered and trash-strewn mayhem was somehow invigorating, but those who had to make their way to work and back home to an exorbitantly-priced have no such nostalgia.
We still recall a telephone conversation during the late ’70s with a college chum who had moved to the big city. Expecting to be regaled Runyon-esque tales of Gotham, we were surprised to hear him describe an urban nightmare more redolent Heironymous Bosch. Our friend was a small town Kansas boy, but he was also a pony-tailed hippie and a liberal, and he frankly confessed that he had no idea how the time might go about saving itself. Taxes were already so sky-high that any further increases would only drive more taxpayers away thus result in even less revenue, he conceded, and social services were generous enough to lure all sorts of troublesome characters to the streets, and the criminals were being treated with as much sensitivity as even America’s most progressive city could muster, so our friend was stumped. The best advice he could offer was to not let our own hometown get in such bad shape.
Not long after that the city was so short on ideas that it elected Rudy Giuliani as Mayor, and he famously cut taxes, but new restrictions on social services, and started enforcing order on the streets. Although counter-intuitive to New Yorkers, the program put the city’s finances in good enough order to fund basic services, the economy improved enough to provide jobs for former welfare cases, and the crime rate fell so dramatically that tourists were tempted to take walk through Times Square or Central Park. It worked so well, in fact, that New Yorkers took the good times for granted and assumed it was safe to return to the city’s old ways of doing things.
Higher taxes on the richest workers who have largely supported the city, more free stuff for the ones who aren’t working at all, and more sensitivity toward the criminal class were the platform that got Mayor Bill de Blasio elected. When several of his officers were involved in a fatal encounter with an unarmed man who was illegally selling cigarettes and was unwilling to be arrested for it, he didn’t call for an investigation of the questionable methods that caused the death, or ask for the city’s respect for a grand jury that declined to press charges, or question the city’s tobacco policies that created the black market the man was dealing in, but rather spoke of how his biracial son was endangered by the city’s police and egged on the protests that chanted for the murder of police. The chanters got their wish on Saturday, when two New York City police officers were gunned down by a man who had proclaimed his motive of revenge on the internet, and already the headlines liken the tension to the ’70s.
The cops in New York have no desire to return to that violent decade, and we hope that the rest of the city is similarly disinclined. People seem to have to relearn the lessons of the past from time to time, however, even when those lessons are playing on the late night movies.

— Bud Norman

Brown, Brownback, and Black

First Lady Michelle Obama gave a speech in Kansas over the past weekend, and by all press accounts it was a big hit. The press here is every bit as liberal and inclined to fawn over her as it is anywhere else in the country, though, and the speech was delivered in a state capital that is full of government workers with the same liberal and fawning political proclivities as their public sector counterparts elsewhere. We suspect that the more authentic sort of Kansans shared our skepticism about her remarks.
Distaff Obama did not venture here with any hopes of turning our blood-red state blue, but rather to mark the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Topeka Board of Education decision that began the end of segregated schooling in America. Being very traditional Republicans from the Bleeding Kansas days we are opposed to any government-enforced segregation in public institutions, so we also celebrate the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling, even if we wish it had been made on strict constructionism and radical Republican-inspired 14th Amendment grounds rather than all that silly social science playing-with-dolls nonsense that permeates the decision, but Obama went far beyond that bedrock principle with more up-to-date notions about diversity that warrant questioning. She argued that this year’s high school graduates should instruct their elders on the benefits of ethnic diversity in schools, bemoaned the success of retrograde racists in re-segregating America’s schools, and left an unmistakable inference that her husband’s brand of liberalism is the solution to lingering racial strife, all of which are unmitigated bunk.
“It’s up to all of you to drag my generation’s and your grandparents’ generation along with you,” the First Lady told Topeka’s diversely-educated graduating high school seniors, urging they correct any offensive opinions that their elders might utter. This seems laudable on those occasions when grandpa goes off on some racist rant about keeping the colored folks in their place, even if we’d urge a respectful “‘c’mon, gramps,” rather than a high-minded oration that might result in a slap to the uppity young ‘uns face, but we can’t help wondering how often that comes up in this enlightened day and age. Brown v. Topeka Board of Eduction was handed down 60 years ago, after all, so most of those graduates’ grandparents matriculated during the post-Brown hippie era and enjoyed the same benefits of a multi-cultural education. Our own experience of public school diversity suggests that the main effect is being beaten up and robbed of lunch money by children of all colors, and we still wonder if a school that stressed readin’ and writin’ and ‘rithmetic wouldn’t have been preferable no matter the ethnic composition of the student body, but at it least it taught us not to go off on racist rants about keeping the colored folk in their place even in the comfort of a family gathering. Such rants are even more unlikely in Topeka, where much of the population is gainfully employed by some state-funded diversity program or another, so we are not surprised the youth of that city were so eager to accept the invitation to sassiness. These days racism is so broadly defined that any mild criticism of Obama administration policies is included, and permission to rebuke such outrages understandably plays well with Topeka’s youth.
“Many young people are going to school largely with kids who look just like them,” Obama told the graduates, who were left with the impression that her political opponents must be to blame for this unfortunate turn of events. The students and their parents mixed boos with a few cheers when Republican Gov. Sam Brownback was introduced at the speech, as the state’s press gleefully noted, although it’s understandable in a company town where the CEO is doing some necessary downsizing, but Brownback was predictably pro-Brown v. Board in his brief remarks and presides over a state with a far better record of desegregation than such reliably Democratic jurisdictions as New York or California, and such ham-fisted efforts as school busing and the current administration’s insistence on union rule and discipline-by-quota and resistance to quantifiable readin’ and writin’ and ‘rithmetic are the most plausible reasons why so many well-heeled Democrats including the Obamas have pulled their children out of the public schools.
That bit about “kids who look just like them” rankled, too. We’re old enough to recall a time when it was considered an egregious breach of racial etiquette to comment on the resemblance between any two black people, no matter how doppelganger-like that similarity might be, but these days even the President of the United States and his First Lady seem proud to assert that peoples of certain color all do indeed look like. As people of pallor we resent implication that we resemble the late Marty Feldman, and we take umbrage on Denzel Washington’s behalf that anyone would think he looks like that guy who played “J.J.” on the old “Good Times” sit-com. It’s the sort of thing that grandparents should chide their grandchildren for suggesting, if that were still socially acceptable.
Worst of all, to our ears, was the unspoken but unmistakable claim that what’s needed is more of the divide-and-consquer identity group politics that is a hallmark of the Obama administration. The government should be color-blind in dispensing its services, as Brown v. Topeka Board of Education asserted, but it should leave the rest of it to the people to work out. It’s a tricky process but we’re doing a better job of here in blood-red Kansas than in the more enlightened states Back East and Out West, and the First Lady’s advice to rag on ol’ hippie grandpa for grousing about Obamacare issn’t helpful.

— Bud Norman

A New York State of Mind

Apparently we are no longer in welcome in New York, and we’re sorry to find that out. It’s a nice place to visit, a great place to play chess, and we’ve encountered many kind people there, but the governor has made clear that he doesn’t want our kind around.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently gave a radio interview that included a lengthy rant against “extreme conservatives,” and told his interlocutor that “They have no place in New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.” He defined “extreme conservatives” as “right-to-life, pro-assault weapon, and anti-gay,” which does not quite describe our views, but it’s close enough to suggest he might mean us. We’re not entirely “right-to-life” by Kansas standards but neither do we have the requisite enthusiasm for abortion to be bona fide New York sophisticates, so far as we can tell “assault weapons” are no more or less effective at killing burglars and commies than any other semi-automatic rifle, and we have far too many homosexual friends to be considered “anti-gay” even if we do sometimes disagree with them about what legal arrangements society should make to accommodate their sex lives, but otherwise we’re so extremely conservative that we know when we’re not wanted.
The governor has since objected to the New York Post’s headlining paraphrase that he said “conservatives should leave New York,” and emphasized that he further said it was “fine” to oppose gun restrictions, abortion on demand, and official recognition of same-sex marriages, but we note that he also claimed 70 percent of all New Yorkers are properly appalled by such insanity, and listening to the audiotape we noticed he spat out the word “fine” with the same bitter tone that peeved wives and girlfriends use whenever uttering it. Despite his efforts to placate the tourist market here in flyover country, we can’t escape the conclusion that he doesn’t much like us.
As disappointing as it is, we’re not really surprised. For all their fine qualities New Yorkers are often quite parochial compared to us prairie folk, and lefties everywhere tend to be intolerant of dissenting views. We remember Cuomo as the Clinton-era Housing and Urban Development honcho who came up with the novel idea of forcing banks to make subprime mortgage loans, even if so many New Yorkers have forgotten that unfortunate experiment that he somehow enjoys as reputation as a moderate, and it’s understandable why he wouldn’t want the likes of us around to remind anyone.
With New York City’s new Sandinista mayor poised to take the Big Apple back to the days of those dystopian ‘70s movies we weren’t planning any visits in the near future, and it’s a pricey vacation in the current economy, but it’s still sad to think that we’re not welcome back. There’s always a possibility that New Yorkers will embrace a new political leadership that is as open-minded as our leaders here in Kansas, where the governor is an extreme conservative by anyone’s standards but a welcoming fellow even to New York lefties, but until then we’ll be content with smaller towns.

— Bud Norman