A President Popular by Default

President Barack Obama is unaccountably popular at the moment, with a bare majority of Americans expressing approval of him. That’s hardly Mount Rushmore stuff, and far short of the falling oceans and fundamental transformations he promised during the peak of his popularity during that first crazy presidential campaign of his, but for now it’s enough to make him the most popular politician in America. The only way we can account for it is the year’s even crazier election.
It’s not just that both of his major party would-be successors are wildly unpopular, with landslide majorities of Americans quite reasonably finding both dishonest and altogether unfit for the office, but also the way that their daily groan-inducing scandals keep the president contentedly out of the news altogether. Those obsessive sorts of news readers who dive beyond the front page headlines and delve deep into the rest of it are vaguely aware that the president recently paid a huge ransom to the Iranian theo-thug-ocracy for some hostages and then offered a preposterous explanation about why he didn’t, that Milwaukee has lately been burning from flames fanned by the “Black Lives Moment” the president has encouraged, that much of south Louisiana is underwater and the main form of federal assistance has been a memo sternly warning that rescue efforts not be racially discriminatory, and that the president has been playing golf and living it up with a bunch of rich white people on a lavishly-funded vacation to Martha’s Vineyard the whole time, but the rest of the country has been pleasantly preoccupied with America’s rout at the the Olympics and the latest gaffes from the president’s would-be successors.
We can recall past times when shady hostage deals went down with the Iranian theo-thug-ocracy and American inner cities burned and south Louisiana was underwater, and how it used to be a much bigger deal, but then again all that happened during slower news cycles and Republican administrations. During a slow news cycle in a Republican administration a president golfing and living it up with a bunch of rich white people while the rest of the nation churns along uneasily would be a major scandal, but with a Democratic administration and the happy distraction of a can’t-look-away-train-wreck of a presidential election such scandals suddenly become quibbles. The desultory state of the economy and that awful labor force participation rate that obscures the more happy-face unemployment numbers, the mounting debt that sustains the slow pace, the politicization of the Justice Department that allows the Democratic nominee to be running in the first place, the generally unsettled state of world, as well as the general cultural decline made apparent by the current sorry choices of presidential nominees, are all as easily relegated to the inner pages of your increasingly scant newspaper.
Any old well-funded Republican should be able to make something of it, but this year the nominee isn’t any old well-funded Republican but rather the not-quite-self-funding-self-described billionaire Donald J. Trump, and he hasn’t seized the opportunities. The self-described deal-making-artisan made a strong case against the ransom for hostages arrangement, but the press was able to focus on what he had later had to admit was a bogus claim that he’d seen secret video footage of the payment. He made a persuasive argument that the past many decades of Democratic machine politics have caused the plight of the recently burning inner cities, but his attempts to bolster his current 1 or 2 percent favorables among black Americans were rather clumsily phrased in the pitch that they’re all poor and uneducated and therefore have nothing to lose by voting for him, along with the rather fanciful even-by-Trump-standards boast that after four years in office he’d win 95 percent black vote. Trump showed up in Louisiana for a meaningless photo-op several days before the vacationing Obama plans to do the same, but unless starts spending some serious ad buy money we doubt it will do him the same good that it once did Obama when a Republican administration was in charge while south Louisiana was underwater.
Thus far the supposedly boundlessly wealthy Trump has been quite parsimonious about ad buys, and instead continues to rely on all the “free media” that has suddenly turned so hostile ever since he wrapped up the Republican nomination, not to mention all those gaffes, and yet he’s still within shouting distance in the national polls if not so much the states that add up to an electoral majority. That’s because a clear majority of Americans understand that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is dishonest and unfit for office, and we also take heart that a near-majority of them also think little of the current president. That so few of us have any regard for our next president, no matter how it turns out, is also heartening in an unaccountable way.

— Bud Norman

This Time in Milwaukee

The latest round of rioting and looting and mayhem happened Saturday in Milwaukee, where constant gunfire kept firefighters away from several blazes and any person of the wrong hue who had the misfortune to be walking down a certain stretch of Sherman Boulevard was subject to brutal mob violence. Yet another instance of a black man being shot by police officer had preceded it all, of course, and so the usual excuses of the “Black Lives Matter” movement will be made.
Those excuses are never sufficient for the victims of this ongoing violence, however, and in this case they’re all the more insufficient. In this case the man shot by a police officer was armed with a stolen semi-automatic pistol, one of those uniform “body-cams” that the activists have insisted on show he brandished the weapon as he fled from police during a routine traffic stop, he had a long record of arrests and a conviction for possession of a concealed weapon, and although there are still questions about the incident that will surely be thoroughly investigated under intense public scrutiny all of that should at least give some pausing to the rioting. In any case the businesses that were destroyed and those unfortunate folks of the wrong hue who happened to be in the vicinity had nothing to do with the shooting, and the violence and destruction that were inflicted will have no positive effects on anyone.
In this case the officer whose life was on the line was also black, and therefore presumably not motivated by any racial animus, but that won’t matter to a “Black Lives Matter” movement so strangely selective about which black lives matter. They seem to care little for the lives of the brave black men and women who don a police uniform and a gun to try to impose some semblance of law and order on the most lawless and disorderly streets of America, nor for the untold number of murdered black lives that will surely be added to an already inordinate black death toll once those efforts at law enforcement are in retreat from the mob.
As the crime rates rise in those cities afflicted by the anti-police protest movement the chances of a police officer still more or less on the job having to make a split-second decision about how to respond to known felon brandishing a loaded gun will increase, the ensuing riots will fuel a further retreat by law enforcement and another uptick in the crime, and at some point frank talk and real leadership will be required to halt the cycle. All of this comes near the end of what was promised would eight years of a post-racial America, and although it wouldn’t be fair to blame all of this on President Barack Obama it does seem fair to say that he hasn’t made good on those grandiose promises. He’s consistently taken sides against the police in every controversial case, often before the facts emerged to prove his prejudgments incorrect, and his Justice Department has taken similarly premature stands, with the same embarrassing results. His Education Department has also insisted that schools mete out suspensions and expulsions according to a strict racial quota system, which ignores and exacerbates the reality that in many schools some racial groups are committing infractions that call for suspensions and expulsions at a greater rate than others, and his Department of Housing and Urban Development has been imposing similarly cockamamie notions of racial justice on otherwise contented communities around the country.
Despite such efforts, black unemployment remains far higher the national average, with the youth unemployment rising still further over Depression-era rates with every hike in the minimum wage, overall black wages and household wealth are on the decline, and in the cities where the police departments have fallen under federal scrutiny the black murder rates are on the rise. The president’s approval ratings among black Americans remain high, though, and his endorsed would-be Democratic successor is eager to reap their votes and unwilling to challenge his policies. The would-be Republican successor is echoing Nixon’s “law and order” theme from the riot-torn days of ’68, but at the moment the country doesn’t seem to regard him as as the sort racial healer who might stave off a race war. So far the only leadership that has dealt with the complex situation frankly has been at the local level, such as that black police chief in Dallas who largely restored order at the murder of five of his officers, but we’ll need more.

— Bud Norman

An Olympian Disappointment

The Olympic games get underway today, and in a more perfect world they would provide some much needed distraction from the awful presidential race that’s lately been getting all our attention. Alas, in this imperfect world the Olympics are just as much a gruesome spectacle of incompetence and corruption.
Before the opening ceremonies have even begun in all their quadrennial gaudy splendor the Olympics have already been tarnished by the International Olympic Committee’s usual greasy-palmed awarding of the games to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, where much of the local population is infuriated by the government’s spending of much-needed public funds to to the benefit of a few wealthy and well-connected parties, and is beset by rampant crime and one of those apocalyptic tropical diseases and all the inefficiencies of what is still a second-world country at best. The mess has caused many of the world’s top basketball players and golfers and other elite athletes to stay home, and we confidently expect that incompetence and corruption will also play a part in deciding the winners of several of the subjectively scored sports, and that better living through chemistry will once again play a role in the more rigorously timed and measured events.
Which is a shame, really, because the Olympics used to be the most riveting and inspiring thing on the fuzzy black-and-white three-channel televisions of our youth.
Our earliest memories of the Olympics date back to the ’68 games in Mexico City, when Bob Beamon jumped a full foot and a few inches farther than any human had ever jumped before, the future heavyweight champion of the world and grill-machine magnate George Foreman celebrated his gold-medal boxing performance by waving a couple of small American flags, the great Dick Fosbury forever changed the sport of high-jumping with his gold medal-winning “Fosbury flop,” and Kansas’ own Al Oerter became the first track and field athlete to win a fourth consecutive gold medal with another extraordinary throw of the discus. Even then we were aware of the student protests that disrupted the games, and how gold medal-winning Tommie Smith and bronze medal-winning John Carlos flashed the “black power” salute of an upturned and black-gloved fist while standing on the winner’s platform as the “Star Spangled Banner” played, and that Lew Alcindor had declined to the join the basketball team even before he became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and other exceptional black athletes had boycotted the games, but America handily wound up winning the medal count and it bolstered our vague notions of American exceptionalism.
The ’72 Olympics in Munich were in living color, and featured the handsomely mustachioed Mark Spitz winning a record seven gold medals in swimming against a clearly cheating commie squad, the scariest-white-boy-you-ever-saw Dan Gable annihilating one steroid-pump commie after another on his way to a wrestling gold medal, skinny Dave Wottle and his backwards baseball cap coming from way way way behind to beat some fast muscle-bound commie in the 800 meter race, and as well as the hated Soviet Union beating an American basketball team that didn’t have the hippy-dippy Bill Walton or paying for play Julius Ervin on the most outrageously corrupt play-calling in Olympic history. Then there was the massacre of the Israeli team by a radical Islamist Palestinian terror group, and the quick exit of the Jewish Olympic hero Spitz, and Gable’s ill-advised grousing that his win had been overshadowed, and the questionable decision by American Olympic boss Avery Brundage to continue playing the games.
Since then the Olympics have proved less riveting. In ’76 the games went to nearby Montreal, Canada, and America came in an unaccustomed third place in the medal during its Bicentennial Year. The highlight from a patriotic perspective was a handsome young fellow named Bruce Jenner winning the decathlon and the unofficial “world’s greatest athlete title,” and of course he’s now better known as Caitlyn Jenner and was last seen as a honored guest at the Republican National Convention proving how very tolerant even the Republican are about men who think they’re women. America didn’t compete in the ’80 elections in Moscow after President Carter decided to boycott the games as retaliation for the Soviet Union’s invasion of Africa, which kept our junior high and high school classmate Darnell Valentine from a good chance at a basketball gold medal, and when the Soviet bloc boycotted the ’84 games in Los Angeles the Americans won so much they got bored with winning. The ’88 Olympics were in Seoul, we vaguely recall, and America was back in third place behind the Soviet Union and its East German puppets. The ’92 Olympics were in Barcelona, Spain, where professionals were at long last allowed to participate without any pretense of amateurism and the most memorable result was a basketball team featuring Larry Bird and Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan and nine other all-timers that seemed to prove once and for all how well capitalism works. Some homosexual-hating nutcase set off a bomb at the ’96 Olympics in Atlanta, and except for America’s return to the top of the medal count we can’t recall much else.
By the ’00 Olympics in Sydney there was no Soviet Union and the American victory in the medal count didn’t seem so exceptional, and Marion Jones had two return two of those golds when she was found to be a chemical cheat, and the ’04 Olympics in Athens are best remembered for all abandoned venues that now broke country built for the games. The ’08 games in Beijing were basically a propaganda campaign for China’s totalitarian government, just like the ’36 games in Munich where that same old Avery Brundage wouldn’t let Jewish-American athletes compete for fear of offend his fellow Jew-hating hosts and thus allowed the black Jesse Owens to wind up spoiling the show, and except for Michael Phelps breaking Spitz’ record with eight gold swimming medals we can’t recall a thing about the ’12 games in London.
This year’s Olympics would have been in Chicago if President Barack Obama had his way, and there were reports when he flew off to Switzerland with Oprah Winfrey to make the pitch for his hometown that he envisioned it as a worldwide celebration of the fundamental transformation of America he had wrought by his second term and is pitch to the IOC was mostly predicated on how it would give the Olympics meaning to have them held in his own sanctified hometown. Of course he also hoped it would benefit his longtime consigliere Valerie Jarrett and all the other well-connected slum lords in his Chicago circles, but we suspect the city at large is happy to let the even more crime-ridden city of Rio De Janeiro pick up the tab.
Still, we’ll hope for some uplifting diversion during the games. Surely someone will run faster or jump higher or lift a greater weight than any other human ever has, and there’s a Wichita kid competing with the boxing team, and he might have better luck than the great Wichita miler Jim Ryun or our old basketball-playing classmate or any other local boy has done in the Olympics since James Bausch won the decathlon and the “world’s greatest athlete” title way back in ’32, and there might even be a moment where a good guy or a good gal from any old country wins a moment of well-deserved glory. That would make for a nice diversion right about now, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed.

— Bud Norman

The Democratic Convention and Its Spoiler Alerts

The Democrats wrapped up their four-day and overlong mini-series of a National Convention on Thursday, and more out of a sense of civic duty than with any hopes of entertainment we did our best to follow it at last half-assedly. These quadrennial tawdry teleplays often have an effect on real life, at least to whatever extent there is any of that left these days, so we try to use our many years of experience on the political and theatrical beats to anticipate what harm might be done this time around.
From our theatrical critic perspective we have to give it an overall pan. The show started intriguingly enough, with the plucky heroine of the tale, former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and presumptive First Woman President of the United States Hillary Clinton, was embarrassed by the release of a trove of hacked e-mails spilling all over the internet to show that her long-awaited triumph had long-ago been pre-written by the producers of this obvious work of fiction, and the die-hard fans of that wacky self-described socialist character, who had been rooting for him under the delusion that it was actually real life, were in such full revolt they were wearing the same “Hillary for Prison” t-shirts and chanting the same “Lock her up chant” that all the highbrow critics were tsk-tsking about the right crazies wearing and chanting during last week’s Republican mini-series. This seemed a delightful plot twist, but by the next night the script had reverted to predictable formula with that wacky self-described socialist swearing fidelity to heroine he had so persuasively described as a villainess from the evil empire of Wall Street and “the establishment” that those e-mails had proved were running the show all along, and after that one speaker after another seemed the same guy from those “sham-wow” informercials.
The production values were pretty good, though, and we have to admit there was more star power than during last week’s Republican mini-series. One of the few pop cultural names we recognized from the GOP snooze-fest was Scott Baio, who starred as “Chachi” on the long-ago “Happy Days” television show and had a recurring cameo role in a friend of ours’ hilarious tale of a long-ago LSD trip, and one night featured a not-ready-for-prime-time lineup of a Florida State Attorney General who dropped a suit against Trump University shortly after Republican nominee Donald J. Trump made a generous contribution to her campaign, a woman who runs a dubious multi-level vitamin-marketing scheme similar to Trump’s eponymous Trump Network, and Phil Ruffin, who ran a failed dog track and some dingy convenience stores and various real estate schemes here in Wichita before making it into the self-described billionaire ranks in the Las Vegas casino business and is pretty much our local version of Trump, who was best man at Ruffin’s most recent wedding. The Democrats had comedienne and actress Sarah Silverman, who is a typical Hollywood airhead when it comes to politics but nonetheless occasionally makes us laugh and has a certain sultry semitic appeal we cannot deny, and Eva Longoria, who is apparently quite famous for something or another and is so objectively beautiful that even the discerning beauty-pagent-running eye of Trump would have to acknowledge she is more of a “ten” than even the comely yet crazy radio hostess Laura Ingraham, and various other names that the young folks would be likely to recognize.
Political celebrity seems to count for less these days, and once upon a not-so-long-ago time such former Republicans as ourselves would have have been entitled to tsk-tsk about that, but the Democratic convention featured a president and a vice president and a past president and every current office-holder they thought might do any good, whereas two former presidents and two past nominees and several other names that were conspicuous by their absence declined roles in the GOP show, so the Democrats once again had the advantage in “star power.” Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing in a year when anti-establishmentarianism seems a popular theme remains to be seen, but if you’re going by that formerly comforting formulaic script about party unity and all that the Democrats seem to have had the upper hand. Even the best and best-looking and most famous actors are only as good as their script, however, and this year’s show offered the little to work with.
They were clearly at their best when mocking the Republican nominee, a thrice-married and four-times-bankrupt self-described billionaire real-estate-and-failed-casino-and-gambling-joint-and-scam-university-and-multi-level-vitamin-marketing-scheme-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul with a ridiculous haircut whom even such retrograde right-wingers as ourselves and The National Review and The Weekly Standard and those conspicuously absent Republicans and the rest of the old-fashioned “integrity” types can’t help mocking. The current Democratic vice presidential nominee noticed the same annoying tendency by the current Republican presidential nominee to follow every unbelievable claim by stating “Believe me,” but he’s no Rich Little and his awkward impersonation got Trump’s fingernails-on-a-chalkboard cadence of the phrase all wrong. After more than eight years of railing against that awful current President of the United States we’ll at long last gratefully acknowledge that his screed against Trump was prefaced by the generous admission that “What we heard in Cleveland last week wasn’t Republican and it sure wasn’t conservative.”
The attempts to speak on behalf of the Democratic nominee all fell flat, however, as there’s really nothing to be said for her by either right wingers such as ourselves or even the most earnest and honest sorts of Democrats who spent the week trying to let to go of that crazy self-described socialist. After all, the heroine of the storyline spent her First Ladyship fending off the victims of that past president’s sexual depredations, has nothing to show for her brief tenure as a Senator other than a losing presidential race against an even more briefly-tenured and less-distinguished Senator, and her runner-up prize of being Secretary of State yielded one disaster after another. She’s as mean and vindictive and dishonest and corrupt and morally contemptible as that other guy, and not nearly as entertaining, and by the time she took the stage for the anti-climatic grand finale even most diligent critic would be tempted to walk out on this in-flight movie.
As we don our political reporter’s felt fedora to behold this tale, the perspective doesn’t improve much. Last week’s dreadful GOP convention nudged Trump into a slight lead in the Real Clear Politics average of polls, this week’s Democratic convention has thus far nudged it down slightly, and our guess is that next week’s averages will probably reflect that both these shows are much hated by a majority of the country and that it’s a virtual tie as to which is hated more.

— Bud Norman

The Past Bad Week, and the Next One

The past week saw 84 deaths from deadly terrorist attack in France and failed coup attempts in Cleveland and Turkey, three more police officers were killed and another three seriously worried in Baton Rouge, another young black man was shot and killed by police officers in Baltimore after he fired four rounds at them with a rifle, and this week doesn’t look any better. The President of the United States was only slightly less worse in his responses to these events than usual, the President of Turkey is so awful we weren’t sure who to root for during that short-lived coup attempt, and the failure of that coup attempt we were fervently rooting on in Cleveland means that the Republican National Convention will almost certainly nominate Donald J. Trump as that awful president’s successor, and we’d hate to be a police officer in the vicinity of Cleveland when that happens.
President Barack Obama’s response to the carnage in France was frank enough to acknowledge that it was “horrible,” and he even went so far as to call it an act of “terrorism,” but as usual he wouldn’t go so far as to characterize the clearly Islamist nature of it. He was clearly once again caught off-guard about the failed coup in Turkey, and was content to leave it to his hapless Secretary of State to explain why they were rooting all along for the Turkish president they once claimed a “special relationship” with and are now at odds with. Earlier Obama attended the funeral of five police officers gunned down in Dallas during a “Black Lives Matter” protest, and seized the occasion to make a case for the protest movement that has whipped up the anti-police hysteria that clearly has something to do with their deaths, but after three more officers were gunned down in Baton Rouge he more clearly took a stand against the murder of random policemen and urged that “We don’t need inflammatory rhetoric. We don’t need careless accusations thrown around to score political points of advance an agenda. We need to temper our words and open our hearts.” Which is all well and good, we suppose, expect that it was probably a rebuke as much to such anti-Islamist-terrorism and anti-killing-of-random-policemen such as ourselves as to those erstwhile allies of his who have been egging on the recent violence.
The Democratic Party’s all-but-certain nominee was no better. She took the opportunity of the carnage in France to reiterate her previously stated absurd claim that Islam has nothing to with these all to frequent tragedies, also seemed surprised by the coup attempt in the Turkey she had so assiduously courted as Secretary of State, and after the carnage in Louisiana she took her sweet time before coming out foursquare against the murder of random police officers and adding the usual caveats to indicate her sympathy to the movement that is clearly fueling the recent spate of it. Should there be further troubles in Cleveland this week we’ll eagerly await her nuanced response.
Following the failure of that coup attempt in Cleveland the all but certain Republican nominee will be Trump, who cannot be accused of being at all nuanced about his opposition to Islamist terrorism or the random murders of police officers, but can be credibly accused of “inflammatory rhetoric” and “careless accusations” and attempts to “score political points or advance an agenda,” and would probably be leading by double digits in all the polls if he could temper his words or had a heart to open. The “Bikers for Trump” who have served as semi-official security guards for his rallies, which have long been beset by the violent thugs who oppose him are predicting the scene outside the Republican Convention will resemble the “OK Corral,” which reminds our baby boomers selves more of the Altamont concert by the same Rolling Stones’ whose “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” introduced Trump’s vice-presidential pick at a weird press conference this past week,  and the all but certain Republican nominee clearly relishes a good fight, and taking all of the bi-partisan nuttiness in account we’re feeling lucky to not be a police officer in Cleveland this week.

— Bud Norman

Another Day in a Long, Hot Summer

Another day, another two police officers killed in the line of duty, and it suddenly seems a very hot summer. The latest deaths were inflicted inside the Berrien County Courthouse in St. Joseph, Michigan, where a detainee at the nearby county jail was apparently being led to a hearing and somehow managed to wrestle away an officer’s gun. So far as we can glean from the numerous yet sketchy press accounts this might or might not have something to do with the recent spate of police killings that have recently been inspired by a broad anti-police protest movement, but in either case it’s another sign of a something ongoing and troublesome.
The shooting followed ambush assaults on officers in Georgia, Tennessee, and Missouri over the weekend, which happened around the same time as the riots in Illinois and Minnesota and Louisiana that seriously wounded dozens of others, which followed the sniper fire at a “Black Lives Matter” rally in Texas where five officers were killed and several others wounded, and already the law enforcement death toll is up 44 percent over last’s year grim total. The most recent spate of deaths have also followed the widespread attention paid to internet videos that showed two young black men being killed by police officers, the sort of thing that has spawned the “Black Lives Matter” movement and its ensuing anti-police sentiment, and it seems all too likely in the nervous wake of so many cop-killings there might be more such videos hitting the internet soon, and that end is not yet in sight.
All of it is set in the broader context of the rapidly deteriorating state of race relations that has occurred since the inauguration of the First Black President, which was supposed to usher in a post-racial era of America. Shortly after that inauguration the newly fledged president’s Justice Department decided to let some New Black Panthers who had clearly been menacing white voters at a Philadelphia polling place off the hook, and not long afterwards he wound up in an embarrassing “beer summit” with a white cop because he had prematurely judged a situation involving a black Harvard professor, and when a volunteer community watchman with Hispanic heritage but a Jewish-sounding name wound up shooting a young black man who was sitting atop him and banging his head against the concrete sidewalk the president remarked that decedent looked just like the son he’d never had, and in each of the racially-tinged law enforcement incidents that keep popping up in America the president has reliably reached the same premature conclusions. He had an official representative at the funeral of young black man killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri, some weeks before his own highly politicized Justice Department was forced by the irrefutable facts of the case to concede that it was entirely the fault of the thuggish young black man for assaulting an officer and grabbing at his gun and that all the accounts of a “gentle giant” on his knees pleading “Hands up, don’t” shoot before his execution that spawned the whole “Black Lives Matter” movement was all lies.
The underlying claim that police sometimes act badly and that black Americans are statistically more likely to be on the hurting end of it is not a lie, of course, but as always the truth is quite complicated. There are no doubt some unjustified killings of young black men and women by non-black police officers, and although we won’t jump to any conclusions we admit that video from Minneapolis looks very bad for the non-black officer involved, and even the one in Louisiana where there are some potentially exculpatory reports about what happened before the cameras were rolling surely deserves the thorough investigation that it seems to be getting, and even as we await further evidence before reaching any conclusions we concede that nothing’s been reported yet that doesn’t make the one in Minneapolis look very bad for the officer, and we readily agree that these black lives do indeed matter. The far greater number of black lives taken by black murderers also matter, though, and they’re on the rise in Baltimore and St. Louis and Chicago and New York and other cities where the “Black Lives Matter” movement and the First Black President’s highly politicized Justice Department have discouraged the proactive policing that had previously led to a significant decline in the number of black lives lost. Even the most pure-hearted followers of the the “Black Lives Matter” movement are badly misguided, from our admittedly pale perspective, and the rest of their progressive agenda seems just as counter-productive.
The First Black President has also ordered his Department of Education to bully local school districts into punishing miscreant students according to strict racial quota systems, which means that the worst black students will be around to interfere with the educations of the best of the black students in America’s most dangerous school systems, and he’s ordered his Department of Housing and Urban Development to bully certain jurisdictions into accepting a certain amount of potentially criminal diversity, which doesn’t seem to have done much good for anybody. Although the black unemployment rate has lowered during the post-racial era that’s marred by the same worrisome labor force participation rate that calls that statistic into question across the racial spectrum, and the unemployment rate for black teenagers is still at Depression levels and not likely to get any better if the First Black President gets the minimum wage hike he wants, and household incomes and business start-ups and every other economic indicator is just as bleak. In all the cities where the “Black Lives Matter” movement has gained ground the local governments have long been ruled progressive Democrats, and that fact seems to have gone largely unnoticed.
Nor does there seem to be honest discussion about it. None of those numerous but sketchy reports about the deaths of law enforcement officers in St. Joseph mention the race of shooter, which is standard journalistic practice even though every black and white and any hue-in-between reader is eager to learn that fact no matter how pure-hearted they might be, and the entire discussion about this undeniably racially-tinged issue seems somehow intent on denying its racial implications.
The First Black President of the United States has cut short a pointless visit to Europe to travel to Dallas to speak about the recent deaths of five white police officers there, and although we expect another exercise in moral relativism we cling to faint hope that hell say something eloquent and unifying and post-racial. The presumptive Democratic nominee to succeed him took the opportunity of five white cops killed by sniper fire from a clearly white-hating black man to lecture white people about how they must “listen to the fears of African-Americans.” The presumptive Republican nominee was uncharacteristically more circumspect, “tweeting” about both the tragedy of the slain officers in Dallas and the black men who had been videotaped dying at the hands of police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota, which annoyed some of his more fervent white supporters, but we hold out no hope that he’ll be the unifying figure who brings this awful mess to a happy conclusion.
The Republican National Convention will convene in less than a week in Cleveland, and it promises to be contentious inside and just as downright riotous outside, and the convention of those godawful Democrats a couple of weeks later might prove just as 1968 godawful, and there’s something ongoing and troublesome about our politics that a more honest country would acknowledge.

— Bud Norman

Without “Selfie” Regard

While wandering around the internet in search of something to divert our gaze from that gruesome presidential race, we happened upon a story about the rising toll of deaths resulting from “selfies.” We like to think ourselves the compassionate and nonjudgmental type, but we’re not so stone-hearted that we didn’t have to suppress a slight chuckle about it.
If you’re not au courant on the latest hep cat lingo, “selfie” is the neologism that probably best sums up our sorry zeitgeist. It’s broadly defined as a cell phone camera self-portrait, taken from arm’s length or a slightly wider angle with help of a “selfie stick” that some people apparently carry around, which is then shared with the self-portraitist’s friends on Facebook and Instagram and other social media, another newfangled nuisance we still like to call “social media,” with the quote marks there to express our hope it will soon go away. In some cases they depict the self-portraitist enjoying a satisfying meal at a nondescript chain restaurant or running into an old classmate or becoming so pleasantly drunk they felt compelled to share some documentation of the moment with their friends, in others they document that the self-portraitist was in camera range of some famous landmark or minor celebrity or ongoing natural disaster, and in some cases they depict the self-portraitist engaging in some sort of derring-do.
That lattermost genre has recently led to the deaths of two tourists standing astride the dangerous cliffs overlooking Machu Picchu, Peru, and the Conde Nast travel company is reporting that around the globe “selfies” have lately claimed more tourists’ lives than sharks. There’s already one of those newfangled Wikipedia pages devoted to the phenomenon, and it reports that other “selfie”-induced deaths involved a fellow who was electrocuted standing atop an electric train, another falling down the stairs of the Taj Mahal, and yet another posing with a walrus. Cliff-falling and drowning seem to be the most common sorts of fatal “selfies,” but sooner or later someone is bound to perish by posing for a “selfie” with a shark, and we guess the Conde Nast people will have to score that as a tie.
We lament these tragic deaths, being such compassionate and nonjudgmental types, despite having to suppress that slight chuckle, but we also lament the whole idea of the “selfie.” To get all Ecclesiastical on you, the whole “selfie” thing always brings to mind that fine Old Testament wisdom about “Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” That ugly “selfie” coinage somehow signifies to us all the self-regard and self-centeredness and self-aggrandizement that makes for such an ugly zeitgeist, and we can’t wait for the fad to pass.
Most of the “selfie” fatalities so far seem to have been foreigners, but we’ve long been embarrassed that the current President of the United States is also an avid cell phone self-portraitist. He’s embarrassed himself and the country by posing for a smiling “selfie” with that hot Denmark Prime Minister at former South African President Nelson Mandela’s funeral, and he’s one of those people who carry around a “selfie stick” for some reason, and if he does somehow manage to make the sea levels lower in his lame duck months in office we’re sure he’ll be there to document the occasion at an arm’s length or longer. His likely successor’s only redeeming qualities are that they’re such old geezers neither claims to be au courant on the latest hep cat lingo.
The presumptive Republican Presidential nominee is a force on “Twitter” but always allows himself to be photographed from more than an arm’s or “selfie stick” distance, and the presumptive Democratic nominee is offering her geezer Luddite tendencies as an excuse for her should-have-been-indicted e-mail practices, and although both are by now probably right up there with the the bald spot in self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ head and the various Kardashians in the number of “selfies” taken with them neither is guilty of the practice. Still, they both seem so typically-of-the-zeitgeist self-regarding and self-centered and self-aggrandizing that there’s no respite anywhere on the internet.

— Bud Norman

This Time in Turkey

The latest Islamist outrage occurred Tuesday in Istanbul, Turkey, where at least three gun-toting suicide bombers slaughtered at least 36 people and seriously injured another hundred or so at the Ataturk Airport. At this point it’s unclear if it was the work of the Islamic State or the Kurdish separatists who have more frequently launched terror attacks in Turkey, although the experts guessing it’s the former and admitting it might yet be another group, but it any case it adds to the horrifying death toll of the past millennia and a half of jihad.
This time around was mostly a Muslim-on-Muslim slaughter, as has been common during much of the past millennia and a half of jihad, but of the course the victims at an international airport in such a cosmopolitan city as Istanbul included some infidels. At this point it’s not known if any of them were Americans, but we have several friends and family members who have travelled through what they all describe as the airport’s heavily secured hallways, so it could have been anyone from anywhere. Why any non-Kurdish Islamists would choose to target Turkey is also unclear at this point, as there any number of explanations.
There’s an ongoing resentment about all the years that Turkey’s Ottoman Empire ruled almost the entirety of the Islamic world, and even though that ended way back at the conclusion of World War I that’s no so long ago from the millenarian and a half perspective of jihad. The airport is Istanbul is named for Kemal Ataturk, whose reformers dragged Turkey out of the ruins of the post-Ottoman Empire and into something resembling the modern world, and from the Islamist point of view that’s even worse than the Ottoman Empire. The Turks have lately been involved in squabbles with everyone from Russia to Syria to the Syrian regime’s Islamic State enemies to of course those pesky Kurds, so the country has any of number of reasons to be attacked.
Since the good old days of Ataturk and his fellow “young Turks” the country has seen the more or less modern and cosmopolitan types in Istanbul and other urban areas demographically overwhelmed by the more fervently religious and therefore more fecund rural portions of the country, and Turkey has lately become Islamist and troublesome enough that its membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and associate membership with the European Union have become problematic, but they’re still not nearly Islamist enough to spare themselves further Islamist terror attacks. It’s a tough spot to be in, but to quote an old song it’s nobody’s business but the Turks’.
As horrific as it was the Istanbul attack didn’t exceed the death count inflicted by an Islamist nutcase’s attack on the much softer target of an Orlando, Florida, nightclub not long before, so at this point in the millennia and a half of ongoing jihad everyone everywhere has to adjust its policies.
The American left tried to explain that larger death toll at an Orlando nightspot catering to homosexuals by a man who phoned into the police and clearly explained that he was acting on behalf on the Islamic State was actually the fault of those darned gun-toting and Bible-thumping Republicans, but this time at least the president admitted that it was some sort of unspecified “terrorism” and didn’t try to blame it Chick-fi-la or any bakers who decline to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding, which would have been quite a stretch even for the president, and at this point it’s hard to guess what policy changes might be made. Both of the presumptive major party nominees hoping to succeed him have offered appropriate sympathy and outrage for the victims, and vowed the requisite resoluteness, and it remains to be seen which of them will win the next news cycle. Even the Democrat has lately started the using “Islamist” to describe all this jihad, and the Republican has been very stern if somewhat inconsistent and incoherent about it from the very beginning, but we’re not placing much hope in policy changes. Until the entirety of the barren west rouses itself against once again against the fecund forces of Islamism we expect the jihad will continue.

— Bud Norman

An Entire World Heading for the Exits

America rarely pays any attention to the rest of the world, but over the past weekend it seemed all the talk was about “Brexit.” By now even the most chauvinistic newsreader is familiar with that ungainly portmanteau for Great Britain’s exit from the European Union, which was approved by a majority of the country’s voter in a referendum Friday, and understands why it really is a rather big deal even here in the faraway heartland of would-be fortress America.
The world’s fifth-largest national economy has declared its independence from an EU that had collectively rivaled the Americans and Chinese as the world’s largest economy, and by the time you read this the stock markets almost everywhere will likely be in a panic about the possible ramifications of such an international disruption. There’s also the possibility of further disruptions to the world order, as there are similar anti-EU movements afoot in many of the federation’s other 27 member countries that will surely be bolstered and embolden by Britain’s exit, and there’s already talk of the French leaving in a Frexit and the Swedes leaving in Swexit and the Netherlands leaving in a Nexit, although we wonder if that lattermost possibility wouldn’t more properly be called a Netherexit, and there’s the threat of Italy leaving in what will likely be called an Itexit, and by the time all the potential ugly neologisms have been coined there is reason to believe that the rest of the EU might well soon unravel. Elite opinion both here and abroad believes that the EU is an essential project to maintain the historically unprecedented period of peace and prosperity that has mostly attained over the European continent since the end of World War II, and there’s no denying that the populist movements fueling those anti-EU parties do indeed include some of those more unsavory sorts of nationalists who caused all the unpleasantness of the past century, so we concede there might well be further and more disturbing disruptions to the world order.
Still, from our spot here in the heartland of would-be fortress America we’re taking a more hopeful view. Britain still has the world’s fifth-largest economy and enough economic common sense that that it will still want to have a common market with the economic powerhouse across the channel, which will most likely be willing to continue friendly relations with the world’s fifth-largest economy, if the European reputation for sophistication is at all justified, and unless the crude populist with the awful haircut who has now ascended to the top of the British Conservative Party as a result of all this insists on some extortionate trade agreement we expect it will all soon be worked out to the satisfaction of the world’s stock markets. As for the threat of rising nationalist populist sentiment among the western world’s great unwashed masses, we’ve long believed that the EU and other bossy internationalist projects of the elite opinion here and abroad were the main cause of that problem.
The whole boondoggle began reasonably enough as a “Common Market,” with a number of large and nearby economies freely trading the best of their goods and services on mutually-beneficial terms, and even that was a hard sell to the non-elite sorts, unsavory and otherwise. We still recall an old New Yorker cartoon that showed some stereotypically stuffy Tory Member of Parliament saying it would be very un-British to join anything called a “Common” market, and of course the workers in the continental industries who couldn’t withstand the formidable British competition had their own objections, but with votes from consumers in all the countries who preferred being to able to buy the best and most affordable goods on services on a broader market they worked it out well enough to bring unprecedented peace and prosperity to most of Europe. The next step involved a common currency for the all the differently-sized economies involved, which encouraged the more dissipated economies to recklessly borrow at the same low interest rates afforded their more economically robust members, which has not worked out well. Then came political integration, which meant that each country was ceding sovereignty to a bunch of know-it-alls in Brussels who thought they knew how to run a business in Lancashire, England, or Orleans, France, or Athens, Greece, better than that unwashed shopkeeper in those Godforsaken jurisdictions could ever do. They were probably right about the Greek shopkeeper, but even and especially here in the heartland of would-be fortress America we can easily see how such detached and unaccountable bureaucratic meddling could fuel a populist uprising. Throw in the fact the orders were actually coming in from Berlin, Germany, where the previously sane and famously childless Chancellor has decided that the solution to her country’s below-replacement fertility rate is to import millions of fecund immigrants from more unsettled regions of the world where an Islamist hatred of western civilization is rampant, and that EU countries are bound by treaty with this civilizational suicide policy, and we can readily understand why many of even the most savory sorts of people with a love for their cultures will heading for the exits.
What probably explains why so much of self-involved America has been talking about “Brexit” is its glaringly obvious implications for the American presidential election. The incumbent Democratic President, who pretty much epitomizes elite public opinion, is a notorious Anglophobe who threatened that Great Britain would be “at the back of the queue” on trade negotiations if it dared abandon the EU, and his would-be Democratic successor, backed by much of the elite public opinion, is reduced to saying that she’ll try to help hard-working and stock-investing families get through the coming turbulence. Meanwhile the crude populist with an awful haircut who has somehow ascended to the leadership of the Republican Party has long been on record criticizing every free trade deal America ever struck, recently been stalwart opponent of immigration, and is running on the unabashedly nationalist promise to “Make American Great Again.” All in all, it should have been a good weekend for the Republican.
All politics is local, though, and in this locality the Republican seems to have a knack for blowing these opportunities. The mass shootings at a homosexual nightclub by an Islamist nutcase should have bumped his poll numbers up a few points, but his initial “tweets” on the matter congratulated himself on his prescience rather than offering condolences to the dead and the injured and his loved ones, and despite the incoherence of the Democratic response he actually saw his numbers go down. This time around the Republican happened to find himself in Scotland on the day of the referendum, taking time off from campaigning in swing states and trying to drum up business for his money-losing golf course that had all the invested locals and bought-off politicians and bullied neighbors angry at him, to the point that they were waving Mexican flags they somehow acquired at the protests, and his initial response to “Brexit” was once again clumsy. He initially “tweeted” how everyone in Scotland was exhilarated by the response, even though that portion of Great Britain had voted to remain by a landslide margin, and as the son of a Scottish immigrant mother he bragged to the locals that he was “Scotch,” which every Scot or Scotsman or Scottish person knows is a type of whisky and not a word that describes someone from Scotland, and the ensuing press conference was equally illiterate.
There was also a well stated statement about Britain’s right to sovereignty and a promise to put it at the front queue in our trade negotiations and allusions to the “special relationship,” and it’s obvious from the multi-sylabbic words and parseable grammar that someone else wrote it, but the Republican approved it and that’s an encouraging sign, but it’s still damage control rather than an offensive. The statement will probably get less attention than the Republican’s bizarre interview with Bloomberg News where the recently anti-immigration candidate criticized the globalist president’s high number of deportations of illegal immigrants and said “I have the biggest heart of anybody” and would therefore not have “mass deportations.” He didn’t back off from his threats of extortionate trade deals, and instead made an explicit plea to the supporters of self-described Socialist and too-far-left-for-even-the-Democratic-Party Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on both nationalist and socialist terms, but we think he missed a far greater opportunity to stick it to elite opinion.

— Bud Norman

A Dreary Look at the Latest Standings

Around this time of every year two of our daily news-reading rituals are checking in on the Major League Baseball standings, with a particular eye on where The New York Yankees stand in the American League’s eastern division, and a similarly quick glance at the essential Real Clear Politics internet sites’ widely watched averages of all the political polls, usually with an even more fervent rooting interest in how the Republican candidates are faring. During this recently hot and humid and stormy early summer, both have been rather dreary chores.
At the moment our Yankees are a couple of games under .500 and tied for last place in their division, even if they’re still within shouting distance of their rather mediocre rivals and there’s plenty of season of left before the Fall Classic, but their in-the-red run differential proves they’ve been eking out their wins and getting blown out in their more numerous losses and after a full third of the season we’ve yet to find anything in all the statistics that inspires much hope for their championship chances. Meanwhile the Republican party’s presumptive presidential nominee is also behind but within shouting distance if not within the margin-of-error of the Democratic party’s worse-than-mediocre presumptive presidential nominee in the aggregate of all the polls, and there’s also plenty of season left in that game, but the obsessive sort of sports fan who delves deeper into the numbers will find few championship hopes.
Not only do the latest data show Donald J. Trump losing to Hillary Clinton by 5.8 percentage points, but the same poll he used to lavishly praise when it routinely and correctly showed him in the lead in the Republican primary races now has him losing by a landslide 12 percentage points, another poll that has so far proved prescient has a whopping 70 percent of the country regarding him unfavorably and a more-than-decisive 55 percent saying they’d never vote for him, which exceeds even the unusually high disapproval of his worse-than-mediocre rival, the electoral map is more daunting yet, and although Trump is within shouting distance in some big swing states he’s somehow in trouble in such small but reliably Republican states as Utah and Kansas. Worse yet, these numbers come after what should have been a good week for Trump.

The big story of the past week has been the mass murder of 50 people and the serious wounding of many more at an Orlando, Florida, nightclub by a nutcase Islamist who had phoned in his fealty to the nutcase Islamic State before committing his slaughter, and as horrific as it was we’d have expected any old presumptive Republican nominee to get a bump from it. Another all-too-common mass slaughter on American soil by and Islamist nutcase and tied directly to the nutcase Islamic State was once again weakly addressed by a Democratic administration that seemed more offended by the Republican nominee than the mass-murderer and was reduced to angrily explaining why it won’t use the term “radical Islamic terrorism” and had not so long dismissed the Islamic State that arose in the aftermath of its premature withdrawal from Iraq as “jayvee team” of terrorism, and although the presumptive Democratic nominee felt obliged to tell the press she was “happy” to call it radical Islamic terrorism it should have been a good week for any presumptive Republican nominee. During this hot and humid and stormy early summer, though, the presumptive Republican nominee seems to have lost this gimme game to his worse-than-mediocre rivals.
Maybe it’s the way his immediately “tweeted” response was to congratulate himself for having predicted another terrorist attack on American soil rather than offering thoughts and prayers to the victims and their loved ones, as if it would require some sort of Nostradamus to make such a prophecy, or the way he immediately pandered to the homosexual community that had been targeted in the murders and using the cacophonous neologism “bigly” in the process, or that his past stands on the Islamic State have ranged from bombing the barnyard epithet against them and sending in up to 30,000 ground troops to outsourcing the problem that alluringly strong Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, or the way he failed to make case the case that Obama’s policies and had led to the tragedy and instead said something in his typically un-parsable English that allowed to press to plausibly characterize it as yet another of his frequent bizarre conspiracy theories, but in any case Trump seems to have fared more badly in the polls than even the worse-than-mediocre President Barack Obama and the even more unpopular presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and their utterly worthless responses on the issue.
It’s all a shame, because even in such a hot and humid and stormy early summer it could have been different. The New York Yankees have the biggest media market and a winning tradition and despite all that salary cap socialism they have the most resources and could have made a couple of trades or free agent signings that would have at least put them in contention, and the Republican party had at least three or four and as many 16 other choices that would have a big lead over the worse-than-mediocre competition at this point. Although we’re no longer taking any rooting interest in the race we believe that the presumptive Republican nominee’s self-aggrandizing and opportunistic and illiterate response was at least better than the opposition’s willful denial of an ongoing problem their policies have promulgated, and we can’t help but think that if the Republicans had a team that knows how to play this game it would be sitting on a cheering lead about now.

— Bud Norman


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