A Laugh-in at the Sit-In

A full 170 Democratic members of Congress staged a “sit-in” on the floor of the on the House of Representatives recently, and Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan’s forceful response included turning off the C-SPAN and pool coverage cameras that were witnessing the spectacle. We think he passed up a propaganda coup by doing so, as those Democrats looked damned silly sitting there on that carpeted floor in their fancy suits.
Some Democrats of a certain age might have found it rather nostalgic, and the Cable News Network’s report on the incident included a helpful link to a photo montage of all those well-remembered “sit-ins” that occurred back in the long civil rights and anti-Vietnam war protest days, but those scruffier young Democrats who “occupied” all sorts of more uncomfortable places during the short-lived and happily-forgotten “Occupy Wall Street” movement of a few years ago were probably unimpressed, and we suspect that the vast majority of the rest of the country also thought it all looked damned silly. Those well-clad and comfortably air-conditioned protestors claimed to “fight the powers that be,” borrowing a hackneyed hip-hop slogan coined by the Maoist “gangsta rappers” called Public Enemy, but such well-clad and comfortably air-conditioned members of Congress are by any definition among the powers that be, and as Democrats they are arguably among the most powerful of the powers that be, and their cause certainly had nothing to do with civil rights or any sort of anti-war sentiment.
The whole hubbub started after yet another sexually-conflicted Islamist nutcase shot up an Orlando, Florida, nightclub catering to homosexuals on its “Latin Night,” killing enough people to earn the current American record for a mass shooting, and the Democrats instinctively blamed it on the gun-loving and xenophobic and homophobic and otherwise phobic Christian mainstream of America society. There were the usual Democratic calls for draconian gun control measures, this time with an emphasis on denying gun sales to anyone on the federal government’s “no-fly list,” and when the congressional Republicans offered to do just that so long as those people who somehow found themselves on the “no-fly list” were entitled some sort of due process the Democrats voted down that radical idea and instead decided to sit and pout on the House floor until they got their way. They no doubt hoped this would somehow simultaneously enhance both their peacenik and tough-on-terror stances, but to anyone paying close attention they come off as a bunch well-clad and comfortably air-conditioned powers that be demanding more power yet.
The late and great Franz Kafka once wrote a dystopian novella titled “The Trial” that described some poor schmuck finding himself under the thumb of a totalitarian state for reasons that are never to explained to him, and the resulting phrase “Kafka-esque” aptly describes that “no-fly list.” If your neighbor has done something to irk you can easily retaliate by screwing up his next vacation with a an anonymous phone call to any number of federal agencies and reporting that there’s something fishy about him, and if those sit-in Democrats get their way he’ll have absolutely nothing to about and it won’t be able to buy a gun to protect himself from whatever other mischief you have in mind. There should certainly be some legal consideration of any allegations made against someone that would reasonably preclude their flying on an airline or owning a gun, so the proposed Republican compromise that some due process should be involved isn’t so unreasonable as to justify a “sit-in” on that carpeted and air-conditioned House floor.
Among the most prominent of the Democratic powers-that-be who was “sitting-in” on the House floor was Georgia Rep. John Conyers, who was also in on several of those well-remembered “sit-ins” of the of good old days and still enjoys a reputation as a hero of the civil rights movement, yet also once found himself on the “no-fly list,” along with the late Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy and some Republican but otherwise non-threatening reporters, and maybe even you, if you’ve somehow inadvertently done something to irk a neighbor. Thus the former civil rights hero was sitting on a carpeted and air-conditioned floor demanding that his civil rights be revoked, ostensibly to prevent an Islamist terror threat he will not name and prefers to implicitly blame on Republicans and the rest of mainstream Christian America.
Meanwhile the impeccably anti-establishment presumptive Republican presidential nominee is so admirably resolute against Islamist terrorism and so worrisomely indifferent to due process that he’s promising to talk his new-found friends at the National Rifle Association out of their more  hard-line stance on the question, and should he be elected and become in charge of the Kafka-esque “no-fly list” we expect all those sitting-in Democrats will suddenly rediscover their past enthusiasm for due process and other essential civil liberties. In the meantime, they just looked damned silly.

— Bud Norman

The Times They are a-Changin’

Way back in our boyhood, during the hippie days, a certain sort of college student was considered a threat to the public safety. Idealistic youngsters such as the Weather Underground were building bombs, fomenting riots, and sneering at the squares in the College Republicans.
Much has changed since then. Now Weather Underground leader Bill Ayres is a respected member of the academic community who hosted the political debutante party for a future president, and the College Republicans are banned from that same president’s speeches as a “security threat.”
This is true at least at the University of Central Missouri, where on Wednesday a group of students affiliated with the campus chapter of the College Republicans were denied admission to another in a seemingly endless series of presidential speeches. The students held tickets to the event, and had waited patiently for two hours outside the auditorium, and the day’s intense heat had knocked enough students out of the heat that there was no question of having enough seats, but they were nonetheless turned away on the grounds that posed a danger to the president. Although they had all stowed away the picket signs they had wielded in an earlier protest, and presumably had passed the rigorous security checks that a routine at all presidential appearances, a few of the students’ tee-shirts emblazoned with conservative slogans marked them as likely troublemakers or potential assassins. “It just didn’t make sense,” a group leader told the College Fix web site, “A lot of us traveled several hours to watch the speech. We were very disappointed we were not able to attend.”
The young man’s disappointment is hard to explain, especially if the speech was anywhere near so boring as the long-winded soporific Obama delivered earlier to an adoring group of students at Illinois’ Knox College, but there’s no accounting for a college kid’s taste. Even harder to explain is why Obama’s security detail considered the group threatening, given the College Republicans’ longstanding reputation for unfashionably proper behavior. College Republicans don’t even heckle or hiss at a speech, tactics associated exclusively with the campus left, and it should be noted that none of the many assassins in the country’s history were ever members of the group. So placid is the group that if any of Obama’s old Weather Underground buddies ever got wind that he was fearful of a bunch of tee-shirt clad College Republicans they’d probably snort a derisive laugh.
Perhaps the words “Tea Party” appearing on those tee-shirts explains the ban, as any identifying with the phrase is presumed by the administration to be a terrorist at worst or a tax-cheat at best, but despite the best efforts of the press there has never been any act of violence associated with the movement. Students with “Occupy Wall Street” slogans adorned on the clothing were almost certainly sent through security without a second glance, even though that movement has spawned violence and alleged plots of terrorism with all the hipster enthusiasm of its Weather Underground ancestors, so some sort of political profiling seems to be involved.
More indignant observers such as Prof. Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds have urged that the students sue anyone involved, and agitate to prevent Obama from making his beloved campus appearances until the rules of admission are made fair, but we suggest that the College Republicans enjoy their newfound bad boy status. College chicks dig danger, as all those old-school campus agitators happily discovered, and there’s no reason that the scruffy Occupy kids should be having all the fun. Besides, there will be plenty of chances to hear long, boring Obama speeches in the future.

— Bud Norman

A Tale of Two Cities

You could have knocked us over with a feather from an organically-fed free range chicken when we learned that Portland, Oregon, does not have fluoridated water. This surprising tidbit came to us courtesy of the Slate.com internet newsmagazine, which reported about an upcoming referendum on a proposal to begin adding fluoride to the city’s water supply, and it caught our eye because our very different town of Wichita, Kansas, had voted last November to reject a similar plan.
The local pro-fluoride forces made much of the fact that only four other large American cities don’t use the stuff, an obvious attempt at peer pressure, but we can’t recall them ever mentioning Portland is one of them, perhaps because Portland is widely considered such an impeccably hip civic peer that it was assumed no one would be embarrassed by the association. Slate, a news outlet also widely considered impeccably hip, is clearly confounded that such a paragon of progressive politics as Portland hasn’t embraced the practice and seems slightly flustered by the realization that the city’s progressivism is the reason why.
Among the groups the joining the cleverly-named Clean Water Portland coalition to lead the resistance to fluoridation are the Pacific Green Party, Nutritional Therapy Association, Organic Consumers Association, the Oregon Association of Acupuncture, and the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, although Slate takes pains to claim that the lattermost group is the “only local organization representing people of color that has come out against fluoride” and tries for the first time in the history of liberal journalism to dismiss the group’s political significance. Judging by the boisterous behavior described at town hall meetings and other political events it seems that the grassroots opposition to the initiative is similarly counter-cultural in its leanings. Slate reports with apparent alarm that the anti-fluoride forces are also joined by The Cascade Club, “a local libertarian think tank,” as well as the Kansas Taxpayers Network, described as “a far-right group that recently merged with the Americans for Prosperity,” but it concedes that the anti-fluoridation campaign in Portland carefully eschews conservative rhetoric and that “Such tactics would never work in this liberal city.”
The leftward opposition to fluoridation does not come as such a surprise to us, as all of the relatively small band of Occupy Wall Street sorts in the otherwise proudly un-hip town of Wichita were also adamant in their objections. Groups such as the aforementioned and Kansas Taxpayers Network were more prominent in the local debate, and naturally had no reluctance to couch their arguments in unabashadly conservative terms, but the far-lefties around here were an influental part of the alliance. We couldn’t help teasing the ones we’re friendliest with, regaling them with our imitation of Sterling Hayden’s “fluoride is a commie plot” speech from “Dr. Strangelove,” but they took it in good humor and for the most part seemed to get along with their unlikely allies.
Another unlikely alliance sprang up on the other side of the debate, with the more upscale liberals joining with the more moderate conservatives in citing the consensus of the academic establishment and insisting that Wichita get in step with the rest of the country. Upscale liberals and moderate conservatives are always very much impressed with the consensus of the academic establishment, and around here they’re both very sensitive to perceptions that we’re out of step with the rest of the country, so perhaps it wasn’t such an unlikely alliance. Fluoride advocates such as the Slate reporters tend to overstate the unanimity of scientific on the subject, and fail to mention such dissenting research as a study from oh-so-respectable Harvard University that links fluoride to a decline in human intelligence, but there does seem to be enough of a consensus for the people who are cowed by that sort of thing.
The far left, though, for all its faults, retains an admirable skepticism of establishment opinion. Slate explains that the anti-fluoride campaign in Portland relies on “attachment to the environment and natural health care, as well as the current mistrust of pretty much all institutions.” That last cause is the one that allowed the far- left to work so peacefully with its far-right counterparts on the anti-fluoride campaign here, and it could point the way to alliances on other issues. Wichita also had a referendum a while back on the city government’s sweetheart deal with some out-of-town hotel developers who had taken a strange interest in local politics during the preceding fund-raising efforts by some local politicians, and the crony capitalism deal was soundly defeated with votes from conservatives appalled by the cronyism and liberals offended by the capitalism. The same coalition on a national scale could help eliminate all the public-private boondoggles buried in the stimulus bill and various other Obama initiatives, although it will be hard to pry even the most far-left activists away from their party loyalties. If they can ever be made to understand that the essence of the liberal project is to further empower the institutions they distrust, however, anything is possible.

— Bud Norman

Conventional Wisdom

There was no Republican convention on Monday, with the day’s scheduled proceedings blown away by the same tropical storm system that is now threatening New Orleans with another hurricane, but it’s likely that few noticed.

Young people will find it hard to believe, but the two major party’s quadrennial get-togethers used to be the best shows on television. They were the only shows on television at this time of the leap year back in the days of three networks, another fact of the dark ages that will astonish the youngsters, but the conventions would have fared well against any competition. Conventions used to have drama, suspense, intrigue, convoluted sub-plots, and people in funny hats, all with the added rooting interest of a big time sports event.

That all changed after the Democrats’ debacle of a convention in Chicago in ’68, when the hippies rioted and Mayor Daley’s cops knocked enough hairy heads together that the parties were shocked into adopting a more small-d democratic system that took the power away from smoke-filled rooms full of party bosses and handed it over to the sorts of ideological voters who actually show up for primaries and party caucuses. The debate still rages about the relative advantages of the two systems, and of course the rooms would be non-smoking now, but it’s worth noting that exactly half of the old-time conventions picked losing candidates and even the winning tickets often fell short of the ideal. Whatever the political merits of the current system, though, there’s no denying that the old way provided far more satisfying television viewing.

With the sole exception of the ’76 Republican gathering in Kansas City, where Ronald Reagan still had an outside chance at unseating the incumbent Gerald Ford as the delegates convened, every convention since ’68 has been a foregone conclusion and a rather boring affair. The networks continued to provide “gavel-to-gavel” coverage for several election cycles, apparently out of habit, but as the conventions degenerated into ever more slickly produced infomercials for the campaigns the networks began losing viewers to the cable competition and started cutting back on the hours of airtime devoted to the speeches and other machinations. Now the day-long coverage is relegated to the cable networks, with the networks interrupting their usual fare only for an hour or so a night, and it’s probable that the only people tuned in are the political enthusiasts who have long since made up their minds about who they’ll be voting for.

Those few hours of prime-time network coverage are still considered important, however, and we read that some savvy political operatives even regard Mitt Romney’s upcoming acceptance speech “the most important moment of his campaign.” If so, we except that he’ll make the best of it, not just because he’s a capable orator with a strong argument for his candidacy but also because the Democrats have gone so far over the top in their attempts at character assassination that he’ll allay many fears just by showing up without horns, a tail, and a pitchfork. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie should also draw a few persuadable voters during his keynote address, and we expect that his famously blunt style of oratory should be successful in laying out the dire facts of life that justify the Republican’s hard medicine.

Thus far it seems unlikely that the loony left will be able to mount any protests that rival the newsworthiness of the ’68 fiasco, which is disappointing. We had hoped that the remains of the Occupy Wall Street or some other fringe movement would provoke the same disgusted reaction that helped propel Richard Nixon to victory of Hubert Humphrey, but on Monday the best the left could do was a couple of hundred protestors, a few vagina costumes, and one measly arrest. The protestors are blaming the bad weather for the meager effort, but in fact they’re just far lazier than the hippies ever were, and that’s a pretty damning indictment

Our cable subscription was cancelled long ago, so we’ll miss out on much of the blah-blah-blah that’s been planned by both parties, but we’ll do our best to keep apprised through the miracles of the internet and talk radio. Something interesting might well develop, but in the meantime we’re offering enticing odds that Romney will be the nominee.

— Bud Norman

Starting a New Occupation

May Day has come and gone, and apparently so has the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Trend-watchers will recall that the anti-capitalist movement was all the rage last summer. “Occupy” protests popped up in cities across the country, politicians such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and President Barack Obama praised the youthful protesters, adoring media lavished attention on the cause, and celebrities showed up to be photographed at the latest cutting-edge event. The protesters were a pretty cocky bunch back then, with members of the local affiliate assuring us it would be a short time before the “occupiers” had transformed America into some unspecified sort of utopia.

America is not there yet, so far as we can tell, and instead the Occupy movement has been transformed into last summer’s fad. The decline began when some of protests turned violent, the encampments in public spaces turned into eyesores filled with crime, disease, and petty annoyances to the neighborhoods, and the press began reluctantly reporting the problems and the politicians suddenly stopped being so outspokenly supportive. Then the winter came, and even though it was a mild one in most of the country it was sufficiently cold to make the occupiers began occupying homes heated by evil gas and electric companies.

What was left of the movement vowed it would be back in full force when spring arrived, and announced May Day as the official re-launch. The date was chosen not just because it unofficially marks the beginning of spring in much of the country, but because it’s the official commie holiday, a point that might be lost on some of the younger participants but was no doubt in forefront of the organizers’ minds.

Sure enough, the occupiers were back on schedule. Not as many as before, though, and if you measure the effectiveness of a protest by column inches or broadcast time it was a flop. They managed to get a few heckles in at a Mitt Romney appearance in New York City, which isn’t noteworthy, and they smashed some windows in Seattle, which is also getting to be too routine for media attention, but except for the sporadic tear-gassings and a few arrests it generated little attention. By any measure, they fell short of their goal of global disruption of the status quo.

The most widely reported story out of the May Day events was probably the arrest of five men associated with Occupy Cleveland for allegedly plotting to blow up a bridge in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The folks at the Cable News Network noted that the police described the men as “self-described anarchists” and mused whether they could truly be associated with a Occupy movement that seems to crave an ever bigger and more powerful government. We suggest that the folks at CNN have a chat with a few self-described anarchists, who these days retain the violent nihilism of their intellectual forebears but have long since embraced the authoritarian government that anarchism once opposed, or that they simply take another look at the pictures of the suspects and draw their own conclusions.

There’s a always a chance that the movement might become fashionable again, and we’re almost hoping so. The Occupy Wall Street folks have provided plenty of hilarity in their brief time on the public stage, and teach such a clear object lesson about the illogical conclusions of modern liberalism. A nice rowdy riot at one or both of the major party political conventions would also be welcome, as it would give the Republicans a chance to remind voters that the Democrats had once encouraged the movement.

We know at least one local Occupier who’s also hoping to re-create the glorious riots of Chicago in ‘68, and he proudly told us that legendary melee turned the tide of public opinion. As we remember it, those clashes with Mayor Daley’s cops turned the public to Nixon’s law-and-order platform, but we didn’t dare tell him.

— Bud Norman

Who Are the Bullies?

Bullying is a major problem in America, we’re told, even though everyone is against it.

There is no national organization that lobbies for bully rights, at any rate, and all of the people speaking out on the issue share the same disapproving attitudes about it. Yet bullying undeniably remains a common human failing, just as it has been since the dawn of time. The only explanation for this apparent paradox is that the people doing all the bullying don’t consider themselves bullies, as several stories recently in the news illustrate.

Consider the case of Dan Savage, a homosexual rights advocate, author of the “Savage Love” advice column, and the founder of an anti-bullying project called “It Gets Better.” Savage was recently invited to address a national gathering of high school journalism students, which suggests that society has arrived at a rather tolerant attitude towards homosexuality, but he apparently cannot tolerate that others might have religious objections to the practice. Although he was invited to speak to other issues, Savage used his time to launch into an obscenity-laced tirade against the Bible and Christianity, then taunted a large number of Christian students as they quietly walked out.

At least Savage wasn’t demanding the Christian students to subsidize his sexual activities, as Sandra Fluke did when she urged Congress to compel her Catholic University to provide her with birth control.

Then again, at least Fluke didn’t crucify anybody, as former Environmental Protection Agency official Al Armendariz boasted of metaphorically doing to the oil companies he was charged with regulating. Armendariz is now a former EPA official because he told an audience in Dish, Texas, two years ago that his way of doing the government’s business was borrowed from the ancient Roman colonialists who would “find the first five guys they saw and they’d crucify them.” The speech was recently uncovered and created a delayed controversy, especially among the many oil producers in Armendariz’ five-state region who believed that the analogy only slightly overstated his actual methods, and the heat proved too much even for an Obama administration that had emboldened him to be so frank.

More bullying is planned for today by the rapscallions in the Occupy Wall Street gang, who have issued a call to celebrate May Day with “direct action and civil disobedience” and “other creative disruptions against the corporations who rule our city.” It’s not entirely clear what these creative disruptions will be, but the San Francisco branch has contemplated shutting down the Golden Gate Bridge, a past demonstration has shut down the Brooklyn Bridge, and blocking traffic and otherwise interfering with people’s lives has been an Occupy trademark.

In every case these bullies would be surprised and offended to hear that they are, in fact, bullies. They no doubt regard themselves in a more heroic light, thinking themselves fearless defenders of the bullied, but it’s pure self-delusion.

Savage had no way of knowing if any of the students whose faith he insulted had ever bullied a homosexual, and our experience of Christians predicts that the vast majority had not. Fluke was hailed as both hero and victim after a talk radio show host rudely characterized her as a “slut,” but it was Fluke — not the Catholic Church, not the rude talk show host — who was trying to impose her moral values on others. Armendariz might of have thought that he was protecting the environment, but maybe he was only interfering with necessary commerce, and it was up to the law to decide, not him. The Occupy people may think that they’re striking a blow for the working man by delaying his drive home from work by a few hours, but we suspect they wouldn’t be doing it at all if it weren’t so much more fun than working.

They’ll never see it that way, of course. They’re the good people, after all. The smart ones who need to teach the others a lesson. Bullies will always tell you that they’re just trying to teach someone a lesson.

— Bud Norman