Advertisements

No Restroom for the Weary

As much as we’d like to ignore all the noisome brouhaha about transgendered restroom rights, and merely dismiss it as just another one of those passing post-religious manias that so often occur these days, there are bigger issues involved.
Until about 15 minutes or so ago the current social arrangement of providing chromosome-segregated restrooms and dressing rooms in public and private buildings had prevailed almost everywhere in the civilized world, and been generally acceptable to more than 99 percent of every country’s population, but these days that’s insufficient reason not to have a noisome brouhaha over something. The city council of Charlotte, North Carolina, decided that it would welcome a tiny minority of men into its women’s rooms and a presumably even smaller number of women into its men’s rooms, so the state legislature quickly passed and the governor signed into law a bill saying that no, this is just another one of those post-religious manias that so often occur these days and more than 99 percent of the state’s population was perfectly happy with the existing social arrangement and we’re going to keep it, and even the fractional remainder of the country had somehow managed to cope, but of course there was nonetheless a resulting brouhaha.
Some aging rock stars cancelled concerts in the state, other celebrities “tweeted” their disapproval of North Carolina, some more youthfully vibrant corporations promised boycotts, and even a governor of another state restricted university sports teams and other employees from traveling to the state, even though all were perfectly willing to do business in countries where homosexuality is quite sternly punished and transgendered rights to public restrooms and dressing rooms is an entirely unfamiliar idea. That the likes of this motley and hypocritical coalition might well overturn a long established social arrangement that had previously been accepted by more than 99 percent of the population is one of those bigger issues that we worry about.
Perhaps worse yet, the federal government is also in on it, with the Obama administration’s thoroughly politicized Department of Justice bringing a lawsuit against the state of North Carolina alleging that its legal affirmation of the longstanding and accepted-by-more-than-99-percent-of-the-policy social range is in violation of the law that was passed in 1972 and by now well-known as “Title IX.” The law has reconfigured college sports and countless other institutions by on insisted on sexual equality in public expenditures, sometimes for the good and often for the worse, but any plain reading of its text suggests there’s nothing in there quite so crazy as insisting ending that well-established and overwhelmingly approved insistence on chromosome-segrated restrooms and dressing rooms. The act makes no mention of “sexual identity,” and despite repeated efforts Congress has consistently refused to include it, and anyone with a vague memory of 1972 will recall that no one was asserting some creepy guy’s right to hang around the women’s restrooms or dressings rooms. When the Equal Rights Amendment was being debate in our high school days there was some concern that it would render chromosome-segregated restrooms as unconstitutional as the “white’s only” restrooms of the Jim Crow south, just as the Justice Department is now alleging. ¬†Back then such a legal authority as current far-left Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who would surely rule against North Carolina now, was reassuring that 99-percent-satisfied-with-current-social-arrangement that “Separate places to disrobe, sleep, perform personal bodily functions are permitted, in some situations required, by regard for personal privacy. Individual privacy, a right of constitutional dimension, is appropriately harmonized with the equality principle.”
What you’ve got here is a bunch of celebrities and some rich businessmen and some equally unaccountable bureaucrats who can interpret a 1972 law from their 15-minutes-ago perspective imposing their policies to overturn the past many millennia of social-customs-accepted-by-more-than-99-percent of the population, and that is the biggest issue. of all
We’d like to think that the presumptive nominee of our once-beloved Republican Party would at least take a forthright stand against this nonsense from the outset, but the oh-so-politically-incorrect fellow instead expressed dismay that North Carolina would offend any aging rock stars or vibrant young companies by causing a brouhaha, then gave a shout-out to his fellow reality star Bruce “Caitlyn” Jenner and invited him or her to use the women’s room at his fabulous Trump Tower, and although he quickly walked it back to a state’s rights position that is at least better than his likely Democratic challenger’s stand, for the moment, we are not all reassured. There are very big issues afoot in this country. The bureaucracy’s creative and five-minutes-ago interpretations of laws passed by people who had no such intentions in mind, and are unrecognizable to anyone who bothers to read the plain English today, are already creating economic and environmental and social and racial havoc on our society, but at the moment the only question seems to be whose ox will gored.

— Bud Norman

Advertisements

The Idleness of March

The month of March always brings severe weather and post-season college basketball on this part of the Great Plains, both of which can be quite rivetingly turbulent, but until they begin in earnest this quadrennial year we’re finding nothing of interest in the news but those already tiresome presidential races.
For a while now we’ve barely heard a peep out of President Barack Obama, much less anything to work up a rant about, and we’ll begrudgingly concede that he was gracious in his remarks about the passing of former First Lady Nancy Reagan, and acknowledge our appreciation for all the half-mast flags that are flying around town. The economy is still awful, but only awful in more or less the same awful way it’s been for the past eight years or so, and not awful in a way that any of the candidates or the world’s bankers seem to know how to fix. Despite a recent brief lull in terror attacks on the west, that whole world-on-fire situation is still also awful, but one party is insisting that climate change is a bigger problem and the front-runner in the other party is telling apocryphal stories about solving it all with bullets dipped in pigs’ blood, and that’s about the only reason all that foreign policy blah-blah-blah is in the news these days.
We note that ace quarterback Peyton Manning is retiring from football, and we wish him well, as he always seemed a nice enough guy and made our brother in Colorado quite happy by winning a Super Bowl for the Denver Broncos last month, but that’s only so interesting. There were some Academy Awards recently, but we couldn’t possibly care less about that, and we’re sure there’s some sex scandal afoot involving some reality television stars or another, and although the cast likely involves a future president we don’t care to keep track of that stuff.
We’re coming up on the Ides of March, and have been forewarned about them by our Shakespearian education, but until the coming catastrophes we’re searching about hopeful news.

— Bud Norman

If He’s So Rich, How Come He Ain’t Smart?

A healthy ego is required to run for the presidency of the United States, but Donald Trump takes it to his characteristic levels of excess. The tendency was on full display Tuesday during the announcement of his campaign for the nation’s highest office, where he boasted of his top-secret-but-foolproof plan to defeat the Islamic State, confidently predicted that “I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created,” bragged that his nearby Gucci store was worth more than Mitt Romney, and described himself as “the most successful person ever to run for the presidency, by far.”
The oft-bankrupt real estate mogul and longtime reality television series star clearly isn’t running on the usual aw-shucks-I’m-just-a-regular guy shtick that fabulously wealthy Democrats such as Hillary Clinton routinely employ, and we must admit that he’s at least savvy enough to know that wouldn’t have worked for him, and that it probably wouldn’t have hurt the aforementioned Romney to have been a little less defensive about his more honestly earned and more generously shared wealth, but surely some small measure of humility is required to actually be the President of the United States. We’ve read enough Greek dramas to know about hubris and nemesis, and enough of the Bible to know that pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall, and when you throw in that ridiculous haircut of his and the embarrassment of a long-running reality television show Trump seems to be just asking for it. While we admire financial acumen just as much as the next guy, or at least the next Republican guy, we also have to quibble with his rather limited definition of success.
Trump might or might not be the richest person ever to run for the presidency, depending on which accounting of his extremely complicated spreadsheets you choose to believe, but that hardly makes him the most successful. George Washington had successfully led a rag-tag army of farmers and merchants to victory over the world’s mightiest military, which is at least as impressive as getting rich, which we he also did. Alexander Hamilton’s failed candidacy came after he had played a key role in that same rag-tag army’s victory, and then as the first Secretary of the Treasury had set up an American financial system that was the most successful wealth-generator in history until our recent profligacy ruined it, and we’re further impressed that he selflessly chose not to enrich himself in the process. Ulysses S. Grant had successfully forced the legendarily wily Robert E. Lee to Appomattox, which most historians agree was of far greater significance than his numerous failures as a businessman. Dwight Eisenhower had led a fissiparous coalition of out-gunned countries to victory over the Nazis, thus saving the world from history’s greatest calamity, and one needn’t be a historian to see how that’s a bigger deal than a Gucci store and an Atlantic City casino. That Trump measures success only in terms of dollars and cents, and even then by the most favorable accounting methods, is as problematic as his ego.
Other past presidential candidates have offered up impressive resumes full of notable successes, as well, and in many cases they’ve haven’t resulted in¬†successful presidencies. Herbert Hoover had become quite wealthy with his international mining ventures, and he did so without the benefit of inherited wealth and in a way that won him world-wide acclaim for his ethical business practices, then volunteered for such hard jobs as coordinating relief efforts for Europe after World I, coordinating similar relief efforts for the victims of the Great Mississippi Flood, and serving as Commerce Secretary during the boom years of the Coolidge administration, and he was widely regarded as spectacularly successful in each of these tasks. He’s now regarded as one of the least successful presidents, however, and we think that’s largely due to all the counter-productive tinkering he did to overcome the Great Depression because he believed in his own powers more than he did the resilience of the free enterprise system. George H.W. Bush had a resume that not only included a successful private sector career but also public service posts ranging from Central Intelligence Agency director to Ambassador to China to being Vice President during the most successful presidential administration of our lifetime, and a similar confidence in himself had less dire consequences but slowed the momentum from the aw-shucks-I’m-just-a-B-movie-actor Reagan years.
Pretty much every presidential candidate ever has had a less a ridiculous haircut than Trump, going all the way back to the powdered wig days and even through the era when the bald were still eligible for the job, and none of them ever became famous for saying “you’re fired” to the sorts of desperate attention-seekers who co-star on cheesy reality television shows, and even the egotistical likes of John Kerry and Barack Obama preferred to let their allies in the mainstream press talk about how they would be the greatest presidents God ever created, and all of these things also figure into our definition of successful. By our accounting Donald Trump isn’t anywhere near the most successful person to run for president, and we have no doubt he’d be a spectacularly unsuccessful president, and his candidacy seems the quixotic quest of one of those desperately attention-seeking sorts you find on cheesy reality shows. The money and the name recognition and the desire of much of the media to portray the Republican nomination race as a freak show will bring him plenty of attention, and the fabulously wealthy and downright ridiculous Ross Perot has already proved that a certain percentage of the country can fall for it, but the sooner he’s out of this race the better.

— Bud Norman