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Sunny Days and Stormy Forecasts

The weather here in south-central Kansas has been pretty much perfect the last couple of days, with the forecast calling for at least another a full week of it, but we’re reading that a strong hurricane is likely bringing near-biblical floods and God only knows what else to our friends on the mid-Atlantic coast. The rest of the news seems just as foreboding, despite the the admittedly healthy economic figures, but we’re holding out hope for a few more sunny days.
The states and counties and localities that are targeted by the latest forecast of Hurricane Florence are generally well-run, and no matter what we think of their crazy liberal taxes and regulatory policies we have to admit they’ve endured a couple of centuries of hurricane catastrophes, so no matter how hard of time of it they have we’ll bet on them to endure yet another storm or two. Certainly they’ll do better than New Orleans or Puerto Rico or any of those other badly run jurisdictions after their hurricane catastrophes, so at at least the debates about it will be short lived. If Hurricane Florence takes her way to Washington, D.C., however, all bets are off.
The Bible is provably right that the rain always falls on both on the just and unjust alike, as our blameless souls souls can testify after last week’s rainy weather around here, but at this point we expect it will be another rare ante=deluvian epoch before we see the Washington swamp and all the nation’s bi-partisan sins washed away.
In the meantime we’ll try to enjoy whatever warm and  sunny weather is left around here, and try our best to steer the rest of of the world to its best destination, an wherever your are we urge you to do the same.

–Bud Norman

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Trump Takes on Harley-Davidson

Harley-Davidson has long made the motorcycles of choice for American cops, criminals, and male middle age crisis sufferers, and ranks with Louisville Slugger baseball bats and Fender electric guitars and apple pies as one of America’s most all-American products. Nonetheless, President Donald Trump now regards the company as one of his  enemies in the world trade war he’s waging.
It all started with Trump imposing punitive tariffs on imports from the European Union, which predictably resulted in the EU imposing retaliatory tariffs on certain industries in the states that cast their electoral votes for Trump in the last election. Wisconsin was one of those states, and the Milwaukee-based manufacturer of the only significant American motorcycle was hit with tariffs that would raise the cost of their product by than $2,000 in the company’s second-biggest market, which predictably resulted in Harley-Davidson’s announcement that it would avoid the tariffs by building motorcycles for the European market in Europe.
Which predictably resulted in a series of “tweets” by Trump denouncing the company as un-American, threatening to impose new taxes “like never before” on it, and predicting its American customers will soon go bankrupt as its customers go elsewhere.
All of which, of course, is balderdash. Harley-Davidson’s decision to build motorcycles in Europe is the predictable self-interested economic response to the predictable consequences of Trump’s ill-advised trade war, which seems pretty American to us, and we’d note that Trump and his favorite daughter have long had the products they peddle manufactured in other countries for far less necessary reasons. Presidents are restrained by the Constitution from levying taxes on their political enemies, and even if Trump persuaded Congress to do so it would be a bill of attainder that is explicitly unconstitutional and downright un-American. If Harley-Davidson’s proudly American customers do decide to choose another motorcycle to show their solidarity with Trump, they’ll almost certainly wind up buying a German or Japanese model and paying much more for it because of Trump’s tariffs.
Pretty much everything about Trump’s trade war against the world is similarly stupid. Those employed in the steelmaking industry might benefit, but those employed in the more numerous steel-using industries are going to take a hit and anyone who buys a Harley-Davidson motorcycle or anything else made with steel is going to wind up paying much more for it. The Kansas wheat farmers and airplane-makers around here who rely on lucrative export markets to get by are going to take a hit from all the retaliatory tariffs, too, and so will all sorts of workers in all sorts industries that don’t need Trump’s protection and aren’t in his favor.
The post-World War II order that everyone agreed to at Bretton Woods and established a global market doing business with the Yankee dollar as the reserve currency unit has brought about an unprecedented era of global peace and prosperity, and despite all the ups and undeniable downs along the way America is also better off. Trump is convinced that by his sheer Nietzche-an power of will he can negotiate the rest of the world into cutting up the post-war world order goose and giving America all the golden eggs, though, and he seems to have persuaded a significant number of fans that he can.
At one of his continuous campaign rallies on Tuesday in West Columbia, South Carolina, Trump got big laughs by insulting an outgoing Republican South Carolina congressman and a dying Republican Senator and former Republican presidential nominee who haven’t been properly obeisant to the president, as well as a couple of late-night television comedians who constantly lampoon him. He also got big cheers for promising an escalated trade war against Germany, which he blames for selling more cars in America than America sells in Germany and thus creating a trade deficit, which he considers an unforgivable offense, even though everybody runs a trade deficit with somebody, which is how the world works.
The crowd loved it, even though the biggest employer by far in the nearby and thriving town of Greenville is Bavarian Motor Works, which is as iconically German as Harley-Davidson is iconically American. Those low-paying sweat-shop textile mill jobs South Carolina used to get by on have long since been outsourced to even the lower-wage and less-regulated countries where Trump and his favorite daughter have their branded neckties and women’s apparel made, but the state is by far better off with BMW running its biggest factory in the state, and why those rally-goers have more faith in Trump than the post-war world order that has brought them such peace and prosperity is hard to explain.
We have no particular affection for Harley-Davidson motorcycles, as their customers regularly interrupt our conversations on the local taverns’ outside drinking areas with their loud flatulence, and the last time we rode a motorcycle was decades ago and on one of those Japanese “rice burners,” but we’re now rooting for this iconic American brand and the rest of the world in their war with Trump.

— Bud Norman

Waiting for Another Commensurate Scandal

Last Friday’s news that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was once again looking into Democratic nominee’s e-mails was still the big story on Monday, and with the polls tightening and only eight days left in this crazy election year she could use something that will sustain a similarly bad news cycle for Republican nominee Donald Trump. Maybe the Clinton campaign has got something they’re waiting to reveal to an eager press at just the right too-late-to-respond moment, and perhaps Trump will once again them with something on his own, but for the moment the best The New York Times can come up with is a dubious tax dodge that Trump has used and The Washington Post’s front offering is about the Trump campaigning stiffing a fancy pollster it once employed.
Once upon a better time in America both stories would have outraged public sensibilities, and might even been one of those “October surprises” that swing a race, but in this crazy election they’re unlikely to have much effect. During the presidential debates Trump pretty much boasted that he’s gone years without paying any federal income taxes as he’s racked up his much boasted-about fortune, and his supporters seemed to agree that it was just further proof of his brilliance. Trump’s penchant for paying people less than promised for their labors is also well known at this point, and that pollster will have to take his place in line behind at least a couple thousand other suckers who have already brought lawsuits against him, but Trump supporters remain convinced that he’ll surely keep all his promises to them. Although both stories are yet another reminder of all the other awful and true stories, Trump’s supporters are also fine with all of those as well. Besides, the vast majority of that tiny minority of the people who still pay any heed to The New York Times or Washington Post these days are already riled up to cast a vote for Clinton.
Among those who are still trying to figure out which of these two awful people is the more awful, that e-mail thing is more likely to get attention. They’re unlikely to share the outraged sensibility of the editorialists at The New York Times and The Washington Post about the FBI divulging information about an ongoing investigation to the public, which is yet another indication of what a crazy election this year has been, and the stories that the even the most polite press are still obliged to report necessarily recall the unsecured private server that Clinton used as Secretary of State and the suspect family charity that it seemed designed to protect and that shady aide with the exotic good looks and Muslim name who’s married that that sexting pervert with the even funnier-sounding name, which is hard to ignore. Worse yet, it’s just a late-in-the-season reminder of the all those other scandals that Clinton and her own perverted former president husband have racked up over their lucrative 40 years or so in the public eye.
The Clintons’ supporters have stuck with them through it all, though, so the latest reminder of their long history might not knick much off from her stubborn plurality in the averages of the polls. All the right wing radio talkers will be able to rile up their listeners, but they’re all riled up enough after the last 40 years. As for those who are still undecided about which candidate is the more awful, we suspect they’re not paying much attention to anybody at this point.
This crazy election year feels like one of those inept and lately low-rated National Football League games between two mediocrities that comes down to which team makes the last misplay, but in this case it’s whichever candidate has the last news cycle that reminds everyone of their arguably worse awfulness. We’re still hoping that somehow neither team wins, but making no predictions.

— Bud Norman

Fighting to a Tie a the Bottom of the Pit

As Sunday night’s presidential debate began we had a red-hot loathing for both candidates, and by end the end of it we were loathing both of them even a bit more, so we’ll call it a tie. In baseball a tie goes to the runner, and in politics it goes to the candidate whose campaign has been faring worse lately, so by the rules of American sports we’d have to say that Republican nominee Donald Trump got slightly the better of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
In the unlikely event you’ve been lucky enough to avoid any political news for the last couple of weeks, it’s pretty much all been bad for Trump. There was a general consensus that he was rude and obnoxious and obviously unprepared and strangely sniffling and thoroughly trounced in the first debate, then he followed it up with an early morning “Twitter” war against some beauty pageant winner that gained a few pounds some time ago, along with his admonition for everyone in America to watch a sex tape “check out” what proved to be either fuzzy footage of some blanketed figures in a South American reality show or some hard-core pornography featuring another Latina actress who bore a slight resemblance to the beauty queen, and the resulting three- or four-point surge in Clinton’s average of poll numbers seemed to confirm that general consensus. His boringly traditional Republican vice-presidential running mate got good reviews for his performance in a little-watched debate a week or so later, largely by indignantly denying that that he or Trump had ever said the ridiculous things that were being alleged, but the next couple of days of news were full of undeniable videotaped evidence that Trump had indeed said all of those ridiculous things. Since our last post on Friday there has surfaced an 11-year-old videotape of Trump bragging on a hot mic to his “Access Hollywood” interviewer about how his celebrity allows him to do deplorable things to both single and married women that our old-fashoined Republican editorial standards forbid us from explaining in such obscene terms as he used, which led to a rash of high-ranking Republican’s denouncing his candidacy, and all he could offer was a rather ambiguous apology and a plausible if contestable claim that Clinton’s ex-president husband was even worse.
Given all that, Clinton’s failure to make an incontestable metaphorical out against Trump on Sunday night means that he’s at least metaphorically safe on first base and still with a chance of metaphorically making it all the way home.
The first 15 minutes or so of the debate were devoted to that appalling “Access Hollywood” videotape, but that had been preceded earlier in the day by Trump’s news conference with a woman who alleges that Clinton’s husband had raped her, another woman who won a sizable settlement after alleging that Clinton’s husband had exposed himself to her, another who claims that Clinton’s husband groped her, and yet another who was a 12-year-old rape victim whose attacker had the charges reduced because of Clinton herself’s aggressive legal defense on his behalf. Trump alluded to all of it after after apologizing for his own boasts of similar behavior, which he also described as mere “locker room banter,” and Clinton conspicuously declined defend her husband’s past but instead said she would take the advice of inexplicably popular President Barack Obama’s inexplicably popular wife that “When they take the low road, we take the high road.” This will probably hearten her die-hard supporters, and even be sufficient for those more reluctant supporters who hate Trump more, but we doubt it was persuasive to even the most reluctant supporter.
Over the next few days we expect to hear a lot about that married woman who is alleging in court that Trump attacked her in pretty much the same way he was bragging about attacking women in that videotaped “locker room banter,” and one of Trump’s two ex-wife’s allegations sworn testimony that he raped her, which was sworn into court testimony but then recanted after she signed on to a generous alimony settlement that included a “no public disparagement” clause, along with numerous beauty queens and reality show starlets alleging the same sort of boorish behavior associated with Clinton’s husband. There likely won’t be as much attention paid to the recently cleared-for-trial claims of a woman that she was raped by Trump when she was 13 years old, given that his alleged co-defendant was the convicted billionaire sex-offender Jeffrey Epstein, who is also a friend and flying partner of Clinton’s husband, but in any case we’ll wind up loathing both Trump and Clinton, and expect that so will much of America. Clinton’s media allies can also call up Trump’s past claims that the impeachment of Clinton’s was a Republican mania and his disparagement of that woman who claims Clinton’s husband exposed himself to her and his past defense of both Clinton and creepy husband, and it will wind up as another disgusting tie.
The rest of it was devoted to what passes for “issues” these days, and anyone who slogged through all that boring stuff would probably call it a tie going to the runner. Secretary of State Clinton offered that ridiculously aplogetic “re-set” button with Russia that blamed any misunderstandings with the peace-loving dictator Vladimir Putin that encouraged his revanchist ambitions in Georgia and Ukraine and perhaps the rest of the former Soviet Empire, but she came off tougher on Russia than Trump, who still claims that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that dismantled the Soviet Empire is “obsolete” and clings to some hope that he and the “strong” Putin can join forces to defeat Islamic terrorism even as Russia is clearly aligned with the Iranian government that Trump rightly criticizes Clinton for helping, and he was forced to renounce his vice-presidential candidate’s more forceful stand in that supposedly winning vice-presidential debate, so we wound up loathing both all the more, and suspect that the rest of the country didn’t notice how awful both are. There was some talk about tax policy, with Clinton indignantly noting and Trump proudly admitting that he hasn’t paid much in the way of income tax since declaring a $916 million loss 20 years ago, but it was unclear if either was committed to changing that the laws that made possible.
Although the moderators did seem favor Clinton they allowed some questions about her recently-leaked big money speeches to Wall Street donors, which Clinton more or less admitted were true, and she embarrassed herself further trying to invoke “Honest” Abe Lincoln and George “I’ll Never Lie” Washington to justify it, but the coming news cycle will no doubt feature Trump’s boasts about the bribes he’s made and similar scandals he’s racked up in the private sector. In Clinton’s favor she didn’t need any laser pointers to guide her onto the stage or suffer a coughing fit or otherwise exhibit any symptoms of the imminently many fatal illnesses that have been ascribed to her, while that sniffling problem of Trump’s that was widely remarked on after the first debate seems to have gotten worse, and that “taking the high road” strategy might work out for her after the media takes the low road for her in the upcoming week.
Trump’s most ardent supporters and the more reluctant and his more reluctant Clinton-hating supporters will be delighted that he outright called her “the devil” and promised to have her imprisoned if he became president, his more die-hard supporter and the more reluctant ones who fear Trump will probably find it redolent of the South American banana republics that Trump warns we’re becoming. Clinton’s most ardent and most reluctant supporters will praise her for taking the high road, and cheer on the media as it takes the low road this week, and by the end of it we’ll be deep in the gutter. Which leaves us loathing both of these horrible people, and what we can guess are their horrible policies, which in both cases don’t even specifically address what to about the national debt and health care and a degenerate culture that has wound up offering two such spectacularly awful choices.
The good news, if you need some, is that there’s only one debate and less than four weeks left before this is all over, one way or the other.

— Bud Norman

An Election Year Impervious to Bad Press

Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump has been getting a lot of bad press lately, even by Republican president nominee standards, and by now it’s almost to a point where even such avid news readers as ourselves can hardly keep up. The bad press doesn’t seem to be having the the same effect it had on Republican presidential nominees in past election years, however, so it remains to be seen if the latest spate of stories will do any lasting damage.
The most recent round of stories have concerned many of the cast and crew and production staff of Trump’s long-running and highly-rated reality show “The Apprentice” testifying to his vulgar and sexist behavior, but at this late date in the race his vulgarity and sexism are already old news.
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has by now spent millions airing aids that include the audio and video and print interviews where the thrice-married and boastfully adulterous former strip club owner has disparaged women’s appearances, joked about how you have to “treat ’em like “s**t,” and laughingly admitted he had no respect for women, among numerous other objectionable statements. With sources ranging from his appearances on Howard Stern’s shock jock to his time on Republican presidential debate stages, the record of vulgarity and sexism is hard for even his most fervent supporters to deny. Just four years ago the press was able to use an inadvertent and inoffensive allusion to “binders full of women” to convince much of the public that such a gentlemanly sort as Mitt Romney was an incorrigible sexist, even though he was perusing those binders to find qualified women for state government positions while he was governor of Massachusetts, but this time around they’re somehow finding it harder to stoke the same outrage.
Many of Trump’s most fervent supporters seem to relish the vulgarity and sexism, his more reluctant supporters can rightly note that Clinton’s husband is similarly vulgar and sexist and has always enjoyed her ruthless support, and even the most vaguely informed and still undecided are well aware that the Democrats and their press allies always say the Republican presidential nominee is vulgar and sexist. Trump was already polling poorly among women in general and most worrisomely song college-educated Republican women in particular, so his on-the-record rants have had some effect, but the added testimonials of some reality show co-stars seem unlikely to exacerbate the damage.
Just four years ago Democratic minority leader Sen. Harry Reid was able to harm the electoral chances of the scrupulously honest Romney’s reputation by flat-out lying that the Republican nominee had paid no income taxes for a couple of years, but this time around Trump will likely be unscathed by his apparent boasts that he’s been dodging a tax bill for a couple of decades. The flap started in the first presidential debate when Clinton was making the predictable arguments Trump being the first nominee from either party in the past 40 years who hasn’t divulged his tax records, and speculating that one reason might be that it would reveal he’s paid no taxes despite his much boasted-about wealth, to which Trump responded “that makes me smart.” Since then The New York Times has been reporting that leaked income tax information reveals Trump reported a $915 million loss back in ’95, which entitled him to 18 tax free years according to the convoluted tax code, and happily implied that Trump had taken full advantage of the opportunity. Trump hasn’t denied either the factual truth or implied speculations of the story, and instead has bragged further about his savvy understanding of the convoluted tax code, so we’ll leave the reader to draw his own conclusions about the veracity of The Times’ reporting and implications.
This time around, though, we don’t expect the truth will do so manage as the lies did the last time around. No one in America pays a penny more in taxes than that convoluted tax code requires, not Hillary Clinton or The New York Times or any of its reporters or even such self-righteously disgruntled Republicans as ourselves, so we can’t imagine any vaguely informed and still undecided voters holding it against him if he kept all his ill-begotten earnings to himself.
Trump is even claiming he had a fiduciary duty to his stock holders and employees and creditors to do so, and although we can’t think of any reason they should care what he paid on his personal taxes, and can more easily imagined why they’re probably more peeved about all the bills he’s shorted them on, so we don’t expect any vaguely informed and still undecideds will stop to think about that at all. He’s also claiming that such a shrewd fellow as himself understands that convoluted tax code better than anyone else, and how it’s used by greedy billionaires such as himself to dodge their fair share of the burden and shift it onto such suckers as yourself, which does have a certain populist appeal, even if his current tax plan does nothing to stop it and none of his ever-shifting opinions on the topic have once proposed a fairer solution. Still, we doubt the vaguely informed and still undecided will notice any of that, while Trump’s more reluctant supporters will glumly and rightly protest that Clinton and her perv husband once took a write-off on the underwear they donated to charity and are just as bad, as they are in all things, and we can’t see the poll number nudging in either direction as a result of this big story. There remains the presently undisputed fact that Trump somehow managed to lose $916 million in a single year, which in past years would have called into question his constant boasts about bringing his remarkable business acumen to at long last saving our deep-in-debt federal government, but this time around The New York Times has buried that tidbit six column inches under the lead paragraph, and Trump’s more reluctant supporters can rightly note how very suspiciously rich Clinton has become in the public service sector.
The Washington Post is gleefully reporting that the New York Attorney General has now shut down Trump’s charitable foundation, which has been the subject of at least three scandals they’ve already reported involving tax-dodging and and personal profit and no contributions for many years from the eponymous philanthropist, but the vaguely informed and still undecided probably won’t read about it, and if they do their reluctant Trump supporter friends can glumly and quite rightly recite all the scandals about Clinton’s phony-baloney pay-to-play “family foundation,” which they’ll have to glumly admit Trump once financially supported. It’s tawdry stuff, all around, but once again unlikely to nudge the polls in either direction.
There’s so much more going on that even such avid news readers as ourselves are hard-pressed to keep up with it, but the benefit of the more vaguely informed and still undecided among you the gist of it seems to be that both Trump and Clinton are every bit as awful as you already knew from the past few decades of occasionally paying attention. It’s enough to make us nostalgic for the last time around, when the press had to work hard to suggest that the Republican nominee was a vulgar sexist and the Democrats had to flat-out lie that he was a tax-dodger and neither candidate was making an issue of the other’s blissfully boring sex life.

— Bud Norman

From the Mixed-Up Files of Ms. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz

There’s nothing we can find in the Democratic National Committee’s recently “hacked” and by now widely-disseminated-across-the-internet computer files that indicates how much they’re paying their information technology and opposition research employees, but whatever it is they’re grossly overpaid. It’s embarrassing enough that an outfit in the business of the running the entire country can’t fend off such predictable cyber espionage, especially when there’s an ongoing criminal investigation into party’s presumptive presidential nominee’s similarly sloppy systems while serving as Secretary of State, but that newly-revealed case they came up with against the Republican party’s presumptive nominee was more cringe-inducing yet.
Hilariously stamped “confidential” on each of its 237 printed-out pages, the report does indeed make a convincing case that the presumptive Republican nominee is a rather nasty piece of work. “One thing is clear about about Donald Trump. There is only one person he has ever looked out for, and that is himself,” the report begins. “Whether it’s the American workers, the Republican Party, or his wives, Trump’s only fidelity has been to himself. Trump will say or do anything to get what he wants without regard for those he harms.” The following 236 pages have ample and needlessly repetitive citations to back it all up, along with all the mocking the handicapped and disparaging American prisoners of wars and downright creepily sexist statements and the four corporate bankruptcies and all the out-sourcing and hiring of foreign workers that the anti-outsourcing and anti-immigrant nominee did and the generally annoying schoolyard bully-boy persona he’s nursed in his long career as a reality star, along with most but not nearly all of the rest of the by-now familiar litany, and it’s all in Trump’s own spoken or written or “tweeted” words, along with the undeniably racist and sexist stuff he’s “re-tweeted,” and by now we don’t feel at all obligated to deny any of it, but by now the Democratic National Committee will have to come up with something better than that.
Such once respected and formerly Republican publications as The National Review and The Weekly Standard and The New Criterion and The Central Standard Times have been making the same points since the onset of the Republican primary campaign, when there were two or three men and one woman in the 17-person field that we thought would have made formidable nominees and fine presidents, and 12 others we would have found at least tolerable and likely electable, and it’s all too plain to see how that has worked out. We’d like to think we’ve been even more thorough in our criticisms of the presumptive Republican nominee than that 237-page report, and made the case with more literary flair, but What those sloppy and incomplete and surely overpaid cut-and-pasters don’t understand, and which has at long last dawned on us, is that none of it matters. Much of it is by now “old news,” as the presumptive Democratic and her former president husband have long used to describe their lifelong histories of scandals, and a lot of people seem to like the idea of a Nietzschean will-to-power type who will crush his enemies and revel in the lamentations of their women just like fellow celebrity former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger did in that “Conan the Barbarian” hit, and even such reluctant sorts of Republicans as ourselves we can see the appeal given that the presumptive Democratic nominee is former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
She’s a nasty piece of work, too, and we and all the rest of the once respected and formerly Republican publications have been making that case since way back when the presumptive Republican nominee was inviting her to his latest wedding and telling his interviewers how great she was and contributing a six-figure check to her family’s phony-baloney influence-peddling “family foundation.” If the undoubtedly overpaid “oppo researchers” at the Republican National want a hacked report with at least more completeness and literary than their Democratic counterparts, they can feel free to have “fair use” to our many years of ridicule and denunciation and carefully cited criticisms of this awful woman. All that already well known and soon to be revived talk about Trump’s well-publicized and oft-bragged-about and thoroughly tawdry sex life is pretty much negated by any mention of the word “Clinton,” which is by now a double entendre, and at least he was the only one of the two in the current race who was getting all the action, so far as we know, and America always love a winner, except for that significant percentage of the electorate that seems to identify with victims. If Clinton never shafted any private sector workers, as Trump surely did, it’s only because she rarely hired any in her long and inglorious tax-supported history, and if Trump never peddled any public sector favors, as Clinton surely has, it was only because he’d never before offered his talents to public service and instead been in the public sector buying favors and then bragging about it on a Republican debate stage. As to which of these two awful people has ever demonstrated any fidelity to anyone but themselves, we’ll leave it to the rest of this suddenly strange country to decide.
We’re not inclined to offer advice to Democrats, but we feel such pity for those sorry but overpaid souls in the national committee’s “oppo research” department that we’ll suggest they not bother at all with Trump’s outrageously over-the-top remarks regarding immigration from Islamic countries, because as crazy as it admittedly is it isn’t quite so crazy as the presumptive Democratic nominee’s insistence that Islam has noting to do with terrorism, and it reminds everyone that her entire tenure as Secretary of State was just awful, and that people tend to believe the presumptive Republican nominee’s false claims that he’s called every major foreign policy decision of his lifetime perfectly, believe him. The report suggests attacking Trump on his calls for lower income tax rates at the top brackets and his opposition to a rise in the minimum wage, which once warmed our formerly Republican hearts, but by now Trump has of course abandoned these positions for the moment and is out-bidding the Democrat for the disgruntled support of her self-described socialist challenger. Back in the old days the presumptive Democratic nominee’s then-president husband gave rise to the term “triangulation” describe how they roped in all their party’s base without overly offending the Republicans, but we will warn his wife’s “oppo research” team that their opponent is also pretty good at it.
What that hapless Democratic “oppo research” team needs, if we were inclined to give them some advice, is something that even haven’t yet come up with on Trump. The estimable Jonah Goldberg over at the once respected and formerly Republican National Review noted that Trump has plausibly bragged about how he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose any support, but amusingly wondered what might happen if Trump were to shoot a gorilla, and whether it would make any difference if the gorilla had come from Mexico or some Middle Eastern country. Something along those lines will probably be necessary, as the public now seems inured to the idea of some scandal-ridden miscreant running the country, and the polls show that the vast majority of the public can’t stand either of them, and our best guess is it will come down to some weird season finale twist in this gruesome surreality show.

— Bud Norman

On Wisconsin

We just had a long and long-overdue heart-to-heart conversation with a dear old friend of ours, conducted through a series a beers on our part and the famously stiff vodka-and-tonics offered at Harry’s Uptown Bar and Grill on his part, and as much as we love the guy it was a rather dreary affair. He’s a hard-working and highly intelligent and rigidly moral yet religiously conflicted fellow with well-informed and carefully thought opinions who reliably votes for the most conservative candidates, and is so far doing an extraordinarily good job of raising a thirteen-year-old son to be the sort of man who thinks through life’s most vexing questions humbly and thoughtfully and doesn’t mock handicapped people or refer to the women in his life as “pieces of ass” or embrace the most Smoot-Hawley sort of protectionist claptrap or anthropogenic global warming alarmism or any of that Young Earth creationism, and he didn’t see how any of the current presidential possibilities seemed to work out for the boy.
The only consolation that we could offer that was maybe Wisconsin could provide some good news. As it turns out, the good people of Wisconsin delivered on both sides of the vast political divide.
Our only brief experiences of the state of Wisconsin suggest it’s not a good place to be hitch-hiking through in the winter, despite the residents’ reputation for niceness, but we’ve long admired their political pugnacity. Wisconsin was home to the Progressivism of “Fightin'” Bob La Follette during the progressive era that infiltrated both parties, was at the forefront of the union movement that soon overtook most of the nation’s the public sector, and more lately under the leadership of Republican governor and duly vanquished presidential contender Scott Walker it has been at the forefront of rejection of unionism in general and public sector unionism in particular, and the state is also the home of Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, the only Republican left talking frankly about the looming debt and entitlement catastrophe and the go-to bogeyman of the-hated-by-all-sides Republican Establishment, so we expected good result from such a place. Sure enough, red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalist and unapologetically Judeo-Crhistian Texas Sen. Ted Cruz came out with a telling majority in the Republican primary over self-scribed billionaire and real-estate-and-gambling-and-reality-show-and-piece-of-ass mogul Donald J. Trump, who thought it a shrewd move to criticize the heroic anti-anestablishmentarian Scott Walker for not raising taxes on the days leading to a Republican primary, and the self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders had an equally convincing win over that horrible former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and once-presumed First Woman President Hillary Clinton, who is almost as hard for our feminist friends to explain to their promising young daughters. The cheeseheads on both sides of Wisconsin’s vast political divides had at least offered up a starkly ideological choice between people who at least seem to believe what they’re saying, and we’ll still take our chances on that dicey play.
The next rounds of these intriguingly close races are played in the populous northeastern states, where Clinton and Sanders are presumed to have the advantages, which confirms our stereotypical prairie assumptions about that region, but at it should be clear that at least no one is inevitable, and our friend and we agree that the names on the tickets might well be someone not named Trump or Cruz or Clinton or Sanders, and that it might even be the least worst outcome. That’s how it looks from Harry’s Uptown Bar and Grill in the heart of America, at least, and we’re holding out hope that our friend’s promising young son turns out to be a great man.

— Bud Norman

The Latest Episode of the Perils of the GOP

The Republican presidential race is quickly becoming our favorite television show, almost to the point that we wish it were already over and we could “binge watch” the entire season to to its cliff-hanging conclusion on Netflix. Tuesday night’s installment was the best yet, with some intriguing plot twists and a refreshing focus on some fascinating but previously minor characters, and some travails of the formerly featured players, as well as much better production qualities.
Our cheapskate ways and aversion to popular culture preclude us from purchasing cable television, so we give thanks to the Fox Business Network, which is obviously the business news affiliate of the notoriously capitalistic and greedy Fox News organization, for making it available for the free on the internet, unlike the previous debate producers at CNBC, where the “C” stands for cable or capitalism and the “NBC” stands for the righteously anti-capitalist and pro-share-the-wealth National Broadcast Company, which insisted that everyone pay for its product. We further thank for them asking actual questions of the candidates, rather than spewing sneering diatribes ended with a question mark, because as much fun as it was to watch the Republicans bash the moderators in the last debate this episode was even better.
Previous episodes had somehow established two political neophytes, blustery real estate billionaire Donald Trump and soft-spoken neurosurgeon Ben Carson, as the frontrunners, but this time both seemed relegated to supporting roles. Another non-office-holder, former high-tech executive Carly Fiorina, seemed to get more air time and to make more of it. When the questions veered from economic issues to foreign affairs, Trump started talking about letting Russian President Vladimir Putin run the Middle East, Carson rambled in his efforts to reconcile his past dovishness in Afghanistan and Iraq with a more popular hawkishness, and Fiorina got the biggest applause of the three with some very tough talk about the need to project American power. Of the three candidates untainted by previous positions in government, which voters suddenly seem to find very attractive, we’d rate her performance the best.
Trump was conspicuously less prominent than in past debates, and his bully boy persona seems to be wearing thin. Much of his ire was aimed at former congressman and current Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who otherwise would have gone entirely unnoticed, and Trump’s argument that Ohio’s recent economic rebound was merely a matter of “striking oil” was easily rebutted, and his sneer that “I don’t need to listen to this man” was booed by many people who certainly never had any intention of supporting the recently mushy Kasich but feel that his long record of public service at least entitles him to have his say in a Republican debate. His complaint that Fiorina too often interjected herself into the debate was briefly cheered by his supporters with their usual pro-wrestling fan enthusiasm, but it surely gave his feminist and other female critics another reason to hate him, and there were enough old-fashioned chivalrous males and less aggrieved women in the audience at a Republican debate that he endured another round of boos. His best moment came when he criticized the Obama administration’s Trans-Pacific Partnership boondoggle, emphasizing that he supports free trade but credibly claiming that he could have negotiated a better deal, but even that didn’t get much applause.
Carson’s more polite presentation fared somewhat better. He stumbled badly when the discussion ranged into foreign policy, noting how darned complicated it all seems to be, but he had good moments talking about capitalism and entrepreneurialism and risk-taking and the economic anxieties of the middle class. At not point was he booed for his boorish insults, and the phony-baloney scandals about him that the press have lately concocted went unmentioned even by Trump, and the first wave of punditry raved about his performance, so our guess is that he didn’t suffer so much as Trump.
Among the candidates who are tainted by previous public service, we’d say that Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and especially Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas seemed the likely winners. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul had a good moment talking about the Democrats’ hysteria over climate change, as befits a Senator from a coal-mining state, but his isolationist views and stubborn insistence that a hefty military budget is not conservative made him a whipping boy for the rest of the candidates. Cruz got the best of it by noting that the defense of America is expensive but not nearly expensive as not defending it, Rubio got in a couple of good lines about the necessity of America being the world’s greatest military power, Fiorina also got some licks in, and even the most weak-kneed of the candidates made clear that the Republican party and conservatism still stand for a stronger national defense than any Democratic candidate might prefer.
There was some hearteningly radical talk about abolishing the Internal Revenue Service and other sensible tax reforms from all the candidates, with Cruz going the furthest, and even Trump was forced to concede that all the plans put forth were preferable to the status quo or any adjustments the Democrats were considering. Another big topic was illegal immigration, and although Trump and the obviously irrelevant Kasich had a sharp exchange about the feasibility of deporting every illegal immigrant it was clearly that even of the mushiest of the lot would be more strident than even the stiffly-spined Democratic on the issue. All the candidates came off more stridently capitalist than any of the Democrats, as well, and still sounded more authentically populist in their opposition to crony-capitalism than even the most ardently socialist can claim to be. On most of the poll-tested push-button issues, the eventual Republican nominee will be positioned.
The latest debate gave more time than the previous ones to Kasich and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and they made less of it. Bush’s closing statements had something to do with the Veterans Administration and not much else, according to our admittedly bored notes, and we expect that Kasich’s strong stand as the least strident of the candidates in his opposition to illegal immigration was surely the death knell of his candidacy. There’s no telling how the installment will go, but for now our best guess is that that Bush and Kasich are out, Trump is trending downwards, Carson stays steady, Fiorina retains an outside chance, and that Rubio gains but Cruz does even better, whoever emerges will be better than the Democrat candidate, whose identity remains a mystery, and that there’s no telling how that might turn out.

— Bud Norman

Oh-High-Oh

The good people of Ohio will vote today on a referendum called Issue 3, which would legalize both medical and recreational marijuana use and confer a legal marijuana-growing monopoly on the  small group of wealthy investors who have largely bankrolled the public relations campaign for its passage. This is quite the dilemma for certain types of both conservatives and liberals, but we expect that even the most addled Buckeye potheads will be able to figure out that it’s a bad idea all around.
The more sober of the libertarian sort of conservatives will have to weigh their aversion to legal monopolies on anything against the prospect of legal weed, while the more fervent sort of liberals will have weigh their enthusiasm for both legal weed and legal monopolies against their aversion to small groups of wealthy investors getting rich on anything, and it will be interesting to see how they both choose. The social conservatives won’t find anything to like in the deal, of course, and those Democrats honest enough to admit they don’t mind a good public-private sweetheart deal so long as the state gets its cut won’t find anything wrong with it. So far as we can tell about the ideological composition of the Ohio electorate, this means the referendum could come down to the pothead vote.
If so, any hookah-huffing Ohioan should consider the question from a self-interested perspective and realize that a legal monopoly is always unlikely to meet his demand with a reliable and high-quality and cost-efficient supply better than the currently illegal and thus entirely free market. Should the referendum pass those tax dollars that are tempting even the straightest sorts of voters will be added to the price of a bag, monopolies tend to raise prices further yet, regulators regularly get involved to stifle innovations and further raise prices, and eventually there is a certain wistful nostalgia for the good old days of Prohibition and the friendly unincorporated neighborhood speakeasy and that old neighborhood hippie who always had The Allman Brothers playing during a deal. Given that almost nobody gets jailed for simple possession of small amounts of marijuana anymore, unless they happen to have some on them when they get busted for a more serious crime and have it added on the charges for the sake of plea bargain negotiations, an otherwise law-abiding marijuana enthusiast would not be better of if the referendum were to win.
We won’t be surprised if it does win, though. Public opinion has slowly crawled to a bare-majority support for legalized marijuana, those promised tax dollars are always tempting to voters, by now pretty much everyone knows someone who uses marijuana that they don’t care to send to jail, and such outrageous cronyism and corruption and convoluted capitalism as Issue 3 represents can be sold as responsible regulation of some ineradicable problem. Gambling used to be widely considered a social evil, and was as strictly forbidden as marijuana ostensibly remains in most jurisdictions, but the lure of tax dollars and the pervasiveness of gambling and the promises of sensible regulation have resulted in legal monopolies on “gaming” within a short drive of almost every American. We’ve got a big Indian casino just a few miles of high-speed Interstate south of our own very conservative city, although the office basketball pool and the weekly poker games in the buddy’s basement and the craps games that are said to still flourish on South Broadway remain as illegal as ever, and that referendum passed with the support of all the local business groups as well as all the liberals who hate every industry except the one that does nothing but separate suckers from their money.
All the local offices are still having basketball pools and the same old married guys are still sneaking away to weekly poker games and South Broadway will always be South Broadway, even if the big Indian casino south of town does draw a significant share of the local gambling market, and we expect that a similar legal arrangement regarding the marijuana market will yield similar results. We know a fellow who lives in a remote mountain town in Colorado where there are seven legal marijuana shops to serve a town with a year-round population of 2,300, and we take his word for it that most of the local vipers still patronize the same unlicensed and untaxed and unregulated and downright illegal dealers they bought from before “legalization.” Those promises of tax dollars won’t be kept, the promises of responsible regulation will prove even more overstated, and the inherent problems of an illegal market that can’t call the cops to resolve a grievance will remain.
If Ohioans decide not to send anyone to jail for smoking marijuana that will be fine by us, and neither will we worry if they choose to retain the current laws and continue to enforce them with the usual laxity. We hope they won’t decide on some middle ground that makes it legal for one person to sell the stuff but continues to make it illegal for others, though, as that sort of two-tier legal system does not serve the purpose of democracy and there is way too much of that going on already.

— Bud Norman

Sanders’ Candor and its Concerns

That Sen. Bernie Sanders fellow has been has lately been filling big halls with enthusiastic crowds during his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, even though he admits to being a socialist but won’t admit to being a Democrat, and it has a certain worrisome entertainment value for right-wing bastards such as ourselves. There’s some fun in watching former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton being challenged with such populist lese majeste, and seeing how very far left she’ll have to veer in order to satisfy her party, but so far the very best part has been hearing him bad-mouth the American economy.
In a speech before more than 3,000 avid supporters in Council Bluffs, in the crucial first-to-vote state of Iowa, where the latest polls have him within striking distance of an unthinkable upset, and which clocked in at a Castro-esque 75 minutes, Sanders admitted that whatever rosy numbers of the Bureau of Labor Statistics might be publishing the actual unemployment rate still exceeds a recessionary 10-and-a-half percent. Right-wing bastards such as ourselves have been repeatedly making the same dire point for some time now, while the more respectable media have been enthusiastically reporting whatever rosy numbers the Bureau of Labor Statistics has been publishing, so there is some satisfaction in hearing the left wing’s latest darling concede the fact while having standing-room-only crowds of left wingers cheer him on. We can’t agree with his proposed solutions of higher taxes on the rich and ever more regulations on the businesses that might actually bring that unhappy unemployment number down and fewer choices of deodorant and sneakers on the store shelves, but we do acknowledge Sanders’ unusual candor, and we hope that it will allow the debate about what to do about this unfortunate situation to proceed in accordance with the facts rather than the latest rosy numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Thus far the the Clinton campaign’s cautious line has been that she’s female, offering the public the historic achievement of following the failed the administration of the African-American president with the failed administration of the first Female American president, and that the Republicans would prevent you from buying contraceptives, or at least balk at subsidizing your contraception with taxpayers’ dollars, and that the world is a much more placid place as a result of her four years as Secretary of State and will be downright idyllic once Iran gets a nuclear bomb or two or three, and that she’ll continue the same Sanders-esque but slightly saner economic policies that have brought us those latest rosy numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Sanders line seems to be that the past six years of the Obama administration have only brought us an unemployment rate that is actually at a recessionary 10-and-a-half percent unemployment, and that far more of the same is therefore needed. Even the most limpid of the Republican candidates who becomes the party’s nominee will wind up arguing that something entirely different is required, and at least he’ll have a significant portion of the opposition agreeing that there is a problem to be solved.
As much entertainment value as this has, it’s still worrisome. At this point we rate Sanders’ chances of an upset win as about fifty-fifty, and expect that his strong showings in the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primaries will inspire more credible challenges to Clinton’s supposed inevitability, and we’re aware of our many fellow right-wing bastards who hope that it will result in something akin to Nixon’s trouncing of the far-left McGovern way back in ’72, but by now we’re careful what we wish for. Surely few Americans believe those latest rosy numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and that actual number that Sanders candidly admits will undoubtedly be the bigger issue come Election Day, but a lot has changed since ’72 and we are no longer certain that an electoral majority of Americans will disagree that higher taxes and more regulations and fewer choices of deodorants are the correct response to a moribund economy.

— Bud Norman