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The Dems Get Some Wins

This had been a long and desultory 364 days for the Democratic Party, what with President Donald Trump winning the White House and the rest of the Republicans maintaining control of congress before reeling off a winning streak of four special elections, but on Tuesday night they at long last put some impressive wins on the board. The Democrats decisively won a gubernatorial race in Virginia that was widely seen as a referendum on Trump, as well as all the other statewide offices and a House  of Delegates race pitting a transgender candidate against the self-described “chief homophobe of Virginia” who had authored a segregated restroom bill, and they ended eight years of Republican rule in the New Jersey governor’s mansion with a  far bigger rout.
That Virginia gubernatorial race got the most attention, of course, because it was expected to be close and was by the far the most interesting. The race pitted Republican Ed Gillespie against Democrat Ralph Northam, and the stark contrast in a state that is neither very Republican nor very Democratic had obvious national implications. Both parties, we suspect, will carefully analyze the race.
Gillespie is a longtime Washington lobbyist who served as a counselor to President George W. Bush and ran the Republican National Committee’s state organizing operation and was a senior member of Republican nominee Mitt’s Romney’s campaign, and such impeccably establishment credentials and a mainstream message brought him to a near upset against longtime Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Warner in 2014. By 2016 Trump had won with anti-establishment and defiantly outside-the-mainstream message, and although Virginia was the only southern state that Trump didn’t carry Gillespie decided to pursue a similar strategy. His advertisements stressed Northam’s past support for “sanctuary cities” that refuse to enforce federal immigration laws and promised a much tougher stand, touted his own opposition to the removal of public statues honoring the Confederacy, and included some direct mail showing pictures of National Football League players taking a knee during the national anthem.
The campaign was careful not to mention Trump by name, and reportedly declined Trump’s repeated offers of an appearance on Gillespie’s behalf, but it was hard not to notice the Trumpian overtones. Trump had narrowly lost the state despite huge majorities in the very Southern southern part of the state because of huger majorities in the northern part of state where everybody works in nearby Washington, D.C, so the apparent strategy was to rile up the rednecks in the south without alarming all the more genteel Republican congressional staffers and lobbyists and reporters in the D.C. suburbs who had almost carried him to victory just three years earlier. If Trump were a shrewder politician he would have played along by staying away, but of course he “tweeted” his way into contest with taunts of Northam and no mention of Gillespie, and that didn’t help Gillespie pull of what was already bound to be a difficult trick.
The president predictably “tweeted” while on his Asian tour that Gillespie lost because he didn’t fully embrace Trump, forgetting that Virginia was the one southern state that he didn’t win. A full-throated Trump endorsement might have brought out a few extra votes in those oh-so-southern precincts, but it would have also energized all the Democrats in the D.C suburbs while discouraging those Republican establishment voters who live next door, so there’s no reason to think he would have fared any better in the state this around. The last time Trump was invited to a campaign appearance was during the special Republican primary in Alabama, where he rarely mentioned his preferred candidate’s name and admitted he might have made a mistake in endorsing the guy in the first and got more headlines by fulminating about NFL players, and that guy wound up losing to a full-fledged theocrat who’s Trumpier than Trump himself, who might yet wind up losing in Alabama of all places.
There’s a strong case to be made against “sanctuary cities,” although our old-fashioned Republican sensibilities prefer they not be couched in such frankly racialist language as both Trump and Gillespie have used, and the there’s a reasonable case for preserving those statues honoring confederate soldiers, but no case to be made for honoring the Confederacy, and surely the country has better things to worry about than what some NFL players do during the national anthem, so we’re not sure what good Trumpism did Gillespie even without bringing Trump into it.
Meanwhile the Democrats were running a very mainstream and establishment candidate, who was of course too far left for our tastes and most of the D.C. suburb Republicans, but it could have been worse. Self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and the entire Sandersnista wing of the party backed insurgent candidate Tom Perrielo in the primary, but after that fell short Perrielo enthusiastically campaigned on Northam’s behalf against the Trumpian threat, and the party unity carried the day. That’s a lesson Democrats elsewhere would be wise to heed, but so far they don’t seem any smarter about this stuff than the Republicans.
The Democratic blow-out in New Jersey was more predictable, given the state’s Democratic tendencies, but also has implications for Trump and Trumpism. Gov. Chris Christie won the office eight years ago because the longtime Democratic rule had over-taxed and over-spent and over-regulated the state so badly that it went for a rare Republican, and after some initial pain the tax cuts and spending cuts and deregulation had worked out well enough to win him reelection, but since then he’s managed to annoy just about everyone. Hard-core Republicans were appalled when he literally hugged President Barack Obama in the aftermath of a hurricane that hit New Jersey, and of course the Democrats weren’t all placated. He denounced the character and intellect and temperament of Trump when they were both vying for the Republican nomination, and when became an obsequious sycophant after Trump forced him out of the primary of course the Trump supporters weren’t placated. Christie had sent Trump’s son-in-law’s father to prison back in his days as a federal prosecutor and didn’t get a cabinet appointment, which made him look ridiculous, and a bridge tie-up engineered by his underlings and an embarrassing photo of him of sunning his considerable self on a public beach he’d ordered closed during a government didn’t help,
Despite his first term heroics Christie is leaving office with an approval rating below 20 percent, so it’s hardly surprising that an instinctively Democratic state overwhelmingly rejected his Lieutenant Governor to replace him. We’re not sure what lessons Republicans or Democrats should learn from this, except that Trump always complicates things, but it provided another reason for the Democrats to be celebrating on a cold and windy November night for the first time in years.
That four-and-oh winning streak the Republicans racked up during the special elections were in states and districts replacing popular Republicans incumbents who had been tabbed for Trump administration jobs, and although none were very close all were closer than the party could usually expect. Here in the fourth congressional district of Kansas the Democrat ran ads featuring himself firing semi-automatic weapons and distancing himself from the usual Democratic craziness, and he came within single digits of a Republican whose ads showed him wading in the same metaphorical swamp that Trump had promised to drain, and across the country both Trump and Trumpism aren’t polling well.
Trump can rightly claim that the unemployment rate is down and the stock market is up since his election, albeit on more or less the same trajectory that preceded his election, but the mainstream of America and the old guard of its political parties surely surely deserves some credit for that, and what we gather from Tuesday’s results is that as used to be usual whichever party comes closer to the center will reap the benefits.

— Bud Norman

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“Tweeting” and Transgenderism in the Age of Trump

The world had become a weird place even before the age of President Donald Trump, otherwise he never would have been elected, but it was still a jarring reminder on Wednesday of how very weird weird things have become when the world wound up with Trump “tweeting” an official proclamation that transgendered people cannot serve in the military.
This is the sort of commonsensical policy that wouldn’t have been considered the least bit controversial not so very long ago, but these days things are more complicated. Men who think themselves women and women who think themselves men are now a fashionable cause, and concerns about the nation’s military readiness don’t have the same cachet, so the “tweeted” proclamation stirred a big fuss in all the papers. Throw in all the weirdness that always comes with Trump and his “tweets,” and it’s all the more complicated.
Clans and tribes and kingdoms and nation-states have been waging war against one another for long so that humanity has learned a thing or two about how to do it, and one of the lessons is that successful wars have almost always been waged by armies of stout-hearted and self-identified men who will fight for the rights they adore. Which is not to say there haven’t been some ferocious women warriors over the past millennia, and we’re unashamed to admit there have been more than a few of them who would put us to shame on a battlefield, but the general rule about leaving the fighting to the men-folk has always proved generally reliable. The rights of those outlier ferocious women warriors began to supersede considerations of military readiness even before the weird age of President Barack Obama, however, and by now the most up-to-date notions of social justice are given greater weight than the most time-tested notions of how to win a war.
After so many years of modern America treating its military as a social engineering experiment rather than a war-winning enterprise, it’s no surprise the conversation lately turns to talk about the even further outlying men who think themselves women and the women who think themselves men and their rights to serve in the military. By the social scientists’ count the number of transgendered people in America is measured with a percentage point and a couple of zeros of the general population, and despite the dizzying number of number of dizzyingly diverse people we know we’d put the number even lower, and we have to believe than only a fraction of that already small number are pining for military service, but these relatively infinitesimal few are what all the fuss is about.
Which is not to say that any of them wouldn’t put us to shame on a battlefield, and we’ll concede that in these weird times the current poster boy or girl for transgenderism is a self-identified woman who once won the gold medal in the men’s Olympic decathlon, which is way more macho than anything we ever did, but we still go by the general reliability of the time-tested general rules of warfare. Go ahead and call us old-fashioned, but we also have our doubts about the current vogue for those outlier men who think themselves women and women who think themselves men. We can’t recall who to credit with the observation that someone who thinks he’s Napoleon is still considered crazy, while someone thinks he’s Josephine is now to be indulged in the conceit, but it seems apt. Quite frankly, all this post-gender talk strikes us as another another one of post-religious manias that keeps popping up.
Which is not to say we lack compassion for these few folks, but rather to say that lopping off their healthy organs and surgically mutilating their genitals doesn’t necessarily strike us as the most compassionate response to their situation. Way back in the ’50s the first so-called sex-change operation was performed in Sweden on George Jorgensen, who had been honorably discharged from the United States Army after World War II, and a short time  later he or she became the popular nightclub chanteuse Christine Jorgensen, and despite his or her celebrity it seemed pretty weird to almost everybody at the time, and probably still strikes most Americans as kind of creepy. Since then there have been a lot of other so-called sex-change surgeries, the first of which was performed in America at the august Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, but by now the record shows that the patients mostly haven’t been happy about it, and have had much higher mental illness and alcoholism and drug abuse and suicide rates than the general population. The rate of regret is even higher than for such less-drastic measures as tattoos and plastic surgery, and as a result that august hospital’s chief surgeon now refuses to lop off healthy organs or otherwise surgically mutilate a patient’s genitals.
All of which seemed quite commonsensical to pretty much everybody until as recently as last summer, when even the Republican nominee for president was inviting that former men’s Olympic decathlon champion to use the women’s room at his Trump Tower, and chiding the Republican convention that had nominated him for its old-fashioned ways, and blasting the Republican North Carolina’s decision to restrict men’s rooms to biologically male people as a bad business decision. Trump is still on solid ground for insisting that America’s military and its war-winning mission is different than the restrooms at Trump Tower or a North Carolina basketball tournament, but by now he’s ceded an awful lot of ground in the ongoing culture wars.
By “tweeting” his executive order rather than seeking the military’s full-throated support for a congressional action on the matter, Trump has also passed up a chance for a national commonsensical consensus and allowed an inevitable Democratic successor to easily undo his slightly executive-ordered policy. That’s earned the wrath of a lot of old-fashioned Republicans on the right, even as more up-to-date Republicans embrace the modern sensibilities about all this stuff, and it just goes to show what weird times we’re now living in. For now, it looks a lot  like the same “Tweet”-first-and-ask-questions-later mess Trump made of his otherwise commonsensical plan to restrict travel from countries where lots of people want to blow up America.
We’ll continue to wish our best for all those men who think themselves woman and the women who think themselves men, hope like hell America somehow wins its inevitable next war, and in the meantime we’ll continue to note what weird times these are.

— Bud Norman

Another Post-Reality Show

The Obama administration has escalated its war on America’s longstanding and satisfactory-to-more-than-99-percent of-the-population social arrangement regarding public restrooms and dressing rooms and overnight accommodations and certain sporting competitions being chromosome-segregated, and we see no light at the end of the tunnel.
Not content with challenging North Carolina’s recent law codifying that generally agreeable former social arrangement, the administration’s Department of Education has now threatened that any school district or federally-supported college or university which does not allow any boy or young man claiming to be a girl or young woman to enter into whatever restroom or dressing room or overnight accommodations or sporting event he desires will be in violation of federal law and ineligible for federal funding, and any attempt by a school district or federally-supported college or university to find out if that boy or young man really does think he’s a girl or young woman or is just trying to get into a girl’s restroom or dressing room or overnight accommodations or sporting event for more prurient reasons is similarly illegal. This obviously insane policy is based on the law known as “Title IX,” which conspicuously makes no mention of this nonsense, and which was passed and signed into law way back in 1972, when its backers would surely have scoffed at any paranoid right-wing worries that they ever meant any such thing, and repeated efforts to insert such language to the bill have repeatedly failed in Congress, but in an age when people can be whatever sex or race or height they want to be a law can surely mean whatever our betters at Obama’s Department of Education think it should mean.
Although less than 1 percent of the population stands to benefit from this social rearrangement, and most if not all of that mere fraction should not be encouraged in its probably passing fantastical notion they are actually of a different sex than what their genitalia and chromosomes indicate, and even though we hope that only a surely larger but still small number of boys will avail themselves of the legal opportunity to crash the women’s restrooms and dressing rooms and overnight accommodations and sporting events of women, the social rearrangement seems likely to prevail. Neither the self-described socialist or the disingenuously crony-capitalist still duking it out for the Democratic presidential have expressed any reservations, and the unabashedly crony-capitalist presumptive Republican presidential nominee is hardly any better.
After the administration announced its opening salvo on North Carolina for daring to try to preserve the old social arrangement, the presumptive Republican nominee’s first response was a criticism of the state for bringing down the wrath of some aging rock stars and youthful corporations by bucking the latest trend, and he even invited his fellow reality-show star Bruce “Caitlyn” Jenner to use the ladies room at his fabulous Trump Tower, but he quickly retreated to a “state’s rights” position that generously allowed the Tar-Heels to take what he had already admitted was a losing stand. In the aftermath of the escalation he’s still sticking to that “state’s rights” position, which we concede is at least better than what the Democrats are offering, but he’s been careful not to suggests that states would be right to insist on the old and largely satisfactory social arrangement, and “state’s rights” has the same unmistakable unsavory historical connotations as the otherwise equally benign “America First” slogan when he says it.
The presumptive Republican nominee’s reluctance to directly challenge the absolute absurdity of the post-reality nature of the administration’s policy or its post-reality interpretation of the law is by now not surprising, though, nor is his reluctance to talk back his criticism of a state that dared defy the policy. He’s a thrice-married and four-times-bankrupt-gambling-casino-and-strip-joint mogul and a veteran of the professional-wrestling and reality-show business, and he seems quite eager to assume any post-reality legal powers that the presidency has gained over the past seven-and-a-half-years, and at this point in his career as the presumptive nominee of the Republican party we must glumly admit that his oh-so-politically-incorrect and at-least-he-fights sense of the pop cultural zeitgeist of the moment is certainly better than what our more hopeful souls could ever hope for.
At least the Republican National Committee and numerous Republican governors and attorneys general and countless other elected Republicans officials have taken a more forthright stand to fight against against this politically correct and post-reality craziness, and in favor of those longstanding social arrangements that have so long been agreeable to more than 99 percent of the population, but at this point they’re the dreaded “establishment” that the presumptive Republican nominee’s most fervent supporters want to burn down. This is how longstanding and generally agreeable social arrangements that have worked for millennia end, and a post-reality show begins.

— Bud Norman

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

Politics Goes into the Toilet

America is $19 trillion in debt, Russian warplanes are buzzing our naval ships with impunity, and there are other similarly pressing problems afoot both at home and abroad, but all the talk lately is about transgendered rights and restrooms. Interestingly, Republican presidential front-runner Donald J. Trump has utterly failed to seize the moment.
The currently fashionable notion that any pervert who wants hang around public women’s restrooms and showers has every right to do so, which is backed by everyone from big business to aging rock stars to all the polite media, is the perfect example of “political correctness” run amok. Yet Trump, whose improbable rise to front-runner status has been largely fueled by his carefully cultivated politically incorrect public image, has thrown in with big business and the aging rock stars and all the polite media and the perverts who want to hang around public women’s restrooms and showers.
Asked about the recent North Carolina law that requires state institutions to restrict their current dual restrooms and showers to people with the genitalia usual to those facilities, which was a response to the predictably liberal dcapital city’s local government’s decision to enshrine that hanging around the ladies’ room right to any creepy guy who might want to avail himself of it, and wound up provoking boycotts by big business and aging rock stars and getting a former pitching star fired from ESPN and much opprobrium from all the rest of the polite media, the great controversialist and defier of conventional wisdom said the state was wrong because it “did something that was very strong” and “they’re paying a big price” and “there’s a lot of problems.” The “at least he fights” candidate, as he’s known to his so-loyal-could-shoot-someone loyalists, was essentially saying that North Carolina should allow any old pervert to hang around public women’s restrooms and showers rather than provoke the wrath of big business and aging rock stars and all the polite media and all the rest of who legitimately constitute that “establishment” he’s always railing against.
He’s been rewarded with the rare approval of the the polite press, and who find his stand on behalf of creepy old men hanging around women’s restrooms and showers “moderate,” and his most loyal-he-could-shoot-someone loyalists will consider it a shrewd and admirably insincere tactic with a slew of primaries and caucuses coming up in assumedly liberal northeastern states, but it strikes us as an obvious miscalculation. That polite press is going to start unleashing the obvious facts of the undeniable flaws in Trump’s character the moment he clinches the Republican nomination, those northeastern states aren’t going to vote for a Republican nominee in any case, and even the Republicans there are in those benighted northeastern states aren’t comfortable with creepy men hanging around the women’s rooms that their daughters are visiting, and even in those assumedly liberal states there are probably few transgendered people among them who will be persuaded to vote Trump. In the western states where Trump will almost certainly need the first-round delegates, even in the last remaining Republican portions of California, we are confident that most Republicans will prefer pesky challenger Sen. Ted Cruz’ full-throated and politically-incorrect and very populist view that the biologically-verifiable men should be confined to men’s rooms and showers that the those without the usual genitalia should be denied to entry to women’s rooms and showers.
In the same disastrous interview Trump was asked about Harriet Tubman’s elevation to to the $20 bill over former President Andrew Jackson, another one of those relatively unimportant issues that dominate the news, and we liked his response that the government should leave the currency alone. He didn’t articulate our objections to the Taliban-like tendency of the left to erase history, though, or make his usual objection to the politically correct impulse to favor Dead Black Females over Dead White Males, but instead chose to laud Jackson as a great president and dismiss the gun-toting and Bible-thumping and thoroughly Republican badass Tubman as a nobody. Jackson was the founder of the Democratic Party, the first vulgarian to occupy the White House, a calculating populist who exploited the economic ignorance of his understandably annoyed so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone loyalists and wound up plunging the country into its worst-yet Depression because of his crazy anti-financial-ector ideas, and a cruel slaver and the fellow who sent the admirable and patriotic Cherokee people on the Trail of Tears, but that probably won’t matter as much as the creepy guys hanging around the women’s restrooms and showers.
Trump’s so loyal-he-could-shoot-someone loyalists will assure themselves he doesn’t really mean it, and they’ll be satisfied when he once again walks back that shoot-from-the-hip style they so admire, but that persistent 60 percent of the Republican party that is reluctant about his politically incorrect “at least he fights” style won’t be impressed, and even the creepy old men hanging around the women’s rooms and showers will wind up voting for the Democrat.

— Bud Norman

Happy Hanukkah, and Hold the Politics

Although we are not at all Jewish, about three-fourths of our Bible is Old Testament and we have an abiding respect for both Judaism and Jews. If we were to host a Hanukkah party, therefore, we would take care not to turn it into an anti-Israel rally. Apparently the Obama administration has different notions of how to celebrate the holiday.
Last Wednesday’s began well enough with President Barack Obama cheerily offering some weak jokes and mostly anodyne comments, although we’re not sure if the part about the “unbreakable bonds between Israel and the United States” was meant as a joke and the part about freedom of religion probably was meant to imply something about the ongoing controversy regarding Muslim immigration. He then turned the microphone over to Israel President Reuven Rivlin, who is not to be confused with the more outspoken and consequential Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and he also told a couple of jokes and spoke about freedom of religion and did some serious sucking up to Obama. It was all quite convivial and mostly uncontroversial, but then Rabbi Susan Talve of St. Louis seized the floor and took things in a very different direction.
Talve is a prominent member of the group T’ruah, which urges boycotts and divestment and sanctions against Israel, has been involved in the “Black Lives Matter” protests that have largely destroyed a St. Louis suburb because of false claims about a police shooting there, and there’s no doubt that’s why she chosen for the honor of lighting the White House menorah. Instead of speaking about the religious meaning of the ritual, or the miracle it represents, or even the current relevance of the Maccabees’ brave struggle against Syrian invaders, chose to spew a litany of leftist tropes about everything from gun control to toxic waste to transgender rights, and of course spent most of time on “justice for Palestine,” complete with shouts of “Ins’Allah,” which is Arabic for “Allah willing,” and of course a plea to take in as many refugees from the Syria that attacked the Maccabees. There was no mention of God or scripture, nothing about the faith that was being celebrated, and certainly no acknowledgment that the Jewish homeland is still constantly threatened with annihilation.
Talve’s tirade was widely criticized by many Jews, even some who agree with her views when they are expressed at a more secular forum, but we would hope that all people of faith will share their indignation. The insult to Jewish people was deliberate and gratuitous, just as Obama’s choice of the National Prayer Breakfast to tell Christians “not to get on their high horse” about the latest Islamic outrages because of what happened in the long ago Crusades to repel Islamic imperialism was a also a deliberate and gratuitous insult. One cannot imagine Obama doing any such thing at the annual Ramadan and Eid al-Hada dinners he hosts, but otherwise he seems to believe there should be no sacred space where politics cannot intrude. Politics is all that modern liberalism holds sacred, and that threatens all people of faith.

Most of our Jewish friends are quite political, usually in ways that provoke friendly arguments, but we’ll leave those for later and wish you a most happy Hanukkah, and pray for the continued existence of Jewish homeland.

— Bud Norman

Another One of Those Off-Years

Several off-year elections were held around the country on Tuesday, and on the whole they went well enough for the Republican party that the respectable press is fretting for the Democrats. The Associated Press gamely tried to claim that the results offer “Warning Signs for Both Parties,” but The Washington Post glumly conceded that “From coast to coast, conservatives gain big victories,” and the once venerable Atlantic Monthly went so far as to worry that “Liberals are Losing the Culture Wars.”
The AP’s assessment is easily refuted by the Post’s more factual post, which notes that Republican Matt Bevin won a poll-defying victory in Kentucky’s gubernatorial race, Democrats failed to pick up a seat in Virginia’s Senate, a legalized marijuana initiative in Ohio and an “equal rights” referendum in Houston associated with the Democratic party both failed, and even in the far-left Democratic stronghold of San Francisco the Sheriff who had steadfastly defended the city’s “sanctuary” status was voted out. The Atlantic Monthly’s dire warning might prove premature, but Republicans have reason to be hopeful.
Bevin’s unforeseen-by-the-pollsters victory in Kentucky came in spite of his figurative and photographed literal embrace of the County Clerk who created a national contretemps by refusing to issue same-sex-marriage licenses, and perhaps even because of it, and we don’t doubt that there’s still some resistance to the Democrats’ enthusiasm for the brave new homosexual world. That Ohio initiative to legalize marijuana involved a convoluted crony capitalism deal that would have granted a monopoly to a group of wealthy investors who were backing the measure, and we’re certain that a large number of potheads who would have supported a more straightforward legalization effort wound up voting against it as a result, but surely some anti-pot sentiment still lingering from the days of Jack Webb’s rants on “Dragnet” was also part of the landslide opposition.
The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, so named for the resulting “HERO” acronym, seems to have gone down to defeat because the finer print allowed any man claiming to be a woman to hang around women’s restrooms, and the overwhelmingly black and Latino and otherwise reliably Democratic voters within the city limits decided they weren’t all that wedded to such an abstract notions of human rights. That Sheriff in San Francisco reportedly had some unsurprising ethical issues that also contributed to his defeat, but we’d like to think that even in his hippy-dippy jurisdiction there’s some resistance to the idea that career criminals should be able to continue their careers just because they’re also in the country illegally, and that in more sensible parts of the country the Democrats are on the unpopular side of that whole issue.
Still, the Associated Press can plausibly go on about demographics and the Democrats’ continuing domination of those densely populated blue spots on the electoral map, and the turnout in those off-year elections is not what you’ll see in a presidential year when even the most uninformed voters have some misinformation that will send them to the voting booth. We can read nothing from such off-year tea leaves, and can only hope that it indicates the coalition of libertine white liberals with the more socially conservative and far more numerous black and Latino Democrats is proving hard to sustain. All the people who vote in off-year elections can be counted on to vote in presidential elections, and perhaps the the next one will add some of those uninformed voters, so one can be hopeful.

— Bud Norman

That White Woman in Seattle and All the New Rules

By now you’ve probably heard about the white woman who was “passing” for black in Seattle, well enough to have to become the president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and are aware of the chuckles it provoked in the conservative media and the indignant outrage that has resulted over in the liberal press. Count us among the amused rather than outraged, as we’re the live-and-let-live types who indulge people in all sorts of amusing foolishness, but we must admit we’re finding all the new rules hard to keep up with.
Why does that once-august civil rights organization retain the now-offensive term “Colored People” in its name, just to begin with, and why is that term offensive while the eerily similar “people of color” is considered impeccably polite? We’re also confused about why a white person can’t head the local chapter of a national association devoted to the advancement of people of certain colors, because a whole a lot of well-intentioned white people were involved in its founding, and a whole lot of other well-intentioned white people have devoted themselves to the same admirable cause in a variety of other and even more heroic ways, and the advancement of just about everyone in this fissiparously diverse country depends on everyone getting along with one another. Of course there’s also the frequently asked question of why a man who insists on being regarded as a woman must be indulged in his fantasy, but a white woman who insists on being regarded as a black woman is subject to the usual chuckles from the right and the full indignant outrage of the left. We’re further confused about why, given all the hectoring we endure about our supposedly privileged position as heterosexual white Christian males, nobody seems to be trying to pass as something like us.
Way back in our childhood we’d stay up well past our bedtime to catch such old-time late-night movies as “Imitation of Life,” “Pinky,” and “Showboat,” all of which involved light-skinned black women trying to “pass” as white in order to escape the undeniable racial injustice of that black-and-white era, which lasted well into the technicolor days of the “Imitation of Life” and “Showboat” re-makes, and even into our own childhood, but these days all the race-crossing traffic seems to go the other way. That white woman from Seattle is only the most recent to make the news for colorizing her heritage, following the news of some Indian-American sit-com actress’ brother shaving his head and adopting a black-sounding name to get admitted to a medical school with a surfeit of Asian-American applicants and a dire shortage of black ones, and that visibly white Massachusetts Senator whose career at Harvard benefited from her claims to be a high cheek-boned Native American and is currently the fantasy presidential nominee of all the same people who are tsk-tsking about that white woman in Seattle, and even old hippy-dippy folk-singing and obviously white Joni Mitchell’s claims to authentic blackness. The phenomenon of white folks acting and wanting to actually be black is at least as old as Norman Mailer’s famous ’50s essay on the “The White Negro: Superficial Reflections on the Hipster,” was quite apparent at our junior high school in the early ’70s when almost all of the white kids eagerly adopted the slang and fashions and defiant attitude of the black kids who were too often fearful of being accused of “acting white” to keep up with the lessons, and by 1978 the great heroin-addicted Lou Reed was singing a hilariously vulgar song about how “I Wanna Be Black” rather than an, ahem, neurotic middle class college student any mo’. Since then it’s become all the cooler to be black and all the dorkier to be white, whatever “privilege” whiteness might confer on bills-paying and sexually-frustrated honky schlubs such as ourselves, and we can hardly blame that white woman from Seattle for wanting to get in on it.
Still, it hasn’t been adequately explained why her racial preference should be any more controversial than her sexual preference. Had she insisted that her prosthetic status as a male be met with unquestioning social acceptance we doubt that the such respectable liberal publications as Salon.com would be giving her grieve about it, and we notice that most of the surgical crossing of sexual barriers are also away from our side, despite whatever “privilege” our seemingly irrelevant sex might confer. There’s the usual blather about how “gender” is merely a social construct, and “race” a biological fact, but from way back in our childhood we can remember all the blather about how “race” was a social construct and “gender” a biological fact that proved the superiority of women, and the evolution of polite opinion has never been explained. A few years ago those foul-mouthed wags at “South Park” had a vulgar but worth-watching episode about the transgendered teacher and the addled dad who thought he was a dolphin, and how we’re supposed to recognize certain implausible claims but not others, so the subsequent confusion makes it all the more confusing.
There’s something in the arguments we read about “cultural appropriation” and its insidiously racist effects, but we’re only further confused. We have some belly-dancing white women friends who have been accused of degrading the Oriental cultures they’re intending to perpetuate, and we’ve read countless column inches from college-educated black columnists about how Elvis Presley stole the sounds that he couldn’t help hearing through the open windows of his subsidized housing right next to Beale Street and the heart of the blues, and we’ve yet to read a single word about Kathleen Battle or Jessye Norman or Wynton Marsalis or any of the other truly great black musicians who have done similarly well with the undeniably European repertoire of classical music, and we dare anyone to say anything bad about Johnny Otis, who was the undeniably white son of Greek immigrants who grew up in a black neighborhood and went on to be one of the notable and best-selling in the black neighborhoods rhythm and blues artists of the “race record” days, and all of this racial purity cultural stuff, even from the most well-intentioned of the liberal press, has a slightly odious Nazi whiff about it.
Straight and Christian suddenly seems unfashionable, too, and we wonder about how few people are now pretending to be either of them. Way back in our childhood we’d stay up late enough to come across such old movies as “Tea and Sympathy” and “The Trial of Oscar Wilde” which oh-so-subtly conveyed the hard time homosexuals had in the world we were growing up in, and even by the time “La Cage aux Folles” was the fabulously gay hit of ’78 it was about how a homosexual couple had to hide their identities from society. Now the same guy who made the original French “La Cage aux Folles” has a Francophile hit about a man who pretends to be homosexual in order to enjoy social and legal protection from being fired for his incompetence, and the American popular culture acknowledges the same preference. The obscure professional athlete who was about outspoken about his homosexuality got a congratulatory call from the president of the united, the male athlete who was once prominent about was outspoken about his self-proclaimed identity as a woman got the cover of Vanity Fair, and the more recently prominent football play who was outspoken about his Christianity was widely rebuked to keep his crazy beliefs to himself. None of this has been adequately explained, either, but that seems to be where we are.
That white woman in Seattle should be able to survive all the chuckling and indignant outrage according the theories of white prevail, once she re-straightens her hair and stays away from the tanning salons long enough to regain her freckles, and that recently prominent football player should be able to take of himself, judging by his undeniably male physique, but all this talk about racial and sexual and religious identity won’t come to any happy conclusions. Let that white woman pursue all that is appealing about the undeniably cool black people of America, let that prominent football player proclaim his love for Christ, and hope that it has some similarly salutary effect on others, and stop hectoring those bill-playing white male schlubs, and let the likes of Elvis grind out rhythm and blues and those great black divas sing their arias, and perhaps most importantly let those poor black kids out there start learning their lessons in reading and writing and arithmetic without fear of “acting white.” Act however you want, and however will make for your happiest life, and so long as it contributes to everyone with getting along with one another it should further advancement of just about everyone, even such unfashionably straight and white and male and Christian bill-paying schlubs such as ourselves.

— Bud Norman

What’s On All The Magazine Covers at the Check-Out Line

We have to admire Bruce Jenner’s courage. We don’t mean his publicly declared intention to undergo a sex change, which these days doesn’t entail any risk except fawning press coverage and a lucrative reality show deal, but rather his willingness to publicly state that he is a Republican and Christian, which does invite public public scorn and ridicule and economic consequences.
Jenner’s surgical transformation is big news, judging by all the celebrity magazine and gossip tabloids that adorn the checkout lines at our local supermarket, although we’re not sure why. Older readers with good memories for sports trivia will recall Jenner as the boyishly handsome and seemingly wholesome fellow who once won the Olympic decathlon and wound up on the Wheaties box, but that was way back when we were in high school, and we assumed he had long since faded into the obscurity that eventually awaits all but the most storied athletes of the professional ranks. Apparently he was living next door to some people called the Kardashians, whose lives are apparently broadcast on a television program that is apparently popular for some reason, and that and a 39-year-old Olympic medal are apparently enough to make his sexual identity issues a matter of national importance.
Once upon a less strange time we would have been quite content to regard it as a private matter what Jenner does with his impressively athletic body, but these days there are no private matters and some public opinion must be rendered about everything, so we find ourselves almost forced to give some consideration to such unsettling issues as that surgical genital mutilation Jenner intends to undergo, and to publicly admit our resulting uneasiness. We realize that bien pensant opinion expects us to celebrate Jenner’s choices, along with whatever other choices less celebrated individuals might make regarding their sexuality, but some hidebound Burkean aspect of our temperament can’t quite muster the requisite enthusiasm. At this point the sample of people who have undergone sex-change surgery is still smaller than any properly apolitical social scientist would draw any conclusions from, and it no doubt includes some who found that having their genitals surgically altered did not alleviate whatever happiness them to do such a thing, and almost certainly includes some who find themselves regretting the procedure, just as people often regret such far less drastic body mutilations as rhinoplasty and breast enhancements and tattoos, and we’ve not yet seen any convincing argument that surgically altering one’s genitals into an approximation of the opposite sex is ever a good idea. Social attitudes have previously been so negative toward the procedure that only the most determinedly “transgendered” have endured the stigma, so we expect there are some out there who are determinedly pleased with the decision, but one wonders what the numbers will be once those social strictures have been removed.
Nor do we believe that a sex-change operation actually changes a person from one sex to another, any more than having a prosthetic fin implanted on one’s back will make him a dolphin, but of course this runs up against considerable fashionable opinion from the cultural left about the liberating diversity of sexual identities, which are now seemingly more plentiful than the cable television channels on a premium package. All these expansive notions of human sexuality are new to us, so we can’t claim any definitive knowledge to disprove them, but they’re also relatively new to the rest of humankind, and we are unconvinced that anyone can definitively prove them. The old-fashioned dichotomy of male and female sexes is based on an easily observable biological fact, and has been recognized as such by every major religion of every successful society for the past many millennia of civilization, and informed their views on matters ranging from marriage to public accommodations to parental responsibility to the propagation of both the society and the species. All of which makes it unacceptable to the cultural left, of course, which hopes to replace such archaic biological facts with a brave new world of bacchanalian delights in exponentially increasing variations of sexual identity along with a rigid list of new regulations for every other aspect of your life. As imperfect as the past many millennia of human civilization have been, we have little confidence that this brave new world will fare any better. The cultural left might yet succeed in ridding humankind of religion, even if they’re likely to some more violent resistance in the Islamized portions the planets, which will create all sorts of multi-cultural dilemmas, but eventually biology will prevail.
Which makes it all the more imperative for the cultural left to assail the two sexes and the rest of that religious hoodoo, and all the more remarkable that Jenner would admit to an interviewer that he is not only a Christian and Republican but a Christian Republican. Bien pensant opinion regards Christianity and the GOP not only as the enemy of such such oppressed transferred souls as Jenner but anyone having fun outside a procreative marriage as evil, according to the cultural left, but worse is standing in the way of that rigid list of new regulations of every other aspect of your life. Lest one think we’re prone to straight white Christian male paranoia, we note that Catholic nuns are being forced to purchase contraceptive coverage as part of their health insurance, Christian businessmen are being denied the right to sell chicken sandwiches or work at the computer companies they helped found because of their religious beliefs regarding same-sex marriage, and the woman widely presumed to the be the next President of the United States has declared that “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed” to accommodate her views on abortion. The cultural left is more upset with Jenner for being a Republican than any Republicans are about him wanting to transition from a good-looking guy to a rather ugly woman, and the Republicans are certainly less likely to boycott the sponsors of any reality show that results from the whole affair, and eventually one has to ask which side is more intolerant.
Jenner can do as he pleases, as far as our hidebound Burkean selves are concerned, and we’re certainly not going to show up at the operating room in a suicide belt, and we wish him well and hope he’ll keep voting Republican, even if it does little good in California. We also hope that his Christian faith serves him long after his surgically-altered body has come to pass, but we would have preferred that he’d kept it a private matter. A certain public queasiness about this sort of thing is not inappropriate.

— Bud Norman