Hard Times, Then and Now

American cities from coast to coast have suffered rioting, vandalism, arson and violence in the aftermath of unarmed black man George Floyd’s death by the Minneapolis Police Department, but we’re happy to say that for now race relations remain mostly amicable here in Wichita.
There were a couple of peaceful and conspicuously multicultural protest marches in downtown over the weekend, which culminated with the mostly black protest marchers and the mostly white sitting police officers sitting within social distancing rules of each other at a local park and sharing some barbecue, but that’s about it. Even our most liberal and reflexively antipolice Facebook friends gave some of the credit to Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsey, who has made a very public and apparently sincere outreach to the city’s diverse communities since taking office and was one of the first big city police chiefs to publicly decry Floyd’s death and even call it a murder, and he also marched in those demonstrations wearing his uniform and a face mask. Although we’re not the name-dropping types we will admit we’ve had beers and swapped jokes with Ramsey, and he seemed an OK guy, and we also we think he’s done a good job of keeping the relative peace around here lately.
We also think it has something to do with the civic spirit and mostly good people of all colors and creeds and classes and the ever-expanding number of genders you’ll find here in Wichita. There’s the usual percentage of awful people you’ll find among all colors and creeds and classes and ever-expanding gender groups, too, but for the most part we open doors for one another and don’t insist on our place in line and sometimes chat in a friendly way while we wait. For now the folks ’round these parts seem to prefer that to rioting and vandalism and arson and violence, and we concur.
America writ large, alas, isn’t faring so well. All the coast-to-coast rioting and vandalism and arson and violence, which we’ll henceforth refer to as “civil unrest,” is said to be the worst since the annus horribilis of 1968, which we well remember because we turned a very impressionable 9-years-old that year. As best as our precocious yet eight-and-nine-year-old minds could comprehend, the “negroes” or “colored people” or whatever the polite adults were calling them were righteously indignant about slavery and segregation and police brutality and a host of other things, but that burning down their own neighborhoods seemed an unlikely way to rectify that. We also felt the anxiety of even the most polite adults among us that the “civil unrest” would reach their neighborhoods, and we carried that anxiety with us as went through most of the ’70s with six years of racially diverse and riot-prone and generally shabby junior high and high schools.
By the end of it, though, we’d survived the worst of all the awful people of all colors and creeds and classes and whatever genders existed at the time, and found that most people are OK, and that most of them seemed to think we were OK. We figured things had calmed down since 1968, when it was seemingly a choice between law and order and racial justice, and that America could amiably move forward, but lately our hopes have been dashed. The politics of the moment are even more convoluted than in 1968.
One things that different from 1968 is that these riots are remarkably more racially integrated, judging by all the video, and that kid leading the riot storming of the Cable News Network last week was clearly a white skateboard punk. Some black speculators have speculated that white nationalist provocateurs have fueled the riots to start a race war, and for now that’s as plausible a conspiracy theory as you’ll find on the internet. Even Trump is blaming the far-left but mostly-white “Antifa” movement for much of it, and has officially declared it a “terrorist organization,” which means he can legally spy on any American citizen who might have visited its website. “Antifa” isn’t really an organization of any kind, though, just a ridiculously disorganized group of like-minded dumbass white goys who want to punch anyone wearing a “Make America Great Again” ball cap, who will likely get their asses kicked..We also suspect that some opportunistic awful people of certain other colors are also taking advantage of the situation.
Back in ’68 Nixon became president on o promise of restoring law and order, despite former segregationist Alabama governor and independent candidate George Wallace’s promise to restore it even more brutally, and President Donald Trump seems intent on replicating that, but that was a long time ago. This time around, a platform of both law and order and racial justice seems attainable, and might be the winning argument. So far, at least, we’ve worked it out here in Wichita.

The Brave New World and The Same Old War

The Pentagon’s Twitter account was hacked by Islamist terrorists on Monday, and everything about that seems strange.
There’s the disconcerting fact that the United States’ military “tweets,” for one thing, and the even more unsettling realization that an Islamic State terror gang best known for hacking heads off hostages is now able to hack the Pentagon’s computers. That the breach occurred while the President of the United States was giving a speech about “cyber-security” to the Federal Communications Commission adds another implausible twist to the plot. The very term “cyber-security” sounds strange to our old-fashioned and low-tech ears, and the missives that the Islamic State was able to post on the Pentagon’s “tweets” include such worrisome neologisms as “CyberCaliphate” and “CyberJihad.” The statements include threats on American military personnel and their families, too, and much gloating about the Islamic State’s cyber victory over the infidel American government.
It’s nothing to worry about, we are assured by the highest sources. Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren dismissed the incident as “little more than a prank, or as vandalism,” adding that “It’s inconvenient, it’s an annoyance, but in no way is any sensitive or classified information compromised.” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said it was “something we take seriously,” but added that “There’s a pretty significant difference between what is a large data breach and the hacking of a Twitter account.” An unidentified intelligence officer told the press that “Hacking a Twitter is about the equivalent of spray-painting a subway car.” None of this, unfortunately, is sufficiently reassuring.
The hackers also posted the names and addresses of high-ranking military officers, at least for long enough to communicate the information to any terror networks affiliated with the Islamic State, and that’s data that the officers and their families will surely consider sensitive. We assume that Twitter serves some important function in the national defense, as well, and even a temporary loss of that capability should be regarded as more than an inconvenience. In light of the recent breach of the Sony Corporation’s computers that shut down a Hollywood movie release, as well as the past security breaches caused by a college drop-out security consultant and a transexual Army Sergeant,  there is also reason to worry that the pranksters might have more troublesome abilities. Any urbanites who can recall the lawlessness that followed the spray-painting of subway cars knows that even the most petty acts of vandalism must be thwarted to preserve order.
Even if the incident is as inconsequential as the highest sources say, it’s still an unhappy reminder of the dangers the world still poses. The Islamic State now controls a swath of the Middle East the size of Indiana as well as at least the out portions of the Pentagon computer system, and the president can no longer dismiss them as the “jayvee team” of Islamic terrorism. Al Qaeda was said to be on the run, but it has recently murdered 17 people in Paris to avenge their Prophet and are issuing new threats. “The tide of war is receding,” the president once proudly proclaimed, but even the Pentagon’s Twitter page says it is not.

— Bud Norman

Rumblings in California

The fault lines running through California are becoming active, and we don’t mean that in the seismological sense.
For some time we’ve been eagerly anticipating the fissures within the liberal coalition to start cracking, leading to a long-overdue political earthquake. Modern liberalism isn’t so much an ideology as a loose confederation of ethnic and economic interest groups, whose interests are often in conflict, and even the rigid discipline that the Democratic party somehow commands cannot keep it stable forever. The big shake-ups and crack-ups that occasionally roil across America’s cultural and political life often originate in California, and two recent stories out of the Golden State suggest that it might be happening again.
One concerned the California Assembly’s attempts to restore affirmative action at the state’s universities, a cause dear to liberal hearts. Affirmative action is especially dear to the hearts of liberal blacks and Latinos, who are allowed admission to the more desirable universities with inferior qualifications than other applicants, but is not as popular with liberal Asians, who often are the other applicants who are denied admission despite their superior qualifications. The old system that California voted down was so convoluted that whites with lesser academic credentials were favored over harder-working Asians, which endeared the scam to liberal whites even if didn’t quite fit with their rationale that affirmative action is rectifying past injustices, but most of the Democrats in the Assembly were eager to restore it.
The measure now seems unlikely to pass, however, because the Asian-American members of the party are refusing to go along. There are enough of them that when you add their total to the Republican Party’s puny representation it can quash such nonsense, apparently, and if they start to realize how often their economic interests coincide with those mean old white men from Orange County or wherever the last few California Republicans come from it might even thwart a lot of the other bad ideas that become law in California.
The other story concerned the far-left’s ongoing crime spree against the high-tech industry. With “economic inequality” currently the favorite gripe of liberalism the more active liberals in Northern California have lately been vandalizing the opulent buses provided by the Google company to its well-paid employees, and in recent days they’ve become tipping over those tiny “smart cars” favored by the high-tech workers. Silicon Valley has been a reliable source of funds and votes for the Democrats for many years, the Google buses are intended to cut down on traffic congestion and fuel consumption and global warming and all those other things that liberals profess to hate, but for now it’s apparently more progressive to hate anyone making a certain amount of money. Those tipped-over “smart cars” even sported the obligatory Obama for President bumper stickers, but even such displays of righteousness will not spare you the wrath of income inequality mob. Some are claiming those Obama bumper stickers suggest the work of right-wingers, as if mobs of mayhem-minded Romney voters are terrorizing the streets of San Francisco, but it would be hard for even the party-loyal anarchist to find a car in that city without one.
The Google executives who’ve found angry mobs on their front yards are loyal Democrats, but perhaps they’ll reconsider as it becomes apparent that the guillotine is being sharpened for them as well as those rich industrialists. Silicon Valley is as steadfastly capitalist as any Kansas oil field, after all, and it’s hard to see how they’ve benefited from all the regulations and taxations they’ve helped to impose on all their customers. We’ve always suspected their leftist leanings were mostly motivated by a desire to be hip, but as they age into proper industrialist maturity and realize that angry mobs and vandalized buses are now the height of hipness they might even take their natural place in the Republican party.
Or maybe not. The discipline of the Democratic party has proved strong, and they’ve been able to cobble together new confederations out of different ethnic and economic interests as some the old ones prospered just enough to move on, and they might be able to whip up enough race- and class-baiting to keep the current one intact. If so, we’ll need fault lines of the seismological sort to solve the California problem.

— Bud Norman

Brown Shirts are Back in Fashion

Modern liberalism constantly extols the virtue of tolerance, even to the point of insisting that the intolerable be tolerated, yet liberals nowadays seem a rather intolerant bunch.

It’s not just a liberal administration imprisoning a filmmaker for a low-budget video they found offensive, or a liberal reporter for a liberal network cheering them on, or a liberal professor imposing her political preferences on students, or a liberal protest group menacing a public figure into canceling a speech, or any of the numerous other incidents that have been documented by a reluctant press. More commonplace occurrences also abound, mostly unreported but not unnoticed.

Join in any friendly chat with a group of conservatives, for instance, and you’ll eventually confess their reluctance to post a Republican yard sign in front of their homes or slap a Republican bumper sticker on their cars for fear of vandalism. Their anecdotes are dismissed as right-wing paranoia by our liberal acquaintances, who insist that none of their kind could ever be capable of such rudeness and then tell us to shut the hell up, but we’ve long suspected that the stories are far too common and from too reliable sources for all of them to be false. Now the eagle-eyed folks at the invaluable twitchy.com web site, which scours the Twitter sites for “tweets” of interest, have helpfully documented that our friends aren’t so crazy after all.

The web site has noting found several messages from Mitt Romney supporters attesting that their cars and homes have indeed been vandalized, with one unhappy motorist offering photographic evidence, but also a disturbing number of “tweets” from people boasting of the Republican yard signs they have stolen and the Republican-stickered cars they have damaged. Someone going by name of “Mr.So Different” warns, with typical Twitter literacy, that “IF I C A MITT ROMNEY SIGN IN UR YARD PPL BUSINESSES I AM TEARING THEM DWN N STEALLING THEM.” Another fellow calling himself “ASAP LoLo” wrote that “Jade ripped this bumper sticker off this random car lmaooo,” then adds a typically profane postscript that does not bear repeating here. A Jeremy Cross boast “We steal Romney signs,” adds the same vulgarity, and post a message of himself and a friend proudly posing with proof of his thievery. Not to be outdone, a Brad Kreitzer posted a picture of himself urinating on a Romney. Similar messages run on for pages, most of them similarly foul, and there are more from people promising they will also commit the same petty offenses against anyone who expresses an opinion different from their own. Others merely wish a painful death on their political opponents.

What’s most disturbing about these messages is the brazen pride they express in their Brownshirt activities. A thorough search of the country might turn up an example of a car with an Obama sticker being vandalized, but whoever did it will not be boasting about it publicly in the expectation of applause from conservatives. All of these liberals publicizing their crimes are surely known to most of the friends and acquaintances they send these messages to, many don’t even bother to hide behind some internet alias, and none seem at all concerned that they will be scorned for such boorish and intolerant behavior. Indeed, they expect to be admired by their friends for harming a fellow citizen who expressed a dissenting opinion. In places such as Atlanta, they certainly needn’t fear the police, where a Romney bumper sticker earns a ticket.

In a saner time these people would be severely chastised by the more respectable voices of liberalism and vilified by the press, but not these days. Now our betters are too busy fretting about the unhinged radicalism of those contemptible people with the Mitt Romney bumper stickers on their cars.

— Bud Norman