The Decline of the Best
By Professor John Frary • February 2nd, 2016•
Will 2016 turn out to be as silly as 2015? The early signs are promising. A Socialist almost won Iowa’s Democratic contest. A Flexibalist almost lost the Democratic contest. The most unpopular Republican in the U.S. Senate caucus turned out to be the most popular Republican in the Iowa caucuses. The Republican who came in third is being hailed as the winner.
Some person resembling Donald Trump gave a gracious concession speech in Iowa, complete with kind words to his competitors and even to Iowa’s voters. Hard-core Trumpsters weren’t fooled. Despite that man’s close physical resemblance. they know their hero doesn’t lose, can’t lose, despises losers and has no use for all that Establishmentarian “etiquette” foolery. They might be ready to forgive their savior for shooting a man in the middle of 5th Avenue----and they are—but they will never put up with weak and wimpy “good manners.”
Thirty years ago sensitive students at the University of Oregon noticed a painfully sexist quote inscribed on an Erb Memorial Union wall. It called the university “a leader in the quest for the good life for all men.” This attack on the dignity and personhood of all women everywhere, was promptly replaced by “I have a dream that my four little children that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. I have a dream . . .” —Martin Luther King.
This year some even more sensitive students recoiled in horror at the sudden recognition that the King quote was far from inclusive. Mia Ashley, a sophomore majoring in All Sorts of Things summed up the problem: “Obviously race still plays a big role. But there are people who identify differently in gender and all sorts of things like that.” The University’s Daily Emerald reports that the Student Union Board, “after much hard thought” decided to stick with the tainted quote. At the present pace of progress there’s reason to hope that it will be expunged along with any residual capacity for hard thought well short of the next thirty years.
Even as the University of Oregon dodges the leading issue of the day, the Transgender Law Center expresses its delight that the Unites States Department of Labor has eliminated the ‘Gender Binary’ from its enforcement protocols and anti-discrimination guidance regulations. The gender binary is bureaucratic term for the cultural habit of distinguishing between creatures called ‘males’ or ‘men’ and those called ‘females’ or ‘women.’ This is bad enough by itself, but the ‘binary’ quality makes it worse by obscuring the many, many, and ever more, gender identities now available to contemporary Americans.
US Secretary of Labor Thomas Edward Perez is married to Ann Marie Staudenmaier whose gender he has never publicly disclosed. Anne Marie Staudenmaier, in turn, has never disclosed what role, if any, Thomas Edward has had in the procreation of Amalia, Susana, and Rafael. Nobody seems to know the gender identities of these three creatures.
Moving along on the same front Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced at year’s end that male troops will now have the right to breast feed their children. Secretary Ash is not actually expecting to male troops to start lactating anytime soon, but since America’s twenty-first century armed forces find it increasingly difficult to distinguish between multiple and multiplying genders, it seemed best to extend the breast-feeding permission to all servicepersons. There are no new rules explicitly forbidding so-called males from noticing ‘female’ breasts, suckled of unsuckled, but the implicit prohibition is assumed.
This rule is part of an extensive series of "family-friendly" initiatives designed to attract and retain "the best America has to offer” for service in America’s Force of the Future. Protocols for dealing with “family-unfriendly” gunfire are still under study by DoD sociologists.
Nono, a 20-years old Norwegian woman, has opened a whole new field of cultural confusion by telling the world that she’s really a cat. This is difficult to deny since she wears cat ears, a tail, and fluffy pink paws. She grooms herself with those fluffy paws and claims superior hearing, better night vision than day vision and a fear of water. She hisses at dogs.
Those who remember Rachel Dolezal, who resigned from as head of the Spokane chapter of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People, and from being a person of color, must wonder why Nono can’t identify herself as a cat. Rachel, after all, sort of defended herself by saying she 'felt' Afro.
Washington D.C. Council’s enacted a measure to pay two hundred carefully selected persons up to $9,000 if they managed to get through a full year without committing a violent crime. Some critics deem this pretty meager compensation since council members receive $125,583 for a part-time job with no restriction on additional employment. More fair-minded observers point out that membership on the District’s council isn’t always criminal and usually doesn’t involve violence.
Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, lost more than $6 billion dollars of his net worth in one afternoon of after-hours trading and nobody seems to care. Even Bernie Sanders remains unmoved by the evaporation of billions of dollars in taxable assets. We live in heartless times.
Professor John Frary of Farmington, Maine is a former US Congress candidate and retired history professor, a Board Member of Maine Taxpayers United and an associate editor of the International Military Encyclopedia, and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
JONAH GOLDBERG SUPERSoCC!
By Professor John Frary • September 18th, 2015 •
The SoCC (“So-Called Conservative") acronym is so new that many among us are uncertain about whom it describes, or even whether we qualify. The simplest and most comprehensive definition is “a self-described conservative who belittles Donald Trump.” Honoring the precept that “example is better than precept” we examine the example named Jonah Goldberg.
This author’s September 5 publication of “No Movement That Embraces Trump Can Call Itself Conservative” prompted a Conservative Tree House columnist named Sundance (this may not be his real name) to post “An Open Letter To Jonah Goldberg – RE: The GOP and Donald Trump” on September 7 exposing Jonah as a SoCC. This exposure didn’t get bogged down by anything its target actually said. It provided a long list of Republican failures, futilities and frauds, with special emphasis on the works and days of John Boehner, Mitch McConnel, Thad Cocrhran, and the Bushes.
Sundance improves on the Guilt by Association method (a thing we all deplore and all indulge in when we feel the need) by pioneering the Guilt by No Association with Non-Associates method. I’ve read dozens of Goldberg columns over the years and there are two of his books in my library. He has written far more criticism than praise of those policies and persons with whom Sundance implicates him when he tells Jonah that “...you appear to stand in defense of a Washington DC conservatism that no longer exists.”
As Goldberg points out in his Sept. 11 rejoinder, “The Great Trumpian Divided,” Sundance has little to say on behalf of The Donald. Instead he rolls out a lengthy list of GOP misfeasance, malfeasance and nonfeasance while implying, sort of implying, that since The Donald is innocent of all of them he must be incapable of anything similar. So:
The GOP Congress failed to repeal Obamacare; therefore Jonah has no right to question “our ‘trust’ of Donald Trump?”
Since the the TPP trade deal passed with the support of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce The Jonah has no right to question the ‘trustworthiness’ of The Donald’s conservatism?
Since Republican Bob Corker’s amendment (Corker/Cardin Amendment) opened the way to passage of Obama’s Iranian deal without a two-thirds vote in the Senate The Jonah has no authority to question the “ideological conservative principle” of The Donald?
There’s some more along the same lines, but nothing more is needed to support the central point, that Sundance’s defense of The Donald boils conveniently down to the fact that he’s not Mitch McConnell. If that’s not enough we can add that neither is he John Boehner.
Sundance’s “Open Letter” is less a defense of The Donald than it is a defense of his supporters. Indeed, The Jonah makes no attempt to conceal his disdain for the people who damn him “as a RINO squish faker fraud no-goodnik lib sucking at the teat of the establishment blah blah and blah.” This characterization of his critics receives a lot of support from most of the responses found in the thread that follows in the wake of the Open Letter. We all know that hatred, loathing, disdain stir up more energy in politics than love so it comes as no surprise to find Jonah Goldberg frequently morphing into Immanuel Goldstein. So we read: “Fantastic letter, Sundance! Just reading your list of injustices inflames me all over again. Listening to east coast elites like Goldberg, Will, Krauthammer et al., lecture us about principles, morality, conservatism, &c., is enough to gag me. Rags like the National Review (NRO) and the Weekly Standards are dying on the vine because they no longer have an audience of real conservatives who want and demand change. Bravo!”
Few of the comments are as illiterate as: “The root of analyst is anal. What’s the diffence between a Democrat a Republicabn and a Communist? Quite with the labels already your either an American or your not.” But the urge to escape the suffocating confines of systematic analysis and paralyzing skepticism is pervasive, although not quite universal. The personification of hope is the quickest and easiest means of simplification, e.g,. “I don’t care about parties or conservatives, as you so ably articulated, they’re irrelevant. Time to bring on a real man! President Donald Trump is coming!”
One of my own regular e-mailers sent me a message nicely exemplifying the urge to purge combined with a search for sudden salvation:
“Trump and Cruz is the perfect ticket for America. Both are hated by Establishment Republicans, who are counterfeit conservatives who pretend to be fighting for the middle class and the USA while, in reality, they are making behind the scenes deals with the democrats because they are all sell outs who have sold out the U.S. citizens and at the same time, have Sold USA sovereignty in exchange for their own personal power and wealth, and also hated by Democrats and the media, including FAUX News, a FAUX conservative network that actually only Supports Establishment Republicans and they use their media presence to parade out Karl Rove, Krauthhammer and anybody else who will bash Trump and Cruz. The FAUX News station is actually a mirror image of CNN pretending to be the opposite. Establishment Republicans and Democrats are one and the same and it is time to end their Dog and Pony Show of Pretending To Be Mortal Enemies when in fact, they are no more serious than TV Wrestlers. Go Trump and Cruz--Keep telling the Truth and Expose the Phoney Baloney Mealy Mouthed Establishment Republicans a mirror image of Democrats.”
CARLY FIORINA IN PORTLAND, Maine!
By Professor John Frary • September 9th, 2015 •
I spent years studying Byzantine history at Rutgers so it is natural that I should look with favor on the first presidential candidate with a solid foundation in Medieval studies. As a satisfied contributor to the Maine Heritage Policy Center I was happy to sponsor Carly Fiorina’s Freedom & Opportunity Address in Portland on September 3.
Her appearance brought the biggest event attendance in MHPC history. The Center sold every seat in the banquet hall (over 500) and opened an additional room with a TV screen to accommodate the overflow. News that I was entitled to ten banquet seats as a “Sponsor” suddenly revealed a herd of Fiorina fanatics. I was compelled to upgrade to “Host” in order to distribute another five seats, and when this proved inadequate; I was compelled to rent a stick to beat off the overflow.
After her speech the gratitude of my guests, including five past and present Maine legislators, was so profuse that it temporarily dimmed the bright flame of my universally admired personal humility. The two men with whom I drove home thanked me no less than thirteen times altogether. The rest of the crowd at the Sable Oaks Marriott showed the same enthusiasm for the speaker.
I’m no kind of psephologist and don’t aspire to become one, but I’ll allow myself an inference. My guests, and others in the crowd were among the “high-information voters” who pay attention to elections months before the average voters engage. Some show interest in alternative candidates and remain uncertain about who is likely to win the nomination, but their enthusiasm is clearly centered on Fiorina. It may be that when the “modest-information voters” begin to pay attention next year, many will begin to see the same qualities that the Hi-Info conservative voters already admire.
Columnists and analysts with a wider perspective than mine have commented on her eloquence, an effect conveyed by clarity, intelligence, and discipline. The discipline is reflected throughout her campaign. She stays on message; she does not pounce on the news sensations of the moment looking for traction. She has never, so far, conveyed the impression of a politician desperate for office.
The substance of her speech did not stray very far from familiar conservative themes, although she easily communicates that conviction which conservatives hope they can rely on. One special feature distinguishing her from her rival was the special enthusiasm stirred up by a Carly vs. Hillary debate. References to the prospect of such an event provoked loud cheers and laughter on three occasions. Her listeners had no doubts about the outcome of such a confrontation. Another element which is hers alone was an up front defense of her tenure as Hewlett-Packard’s CEO. There are conflicting accounts of why the H-P board sacked her. The issue will be batted back and forth until she triumphs or goes under.
Maine’s Democratic Party chairman, Phil Bartlett, lowered himself to the occasion by his sneers that she “drove Hewlett-Packard into the ground,” and that she advocates the “same failed policies that hold back Maine’s economic growth.” He also pointed out that “MHPC is an extreme right wing think tank that backs the same failed economic policies...” It did not matter to Phil that Fiorina’s speech spent little time on economic policies. Party chairmen all know that their vital talent is appearing to stay on message and that it is profitless to pay attention to the enemy’s message.
Fiorina’s defense of her tenure at H-P fits neatly with her larger campaign theme: “Big changes creates big enemies.” Her thesis is that the primary program of an effective president at this stage of American history must be the transformation of the national bureaucracy The prevailing “governing classes” show neither will nor capacity to accomplish this.
Put in this context her troubles with the Hewlett-Packard Board can become a selling point.
CRY BANANA SYRUP! AND LET SLIP THE DOGS OF DUPLICITY!
By Professor John Frary • April 23rd, 2015 •
April 12 brought a dramatic message via my e-mail:
Hillary Clinton just announced her campaign for president and that means one thing: 2016 STARTS RIGHT NOW. GIVE NOW TO DELIVER DEMOCRATIC VICTORY ACROSS THE COUNTRY! YOUR GIFT WILL BE DOUBLED.
Dems can win BIG up and down the ballot – from the White House to every state house – but ONLY if top Dems like YOU step up and help raise $50,000 by midnight.
Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Rand Paul, the Koch brothers – they’re all watching to see what we’ve got…
…if a good Democrat like YOU sits out right now, DEMS COULD FALL BEHIND WHEN IT MATTERS MOST: Click here to give $5 or more now for 2016 DEM VICTORY! ALL GIFTS DOUBLED BEFORE MIDNIGHT.
So now, at last, we know. Mrs. Clinton intends to run as a Democrat! The Democratic Governor’s Association e-mail above exhibits all the usual elements. Check out the three exclamation marks. Such excitement!!! Note the subtle flattery directed at all the “good Democrats” (e.g. me) The tone of desperate urgency is intended to lend wings to the contributors’ dollars. The ubiquitous Koch Brothers put in an appearance. They are regulars in fund-raising appeals from all Democratic candidates and all liberal causes. This is HackCraft 00.01; enthusiasm and love raise cheers, fear and hate raise money.
This little shot glass of Banana Syrup signals the approach of a flood tide, due to become The Great 2016 Banana Syrup Tsunami after Labor Day. The putative Clinton campaign target of $2.5 billion alone will buy and diffuse huge quantities of B.S.
The Republican and Democratic candidates will suck up the limelight; but the true masters of our national destiny are the strategists, tacticians, pollsters, advisers, handlers, spin doctors, speech writers, witticism specialists, hair dressers, sartorial guides, make-up artists, make-over artists, opposition researchers, character assassins, Hip-Hop coordinators, media advisers, digital directors, multicultural coordinators----the whole gang known collectively as ‘Political Hacks,’ or ‘Hacks’ short and abrupt. They are the ones that fashion the candidates we will see. Parental, genetic, cultural and educational influences sink into insignificance in comparison with their efforts.
More than a week before the official announcement, Amy Chozick wrote “This Woman’s Job Is to Recast Hillary Clinton’s Image” for The New York Times. This article identified Hillary’s indispensable Image Czarina. Kristina Schake, who will be the Woman Behind the Public Face in Front of the True Face of the candidate. She’s the former Michelle Obama aide who earned fame and glory by encouraging the First Lady to make an undercover shopping trip to a Target in Alexandria, Virginia. The cover was promptly removed with a subtle flourish so that ordinary folks like me and you could see that the FLOTUS (Secret Service acronym for First Lady of the United States) is just like the OFVOTUS (Ordinary Fatuous Voter of the United States).
Amy tells us that Kristina was inspired to devise such stratagems by the bare foot Christs in paintings by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. Simple folk (e.g., me) know the painter only as Caravaggio, but when you write NYT pieces, and political memos, you drop the complete moniker on your readers. It delivers the verbal shock and awe necessary to your craft.
Here’s a bit of puzzle from the article. Chozick tells us that Hillary’s guide to the mental processes of the OFVOTUS lives in New York with an Albanian journalist she met in Rome and that she frequently walks to art exhibits while listening to podcasts about the history of the subway system. That back ground sounds a bit exotic for an expert charged with shaping Hillary Clinton’s public image into that of “an accessible everywoman.” Can we expect to hear stories about Hillary enjoying impromptu New York subway history chit-chats in Iowa sports bars? Seems far-fetched.
Even so, Schake gets an enthusiastic endorsement from activist, actor and director Rob Reiner. Rob and his wife, Michele Singer Reiner, hired the art- and Albanian-lover who hangs out in Rome to help with their California ballot initiative to fund early childhood education by adding a 50-cent tax to each pack of cigarettes. Reiner testified in an interview that Ms. Schake consistently reminded him not to veer from the predetermined script....”Every step of the way,” he tells Chozick, “it was ‘the good guys are fighting the bad guys...’Do you want to support big tobacco or do you want to support little children?’” The initiative passed.
Evil Big Tobacco versus Cute Little Kiddies—this is what passes for premier Banana Syrup among the tribe of political consultants and the political journalists with whom they mingle.
A HARRY REID COMMEMORATIVE?
By Professor John Frary • April 18th, 2015 •
The contradictions, evasions, and confusions generated by Senator Harry Reid’s New Year’s Eve accident put me in mind of a mysterious incident involving another powerful, repellent politician.
On August 26. 1933 Sen. Huey “Kingfish” Long (D-Louisiana) emerged from the men’s room of at Sands Point Beach and Country Club on Long Island, NY with a cut on his forehead and a black eye. He dodged immediate questions from other guests at the fund-raiser, bur several days later told a story of being assaulted by thugs, from whom was lucky to escape with his life.
The Kingfish was a man whose whole political career encouraged skepticism about every tale he choose to tell, so enquiries continued. Soon the nation’s dailies displayed headlines reading “WHO HIT HUEY.” Conflicting reports began to appear. According to some witnesses, the Louisiana Titan grew uncomfortable at the signals from his bladder and attempted to solve the problem with the boldness that characterized his rise from poverty to power. He took at the urinal between the legs of the man in front of him. Turns out his aim was not equal to his boldness and a US Navy Pilot named Alford William paid the price.
The true facts of the case remain uncertain, but it is pretty generally known that U.S. Navy pilots are apt to take swift action against persons who befoul their trousers. More, some witnesses asserted that the pilot’s right hand knuckles were swollen and discolored . On the other hand, they may face more severe consequences from dealing out rough justice to U.S. senators than ordinary laymen. However this may be, Williams denied hitting Long and the senator let the matter drop. The question was further obscured by the fact that a police chief from a near-by town, who was in the rest-room at the time, was also seen to have battered knuckles. Police chiefs are often impatient men, so we will never know.
Leaving aside questions of guilt or innocence, Collier’s magazine went ahead and raised money to have a gold medal struck to commemorate the occasion. The magazine was not fond of the Kingfish’s politics. Nor were a lot of other people, so money was quickly raised to strike a handsome medal showing a fist rising from a toilet tank to punch a “kingfish,” knocking its crown off. The Latin inscription read Publico Consilio Pro Re in Camera Gesta (“by public acclaim for a deed done in private”). The original medal was presented to the president of the American Numismatic Society with appropriate ceremony on September 20, 1933. The medal and motto appealed to many, so numerous duplicates were struck to satisfy public demand.
Inspired by this example I’ve formed a committee to raise money for a Dingy Harry Memorial Punch-Out Medal. Publico Consilio Pro Re in Camera Gesta seems perfectly adapted to the present purpose, but we will need a new design. I’m awaiting word back from The Franklin Mint. In the meanwhile the committee welcomes all suggestions.
The Thayne Ormsby I Knew
By Professor John Frary • January 10th, 2015 •
I've given shelter to a number of strays over the years, not all feline. Some had pretty exotic personalities. All the same, I was surprised to learn in July of 2010 that an individual I've sheltered under my roof was charged by police with having butchered two men and a 10-year-old boy up in the County.
During my campaign for Congress in 2008 I acquired three “live-in aides,” all of whom qualified as homeless. Adam had been in a cop Prince George County, Maryland, until he left to escape chronic depression. Anyone who has watched “The Wire” on TV will understand this. He couldn’t watch the series because it was too reminiscent of his experience in uniform. He had taken a construction job in Baltimore, but found the promiscuous use of the “N-word" by his red-neck colleagues intolerable. His mother, who was visiting me at the time, suggested he quit and come to Maine for the campaign. So he abandoned his apartment in inner-city Baltimore, turned his meager possessions over to a girl-friend, and found shelter in one of my spare bedrooms between August and November 2008.
Chris had been sleeping on the kitchen floor of his sister's apartment in Old Town when his father suggested that he might be interested in my campaign. He gave me a call. I had him checked out and then added him to my household. The lad was practically an anthropomorphic computer peripheral and spent most of his life in cyberspace, but when he was given a concrete assignment he performed brilliantly and was capable of working 10 hours straight.
Then there was Thayne Ormsby. Being an old guy, senile and confused, I can’t remember exactly how he came into the picture. He had been living with some people over in Industry until he had a falling out because he was way behind on his share of the rent. He had a home of sorts in Ellsworth, but it was not a happy one. He sometime spoke with disdain of his “two mommies.”
Their fondness for the bottle, their chaotic style of life, and their friends all seemed to disgust him. Yet when I visited their household, there seemed ties of genuine affection.
Anyway he qualified as fully homeless, no money, no job and no home. I provided room, board and a little pocket money. He, in return, performed his campaign duties willingly and skillfully — handing out literature, “introducing” the candidate, driving me around without incident or accident. He took orders readily, bore a certain amount of sarcastic correction calmly and got along with the other two "aides" without friction.
When the campaign ended, Adam moved to Kentucky to complete his college education; Chris moved home to Auburn to enroll in college and Thayne resumed a life without direction of purpose. He lingered on at my place, moved out, returned. I put him in my brother's study back in the woods, Joseph having settled permanently and year-round in the Philippines. He mostly stayed out from underfoot, rendered some useful services from time to time, and made plans. These plans were not essentially impractical but they took on the aspect of fantasy because he never acted on them.
One recurrent idea was joining the Marine Corps and eventually becoming an officer. Tired of his futile fantasizing I persuaded him one day to let me drive him to the Marine recruiting office in West Farmington. The office was closed. Afterwards, he came up with a number of excuses and objections to joining up. So I let it drop. A pity. The Marine Corps might have known how to give his life direction.
He was polite to the point of obsequiousness. Mostly did what he was told without objection. Got along well with my cats. I took him along to St. Stephen's Traditional Anglican Church. He even officiated as an acolyte on several occasions. Some women described him as downright “chivalrous.”
I detected no homicidal tendencies. Whenever he said something weird I attributed it to the natural goofiness of the adolescent male entering manhood. I have no therapeutic talent or ambition. Angst bores me. When you are rapidly advancing on age 70, a realistic view of your future features senile decay and death. So when he spoke despairingly of his present and future I felt bound to point out that his possibilities were far greater than mine. He was in good health, had an excellent physique and was absurdly good-looking. His life was not such a blank. He had acquired some useful skills, was far less ignorant than most high school graduates, read quite a lot and was far from stupid. If, at the end of any given year, he could look back and see that he knew more, understood more, and developed some new skill then he could say he was progressing even if he had no permanent job or residence.
In sum, I advised him to experiment with at least another 25 years of failures before giving up. Good advice. Useless advice.
We parted ways when I reprimanded him for overloading the washing machine for the second or third time. He brooded over this for some hours, then confronted me in my study, demanding to know whether I wanted him around. Silly question. Why would I want to have an 18-year-old around? Naturally I said no. He mistook my frankness for a decree of expulsion and departed huffily. His absence was no great loss, his presence had been no great burden, if only he had learned to not overload the damn washing machine. In truth, I found him less annoying than most adolescents.
Perhaps if I were more empathetic and emotionally warmer things would have taken a different turn, but that is empty speculation. My personality took shape years ago. Empathy, when it does come, always catches me by surprise.
The story coming out of Aroostook gets weirder and wilder. There’s talk of a drug connection. I can supply a little testimony on that. There was never any weedsmoke around my house. He didn't have the time, the money or the mobility to acquire narcotics while he was under my roof. If he developed any kind of addiction, it could only have been after we parted. The other details leave me completely baffled. The fact that I found Thayne so manageable makes me wonder if there wasn't some third party management involved. But I can only wonder.
My last contact was a Facebook.com exchange a couple of weeks ago when I learned that he was living in the village of Orient and corrected his spelling of Zeus. His other “Facebook friends” are departing in haste. Don't blame them, but I'll let the connection stand. I knew a mixed-up, immature adult named Thayne Ormsby. The alleged murderer Thayne Ormsby is a complete stranger.
If he is indeed guilty, I see no grounds for clemency. He didn’t “make a mistake” or “make a bad decision.”
He reportedly murdered two men in cold blood, then hunted a frightened ten-year-old down in his hiding place and slaughtered him. I've heard from our attorney general that his confession was cool and matter-of-fact. If remorse ever overtakes him then he will have to recognize that a life sentence is just.
Given the average American “life sentence" he now faces 25 years of constant direction, lthough his sentences do include the stipulation "without parole"... He will eat, sleep, exercise, consort with a bunch of low-lifes and fend off unwanted advances. The latter may involve mayhem of some kind. Suicide is a possibility. The only productive purposes in this empty existence is the making and re-making of Thayne Ormsby. He can read, think and, perhaps, write. I expect I'll send him some books.
THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION ON RACE: SOME RULES?
By Professor John Frary • December 17th, 2014 •
Twelve years after Bill Clinton told us he wanted to start a “national conversation on race", Attorney General Eric Holder whined that “we, average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race. If we are to make progress in this area, we must feel comfortable enough with one another, and tolerant enough of each other, to have frank conversations about the racial matters that continue to divide us.” This month President Obama told us that protests like those in Portland last week are “helping the country have a necessary conversation about race relations and police practices.” New York’s Mayor de Blasio also believes that “We have to have an honest conversation in this country about a history of racism". Last week in the Waterville Sentinel Alan Caron, who loves an original idea like a cobra loves a mongoose, also joined the ever-growing National Conversation Chorus.
The Boston Globe has published a column by Michael P. Jeffries which gives some idea of the rules meant to guide this Nat. Con. on Race. Jeffries, a Wellesley College associate professor of American Studies, outlines some formative notions: “Among protesters’ implicit demands are freedom, respect, and dignity for black Americans, but those ideas seem light years away in a country where black people are killed and those responsible give interviews on national television with ‘a clear conscience.’”
In summary: black Americans have no freedom, no dignity and no respect. They are being killed off wholesale and their killers are sometimes allowed to publicly deny their guilt. Professor Jeffries explains a confused and impassioned theory of a thing worse than mere racism, an ideology, or theory, or sentiment or something he calls “anti-blackness.” It seems he read a recent study showing that the word “black” is more closely linked to stereotypes and negative emotions among white people than the phrase “African-American.” He fails to name the study so I’m guessing it showed that “black-hearted” has more negative connotations than “African-American hearted” or “black skies” seem more threatening to White folks than “African-American skies.”
Just guessing here. In any case Prof. Jeffries explains the dire effects of “anti-blackness” in vivid terms. It leads to “the debasement of black humanity....” utter indifference to black suffering”.... the denial of black people’s right to exist”....”the dehumanization and constant physical danger that black people face”....”the denial of black people’s right to life.” You see, “Black humanity is desecrated in plain view” and “for black people, walking home is risking one’s life” and “In the most basic sense, black people are not safe.”
If you conclude from his column that Prof. Michael P. Jeffries is a hysterical paranoiac living in a feverish nightmare world divorced from visible reality then you are not invited to join the NatCon on Race. If you believe he’s an academic fraud building a career on a bizarre ideology of his own devising then butt out. He’s a credentialed academic at a highly respected institution publishing in a prestigious liberal newspaper and, most importantly, he’s black.
Rudolph Giuliani has none of these credentials and, although he boasts of reducing murders of blacks by 200 per year during his tenure in office, the professor virtually forbids him to join the conversation because he “suggest[s] that black people are exterminating themselves, and “black crime” is the root cause of black suffering.” Actually Giuliani had not gone into root causes or spoken of self-extermination. What he said on NBC’s Meet the Press on November 23 is “the fact [is] that 93 percent of (murdered) blacks in America are killed by other blacks” and “I would like to see...attention paid to that...”
According to a 2007 report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (“Black Victims of Violent Crime,”) blacks were the victims of almost half the 8,000 homicides reported in 2005. Surprisingly most of them were NOT killed by white policemen. They were murdered “by someone of their own race.”
Prof. Michael Eric Dyson, an African-American professor of sociology at Georgetown University, who was interviewed along with Giuliani, responded that his crime figures were “a defense mechanism of white supremacy at work in [his] mind...”
This is one more reason why this “National Conversation” can be nothing more than a painfully predicable and tedious lecture by self-righteous bores. Professional whiners like Professors Dyson and Jeffries insist on the right to peer into the skulls of the white interlocutors and detect anti-blackness, or white supremacy, or racism. Their rules require white participants to accuse themselves of racism, although they are allowed to argue that such confessions make them less racist than other whites. Black participants are immune to suggestions of bigotry.
A recent Rasmussen poll showing 31 percent of blacks, 49 percent of Republicans, 36 percent of independents, and 29 percent of Democrats think most blacks are racists. None of those people will be invited to join the NatCon.
A HAND SANITIZER ELECTION?
By Professor John Frary • October 20th, 2014 •
I suppose most readers will open this article expecting an exercise in frivolity. This is far from the being the case. The title was inspired by science, by scientific findings, by the scientific investigations of David Pizarro, PhD, a political psychology specialist at Cornell University. Professor Pizarro, and others, have determined that images and even extremely subtle reminders of disease and contamination seem to push people toward the conservative end of the spectrum.
This conclusion is substantiated by a research article published in “Psychological Science,” a journal of the Association for Psychological Science by Pizarro and his colleague Erik Helzer.
(Notice the title of the periodical. Note the title of the association. We’re talking science here.)
In one of their tests Pizarro and his team surveyed students for their political attitudes. They found “the students endorsed more conservative attitudes when they stood next to a bottle of hand sanitizer or near a sign reminding them to wash their hands.” I could tell readers a lot more about the intellectual capacities of undergraduates, but that’s not the point of this article. The point hangs like a blazing sun over one word: EBOLA.
I myself am not much concerned about contracting this virus. When you beat your way through 70 years of bad habits to reach age 74 (I was a late bloomer, but began to get a grip after kindergarten), you know you are standing in a short and rapidly diminishing line. Every time you read the obituaries you discover some novel way your contemporaries have found to croak, and that particular virus has not been among them. But rapidly growing evidence tells us that millions of Americans are feeling anxious. And according to psychological science this anxiety will turn their minds toward the GOP candidates.
I’ve only just skimmed the surface of this phenomenon but I suggest that Republican candidates might do well to have a hand sanitizer close at hand whenever they give a speech or engineer a photo-op. A number of left-lurching commentators seem to have picked up on the Cornell research and are denouncing conservative commentators for exploiting the virus crisis. Howlin’ Howie Dean tells us he doesn’t believe anything a Republican says about Ebola. I saw a clip of his speech. There was no hand sanitizer in sight. Howie is no stranger to recent psycho-political research.
Frank Schaeffer, a New York Times best-selling author, has launched a pre-emptive strike in a Huffmingtonpost article entitled “Will the Tea Party/Koch/Brothers/GOP Defend Us From Ebola or Do We Need Government Involved in Healthcare After All?” This isn’t quite the same as saying that the virus was created in Koch Industries laboratories. This will come in time. Louis Farrakhan has already moved in that direction. It’s a natural fit to the “LOOK! Look over there!” diversion strategy familiar to all students of politics.
We are not surprised to see “Republicans Want You to Be Terrified of Ebola—So You’ll Vote for Them,” in The New Republic. Jeremy Peters complains in the New York Times that “playing off feelings of anxiety is a powerful strategy for motivating the Republican base.” Down south in the Washington Post Greg Sargent sniffs out the GOP’s “fear-based midterm strategy.”
Despite these defensive maneuvers the Ebola Crisis optics have not served the Democrats well. (Optics is what you laymammals call “appearances.”) The usually reliable New York Times allowed Joe Nocera to publish an op-ed pointing out that “When you think about it, many of the Obama administration’s ‘scandals’ have been failures of competence” citing the botched Obamacare roll out, the Veterans Medical Healthcare System scandals, and the bungles by the Centers for Disease Control. Eric Boehlert at Media Matters for America complains: “As Republicans seek to gain a partisan advantage by ginning up fear about the Ebola virus… they’re getting a major assist from the news media.. If the news media's job is to educate, and especially to clarify during times of steep public concerns, then the news media have utterly failed during the Ebola threat.”
The president hasn’t helped himself by naming Ron Klain as his Ebola Czar. Maine’s greatest statesman, Thomas Brackett Reed, was crowned Czar Reed because, as Speaker he deployed the power of his position to rule the House of Representatives and thwart Democratic obstruction. The title was not intended as a compliment. It was inspired by his contemporary Alexander III, a particularly ruthless Czar of All the Russians. In our time the title has shed its negative freight and simply implies that the person bearing it has assumed wide-ranging powers that consolidate authority of a collection of existing agencies.
A French artist described Alexander as ponderous and heavy with “...a look as cold as steel, in which there was something threatening, even frightening,...” Like the man from Portland he stood 6 feet, 3 inches tall and weighed three hundred pounds. Reed stood so high in the minds of friends and enemies alike that two victims of his terrifying talent for cutting sarcasm, Teddy Roosevelt and Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge, delivered admiring eulogies at his funeral.
The czarist optics for roly poly Ron Klain are all wrong. Czars need “presence” - they need what the Romans called auctoritas. How can a man who rose to prominence as chief of staff to Joe Biden project czar-like power? Captain Kangaroo had more auctoritas than this clown. He made his career as gofer and lobbyist by cozying up, not by commanding. The biggest mark he has made on the course of American history so far was facilitating the Solyndra disaster. Teddy and Henry Cabot eulogized Reed for his unyielding honesty. How will Ron be eulogized? For dodging indictment?
Jonah Goldberg reminds us that Obama once explained to his political director, Patrick Gaspard, that “I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters, I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m going to think I’m a better political director than my political director.” This explains the mediocrity of his flunkies and implies his confidence that he’s a better epidemiologist than the professional epidemiologists. He may well be a better epidemiologist than Czar Ron, but there’s scant comfort in that.
Some left-lurching commentators have sensed the danger and leapt to justify the selection. LZ Granderson, a CNN commentator, explains that what “...we don't need are more doctors. We need someone who can manage the messaging. And I think President Obama did pick up, you know, a political ally but also picked someone with those experiences that's needed to get a coherent message through.” The inevitable Ezra Klein, at VOX, tells us that “It's a good choice because it shows a healthy respect for how hard the bureaucratic job of coordinating the Ebola response really is.”
Ezra’s rationale merits quotation: “‘Bureaucrat’ is often lobbed as an insult. But in processes like this one, government experience really matters. Nominating Klain suggests the White House is thinking about this correctly: as an effort that requires the coordination of already ample resources, where the danger is that the federal government will be too slow in sharing information across agencies and getting the resources where they need to go.
Here our young sage unwittingly confirms a fundamental objection to Big, Big Government. Its size makes it slow, resistant to effective management, and inaccessible to regular chains of command.
The idea that messaging is more important than medicine will make the ordinary citizen think “hand sanitizer.” It’s not surprising that “bureaucrat is often lobbed as an insult.” The word was coined as an insult and the unpolitical public never use it as a complement.
The first line of defense of the Klain appointment seems pretty feeble to me. Are the voters really going to be reassured by the message that a bureaucrat is on the job or that messages are more important than medicines?
Here’s another problem being overlooked. In a 2008 Political Psychology study researchers subliminally presented 91 participants one of four subliminal stimuli: RATS, STAR, ARAB or XXXX. They then showed a picture of a fictional political candidate and asked participants to rate whether he looked competent and likable. The researchers found that the subliminal “RATS” message depressed participants’ ratings of the candidate, while the other words did not.
I foresee a DemocRAT disaster if they continue to vaunt this bureaucRAT.
GOVERNORS CHRISTIE & LePAGE - "JUST THE 3 OF US" - PAUL LePAGE, CHRIS CHRISTIE AND ME
By Professor John Frary • August 24th, 2014 •
Late last month I attended my second Governor Paul LePage fundraiser featuring Chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association (RGA), Chris Christie. At the first of these events, New Jersey’s governor stressed his close personal relationship with our governor and assured Maine’s Republicans that the RGA was committed to support him. At the second he emphasized his fondness for Paul and mentioned the RGA’s upcoming large media buy for Maine.
I remember Paul giving me his impressions from his first meeting with his fellow governors. He told me he found Michigan’s Snyder, Louisiana’s Jindal, Wisconsin’s Walker, and Chris Christie especially impressive. Some time later Ann LePage, Maine’s First Lady told me much the same, with greater emphasis on the personal affection that developed between the two gubernatorial families. I conclude from this anecdotal and highly subjective evidence that our governor can count on serious support from the RGA and its chief. This is important because our governor has no special talent for rounding up campaign cash.
Apart from my interest in Christie’s helpfulness for the Maine GOP and an urge to compare waist lines (his is not in my league) I feel a certain affinity for the man. Our biographies are, in some respects, more intimately entwined than Paul’s. Christie ran for Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders and won with 78,251 in 1994. I ran for the Middlesex County Board of Freeholders and lost with 74,000 votes in 1981.
Morris County is Republican-leaning while the Middlesex County Machine has replaced the Hudson County Machine as New Jersey’s Democratic political fulcrum. Since these Freeholder Boards are the county government in NJ, this means I was really campaigning against a powerful machine, not a couple of interchangeable hacks. John Lynch, its chairman, was mayor of New Brunswick, the county’s second largest city, President of the NJ Senate and a contender in a Democratic gubernatorial primary. Joe Vas, mayor of Perth Amboy, the county’s largest city, was reckoned a king-maker among Hispanic Democrats. Joe Spicuzzo, former Democratic county chairman who became Sheriff the year before I ran for office was second only to Lynch in power. So there you have it: an obscure, chalk-smeared foot soldier in the academic ranks supported by a GOP organization with $360 on hand. My actual competitors for the Freeholder’s chair were insignificant machine pawns. I’ve long since forgotten their names and my readers have no particular reason to wish to learn them.
Truth to tell, I was asked to run in the primary as part of an intra-party plot to displace the chicken-feed boodlers who controlled the Middlesex GOP Committee. Let’s just say it was a complicated intrigue requiring a freeholder candidate that no one knew except the plotters, and leave it at that. The plot succeeded and my candidate became committee chairman. I had no money and no name. Lynch & Co. buried me under 20,000 votes.
Yet I feel vindicated by later events. John Lynch completed his sentence on November 13, 2009 after three years in prison. The Sheriff was arrested in March 2011 and will be serving three of a potential 110 years. Joe Vas moved to his new address, Elkton federal prison, on June 30, 2012.
Lynch was the biggest catch in a long, long list of NJ politicians US Attorney Christie sent to prison. “New Jersey Spotlight” a statewide online news service, published a list of the 15 most corrupt politicians and John Lynch Jr. “one of the most powerful men in NJ politics,” made number five. His conviction would have been more surprising to me if his ex-wife hadn’t told me once that she warned Johnny off his gubernatorial ambitions by threatening to go to the press with “everything she knew.” My efforts to extract details were unavailing. I know nothing of what she knew or whether Christie came to know what she knew or something different but not entirely different. All I can conclude with certainty is that they did not have a relaxed and amiable divorce.
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) had this to say about Sheriff Spicuzzo on June 24, 2003: “I applaud Sheriff Spicuzzo...his accomplishments should serve as an inspiration to us all...Sheriff Spicuzzo has earned the respect and affection of his colleagues and constituents....sincerity and concern for his constituents... thirty years of service to the County Sheriff's Department....an example of unwavering commitment and devotion...dedication and commitment...positive examples of what steadfast determination and allegiance can accomplish”
This false and fulsome tribute to a confessed and incarcerated crook will do Palone no harm. New Jersey’s voters are not surprised when one of their elected leaders trots off to the hoosegow. They expect it. For Maine’s voters a headline reading something like “John Mart of Turkey Lake Under Investigation” would catch a lot of attention. In New Jersey it would take a headline like “Several Middlesex County politicians suspected of honesty.”
SENATOR CHRIS COONS’ CORRUPTING INFLUENCES
By Professor John Frary • July 17th, 2014 •
Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) recently entertained his Senate Judiciary Committee colleagues with a speech on the need for congressional action to restore protections against the corrupting effects of unrestricted spending on our political system. The liberal senator’s argument was clear, grammatical, erudite, and eloquent. It was downright moving. Indeed, I was moved to check the man’s financial report, extracted from his Federal Election Commission reports.
Turns out Senator Chris has raised $8,267,535 so far in the 2009-2014 election cycle. That’s quite a lot of money for a state with 75% of Maine’s population—nearly ten dollars per voter. Was the senator confessing to corruption? Going further afield, we might ask if our political system corrupts our politicians? Or is it our politicians who are corrupting our political system? These are deep waters, too deep for my limited analytical powers, so its time to strike for shore in search of solider ground.
Solider ground is found in considering the political realities destined to frustrate the Senator’s eloquence. A two-thirds congressional majority is required to pass an Amendment on to the states for ratification. Then three-fourths of the state legislatures will have to ratify the amendment to the Constitution. The Democrats will need Republican votes for both steps. They won’t get them.
I’m not saying Chris Coons is a hypocrite. I’m saying he’s an experienced politician who understands that political speech is improved by a stiff dose of passion and fear. For all I know the man even believes part of what he says. There wouldn’t be anything unusual about that.
If Coons and his crew know they aren’t gong to get an amendment, they are figuring they will have a winning issue. On January 21, 2010 the US Supreme Court (USSC) upheld the First Amendment rights of individuals acting through corporations and labor unions to participate in our political process. This decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission., struck down a wad of laws and regulations restricting and, in some cases, criminalizing political speech.
Although only a minority of American voters have ever read the Constitution, most of us know a few things about it and almost everyone knows is that there an item in the Bill of Rights guaranteeing freedom of speech. The USSC five-judge majority ruled that the First Amendment restricts the ability of the government to abridge the freedom of speech of corporations. So the issue the Coons Crowd aims to use against the Republicans is the idea that corporations have rights. This is summarized by indignant cries that “corporations aren’t people.”
On the one hand common sense tells us that corporations don’t take showers, don’t brush their teeth, never suffer hang-overs, don’t catch colds and differ from actual human beings in a multitude of ways. On the other hand, common sense tells us that they are neither vegetable or mineral. It tells us that they have human stock-holders, employees, and managers whose interests may be bound up in the health of the corporation.
In fact, the legal fiction that corporations have the status of persons is not a novel idea even if it’s a novel discovery of the nitwits chanting that corporations are not people. The “Corporations” article in the 1911 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica speaks of this status as something familiar and well established. It even suggest an evolution from the ancient Roman law on collegia.
I’m not arguing that the Britannica’s authority should overawe the nitwits, not even that of the splendid 1911 edition. I do argue that if this long established principle were suddenly erased then corporations would have no rights. There would be no Fifth Amendment to prevent a government seizing Verso Paper’s property without compensation; no Third Amendment to prevent the government from quartering troops on the Farmington Fair grounds, no Fourth Amendment to prevent the government from seizing the records and transactions of the Harvard University corporation.
Oh well, never mind the unintended consequences. Just keep shouting “corporations are not people” and be happy.
If that’s not stupid enough for you, try “Money isn’t speech”.
AN ORCHESTRA WITHOUT INSTRUMENTS
“Diplomacy without power is like an orchestra without instruments.” Frederick II
American version: "Diplomacy is the art of saying "nice doggie" until you can find a rock." Will Rogers
By Professor John Frary • June 29th, 2014 •
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of experts, pundits, strategists, and omniscient Know-It-Alls now writing and speaking about Iraq crisis. The majority of them are concerned with apportioning the blame for it. The most recent polls suggest that the mysterious mass known as the “American People” put blame on both George W. Bush and Barack H Obama. That seems reasonable but I leave that debate to the Big Guns and anxious political partisans.
This site considers some neglected problems and questions raised by the crisis.
First let us note that there are no possible responses to the advance of Al Qaeda-affiliated ISIS fanatics that do not involve sectarian slaughter. The prime minister, al-Maliki, is calling for volunteers and arming all comers. The Prime minister is a Shiite. The volunteers are Shiite. The ISIS may be “al-Qaeda backed” but it is a Sunni movement with a violent grudge against the Shiites. Obama had claimed that withdrawing from Iraq would force the Iraqis “to work out their differences.” Now it seems likely that they will now work out their differences by mutual slaughter.
Newspapers reported on June 17 that police found the bodies of four young Sunni men perforated by numerous bullet holes in a mainly Shiite area Baghdad. Sectarian fanatics deposited as many as 80 bodies on the streets of Baghdad daily in 2006 and 2007. With the government inviting the entire Shiite population to step and collect their Kalashnikovs in order to defend themselves against those Sunni SOBs we can expect the heaps of corpses to pile up higher and wider.
Some of us remember when George W. Bush explained his hopes for democracy in Iraq by remaking that nobody likes having the police knocking on their doors at 3:00 in the morning. This is surely true, but President Bush overlooked the possibility that many people may like having someone knocking on their neighbors’ doors with hostile intent early in the a.m. Americans just have to learn to respect other peoples customs—and understand that those customs sometimes include killing people who are not them and don’t want to be them.
That is good rule to keep in mind, and here’s another which is more important and not limited to any particular time and place: THE MOST EFFICIENT USE OF FORCE IS A CREDIBLE THREAT. This is simple. If you spend trillions of dollars building the most powerful military force in the world, you have a pretty good chance of imposing your will on hostile nations by a credible threat. But this is only true if they believe in your willingness to carry out your threat. If they don’t buy it, you are the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg in their eyes. Going to war with your military powers is always more expensive then just maintaining them. But maintaining them as a threat which has no credibility is pure waste.
This requires emphasis because of President Obama’s assurances to the American people that we will not, not ever, no never, redeploy ground forces in Iraq. He intends these assurances for Americans who are sick of the expense and bloodshed of the Iraq and Afghan interventions. Unfortunately they also reassure the ISIS leadership, just as the Syrian regime took courage that they need not apprehend the tramp of American combat boots on Syrian ground. Events suggest that they have no fear of “red lines” unless drawn in the sand by the tip of a combat boot. We have no way to be certain that the threat, express or implicit, would have proven effective; but there was no reason to toss it away other than reassurance to the voters.
This column does not advocate deployment of ground forces. It does not argue that the threat of such deployment guarantees a positive result in this case. It simply suggests that it’s never a good idea to throw away a potentially useful threat. A Republican president facing the Iraq collapse might well have duplicated Obama’s flabbiness.. All politicians know that a significant percentage of American voters prefer reassuring words to bristly, smelly, uncomfortable, threatening facts.
I count among them the ninnies who are forever demanding “diplomatic solutions” without ever explaining what they mean by the soft, cuddly, bloodless, inexpensive diplomatic solutions they love so well. Since they never explain themselves, we are left to assume that they equate “diplomacy” with being diplomatic, i.e. tactful.
Prince Metternich had all the style, finesse, exquisite manners and smooth tact we expect from a nineteenth century aristocrat. His over-all objective was maintaining European peace. He had some successes. But even he once quoted Frederick the II: "Diplomacy without power is like an orchestra without instruments."
The only message there is that the uses of force need to discussed and deployed rationally; never rejected out of hand in order to calm the voters.
The unwillingness to explain the utility of threats reflects the American tradition of treating the voters like children on foreign policy problems and threats. There many other examples. Out leaders routinely fall back on Adolf Hitler comparisons to characterize the enemies of the moment. They need someone really horrible about whom a majority of Americana might actually have heard. Worst of all they encourage an odd sort of chauvinism, i.e., they allow millions of Americans to believe that it’s entirely up to the United States whether the world has war or peace. ISIS may have something to say about that.
SOME DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS OF AFFIRMATIVE ACTION
By Professor John Frary • May 1st, 2014 •
“The dirty secret of the jurisprudence of race is, as Schuette suggests, that it is not so much a principled jurisprudence as it is an arena where most judges feel free to enact their personal values into law.” - Prof. Richard O. Lempert
Richard O. Lempert is a Brookings Institution Governance Studies Nonresident Senior Fellow, the University of Michigan's Eric Stein Distinguished University Professor of Law and Sociology emeritus, a chief scientist in the Human Factors/Behavioral Sciences Division of the Science and Technology Directorate in the Department of Homeland Security, a former division director for the Social and Economic Sciences at the National Science Foundation, an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a past president of the Law & Society Association, the current secretary for Section K (Sociology, Political Science and Economics) of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and he is currently doing business as RLempert Consulting, LLC. WOW!
R.O. Lempert is trained to detect dirty little secrets. So now we know—the United States Supreme Court is just another arena for ideological conflict. This is no surprise to people who pay attention, although the ordinary voter (who does not read Brookings literature and knows not Professor Lempert) might be shocked. Conservative jurists, and commentators try to find a solid and consistent basis to justify enacting personal values. Their liberal counterparts generally don’t bother, relying on the Muddy Stream Media to confuse and obfuscate the reality of their means and motives.
A Brookings editorial note tells us that Professor Lempert is one of three lawyers who submitted an empirically-focused amicus brief on behalf of the respondent in Schuette. Empirically-focused is good. We like empirically focused stuff. It’s scientific.
Now let’s move on to a dirty little secret the learned professor neglects. The personal values of sociologists are overwhelmingly liberal and they may feel free to inject their personal values into their research conclusions. So we are not surprised to read a liberal sociologist’s conclusion:
“A number of Justices, it is fair to say, have been willfully blind to the persistence of racial discrimination and disadvantage...Perhaps over time Justice Sotomayor’s insistence that others see the reality of race’s impact on lives will open the eyes of some of her more conservative colleagues at least a bit. With clearer sight, they might even see that not only does affirmative action promote diversity to the benefit of all students, but also that whatever advantage it provides minorities at best cancels the disadvantages that its beneficiaries may suffer because of their race.”
We can also detect Justice Sotomayor busily scratching around in the liberal litter box, intent on burying another dirty little secret. Her decision includes this sentence. “Although the term “affirmative action” is commonly used to describe colleges’ and universities’ use of race in crafting admissions policies, I .instead use the term “race-sensitive admissions policies". Some comprehend the term “affirmative action" as connoting intentional preferential treatment based on race alone—for example, the use of a quota...system, whereby a certain proportion...of seats in an institution’s incoming class must be set aside for racial minorities; the use of a ‘points’ system, whereby an institution accords a fixed numerical advantage to an applicant because of her race...”
The Wise Latina notices that “affirmative action” has lost its utility as a euphemism for racial discrimination. It’s clear that a majority of Michigan’s voters have figured out what it really means. So she proposes a fresh euphemism in the hope of shedding those embarrassingly accurate connotations.
The headnote to the SCOTUS decision—“Schuette, Attorney General of Michigan v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigration Rights and Fight for Equality by Any Means Necessary (Bamn) et al.”—hints at the personal values shared by Sotomayor, Justice Ginsberg, and the Lempert sociological team. It’s probably a dirty little secret for many younger citizens that “by any mean necessary” was a menacing phrase coined by a black racist who hated white people.
Sotomayor’s dissent, supported by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, rambles on for 58 pages. She has a lot to cover, but her central point is compressed in “centuries of racial discrimination.” This melancholy record is the real grounds for her dissent. The Constitution she swore to uphold is only marginally useful for correcting the injustices. It was devised by white men, including slave holders without the slightest input from Wise Latinas
Justice Stephen Breyer, a rather unreliable liberal, supports discrimination against white males in principle, but argued that Michigan’s voters are entitled to overrule the unelected governing boards of their educational institutions. Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court’s usual “swing vote,” agreed; arguing that nothing in the Constitution or the court’s prior cases gives judges the authority to undermine the referendum election results. “This case is not about how the debate about racial preferences should be resolved.” he said. “It is about who may resolve it.”
Sotomayor dealt with this dangerous threat to Judicial Sovereignty by arguing that judges “ought not sit back and wish away, rather than confront, the racial inequality that exists in our society.” On the contrary: “I firmly believe that our role as judges includes policing the process of self-government and stepping in when necessary to secure the constitutional guarantee of equal protection.”
Justice Scalia writes in defense of the Michigan voters: “As Justice Harlan observed over a century ago, '[o]ur Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens....The people of Michigan wish the same for their governing charter. It would be shameful for us to stand in their way." Sotomayor had prefaced her defense of Judicial Sovereignty with a couple of pages reviewing the history of the Jim Crow laws supported by hefty majorities of southerners. This provoked Scalia’s comment that it was “doubly shameful to equate ‘the majority’ behind [the constitutional amendment] with ‘the majority’ responsible for Jim Crow.”
She denied Scalia’s charge in a footnote of her own. She probably sensed the pitfall before her feet. If she hints, without evidence, that white bigotry motivated the referendum’s majority, then it may encourage her critics to hint, without evidence, at WiseLatinate bigotry in return.
Judge WL was not content to evoke the court’s obligation to safeguard minority rights against majority votes. She also took up the argument by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals majority that the issue was not affirmative action, but the way in which its opponents went about trying to bar it. The Circuit Court majority argued that the referendum trampled on the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment because it presented an extraordinary burden to affirmative action supporters. That is, they would have to mount their own campaign to repeal the constitutional provision and re-establish racial discrimination against white folks.
Sotomayor pointed out that the University of Michigan alumni are free to lobby the state Board of Regents to admit more alumni children, but that the regents now are powerless to do anything about race-sensitive admissions. Is this a little odd? Fifty-eight percent of Michigan’s voters need policing, while the WL advances an argument that accords a tiny hand full of appointed officials full un-policed authority.
Sotomayor sums this argument thus: “The Court abdicates that role permitting the majority to use its numerical advantage to change the rules mid-contest and forever stack the deck...against racial minorities in Michigan. The result is that Michigan’s public colleges and universities are less equipped to do their part in ensuring that students of all races are “better prepare[d] for an increasingly diverse workforce and society...”
See? Its not about rights, but about advantages, and about perpetuating the rules of the racial distribution game, and about preventing the predominately white voters from interfering with the still whiter university authorities.
Judge WL also points out that racial justice is not the only reason for discrimination. It also prepares students of all colors for an increasingly diverse workforce.
If we dive any deeper into the Wise Latina’s 58 pages the confusion may become unbearable. We must close with a stiff shot of clarity to clear away any confusion. The overwhelming majority of Michigan’s voters supported a constitutional amendment which forbade the state to “discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting.”
Justice Sotomayor does not approve.
Professor John Frary of Farmington, Maine is a former US Congress candidate and retired history professor, a Board Member of Maine Taxpayers United and an associate editor of the International Military Encyclopedia, and can be reached at: email@example.com
By Professor John Frary • April 7th, 2014 •
Orlando Figes, a well-regarded British specialist in modern Russian history, published The Crimean War: A History in 2010. It contains information relevant to the current crisis which has been neglected. Having seen no reference to this information in the essays and columns by sages and prophets infinitely more qualified than myself, I feel an urge to pass this information on.
Four years ago Figes concluded that “The loss of the Crimea has been a severe blow to the Russians, already suffering a loss of national pride after the collapse of the Soviet Empire.” Here’s some background to this observation. For reasons unknown to me General Secretary Khrushchev transferred Crimea to the Ukrainian SSR in 1954. That was not particularly relevant as long as Ukrainian SSR was a Moscow puppet, but the disintegration of the USSR and Ukrainian independence meant that the region passed outside Russian control. To convey the significance of this Figes quotes a passage from a poem by a nationalist poet:
“On the ruins of our superpower
There is a major paradox of history
Sevastopol—the city of Russian glory—
Is...outside of Russian territory.”
The poet’s reference is to The City of Russian Glory: Sevastopol in 1854-55, by Evgeny Tarle, a leading historian of the Soviet era. The book was published to celebrate the centenary of the siege of Sevastopol by the French, British, Turks, and Sardinians. Tarle’s book “...glorified the patriotic courage and resilience of the Russian people led and inspired by the example of such heroic leaders as [admirals] Nakhimov and Kornilov, who laid down their lives for the defense of Russia against the ‘imperialist aggression’ of the Western Powers..”
Figes tells us that “Pride in the heroes of Sevastopol, the ‘city of Russian glory’ remains an important of national identity In August 2006 the remains of 14 Russian infantrymen from the Vladimir and Kazan regiments were discovered on the site of the Battle of Alma along with their knapsacks, canteens and crucifixes. The bones were reburied with military honors and there were plans to erect a chapel on the site.
“Memories of the Crimean War continue to stir profound feelings of Russian pride and resentment of the West. In 2006 a conference on the Crimean War was organized by the Centre of National Glory of Russia with the support of Vladmir Putin’s Presidential Administration and the ministries of Education and Defense. The conclusion of the conference, issued by its organizers in a press release, was that the war should not be seen as a defeat for Russia, but as a moral and religious victory, a national act of sacrifice in a just war; Russians should honour the authoritarian example of Nicholas I, a Tsar unfairly derided by the liberal intelligentsia for standing up against the West in the defence of his country’s interests.”
In the nineteenth century Tsar Nicholas I (1825-1855) was the ultimate symbol of tsarist despotism among the liberals in Russia and the West. He was the “gendarme of Europe” ready to intervene with military force against any popular uprising anywhere. He was no “friend of the Jews.” He stood as a perfect symbol of the reactionary regime destroyed by the Bolshevik revolution. Nicholas I’s portrait now hangs in the antechamber of Putin’s office.
This is what Orlando Figes wrote in 2010: “Nationalists have actively campaigned for the Crimea to return to Russia, not least the nationalists in Sevastopol itself, which remains an ethnic Russian town.”
There’s plenty of grounds for guessing that Putin’s Crimean annexation is motivated primarily by domestic politics rather than foreign policy advantage. If this is correct, it’s reasonable to guess that the American and European responses have only enhanced his popularity among the nationalists.
Readers interested in National Glory of Russia center can find it at www.cnsr.ru/projects.php?id=10. One item that caught my eye is a photo from November 2003 captioned: “ Members of the Board of the Center of National Glory of Russia await the arrival of Lyndon LaRouche, a distinguished U.S. economist. Left to right: A. Melnik, President of the Center; V. Yakunin, Chairman of the Board of Trustees; A. Volodin, Professor at the Moscow State University; O. Atkov, cosmonaut, Hero of the Soviet Union.”
The site’s summary of the distinguished economist’s distinction: “Lyndon LaRouche, Jr. is an eminent US economist. Born on September, 8, 1922 in Rochester, NH. His father was a light industry technician and advisor on footwear production in a major corporation on footwear production. Mr. LaRouche graduated from public schools in Rochester and Linn, then from the Boston North-Eastern University, interrupted for military service, and afterwards got fixed up in a job at his father’s corporation. In 1994 he was elected member of the Moscow Universal Ecological Academy. Married twice. His present spouse (since 1977) Helga Zepp LaRouche was born in Germany and now lives in Virginia.”
“In 1971 Mr. LaRouche founded an international news bureau known as “New Solidarity”. He is co-founder of several US influential economic associations. He participated in the US delegation at Gorbachev-Regan 1982-1983 negotiations over Strategic Defense Initiative. In 1988 he predicted the inevitable collapse of Soviet economic system. Today he predicts collapse of the world finance system, at least in the form in which it exists today. The potential for escaping the crisis he sees in Eurasia, and, above all in Russia. His estimation of President Putin’s foreign policy is strongly positive; Mr. LaRouche welcomes President’s wish cooperate with Asian countries.”
“He actively criticizes George Bush Jr., calling the American financial system “a global nightmare”.
“He was a Member of Congress from Virginia, where he has been living since 1983. Presently he is taking an active part in Presidential elections.”
Tsar Nicolas, Vladamir Putin and Lyndon LaRouche conjoined. I'll have to think that one through :-)
PROGRESS FOR NEW YORK, VORSCHADENFREUDE FOR JOHN FRARY
“Schadenfreude ist die beste Freude.”—Austrian adage.
I’d argue that Vorschadenfreude is besser still and I speak as a man who anticipates a banquet of this sinister but delectable sensation in New York City, even as these words scroll across the screen.
Before we get into the treats we can anticipate; let us be clear that Bill de Blasio sees himself as the Duce, not the Fuehrer, of New York’s Progressive Revolution. He may have been born Warren Wilhelm in 1961 but he shed his Warreness and Wilhelmheit long ago and now glories in his Billity and Blasiocity, especially the latter. His inaugural speech praised New York as the “the city to which my grandparents were welcomed from the hills of Southern Italy.” He spoke glowingly of “all my family assembled today -- from all around this country, and from Italy.” Either he had no paternal grandparents (a biological mystery) or New York doesn’t welcome Krauts. That question awaits clarification.
Herr Wilhelm recognized that “a city government‘s first duties: to keep our neighborhoods safe; to keep our streets clean; to ensure that those who live here and those who visit can get where they need to go in all five boroughs.” but nobody in New York or anywhere else in the country is looking forward to dazzling displays of executive efficiency and economical administration. Back in September the New Yorker noticed that the Democratic nominee “had little in the way of real management experience”(i.e., a teensy, tiny itsy bitsy teenie weenie microscopic management history.)
Warren will preside over a $70 billion budget and a workforce of 300,000. We all understand that garbage collection and snow removal are boring. Progressive opinion is not galvanized by the prospect of New York’s subways running on time. Social and economic revolutions are what revs their engines. Still, revolutions ain’t what they used to be. Lenin’s little fracas swept away the entire tsarist “Table of Ranks", the 85,000 bureaucrats that high army officers that ran Russia. Herr Wilhelm’s Progressive Neue Ordnung will leave 99.08% of New York’s municipal workforce in place, and 99% completely undisturbed.
While the advent of the de Blasio regime excites progressives as a harbinger of a national liberal revival, reactionaries contentedly contemplate the prospect of a plodding, ossified, municipal apparat serving itself and neglecting the public. Early signs of incompetence have been encouraging. The New York Times noticed this problem on March 6 when it admitted ”Mr. de Blasio’s first two months in office have in some sense been marked by frustration and disillusion...among certain progressives who have seen their worries that he would be a weak manager confirmed.”
The NYT’s March 6 essay, entitled “How de Blasio’s Narrative Got Hijacked,” labored to ameliorate the effects of deBla’s first two months of wallowing and blundering by offering a variety of more or less plausible excuses.
Reactionaries (e.g., Me) already savoring the delicate pleasures of Vorschandenfreude can only be pleased by the column’s final paragraph: “But faith in political figures is also circumscribed by history, or the commonly held understanding of it. Mr. de Blasio has become a national political symbol of what progressive governance might or might not be able to accomplish in a city where, during the past half-century, progressive mayors — John V. Lindsay, David N. Dinkins — are widely believed to have failed. On top of everything else, there’s the strain of countless memories.”
“Widely believed” is good and “On top of everything else, there’s the strain of countless memories” is even better. Those countless memories (a.k.a. actual experience, a.k.a, facts, a.k.a. reality) have repeatedly and relentlessly laid waste the Progressive narrative and blighted Progressive dreams.
“Municipal socialism” in the U.K. and U.S. once referred to administrations that overcame corrupt political machines, cleared slums, improved public services, and made the sewers run on time. De Blasio’s municipal socialism has grander aspirations. It aims “to put an end to economic and social inequalities.” It points “to a new progressive direction in New York.” It promises to tax the rich, close gaps, up-jerk the undertrodden, and transform lives. He will expand the Paid Sick Leave law to include 300,000 more New Yorkers “because no one should be forced to lose a day‘s pay, or even a week‘s pay, simply because illness strikes.” He’s going to require big developers to build more affordable housing; stem the tide of hospital closures.
These parts of his program avoid tax increases by imposing costs on private businesses. The key to Bill’s egalitarian vision, however, is a tax increase on the rich to fund cradle-to-kindergarten education. You see, on the one hand you lower the incomes of the rich a tad closer to the middle class while on the other gather the whelps of inadequate or negligent parents into day-care camps and transform them so they enter regular grade school raring to go and all set to rise to the middle class through a government-induced fervor for educational advancement.
None of this will happen of course, hence the Vorschadenfreude induced by progressive expectations. Governor Cuomo claims the state can fund pre-K without any tax increases, de Blasio promises to push to raise taxes anyway. Presumably he aims for the leveling effect.
Cuomo had already acknowledged the revenue loss to his state owing to millionaire migration but de Blasio seems unaware that millionaires own stretch limousines, personal jets, and yachts, which will enable them to drive, fly or sail away from New York City at will.
Vorschadenfreude aside, we mustn’t overlook the New York Times’ acknowledgment of “frustration and disillusion among centrist Democrats” This seems to imply that the de Blasionics are extremist. If you are not “centrist” what else could you be?
If the approval ratings for this progressive/populist// buffoonist are in a free-fall after two months what can we look forward to four years from now—assuming he has not long since fled to Cuba?
THE AXIS OF IMBECILITY IN 2014, PART II
Bill di Blasio’s election as mayor of New York provides connoisseur of imbecility with a banquet of Lucullan proportions, far exceeding the light snacks provided by savoring the hi-jinks discussed in Part I.
Progressives welcome this hopeful harbinger of liberal revival, while observers in full possession of their mental faculties wonder how a secular preacher with two years’ managerial experience will direct a workforce of 300,000 with a budget of $70 billion. Since the polls point to a declining public trust in the government’s competence and mounting dissatisfaction with Obamacare’s operations, you might have thought that a demonstration of simple managerial competence would be a necessary part of any liberal revival.
Apart from his two years leading a small executive staff as Regional Director for the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for New York and New Jersey and taking part in outreach to residents of substandard housing the new mayor has worked as a political organizer at the Quixote Center in Maryland; engaged in unknown activities on behalf of a nonprofit organization focused on improving health care in Central America; labored as an aide to famously ineffective Mayor David Dinkins, served as a member of a Community School Board, managed Hillary Rodham Clinton's Senate campaign in 2000, sat as a New York City Councilman from 2001 to 2009; and became the New York public advocate 2009. Bill’s accomplishments between 2001 and his move to Gracie Mansion are a closely held secret, revealed on a strict need-to-know basis.
It should be plain that unless he fills all the important positions with Bloomberg hold-overs or Giuliani re-treads New York City faces four years of administrative bungling and financial crises. We can’t criticize the commentariat’s neglect of this prospect too harshly. No one expects managerial competence from America’s political CEOs. All the same, it should have shown a little more awareness that the mayor’s office has a lot more to do with collecting garbage than with designing social revolutions.
Mean-spirited reactionaries (that’d be me) can look forward to more than liberal municipal disasters from the Di Blasio phenomenon. He promises to become a masterpiece of parodic performance art. He has had three legal names: Warren Wilhelm Jr., Warren de Blasio-Wilhelm and now Bill de Blasio. The political improvement is pretty clear. Warren is distressingly WASPish. Wilhelm is a bit too German for a city with a tiny German presence, and some of Al Sharpton’s followers might think they detect a Yiddish sound.
In 1994 he married an Afromerican. Better yet he married an Afromerican Lesbian. This twofer could not have been easy, especially since sexual identify is genetic and only bigots think it has a voluntary dimension. Anyway it seems to have yielded significant political benefits. We read that his son so impressed New York’s more imbecilic voters with an “Afro” that makes his head look as if it’s exploding that the campaign took off with the slogan “Go With the ‘Fro!”
That slogan rather obscures his political roots. A September 2013 New York Times report found that Hizzoner returned from Nicaragua in 1988 “with a vision of the possibilities of an unfettered leftist government.” In 1990 he told a Nicaragua Solidarity Network meeting that his vision of society was. “Democratic socialism.” When pressed during his mayoral campaign about the quote he dismissed it: “That’s not a quote from me, that’s someone’s notes.” The Times replied that “The notes were, in fact, written by him; a copy is kept at the New York University archives and was reviewed by the Times.” Cornered he explained that “...it doesn’t matter. The bottom line is the values that I have put forward I think have been consistent over the last quarter-century or more.”
The thing that’s especially interesting about Bill de Blasio ’s socialist self-identification is the number of liberals who decline to make a distinction between liberalism and socialism. The Washington Post’s Dan Balz described the mayor as “one of the nation’s most liberal elected officials” who “delivered an unabashedly progressive inaugural speech” adding that “It was the kind of speech not often heard in national politics since Bill Clinton redefined the Democratic Party as New Democrats.” Liberal witnesses seem committed to the words “liberal” and “progressive” when describing the man, yet they decline to explicitly equate liberalism with socialism. Most grow indignant when Tea Partyers call Great Obama a socialist.
The question grows more vexed when we witness Bill C. officiating at Bill de B’s inauguration. Clinton, after all, is supposed to be the very image and model of a moderate, pragmatic Democrat; hardly a liberal at all and certainly not a socialist.
While we wait—patiently, patiently—for an explanation of this puzzle we must consider what kind of socialist Warren/Bill aspires to become. Apparently not one like François Hollande. Although he has never made this explicit we have reason to believe he prefers socialists with military uniforms, censorship, secret police, prison camps, bogus elections and mass expulsion of uncooperative citizens. Apparently it does no harm it they hate America and capitalism. We come to this bold inference from the fact that de Blasio honeymooned in Cuba in 1994 and joined a Sandinista support group.
Does Bill approve of socialists like Carlos Franqui and Guillermo Cabrera Infante, who began by supporting Fidel and ended in exile along with ten percent of the whole Cuban population? No way to know if he has even heard of them, or has any desire to hear of them.
We don’t expect Bill de B to don fatigues and take the title Commandante, but what should we expect? His inauguration address included this line: “Let me be clear: When I said I would take dead aim at the tale of two cities, I meant it. And we will do it.” This seems clear until you subject the passage to a close reading. It may mean that he plans to take dead aim at A Tale of Two Cities, the Charles Dickens novel. It’s hard to make sense of the use of the noun “tale” otherwise.
Never mind the pedantic objections, this “unapologetic liberal” pledges to raise taxes on the rich to fund pre-school education, expand affordable housing, and end the"stop and frisk" searches in high-crime areas, and Ray Kelly as police chief. He expects these steps to reduce inequality by making the rich less rich; yank up the down trodden by transforming their whelps before age five, expand the government’s successes as Landlord (Landlady? Landlordy?); and stop pretending that Afromerican juveniles are more likely to pack firearms than Chinese students or Hasidic rabbis.
The Revolution has begun with a promise to ban New York City's iconic horse-drawn carriages and advances with bungled snow-removal on the Upper East Side. If Cuomo allows him to raise taxes on the rich significantly the rascals will climb into their stretch limousines, their private jets, their yachts and drive, fly, or sail away. The pre-kindergarten education will become another public education flop. The affordable housing will turn into instaslums. Crime will increase. The horses, lacking pensions, will meet their ends at the slaughterhouses in Canada or Mexico after the modest businesses of their owners have been destroyed.
All this and more will prepare the way for another liberal revival, after the brief interval required for progressives to forget their past failures.
THE AXIS OF IMBECILITY IN 2014 PART I
I don’t have the actual figures but I readily concede that Elizabeth Warren, PhD, Wendy Davis, JD, and Bill De Blasio, MA all scored somewhere north of 85 on their IQ tests. The imbecility of which I speak is an attribute of their fans. How else to explain their enthusiasm for the former Cherokee, former German-American, and former Republican brunette whose respective goofy mendacities are displayed in giant flashing neon letters for all to see?
Seriously goofy. Even if we accept Senator Warren’s claim that she is, or believes she is, 1/330th, or 1/16th or a quarter Cherokee, what of that? I’m told I’m one sixteenth Norwegian but I don’t have a single Norse attribute, apart from coloring. I don’t crave herring. I prefer fedoras or homburgs to horned helmets. I’ve never dreamed of sailing up the Kennebec in a long boat to plunder Waterville and molest the Colby co-eds. Oddly, my coloring is closer to Senator Warren’s than it is to any full-blood Cherokee I’ve ever seen. Yet she persistently claimed a biological heritage without any anthropologically significant cultural attribute. It is widely assumed among Howie Carr’s listeners and other malicious right-wingers that she claimed Cherokeeness for a diversitarian employment advantage.
It’s difficult to prove motive without confession, but since there’s no solid evidence that a fuzzy feeling of Indianity improves a professor’s legal or economic insight we are entitled to wonder why she felt the need to feel Indian in the first place.
We can ask the same question about her now-forgotten claim to having been the intellectual fairy godmother of the now-forgotten Occupy Wall Street blisters. Apart from the plain fact that the OWSers’ inspiration actually came from a gang of neo-neo-neo-quasi-semi-demi- Marxoid cranks and crackpots identified with Adbusters magazine up in Canada, why would a Harvard professor want to identify herself with a rabble of public nuisances?
Warren’s lively imagination is not confined to speculating about the deeper meaning of ancestral cheekbones, she also hears voices inaudible to lesser mortals, e.g. “We have heard the claim that our country’s future must be one of narrowing opportunities, a world in which those who are born into wealth do well but those born in poverty have little chance to escape …” She did not disclose where she heard this claim and no one has been able to supply a citation.
The professor’s attentiveness to voices in the air is more than an inclination. It’s a settled habit. Speaking at the Democratic National Convention in September 2012 she informed the faithful “The Republican vision is clear: ‘I’ve got mine, the rest of you are on your own.’ ” In a July 2012 e-mail she explained that “The Republicans have given their vision about how we build the future. They said, ‘I’ve got mine, the rest of you are on your own.’ ” In 2013 she told the Senate Banking Committee that the “In other words, [the Republican] vision is, ‘I got mine, the rest of you are on your own.’ ” She seemed to have kind of corrected herself on the senate floor when she told those present that “We are not a country of pessimists and ideologues whose motto is, ‘I’ve got mine, the rest of you are on your own.’ ” But last month she went back to her vision of a Republican vision invisible to Republicans when she told an audience of public sector unionists that “The Republican vision is, ‘I’ve got mine and the rest of you are on your own.’ ”
Howie Carr, who collected these quotes, has never heard any Republican say anything like this and neither have I. Nor has anyone. All this may reveal a disordered and deluded mind in need of treatment; or it may show a populist professor pitching blather to the rabble in the union halls and faculty lounges. Either way it is evidence of imbecility among the enthusiasts who yearn for a President Elizabeth Warren.
We are not surprised to learn that Sen Wendy Davis joined Senator Warren as a guest speaker at a recent Democracy Alliance Walpurgisnacht. Davis as the Great Blonde Hope of forlorn Texas liberals, ardent feminists everywhere, and the Democratic Governor’s Association. In March 2013, she announced her intention to run for re-election to the Texas Senate. On June 25 she leapt to national fame and became a feminist hero by filibustering an abortion bill. On October 3, with promises of money and support flowing in, she announced her run for governor of Texas. As Sen. George Washington Plunkett would have said: “she seen her opportunities and she took ‘em.”
Depending on who you read, Windy Wendy attempted to block legislation “that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, require abortion mills to meet the health and safety standards of hospitals, and ensure that the physicians in charge of abortion clinics have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals; OR she simply “filibustered against abortion regulations.”
Never mind that the filibuster failed. Never mind that the law passed and survived judicial review. Windy’s achievement still stands: the woman gassed steadily away for eleven hours, making her a heroine to our national media. Add her compelling personal story (as summarized by Time and cited by Ann Coulter): “an absent father, a sixth-grade-educated mother, a teen pregnancy, followed by life as a single mom in a mobile home, then community college and, at last, Harvard Law School" and she becomes a candidate for governor. As she told NBC “I’m a Texas success story. I am the epitome of hard work and optimism.”
Her dramatic story shortly began to appear “a little more complicated”. She wasn’t really a teenager when she parted from her first husband. Her trailer park residence lasted a few months. Her Harvard education was financed by a second husband, whom she left as soon as he paid off the last of her college debt. Her voluntary surrender of her children to her second husband’s custody marred her single-mother drama. Ann Coulter reacted to these revelations like Belisarius’s Hunnic mercenaries who felt “the gods had served up a feast for their pleasure.” when they came upon a straggling band of tired, undisciplined Vandal tribesmen.
The right-wing blonde terrorist summarized the fibs and lacunae in the Windy Saga and concluded that the feminist heroine’s second husband, Jeff Davis, “should run for governor! He's the one who raised two kids, including a stepdaughter, while holding down a job and paying for his wife's law school. There's a hard-luck story!”
Even so, a “gilded and frescoed” resume is neither novel nor particularly scandalous. Such “improvements” are an established American custom, although it’s puzzling when a politician does it since his or her resume invites far more scrutiny than the layman’s little lies. Coulter makes a persuasive argument that Jeff’s conduct deserves more praise than Wendy’s, but the woman does not make an idle boast in saying “I am proud of where I came from and I am proud of what I've been able to achieve through hard work and perseverance.”
Wendy’s behavior as a gubernatorial aspirant, however, is not characterized by hard work and perseverance. It throbs and pulses with evasions and mendacities so flapdoodlious that she may be seen as the epitome of a reptilian politician. Faced with questions about her personal drama she first plays the bold up-front Texas gal: “You’re damn right it’s a true story.” Next, she forbids Republican cads to speak of the same personal life which she made her principal political pitch. Finally, she allows that “My language should have been tighter”
I need hardly say all the errors or misrepresentations in her life story were deliberately contrived to make it more striking. None of her mis-speakings (mis-spokage?) made it less dramatic. She had a pretty good story, but over-egged the pudding and then fell into it.
And on it goes. Having made her name and fame as an abortion advocate, she now avoids the subject as much as possible. She wants those “Mexican” votes, but the “Tex-Mex” voters don’t necessarily want abortion. When television anchorman Jorge Ramos asked Davis “When does life start? When does a human being become one?” She replied, without answering: “You know, the Supreme Court of course has answered this decision, in terms of what our protections are.”
“Answered this decision?” What on earth does that mean?
As a state senator from Fort Worth Davis tried to ban gun shows from municipal property. As a state-wide candidate she aspires to be the first Democrat elected governor of Texas in a generation to expand gun rights. And to drive the point home she appears at a rally holding a shotgun with same ease and familiarity as Mike Dukakis once showed as a tank commander.
She launches her campaign by telling the world that she is with eight-square and 400-percent in favor of lavishing more money on education, then vows that she will veto a state income tax to pay for public schools.
It will get worse, until nothing will be left of her campaign but a vacant pair of red sneakers. Her most devoted fans will remain true to her until the end and then forget she ever existed.
The next object of our investigation will be Warren Wilhelm Jr.
WINDY DAVIS - A CLASSIC IN WEIRDNESS
BRISTOL PALIN TWEET: “Gosh, children are sooo inconvenient, huh? I’m glad my mother didn’t put motherhood on the shelf when she was elected to City Council, then became our mayor, then governor. I know you would rather think about Wendy Davis, so let’s get back to her. She’s more your type of woman. She left her kid, husband, made it into a false ‘made-for-tv-movie-type tale’ and then demanded that Texans have the right to kill babies. That’s the woman you libs can really get behind!”
WENDY RESPONDS IN AN INTERVIEW: “I think there obviously is a threat that people across Texas are connecting with me and connecting with the reality of my life story. With all due respect to Ms. Palin, of course, nothing that was said in that tweet is true. I’m very proud of the mother I have been to my daughters. I have always been and will always be the most important female in their lives. They are the most important thing to me and I’m very proud I’ve been able to be a role model, a friend, a mother to these two beautiful girls I’ve raised.”
1) She was a good mother up to the day she decided to turn them over to her second husband.
2) There being no step-mother, it follows that she was the most important female in their lives.
3) Surely, not as important as her career. Otherwise, why ditch 'em?
4) A role model? Does she mean abortion or abandonment for their children?
5) She turned them over to her husband to raise!
6) She called her daughters “thing(s)” :-) Oh well.
Here's a better grade of Texan: Francis Augustus Hamer (March 17, 1884 – July 10, 1955) was a Texas Ranger, known in popular culture for his involvement in tracking down and killing the criminal duo Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow in 1934. In a career that spanned the last days of the Wild West well into the automobile age, Hamer acquired legendary status in the Southwest as the archetypal Texas Ranger. He is an inductee to the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame.
Hamer fought in nearly 100 gunfights during his career as a lawmen in the Southwest and is reputed to have killed fifty-three men. He was also wounded in action seventeen times and left for dead four times. J. Edgar Hoover rated Hamer as being "one of the greatest law officers in American history." Furthermore, several Texas governors regarded him as "the best, most fearless and most effective peace officer Texas has ever known."
No word on whether he ever wore red shoes.
THE INFAMOUS EFFING F-WORD AND A MAN WITH A MISSION
By Professor John Frary • January 8th, 2014 •
“Variety,” the entertainment weekly recently reported that the dialogue in Martin Scorsese’s new film, “The Wolf of Wall Street,” employed the infamous F-word 506 times, exceeding the total in Spike Lee’s 1999 “Summer of Sam” by 71 blurts. My computations show that the laurels nevertheless belong to Spike. His magnum opiate produced three F-words per minute of running time while Martin managed only 2.81. The white racists at Wikipedia who do the counting concealed this fact. I feel that it’s my duty to reveal it.
This report set me to thinking about the two insider campaign histories by John Heileman and Mark Halperin. Their “Game Change” on the 2008 presidential campaign and “Double Down” about the 2012 campaign. The authors tell us that the first is based on more than 300 interviews with more that 200 people, and the second on more than 500 interviews with more than 400 individuals.
The arduous job of sifting through all 918 pages in the two volumes for an exact count is best left to younger and fitter Wikipedia wizards, but my own swift survey prompts me to propose one of these two works as the non-fiction Effing record setter. Take, for example, page 279 of “Game Change” where Senator McCain addresses his wife as follows: “F**K YOU. F*C*, *UCK, feek, fie, fo, fum, fum, fack, fu, eff!!” (Unless you know what I mean). The senator is depicted with both digitae infamitae thrusting like pistons as he barked these intimacies in Cindy’s face. He was annoyed that she interrupted him.
On page 64 of “Double Down” we have Robert L. Gibbs displaying the eloquence that earned him the post of Senator Obama’s communications director, then of White House Press Secretary: “This is f-ing unprecednted”...It’s f-ing bulls..t”...”He f-ing doesn’t deserve this”...”We can’t f-ing win this election if we can’t f-ing trust each other, and we’re letting him f-ing down.” Gibbs was reacting to a press leak that revealed his president’s innermost thoughts.
Heileman and Halperin are in no way responsible for the language recorded in their works. They faithfully report the way our politicians and political hacks routinely speak among themselves, out of ear-shot of the simple-minded multitude. This is in keeping with their image of themselves as warriors meeting in “war rooms” to plot strategies and tactics. They speak like the rough, muddy soldiers in the trenches speak—warriors like themselves.
In reality they are speaking like contemporary Middle School girls.
Conservative commentators pretended to be scandalized when V.P. Biden characterized the Affordable Care Act as a “B.F.D.” Liberal commentators were equally disturbed upon hearing V.P. Cheney recommend a course of action to Senator Leahy which involved the verb form of the same word. If the public was really scandalized it can only be because they thought it was unseemly for American vice presidents to ignore open microphones.
The plain and sober truth of the matter is that the effing f-word has become as common in contemporary American discourse as throat-clearing. If politicians use it more often than the general public it’s only because they work harder at it. Either way the word no longer deserves the traditional description, “salty” or “colorful.” It’s no more flavorful than sputum and no more colorful than expectorating.
With a view to an appropriate cultural adaptation, I contemplate a project that may occupy the remainder of my mortal days, a reverse bowdlerization of our major literary works. I’m remembering a bright young student to whom I recommended Orson Welles’s “The Third Man.” She reported back that she was unable to watch it. It was in black and white. The girl could not adapt to a presentation she found bafflingly unfamiliar.
The total absence of the ubiquitous f-word in the great classics of the past may well have the same effect on future students. While the tastes of the Victorian Era inspired the philanthropist Thomas Bowdler to publish “The Family Shakspeare,” revised and expurgated to eliminate any hint of smut in the Bard’s works, the time may soon come when we will have to adapt Shakespeare to contemporary tastes in order to make them accessible to our youth’s constricted sensibilities.
Here’s an example of a Hamlet Soliloquy fraryization:
“To be, or not to be--that is the f-ing question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The f-ing slings and arrows of outrageous f-ing fortune
Or to take f-ing arms against a f-ing sea of bullsh*t
And by opposing f-ing end them. To die, to sleep--
No more--and by a sleep to say F–K
The heartache, and the thousand f-ing shocks”
Charles Dickens’ “Tale of Two Cities” is also worth adaptation :
“It was the f-ing best of times, it was the f-ing worst of times, it was the f-ing age of wisdom, it was the f-ing age of bullsh*t, it was the f-ing epoch of belief, it was the f-ing epoch of incredulity, it was the f-ing season of f-ing Light, it was the f-ing season of f-ing Darkness, it was the f-ing spring of f-ing hope it was the f-ing winter of f-ing despair....
I ask you, could Robert Gibbs do better?
POLITICS AND PARANOIA
By Professor John Frary • December 11th, 2013 •
Double Down, the insider account of the 2012 presidential campaign by Mark Halperin and John Heileman, gives “Birtherism” a good deal of attention. Indeed, the certainty that Barack Obama is foreign born is even more widely spread than the conviction that J. Edgar Hoover was a cross-dressing “freon fruit” (to use Truman Capote’s insider’s phrase). From their account Donald Trump’s sudden prominence as a possible candidate is largely traceable to his emergence as the Big Birther in the presidential scene.
His political fade-out pretty much disposed of Birtherism as an active issue. The belief continues just beneath the surface because it is so satisfying in so many ways. It fits the suspicion that our president is some kind of a Muslim-Marxist-Kenyan-Leninist subversive. Quite apart from any anxieties about alien infiltration of the Oval Office, there’s a special appeal in the prospect of a speedy ejection of the national pest through judicial action.
H&H follow the common liberal assumption that political paranoia is a right-wing populist phenomenon exploited by cynical right-wing politicians and publicists. George Orwell had a broader perspective, e.g., “I have heard it confidently stated, for instance, that the American troops had been brought to Europe not to fight the Germans but to crush an English revolution. One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool.” Intellectuals and the well-educated are by no means immune to the pleasures and satisfaction on paranoid fads, follies, and fantasies.
Noel Pemberton Billing (1881-1948) was no ordinary man.. He was not an intellectual, having run away from home at age 13 and worked a number of jobs, including boxer and mounted policeman in South Africa before moving back to England and becoming a lawyer. He subsequently blossomed as a pioneering aviator, inventor, publisher and member of parliament. He also acquired considerable fame as the man who exposed the Kaiser’s evil schemes for the sodomite subversion of English society .His journal, Imperialist, revealed, for example, the existence of the Mbret of Albania’s “Berlin Black Book” which contained the names of “47,000 highly placed British perverts.”
As we all know, the Mbret of Albania was Prince Wilhelm zu Wied, selected by common agreement among the Great Powers to pretend to govern Albania. It is perhaps less well known that Wilhelm was promoted to king from the rank of captain in the German General Staff. It’s easy to see why Pemberton Billing became convinced that the Mbret was fronting a plan for “exterminating the manhood of Britain” by luring men into homosexual acts. The vast scheme incorporated more than the vile agents stationed near the Marble Arch and Hyde Park Corner. It included the defloration of children and schemes for entangling wives of prominent men in lesbian ecstasy so that they disclose state secrets.
When Pemberton Billings, MP, published "The Cult of the Clitoris" in the renamed Vigilante implying that the actress Maud Allan was a lesbian tentacle of the conspirators she sued him for libel. He won the suit and won re-election. So there you are.
The principal executives of Himmler’s Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Reich Security Main Office, RSHA) appear to have accepted the National Socialist beliefs about the Jewish enemy in full or in part. Most of them were well educated. It’s recorded that the French university humanities faculties were predominately anti-Dreyfusard in the day.
Hebrew-hatred appears to go back as far as Hellenistic times. It may be argued that the problem of Anti-Semitism may reflect a deeper problem - paranoia itself. Accept that paranoiac fantasies and conspiracy theories serve some deep human needs. Accept that they are not aberrations but integral to politics. Then it’s easy to see why Jews answer the need. All conspiracy theories rely on connecting the dots, and there are always enough Jewish dots to connect in order to complete the design.
The Armenian disapora provides a fair number of dots, so we should expect some kind of Armenian conspiracy theories as well. Google and ye shall find. The Turks, of course, are particularly sensitive about the Armenian conspiracy to misrepresent the gentle removal of cheerful Armenian families to places of safety and prosperity by the benign Young Turks.
There recently emerged a novel convergence of Armenian- and Jewish-centered paranoia. This is the theory that the Döonmes, or Crypto-Jewish bourgeoisie, conceived of and carried out the mass slaughter of the Armenians, who were their rivals for financial control of the region. The Döonmes are descendants of the Sabateans, followers of the 17th-century Jewish mystic Sabbetei Zevi, who converted to Islam. They have Jewish blood. That’s all you really need to know if you are a Moslem hot on the trail of the Enemy, or a secular Turk anxious to deflect blame for a genocidal atrocity you denied ever happened.
THE NEW OBAMACAR PROGRAM
By Professor John Frary • November 23rd, 2013 •
Word reaches me from thepeoplescube.com, one of the nation’s more reliable news sources, that the Administration is launching a new initiative: ObamaCar. White House Spokesmammal Jay Carney explained it in a recent press conference: "Too many Americans are driving substandard cars. In fact, there are a lot of Americans who don't even have cars. That is why the President, by executive order, has initiated the ObamaCar Program."
The new program will see that all Americans, regardless of age, place of residence, or occupation will be required to purchase a vehicle suitable to meet the standards mandated by ObamaCar.
However, Carney was quick to point out that this did not mean that anyone would be forced to give up their favorite ride.
"If you like the car you are driving now, you can keep your car. Period." Carney read from a prepared statement by President Obama. "Nobody is going to take it away from you. Period."
Owing to recent messages from new-found friends in Nigeria I’m in a position to offer an even more exciting opportunity. This should interest the 11 percent of the population identified by a November 20, CBS New poll as saying that the ObamaCare roll-out is going well.
The first offer provides an opportunity to acquire transportation on a grand scale. Check it out. First come; first served:
I am Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Minister of Finance in Nigeria.I sincerely
need your very kind assistance to claim and receive fund worth Eighteen Million,
Five Hundred Thousand Us Dollars (US$18,500,000) Source:The sum arose from
over-inflated contract awarded by Nigeria Ministry to a foreign firm. We have
fashioned out a foolproof plan to successfully transfer the funds to an account
belonging to a foreigner for investment purpose, i want to front you as the
beneficiary of the fund and 25% will be your compensation for this assistance.
I assure you that there is no risk involve in this transaction because we will
perfect the transaction in a way that there will be no trace of the funds to you
after the transfer. Please keep this transaction safe and confidential because
my colleagues in the Ministry have trusted me in getting a foreign partner for
the transfer of the fund.We intend to invest our own share in any profitable
business in your country based on your advice because our economy is not good
enough for investment. Please If my proposal is acceptable to you, reply as soon
as possible. I await your urgent response.
Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
The second opportunity comes to you from Mr. Tony Oby of the Central Bank of Nigeria, who informs me that I have $5,000,000 waiting for me. All I have to do is contact Mr. Dennis Melcher, the Fund Fiduciary agent/ Intermediary representative at 1-256-529-4644. Dennis also had an e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org. This is not the sort of thing that interests a conservative, so I’m making it available to any liberal Democrat who hankers after a really nifty, costly car. Just tell Dennis that John sent you. If you have a problem making your desires and authorization clear to Dennis then get in touch with Mr.Tony Oby at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Tel:+234-8182351187, Email: email@example.com
Just follow the instructions from whichever party you choose to contact. What could go wrong? You can expect these funds with the same certainty that you expect ObamaCare to reduce American medical costs, i.e., with the same certainty that you might expect of any government program to reduce the costs of anything or to come in under budget.
As I’ve said, first come, first serve. Act now. Fear not. Credulity is a terrible thing to waste. Remember P.T. Barnum’s famous dictum: “There’s a millionaire born every minute.”
HOW TO SPOT A LYING SOB AND OTHER MATTERS OF NATIONAL IMPORTANCE
By Professor John Frary • November 16th, 2013 •
The Honorable William S. Cohen and Alan Simpson had a conversation at the Collins Center for the Arts on November 7. Bill Cohen followed Maine’s tradition of political moderation by not saying anything particularly interesting or original. Wyoming’s former senator was a lot more interesting.
For one thing his feet are phenomenal. Never seen the like. They were up on the stage at eye level directly in front of me. Prodigious fifteen and half, triple-H shoes—couldn’t take my eyes off them. I only mention this because the journalistic convention has long been to remark on his towering height and sharp wit. This is accurate on both counts. When he spoke to me he had the aspect of a man looking at something down a well, and he fetched some well-deserved laughs during his talk. All the same there are other tall senators and a few can be quite funny, but none among them have, or ever had, feet the size of coal barges. This seemed worth mentioning.
The title of the 2013 Cohen Lecture was “The State of Our Nation: Hardball vs. Civility” but Alan Simpson seemed more inclined to mixing hardball AND civility. When I explained to him how I saw myself as a beacon of benevolence spreading good will everywhere he replied that he, in contrast, enjoyed “p***ing people off.” And during his talk he suggested that members of his audience call Mike Michaud a “lying son of a bitch.”
He was not explicit in this but the implication was clear. Senator Simpson told his thousand listeners that “...when you hear that wonderful phrase from your elected official standing there in the beauty of the glare of the camera: ‘I know what the problem is and we can get it done without touching precious Medicare, precious Medicaid, precious Defense, or precious Social Security. Then, you should get up and say, ‘You, sir, are making a terminological inexactitude, you lying son of a bitch.’
Rep. Michaud is on record saying that he had “authored” a constitutional amendment to preserve Social Security in its present state for all eternity. I’m sure he wasn’t lying when he says he authored a constitutional amendment. Anyone can author a constitutional amendment. Take a pencil and a piece of paper and the job is done in seconds, minutes at the most. The terminological inexactitude lies in the reassurance that there’s no need to change anything ever as long as we don’t want change.
I deduce this: that the Wyominger does not believe that tact should replace fact or civility swallow truth. Some disagreements arise from conflicting theories or experiences; other result from a collision of sincerity and mendacity. I suppose a good rule of thumb is this: we are free to call a man a lying SOB when he knows he’s lying, but if he’s merely wrong we are not allowed to call him a damn fool.
Civility, all by itself, is no panacea. In some cases, as we have seen, it’s not even desirable. So what other solutions are available? Cohen and Simpson agreed that Americans should demand that elected officials work together to make the hard choices needed to avoid burdening the young and still unborn with an unsustainable burden of debt. Sounds good in the abstract but there a number of practical problems.
The conversationalists agreed with Olympia Snowe’s Fighting for Common Ground that the expense of getting elected seriously distorts the political process. Senator Simpson told us that “dialing for dollars” can take whole days out of a congressman’s week. He cited the man who spend a hundred million dollars on Romney’s behalf last year as an exemplary scandal.
They agreed that the partisan divide in Washington is not a purely local phenomenon. It is driven largely by the ideological divisions in the electorate. That is, a conservative minority enforces conformity on the Republican congressmen and a liberal minority does the same to Democratic congressman. The problem is exacerbated by the gerrymandering that groups voters in congressional districts along ideological lines.
The Wyoming Big Foot stressed personal integrity as vital to resolving differences and crafting compromises. This seems self-evident. Bad faith makes negotiation impossible.
The 2013 Cohen Lecture was enjoyable in parts, thanks to Alan Simpson’s wit and feet, and it was interesting. I’m glad I attended but it offered no solutions to anything. It was a diagnosis, not a prescription.
How would this elusive entity called the “American People” go about demanding “that elected officials work together to make the hard choices” if conservative and liberal voters have hard choices in mind which collide with each other? Isolate the ideological voters from the process and you eliminate a majority of the voters who actually pay attention to politics. If Americans really want to curb the influence of Big Money then all they have to do is give up one cup of coffee a week and donate the money to the political party of their choice. The money generated would far exceed the special interest cash now supporting candidates. Not going to happen. They’ll go on drinking their coffee.
Simpson made two things clear about the difficulty of making those”hard choices.” First, he explained why President Obama rejected the plan proposed by his own National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (aka, the Simpson-Bowles Plan)—its hard choices were too hard. Second, he made it clear that the American people had approved of the vast increases in unaffordable entitlement programs financed through endless borrowing.
Here’s something the two senators neglected to mention: the automatic increases built into our national debt were built in back in the good old days when they served in a Congress where civility and good fellowship prevailed.
By Professor John Frary • October 26th, 2013 •
It wasn’t long ago when the phrase “going postal”—inspired by a number of post office massacres—was widely used to describe people driven to violent crime by work conditions. I remember remarking to my students in those days how odd it seemed to me that you never heard the phrase “going professorial.” My affected puzzlement was always a prelude to a vivid description of how professors suffered from reading students’ sloppy, ignorant, thoughtless, ill-written essays.
I garnished these bitter digressions with my features contorted into expressions of brooding menace, hoping that fear might incite some actual work among the laggards Nevertheless, it truly puzzled me that no professors ever seemed to snap and run amuck, slaughtering whole classrooms full of students. The provocations were severe and numerous. The consequences of such outbreaks, although tragic, might actually have proven beneficial.
Let’s reflect on these observations as we consider the strange case of Dianne Reidy, an official reporter with the Office of the Clerk of the United States House of Representatives. On Wednesday, during the vote on the compromise which raised the debt limit, ended our government’s shutdown and liberated Mount Rushmore, Ms. Reidy seized the microphone and launched into a tirade while the presiding officer hammered frantically with her gavel. Two members of the security staff ended her rant after about thirty seconds and hauled the agitated woman off to the local looney bin for “evaluation.”
No one disputes that her behavior was inappropriate, but we must remember that this poor woman held a position which obliged her to keep a verbatim record of the proceedings of the House. In brief and brutal terms she had to spend endless hours recording the ignorant, sloppy, ill-considered, clumsy, ungrammatical, blatherings of the 450 pests cruelly inflicted on her by America’s thoughtless voters. My experience as secretary of numerous academic committees has given me some idea of Dianne’s pain, but I had to deal with meetings which rarely exceeded a dozen people. I have never been present for a session of the House of Representatives but I’ve listened, or half-listened to dozens of speeches and oratorical fragments and have long since recognized that twenty-first century American standards of political rhetoric are lower than snake spit. It’s painful enough to listen to them; imagine the endless dull pain of recording the speeches line by line and word by word.
Dianne Reidy’s delirium produced thirty seconds of oratory on all fours with some of the codswallop she had been forced to record.. According to one source she said: “This is not one nation under God. It never was. The greatest deception here is this is not one nation under god! It never was. Had it been, it would not have been! The Constitution would not have been written by Freemasons!”
Setting aside their incoherence and the sufferings that provoked it, her brief remarks move us to an examination of paranoia and politics. There’s a long and involved history behind Ms. Reidy’s Freemasonicphobia. It has preoccupied fevered minds since the 19th century and flourishes undiminished even now. Over my years as a chalk-smeared academic foot-soldier I discovered four devout Mason-bashers in my classes; one was Syrian, two were Serbs and one was a Macedonian. The Syrian was convinced that the Masons were fronting for the Jews (or maybe it was the Jews fronting for the Masons—his description was not entirely clear). The Serbs and the Macedonian all agreed that the Masons were using Albanians for their vile and devious ends. All four agreed that the CIA was an instrument of the Masonic Enemy.
Next month brings the fiftieth anniversary of the Kennedy assassination and this will surely produce renewed exposes of how the Masons organized the whole thing. And, in case you were wondering, the Ku Klux Klan was also founded by the Masons, or perhaps you had not heard that its founder, Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, was a member of the order as well as a KKK charter member?
My theory is that Dianne Reidy was so bewildered from listening to the ninnies whose words she was hired to record that she found it impossible to believe that her country was really under their control. Driven off balance, she found a kind of desperate consolation in the belief that our nation’s affairs are directed by a secret conspiracy. It may be diabolical, but at least it’s intelligent.
WINDY DAVIS, SUDDEN TEXAS SENSATION
“These sneakers are made for walkin’
And that's just what they'll do
One of these days these sneaks
Are gonna walk all over you”
—Apologies to Nancy Sinatra
Sen. Windy Davis, the blonde who made pink sneakers famous, has ignited the hopes of liberal Texans by declaring her ambition to walk all over Greg Abbott, the Republican gubernatorial frontrunner next year.
Senator Davis suddenly vaulted to national attention and grew to colossal size by talking continuously for eleven hours in the Texas senate chamber. We need attach no importance to the fact that the abortion bill she filibustered against is now law in her state. It was her ability to gas away until well after sunset that impressed her national following. It was the quantity, not the quality, of her rhetoric that made her famous. As for content, it was enough for them that she believes abortions are good things and we need more of them.
Danny Kanner, my new friend at the Democratic Governor’s Association, sends word that he is “still buzzing from the excitement around Wendy Davis’ big announcement last week.” He’s amazed at the outpouring of support from people in Texas and across the country. Danny’s excitement moves him to transports of vivid and original rhetoric about an underdog taking on power players with lots of money who are stooping to new lows to smear.
Oh, and the word “fight” also appear in the DGA message. “Staying on message” always involves the words excite and fight. Any messenger omitting either would be instantly dismissed, barred from the profession and condemned to a life of crime, or worse, useful work. Danny, never a man to neglect the obvious, also foresees “one of the ugliest campaign’s we’ve ever seen.” For example, “Just last week, Texas Right to Life launched attack ads against Wendy in both English and Spanish.”
I confess I’ve become so jaded by political low-jinks that attacks by abortion opponents on abortion promoters leave me unmoved. What’s more interesting is the news that these dastardly ads are in Spanish as well as English. This explains why Windy’s official announcement speech made no mention of her pro-abortion filibuster. This event excited the EMILY’S LIST crowd and excites affluent liberals across the nation, but Latinos are a good deal more child-friendly. So Windy spoke instead of her May 2011 filibuster aimed at blocking a bill that would cut $4 billion from public school education. Advertising a commitment to education as an engine of mobility is more agreeable to the Mexican-American voters on whom the Democrats rely to turn Texas their way.
This artful dodging, by the way, counts as strategic genius among practitioners of the dismal profession known as political consultancy.
As noted above, the content of filibusters interests people far less than the length, physical endurance, and the paraphernalia that may accompany them. We turn to Windy’s announcement for actual samples of her rhetorical vivacity.
“Texas deserves a leader who understands that making education a priority creates good jobs for Texans and keeps Texans on top. Texans deserve a leader who will fight this fight for our future....We’ve waited far too long for a governor who believes that quid pro quo shouldn’t be the status quo...Our future is brightest when it’s lit by everyone’s star.”
It would be unkind to belabor this tiresome drivel. It’s not much worse, or different, from prevailing standards of American political palaver. Texans are no doubt as enured to it as Mainers. More importantly, a recent poll in the Texas Tribune shows that many African Americans and Hispanics favor a school choice policy the Teachers’ Union opposes. Windy, like nearly all Democratic politicians everywhere, has tied her hopes for victory to support of the educational unions. So it was that Eliot Cutler attacked the Maine Educational Association at the beginning of his Independent campaign in 2010; while the Democratic Party nominee has the whole-hearted support of the MEA.
Windy Davis’s experience as a student who rose through the ranks of community college to graduate from Harvard Law should have given her some special and entirely unique insights into how higher education really works. Perhaps it did, but she will have nothing to offer other than re-iteration of the Vending Machine Theory of Education: Put money in and out comes education. A large part of the public believe this theory. The educational status quo profits from it. Windy Davis’s political calculations dictate support for it.
Whatever her future as a candidate for governor of Texas, the only original and interesting thing about Windy Davis are her pink sneakers.
WEED WARS IN MAINE
It’s generally agreed that the cultivation of marijuana and beards are the most flourishing branches of agriculture in Franklin County, where I make my home. Bussy York’s Sandy River Farms can boast of steadily breaking even for over a century, but the general farms of my youth have mostly disappeared. Bussy is a man of infinite resource, ready to try every novel idea, from corn stove pellets to certified organics. He even has a corn mazes, which he claims 4,000 people entered last year. He refuses to disclose how many people exited. This is why I’ve never entered it myself and also why I wonder whether he cultivates a weed patch back in his woods somewhere. I make no accusations here. I only acknowledge ignorance of the full range of his enterprises.
I don’t know if Rob Kampia, co-founder and executive director the Marijuana Policy Project, has any idea of where Franklin County is or what goes on here, but he does know that Maine is likely to follow Colorado and Washington in legalizing the weed he loves. Ron showed up in Maine just last week to assess the political prospects, concluding that legalization is a certainty by 2015, if not next year.
His optimism is not without empirical foundation. A 59 percent majority passed the citizen's referendum in 2009 that expanded the medicinal marijuana law in Maine to include pot dispensaries. Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland) submitted a legalization bill in 2011 which was voted down in the House 107-39. She tried a second time in May 2013 but her bill was rejected by the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. In June a bill to place the legalization question before the voters was narrowly rejected in a 71 to 67 vote in the full House.
These votes have not followed strict partisan lines. Rep. Lance Harvell (R-Farmington), my home town representative supports legalization, arguing that "People have legalized it [pot] and the government has recognized it." Harvell believes that the legalization of pot would allow a shift in resources to the fight against harder drugs. Republican Rep. Deb Sanderson, who played the key role in legalizing medical marijuana, is cautiously inclined to allow the voters the final say.
Some people might call me the Republican path finder on the issue—if there was any evidence that anyone actually followed the path I laid out five years ago. No sign of that. Apparently they all found their own paths.
When I ran for Maine’s second district congressional seat in 2008 I was invited to speak my piece on a Bangor talk radio show. A listener called to ask (or DEMAND) to know whether I favored legalizing the weed. I had not planned to make it an issue, or even mention it, but felt free to say I did. The fellow sounded a bit disoriented by my answer. I suppose he expected an indignant denial from a Republican.
Understand, running as an unknown without further political ambitions in a year that promised a Republican electoral disaster I felt free to speak my mind on any question that came before me. That is, I treated all issues and questions as policy questions, never as “campaign questions.” (And why not?)
I hadn’t given much thought to the issue, but I remembered a 1994 symposium in The National Review with half a dozen lawyers, lawmen and bureaucrats who had fought in the government’s War on Drugs. All agreed that they had wasted considerable chunks of their careers on a futile project. They admitted defeat, concluding that the war was not winnable. Then in 2008, I read an article by a high-ranking Mexican police officer who praised his country’s incumbent president for some conspicuous successes in his war on drugs and concluded that it would make little or no difference in the long run.
These articles hardly made me an expert on the drug war, but they supported more general principles of economic behavior. They work like this: if you arrest the producers, wholesalers and retailers, but demand remains unaffected, the price must go up. Since cost of growing weeds is negligible, profits go up when prices go up. When profits go up more growers, wholesalers and retailers are drawn into the business. Your success equals your failure.
Rep. Mike Michaud, my opponent, knew less on the subject than I and had no curiosity about the policy issue. He knew exactly the right answer. He said he opposed legalization because of the danger to the little children. Concern for the little children always plays well.
I proposed that marijuana be legalized, regulated as carefully as alcohol, and taxed. Children are not allowed to guzzle booze. Some manage to get a hold of some now and again. It is told that when I was three years old I went around the living room after a cocktail party guzzling the dregs of highball glasses and got seriously sozzled as a result. This and similar incidents don’t show the need to revive Prohibition. They only show that little boys get into mischief. This may produce comedy or tragedy. Regulation of little boys is the eternal mission of adults and they have no hope of one hundred percent success. All I can suggest is that is easier for a child to sop up the dregs of highballs or beer bottles than to inhale their first joint.
Mr. Kampia is hoping the legislature will pass a legalization bill in 2014. If that doesn’t happen his group will initiate the petition and referendum process to secure its objective. I understand the man’s desire to avoid the expense, but I prefer a referendum since I believe that authorizing a change in social attitudes requires more than legislative maneuvering or judicial rulings.
The Franklin County Agricultural Fair took place immediately after I “came out” for legal pot, and I tried the idea out on a couple distributing religious literature. Their agreement was immediate and enthusiastic. They took me across the exhibition hall aisle and introduced me to man distributing little Bibles. He was no less enthusiastic, explaining that taking pot had staved off his brother’s death from AIDS for over a year.
Not long after I gave a speech to Maine’s Christian Civic League in which I explained my reasoning. The applause was polite rather than enthusiastic and some attending agreed that alcohol was, indeed, more destructive than pot. They wished Prohibition had succeeded but understood that it was a lost cause.
That same week I addressed the happy, drowsy multitude spread over Farmer Brown’s field in Starks. This is the site of Maine’s “Hempstock”—an annual multi-state gathering of potheads tolerated by local law enforcement. I explained that, moved more by hunger than a narcotic urge, I had once consumed a tray of marijuana brownies while my host was away. I found the experience so unpleasant that I went to bed, where I dreamed chaotic and idiotic dreams devoid of sensible plot, plausible characterization or intelligible dialogue. I never repeated the experience. More, I told them what whenever I found myself invading a pot party I found myself listening to inane and boring babble.
I told them that thirty years ago I would have said, nip the cannabis in the bud, and fifteen years earlier I would have said turn back the rising tide. But now that war has been lost. Further damage to civil rights, to the liberty of people to be their own potty selves, and to the taxpayer who funds the futile war could not be justified.
The crowd seemed to like the speech well enough and some were even able to follow and understand it.
A prediction: if Michaud is elected governor in 2014 and if a referendum approves legalization, then his concern about the little children lighting up will disappear.
FOOD TYRANNY AND THE FARMINGTON FAIR
The Franklin County Agricultural Society’s 173rd Annual Exhibition just wrapped up Farmington Fairgrounds. Any citizens suffering from serious cholesterol deficiency would have been well advised to make it over there and load up. Friendly vendors were waiting with a huge range of merchandise guaranteed to solve their problem. They sold mini-doughnuts, maxi-doughnuts and regular size doughnuts in a wide choice of flavors. Bacon, eggs and sausages were available in a number of establishments. Generous portions of French fries, fried clams, fried chicken pieces in various forms and sizes were available at reasonable prices. If it can be deep-fried it was available for purchase. No intravenous cholesterol is available yet. Maybe next year.
Prowling around the fairgrounds and engorging my share of these goodies, I gave some thought to the Great American Obesity Crisis about which we hear so much these days. There’s no disputing its existence, nor my own contribution to maintaining it. It’s not simply a cholesterol problem. It’s a gluttony problem that has arisen from our biological evolution and economic progress. Our ancestors regularly faced conditions of food scarcity promoting the instinct to eat when food was available and the capacity to store nutrients as fat as a protection against lean times. I’m thinking in particular of an anthropologist’s account I read years ago about how the Comanches “harvested” buffalo before the Spaniards populated the plains with horses. If they could manage it they’d drive a whole herd over a cliff. Then they would gorge on the corpses, having no choice but to leave most to the remains to rot.
Economic progress has eliminated regular cycles of famine and malnutrition while increasing leisure time and enormously reducing the amount of heavy manual labor. And government welfare programs like food stamps and school lunches provide plentiful food. It’s simple; we are not naturally designed for conditions of such plenty.
A column in The New York Times by Frank Bruni set me to thinking about the Farmington Fair food offerings. Frank wrote about this visit to Costco, where he found cashews and chicken thighs being sold in large lots. He concluded from his visit that "Costco as much as anything else is why the land of the free and the home of the brave is also the trough of the tub o' lard, our exceptionalism measurable by not only our G.D.P. but also our B.M.I. That's body mass index, and our bodies are indeed massive."
In offering this conclusion The New York Times columnist seems to adopt the common liberal habit of finding the source of a problem in insufficiently regulated big business. So we read frequent condemnations of Big Food as the culprit. A visit to the Farmington Fair reminds that Little Food, Tiny Food, and Pygmy Food do their part as well. There are no salad booths at the Farmington Fair.
The hope that replacing Big Macs with Minuscule Macs, displacing Burger King with Kale King, serving tofu wings at KFC or offering bird-seed pizza at Pizza Hut is going to produce a slim and svelte America is fantasy, and it’s not even a glorious fantasy. It’s a depressing prospect that only food cranks and masochists could anticipate with pleasure.
But what bothers me, and should bother us all, is the growing tendency of Big Government Liberals (is there any other kind?) To see big corporations as tools for controlling the American people. It’s true that most Americans have grown accustomed to a degree of government control over their lives that their grandparents and great-grandparents would never have tolerated, but we still resist government programs that dictate the details of our daily lives.
Those among us who believe that our government has the job of making better (and, in this case, slimmer) Americans seem intent on enlisting Big Business in that cause. This fits into a trend of weakening, if not entirely eliminating, the burden of individual personal responsibility.
I’m not advocating the propagation of diabetes, strokes, and other disorders influenced by diet, but it pleases me to think of the food vendors at the Maine’s fairs as island of sturdy resistance to government encroachment on private lives.
A STRAIGHT FLUSH IN COLORADO
Any grammar school math textbook will tell you that the odds against drawing a straight flush with a five-card hand are approximately 72,192 to 1. According to my calculations, the odds against a couple of plumbers flushing a pair of Colorado senators down the political drain are comparable. Yet poker players sometime lay down straight flushes and plumbers, it seems, sometimes flush senators.
Last March Colorado’s Democratic legislature passed a gun control bill. The state’s Democratic governor promptly signed it. Consequently Colorado now requires back-ground checks on all private gun sales and prohibits magazines holding more than fifteen rounds. This legislation was inspired in large part by the massacre in the town of Aurora, but there’s no good reason to believe that it will have any detectable affect on gun violence. Nor is there any good reason to expect the legislators who voted for the restrictions to attempt to evaluate actual results. Legislators are usually content with laws that sound good, regardless of whether they do good.
Political consequences are a very different matter. Those always interest our politicians deeply and the sudden termination of the senatorial terms of Angela Giron and John Morse are widely held to upset the hopes of the control freaks. They had counted on Colorado becoming the thin edge of the wedge for their effort to extend gun control legislation in the western states. Democratic electoral victories invited the effort and legislative victory followed.
King Pyrrhos of Epirus would have recognized the quality of that victory. He decided to abandon his Italian ambitions after two battlefield victories proved insupportably costly. The recall elections on September 10 left the legislation in place, but ended the hope of similar legislation elsewhere. Senator Giron anticipated this result when, on August 28, she told The New Republic “For Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG), if they lose even one of these seats, they might as well fold it up. And they understand that.” MAIG’s sponsor, Mayor Bloomberg, showed his understanding by donating $350,000 to defending the senators. One account has the liberal gun-control zealots outspending the recallers 8 to 1, another source sets the ratio at 10 to 1, yet another 6 to 1. The New York Times rather evasively reported that “both sides” spent a total of about $2 million. Enough to say that the control-nuts outspent the gun-nuts by a wide margin.
What ever the truth of the dollar figures, the election results on September 10 were 51% against Morse and 56% against Giron. The Democrats still control the Colorado Senate, although their margin is down to one seat. Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz dismisses the outcome, attributing the results to “voter suppression, pure and simple.” She inevitably pointed accusing an finger at the NRA, the Koch brothers, “outside money.” It’s true that the NRA donated a few thousand more than New York’s mayor, but NRA membership dues in Colorado were more than enough to cover the donations made, so it hardly counts as outside money. No one has so far given a figure for the alleged Koch dollars.
Debbie’s push-button “analysis” is of no account. Even faithful Democrats know that the woman’s only qualification for her chair is her resolute determination to “stay on message.” Apparently it’s the only talent she possesses—as long as the messages stay short and simple. If she did not lead the national Democratic Party and I did not disdain misogyny is all its dreadful forms, I would dismiss her as a bimbo in a fright wig, but let us pass on to more serious subjects, and people.
The plain fact is that Victor Head, his brother Adam and an electrician named Ernest Mascarenas are more consequential this month than the DNC chair. They alone initiated the process. Their recall petitions were what drew the money to the race. Victor had returned from working as an auto mechanic in Wyoming to help in the family plumbing business in Pueblo after his father fell ill. When he heard that Pueblo’s Senator Giron was holding a town hall meeting, he circulated flyers to notify local gun club members of an opportunity to demand an explanation. Dozens of people showed up but Giron cut the discussion short. This annoyed Head so he distributed another round of flyers for the next public meeting. The senator, sure of her support in an overwhelmingly Democratic district simply refused to discuss gun control and barred Victor Head from the room.