Newt’s Lesson for Mormons

Newt? Really?

One of the reasons this is so surprising is that I actually like Newt. He’s undeniably brilliant; he’s reasonable, and he’s produced real, substantial, conservative solutions. Wildly successful welfare reform? That was all Newt. Balanced budget in the 90s? Newt again. Child tax credit? Capital gains tax cut? The first Republican majority since Eisenhower? Newt, Newt, and Newt.

Given how effective and mainstream the man has been, he should be anathema to the Tea Party zealots who have cycled through a series of nondescript clowns and finally settled on Newt as the current non-Romney candidate. The only other one left is Huntsman, and even the Tea Party isn’t dumb enough to go there.

I’ve actually met Newt. I found him to be bright, personable, and extraordinarily gracious. I’d be very comfortable with America being led by a President Gingrich.

But that’s the problem. America isn’t going to be led by a President Gingrich.

There is no possible way that Newt Gingrich can win a general election. Yes, he’s brilliant. He’s also a serial adulterer who has flipped and flopped on all the same stuff Mitt has, including Romneycare. He’s made global warming commercials with Nancy Pelosi; he’s earned millions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and, perhaps most importantly, his quirky, brainy, and ofttimes prickly persona doesn’t wear well with Middle America.

Yet the Tea Party still prefers him to Mitt.

This is in spite of the fact that Gingrich is as much of a heretic on flashpoint conservative issues as Mitt is, and, on immigration, he’s even more so. He’s also indisputably a creature of Washington, which the Tea Party supposedly hates, and he’s even attacked Tea Party darling Paul Ryan for engaging in “right wing social engineering.”

And still, all of this is acceptable when compared to the Tea Party’s loathing of Mitt Romney.

I am forced into the unavoidable conclusion that Newt’s colossal personal and political baggage is not nearly as offensive to the Tea Party faithful as Mitt Romney’s Mormonism.

I hate to think that. I don’t like to consider myself a societal victim or a member of some kind of oppressed minority group. But if it’s not Mitt’s Mormonism, then what is it?

He’s a flip-flopper? So is Newt, and on the same issues as Mitt. He’s personally distant? So is Newt, and Mitt isn’t nearly as abrasive as Newt has often proven to be. He’s been faithful to his wife and lived his life without a whiff of personal scandal? Certainly Newt can’t say the same, but, then again, Newt can’t call himself a Mormon, either.

Four years ago, I was astonished by how deeply my faith was mistrusted by the evangelical wing of the Republican Party. In 2012, such mistrust is no longer fashionable, but that only means that it’s gone underground, not that it’s gone away. Tea Party zealots are certain to take that mistrust with them into the secure privacy of the voting booth.

Certainly all this flies in the face of the goals of the Utah Tea Party, which believes that Mormons are the ones who are going to save the Constitution as it’s hanging by a thread. Tea Party anti-Mormonism ought to give pause to Utah’s zealots, but it won’t. They’re either too deluded or just too damn stupid to notice that they have saddled themselves to an intolerant political movement that truly loathes them.

The bottom line, then, is that the Republicans are willing to nominate an unelectable candidate before they’re willing to nominate a Mormon. But that’s kind of a redundant statement, isn’t it? The lesson of Newt Gingrich’s unlikely rise in the polls is that a Mormon candidate is the most unelectable candidate of all.

Go Newt.

Why Do You Care So Much, Anyway?

Conversations about the Shakespeare Authorship Question with those who have not studied the issue are a very predictable, four-step CIFA process. They begin with:

1. CONTEMPT.
“You idiot! Of course Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare! Look at the name on the play! See what it says? It says ‘William Shakespeare’ right there! Who else would have written it, pinhead?”

Contempt is supposed to scare me off, but it doesn’t work. So then we move on to the next step:

2. INCREDULITY
“You really believe that? Really? Even though none of the smart, cool people believe that? How can you wake up in the morning and be so out of step with what the cool people believe?”

I end up pointing out that the incredulity isn’t much of an argument, which forces people to actually come up with something or leave me alone. If they manage to come up with something, we move on to:

3. FLACCIDITY
“Well, de Vere couldn’t have written the plays, because he was dead. So there.”

That may not be the argument they use, but it’s usually a one-sentence disgorgement of whatever measly, flaccid nugget of conventional wisdom they have at their disposal. At least it’s sort of an argument, but it’s always an argument that’s very easily refuted. Since their reasoning rests on a flimsy foundation, the final step is inevitably:

4. APATHY
“Who cares? We have the plays. Why does it matter who wrote them?

“Why do you care so much, anyway?”

That’s the question I want to address.

With regard to Shakespeare, the answer is that understanding the author vastly increases an understanding of the plays. Suddenly Shakespeare has context, history, a point of view. The traditional view of Shakespeare is vapid and confusing – apparently, this guy’s brain was a receiver for random broadcasts from the Muses, and he just channeled the plays and the poems without ever letting his own life or limitations get in the way.

In any case, I find it to be a fascinating topic which can yield a much deeper appreciation for the works Shakespeare left behind.

This post, however, is not really about Shakespeare. Surprise! It’s about Global Warming.

See, the CIFA method applies to all Global Warming arguments, too. (Who knew Global Warming and the Bard had so much in common?) Let us review. We begin with:

1. CONTEMPT
“Oh, you’re one of those Global Warming deniers. I’ll bet you don’t think the Holocaust happened, either. You make me sick.”

The word “denier” is filled with such contempt that it’s often very difficult to move past this stage. The problem is that the word “denier” is so intellectually dishonest that, from the outset, it has already sullied the dialogue almost beyond repair.

What, exactly, have I “denied?”

The Al Gore brand of global warming alarmism requires an acceptance of a whole litany of tenets, and uncertainty surrounding any one of them throws the whole preposterous theory out of whack. So slapping the “denier” label on anyone who raises any questions along the way effectively bundles the argument into a single, tidy, yes-or-no package. So either you think the globe has warmed unusually quickly due solely to humanity’s irreversible pollutionary damage and that massive governmental intervention to dismantle industrial society is the only solution, or you don’t.

Quibbling about any of the numerous details – is this rate of warming truly unusual in comparison to global history? Is mankind solely or even primarily responsible? What percentage is our fault? Is it irreversible? Would Cap-and-Trade or any other colossal government program fix the problem, or even put a dent in it? – earns you the “denier” label every step along the way.

But assuming you can move past the name calling, you get to:

2. INCREDULITY
“But look at how many scientists agree with us and not with you! You’re not a climate scientist – you’re not qualified to disagree! How can you go against the scientific consensus?!”

So many stupid assumptions here. The fact is that there is no scientific consensus on the entire “denier package,” i.e. the globe has warmed unusually quickly due solely to humanity’s irreversible pollutionary damage and massive governmental intervention to dismantle industrial society is the only solution. When you start to look at where the consensus is, the alarmist position unravels very quickly.

There is consensus that the globe has warmed a degree in the past century, yes. I’m fully in sync with that bit of consensus. But that’s really as far as it goes. Is that an unusual amount of warming for a century? No consensus. How much is mankind’s fault? The consensus seems to be that some of it is, but as to the exact amount, there’s no consensus. What’s the optimum global temperature we ought to be shooting for? No consensus whatsoever. Is it irreversible? No consensus.

So what about government intervention to fix it? Well, the consensus there is damningly clear – Cap-and-Trade and other proposed attempts to limit carbon emissions would have absolutely no effect on global temperatures, but many think we should still do them anyway as some sort of “first step.” That kind of thinking leaves me incredulous. But that doesn’t stop the argument from moving to:

3. FLACCIDITY
“Last year was the warmest year on record.”

Once “consensus” fails and it becomes clear that pretending to know what other, smarter people think doesn’t really address the question, it becomes time to unleash some select flaccid factoid that doesn’t really say anything, either, like the one I just quoted.

OK, just for kicks, what if last year was the warmest year on record? We’ve only been keeping records for about 100 years, and given technological limitations, those records don’t really become reliable until relatively recently. Does that mean it’s never been warmer in the history of the globe than it was last year? No, that’s clearly nonsense. Does that mean every year has been warmer than the last? No, that’s nonsense, too. In fact, even the “consensus” scientists are forced to concede that there’s been no discernable warming trend since 1998. So what we’re left with is a disputable “fact” that doesn’t provide any useful information at all. Which is why we move on to:

4. APATHY
“Why is this such a big deal to you? We all know we need to move to green energy in the long term, so it would be good to act as if we’re warming the globe even if there are still unanswered questions.

“Why do you care so much, anyway?”

And that, my friends, is the real question I want to answer.

Here’s why.

We have as many or more natural resources in this country than any other country on earth. We have enough oil in the oil shale in the western United States to fuel the world for generations. We’ve also got gobs of clean-burning coal, natural gas, and untapped reserves of conventional oil all over the place. If we were to develop all of that full bore, then, virtually overnight, we could kickstart this moribund economy, cut unemployment in half, slash gas prices by 2/3, free ourselves from dependence on foreign oil that too often comes from countries who hate us, and use the revenue generated from this massive burst in economic activity to fund Social Security and Medicare benefits for the Baby Boomers and beyond without breaking a sweat.

We won’t do it.

Why won’t we do it? Well, because we’ve been told that we’re going to warm the planet too much in the process.

The direct costs of global warming alarmism – notably some form of carbon tax or carbon credits – are staggering enough on their own and quickly run into the trillions. But what happens when you couple those with the opportunity costs? How much wealth is left literally buried in the ground because we’re afraid of what recovering that wealth will do to global temperatures? How many children in developing countries go to bed hungry because we’re not willing to tap the natural resources that could improve their standard of living? Occupy Wall Streeters, the wealth you’re craving isn’t just in the pocketbooks of the 1% – it’s in the 99% of our natural resources that you refuse to touch. A cost-benefit analysis quickly reveals that the price of climate alarmism is far higher than any civilized society should be willing to pay. Doesn’t that matter? Isn’t that a problem? Shouldn’t all of us be concerned about the answers to these questions?

Why do I care, Mr. Global Warming Alarmist? The question is why do you care about an ill-defined, scientifically shaky doomsday scenario more than the immediate well-being of billions of people?

Beware of Volunteer Prophets

Within the next three to five years, the Chinese will invade and occupy the United States of America and set up prison camps wherein us regular Americans will be tortured because… well, because we’ll be tortured for some reason. Don’t interrupt.

One of these camps will be in a tiny Southern Utah town with less than one-hundred residents, but don’t let that fool you. For this is no ordinary town. No, sir, this is the town where we shall stand up and fight back and redeem the Constitution and pluck it from the hands of the godless conspirators who have defiled it with their foreign ways and their kung pao shrimp and cheaply-made Happy Meal toys and Mulan with the lucky cricket and the way they talk funny because our Founding Fathers would never talk like that because if the Bible was written in English then that’s good enough for me.

Phew.

While I have added some thinly veiled racist details that take some artistic license with the whole concept, the substance of this pinheaded prophecy did not originate with me. No, it came from a woman who believes she has more access to God’s purposes than a schmo like you. It seems she had a vision of herself in this Chinese prison camp in her small town, and, in the vision, she was pregnant, so all this rigamarole must therefore be fulfilled during her premenopausal years.

By my calculations, this woman is now pushing 50, so either we are going to have an Abraham and Sarah sort of situation, or else the Chinese had better hurry up.

I thought of this prophecy as I was driving my small children to school yesterday morning and unwisely left the radio station tuned to Glenn Beck, self-appointed soothsayer of the sound waves. The Mighty Beckster was holding court with a woman who was complaining about the harassment her daughter suffers at the hands of ragged, impolite protesters as she makes her way to her Wall Street office.


Our Mr. Beck, ever the voice of reason in these troubled times, calmly reassured her that things were going to get much, much worse and that a Civil War between regular Americans like her and all them dark-skinned folks living in the inner cities was just around the corner and would probably launch by summertime – Labor Day at the latest – and so don’t forget to log on and see Glenn Beck’s internet television channel on December 8 in order to receive further instructions on how to fend off the coming apocalypse. I’ll be sure to be there myself unless something else – anything else at all – is happening that day.

We Mormons bring it on ourselves, really. We have the audacity to claim that God continues to speak today as he did to prophets of old, so we shouldn’t be surprised when a few volunteer prophets step up and fill the void. And the message of the self-appointed volunteers is always far more exciting and compelling than the message of the boring-but-real ones. A generation tutored by Hollywood expects prophets to prophesy of Chinese death camps and race wars. They tune out when the real prophets emphasize loving your neighbor, performing acts of service, and the importance of faith over fear.

Regardless, that’s what real prophets do. The people that I sustain as Prophets, Seers, and Revelators haven’t said word one about invading Sinohordes in Southern Utah or brewing inner city secession. I don’t have to tune in on December 8, because I tuned into LDS General Conference on October 1, and the people I truly trust to pass along God’s message were singing a far different tune than the lunatic wails of the Beckian fringe.

Christ’s injunction to beware of false prophets is based on the assumption that there will be true prophets, too. But those who believe in true prophets should not consider themselves exempt from the warnings against false ones, and they, especially, should have zero tolerance for any such prophet who cloaks him or herself in the culture of the Restored Gospel to perpetuate their hooey.

Christmas Scams

So here’s the plan.

Christmas gets increasingly expensive for a family with five children, and in these times of economic crisis, one must turn to new sources of inspiration to supplement Santa’s bounty.

Beginning on Black Friday, then, I shall join my twin 10-year-old sons, Corbin and Cornelius Cornell, and embark on a journey to spread Christmas cheer, while at the same time enhancing our own Christmas wealth.

And so it is that I shall dress them in shabby clothes and smear both of their faces with liquid graphite to give them a filthy, Pig-Pen-from-Charlie Brown vibe without the usual accompanying odors, and then we shall visit every retail establishment in the Salt Lake Valley that sells quality footwear.

I shall then send my two minions into these retail establishments, armed only with a few choice words and socks filled with seven dollars in pennies.

The pennies are but props; it’s the words that are key. I have written these words on two index cards, which the lads have been instructed to memorize. Using a musical accompaniment, they have managed to commit the following script to memory:

“Sir (or Ma’am), I want to buy these shoes for my mama, please. It’s Christmastime, and these shoes are just her size. Could you hurry, sir (or Ma’am)? Daddy says there’s not much time. See, she’s been sick for quite awhile, and I know these shoes will make her smile, and I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight.”

For days, Cornelius stumbled on the intro, as he didn’t realize that the parenthetical “Ma’am” was only to be used as an alternative and not an addition. Corbin asked if perhaps he should be prepared to substitute some other divine moniker should the sir or ma’am clearly be a representative of a faith outside the majority, and thus it might suit our purposes if Mama might meet Allah/Krishna/The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob tonight instead. I commended him for his foresight, but I think it’s best of we keep it simple.

If NewSong’s rancid Christmas staple has taught me anything, it’s that a subsequent person in line, listening to that mawkish pitch and watching a slimy urchin try to pay for a pair of expensive high heels a penny at a time, will immediately be filled with “a glimpse of heaven’s love” and gleefully “foot” the bill, if you know what I mean. That will give them a treasured memory that will be well worth the hundred dollars plus they will fork over to get the line moving again, and my satisfaction of being the instrument for such manufactured cheer will mitigate whatever guilt I may feel when I return to the same store the following day with the shoes, the receipt, and a tale of woe about the beloved missus, who kicked the bucket whilst my sons were buying her kickers. Alas, she is now resting peacefully with Buddha/Ganesh/L. Ron Hubbard, and I’d like the refund in cash, if you don’t mind.

The boys are instructed to select no shoe worth less than one Benjamin, and our reconnoitering of the retail environment has yielded over 100 prospective outlets wherein we can find 100 easy marks who need to be reminded what Christmas is all about. Doing the math, that means we can collect at least 10K worth of heaven’s love glimpses in about two weeks time. Not a bad haul, if I do say so myself.

If this works, then next season will allow us time to expand beyond the podiatric to even more lucrative Yuletide treasure.

“Sir (or Ma’am), it’s Christmas Eve, and this 60-inch flat screen plasma is just her size…”

Chapter Two: Lost Boy Found

CHAPTER TWO:
Lost Boy Found

More startled than actually frightened, Peter stumbled to his feet to see the four urchins who had come through the newly destroyed window and were now scattered about his room. Each was scruffier than the last, and their ratty, torn clothing and matted hair made Peter wonder if they’d ever had a bath in their entire lives. Peter couldn’t take his eyes off them, although none of them were paying the slightest bit of attention to Peter.

“What are you doing here?” Peter asked. It seemed as good a question as any, although the answer wouldn’t explain who these boys were or how they had come to be in his room. He couldn’t think of a question that would have covered all of that in one go, so he asked the first thing that came to mind.

The boys didn’t bother to respond. The tallest of them, a boy with auburn locks and a face full of freckles, was busy trying to reach up to the top of his bookshelf, standing on the tips of his muddy toes. His face brightened when he seemed to find the specific book he was looking for.

“Here!” said the auburn-haired boy, grabbing the book and tossing clear across the room at another blonde boy who couldn’t have been more than ten years old. Three of them seemed about that age. Perhaps the auburn-haired one was eleven or twelve, but the tiny, dark, African-looking boy rolling around contentedly on the carpet seemed like he may have only been six or seven. The blonde on the receiving end of the flying book was staring at Peter’s framed painting of the Dunnet lighthouse and didn’t even turn his head when the book collided with the back of his head and then fell to the ground.

“There!” yelled the auburn haired boy. “You just let it fall to the ground.”

“Oy! Fletch!” yelled a third sandy-haired boy who was jumping on Peter’s bed. “Bishop’s talking to you.”

The blonde boy called Fletch shrugged his shoulders, still not bothering to turn around. “Bishop’s always talking to me,” he said.

“You see how he disrespects me?” Bishop said, directly addressing Peter for the first time. “I shouldn’t have to put up with that, should I?”

Peter didn’t have the presence of mind to come up with an appropriate response.

“Here now!” Bishop said. “You just let it fall!”

Fletch nodded.

“That’s not right!” Bishop yelled at Fletch. “That’s a terrible thing to do to a very fine book!”

“Oh, fine book,” Fletch smirked back. “You don’t know even know how to read.“

“So?” said Bishop.

“Yes?” said Fletch.

“So what?” asked Bishop.

Fletch nodded. “Yes.”

The sandy-haired boy banged a fist against the wall. “It’s the right lighthouse; I’m sure of it. I recognize the echo.”

“Tastes like the right lighthouse,” said the small boy on the floor as he licked the dusty wood floor.

“Grim, that’s disgusting,” said the sandy-haired boy.

“That’s how I know it’s the right lighthouse,” said Grim. He coughed, rubbed the end of his tongue with his fingers, and the coughed again.

“Hello?” Peter said to no one in particular, and no on in particular answered him.

“It’s the right house if Langy says it is,” said Bishop, indicating the sandy-haired boy.

“It’s settled then,” Bishop said.

“Yes,” replied Langy.

“The rightest of right lighthouses,” said Fletch.

“I like books with birds in them,” Grim said, fingering through the volume that Bishop had dislodged from the top shelf.

“Please, will someone tell me what’s going on?” asked Peter, his voice frantic.

“Yes,” said Bishop, grabbing the book out of Grim’s hands. “No birds in here, though.”

Fletch, still looking at the painting, asked, “What’s the book say, then?”

“Hard to tell,” said Bishop, holding the book upside down. “Too many words.”

“Please, all of you,” pleaded Peter, “Just tell me who you are and what you want.”

“Where’s Jane?” asked Langy. “Why isn’t she here?”

Peter’s felt all the color drain out of his face. “Jane was my mother’s name,” he said.

“Gather round, boys!” Bishop shouted. “This is the book! The one about us!”

Fletch snorted. “And just how would you know that?”

Grim flapped his arms and said “Big sea birds” to nobody in particular.

Bishop flipped through the pages. “That’s my picture, innit?”

Fletch craned his head over Bishop’s shoulder. “That’s not you; that’s old Tootles,” he said.

“So?” said Bishop.

“So what?” said Fletch.

Bishop nodded. “Yes.”

Then Grim said “Whitey birds!”

Langy threw up his hands. “Let’s just ask her and be done with it!’

“Right,” said Bishop, who looked over at Peter again. “Jane. Where is she?”

“I’ve had enough of this,” Peter said. “Whoever you are and whatever you’re doing, it’s just not right.”

“No, what’s not right,” Langy said, taking a step toward Peter, “is you keeping Jane hidden from us when you know right and proper just how late she is.”

“Late,” Peter repeated. “Then you know. Of course you know.”

“I know!” said Grim, raising his hand.

“Know what?” asked Fletch.

Grim lowered his hand and bowed his head. “I didn’t expect to be called on so soon.”

“That’s enough,” Peter snapped. “You all have to leave. Now. This very instant.”

“We do, do we?” laughed Langy. “And why is that?”

No good reason occurred to Peter, so he said the first thing that came to his mind. “I’ve got a gun,” he said.

And with that, there was instant silence.

For a moment, Peter thought he had the upper hand, until Grim let out a giggle and said, “Golly! Peter’s got a gun!”

Howls of laughter filled the room as each of the four boys took turns playing the finger shooter or the victim of the finger bullets. Langy especially seemed to enjoy getting shot in the chest and collapsing in a grand, sweeping motion before leaping back to his feet to aim his finger at Fletch. Bishop tried to shoot Fletch, too, and he got increasingly agitated as Fletch made it clear that he was only going to acknowledge the imaginary rounds fired from Langy’s finger. Grim wasn’t bothering to aim at anyone; instead, he stared at the ceiling and made “pow. pow” sounds, firing his pretend bullets into the air out of his thumbs instead of his finger. That, too, seemed to disturb Bishop, who kept telling Grim that he was doing it wrong, only to have Grim ignore him completely and continue launching imaginary thumb volleys.

“Stop it!” yelled Peter. Nobody stopped it. Grim did aim one round of shots at the floor instead of the ceiling, but he seemed frustrated that he couldn’t aim his thumbs right when they were pointed down.

“Stop it!” Peter yelled again.

And, again, nobody stopped it. It wasn’t until Peter darted to the bookshelf, grabbed a dictionary, and hurled it smack into Langy’s face. Langy let out a small yelp and covered his nose as the other three gasped.

Langy’s lower lip began to tremble, and a drop of water started to gather in the corner of his eye. Then he sank to the floor and started wailing like a wounded animal as his three friends swarmed around him in an attempt to console the inconsolable. Grim kept saying, “there, there,” and patting him on the head as if he were a puppy, while Bishop ripped a page out of the dictionary and used it to wipe Langy’s nose.

“He’s a monster,” Langy sputtered through heaving sobs. “They turned our Peter into a monster.”

“Look, I’ve had just about enough of this!” Peter said. “I’m not ‘your Peter.’ I don’t have any idea who you are, or how you know my name, or – ”

“Not our Peter?” asked Grim, cocking his head. “Who’s Peter are you, then?”

“Never mind. We don’t need him anymore,” Bishop said. “He’s just a grown-up now. Somebody go find Jane.”

“She’s dead,” Peter said flatly.

“She’s late is what she is,” Fletch shot back. “She should have come for her spring cleaning ages ago.”

“She’s not going anywhere,” Peter said.

“Oh, yeah?” Fletch snarled as he stood up to face off with Peter. “And who’s going to keep her from us? You? Your gun? Some more big fat books?” That was enough to elicit another melodramatic howl from Langy.

“Didn’t you hear me?” Peter said. “Jane’s not going anywhere. She can’t. She’s dead.”

“Yeah, you told us that already,” said Fletch. “And our house is dirty. So you know what that means.”

When it became clear Fletch was waiting for a response, Peter answered, “No, I’m afraid I don’t.”

“And I’m afraid of spiders,” Fletch countered, his eyes narrowing.

Peter raised an eyebrow. “So?”

Fletch stepped in closer. “So what?”

“That’s what I’m asking.”

“What are you asking?”

“I’m asking why I should care that you’re afraid of spiders.”

“Don’t mention spiders!” Fletch said, recoiling. “I’m afraid of them.” Then he scampered back to Langy’s side.
Grim stopped patting Langy on the head and looked at Peter with plaintive eyes. “Why aren’t you our Peter anymore?” Grim asked.

Peter just looked at him, dumbstruck. He was no longer scared of these loopy intruders, but he had could find no proper frame of reference into which to understand this experience. He was beginning to wonder if real life was always this bizarre, and that maybe he’d just forgotten that along with everything else.

“He’s a monster,” Langy muttered again. “A monster.”

“But he’s not supposed to be a monster,” said Grim, who picked up the first book that Fletch had grabbed after he’d first crashed through the window. Flipping through the pages, he came upon a picture and said, “Take a look at him. Does that look like a monster to you?”

“Let me see that,” Peter said. He grabbed the book a little too roughly out of Grim’s hands and read the title: Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie.

“Peter and Wendy,” he read aloud.

“Wendy doesn’t come anymore,” Grim said. “That’s why Jane comes.”

“Which reminds me, where is Jane?” Bishop asked. “She’s late.”

“Jane,” Peter said, “As in Wendy’s daughter. And so you’re supposed to be the Lost Boys?”

“I don’t know whether I’m supposed to be or not,” Grim said. “Although I often do I things that I’m not supposed to.”

Peter shook his head. “I’ve read this book. There’s no one called Grim or Bishop or… or whatever the other two are called.”

“Why would we be in that book? That was about when Wendy came. Now Jane comes, except she’s late. Did she tell you why?”

“So you’re not talking about Jane, my mother. You’re on about some character in a children’s book.”

Langy’s sob turned to a snort. “You hear that, boys? Jane, his mother.”

And then the two boys next to him snorted, and the room filled with laughter again. They started bowing and courtseying, talking in high, snooty voices, saying things like “Oooh! I’m Mother Jane! Look at me! A mother!” But this time, Grim didn’t join in. “You’re ignorant!” he yelled. The others ignored him. “I’m a mother,” Bishop trilled. “A motherrrr! Care for a cup of tea?”

Grim walked to the other side of the room, jumped up on Peter’s bed, and struck a pose with his hand son his hips. “Listen to me, you ignorant slugs!” he screamed.

The room again fell silent, and all eyes turned to Grim.

“There’s nothing wrong with wanting a mother,” Grim said. “Peter wanted one. Jane wanted to be one. Sometimes I even want one. What do you have to say about that?”

“This,” said Fletch, who then blew him a noisy raspberry as the other Lost Boys cackled.

“Now Grim wants a motherrrrr,” Langy laughed, raising his voice into a high falsetto on the last word. Then he and Bishop and Fletch went back to their screechy little pantomime, with Grim yelling “ignorant!” over and over again, all the while jumping up and down on Peter’s mattress.

Then Peter raised his hand and yelled, “Hold it.”

The reaction wasn’t instant the way it had been when Grim had demanded attention, but after a moment or two, the boys calmed down enough to let Peter say his peace.

“This is madness,” Peter said. “Simply madness. I don’t know how you got here; I’m not quite sure what it is you want, but if I have any wits left me at all, I know that my mother was a real person, not a storybook character, and I think it shows extremely poor taste and disrespect for the dead the way you are behaving, and I’m sure if I could remember more about her and -“

“You can’t remember?” Bishop asked. “You don’t remember Jane?”

“No, but that still doesn’t mean you can just –“

“You don’t remember us?” asked Langy.

“Do I remember you? I don’t understand. Should I remember you?”

Peter thought Grim was about to cry when he asked his next question.

“Peter Pan, “ he said, “you don’t remember me?”

Dark Spots – My NaNoWriMo Contribution

According to Patrick Rothfuss, author of the masterful The Name of the Wind and the less masterful The Wise Man’s Fearthe most helpful customer review at Amazon for that one has it right on the money – November is National Novel Writing Month, where novelists both approved and aspiring struggle to write 50,000 words of their latest opus in thirty short days.

My novel that I shared with you some years back has been completed, revised, and repeatedly submitted for publication. I even got close once, but, alas, it was not to be. Still, that hasn’t stopped me from continuing to write even more stuff that probably won’t ever hit the printed page. I’ve outlined a sequel to that previous novel, but, currently, I’m adapting my unproduced musical Neverland into a book. I’m quite happy with the first chapter, and I’ve decided to take the NaNoWriMo challenge to heart and write a full 50,000 words this month.

I’m up to 3,593.

Just for kicks, I thought I’d share the first chapter with you and get your honest, unbridled opinions, which were really and truly helpful the last time I tried this. Don’t worry – I won’t inflict all 50,000 words on you, but I also won’t write the other 46,407 that I haven’t written yet if you guys hate the first 1,568, which is precisely how many words you will find in the chapter below.

________________

NEVERLAND
A Novel by Stallion Cornell

Chapter One:
Dark Spots

As the twilight sky turned from grey to black, young Peter stood at the edge of the cliff and stared out over the angry sea.

Directly behind him, in the lighthouse in which he lived, a beacon flickered to life and began its nightly vigil, renewing its efforts to save any soul unfortunate enough to find itself on those treacherous waters. The murky pitch below was where two fierce ocean currents had been battling each other since time began. Peter often marveled at how neither side relented even for a moment, despite no hope for victory. He knew that any vessel foolish enough to wander into the melee would find itself dashed against the jagged, towering rocks that marked the northern edge of the British mainland.

“Peter!” called a scratchy, deep voice that barely cut through dull roar of the night wind and the relentless waves.

His father.

Of course it was his father. Who else would it be? Their nearest neighbor was at least two miles down a one-lane road. No one else was foolish enough to live in this damp-yet-desolate waste at the end of the world.

And that was the point. His home in London had been destroyed months before in the German bombing raids that had hit the city every day and night for three and a half months. On rare occasions, Peter was almost grateful that he remembered none of the horrors that scarred his father’s dreams, waking him with fits of terror that would force him to sob himself back to sleep. But most of the time, Peter was sure he would give his right arm to recall a single moment with the brother, the two sisters, and the lovely, forever absent mother that had been taken both from his life and from his memory in one hot, loud, brilliant flash of light, which was both the first thing he could remember from his new life and the last thing he could remember from his old one.

“Peter!” His father’s voice was closer now, close enough to expect an answer.

“I’m here, sir,” Peter called back, not turning to watch the approaching figure silhouetted by the bright crescent moon.

“No need to shout. I’m right beside you now,” said Peter’s father. And so he was. He was a tall, lopey, odd-looking sort of fellow with a nose and a pair of ears that were two large for his narrow, sharp face. His hair was just a bit too thin and his belly just a bit too large, but there was a kindness in his eyes that made it easy for even strangers to trust him, which had been a good thing for Peter, who now lived in a world where he had to become reacquainted with everyone he had known since the day he was born.

“Come inside, Peter,” his father said gently. “Your tea’s been sitting on the table for ages, and it’s no use once it isn’t warm anymore. Not even a dog wants to eat a cold potato.”

Peter smiled. “I’ll be right in, sir.”

“You know, you could call me Father. Or Dad.”

“I know.”

The wind seemed to grow louder as both of them stared out toward the blank horizon, but it wasn’t loud enough to drown out the silence of the unfinished sentence. Peter knew he should have said, “I know, Father,” but he couldn’t quite get there. At least he dropped the “sir.” That was something, anyway.

But it wasn’t enough to kept his father from talking. “Not enough light to see the whirlpool,” he said.

“There was just a minute ago.”

“You know why that whirlpool is there, don’t you?”

Peter sighed. Yes, he did, but the right answer wasn’t the one his father was looking for.

“It’s the old viking sea-king. Fellow by the name of Mysing, if I’m not mistaken. He had this right massive grain mill that was so heavy, it sank his island straight down into the tide. So he’s still down there, grinding away, making the ocean salty, churning everything up like mad.”

Peter cracked a grim smile. “Doesn’t he get bored?”

“Who?”

“Mysing.”

“Does Mysing get bored?” Peter’s father pursed his lips as he considered the question before finally answering, “Of course not.”

“I would.”

“Yes, you would. But you live in our world.”

Peter turned his head to look at his father. “What world does this Mysing live in, then?”

His father shrugged his shoulders. “His world.”

“Oh,” Peter smirked. “Well said.”

“I can’t think of any other way to explain it,” said Peter’s father. “It’s not that different than this one, really. They just… don’t have time there.”

“No time? Days don’t pass?”

“No, days pass.”

“Well, that’s time, then, isn’t it?”

“No, it’s not like that,” said Peter’s father, rubbing his chin. “The days, they pass, but – the days don’t count against you. One day is like the next. And like the day before and the day after. It’s all sort of – the same day, really.”

“Just like the Lost Boys you’re always on about,” said Peter. “And Peter Pan, too? Nobody grows up?”

“Not exactly,” said Peter’s father. “But you’re close.”

“I love how you act like he’s a real person. And that he comes from a real place.”

“Who says he doesn’t?”

“Right,” said Peter, “I’m sure he’s real. And you know how I know that?”

His father’s eyes brightened. “How?”

“It seems time doesn’t count here either. Because you told me that story two days ago.” Peter had meant it at a gentle, teasing sort of remark, but it came out sharper than he had intended, and suddenly the mood darkened.

His father furrowed his brow. “I did, then, did I,” he said, and Peter wasn’t sure if it was a question or a confession.

“I didn’t mean anything by it,” Peter said with a pained smile.

“No, you’re right,” his father said, still sounding guilty. “I think I’ve told you more about stories and legends than I have about the real world. You probably know more about Mysing and Peter Pan and all that rubbish than you do your own mother.”

“Please don’t take it that way.”

“Ah,” said his father. “Yes, well,” he began, as if to explain something, but then he trailed off awkwardly, adding to the clumsy silence from the moment before.

So, in a bid to get things on a better footing, he returned to familiar ground. “Your tea’s getting cold.”

“You know, you told me that one, too.”

“So I did,” replied Peter’s father with a playful grin. “Come inside, then. I’ll help you with your cane. Where did you put it?”

“I didn’t bring my cane.”

“What?” Peter’s father burst into a huge smile. “Walked out here all by yourself, did you?”

Peter nodded. “Limped quite a bit, though.”

“A limp?” Peter’s father laughed. “What’s a limp? This is brilliant! It means you’re getting stronger! Don’t you see, Peter? You’re healing!”

“Yes. Amazing,” Peter muttered in a tone that said it was anything but.

“Oh, don’t be like that,” his father chided gently. “One step a time, that’s all it is. We need to celebrate the progress as it happens.”

Peter didn’t feel much like celebrating. In fact, he often thought that he’d trade both of his legs for a chance to remember anything from before the bombing. Yet he knew that saying that out loud would spoil the mood, and he’d done enough damage already.

He turned to go inside when something caught his eye and set his heart racing. “What’s that?” Peter asked.

“What’s what?”

“That! There!” Peter pointed up into the sky, where the beam from the lighthouse hit the clouds.

Four small, dark blots along the horizon were hurtling toward them, slicing through the light with too much speed and intensity for them to be anything natural.

“Are those German night fighters?” Peter asked.

“Inside!” his father barked. “Now!” It wasn’t a request.

“But what are they coming to Dunnet? What could they possibly-”

“In the basement. Hurry.”

“Aren’t you coming?”

“Do as you’re told, boy!”

The dark spots were getting bigger. And closer. But Peter couldn’t hear the engines. Weren’t planes supposed to be loud?

His father grabbed him by the shoulders and pushed him forward. “Move!” he yelled.

Peter almost fell over, but he caught himself and used the momentum to run as fast as his limping body would carry him. He scrambled through the front door, ran to the base of the basement stairs, and then he stopped.

All he could hear was the night wind whistling through the open door.

This was all wrong. Why would the Germans attack an old lighthouse up in the middle of nowhere? Why hadn’t his father followed him inside?

And why on earth weren’t the planes making any noise?

Peter turned and walked up the other flight of stairs that led to his bedroom. He ran to his window that looked out directly over the Pentland Firth, so he’d be able to see for himself what the strange, silent spots were. If his father wasn’t scared enough to come inside, then there must be a reason for it.

That was the last thought that crossed his mind before he was smacked in the face by two bare feet that shattered the glass directly in front of him.

The Rights of Jerks

One note of blog housekeeping: if you decide to mention specific biographical details about me and my real life identity, your comments will be deleted.

In cyberspace, I try to maintain a thin veneer of anonymity, despite the fact that most of you likely know who I am, know where I live, and know how to contact me in the real world. For those of you who who would like to communicate with me and find it impossible to restrain yourselves from using my real name and life circumstances, please send me an email at stallioncornell@hotmail.com.

This note of housekeeping was brought on by a series of comments last night that truly baffled me. I thought yesterday’s post was a candid admission of my own electoral failures, my acceptance of same, and of the stark realities that ensure that I’m out of politics for good. But one commenter saw the thing as a whiny statement of liberal entitlement and/or a lamentation that I’m being denied the rightful station of nobility endowed to me by virtue of my supposedly royal birth. He attacked both my integrity and the integrity of my mafioso family, and, once his initial comments were erased, he sarcastically berated me for not allowing him to use my own blog as a public repository for his piles of slung mud.

I had rather a similar experience a few years back, when an old missionary acquaintance found me on Facebook and sent me a friend request. I accepted, whereupon he proceeded to launch a lengthy ideological diatribe as to why I was the most politically malevolent and nigh-unto-treasonous human being who has ever lived, and why both me and my family deserved to be boiled in used motor oil. I tried to respond with a shrug and a kind word, but he took that as an invitation to double down and insult me even further.

So I defriended him.

Within minutes, I received a missive in my inbox telling me that I had violated his First Amendment rights to free speech, and I ought to be ashamed of myself. And, candidly, I was ashamed of myself, but only because I wasn’t savvy enough to block him completely instead of merely defriending him.

But even after I blocked him, I received another message from someone I didn’t know, who told me how angry this guy was that I had so little respect for the Constitution and its free-speech protections that I wasn’t willing to give him a forum on my Facebook page to bash both me and my family senseless.

Two observations:

1. Far too many people are too stupid to understand that the right to free speech does not include any right to a forum in which to speak. All it means is that the government can’t arrest you for stupid things that you say.

That’s it.

So if you want to go outside and say stupid things on a public street corner, sure, knock yourself out. But if you’re on television, and you say things your sponsors don’t like, please bear in mind that they have no constitutional responsibility to keep signing your paychecks. When S$&@ My Dad Says was canceled, William Shatner was wise enough to understand that he had no First Amendment right that could prevent his wretched sitcom from getting the axe.

Case in point: fired Oscar producer Brett Ratner. Did he have an unassailable First Amendment right to casually use a crude anti-gay epithet in conversation? Sure. Does that extend to an ironclad legal right to produce the Oscar telecast? Dream on. Speech always has consequences. All the First Amendment guarantees is that government suppression is not one of them.

Similarly, if you want to barge into my home, my blog, or my Facebook page and start spewing bile at the rate of thirty-three gallons per second, don’t be surprised if I show you the real and/or virtual door. When you’re on my turf, the First Amendment provides no legal or constitutional impediment to my giving you the boot. If you doubt that, then go ahead and sue me. You’ll quickly discover that even Gloria Allred won’t be able to win that one.

On to point number two:

2. Political discussions are not exempt from basic considerations of kindness and common decency.

It is always astounding to me that people who would never say an unkind word to anybody in almost any circumstance suddenly become firebreathing, vicious, insufferable twerps when they start talking about politics. Please be advised that it is possible to disagree with a politician without calling attention to the fact that their mother wears combat boots.

I must confess that I, myself, fall into this trap far too often. For instance, it is very hard for me not to publicly note the fact that Jon Huntsman is a goober when he is so manifestly a goober. But I have met Jon Huntsman live and in person, and I would never have the chutzpah to call him a goober to his face. The relative anonymity of the Internet allows us to be far ruder than we would ever dream of being if there were a live, flesh and blood person standing in front of us.

Yet even when there is such a live, breathing person in the room, too many people think their political affiliation gives them license to be rude, crude, or socially acceptable. I’m just not cool with that.

So, to sum up: Rick Perry’s weird gaffe in last night’s debate was the final nail in his political coffin. Thank you.

Life After Politics?

I just got off the phone with a woman who had spent the past month volunteering to get a ballot initiative off the ground in her community, only to watch a Tea Party group swoop in, dump a boatload of money, and swing the election in their favor.

“I lost my first election,” she said. “I thought you’d understand.”

The day before, I had wandered into a local McDonalds for lunch. I was working from home, so I was unshaven, dressed in torn jeans, and even wearing two shoes that weren’t from the same pairs. A pretty, well-dressed young woman came up to me, called me “Mr. Cornell” very formally, and extended her hand as if I ought to know her. I had no idea who she was. Was she a former student of mine when I had worked at Tuacahn High School? Had I taught her in Sunday School? Was she a friend of the family? No, she said, she had worked for the prominent Tea Party Republican who had trounced my candidate in 2010, and she was on her way to run an open house on behalf of the guy who had beaten me in a run for the Utah State Senate in 2006.

It was quite a contrast – well-coifed, attractive, young, up-and-coming political success meets middle-aged, shlumpy, cheeseburger-eating loser who can’t even match his shoes.

I would like to report that she was rude or obnoxious or gloating, except she wasn’t. She was very polite, and our exchange was entirely pleasant. But I couldn’t help but notice the contrast between us, and I’m sure she couldn’t, either. I thought about what she must have told my former political foes about our friendly encounter. Did she chuckle about how the mighty hath fallen? Or would it have mattered enough to her to make any comment about it at all?

I thought about it as my friend called me today and told me how devastated she was about losing her first election. I had told her weeks ago that I was out of the game for good, and that I couldn’t imagine a circumstance where I would ever find myself doing anything in politics again. At that time, she scolded me and insisted that I get back on the horse and “fight for what’s right.” Today, however, she told me how much she understands, and she apologized for what she had said before, as she doubted she would ever stick her neck out like that again.

There’s probably a moral to this story, but I don’t know what it is.

I will say that it’s impossible to know what it feels like to put your name on a ballot and have the voters say “no, thanks” until it happens to you. It’s far more personal than I had imagined. Maybe there are candidates that can see it as a game and brush it off, but, to me, it was a complete rejection of me as both a candidate and as a human being. Losing the later 2010 election was also devastating, but in a different way. I was angry because the good guy had lost and the bad guy was the one replacing him. But, at the same time, it wasn’t my name on the ballot.

So maybe the moral of the story is that I should get back on the political horse. Except, politically, I’m a man without a horse. The Tea Party controls the Utah Republican Party, and they’ve made it clear that I’m not welcome there. Sure, Utah Democrats may be desperate enough to entertain the idea of putting me on their ticket, except I don’t agree with them on much, and it’s next to impossible to win any kind of election in my area with a D next to your name. So, in pragmatic terms, that’s kind of a non-starter.

But there’s more to it than that. The more distance I get from my erstwhile political career, the more I think that a person who is as devastated as I was has no business putting their name on a ballot ever again. There are plenty of people who perennially run for office – former Utah congressman Merrill Cook comes to mind – because they crave the validation that comes with voters who approve of you. If you can’t win an election, the thinking goes, you must not be worth anything. So candidates continue to sacrifice their time, their talent, and, too often, their principles to curry favor with thousands of faceless people they’ll never meet, never satisfy, and never hear from again when they lose. I don’t want to be one of those guys. The one good thing that losing has done is guarantee that I never will be.

The problem I face, then, is where does this all leave me? I thought I was a theater guy. After ten years of pounding my head against that particular brick wall, I finally learned that I’m not a theater guy. But that was OK, because I was suddenly a politico. Seven or so years and two cripplingly public losses later, I’m not a politico. So what am I? Well, I’m a husband to a wonderful wife, and a father to five magnificent children. Maybe that’s enough. Certainly that’s what’s most important. But, at the same time, I have (hopefully) decades of life ahead of me, and plenty of aimless ambition to fill those years with – what? Just cheeseburgers and mismatched shoes?

Any suggestions would be most welcome.

Superman and Shakespeare’s Secrets

I remembered interview with comics write.artist John Byrne in the late 1980s in which he described his revamp of the Superman character for DC comics. He said the one of the things that mystified him as a kid was that everybody was trying to figure out who Superman really was. His question, which had never seemed to occur to previous comics writers, was very simple:

When did Superman announce that he had a secret identity?

Asking who Batman is, for instance, makes sense. The guy wears a mask. It’s only natural to wonder who’s face is behind it. Superman, however, doesn’t wear a mask. But the conventions of super heroism presume that every superhero has a mild-mannered alter ego, so Lois Lane spends all of her time trying to prove Clark is Supes. But, if you think about it, there’s no reason to suspect that he is anybody other than the guy flying around in blue tights and yellow undies. There’s no reason at all to think that he puts on a pair of glasses and pretends to be a mild-mannered reporter for a major metropolitan newspaper.

That, actually, is the only way Superman’s Clark Kent disguise makes even a lick of sense. (Not a lot of sense, mind you, but a lick.) After all, people aren’t looking for Superman’s disguise, so it wouldn’t occur to anybody that Superman and Clark Kent are the same guy, even if they look alike.

That same premise is the central problem in the authorship controversy surrounding Shakespeare. People keep asking variations of the following question:

“How could Edward de Vere have pretended he was William Shakespeare without anyone noticing?”

That question presupposes two things, neither of which are true:

1. That William Shaksper of Stratford on Avon was a prominent public figure that contemporaries would have connected to Shakespeare’s plays during his lifetime.

2. That use of a pseudonym would have aroused suspicion and required a live body to take credit for the works written with the fake moniker.

I can demonstrate that both these contentions are false by turning to unlikely sources: namely, the traditional, orthodox Stratfordian biographers who insist that, in Elizabethan England, nobody paid attention to playwrights. Therefore, saith the conventional wisdom, Shakespeare would have toiled in relative obscurity, so we shouldn’t be surprised that there are no letters addressed to him, no information about his doings or his whereabouts, and, indeed, no direct mentions of him that connect him to any literary enterprise.

But the fact is that Shakespeare’s contemporaries – Ben Johnson, Edmund Spenser, John Lyly – did leave behind letters and things that showed they were real people living in the real world. Shakespeare didn’t. Sure, Mr. Shaxper of Stratford left behind some mundane legal detritus that showed he was alive, but none of it connects him to the writings of Shakespeare, and most of it contradicts what we know about the poet and playwright.

My theory, then, is that no one considered William Shakespeare, the poet and playwright, to be William Shaksper of Stratford, a similarly-named actor and grain merchant. That connection wasn’t made until after both men were long dead. While both men were alive, everyone thought they were two different people, which is why nobody bothered to “expose” Shakespeare’s real identity. Nobody reveals the big secret because nobody thinks there’s a big secret to reveal. That’s why records listing prominent playwrights sometimes mention Oxford and not Shakespeare, and vice versa. It simply didn’t occur to them that they were keeping a secret, or that anyone in the future would mistake the one man for the other.

In addition, playwright Shakespeare wouldn’t have had to have someone take credit for him, because there would have been no reason for him to make a personal appearance at any occasion. Elizabethan England was decidedly pre-Oprah – authors didn’t do book tours or show up on The Tonight Show. Stratfordian scholars make this point over and over again – it was the actors who were feted and adored, not the writers. In addition, Shakespeare, during his lifetime, was primarily known as a poet, the author of Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece. By comparison, his work as a playwright gets little mention in the records of the day. Adoration of authors for the theater didn’t really begin until Shakespeare’s First Folio was published in 1623 – again, after both Shakespeare and Shaksper were dead.

So the answer to the question – how did de Vere get away with impersonating the guy from Stratford? – is that he didn’t, and nobody thought that he did. If you doubt that this is possible, then show me the shocking exposé in which Mark Twain is “revealed” to be Samuel Clemens. You won’t find one.

Of course, that’s because Twain wore glasses when he wasn’t being a superwriter.

One Standard, Please

I apologize that I’m vague on the details of the story I’m about to share, but there are real people who might be embarrassed if I were to name names.

The year was 1999. I was looking for a job, and I found myself in Washington, DC talking to a former high-level Clinton administration staffer, one you would likely recognize if I were to tell you his name. He referred to his former boss, casually, as “that crazy rapist over on Pennsylvania Avenue.” This was not long after Juanita Broderick had made a credible charge that Bill Clinton, then Attorney General of Arkansas, had forced himself on her and then told her to that she’d “better put some ice on that” when he saw her lip was bleeding. This staffer made it very clear that he believed the charge, and he was glad to be out of the Clinton administration, because “you never knew what was going to come out next.” Yet, to date, he has never publicly said a word against his former boss, even though he believes he is guilty of rape. Rape!

Perspective is necessary here.

In Bill Clinton, you have a man who committed an act of sexual violence against another woman and went on to be President of the United States. This same man also had an affair in the Oval Office with a woman barely old enough to avoid charges of statutory rape. Clinton then lied about the same affair under oath, and, today, is lionized as one of the great heroes of the Democratic Party, largely because he refused to take responsibility for his behavior. Again, this is a man who groped a distraught supporter when she came into his office on the day her husband killed himself. Clinton propositioned her, grabbed her in a big bear hug and placed her hand on his erect penis.

The intelligentsia told those of us who thought this pattern of behavior reflected poorly on a president that we were prudes, fetishists, unsophisticated rubes. Feminist Gloria Steinem wrote a column saying Clinton was well within his rights to grope Kathleen Willey, because when she said no, he didn’t rape her, although she avoided mentioning that he didn’t pay the same courtesy to Juanita Broderick. But we were all encouraged to move on, nothing to see here. (MoveOn.Org got its name from this auspiciously tawdry era.)

Yet less than a decade earlier, when Clarence Thomas was accused of saying crude things about pubic hairs on soda pop cans, we were told that he was woefully unfit for high office. Scads of women ran for Congress the following year to protest the confirmation of this foul predator to the Supreme Court. That led to the Year of the Woman and the election that first inflicted Barbara Boxer and dumbest-woman-alive Patty Murray on an unwitting nation. (Patty Murray, you’ll recall, is the woman who praised Osama bin Laden for all the day care centers he built, presumably for the burqa’d gal on the go. Seriously.)

Seven years later, these same woman who built their political fortunes on furor over unsubstantiated charges of crude remarks by a potential Supreme Court justice thought that far more credible charges of rape against a sitting president, along with proven demonstrations of sexually predatory behavior coupled with perjury, were really no big deal, and the country should move on.

You can see where this is going, can’t you?

I’ve made it clear on this blog that I don’t much like Herman Cain. I think his tax plan is asinine, and I think he lacks the intellectual preparation and firepower to serve as the nation’s chief executive. I would like nothing more than to see his campaign go down in flames, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to stand idly by and watch him get excoriated by the same elitists who told me not that long ago that only puritans care about sexual predators in the White House.

As of this writing, we still don’t know what it is Cain is accused of having done. We have plenty of reports that he ought to be handling the accusation better, but even there, I have no idea what that means. He claims nothing happened. What else is he supposed to do? And if he’s lying, so what? Doesn’t everyone lie about sex? Wasn’t that the primary intellectual takeaway of the Clinton years? MoveOn.org, why shouldn’t we move on from this one?

It’s not just Clinton, of course. Which GOP Senator could have drunkenly driven a girl off a bridge and left her to drown and still retained his Senate seat and gotten the kind of hagiographic eulogy Ted Kennedy got? If the National Enquirer had reported that Mitt Romney had fathered a love child on the campaign trail, would the Washington Post have issued memos insisting there be no discussion of Romney’s circumstances, as they did with John Edwards? What does it say about us that partisanship plays any part at all in how we address sexual scandal?

I’m not surprised people are rallying around Cain. Crap on a stick, I’m rallying around Cain, and I can’t stand the guy. What the media is missing is that this outpouring of solidarity with Cain has very little to do with Cain as a candidate or a human being. It’s revulsion at a double standard so obvious that maybe even Patty Murray should be able to notice. (Which, of course, she won’t, because she has to pick up her grandkids over at Taliban Toddlers before 5:00.)