Beto O’Rourke, the Party Animals Favourite

It looks like the Democratic nomination race for 2020 (not in 2020, it’s already started) will be a crowded one.  Like the Republican race in 2016, a large field makes for an unpredictable result.  Last week we looked at Elizabeth Warren, that resentful Scots-Irish (and just about the last one in her party.)  This week I’ll take a quick look at Beto O’Rourke, the non-Hispanic who came too close for comfort to unseating Ted Cruz as Texas’ junior Senator.

He’s currently the darling to many in and out of his party.  But why?  Without having to rewrite everything, let me go back to a 2016 post:

Having grown up at the upper reaches of this society and not the lower ones, I can say with confidence that our elites, under all the gaudy rhetoric, have two basic priorities in life: getting laid and getting high or drunk, which facilitates Priority #1. Look at what’s been at the top of the agenda: contraception, abortion, the LGBT movement, the transgenders, all of it. It’s all about sex. That’s why real economic equality (and the economic development that makes it possible) has taken a back seat. And it doesn’t hurt that a society where wealth generation is held back tends to concentrate what’s left at the top.

O’Malley and his ilk in the pro-life movement have always spoken of a “culture of death.” But that’s not what this is really all about. It’s about a thrill-obsessed culture that’s ready to sacrifice anything, everything, anyone and everyone to kill the pain of its own worthlessness. The Democrats’ lame attempt to frame the issue on the timing of children was just that, as O’Malley justly points out.

That priority set–one that’s been a long time out there–makes O’Rourke a strong contender.  His street cred with the progressives leaves much to be desired, but hey, isn’t being in a rock band with the drunk driving to go with it more important?

I don’t think–and there’s nothing that you can say to convince me otherwise–that a country whose leading people are so sybaritic that their lives and political convictions revolve around pleasure is going to stay great very long.  Sooner or later someone with their eye on the ball (as opposed to those who, impaired, struggle to focus) is going to get ahead of us, and there are suitable candidates out there who fit the bill.  I’m not talking about never having a good time: I’m talking about making it a religion, right above global warming.

And it’s hurt them when they’re in power.  I still think that Barack Obama, had he approached his task with more vigour, could have delivered the death blow to the Republicans as a viable national party if he had concentrated on that and not spent so much time playing golf, hanging with Reggie Love, etc..

But I guess that such efficient energy defeats the whole purpose.

Elizabeth Warren and the Resentful Scots-Irish

Visits from grandparents are the joy of many families.  For us, it was usually the other way around.  After we we bounced from Chicago to Chattanooga to Palm Beach, we lived on the other side of the Palm Beach Country Club from my father’s mother.  With my mother’s parents, we usually went to Arkansas to see them.  They only came to visit us in Palm Beach once.  And it was enough: in a letter my grandmother wrote to a friend in Chicago, she noted the following:

I know when Vernell (my mother) lived in Chicago, and when I would stay several weeks at a time when the boys were Babies, how hungry I would be to be with God(‘s) children in an old time church.  And now they live in Palm Beach, Florida, and the same thing, and when folks aren’t spiritual minded they don’t care about the Lord nor his church in this world…

The idea of “the remnant”–that there are just a few of us hanging on to God–was born around the time the Israelites faced their first exile in Babylon with the destruction of the First Temple.  It’s one that’s resurfaced many times.  Church growth types decry the attitude of “us four and no more” but if you get enough “us fours” you can have quite a movement, and that was the reality of much of Southern Evangelicalism for many years.

What really strikes me about this more than half a century after she wrote it is the contrast to the fawning, sycophantic attitude towards wealth and the people it accumulates to (and the places they live) that is now standard in churches.  It didn’t matter that Palm Beach was and is one of the wealthiest communities in the United States; a proper Christian church was absent, thus it wasn’t a good place.  That reflects the attitude that eternity is what really matters.  It’s tempting to criticise (as N.T. Wright is wont to do) that it’s escapist and reduces the relevance of Christianity in this world.  But that’s not really true either: the legacy of “escapist” Southern Evangelicals is alive and well in ways that have been obscured by political shifts, but need to be re-examined.

The main thing Southern Evangelicals are remembered for is being atrocious racists. And there’s no doubt about that.  But buried in that web is a class element, too.  Descendants of a class-stratified British society, Americans in general like to think that they’ve gotten beyond class.  But it’s easier said than done, especially in the South.  Black people posed a perpetual economic threat for a people whose capacity for efficient work was fitful at best. That’s why they worked so hard to keep them down.

But the same people who despised those below them resented those above them as well.  After Reconstruction they sized control of state governments from those who had led them in the Lost Cause, instituting some of the rawest populism this Republic has seen before or since.  They tightly regulated activities that fuelled those they displaced, such as alcohol consumption.  (They also tightly regulated utilities, too.)  And the class-stratified nature of Southern Christianity insured that no one had to see someone from the “other side” of anything on Sunday morning, with their attitude buttressed by Scriptures such as the following:

Let a Brother in humble circumstances be proud of his exalted position, but a rich Brother of his humiliation; For the rich man will pass away ‘like the flower of the grass.’ As the sun rises, and the hot wind blows, ‘the grass withers, its flower fades,’ and all its beauty is gone. So is it with the rich man. In the midst of his pursuits he will come to an untimely end. (James 1:9-11 TCNT)

And they voted Democrat, reliably and Yellow Dog.  Their voter participation rates were below their Northern counterparts and and many of those when they elected were corrupt and/or of atrocious personal morals.  Today white Evangelicals are criticised for voting for Republicans with similar problems, but I guess it doesn’t matter when they’re Democrats.

But many of them took their populism to Washington and voted accordingly.  It’s easy to forget, but they also voted for such things as restrictive banking laws and 70% top marginal income tax rates.  People like Carter Glass and Wright Patman ruled the roost; LBJ himself physically bullied the head of the Federal Reserve.  Buoyed by this and the egalitarian spirit of a generation that fought World War II together, income equality had its golden age between 1945 and 1975, and it’s gone down ever since.

And that brings us to Elizabeth Warren.  As we’ve pointed out before, she’s not much of an Indian, but she’s certainly a Scots-Irish redneck.  She’s probably her party’s best heir to the legacy of Glass and Patman (to say nothing of Huey Long.)  Her circuitous route to fame through Harvard and Massachusetts is due to the fact that her fellow Scots-Irish have abandoned the Democrat Party.  But will her own brand of populism resonate in her own party now, especially since with the sexual revolution they have abandoned Christianity?

In spite of fifty years of growing income inequality, Americans are still in denial about the reality of class inequality.  The left has addressed this by obsessing with intersectional identity politics.  The result of this that, while a few people have moved up, it’s easier to obscure the regressive nature of the society in virtue-signalling rhetoric.  As long as this is true inequality will continue to grow even if the Democrats get rid of their bête noire.  (That’s the unheeded lesson of the Obama years.)

Warren’s ancestors harboured a great deal of resentment towards those above them and shaped a great deal of public policy as a consequence of that resentment.  That’s what it’s going to take to get the kinds of policies passed the Democratic Socialists want, not the reality-obscuring intersectionality that dominates leftist rhetoric.  Whether they’re ready to appeal to a mentality that resents Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey as much as it resents the Kochs remains to be seen.  Whether the Democrats are ready to embrace someone like Elizabeth Warren also remains to be seen.  At this point I doubt it, but those who would discount a Scots-Irish politician would do well to remember Bill Clinton.

But the Democrats better make up their mind quickly.  If they’re gunning for the resentment vote, chances are Donald Trump has beaten them to it, and getting it back won’t be an overnight proposition.

What the Hashtag #straightouttairondale Means, and Why Traditional Catholics Need to Use It

I recently got an email from one of my visitors which went as follows:

came across the hashtag #straightouttairondale in some of your posts and wonder what it refers to …

My response:

It refers to trad (traditional) Catholics, who frequently (unless they’re TLM (Traditional Latin Mass) diehards) take their inspiration from EWTN, whose headquarters is in Irondale, AL…

Also, the movie which documented the start of rap music was called “Straight Outta Compton.”

Put the two together and you get…

#straightouttairondale

It’s cool.  It makes a point.  Use it.

Why I’m Leaving Facebook

It’s another New Year, an opportunity (hopefully) to do better than before. I’m taking the opportunity for new beginnings to do something I’ve thought about for a long time: leave Facebook. After nearly a decade on the medium (with the enormous amount of time to show for it) I’ve had enough. I’ll be leaving shortly. And I’m not alone either.

I like to take the long view of things, and that long view involves this site and its companions. I’ve been at this website thing for 21 years, had an internet presence long before the advent of social media or even the blogosphere. In the last decade that blogosphere reigned supreme, and although I was slow to adopt a real blogging platform I eventually did so. By that time social media was getting going and it has, tbh, eclipsed much of the activity of site such as this.

But deep down, I’ve always disliked the idea of being dependent upon someone else for expression. The internet, IMHO, was always supposed to be the place where ideas and knowledge could be disseminated openly, and being forced into a “gated community” like Facebook was never really to my taste. I always felt that, since it was their medium, they could control what went on it, and what you put on it one day could be altered or removed the next. But I was in the minority: the attitude was “this is great, what could go wrong?”

We now know what did go wrong: the medium was manipulated in many different ways, some with the connivance of Facebook, some without. And, of course, many on Facebook expressed their opinions which were, and are, contrary to the idea of the hegemons that control it. (Frankly I’m surprised they let it go on as long as they did, although this too contributed to their revenue stream.) The clampdown came, the people reacted in glee or horror, but the end result is that the growth of Facebook has stalled in this country and people’s trust in it across the political spectrum has diminished.

Much of that lack of trust as stemmed not only from the issue of manipulation but also from the data gathering problem. That too exposed peoples’ lack of sophistication. Anyone who has been online for any length of time and has thought about what is going one realises that anything to say or post on this medium–inside or outside the gated community–is is reality permanent and, like a police interrogation, can and will be used against you. I always tried to watch what I posted there, but it was still creepy when, while my wife attempted to make travel arrangements for our next trip, ads for hotels right where she was looking would pop up on Facebook. Obviously algorithms have outrun human caution.

As far as the experience, on the whole Facebook has been positive but time consuming. I’ve connected with many people, and those connections have lacked the acrimony (for the most part) others have experienced. As a medium to disseminate prayer requests and news, it has worked well. Two things stand out: one is my mother-in-law’s death over five years ago, where it’s easy to forget people who pass with so many miles (or kilometres) on the odometer. The other is my cousin’s trip to Jerusalem during the Temple Mount Rumble in 2017; she documented that event, complete with gunfire, while most reporters fled for safety. One thing that has become evident–and has driven my decision to depart–is that Facebook is limiting both what I look at from others and what others look at from me, and that defeats the whole purpose of the medium.

I’ll still be out there on social media; my Twitter feed is featured on this blog, and I’m also active on LinkedIn, to say nothing about this place and its companions. But with limited time and resources, I have to put them where they advance my objectives, and Facebook just doesn’t do that at this point. It’s been a good ride, but it’s time to move on.

The Shocking (to Some) Truth About Prosperity and Morality

Tom Jacobs at the Pacific Standard finds himself surprised at the way voters conflated prosperity and morality, which eased their way to vote for Donald Trump:

The findings suggest the Trump campaign’s emphasis on the candidate’s success in business—which has subsequently been shown to be based largely on smoke and mirrors—increased the perception that he was a highly moral man, which in turn increased their likelihood to vote for him.

If Jacobs (and others) would exit their bubble, they would have anticipated this much sooner. But he’s not alone in surprise. When I joined the Pentecostal church in the early 1980’s that I’m still a part of, I was surprised the way that people assumed that, if you were prosperous, you were moral. And that was in a church that was still, for the most part, skittish about raw, straight up prosperity teaching a la Bob Tilton (whose church I attended in the late 1970’s) or Kenneth Copeland. The main beneficiaries at the time were the high income/net worth people in the church, who leveraged people’s attitudes to gain “street cred” in the church and the influence that went with it.

My experience growing up in Palm Beach, coupled with “traditional” (depends on the tradition, really) Christian teaching on the subject, taught me that the opposite was more often the case. It also taught me that standing up to the great of this world in church was doable, something that never got off the ground in this “go along to get along” culture.

It wasn’t always this way in Southern culture, and with God’s help I’ll elaborate on that in a future post. But as the left ascends in the moneyed classes of our society, they would do well to stop and consider that the attitude of “the rich are moral” has largely prevented the kind of social upheaval that growing income inequality promotes. If that attitude ever flips, we’ll have problems that make the #GiletsJaunes in France look like an outing in the park.

Book Review: Eric Patterson’s Just American Wars: Ethical Dilemmas in U.S. Military History

One of the surprises I’ve gotten is that, even in conservative American churches, there are those in positions of influence who are pacifists. How can this be, especially since their core ethnic group is the bellicose Scots-Irish? But life is an education. Although it’s tempting to regard Eric Patterson’s Just American Wars: Ethical Dilemmas in U.S. Military History (War, Conflict and Ethics) as simply a refutation of this idea, it’s more than that. Patterson, former Dean of the School of Government at Regent University, sets forth a treatise in support of not only the just war theory itself, but also its application in the various conflicts the United States has fought, starting with its own independence and moving forward.

Just war theory dates back to Augustine, and has been the moral and ethical basis of pursuing war in the West ever since (until recently, at least.) One thing that Patterson should have been more explicit about is that no state–especially a world power like the U.S.–can survive without military capability and the will to use it when appropriate. Many of the same pacifists who decry the use of the military also use the democratic aspects of the state to pursue their goals, but bluntly you can’t have one without the other.

We normally think of just war theory only in terms of going to war in the first place, but Patterson’s book has as its basic outline the entire idea of the just war theory, which can be broken down (like Gaul) into three parts:

  1. Jus ad bellum, the aforementioned going to war. Components of this include legitimate authority, just cause, right intent, likelihood of success, proportionality of ends, and last resort. One thing I’d like Patterson to have discussed is something I’ve complained about on this blog re the Confederacy. In addition to the lack of just cause (we’ll get back to the authority issue,) one reason the whole adventure was chimeric for the South from the the start is that the unequal resources of the two combatants guaranteed that the South would lose once the North got its military act together.
  2. Jus in bello, right conduct during the pursuit of the conflict. This includes proportionality and discrimination (the care taken to minimise casualities of non-combatants.)
  3. Jus post bellum, doing the follow-up to war right. This includes order, justice and concilitation. In some way this is the hardest part of the whole process, and Patterson does a good job in his discussion of what happens when the war is done.

Patterson’s basic case is that the United States, on the whole, has conducted its wars in accordance with just war theory at all phases of the conflicts. To support his case he goes back into some conflicts that have been forgotten, such as the pacification of the Philippines after the Spanish-American war or the bombing of Veracruz during the Mexican-American War. From a contemporary standpoint the most important discussion he has is Vietnam, the conflict that has poisoned American political and military life ever since. His thesis is that getting into Vietnam was right but the conflict got subsequently bogged down in personal ego (shame-honour) and domestic political considerations that proved harder to resolve than the conflict itself.

Hand in hand with that proposition is another: that the leitmotif of American wars is not the overwhelming industrial and mlitary power that the United States can bring to bear on any conflict it gets itself into, but the moral purpose and direction of the war effort, from the debate before conflict through the conflict itself and the desires of the country in settlement. That morality was certainly operative in the wake of the two World Wars, with Wilson’s Fourteen Points (in reality, he overdid it) and the whole order the United States put together in the wake of World War II.

Unfortunately, from Vietnam onwards, scholars have cast aspersions on the whole moral nature of American policy. This has had an impact on American military conduct, especially in the overly restrictive rules of engagement that our military forces have been saddled with in Afghanistan and Iraq. Much of the motivation behind Patterson’s book is to refute these aspersions on American policy. If the book has a weakness, however, it is that Patterson’s refutation is too narrow and really doesn’t address what “sticks in the craw” of his liberal opponents.

I think it’s fair to say that the real problem that the left has with American law, polity and policy on the whole is that our current Constitutional and legal system, designed to force consensus and prevent rapid change, has not been sufficiently responsive to the implementation of their idea. They have “despaired of the republic,” to use Livy’s expressive phrase. That comes out most clearly in the whole discussion of the American Revolution, whose legitimacy Patterson upholds using just war theory and the desire of the colonists to assert their “rights as Englishmen.” The left has responded by challenging the whole idea of rebellion against the constituted authority of the English Crown. This challenge, which one would more reasonably expect from conservative Christian and Gothardian sources, strikes one as odd coming from the left.

The morality issue brings up something else: what happens when the basis of American morality changes? Such a change would certainly come into play if the country’s idea were to completely “flip.” We already see a streak in leftist thought that places more importance on who makes the decisions than what decisions they make. As an example, the same James Mattis who resigned to gasps of horror under Donald Trump was fired with little fanfare by Barack Obama, in both cases for a similar reason: he took a more hawkish position than his dovish Commander-in-Chief. Would a more uniformly leftist United States, for example, send troops to enforce same-sex civil marriage, something that was floated in anticipation of a Hilliary Clinton victory? Or to ensure the commercial success of an American tech hegemon? Patterson doesn’t really address these kinds of issues but does discuss the impact of postmodernism, which breaks down adherence to a just war paradigm–and not necessarily in a more pacifist direction.

Patterson, however, is better at sticking to his subject than I am. The just war theory, for all of its shortcomings, needs a defence in our current situation, and Patterson does a good job in giving it that. Just American Wars: Ethical Dilemmas in U.S. Military History (War, Conflict and Ethics) is just such a needed defence, and deserves its place in this ongoing debate.

Wake From Your Sleep: The “Modern” Christmas Carol With a Traditional Sound

 

A favourite pastime of the #straightouttairondale crowd is to trash just about every piece of Catholic music written after 1965 (except, of course, what they put out.)  Boosting the “Jesus Music” era is a goal of this blog, but this gem has an appeal that gets past not only their idea but Roman Catholicism itself: it’s a good carol for just about anyone.

A great carol for your Christmas service, but remember Catholics: if it doesn’t start at Midnight, it’s not Midnight Mass.

We Don’t Need “Secular Celebrants” for Civil Marriage

Sometimes I despair this country will ever get this right:

“It can’t be done by secular celebrants in a vast majority of states,” said Nick Little, vice president and legal counsel for The Center for Inquiry, a secular organization that advocates for keeping religion out of public policy.

The Center wants that to change. It filed a lawsuit last month along with Bratteng against the clerk of Dallas County, Texas, as part of an ongoing effort to change marriage laws. Similar challenges have already succeeded in Indiana and Illinois.

First, I still don’t think that we should have civil marriage at all.  The fact that certain groups have pushed to have it expanded only indicates that we’ll be saddled with it for the foreseeable future.

Second, if we do have this, it should be performed only by authorised and duly deputised officials of the state:

States care about who can solemnize, or officiate, a wedding ceremony because marriage is serious business, according to Robin Fretwell Wilson, a law professor and director of the family law and policy program at the University of Illinois. It comes with legal and financial benefits, like shared insurance coverage.

“Marriage is a vehicle for handing out so many benefits and protections,” Wilson said. “If you had a free-for-all, with basically anybody being allowed to marry you, you’d have fraud concerns.”

States reduce the possibility of fraud by limiting the pool of eligible wedding officiants. Typically, the only people who can solemnize a wedding are government or religious leaders.

It is civil marriage, after all.  In the past secular states have basically required people to be married by an active official of the state, and not recognised anyone else to do it (such as churches and ministers.)  That was started by the French and this is the way it is done in many parts of the world.

But Americans, who claim to becoming more cosmopolitan by the day, once again refuse to do things like the rest of the world does it (as is the case with the metric system and merit-based immigration.)  You think American secularists would be interested in advancing that cause on a substantive basis?  Think again!

 

Joe “I have here in my hand” McCarthy Meets his Match at Harvard

When it’s time to shove social theory down the throat of people, things get tough:

Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana held what was promoted as a run-of-the-mill meeting to ensure the groups were aware of the latest school policies on alcohol and sexual assault, but the meeting quickly took another direction, according to the lawsuit reported by the Harvard Crimson.

The suit alleges that, at the meeting, Khurana waved a sheet of paper in the air that he said contained accounts of sexual assault: “Khurana said that the papers in his hand were very embarrassing to the clubs and that he could not guarantee that they would not be leaked. But, Khurana said, if some clubs became co-ed — systematically and soon — that would help the situation. It was an unmistakable threat.”

That, to me at least, echoes the speech that really launched Joe McCarthy into national prominence.  Speaking at a Republican Women’s Club (a single-sex organisation!) in Wheeling, WV, he made this statement:

I have here in my hand a list of 205 [State Department employees] that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping the policy of the State Department.

There’s been a great deal of discussion of the exact number on McCarthy’s list, or whether it was a laundry list he was using as a prop.  It would be interesting to call Khurana’s bluff and see whether his list was genuine.  But bullying and intimidation is what the two speeches have in common, and in both cases it worked.  For a while, at least…let’s hope that the fall of Khurana and his ilk is as spectacular as Joe McCarthy, their MO is the same.

Andy Kessel’s Woes at the Clinton Foundation

It looks like things are catching up:

Kessel told MDA “There is no controlling Bill Clinton. He does whatever he wants and runs up incredible expenses with foundation funds, according to MDA’s account of the interview. “Bill Clinton mixes and matches his personal business with that of the foundation. Many people within the foundation have tried to caution him about this but he does not listen, and there really is no talking to him.”

MDA compiled Kessel’s statements, as well as over 6,000 pages of evidence from a whistleblower they had been working with separately, which they secretly filed with the FBI and IRS over a year ago. MDA has alleged that the Clinton Foundation engaged in illegal activities, and may owe millions in unpaid taxes and penalties.

From a personal standpoint, I am grieved at this: Andy Kessel and I were friends at the St. Andrew’s School in Boca Raton together, we reconnected years later.  He told me he joined the Clinton Foundation after a successful career on Wall Street as a giveback.  I really think that Andy was trying to do a good thing.

Unfortunately, in a culture like Bill Clinton came out of, doing a good thing is easier said than done, and I think that Andy was unprepared for that.  My dearly departed mother, who was born and raised a few miles north of Bill Clinton’s hometown of Hot Springs, told me one time that the Arkansas way was “If you can’t win, cheat.”  She knew this opaque culture she came out of well, and she wasn’t shy about using it against others when she felt the need to do so.  (She wouldn’t vote for Bill Clinton either.)

It’s easy when looking at Clinton’s Ivy League education and his successful political career which led him to two terms as President (he outsmarted Newt Gingrich and many others, too) to forget that he’s a product of his Scots-Irish origins and upbringing.  But that upbringing made him the masterful politician that he is.  The Ivy League business–and to some extent Hillary herself–were necessary to build “street cred” with the Democrat elite.  But the core never changes.  (That’s something you need to remember about Elizabeth Warren, too.)

My prayers are with Andy and his family.  He’s going to need them.  I think he’s a good guy who is finding out that it’s easier to be Bill Clinton’s enemy than his friend.