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.

Google Employees Have Missed a Few Important Things

This is evident in their campaign after the 2016 election to block conservative media:

Google employees debated whether to bury conservative media outlets in the company’s search function as a response to President Donald Trump’s election in 2016, internal Google communications obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation reveal.

Some context is needed here: these are the same Google employees who have refused to do defence contract work because it was the “business of war.

I’ve been called unpatriotic on both this blog and Twitter.  But the reality is simple: unless you’re prepared to defend the country (especially when you can get paid to do so) you don’t have any business messing around with its political processes in the way Google can.  These latter day hippie dreamers have the idea that we can go on being the liberal hegemon they like without the military capability to back it up.  That may have been true in the past (before World War II, in the 1990’s when there was no other superpower) but that’s certainly not the case now.

And that leads to something else: if their idea is for only one side to be “out there” what’s the point of the United States?  Aren’t we supposed to be about freedom?  Unfortunately our discourse is dominated by a class that never knew real freedom to start with, and that’s most of the source of our problems.