Chelsea Manning, the Perfect Democrat

Buried in all the other excitement this week was the announcement that Chelsea Manning, the transgendered Wikileaker, is running for the Senate in Maryland as a Democrat.  This announcement has gotten a great deal of adverse press from the right, but I think we need to stop and look at this in more detail.

First, the transgendered business: we need to face reality that, as long as we live in a society where one’s life is defined by one’s sexual activity, it not being optional or restrictable, this will happen, because it’s easy in a society as obsessed with conformity as ours to find oneself cornered by that obsession.  If we address the underlying cause, we will be closer to resolution, although it’s a steep uphill climb.

Turning to the leaker business, many Republicans and conservatives simply regard Manning as a traitor.  In this case that assessment really shouldn’t matter: it isn’t the job of Maryland Republicans to vote for a Democrat anyway.  Manning’s first contest is in the Democrat primary, and it’s here that things really get complicated.  He is the perfect Democrat in a party which loves perfection until it doesn’t.

I am one of those people who still think that the phrase “patriotic liberal” is an oxymoron.  Liberals (or leftists) are supposed to be internationalists.  They’re always telling us that other countries are better because they have things like lots of paid leave and holiday, universal health care, better educational systems, lower defence budgets, etc.  If other places are really better than we are, why be loyal to this one?

Our society, however, is highly duplicitous; liberals are glad to be internationalists as long as it suits them.  When it doesn’t suit them is when they get into power; all of a sudden, they become very patriotic, because it’s suddenly their country, and we’re all supposed to love it and be loyal to it even as they change its very nature.  That was very much on display during the years when Barack Obama was President.  He was obsessed with leaks and secrecy (as James Rosen found out) and even with those in the media who simply wanted to report the facts (as Sharyl Attkisson found out.)  Obama never pardoned Manning, he only commuted his sentence, probably as a sop to those in his party who, although wrong, are at least consistent.

And then there’s the matter of secrets themselves.  The simple truth is that our government keeps too many and collects too much information.  How much good it does is debatable; the Soviets’ intelligence gathering apparatus didn’t prevent the collapse of the USSR, and it’s not obvious that we’re looking at what we know with any more understanding than they did.  Our Congress supinely renews legislation to extend their powers to do so.  In reality, they’ve breached the “safeguards” built into this kind of legislation before, they can collect pretty much what they want and bury it in the classification system.

It’s interesting that some of Manning’s statements about the bureaucracy and security apparatus could have just as easily come out of an alt-right person.  Our political spectrum is actually circular; if those on either side of the ring gap could cut a deal with each other, things would be very shaken up in our society.

My guess is that Manning’s campaign won’t get any further than Code Pink’s Cindy Sheehan’s did against Nancy Pelosi.  Since the days of George McGovern, the Democrat party has been the home of people like Manning until it isn’t, and it isn’t when job security and power are on the line.  That’s especially true in Maryland; like Northern Virginia, which has pushed that state purple, the DC suburbs’ bureaucracy dwellers will probably look at Manning as an existential threat.  But such areas, to paraphrase Portfirio Diaz, are so far from God, so close to Washington, and Manning will find out that the proximity to Washington will, for the moment, trump the distance from God.

Drift, Like Real Estate, Is All About Location

It’s almost like the Illinois Family Association overlooked the most important detail in their lament over the course of at least one Evangelical Covenant Church:

There’s something rotten in the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC). It’s rotting from the inside due to the presence of wolves in sheep’s clothing like Peter Hawkinson, pastor of Winnetka Covenant Church…Hawkinson has been drifting in the direction of heresy for several years, but kinda, sorta started “coming out” in baby steps—always wearing sheep’s clothing—over the past two years beginning with the church leadership presenting to the congregation “a motion inviting the church leadership to propose to the congregation a specific program of purposeful discernment for addressing the issue of LGBTQ inclusion.” I kid you not. That’s what a December letter to the congregation said.

The reason why Hawkinson is doing this is simple: his location demands it.

When my grandfather was done (in his mind at least) with his aviation career in Washington and was ready to really take command at the family business, he bought a house in Winnetka.  My grandparents lived there until they moved to Palm Beach; we lived in the same house until we moved the business to Chattanooga.

Today Winnetka is one of the most expensive places in the United States to live, or at least buy a house.  It’s another one of those places which I cannot return to.  My guess is that Hawkinson’s church is pretty high maintenance; without a congregation that’s at least holding steady and has a strong demographic to fill the offering plate, the “system maintenance” will get him and his church will close.  He thinks that, if can appeal to an elite whose main goals in life are to get laid, high or drunk, he’ll be OK.  He’s going to find out that such a move is a Faustian bargain, but, as my father used to say, too soon old and too late smart.

Personally I’d rather go to churches where there’s lots people from places Donald Trump doesn’t like.  And I’d rather spend my time helping people not to have to move to this place.  But that’s just me, I guess.

Ah, for the Days of Wine and Imperialism

The left is getting nostalgic:

The American empire is crumbling.

What President Trump is destroying is a product of the postwar years. In the years after the Second World War, America constructed what amounted to a globe-spanning empire, with the active assistance of Western Europe. The immediate justification was to build a military coalition capable of countering and containing the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc — and an important secondary objective was setting up a solid economic system to ensure prosperity, manage trade, and avoid depression.

That empire carried out a slew of atrocities and war crimes — a variety of coups, pointless and failed wars, and abuse of powerless poor countries. Elsewhere, America made a cynical peace with brutal dictatorships. Africa and the Middle East especially did not fare well.

 

Just an aside: it can be argued that the whole saga of Iran, from the Mossadeq coup to the Shah and the establishment of the Islamic Republic and the backlash we’re seeing now is the result of ill-conceived imperialism on our part.

It used to be that it was hard to find anyone on the American left–I mean leftists, not these liberals who drifted along during the Cold War–who thought that the projection of American power could be beneficent by any standard.  But today, they lament its decline.  You just can’t make this stuff up!

Of course, there is a method to their madness: during the Obama years, they saw the possibility of the projection of their idea (especially getting laid, high and drunk) on the entire world.  Trump proposes a pullback, they see those dreams going up like smoke.

The blunt truth is, however, that with our large national debt, crumbling infrastructure, and (until recently) weak economy, the resources necessary for us to remain the world’s only superpower were slipping beyond our grasp.  It’s interesting that Trump of all people is facilitating a pullback.  But that’s something else I though I’d never see: the right cheering such a pullback on.

Now if someone could make the right feel better about the precipitous drop in living standards necessitated by the ill-considered solutions to carbon dioxide emissions, that would be something.  But that’s a rabbit out of the hat that will have to wait.

Does Anyone Really Believe This Current System is Permanent?

One of side “benefits” of being in the Anglican/Episcopal blogosphere is to get to know “Anglicans Unscripted,” the video interview series hosted by Kevin Kallsen, with frequent contribution by fellow Palm Beacher George Conger.  In a recent episode with Kallsen and the Queen’s former chaplain Gavin Ashenden, they discussed a float in Justin Welby’s parade of inept gaffes, namely his statement during a meeting with the Patriarch in Moscow that he lacked freedom to speak out on issues back in the UK.  In the course of discussing this Kallsen makes this observation:

What Kallsen is saying is that, in Russia, the church understands that kings and governments come and go and the church remains.  In the West, however, the church feels that it has to get with the program so that “society” and “culture” will allow the church the right to exist.  I also suspect that, even with the much shorter history of Christianity in China, the Chinese take the same attitude, which explains why Christian churches in China experience the growth they do even in the face of government and party hostility.

For an American to come to this realisation, let alone verbalise it, is amazing, although I’ve found the debate level in the Anglican/Episcopal world to be at a higher level than many other places in Christianity.  Americans take a notoriously short view of history, which more than anything else makes them inherently provincial.  The really sad truth is that, with more than fifty years of “liberation,” world travel and the fire hose of news that the internet affords, they still have the idea that this system of things will not basically change, which only reinforces the baneful provinciality.

That attitude is the one thing that actually unites both sides of our political scene in this country.   In spite of noises such as the abolition of the Electoral College or the institution of a parliamentary system on one side or amendments against abortion or same-sex civil marriage on the other, both sides see their destiny fulfilled in the current system with the current structure.  That’s a major reason both sides carry on as vociferously as they do; they look on success in politics as an existential necessity.

But countries come and countries go, and the way they’re governed goes with it.  Americans are out of touch with reality when they reflexively oppose any kind of secession (including Catalonia, Scotland, and the best one, Calexit.)  Christians in particular should understand that regimes and systems change (just compare those we have now to those in the Scriptures should make that clear) and that the church needs to fulfil the mission Our Lord put it on the earth to accomplish.  One reason why American Christians are having a hard time understanding (let alone supporting) Rod Dreher’s “Benedict Option” is that the original Benedict Option was made necessary by the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, an event which is entirely outside the experience of Americans.  (It’s hard to get Americans to understand what the collapse of the other superpower was really like, which is why we have so much foolish prattle about the Russians.)

It’s time for our ministers to earn their keep and set forth the idea that the church needs to really “be the church” (and not just in the way it worships either) and not constantly beholden to a system which is USD20 trillion in debt.  The results of that realisation may not be easy to carry out in this life, but doing so beats the blowback to what we’re doing now on the other side.

If You're Goal is to Eliminate the Bad People in Power, What Happens When You Succeed?

An interesting observation from Jonathan Haidt about what college students are being indoctrinated in these days:

But what do we do now? Many students are given just one lens—power. Here’s your lens, kid. Look at everything through this lens. Everything is about power. Every situation is analyzed in terms of the bad people acting to preserve their power and privilege over the good people. This is not an education. This is induction into a cult. It’s a fundamentalist religion. It’s a paranoid worldview that separates people from each other and sends them down the road to alienation, anxiety and intellectual impotence. . . .

And it’s a loser’s game, too: if the bad people are in power oppressing the good ones, and you manage to eject them and get into power, and power is all you’ve ever focused on, you’ll spend all of your time trying to stay there, and in doing so you’ll oppress others, and then you’ve become a bad person ripe for ejection by others…

It’s like the end of The Prisoner episode “It’s Your Funeral:” after #6 foils an attempt by the incoming #2 to assassinate the outgoing #2, he tells the incoming one that he hopes that, when the day comes, his masters have something equally suitable planned for him.

So do we.

Bolshevik Revolution: Ten Days That Shook the World Still Shake

The Cruiser Aurora, where the “first shot” of the Bolshevik Revolution came from and began seventy years of communism. From a Soviet-era photograph in then Leningrad.

This week we remember the Bolshevik Revolution.  I’d have to say that the “ten days that shook the world” (to use John Reed’s phrase) have certainly shaken my life.  But it was the back end of that revolution–the collapse of the Soviet Union and its aftermath–where things really got interesting for me, and the world looks different after that experience.

A video of a 1990 trip to the then Soviet Union:

I’ve done many pieces on the subject, some of them are as follows:

And a couple of more videos…

The Shifting Sands of American Law

In the midst of a thumbs-up for the estate tax repeal and the step-up basis retention, a warning:

If the bill is passed without changes to these provisions, then planning will focus on maximizing basis step-up at death, perhaps with additional lifetime gift planning in anticipation of a reasonably likely future return of the estate tax in the future when political tides shift.

And shift they will.  American politics and law are cyclical; today’s fashion is tomorrow’s crime.  To have a properly functioning economic system one must have a legal system that is both transparent and stable, and ours is less of both as time goes by.  Thus, people have less incentive to build wealth under one legal framework only to see it change to another.  The only people who manage to survive these rough seas are those who either anchor their wealth offshore (and don’t mind getting outed occasionally) or those whose wealth/corporations are big enough to buy the influence necessary to keep their place.

In my years in business, this was a persistent problem, especially when we got the feeling that a target was being painted on our back.  It’s unreasonable to expect people to provide jobs under these conditions, and it’s amazing that our economy has retained the vitality it has under the conditions to which it has been subjected.

The Tasteless Suburbs Were the Creation of the Government

Well, somewhat:

What image springs to mind when you picture “federally subsidized housing”? Most people imagine a low-income public housing tower, a homeless shelter, or a shoddy apartment building.

Nope—suburban homeowners are the single biggest recipient of housing subsidies. As a result, suburbs dominate housing in the United States. For decades, federal finance regulations incentivized single-family homes through three key mechanisms:

  1. Insurance

  2. National mortgage markets

  3. New standards for debt structuring

I’ve discussed the left’s hatred for suburbia more than once, most recently in my discussion of the offshore oil industry.  But this piece shows that their hatred may be misplaced: it should be directed to policies which are part and parcel with Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.  Without the credit controlling mechanisms and incentives that began with the creation of the FHA, American suburbs would not be what they are (and the housing bubble that crashed the economy in 2008 would not have taken place.)

I strongly urge my readers to go back to the original piece and look at the FHA’s mortgage evaluation list; that explains a great deal of why American suburbs are what they are today.

Inside of Intersectionality is an Intersection Where Collisions Take Place

That’s what’s going on in Los Angeles’ Boyle Heights neighbourhood:

If “the revolution devours its own,” as the saying has it, then anti-gentrification activists in Boyle Heights, a heavily Latino district just east of downtown Los Angeles, have been feasting. They have greeted liberal artists and hipsters with racial taunts, vandalism, boycotts, and mask-wearing demonstrators. In several cases, they have succeeded in forcing events and establishments to move their activities elsewhere.

One of the pipe dreams the left tells us that, “if we could get rid of these conservatives, we’d have harmony and comity.”  No where is that disproven more consistently than in California.  We’ve seen the slugfest over single-payer healthcare and this is yet another example.

The thing the left forgot which engenders debacles such as this is the class struggle.  For all of their talk about being the champions of the oppressed, liberals have forgotten about the importance of class differences.  Gentrification, for all the improvement it can develop, runs up already high housing and other living costs, dispossessing people of limited means.  It’s little wonder the current residents fight back.

As someone who sees first hand gentrification taking place in my community, I have mixed feelings about the process.  On the one hand, it does make for a spiffier looking neighbourhood.  On the other hand, the pushing out of the existing residents is clear.  In the South, that generally means mostly black neighbourhoods, and these, with their churches, were the place where the civil rights movement was born.  And, of course, it’s hard to take when we turn over parts of town to the people whose main claim to greatness is getting laid, high or drunk, no matter what their income level is.

What neighbourhoods like Boyle Heights need are community organisers with a vision to make the place better with existing residents and self-sufficient economics.  Instead we have too many which use their community prominence to move to higher office; Barack Obama is the outsized example of that.

If this trend continues, what we’ll end up with is the same thing we see in Europe, where the prosperous city centre is surrounded by suburbs ranging from good to hopeless.  Not only will our elites have to go over flyover country, but they’ll have to speed through ungentrified places to get to the airport.

Be Careful Before You Encourage Unpatriotism

It never ends: now we have a stink over NFL (and other) players “taking the knee” during the National Anthem.  Our President and just above everybody else is involved.  It’s another way to fill up Twitter with vitriol, as if we don’t have enough.

My attitude towards the traditional respect given towards the National Anthem and the flag come from growing up in the home of a superpatriot.  For him the country was perfect; doing these things was non-negotiable.  You either showed the proper respect for the flag, anthem, and institutions, or you left.  I seriously considered the latter.

The trout in the milk for American loyalty has always been the government.  The concept of the United States is wrapped around the Constitution of 1787.  It wasn’t our first and isn’t really our founding document but until we go through the procedure of replacing it our identity and validity as a nation cannot be separated from it.  Along with the Constitution all the government formed under that document goes with it.  That’s so ingrained in our national consciousness that few really grasp what it really means.

Those on the right reflexively wave the flag without realising that its form, shape, star pattern, etc., are all set by an act of the…government, along with many other things they like (like the military.)  And they don’t realise that, if our government has passed into the hands of those whose intellectual antecedents hated the place, then it’s time to reconsider our whole attitude towards this country and not always retreating to some idealisation.

The left likewise needs a reality check: the power of that government, even though it doesn’t always go their way (especially at times like this) is the chief enabler for their agenda, and has been for a long time.  When their heroes in the NFL “take a knee,” they’re delegitimising the government from which all (well, a lot of them) liberal things come.  Put another way, they’re cutting their own nose off to spite themselves, and that may come back to bite them.

As far as the NFL is concerned…if the NFL dries up and blows away I could care less.  (Given the ratings drops, that isn’t out of the realm of possibility either.)  Then we could turn our attention to other things, and when the time comes say with one voice:

“¡GO-O-O-O-O-OAL!”