Rod Dreher

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Baton Rouge Racist Serial Killer?

If these charges are proved, Baton Rouge might have escaped a horrific killing spree:

A 23-year-old white man arrested Tuesday was accused of killing two black men and firing on a black family in a string of attacks that police say may have been racially motivated.

A law enforcement official said they had found a copy of an Adolf Hitler speech at the home of Kenneth James Gleason, and investigators said DNA on shell casings and other evidence link him to the crimes.

Gleason was led away from the police department in handcuffs just before authorities there held a news conference to announce that he would be charged with first-degree murder in the shooting deaths last week of a homeless man and a dishwasher who was walking to work.

“I feel confident that this killer would have killed again,” interim Police Chief Jonny Dunnam said.

It’s too late for the men Gleason is alleged to have killed, but if he is, in fact, the murderer, then the city has quite literally dodged a bullet.

Note well that this Gleason is not some sort of redneck, but is an honors graduate of Baton Rouge High, a magnet school that is one of the most prestigious in the city. He lives in a good neighborhood. Cops searching his room also found pot and human growth hormone.

He also has been charged with stealing a copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy from a Books-a-Million last week.

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The Sex Lives Of Pre-Post-Christians

In his new book Cheap Sex, sociologist Mark Regnerus examines changing mores around mating and marriage, especially in the Internet age. He finds that the church is declining as a haven from the profound disruption of long-settled patterns. While religious Americans are more inclined to favor marriage than others, and are generally more conservative than others on pre- and extramarital sexual behavior, “there are clear cracks beginning to show in the foundation.”

Regnerus says the data show that

secularization and sexual permissiveness go hand in hand. It is not just that religiously proscribed sexual activity promotes religious guilt. (I am sure it does.) Rather, it is often an expression of religious distancing. Cheap sex has a way of deadening religious impulses. We overestimate how effective scientific arguments are at secularizing people. Narratives about science don’t secularize. Technology secularizes. And sex-related technology does so particularly efficiently.

Regnerus reproduces a graph from one study showing that weekly church attenders in the 24-to-35 age group are much more likely to hold conservative opinions about things like marriage, cohabitation, casual sex, porn, extramarital sex, and polyamory. What’s telling, he says, is how far from 100 percent regular churchgoers in that age bracket are on agreeing that these things are morally wrong. The only one of these categories that at least 80 percent of the most religious Americans agree is wrong is extramarital sex (that is, cheating on your spouse).

When one out of five churchgoing Millennials isn’t sure if no-strings-attached sex is morally wrong; and when one out of four don’t know if watching porn is wrong; and when nearly one in five aren’t sure if polyamory is okay — then the church has a big, big problem.

Get this: drawing on the work of Johns Hopkins sociologist Andrew Cherlin, Regnerus says that “American religion as it is practiced” tends to push fence-sitters towards permissiveness. Why? Because in both its Protestant and Catholic forms, it’s Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. That is, it valorizes “expressive individualism,” and encourages people to find their own religious style. This is how Americans are simultaneously more religious than Europeans, but less traditional.

We are  starting to see that the sexual and marital trends in the broader society are affecting life within the church. “Sociologist Justin Farrell assessed the sexual and marital attitudes of evangelicals and found consistent age differences — younger evangelicals (below age 30) were notably more permissive on nearly all outcomes (especially on pornography),” Regnerus writes. This is not simply a matter of younger people being more liberal about sexual matters than older people. Under-30 married evangelicals are “notably less permissive” than unmarrieds. The thing is, evangelicals are putting off marriage almost as late as other Americans.

This is a big deal to churches, the author says, because it shows that “the predictable ‘return’ to organized religious life of late twenty-somethings after they marry and begin having children is receding” — and, according to some predictions, may not occur at all.

What’s more,

long-standing Christian sexual ethics are making less and less sense to the unchurched — a key niche market for evangelicals — giving church leadership fits over just how “orthodox” they can be or should be on matters of sex and sexuality. “Meeting people where they’re at” becomes more challenging when where they’re at has become the population norm rather than the exception. Congregations are coming face to face with questions of just how central sexual ethics are to their religious life and message.

Regnerus, who is Catholic, points out that the Roman Catholic church has a more developed theology of sex and marriage, but it makes little difference in the lives of most young American Catholics, who are even more permissive in their beliefs and actions than their Evangelical counterparts. The sociologist blames it on both poor catechesis and the determination of most American Catholics to follow their own desires, rather than the authoritative teachings of their church.

All of this underscores points I make in The Benedict Option about the urgent need for churches and individual Christians both to double down on teaching the Christian vision for sex and marriage, and to establish a thick community of practice.

The role of technology in reshaping sexual and mating practices (mostly through Internet pornography, and technology-driven mating practices such as dating through Tinder) is an enormous challenge to the church. Yes, it’s a matter of keeping Christians on the path toward holiness, but beyond that, this has to do with making it possible for Christian young people to find worthy mates and form families. Given the key role families play in passing the faith on to the next generation, and given how sexual permissiveness leads to secularization, this is an existential matter for the church. 

More broadly, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism portends the death of real Christianity in more than a theological way. As Regnerus observes, MTD churches inadvertently grease the skids for their young to decline into permissiveness and ultimately into unbelief (or a Christianity so nominal it might as well be unbelief). Call me alarmist all you like, but you’re just whistling past the graveyard. This slow-moving catastrophe is happening, and it’s speeding up.

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Liberal Women Are Lustier

Photo changed because some of y’all said the previous one was too darn hot (Mr. Exen/Shutterstock)

So observes University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus in his great and deeply unsettling new book Cheap Sex, which is about changing practices of mating and marriage. He doesn’t really phrase it like that, but he does point out sociological data showing that “more politically liberal young-adult women report wanting more sex than they have been having.” Regnerus says the percentage of women who said they would prefer to have more sex is as follows:

  • 16 percent of “very conservative” women
  • 30 percent of “conservative” women
  • 38 percent of moderate women
  • 44 percent of “liberal” women
  • 53 percent of “very liberal” women

Why is this? Regnerus writes:

[P]olitical identity today likely captures embeddedness in distinctive worldviews, sets of meanings, and ideas about the self and relationships. With regard to sex and sexuality in America, being politically liberal tends to mean valuing sexual expression as a good-in-itself, not only as a means to an end or contingent on the context (such as being in a relationship or being married). Talk of “sexual health” is also more common among them and typically takes acts of sexual expression for granted. In this perspective, it is a moral good to express one’s sexuality in actions of one’s own free choosing. Pleasure is reached for and should be. In keeping with this, liberal women are more than twice as likely as conservative women to report past-week and past-day masturbation.

More (I photographed this passage from the book):

That was Regnerus’s hypothesis. So,  he crunched the numbers to account for religious service attendance, importance of religion, “and a unique measure of having become less religious in the past decade” to see if the hypothesis could be grounded in data. What he found was that among young adult women, it’s not really political liberalism that correlates with wanting more sex (no matter how much one is having), but rather one’s loss of religious belief. 

Regnerus continues:

In a world increasingly bereft of transcendence, sexual expression is emerging as an intrinsic value. Sex is the new opium of the masses, [social psychologists Roy] Baumeister and [Kathleen] Vohs claim, a temporary heart in a heartless world. Unfortunately, something so immanent as sex will not — and cannot — function in the manner in which religion can, has, and does. (To be sure, some replace it with an appreciation and devotion to nature.) Sex does not explain the world. It is not a master narrative. It has little to offer by way of convincing theodicy But in a world increasingly missing transcendence, longing for sexual expression makes sense. It should not surprised us, however, that those who (unconsciously) demand sex function like religion will come up short. Maybe that is why very liberal women are also twice as likely to report being depressed or currently in psychotherapy than very conservative women.

You’ll have to buy Cheap Sex to read the whole thing, but I strongly recommend it.

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Updating The Benedict Option

I have a question for you readers of this blog who have also read The Benedict Option. I’m working right now on an introduction for the paperback edition, which will be out in the spring. What I’m trying to do with this chapter, which won’t be long, is to discuss the book’s reception, especially how it affected the discussion among small-o orthodox Christians. I will also be talking about events since its publication in March (e.g., the Trump presidency so far and the church’s relationship to it), and how they move the Ben Op conversation along.

Do you have any suggestions for points I should make, or should address? What do you think the book has accomplished? Other thoughts are welcome too.

I’m not fishing for compliments here. I really want to know what you think (provided you aren’t simply trolling). Have there been things that have happened since March that have convinced you we need the Ben Op more than ever? Have there been things that convinced you that the book’s diagnosis is wrong in some specific ways? Let me know in the comments, please.

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Catholic Signs Nashville Statement

This is something: Jennifer Roback Morse, a conservative Catholic writer and activist, has given her full-throated endorsement to the Nashville Statement, which was drafted by conservative Evangelicals. In this essay, she explains why the Nashville Statement ought to matter to Catholics. Excerpts:

We Catholics can sometimes indulge ourselves in some triumphalism about our magisterium. We have authority structures, guided by the Holy Spirit. Jesus made promises to us that he did not make to Martin Luther or Henry VIII. Protestants are on their own. “Me and Jesus.” “Every man his own interpreter of Scripture.” And so on.

Now that so many of our Catholic authority structures have become corrupted, we are getting a taste of what our Evangelical brothers and sisters must put up with. Now is not the time for triumphalism. Now is the time for comradeship, cooperation, and collaboration wherever possible.

More:

There can be no doubt: The sexual revolutionaries have infiltrated the churches. They are using the resources of Christianity to promote their views. The revolutionaries occupy the same buildings, wear the same vestments, and use the same labels. But they have invented a new religion, without ever admitting it. The sexual apostates, both Catholic and Protestant, are counting on no one noticing that their newly invented religion bears no relationship to historic Christianity.

Now in a literal war, what does the general order the soldiers to do when the enemy is about to cross the bridge and take over the town? Or, when the enemy is about to take possession of an armaments factory? Blow up the bridge. Blow up the factory. Blow up your own stuff, so the enemy cannot use it against you.

Obviously, we are not going to literally blow up anything. But we have an obligation to figuratively explode ideas. With the Nashville Statement, especially Article X, our Evangelical brothers and sisters have drawn a line in the sand.

Someone had to say it: The sexual revolutionaries have invented a new religion. It is NOT Christianity. I am grateful that our Evangelical brothers and sisters have said it. I support them in saying it. Making this point loudly and clearly is an absolute strategic necessity. Not to mention an obligation of Truth and Justice.

Morse goes on to argue that it is imprudent for Catholics to complain about the Nashville Statement for “not being Catholic enough,” re: contraception and divorce. As a Catholic who has long spoken out publicly against divorce and contraception, she has the credentials to do it. Read the whole thing. It’s important.

Morse no doubt has in mind the increasingly prominent ministry of Father James Martin, SJ, who has a book out that attempts to build a bridge of dialogue between the institutional Roman Catholic Church and LGBT Catholics. There’s nothing wrong with this in principle, but it seems abundantly clear that this “dialogue,” for Father Martin, needs to end with the normalization and affirmation of homosexuality within the Catholic Church. He has been very careful not to deny outright the Catholic Church’s teachings on homosexuality, but as R.J. Snell points out in this must-read essay, Father Martin, in his book, presents truths so selectively as to amount to presenting falsehood. Excerpt:

It is certainly true that LGBT Catholics ought to be treated with respect, compassion, and sensitivity, just as LGBT Catholics ought to treat the hierarchy similarly, but leaving it at that is such a partial truth as to turn out false, and Martin does leave it at that, utterly bypassing the central claims at stake, namely, whether homosexual acts are morally permissible or not.

In fact, bypassing the central claims is essential to Martin’s vision of the bridge. Responding to a review of his book in Commonweal by the theologian David Cloutier, Martin notes that Building a Bridge intentionally “never mentions sex, specifically the church’s ban on homosexual activity” since the Church’s “stance on the matter is clear,” as is the LGBT community’s rejection of that teaching. So, Martin continues, “I intentionally decided not to discuss that question, since it was an area on which the two sides are too far apart.”

Despite skirting the point, Martin maintains the importance of encounter, which is “not something to dismiss as out of date, tired or stale. . . . And fundamentally, since the desire for ‘encounter’ is a work motivated by the desire for truth and culminating in the desire for welcome, it must be seen as a work of the Holy Spirit.” Yet genuine encounter, rooted in the desire for truth, could hardly occur in the absence of substantive discussion of the claims made by the Church and those who dissent. Martin’s vision of the bridge turns out to be remarkably facile. It’s a call for civility, but the sort ignoring the substance of the issues and asking both sides to affirm what they believe to be false. I have no doubt the book is well-intentioned, but it is startling in its shallowness.

Fr. Martin avoids all discussion of what the Church teaches regarding sexuality, and of the arguments of those who dissent from that teaching, replacing actual encounter with flaccid and abstract interpretations of respect, compassion, and sensitivity.

Snell says that the late Orthodox rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik has a much deeper and more meaningful take on “confrontation” — in between adherents of different religions, or, in Snell’s usage, between the orthodox and dissenters within a religion. Belief in the authoritative teachings of one’s religion, says Soloveitchik, “is indispensable to the survival of the community—that its system of dogmas, doctrines and values is best fitted for the attainment of the ultimate good.” Here’s Snell:

In other words, one cannot understand a faith community—Jewish or otherwise—if the imperatives and commitments of that community are redacted, bracketed away in favor of thin and generic commitments to civility. Such civility produces a false encounter, an encounter of ghostlike abstractions rather than between the flesh and blood of real persons and their commitments. The same would be true between disputants within a community, such as the orthodox and the dissenters on sexual morality.

Read the whole thing.

With that in mind, what are orthodox Catholics to make of Father Martin’s counsel that gays and lesbians should be allowed to kiss at mass? The Jesuit said, “So I hope in ten years you will be able to kiss your partner or soon to be your husband. Why not? What’s the terrible thing?”

Who is closer to Catholic truth: the mediagenic Jesuit, or the Evangelicals who signed the Nashville Statement. That is Jennifer Roback Morse’s point, I take it.

Over the past few days, I re-read, for the first time in six months, The Benedict Option to prepare a study guide that will be printed in the paperback version out next spring. People think an author has all that material near to hand, in his head, but it’s not true. One of the things that struck me this time is how vitally important close collaboration and support is between and among small-o orthodox Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox Christians. We have to be careful not to diminish what our distinct confessions proclaim as true, but there is no reason why we cannot work together to support each other when we can. This fundagelical theologian more or less liked my book, except for the part where I fail to point out that Catholicism and Orthodoxy are the spiritual equivalent of “rat poison”. Bless his heart. I much prefer the practical ecumenism of Jennifer Roback Morse, as well as my Evangelical friends who signed the Nashville Statement. In wartime, you cannot be finicky about your alliances.

UPDATE: Reader Josh Bishop comments:

You may be interested in Albert Mohler’s latest episode of The Briefing, in which he addresses James Martin’s book. Here’s an excerpt:

“But here you have James Martin suggesting in this book and in interviews that ‘intrinsically disordered’ should be changed to ‘differently ordered.’ Now what’s the significance? It means overthrowing the entire tradition of the Christian church over 2,000 years in understanding how sexual orientation is to be rightly ordered. If you say that LGBT sexual orientation is merely differently ordered, you have actually not only changed the catechism in this specific case of the Roman Catholic Church, you have changed the Catholic Church’s understanding of the doctrines of creation, of humanity, of sin, of redemption, of the church. It is an entire re-orientation of the Catholic faith.”

Not Christianity, indeed. Mohler, a Southern Baptist and an initial signatory of the Nashville Statement, has put his finger on what so many Christians (Catholic and Protestant) can’t seem to see.

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Hazing At Wheaton

For Christ, His Kingdom, and almighty football, it appears (rchdj10/Shutterstock)

This happened at Wheaton College. Let me repeat: this happened at Wheaton College, the nation’s top Evangelical school:

Five Wheaton College football players face felony charges after being accused of a 2016 hazing incident in which a freshman teammate was restrained with duct tape, beaten and left half-naked with two torn shoulders on a baseball field.

DuPage County Judge Joseph Bugos signed arrest warrants and set $50,000 bonds against the players — James Cooksey, Kyler Kregel, Benjamin Pettway, Noah Spielman and Samuel TeBos — late Monday afternoon. Prosecutors charged the athletes with aggravated battery, mob action and unlawful restraint.

They are expected to turn themselves in to authorities this week.

Three of the accused played in Wheaton College’s victory over Carthage College Saturday, and all were listed on the team roster as of Monday afternoon. The Division III program is ranked fourth in the country. 

The victim, who the Tribune is not naming, left the conservative Christian school shortly after the incident and now attends college in Indiana.

According to the unnamed victim’s statement to police, here’s what they did to him:

The student told investigators that he was watching the NCAA basketball tournament in a dorm room on March 19, 2016, when several teammates entered the room and tackled him, according to the documents. The freshman kicked his legs and yelled at them to stop, only to be punched and have his bare legs and wrists wrapped in duct tape, the victim said.

The players put a pillow case over the 19-year-old freshman’s head and took him from the residence hall. Though there was a “root beer kegger” taking place in the dorm that night, no students or college employees intervened as the freshman was carried out of the building, according to the records.

The freshman told investigators that he was placed in the back seat of a teammate’s vehicle and held down by at least two players while others piled into the vehicle. After the vehicle began moving, the players played Middle Eastern music and made offensive comments about Muslims, according to the victim’s account.

At one point, the players suggested to the freshman that he had been kidnapped by Muslims who wanted to fornicate with goats, the teen told investigators. They patted his foot and suggested he would be their “goat” for the evening, the records said.

The freshman told investigators that his teammates restrained him with more duct tape during the drive, pulled down his shorts and underwear, then repeatedly tried to insert an object into his rectum. After the freshman yelled at them to stop, he was beaten, he said.

The players drove to a park located off campus and carried the freshman onto a baseball diamond, according to his account. The players threw dirt on the teen, took his cell phone and left him half-naked on the field, he said.

The freshman, who had just transferred to the college, did not know where he was or how to get back to campus. The temperature that night was about 45 degrees, according to National Weather Service records.

About 10 minutes later, a second player was dumped on the field, he told investigators. The two were eventually driven back to campus by classmates who came looking for the second player.

The freshman returned to his dorm room, called his mother and then drove himself to the hospital. He suffered muscle tears in both shoulders, in addition to various bruises and scratches, the records said.

Know what the college did to punish these young men, ccording to the Chicago Tribune? Gave them 50 hours of community service and ordered them to “write an eight-page essay reflecting on their behavior.”

Read the whole thing. If the Tribune‘s sources are correct, Wheaton College — freaking Wheaton! — let its football players skate, basically, after torturing at least one, probably two, freshmen as part of a hazing ritual.

Some administrator needs to lose his or her job over this. And what about the football coach? He let these scumbags stay on his team.

I know how this works, and why it happens, in all kinds of organizations. Religious ones are the worst, though. I saw the US Catholic Church preside over the widespread rape and molestation of children, and in so doing destroy its own credibility, rather than hold evildoers accountable. Baylor University, another Christian school, covered up for some of its own football players raping and assaulting others in recent years. I will never, ever understand fully why religious institutions let this happen. I hope the requisite governing bodies, as well as faculty, parents and alumni, let the hammer down on Wheaton.

Here in Baton Rouge, the LSU chapter of a fraternity has been closed by its national office after a freshman died there last week, apparently of alcohol poisoning. Authorities are still investigating, and have yet to determine if the kid ingested all that booze voluntarily, or had been subjected to hazing.

Here’s what I don’t get: 1) why haze? and 2) why would anybody want to be part of an organization that hazes them?

UPDATE: A friend I trust who is close to Wheaton strongly cautions against jumping to conclusions. He is hearing that the facts do not match what has been reported so far. Good advice. Remember Haven Monahan.

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Cotton, That Evil, Evil Plant

This Nashville college is apparently led by a quivering marshmallow:

And then this Facebook post went viral out of Texas. This nut photographed it in a Hobby Lobby store:

Are we really going to have to deal with the demonization of cotton now? Really? 

If the presence of cotton triggers you, guess what? You are a pluperfect idiot. And if you allow yourself to be intimidated into begging forgiveness for having displayed a cotton stalk, you make the ‘Leave Britney Alone’ Guy look like Otto von Bismarck.

via GIPHY

Honestly, people. Honestly. This country is having a nervous breakdown.

Or maybe it’s a plot by the American Wool Council…

UPDATE: As a reader said in the comments, there’s more to the Lipscomb story:

Lowry said he would make “special efforts” to talk to students who were offended by cotton stalk centerpieces that were set out last week for the dinner he hosted for black students enrolled at Lipscomb.

“We’ll invest a lot of time this week talking with students and trying to understand at deeper levels,” he said. “Rather than running away from something, I’ll lean into those kinds of conversations and relationships.”

Some students took to social media to criticize the centerpieces, which they considered a callous symbol of slavery. Students also took issue with the menu, which featured collard greens and corn bread a day after Latino students had come to Lowry’s house for fajitas.

On social media, students described Lowry’s initial reaction to their concerns as flippant. They said he brushed aside their concerns and suggested cotton was not offensive.

OK, I take back what I said above. That really is insulting. I thought it was merely a decoration, like at Hobby Lobby, and that it happened to have been present in Lowry’s house, not intentionally put there for the black students. Who were served collards and corn bread. By a university president. In 2017. Turns out that Lowry did owe them an apology, and that he is a dunderhead, but not for the reason I thought.

UPDATE.2: I agree with this reader:

When did it become impossible to say that something was in bad taste and probably a poor call, without either going full-on “white supremacy” or defending something dumb because there are supposedly bigger issues at play?

It was tone deaf. It could be read as passive-aggressive. There’s just as little reason to defend this particular faux-pas as there is to attack it as part of some master plan to bring back Jim Crow.

Everyone can learn from it, apologize and don’t do it next time. But we probably won’t.

Strikes me as a hopelessly lame attempt by the president to be woke, like someone’s hapless dad trying to “relate” to the youth. It makes me laugh. I think laughter and mockery is probably the best way to handle it. Alternatively, this could be an opportunity for offended students to respond to the president’s apology with charity and grace. But no, we’ll have World War III over it.

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Find This Reader A Church Family

The other day I posted Tish Harrison Warren’s deeply moving reflection on how her church community has helped her grieve the passing of her father and two miscarriages in the past six months. A reader who identified himself as ATL said that he is in a lot of emotional pain now, but doesn’t have a church home. I asked him to e-mail me with his details, and I would turn to you all to see if you could help find him a church family.

He writes:

Thanks for offering to help me find a church. I’ve been too overwhelmed with things to make any progress and my last attempt a few years ago was not a success.

I live in East Cobb, a suburb of Atlanta. I grew in a moderate Southern Baptist church and though I have respect for my friends and family who remain in the church, I’ve never felt 100% comfortable there. To be perfectly frank, big evangelical churches with massive video screens and praise bands are not my thing. However, I have conservative orientation and I not comfortable in liberal churches either. For example, I like the liturgical style of the Episcopal Church but that won’t work for obvious reasons.

In an ideal world I’d like a smallish church where members take care of one another and folks aren’t highly political (right or left). I recognize that one cannot totally avoid politics, but I don’t want to be hectored on Sunday mornings. I’ve often thought that I need to start a Church of the Depressed where basic spiritual needs are met. Getting up Sunday morning, putting on nice clothes, getting the kids ready and presenting a happy. I-love-Jesus-face is beyond me right now.

ATL listed (for my eyes only) the burdens he is carrying now. They’re heavy, really heavy. Is there a place for him at your church in suburban Atlanta? Please explain why in the comments section, and tell him where he can find you.

And please, nobody chastise this guy for having church preferences. I totally understand where he’s coming from. For example, I’m not built for megachurch worship, though I don’t begrudge people who are what they get out of it.

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Forget The Alamo? In Dallas, Maybe

The Alamo, where white Texan males got their comeuppance, or something (Dean Fikar/Shutterstock)

Oh, here we go:

Dallas ISD [Independent School District — that is, the public school system — RD] is researching the histories of Ben Franklin, Sam Houston, Thomas Jefferson and 17 other historical figures, looking into whether their connections with slavery or the Confederacy should prompt reconsideration of their names on DISD campuses.

Last Thursday, DISD administration recommended changing the names of four schools honoring Confederate generals: Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, Albert Sidney Johnston and William L. Cabell elementary schools. During that discussion, it was mentioned that there is a much broader list of at least 21 names that bear further investigation, if trustees were compelled to do so.

They’ll be compelled, all right. More:

The Dallas Morning News has obtained a copy of that list, which includes Texas revolutionaries and founders such as Sam Houston, James Bowie and William Travis, U.S. presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, and Dallas pioneers James Gaston and William Brown Miller.

Elizalde acknowledged to trustees the difficulty in drawing a line on where to proceed. Some of the schools’ namesakes were involved with the Confederacy, but in lesser army ranks or non-combat roles. As examples, Elizalde mentioned John H. Reagan, the Confederacy’s postmaster, and Nancy Cochran, who according to Elizalde’s research, “encouraged her sons” to fight for the Confederacy.

So let me get this straight: in Dallas, Texas — Dallas, Texas! — the school board is thinking about expunging the names of Sam Houston, as well as Alamo heroes Jim Bowie and William Travis? That is even more shocking than Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Benjamin Franklin. If you’re not from Texas, or never lived there, it is impossible to overstate the reverence with which Texans hold men involved in the Texas Revolution. Except in 2017, I guess it actually is possible.

The demographics of the DISD student body tells the story:

That graphic is from DISD data, which also reveal that whites make up only five percent of DISD students. What is troubling is that racial identity is so strong that black and brown Texans may not see the state’s history as their history — and indeed, may not see American history as their history, owing to the impure thoughts and deeds of 18th and 19th century men with regard to race.

Imagine the impoverishment of the minds who believe the most significant thing to know about Jefferson, Madison, and Franklin, is that they were in some way tainted by slavery. Imagine the ignorance of school leaders who are going to investigate whether William Travis and Jim Bowie — both of whom died in 1836 at the Alamo — could have been involved with the Confederacy, which came into existence in 1861.

And imagine the spiritual decrepitude of those who would scrub the names of Travis and Bowie from Texas schools if they were found to have had anything at all to do with the Confederacy.

It’s disgusting, this iconoclasm. In 2015, 40 percent of DISD’s schools received a failing grade from the state. To be fair, over 90 percent of DISD’s students come from low income homes, meaning that the school system has tremendous barriers to overcome in educating them. Still, the fact that the DISD trustees are even considering a cosmetic, p.c. gesture like this is a farce.

Yeah, yeah, I know: Dreherbait, no big whoop. But here’s the thing: this knee-jerk iconoclasm tells us something important about where we are headed as a country. When the Founding Fathers, as well as regional figures like Travis and Bowie, are held up to contempt, and “banished” because they do not fit contemporary standards — well, we are destroying the kinds of historical narratives that all nations need to cohere. We certainly should not overlook grave flaws in these men (e.g., that Jefferson, architect of liberty, owned slaves), but it’s madness to regard them as if these tragic flaws made them mere villains. I mean, look: Martin Luther King Jr. was unfaithful to his wife, but it takes an ideological pinhead to believe that this ugly fact diminishes King’s extraordinary accomplishments, takes away from what he gave to America, or in any way threatens his place in American history.

Very few great men and women are saints. I wish the knotheads pushing this iconoclasm would reflect seriously on where this is all headed, or likely to lead.

By the way, it’s starting in France now. There’s a movement to rename schools, etc., that were named after Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Louis XIV’s finance minister who, in that post, had a lot to do with French involvement in the slave trade. The man leading the campaign is head of the French equivalent of Black Lives Matter, and writes in Le Monde: “How can we teach living together and republican values ​​in the shadow of Colbert?”

Right, because the name of a 17th-century French minister of state on the school prevents students from learning about republican values. What a crock. In Dallas, those public school students may graduate knowing next to nothing, but at least they will not have suffered the indignity of having studied in a school named for someone their progressive elders told them to hate.

The French reader who sent me the link said:

French republicanism has it good that culture wars and identity politics are virtually non-existent – until now. The local equivalent of BLM is trying to ban the name and effigies of Colbert from the public square because of his ties with the slave trade. First reactions are perplexed and even frankly hostile but it also started that way in America and now…

UPDATE: Reader Devinicus says:

Symbols are fundamentally statements about who/whom (or as Lenin said, кто кого?). This movement to rename schools in Dallas is just as Rod says — a statement by non-white residents that Texas history is white history and therefore is an affront to them.

Whether they are correct to feel this way is neither here nor there in my view. What interests me is the (I would say necessary) effect which Diversity has upon history.

As America becomes less and less white, the history of America becomes less and less valuable and interesting to Americans. And why wouldn’t that be the case? After all, white Americans are not especially interested in 17th, 18th, and 19th century American Indian history because “that’s not us”.

Before the era of Diversity was the era of assimilation and the “melting pot”. The effort was to convince (and force, let’s be honest) all that American history belonged to them and theirs even if they were not white, not Anglo, not Protestant, not even Christian. And to a significant degree, it worked.

But that is not the project of Diversity, which instead values difference for the sake of difference and either objects to solidarity in principle or has absolutely no program to produce it beyond “Hey, let’s listen to John Lennon’s ‘Imagine‘ again …”.

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Con Of The Century

Salena Zito has a moving NYPost piece about the day that began the destruction of Youngstown, Ohio, and “sowed the seeds of Trump.” Excerpts:

From then on, this date in 1977 would be known as Black Monday in the Steel Valley, which stretches from Mahoning and Trumbull counties in Ohio eastward toward Pittsburgh. It is the date when Youngstown Sheet and Tube abruptly furloughed 5,000 workers all in one day.

The bleeding never stopped.

Within the next 18 months, US Steel announced that the nation’s largest steel producer was also shutting down 16 plants across the nation including their Ohio Works in Youngstown, a move that eliminated an additional 4,000 workers here. That announcement came one day before Jones and Laughlin Steel Corp. said they were cutting thousands of jobs at their facilities in the Mahoning Valley, too.

Within a decade 40,000 jobs were gone. Within that same decade, 50,000 people had left the region, and by the next decade that number was up to 100,000. Today the 22 miles of booming steel mills and the support industries that once lined the Mahoning River have mostly disappeared — either blown up, dismantled or reclaimed by nature.

If a bomb had hit this region, the scar would be no less severe on its landscape.

More:

The events of Black Monday forever changed not only the Steel Valley, but her people and eventually American culture and politics. Just last year the reverberations were felt in the presidential election when many hard-core Democrats from this area broke from their party to vote for Donald Trump, a Republican who promised to bring jobs back to the Heartland.

Even today, after the election, the Washington establishment still hasn’t processed or properly dissected its effects. Economic experts predicted that the service industry would be the employment of the future. Steel workers were retrained to fill jobs in that sector, which was expected to sustain the middle class in the same way that manufacturing did.

It did not. According to a study done by the Midwest Center for Research the average salary of a steel worker in the late 1970s was $24,772.80. Today, according to the most recent Bureau of Labor statistics, the medium household income in the Mahoning Valley is $24,133.

Now that they have the working man’s champion in the White House, what’s he doing for them? Here are Gary Rivlin and Michael Hudson, writing in The Intercept, about how Goldman Sachs more or less runs the Trump administration. Excerpts:

Trump raged against “offshoring” by American companies during the 2016 campaign. He even threatened “retribution,”­ a 35 percent tariff on any goods imported into the United States by a company that had moved jobs overseas. But [Gary] Cohn laid out Goldman’s very different view of offshoring at an investor conference in Naples, Florida, in November. There, Cohn explained unapologetically that Goldman had offshored its back-office staff, including payroll and IT, to Bangalore, India, now home to the firm’s largest office outside New York City: “We hire people there because they work for cents on the dollar versus what people work for in the United States.”

Candidate Trump promised to create millions of new jobs, vowing to be “the greatest jobs president that God ever created.” Cohn, as Goldman Sachs’s president and COO, oversaw the firm’s mergers and acquisitions business that had, over the previous three years, led to the loss of at least 22,000 U.S. jobs, according to a study by two advocacy groups. Early in his candidacy, Trump described as “disgusting” Pfizer’s decision to buy a smaller Irish competitor in order to execute a “corporate inversion,” a maneuver in which a U.S. company moves its headquarters overseas to reduce its tax burden. The Pfizer deal ultimately fell through. But in 2016, in the heat of the campaign, Goldman advised on a megadeal that saw Johnson Controls, a Fortune 500 company based in Milwaukee, buy the Ireland-based Tyco International with the same goal. A few months later, with Goldman’s help, Johnson Controls had executed its inversion.

With Cohn’s appointment [as his economic adviser], Trump now had three Goldman Sachs alums in top positions inside his administration: Steve Bannon, who was a vice president at Goldman when he left the firm in 1990, as chief strategist, and Steve Mnuchin, who had spent 17 years at Goldman, as Treasury secretary. And there were more to come. A few weeks later, another Goldman partner, Dina Powell, joined the White House as a senior counselor for economic initiatives. Goldman was a longtime client of Jay Clayton, Trump’s choice to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission; Clayton had represented Goldman after the 2008 financial crisis, and his wife Gretchen worked there as a wealth management adviser. And there was the brief, colorful tenure of Anthony Scaramucci as White House communications director: Scaramucci had been a vice president at Goldman Sachs before leaving to co-found his own investment company.

Even before Scaramucci, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., had joked that enough Goldman alum were working for the Trump administration to open a branch office in the White House.

“There was a devastating financial crisis just over eight years ago,” Warren said. “Goldman Sachs was at the heart of that crisis. The idea that the president is now going to turn over the country’s economic policy to a senior Goldman executive turns my stomach.” Prior administrations often had one or two people from Goldman serving in top positions. George W. Bush at one point had three. At its peak, the Trump administration effectively had six.

Ex-Goldmanista Steve Bannon’s White House agenda was not in Goldman’s interest, though. But now he’s gone. More:

The Trump economic agenda, it turns out, is largely the Goldman agenda, one with the potential to deliver any number of gifts to the firm that made Cohn colossally rich. If Cohn stays, it will be to pursue an agenda of aggressive financial deregulation and massive corporate tax cuts — he seeks to slash rates by 57 percent — that would dramatically increase profits for large financial players like Goldman. It is an agenda as radical in its scope and impact as Bannon’s was.

The story tracks Gary Cohn’s impressive rise from an aluminum siding salesman to a Goldman Sachs top leader. In the mid-2000s, Goldman saw that the housing market was a bubble waiting to pop, and arranged its position to take advantage of the coming collapse. The Intercept continues:

Cohn was a member of Goldman’s board of directors during this critical time and second in command of the bank. At that point, Cohn and Blankfein, along with the board and other top executives, had several options. They might have shared their concerns about the mortgage market in a filing with the SEC, which requires publicly traded companies to reveal “triggering events that accelerate or increase a direct financial obligation” or might cause “impairments” to the bottom line. They might have warned clients who had invested in mortgage-backed securities to consider extracting themselves before they suffered too much financial damage. At the very least, Goldman could have stopped peddling mortgage-backed securities that its own mortgage trading desk suspected might soon collapse in value.

Instead, Cohn and his colleagues decided to take care of Goldman Sachs.

Goldman would not have suffered the reputational damage that it did — or paid multiple billions in federal fines — if the firm, anticipating the impending crisis, had merely shorted the housing market in the hopes of making billions. That is what investment banks do: spot ways to make money that others don’t see. The money managers and traders featured in the film “The Big Short” did the same — and they were cast as brave contrarians. Yet unlike the investors featured in the film, Goldman had itself helped inflate the housing bubble — buying tens of billions of dollars in subprime mortgages over the previous several years for bundling into bonds they sold to investors. And unlike these investors, Goldman’s people were not warning anyone who would listen about the disaster about to hit. As federal investigations found, the firm, which still claims “our clients’ interests always come first” as a core principle, failed to disclose that its top people saw disaster in the very products its salespeople were continuing to hawk.

What follows is an amazing, very detailed story about how Goldman maneuvered successfully through the rubble of the economic collapse, and came out on top. And then, get this:

Politically, 2016 would prove a strange year for Goldman. Bernie Sanders clobbered Hillary Clinton for pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees from Goldman, while Trump attacked Ted Cruz for being “in bed with” Goldman Sachs. (Cruz’s wife Heidi was a managing director in Goldman’s Houston office until she took leave to work on her husband’s presidential campaign.) Goldman would have “total control” over Clinton, Trump said at a February 2016 rally, a point his campaign reinforced in a two-minute ad that ran the weekend before Election Day. An image of Blankfein flashed across the screen as Trump warned about the global forces that “robbed our working class.”

So Trump won — and staffed up with Goldman machers — Gary Cohn most important of all:

There’s ultimately no great mystery why Donald Trump selected Gary Cohn for a top post in his administration, despite his angry rhetoric about Goldman Sachs. There’s the high regard the president holds for anyone who is rich — and the instant legitimacy Cohn conferred upon the administration within business circles. Cohn’s appointment reassured bond markets about the unpredictable new president and lent his administration credibility it lacked among Fortune 100 CEOs, none of whom had donated to his campaign. Ego may also have played a role. Goldman Sachs would never do business with Trump, the developer who resorted to foreign banks and second-tier lenders to bankroll his projects. Now Goldman’s president would be among those serving in his royal court.

Finally:

It’s Cohn’s influence over the country’s regulators that worries Dennis Kelleher, the financial reform lobbyist. “To him, what’s good for Wall Street is good for the economy,” Kelleher said of Cohn. “Maybe that makes sense when a guy has spent 26 years at Goldman, a company who has repaid his loyalties and sweat with a net worth in the hundreds of millions.” Kelleher recalls those who lost a home or a chunk of their retirement savings during a financial crisis that Cohn helped precipitate. “They’re still suffering,” he said. “Yet now Cohn’s in charge of the economy and talking about eliminating financial reform and basically putting the country back to where it was in 2005, as if 2008 didn’t happen. I’ve started the countdown clock to the next financial crash, which will make the last one look mild.”

Read the whole thing. Please, do. It is staggering to think that here we are, a decade after the crash, and … here we are.

Tonight (Sunday), PBS begins airing Ken Burns’ and Lynn Novick’s long Vietnam War documentary. I’ll write more about it this week. I’ve watched it, and to call it landmark television is to vastly undersell it. It comes to mind reading the Goldman-Trump piece because it revealed, however inadvertently, how little we Americans learned from the Vietnam experience when it came time to invade Iraq.

Twenty, thirty years from now, don’t be surprised if some American president proposes a “this time, it’s different” invasion of another foreign country. And don’t be surprised if we the people cheer for him. We’re suckers for this kind of thing. Here’s Kevin Williamson, on Trump’s epic flip-flop on immigration and DACA:

What did they expect? Trump is a serial bankrupt who has betrayed at least two-thirds of the wives he’s had and who lies compulsively — who invented an imaginary friend to lie to the press on his behalf. He has screwed over practically everyone who has ever trusted him or done business with him, and his voters were just another in a long series of marks. They gave him that 280ZX with no down payment — and no prospect of repossessing it until 2020 at the earliest. Poor Ann Coulter is somewhere weeping into her gin: “I bet on a loser,” she explains.

It was a dumb bet.

With no market-oriented health-care reform and no hawkish immigration reform and the prospects of far-reaching tax reform looking shaky — even though Republicans exist for no obvious purpose other than cutting taxes — Trump is still looking for his big win. Even those who were willing to suspend the fully formed adult parts of their brains and give him the benefit of the doubt are coming around to the realization that he has no beliefs and no principles, and that he will sell out any ally, cause, or national interest if doing so suits his one and only true master in this life: his vanity. He didn’t get rolled by Pelosi and Schumer: His voters got rolled by him. That’s the real deal.

Cheers to you, Youngstown!

When Youngstown (so to speak) figures out what’s been done to it, politics in this country is going to get very, very interesting. In the meantime:

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