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February 19, 2017

"Everything is About to Change"

This wasnít an election. It was a revolution.

My November 9 blog post on the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States used the term "Orange Revolution" to describe what had just transpired. It wasn't my term, mind you, but came from the Matt Purple piece I linked and excerpted: 'Do You Hear the Deplorables Sing?' It turned out that Orange Revolution had already been taken, twelve-odd years earlier, in Ukraine. But the revolution part still resonates now, three months later.

A better description of this revolution was penned by a different author, on the same date. Daniel Greenfield. Entitled American Uprising, he begins:

Itís midnight in America. The day before fifty million Americans got up and stood in front of the great iron wheel that had been grinding them down. They stood there even though the media told them it was useless. They took their stand even while all the chattering classes laughed and taunted them.

They were fathers who couldnít feed their families anymore. They were mothers who couldnít afford health care. They were workers whose jobs had been sold off to foreign countries. They were sons who didnít see a future for themselves. They were daughters afraid of being murdered by the ďunaccompanied minorsĒ flooding into their towns. They took a deep breath and they stood.

They held up their hands and the great iron wheel stopped.

The Great Blue Wall crumbled. The impossible states fell one by one. Ohio. Wisconsin. Pennsylvania. Iowa. The white working class that had been overlooked and trampled on for so long got to its feet. It rose up against its oppressors and the rest of the nation, from coast to coast, rose up with it.

They fought back against their jobs being shipped overseas while their towns filled with migrants that got everything while they got nothing. They fought back against a system in which they could go to jail for a trifle while the elites could violate the law and still stroll through a presidential election. They fought back against being told that they had to watch what they say. They fought back against being held in contempt because they wanted to work for a living and take care of their families.

They fought and they won.

h/t: a derivative essay via email from my friend Dave.

Continue reading ""Everything is About to Change""

February 18, 2017

Requiescat in pace

I have importuned readers to read Michael Novak's "The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism" past the point of annoyance. I know.

Unlike the current pontiff and the Dalai Lama, Novak assembled the liberation of mind in self-rule and property rights with religious virtues. Chesterton said "St. Thomas Aquinas baptized Aristotle;" I'll take a leap and suggest Novak baptizes Ayn Rand -- though she may be kicking and screaming as the holy water burns her flesh.

Novak has passed away at the age of 83. The WSJ Ed Page posts a tribute and reprises a 1994 column on the themes of my too-oft recommended book.

My own field of inquiry is theology and philosophy. From the perspective of these fields, I would not want it to be thought that any system is the Kingdom of God on Earth. Capitalism isn't. Democracy isn't. The two combined are not. The best that can be said for them (and it is quite enough) is that, in combination, capitalism, democracy, and pluralism are more protective of the rights, opportunities, and conscience of ordinary citizens (all citizens) than any known alternative.

But johngalt thinks:

Speaking for myself, I would have read such a highly acclaimed book if I read anything at all. Dagny and I finally started on 'Equal is unFair' by Yaron Brook and Don Watkins, from which I learned more than I expected, but were unable to finish it on a road trip last weekend. A completion date is, at present, ambiguous.

The linked article on his passing makes it clear he was first a theologian. He was also a neocon. Well, I thought that despite all our differences I might still enjoy a "beer summit" with our former president, and Novak's respect for capitalism seems genuine.

And readers may or may not know that I've softened in my hostility to the religious traditions. I value the purpose they give to some or even most people, as well as the moral guidance that is around 80 percent consistent with Objectivism.

I've written in the distant past that an acquaintance and I differed on the question, "Which is the greater threat to individual liberty - religion or socialism?" I defended the honor of the faithful and, as socialism's influence has grown in the last decade, am only more inclined to do so.

I'm an open defender of religious liberty, in the public sphere and even in the halls of power. Yet I oppose legislation that imposes any personal morality upon all of us. Laws are for objective moral issues, such as life and property rights.

One of Novak's last public statements is referenced in the linked piece, when he commented on our most recent presidential election:

Referring to Hillary Clinton, Novak said, "As for me, I cannot vote for a candidate so favorable to abortion, to the secularist agenda in the moral sphere and such a ferocious adversary of religious freedom."

"It is clear that Trump is not exactly the candidate by whom a Catholic would want to be represented," he said. "But in politics you elect a president, not a saint, or a bishop or the pope."

The conclusion of which I certainly agree, and even repeated to wavering NeverTrumpers. But my reasons for objecting to Hillary were more, shall we say, originalist in nature. As in the reasons of our nation's founding. Not that religious liberty was not one of those reasons, but the primacy of Novak's theme is clearly theological.

Posted by: johngalt at February 19, 2017 12:40 PM

February 17, 2017

Russophobes?

What in the heck is going on with Evan McMullin? Tweeting that the President of the United States is a "domestic enemy" isn't that strange these days - we saw that frequently and from many sources over the last two Administrations. I'm talking about his overt Russophobia.

Is Russia still the heart of a lingering "evil empire?" When the USSR subjected everyone within it's very big but not very beautiful walls, that was an easy sell to a peace-loving western population. But today, they carry our astronauts to the International Space Station for goodness sake! The wall came down in nineteen-hundred and eighty nine. Remember?

And yet, today, Evan McMullin appeared on CNN's New Day this morning to tell Alisyn Camerota that Donald Trump wants to "weaken" the U.S. intelligence community because "he knows as long as he has the issues he has with Russia the intelligence community and he are not going to get along."

What are President Trump's "issues with Russia?" Well, there's the unsubstantiated claim of stealing the election. Each of us must discern whether or not to believe the various claims and counterclaims on that one. But one unambiguous conflict with the "intelligence community" is Trump's willingness for rapprochement with modern Russia.

Camerota asked Steve Hall, the former CIA Chief of Russia Operations about Trumpís press conference yesterday. Hall answered that,

"I don't think there is very much good news especially after we saw the press conference Donald Trump conducted yesterday ... he said things like it wouldn't be so bad if we had a good relationship with Russia."

The horror! The next we know, he'll be sending Rex Tillerson on a mission to "reset" U.S. relations with Russia. Who sets U.S. foreign policy, really... the C.I.A.? The Council on Foreign Relations? Senator John McCain? How about the elected Chief Executive and Commander in Chief of the armed forces? Seems I read that in some old dusty document once.

There's clearly something really big going on here, behind the scenes of geopolitics. Past presidents have apparently been willing to let the puppetmasters have their way, in complete secrecy. President Trump on the other hand has a penchant for, shall we say, speaking his mind? And for doing so it is boasted that Trump will "die in jail" as the Intelligence Community prepares to "go nuclear" on him.

What was that old Dwight D. Eisenhower quote? "Beware the military-industrial complex" or something like that? Well, the Sting lyric, "I hope the Russians love their children too" can perhaps be updated to "I hope American Spooks love their children too."

You know it's a red-letter day when this humble blogger links to The Nation, but I find a lot of anti-Leviathan love here. I've never heard of Patrick Lawrence but he self-identifies as a progressive and writes about 'The Perils of Russophobia.'

 "Russian aggression" has to go down as one of the great, pernicious phrases of our time - requiring no further scrutiny whenever deployed. The Russians invaded Ukraine and then stole Crimea without prior provocation. Now they threaten to invade the Baltic states. They cultivate extreme-right nationalists in Europe so as to debilitate the European Union. The Russians are guilty of war crimes in Syria. They have just invaded us, too, corrupting our democratic process and throwing the 2016 election to Donald Trump and his houseful of "Kremlin lackeys."

This is the stuff of our reigning Russophobia. Let us try to identify what it is actually made of.

Every sentence in the above list has four attributes: (1) It is broadly accepted as fact just as written; (2) there is little confirmed, published evidence from impartial sources, if any, supporting it; (3) it is either one or another form of disinformation or misleads by way of omission - or both; and (4) it is a source of delusion. And in the matter of the last it is very weird. Our policy cliques do well enough deluding Americans to the effect that Russia now presents America with "an existential threat" - a thought Pentagon and NATO brass are making common currency, believe it or not - but they appear to think a nation deluded by their incessant repetitions is somehow a fine and sturdy thing.

I can be convinced that Iranian and North Korean nuclear ICBM's pose an "existential threat" but Russia has had them pointed at us for so long, and us at them, that nobody truly fears "mutual assured destruction" anymore. And what is a contemporary term for unsubstantiated delusional disinformation? "Fake news."

But jk thinks:

Firstly, tovarich, I will accept your assessment of Evan McMullin. His post-election persona has not filled me with pride for having voted for him. Well, they were desperate times, and I'm not one for regrets.

I'll rather recall the other Mormon I voted for. Gov. Mitt Romney suggested Russia as a strategic threat in the 2012 debate. President Obama channeled The Nation in his derisive "The 1980's called -- they want their foreign policy back."

By all means, call McMullin overwrought, but I'd suggest more caution in disregarding Russian aggression. I'll also accept your bifurcating existential threats versus strategic. But I see Russia ready to work behind the scenes to discredit the US, and quite willing to work with Iran and possibly NKorea to achieve this. Their grisly involvement in Syria is enough to keep them at arms' length.

The only fundamental shift from the bad-old-days to now is the asymmetric difference in strength.
We have to fear them less because they have been weakened. But they still have hegemonic ambitions, and in the diplomatic realm, play chess to our checkers and -- at the risk of mixing metaphors -- hardball to our softball.

I don't stay awake at night fearing Russians under the bed, but I'm wary: a cornered, weakened bear is still dangerous.

Posted by: jk at February 17, 2017 12:21 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Okay, all of that is very fair. But are these legitimate concerns behind the IC "going nuclear" or is that more of a territorial behavior by an entrenched bureaucracy? One that happens to have some of the world's most powerful tools and influence at its disposal?

"Going nuclear" doesn't seem a proportional response to policy differences. Nor, even to concerns that POTUS has secretive "ties" to Russia. Just leak the details and let's have it out publicly. Unless, such public airing might do the self-described "Spooks" more harm than good.

Posted by: johngalt at February 17, 2017 12:34 PM

February 16, 2017

Exactly the way I see it

In its opinion on the resignation of President Trump's National Security Advisor, General Michael Flynn, Investor's editorial page says that the actions of at least nine current and former officials at multiple agencies "publicly revealing U.S. signals intelligence" committed "one of the most serious felonies involving classified information."

The so-called Deep State, the semi-permanent class of politicians, bureaucrats, lobbyists and contractors who make a grand living off the taxpayers, have a vested interest in taking down Trump. He's the real enemy, not the Russians. And, even if it means breaking the law, that's just what these Swamp People mean to do.

The media establishment is also complicit:

The media have been slobbering at the chance to slip their chains and take a bite out of Trump, who has so far bested them in Twitter battles and, worse, made them irrelevant to a large segment of the population.

Meanwhile, federal bureaucrats, fearing Trump's vow to shrink big government and root out corruption, are digging in as if fighting for their very lives. That's why intelligence "sources," as the media call them, are willing to break the law to subvert Trump's administration. They have too much to lose if he wins.

This is more than just politics. This is a life-or-death struggle between Leviathan and the rights of the American people.

But jk thinks:

Deeply concerning. Judge Napolitano delivered some inspiring oratory on this topic as well.

Posted by: jk at February 16, 2017 7:37 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Some of the "swamp creatures" are raising their heads from the ooze and making themselves known. Bill Kristol for example:

"Obviously strongly prefer normal democratic and constitutional politics. But if it comes to it, prefer the deep state to the Trump state."

"Strongly prefer normal democratic ... politics" indeed.

Posted by: johngalt at February 16, 2017 8:37 PM
But Jk thinks:

I think Kristol has done himself serious ( and deserved) harm with that.

In other news, Rep. Dennis Kucinich is on the side of angels.

Posted by: Jk at February 16, 2017 9:24 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Wow. That deserves its own post. "We want to know who is running the United States of America and we sure don't want it to be a cadre of intelligence officials who are trying to use headlines and innuendo to undermine a new administration."

Mind. Blown.

Posted by: johngalt at February 16, 2017 9:58 PM

February 15, 2017

Rats Ass!

My favorite thing about the Trump Administration will not come to pass:

AndyPuzderWithdaws.gif

Because he was insufficiently hostile to immigration? NR thinks so.

UPDATE: "WEIRD THAT THE DEMOCRATS KEEP SCREAMING 'FASCISM,' BUT THE NOMINEES THEY FOUGHT HARDEST AGAINST ARE THE MOST LIBERTARIAN: Labor nominee Puzder calls it quits." -- Insty

UPDATE II: The WSJ Ed Page is more cheesed off than I am.

Mr. Puzder was also targeted by some on the right because he supported more legal immigration to meet the needs of a growing U.S. economy, which is a mortal sin on the restrictionist right. Mr. Puzder had once employed a housekeeper he didnít know was undocumented, and though he fired her and paid back taxes, restrictionists wanted to punish him for supporting immigration reform. Heaven forfend he'd help farmers address their severe labor shortage.

They feel the Administration expended no effort to support Puzder, and point to the large peel-off of Republican Senators
This is what happens when Republicans begin to feel they must distance themselves from an unpopular President.

But johngalt thinks:

IBD Ed:

Labor unions, meanwhile, have given more than $10 million to the campaigns of the 11 Democrats on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

Matthew Haller of the International Franchise Association has it exactly right when he says that the Democrats' opposition to Puzder "is perhaps the greatest example of a quid pro quo that's ever existed in modern politics."

Given the fact that Democrats are constantly complaining about the corrupting influence of money in politics, it's remarkable that they aren't taking heat for their blatant hypocrisy when they do the bidding of Big Labor.

Unfortunately, while DeVos managed to run the gantlet of union-backed opposition, Puzder wasn't so lucky. Several Republicans, unwilling to stand up to these outrageous attacks, caved and pressured Trump to pull his nomination.

Make no mistake, Puzder's demise had nothing whatsoever to do with his qualifications to run the Labor Department or anything else Democrats claimed. It was entirely about campaign cash.

Posted by: johngalt at February 16, 2017 6:48 PM
But jk thinks:

I don't want to break protocol, but I disagree partly. What is said is 100% accurate -- and the failure to count Union cash in the same bucket as corporate lucre has offended me for decades.

But -- and yes I've a well ensconced burr in my saddle -- they spent far more to defeat Sec. DeVos than Puzder. Eleven Republicans caved because Puzder is not on a the Trump team on immigration.

My deepest fear from the campaign -- that a victorious Trump would turn the GOP into the Tancredo-Trump party -- gained ground yesterday.

Posted by: jk at February 16, 2017 7:33 PM
But johngalt thinks:

I've no hard conclusion oil this one. I just wanted to share a counterfactual from a respected, for me anyway, source. The real proof will be in his replacement.

For my part, I hope he gets the immigration dirty work done quickly and moves on to more consequential priorities.

Posted by: johngalt at February 16, 2017 11:48 PM

Jumping the Shark?

For Valentine's Day, my lovely bride and I watched the movie "I Hate Valentines Day" written, directed and starring Nia Vardalos. Pretty good film: don't drop everything to view it, but it features good characters and performances, albeit with some pacing problems.

Vardalos's character has two male gay friends who work at her flower shop. The film was made in 2009 and the portrayal of the gay characters is quite positive. Both are good people, good friends, and I think of great benefit to the screenwriter to have male characters without any sexual tension with female characters. Because of this, or to prove progressivism, or as a diktat of the David Geffen gay mafia -- I don't know the reason, but it strikes me that these characters have been common for decades. The gay relative in "Mrs. Doubtfire" may have been a precursor (1993); movie buffs will find earlier examples.

I started wondering whether future viewers will cringe at these stereotypical portrayals of gay men. And I rather suspect they will. My Dad didn't think anything askew when "Amos & Andy" came on. The smiling, tuxedoed tap dancing African-American servant was a movie staple for just as long.

Likewise, they were not portrayed "badly." They had charm, talent, and style. They were valuable members of society who were beloved by the white folk with whom they interacted. But we cringe today at the plastic and stereotypical portrayal. If all they could do is sing and dance, all the standard-issue gay characters can do is parrot grooming tips and dating advice.

Chuck Klosterman has a great book "What if We're Wrong," [Review Corner] asking what future society will ridicule or dislike us for. I speculate 30 years of plasticine portrayals of young gay men in movies might make the cut.

Rant Posted by John Kranz at 1:24 PM | What do you think? [0 comments]

Quote of the Day

My colleague David French makes the case that former general and CIA director David Petraeus should not replace Michael Flynn or return to government at all.

He doesn't cite the fact that Petraeus's musical favorites include Loreena McKennitt, Enya, and Sarah McLachlan. Because those tastes don't make him wimpy. They make Loreena McKennitt, Enya, and Sarah McLachlan badass. -- Jim Geraghty [subscribe]


A More Productive Debate?

Lost in the loud arguments and accusations of denialism are the undeniable failures of every effort to reduce climate change.

In America, we can point to the ethanol debacle. Outside the offices of ADM's lobbying arm, who is left to defend burning corn in cars? It has failed to reduce CO2, impacted food prices and supply, raised fuel costs, and damaged some engines. The science is settled.

Europeans, though, they're smart folk. They wouldn't do anything quite so schtööpid now would they?

Virtually everyone agrees Europe's "dash for diesel" was a monstrous policy error, not to mention the proximate cause of the emissions-cheating scandal that has engulfed Volkswagen and other auto makers. Yet the overarching imperative today is to vilify the car companies and insist they do better at achieving meaningless reductions in CO 2 emissions, now by forcing them to build electric cars that customers must be bribed and pressured into buying. Not to be questioned, though, is the green agenda or the competence of Europe's political class.

All to achieve an estimated 0.004° C reduction in warming (although the dense soot over European cities might offer some reflective benefit).

But johngalt thinks:

News you can use: In France, diesel fuel is called "gazole" at the pump. I think that first stop for fuel took us 45 minutes, stop to start, looking for "diesel." Well, and getting one of the credit cards authorized.

Posted by: johngalt at February 15, 2017 3:43 PM
But jk thinks:

¡Mon Dieu!

Posted by: jk at February 15, 2017 4:51 PM

February 14, 2017

Quote of the Day

Competence is not a requirement. One small example from the Education Department: a just-released federal analysis of a signature Obama initiative to improve failing public schools reports almost zero gain from the $7 billion spent. Yet we're to believe that Mrs. DeVos is the unqualified one here? -- Bill McGurn WSJ Ed Page
But johngalt thinks:

Or that the exact date, post election, on which General Flynn had a phone call with the Russian is a matter of such national security importance as to warrant an Independent Counsel investigation.

Posted by: johngalt at February 15, 2017 3:45 PM

Purpose of Government

What great balance of friends I have. I should be a pollster!

Not for the first time, a popular viral entity comes up on my Facebook feed multiple times. With apologies to Marx, they appear first as farce with my right-wing buddies' ridicule -- then as tragedy with my lefty friends' approbation.

Today's is noteworthy to anyone who has pondered the proper size, scope, and power of government.

DemocratUtopia.gif

Perhaps they're right. But the Democrats I know see this as paradise, and the liberty lovers (myself included) as a grim dystopia. The most popular solar cars would be the "Huxleys."

But nanobrewer thinks:

No, the proper retort is:
They've been trying to fix elections, they're just no better at it than they are at fixing dams.

BAM!

Posted by: nanobrewer at February 15, 2017 12:42 AM

Headline of the Day

The honors go to Jim Geraghty today:

OutLikeFlynn.gif

UPDATE: Honorable mention:

AndyPuzdersGrilling.gif

Posted by John Kranz at 11:09 AM | What do you think? [0 comments]

February 13, 2017

Forgotten Texans

Mary Anastasia O'Grady keeps the lamp of fre trade liberty lit at the WSJ Ed Page. Presidents Trump and FDR both talked about "The Forgotten Man."

Yet as Amity Shlaes explains in her 2007 book, "The Forgotten Man," that term originated with Yale professor William Graham Sumner. In his 1883 essay the forgotten man is the one who is passed the bill--unnoticed--when do-gooders propose "measures of relief for the evils which have caught public attention."

Sumner didnít name names. He simply described the injustice of A and B getting together to help X with some new law. C isn't in on the plan but he carries the burden. "Such is the Forgotten Man," Sumner wrote. "He works, he votes, generally he prays--but he always pays--yes, above all, he pays."

In Mr. Trump's war on globalism, Texas is brimming with Cs--hard-working Americans who have adjusted to freer trade and now find that A and B want to change the rules as a favor to X. There are millions more Cs all over the U.S.


The Forgotten Man [Review Corner]

But nanobrewer thinks:

she's good, she's really good. I miss her dispatches from Latin America - a breath of fresh air while the Manhattan Media was covering for HRC's stumping for the cum-dictator Zelaya.

Posted by: nanobrewer at February 13, 2017 11:24 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Trump economic advisor Arthur Laffer was on Varney this morning talking about the unmitigated badness of a border adjustment tax, i.e. import tariff. Good news, if he's still on the payroll for Team Trump.

Posted by: johngalt at February 14, 2017 1:10 PM
But nanobrewer thinks:

Hmm, yeah. WSJ 3rd editors opinion today notes that

Gary Cohn runs the National Economic Council and is already muscling out competing voices on taxes and finance and blocked supply-siders Steve Moore and Larry Kudlow from senior White House jobs.
Oof SM and LK were two of the most palatable things that compelled me to pull the level for DJT.

Posted by: nanobrewer at February 15, 2017 12:46 AM

Coffeehousin'

Coffeehouse

It's All in the Game

"The only No. 1 pop single to have been co-written by a U.S. Vice President or winner of the Nobel Peace Prize."
Music Charles Gates Dawes ©1911; lyrics Carl Sigman ©1951

Live at the Coffeehouse dot Com


Permalink

QotD

I seem to have little time these days for real readin' & writin'... got this thru FB of all places!

the opposition [to DeVos] basically reflected the present Democratic Party at its worst: unstinting in defense of bureaucracy and its employees, more excited about causes dear to the upper middle class than the interests of the poor, and always girding for the battle with the Real Enemy, religious conservatives, no matter what the moment actually demands.

The real kicker... the source is the NYT!

(hat tip to: Friends of Best of the Web group on FB)


February 12, 2017

Review Corner

Before Lyndon Johnson and the Appalachian Regional Commission brought new roads to southeastern Kentucky, the primary road from Jackson to Ohio was U.S. Route 23. So important was this road in the massive hillbilly migration that Dwight Yoakam penned a song about northerners who castigated Appalachian children for learning the wrong three R's: "Reading, Rightin', Rt. 23." Yoakam's song about his own move from southeastern Kentucky could have come from Mamaw's diary:
They thought readin', writin', Route 23 would take them to the good life that they had never seen; They didn't know that old highway would lead them to a world of misery
Mamaw and Papaw may have made it out of Kentucky, but they and their children learned the hard way that Route 23 didn't lead where they hoped.
Blog friend SugarChuck and I have different styles. I ebulliently wave books I like in the air and importune my unlucky acquaintances to read them. I developed a rating system after all, that goes from four to five stars. The well-read sc, in contrast, will quietly ask something like "Did you ever read Hillbilly Elegy?" I've learned that it's always enlightening to follow up on those quiet recommendations.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D .Vance is a moving and powerful book. Because a new President was inaugurated 22 days ago, I am going to ruin the review with trendy political analysis. But that is a shame, it is a bigger and more important book.

And yet. It does add a significant piece to the puzzle of the Donald Trump voter: some of the forgotten and desperate rust belt denizens who have been harmed by the foreign trade and economic dynamism which I champion. My podcast hero, Russ Roberts, has been putting a human face on these people for a while. Vance adds a personal history and a family tree.

I remember sitting in that busy courtroom , with half a dozen other families all around , and thinking they looked just like us . The moms and dads and grandparents didn't wear suits like the lawyers and judge . They wore sweatpants and stretchy pants and T - shirts . Their hair was a bit frizzy . And it was the first time I noticed "TV accents" -- the neutral accent that so many news anchors had . The social workers and the judge and the lawyer all had TV accents . None of us did . The people who ran the courthouse were different from us . The people subjected to it were not .

Vance's grandfather leaves the atavistic poverty of Kentucky, driving up Route 23 to participate in a working class life in Middletown Ohio (the town so inconsequential and fabricated, Vance notes, it didn't have a real name -- but it was halfway between Cincinatti and Akron).
My grandfather loved the company and knew every make and model of car built from Armco steel . Even after most American car companies transitioned away from steel - bodied cars , Papaw would stop at used-car dealerships whenever he saw an old Ford or Chevy . "Armco made this steel ," he'd tell me It was one of the few times that he ever betrayed a sense of genuine pride .

But they brought bad habits. Vance is unstinting in his criticism, presenting a loving yet despondent look at the self-destructive habits of his people.
The fallen world described by the Christian religion matched the world I saw around me : one where a happy car ride could quickly turn to misery , one where individual misconduct rippled across a family's and a community's life . When I asked Mamaw if God loved us , I asked her to reassure me that this religion of ours could still make sense of the world we lived in . I needed reassurance of some deeper justice , some cadence or rhythm that lurked beneath the heartache and chaos .

What fell most harshly upon me was the tribalism and violence. If one's Mother is insulted, one is empowered to hospitalize the offender with an electric saw. Any inquiring police or social worker will be told "it was an accident" and the saw-wielder will be held in high esteem.

I told my lovely bride after reading Chapter One that "we are not quite so far away from the Hatfields and McCoys as we might like to think." In Chapter Two I read the author, J. D. Vance's grandfather was a cousin to Jim Vance, who had an outsized role in starting and propagating the famous feud. The men he grew up admiring were 20th Century Hatfields.

We tend to overstate and to understate , to glorify the good and ignore the bad in ourselves . This is why the folks of Appalachia reacted strongly to an honest look at some of its most impoverished people . It's why I worshipped the Blanton men , and it's why I spent the first eighteen years of my life pretending that everything in the world was a problem except me .

Just the marginal stability of a normal older sister and a loving grandparent are enough that the author escapes the turmoil of a drug-using mother, absent father and a parade of temporary stepdads.
I'm sure poor Matt kept asking himself how and when he'd hopped the express train to crazy town . It was just the three of us in that house , and it was clear to all that it wouldn't work out . It was only a matter of time . Matt was a nice guy , and as Lindsay and I joked , nice guys never survived their encounters with our family .

But the author joins the Marines. Serving in Iraq, he discovers unimaginable poverty beyond what he experienced. He uses the GI Bill to attend (the) Ohio State University -- then through Yale Law School, where he discovers equally unimaginable wealth.

Watching his escape, I think of Jason Riley's Stop Helping Us [Review Corner]. Riley escapes poverty, landing a gig at the nation's most respected newspaper to be ridiculed by his nine-year old niece for "talking white." The poverty experience of the African-American and Scots-Irish in this country have different roots. But Mark Twain would point out that they rhyme.

It's an inspiring story told with brutal honesty. Five Stars and an Editor's Choice Award.

But jk thinks:

Coincidentally, I ran across this Ronald Bailey column in Reason shortly after finishing the book. Bailey references Hillbilly Elegy, shares some of his family's West Virginia background, and asks "Why don't they leave?"

[Spoiler alert:] they are enabled by public assistance. These are some poor people and very few would object to helping. But they could have a better life if they left. Hard choices.

Posted by: jk at February 13, 2017 12:56 PM

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