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Yesterday’s post recapped the horrific murder of Sir David Amess MP on October 15, 2021.

Today’s will cover more about this much admired man’s personal character and political causes.

Posthumous victory: Southend-on-Sea now a city

I was delighted to learn at dinner time last night that the Queen granted Southend-on-Sea city status. Sir David must have mentioned Southend at least once a week in Parliament. He had long campaigned for it and made 115 references to it. Here he is with his two French bulldogs, one of which is Vivienne. He was due to participate with her in the Westminster Dog of the Year charity event on October 28:

The GB News article says that Prime Minister Boris Johnson made the announcement to MPs on Monday, October 18 (emphases mine):

The Prime Minister has notified the House of Commons that the Queen has agreed to confer city status upon Southend in tribute to Sir David Amess who was recently killed.

MPs cheered in the Commons as the Prime Minister announced Southend “will be accorded the city status it so clearly deserves”.

Mr Johnson said: “As it is only a short time since Sir David last put that very case to me in this chamber, I am happy to announce that Her Majesty has agreed that Southend will be accorded the city status it so clearly deserves …

That ‘short time’ was probably last Thursday, October 14:

In a three-hour debate on Monday, preceding a service of remembrance at St Margaret’s, the Parliamentary church next to Westminster Abbey, Boris noted that Amess was never an MP interested in climbing the greasy pole to a Cabinet or party leadership position:

“That Sir David spent almost 40 years in this House, but not one day in ministerial office, tells everything about where his priorities lay.”

Boris Johnson, opening tributes to Sir David Amess, told the House of Commons: “The passing of 72 hours has done little to numb the shock and sadness we all felt when we heard of the tragic and senseless death of Sir David Amess.

This House has lost a steadfast servant, we’ve lost a dear friend and colleague, and Julia and her children have lost a loving husband and devoted father.

“Nothing I or anyone else can say can lessen the pain, the grief, the anger they must feel at this darkest of times.”

Returning to Southend-on-Sea, having city status will help to increase its profile and encourage outside investment, as the leader of the city’s council explains below. Incidentally, having a cathedral, the traditional marker of an English city, is no longer necessary. City status is now a symbolic designation:

On Friday night, this Southend business owner said that Amess was dedicated to making his town a city:

Everything I know about Southend I learned from David Amess’s contributions in the House of Commons:

‘Community man’

There are MPs and there are MPs.

Sir David was the type of MP who will be sorely missed by his constituents, who called him a ‘community man’. GB News interviewed several over the weekend, some of whom were in tears or close to it, including men, such as this Leigh-on-Sea councillor:

This councillor from Southend says that Sir David, whose mother lived to the age of 104, used to throw parties for constituents over 100 years old. He also used to ask about local issues in Southend and resolve them with the help of councillors:

Another councillor remembers that Sir David would check on certain constituents to see if they had transport for important meetings, probably related to issues of theirs he was dealing with as an MP. The man says that Sir David would personally drive those constituents to the places they needed to go. And, yes, there were right to life issues he campaigned for:

The Chairman of Leigh-on-Sea council recalls Sir David’s selflessness:

This lady from Leigh-on-Sea, the Essex town where Sir David was stabbed to death (17 times), discusses his dedication to his constituency. Like many other people, she had the pleasure of meeting him at work in nearby Southend:

As was the case with other people GB News interviewed, a man interviewed (at 2:35 in the next video) said that people used to see Amess in the local Lidl, where he took time to chat with fellow shoppers. The man said that he did not vote for him but said that the MP was always available and accessible to everyone:

Vigil Mass

On Friday evening, the Revd Jeffrey Woolnough conducted a vigil Mass at St Peter’s Catholic Church in Eastwood, Leigh-on-Sea.

This is the church the Amess family attend.

The video below has a few photos from the Mass. Starting at the 40-second point, notice how traditional it is. The priest stands with his back to the people, as in days of yore. He also wears a short chasuble that is very pre-Vatican II, a fiddleback. How fortunate for the Amess family to have found such a church:

At 1:50 in the video above, two ladies expressed their grief on Friday night following the vigil Mass. One of them said that Amess ‘knew everybody’. As was the case with other people GB News interviewed, one of ladies said that people used to see him in the supermarket.

GB News was on hand to cover the Mass:

 

A service at Saint Peter’s Church in Eastwood Lane, close to where Sir David was killed, was held on Friday evening to remember him – where he was described by a priest as “Mr Southend”.

The church fell silent as Father Jeffrey Woolnaugh paid tribute to the Conservative MP and invited his constituents to remember him.

He placed a photograph of Sir David at the front of the church, and said: “This liturgy is one I was not expecting to lead today.

“The whole world grieves. In this Mass we pray for the repose of the soul of dear David.

“Have you ever known Sir David Amess without that happy smile on his face? Because the greeting he would always give you was that happy smile.

He carried that great east London spirit of having no fear and being able to talk to people and the level they’re at. Not all politicians, I would say, are good at that.”

Around 80 people attended the service and listened as Father Woolnough recounted his own memories of Sir David.

He said: “When you can speak to your MP and you can talk and get on like a house on fire, that’s when you can talk to them later about things that are important to your area.

“What can we say? He died doing the thing he loved, meeting his constituents, his local people.”

Father Woolnough added that his constituents could “count on” Sir David, and said: “He was always available. We don’t have the words tonight.

“Dear Sir David, rest well.”

The priest also said that Amess’s smile is ingrained on everyone’s hearts:

On Saturday night, a secular candlelit vigil took place near where Sir David was murdered. The Daily Mail has many moving photographs of the gathering.

Biography

Most Britons think that all Conservatives were born with a silver spoon in their mouths.

Not so.

David Amess was born in humble circumstances in London’s East End.

The Telegraph recounted his life:

David Anthony Andrew Amess was born on March 26 1952 in working-class Plaistow, East London, to James Amess, an electrician, and Maud, née Martin, a dressmaker. As Amess recalled, “we were very poor and lived in a small terraced house with no bathroom, an outside toilet and a tin bath hanging on the wall”. In 2014 he would compile and publish a pamphlet, Party of Opportunity, containing short biographies of Tory MPs with working-class origins.

David’s mother was a Roman Catholic who brought him up in the faith and he remained a staunch Catholic throughout his life, his commitment reflected in his opposition to abortion and to the broadening of LGBT rights. “Confession,” he once said, “is very important to me.”

He attended St Antony’s Junior School, Forest Gate, where he was “often in classes of 50, and the teachers still gave us excellent tuition and kept order to a high standard”, and St Bonaventure’s Grammar School, Newham, where he remembered being “quite bossy and pushy” and was rumoured to have once hit a fellow pupil over the head with a bicycle pump.

Until the age of five, Amess said, he had the nickname of “Double Dutch” on account of a bad stutter: he could not make the sounds “st” or “the” and saw a speech therapist for three years, which also had the effect of virtually eliminating his Cockney accent.

He had a varied career prior to entering politics:

He took a degree in Economics and Government at Bournemouth College of Technology. Then, after 18 months’ teaching at a primary school (“I specialised in teaching children who were described as ESN”), and a short stint as an underwriter, he became a recruitment consultant.

One wonders if he met his wife Julia while he was an underwriter:

In 1983 he married Julia Arnold, a former underwriter, who survives him with their four daughters and a son.

Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister during Amess’s early years in politics:

A dedicated Thatcherite, Amess contested the safe Labour seat of Newham North West in 1979, and in 1982 became a councillor in the London borough of Redbridge.

During those years, Essex went from electing Labour MPs to Conservative ones. The county is still Conservative-dominated in Parliament.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the media coined expressions for Essex voters, many of whose families had been moved out of London after the Second World War had ended. The next generation of voters became known collectively as ‘Basildon man’ and ‘white van man’.

Amess rode the crest of that wave, as The Sun‘s Trevor Kavanagh explains:

Basildon was the first constituency he served, beginning in 1983:

When the incumbent Tory MP for Basildon, the Right-wing Harvey Proctor, moved to safer Billericay for the 1983 general election, Amess was chosen to fill his shoes and was duly elected. Three years later he stood down from the council to concentrate on his Westminster seat.

Basildon was regarded as a bellwether seat, and when Amess won it again in 1992, albeit with a tiny majority, it provided the first indication that despite the pundits, and the triumphalism of Labour’s leader Neil Kinnock, the Tories were on course for a fourth successive election victory. He would later describe his campaign in a short pamphlet entitled 1992: Against All Odds! (2012).

Boundary changes prior to the 1997 general election meant that Basildon was almost certain to go Labour, so Amess decided to look elsewhere, and in 1995 was selected to fight Southend West after the retirement of Paul Channon. Returned to Westminster again, he held the seat until his death.

Amess focused on his constituents, first and foremost:

Assiduous and likeable, Amess built a strong personal following by concentrating on constituency issues: the Guardian’s Andrew Rawnsley once suggested that the secret of his electoral success was that “he never completed a sentence without mentioning his constituency”.

This was also reflected away from Parliament:

Amess … was a lifelong supporter of West Ham United, and also followed Basildon United …

Even after he left Basildon, he still returned to visit, as this former Basildon councillor remembers:

He had many accomplishments with regard to charity, earning him a knighthood. He:

was knighted in 2015 and received several awards for his contributions in parliament, including the Animal Welfare and Environment Champion award of the 2011 Dods Charity Champion Awards, and the “Outstanding Achievement Award” at the same event the following year, in recognition of his lifetime commitment to charitable work.

This was how the newly knighted Sir David celebrated:

He did not always follow the Conservative line in Parliament:

he incurred the wrath of many fellow Conservatives by consistently voting to ban foxhunting and hare coursing (though he was in favour of capital punishment), and supporting numerous other animal welfare campaigns.

Many MPs will remember his staunch support of Brexit, however.

They will also remember him for supporting animal causes and an end to fuel poverty:

The most significant of these were the Protection Against Cruel Tethering Act (1988), and the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act (2000) …

The animal-related Act, supported by the NFU, banned the tethering of “any horse, ass or mule under such conditions or in such manner as to cause that animal unnecessary suffering”.

The second piece of legislation, following on from the death of a constituent from cold, required the Secretary of State to “publish and implement a strategy for reducing fuel poverty”. The measure was credited with pushing fuel poverty to near the top of the political agenda, contributing to a dramatic fall in the problem in England from 5.1 million households in 1996 to 1.2 million in 2004.

Another cause that Amess supported, thanks to a Leigh-on-Sea constituent, Carla Cressy, was that of endometriosis. 

The Telegraph has the story:

“I first approached Sir David Amess when I’d just found out I had endometriosis five years ago,” says Carla Cressy, 30, an accounts manager from Leigh-on-Sea. “I didn’t know much about it, and realised there was very little awareness, support and education around it. He’s my local MP so I visited him at his surgery. I had no expectations of what would happen. I just knew I wanted to share my story with him, about how I’d suffered with endometriosis for an entire decade before I was diagnosed.

He was so lovely – genuinely concerned and upset about what I’d been through. He said we need to do something about it, and he then really did. He went above and beyond to champion this community like a beacon of light. It was incredible. I am devastated that he’s gone.”

This is what happened:

“Sir David recognised the significant impact endometriosis could have, and really wanted to make a difference to help those with the disease,” says Emma Cox, CEO of Endometriosis UK, a charity that was working closely with an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) that Sir David set up in 2018 to raise awareness in Parliament of the condition …

One of Sir David’s goals when he created the APPG was for the government to provide education on endometriosis in schools. It’s something the group achieved over a year later, meaning menstrual wellbeing is now included on the English curriculum. “We made so much progress together,” says Cressy, who worked closely with Sir David on the campaign. “He really has changed so many lives, including my own.”

One of Sir David’s upcoming tasks, had he lived, was to ask for further research funding, as a Labour MP explains:

“He really wanted that debate,” says Labour MP Emma Hardy, vice-chair of the APPG on endometriosis. “We’d published a report last year, collecting evidence from women around the country with their experience of endometriosis, and Sir David wanted to draw attention to our recommendations.”

Their key goals are to reduce the time it takes for people to be diagnosed, ensure GPs have enough information to make them aware of the condition, raise public awareness, and fund more research into non-invasive ways of diagnosis …

“The main thing that comes from women is not being listened to, not being believed, taking ages to be diagnosed and then when they are, there’s not much change. Sir David wanted to change that. Endometriosis isn’t party politics, but he was really passionate about trying to do something about this condition. I don’t want him to be remembered as the person this tragedy happened to, but the person who worked so hard to improve the lives of people with endometriosis. We can’t replace him, but I hope we can find another Conservative MP to champion his work and continue with the APPG.”

This GB News video covers Sir David’s public life from the time he entered politics:

MPs paid respects

On Friday afternoon, Union flags were lowered to half-mast over government buildings, including No. 10:

On Saturday morning, prominent Conservative and Labour MPs laid flowers near the Methodist church hall where Sir David was murdered:

Government whips have reminded MPs that there is an Employee Assistance Programme for anyone among them who wants counselling after Sir David’s senseless murder.

Everyone, regardless of party affiliation, was deeply sorry to lose this man:

This was because he befriended MPs from both sides of the aisle and found ways to work constructively with them:

One of the things I found moving in watching and reading these tributes was the recollection made by more than one MP, regardless of party affiliation, on his befriending of new Parliamentarians. He introduced himself, asked how they were getting on and enquired if they had any issues with which he could help.

Conservative MPs

These are some of the Conservative MPs’ tributes, beginning with Boris’s:

Long-time friend David Davis paid tribute to Amess’s career of service, rather than ambition:

Stuart Anderson remembers Amess helping him settle into the job:

Andrew Rosindell, another Essex MP, lamented the loss of his oldest friend in the Commons:

Another long-time friend, David Jones, called him ‘frankly irreplaceable’:

I agree with Mike Wood. Forthcoming Adjournment debates will never be the same. That said, Southend is now a city:

The folks running PARLY agree on the adjournment debates, during which Sir David addressed more issues than Southend:

Labour

Party leader Sir Keir Starmer emphasised Amess’s Christian faith and the fact that he was well liked across the House:

Hilary Benn remembered Amess’s dogged campaigning and dedication:

Siobhain McDonagh will forever connect Amess with Southend, and who can blame her?

Steve McCabe will remember Amess’s cheerful nature:

John Cryer was a former neighbour:

Liberal Democrat

The most moving tribute, however, came from Lembit Öpik, a former Liberal Democrat MP, who spoke to Mark Dolan on GB News Saturday night:

The former MP was so moved that he had to sit down and recover after that interview. Mark Dolan’s producer was with him during that time.

Conclusion

It was serendipitous that the Gospel reading for Sunday, October 17, was about service (Mark 10:35-45):

10:42 So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them.

10:43 But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant,

10:44 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.

10:45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

What apposite verses for Sir David Amess, who gave his all in service to his constituents.

May his place in Heaven be an exalted one.

On Tuesday, October 12, 2021, Sir David Amess MP (Conservative), posted the following tweet promoting his upcoming constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex:

These surgeries are an opportunity for constituents to present their problems to their MP. They might be seeking help with schooling, crime or health, among other things. Meetings are face-to-face, one-on-one. One’s MP then cuts through bureaucracy to achieve a successful resolution to the problem.

It seems this type of in-person connection between a member of the public and an elected constituency politician is unique to the UK. Long may it continue.

Two days later, Sir David posted a photo of himself and the Emir of Qatar. Amess was the chairman of the All-party Parliamentary Group fostering good relations between Britain and Qatar:

That same day, the MP for Southend West tweeted his gratitude for the government aid to Southend-on-Sea, no longer a smallish, seaside resort, but a town with a population of 160,000. Sir David has been campaigning tirelessly in Parliament for it to have city status. Winter fuel poverty was another of his big causes:

Little did he realise those would be his final tweets.

Just before noon on Friday, October 15, I was watching a heart-warming segment on GB News about the Westminster Dog of the Year charity event, to be held on October 28 in Victoria Tower Gardens, London. Isabel Oakeshott was interviewing Matt Vickers MP (Conservative) and his dog Karen. Karen was paying attention to the conversation. As soon as it turned to dog-napping, she began barking.

The public can vote up for their favourite MP-dog pairing until October 27. Sir David had already registered with his French bulldog Vivienne. Recently, he said:

If I am feeling down, the dog lifts my spirits as she is always pleased to see me and she makes me smile.

Little did I know watching the GB News segment with Matt Vickers and Isabel Oakeshott that Sir David was minutes away from his last breath.

Amess’s last meeting was a Zoom call about the Children’s Parliament, which pairs up an MP with a young member of the public. The meeting ended at 12:02 p.m.

At 12:05, Sir David was gasping his final breaths, having been stabbed multiple times in the church hall.

The Times reported:

It was just moments after midday on Friday when Sir David Amess had his last appointment.

Richard Hillgrove, a PR professional, shared a call with Amess to discuss the Children’s Parliament, an event where kids are matched with members of parliament to debate the important issues of the day.

As usual, the MP for Southend West was firing on all cylinders, full of buzz and ideas for the event: the running order, the voting system, what software they should use. Hillgrove’s daughter, Lola, 11, had been matched with Amess, who visited her at school so they could have their picture taken.

Hillgrove says he ended the Zoom call at 12.02pm, so that Amess could host a constituency surgery at the Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea. It was his final farewell. By 12.05pm, Amess had been stabbed to death.

A few minutes later, Hillgrove saw the first reports of the murder on television. “I didn’t even realise it was Sir David at first,” he recalled. “I was absolutely horrified, every minute that came passed seemed like an hour, the longer it went, the more concerning it got.”

Eventually the unimaginable news filtered through. Lola came home from school in tears. “I was honoured to have known him,” said Hillgrove. “He was such an inspiration, his engagement was incredible. He made sense of a crazy world.”

The events of Friday afternoon have pierced the quiet provincial calm of Leigh-on-Sea, leaving the tight-knit Essex community fearful and furious. A deep, heavy sadness hangs over this seaside town. Yesterday, the flower bins were empty at the Co-op on Eastwood Road, just 100 yards from where Amess was stabbed 17 times by a 25-year-old man. Every tulip, rose and pansy had been scooped up and deposited at the tribute for the man alternately known as “Sir David” or simply “Dave”.

The Telegraph reported that Amess’s staff, women, witnessed his horrifying murder. Paramedics from an air ambulance worked in vain for two hours trying to stabilise him:

Sir David was attacked seconds later, stabbed repeatedly in front of his horrified staff.

Sir David’s wounds were so many and severe that paramedics were unable to stabilise him sufficiently for a transfer to hospital. After two hours of vain struggle to stem his injuries, the air ambulance took off empty.

The Telegraph spoke with the aforementioned Richard Hillgrove:

Mr Hillgrove recalled how, during their conversation, Sir David had periodically glanced to his right.

He assumes this was towards trusted assistant, Rebecca Hayton, upon whom Sir David, not being the most technologically savvy parliamentarian, relied for help when making video calls.

It was she who witnessed at close quarters the full ferocity of the knife attack, running from the Belfairs Methodist Church hall screaming. Her screams alerted Sir David’s other assistant, Julie Cushion, who was positioned in the church hall lobby.

Shortly after the attack, Stephan Aleyn, a former Southend Conservative councillor, spoke to Ms Cushion.

“She is in absolute bits,” he said. “What she saw is going to stick with her for the rest of her life.

“It was a normal surgery and they were assisting Sir David in helping his constituents.

Julie and Rebecca thought this man was just another constituent who needed help from their MP, when suddenly he launched his attack on Sir David.

“For anyone to witness that sort of shocking, unprovoked assault is awful. It was a lovely, normal, sunny day – then this.”

After stabbing Sir David several times, his assailant sat down next to his body, making no effort to evade police, it has emerged.

A Southend Conservative Party source said: “One of Sir David’s office staff was in the hall with him, and it now appears that after attacking Sir David, this man sat down and waited for police to arrive. It’s absolutely chilling.”

The article says that 999 calls were made at 12:05 p.m. Police, including an armed response unit, and the air ambulance responded immediately. The suspect went quietly with the police:

The 25-year-old suspect was detained inside the church hall and led out to a police van. A knife was recovered.

Amess’s staff must have also contacted a Catholic priest he knew. The Revd Jeffrey Woolnough showed up shortly afterwards and asked police to be admitted to administer Last Rites — or Extreme Unction, as it used to be known. However, he was refused entry:

He was denied entry, however, and so stood on the street with another man reciting the rosary. He described it as a “great disappointment” for a Roman Catholic not to be able to receive the last rites.

“It was remarkably calm by the time I arrived,” Fr Woolnough told The Telegraph.

“I prayed from outside and I just hope David received those. I know he would have done, because any prayer said that is sincere is received by the recipient.

“I was praying the rosary – it’s a half hour prayer going through all of those intentions, asking that whatever was going on in there, for God’s will to be done. That’s all I could pray at that point in time.”

I did not know until he died that Sir David was a devout Catholic, but, given his serene demeanour, sincere smile and gentle wit, it does not surprise me that he was a churchgoer.

The Spectator‘s Melanie McDonagh, also a devout Catholic, expressed her displeasure with the police response regarding Last Rites:

It’s not known whether Sir David was alive when the priest arrived at the scene, but he still should have been there. Nothing should come between a dying man and the mercy of the Church. Of course the police were dealing with a tremendously difficult situation and would have been shocked and confused – how could they not have been? – but it doesn’t excuse this failure of judgment, which we can assume stems from a failure of training.

Essex Police sent The Spectator a statement, which says, in part:

As with any police incident, it is of the utmost importance that we preserve the integrity of a crime scene and allow emergency services to tend to those in need. A cordon is put in place to secure and prevent contamination of the area. Access into a scene is at the discretion of the investigating officers. This is a fundamental part of any investigation to ensure the best possible chance of securing justice for any victim and their family.

McDonagh says that the priest was ‘an emergency service’. I cannot disagree:

The most troubling element of the statement is that the police wanted to ‘allow the emergency services to tend to those in need.’

A priest is an emergency service. In the case of Sir David, the priest was someone who could help see him into the next world, not just keep him in this one. You don’t have to share a belief in the efficacy of confession to go along with this; you just need a very elementary knowledge of and respect for the faith to refrain from standing between a confessor and a dying man. As for the reference to the ‘emergency services administering potentially life-saving treatment,’ Catholic priests are used to operating together with medics for precisely this reason.

You might like to know that Essex police recently engaged in that exercise in cultural conformity, Hate Crime Awareness Week. Perhaps in future, some awareness of Christianity might be part of the training.

Monsignor Kevin Hale, who knew Sir David, told GB News how Catholicism informed the MP’s life. Amess’s mother was a Catholic and she brought him up in the faith:

Monsignor Hale said that Sir David had grown up in the East End of London and attended St Bonaventure’s Roman Catholic School in Newham. It is a secondary school for boys.

The Right Revd Stephen Cottrell, the Anglican Archbishop of York, lived for a time in Amess’s constituency and paid a warm, faith-filled tribute to his former MP and friend in The Telegraph:

It was said of Sir David Amess that though he had opponents, he didn’t have enemies. As we come to terms with the horror of his murder on Friday, this is a distinction worth pondering.

I think of David Amess as a friend. Leigh-on-Sea is my home town and, for ten glorious years as Bishop of Chelmsford, part of the diocese I served. We often met: in parliament, but usually in his constituency, Southend West.

He was, as we have heard over the weekend, a dedicated, zestful, persevering constituency MP. He loved Southend, as I do. He rooted for it. He exemplified that vital, but overlooked, root of our democracy that Members of Parliament may get elected on a party ticket, but, once elected, serve everyone

David Amess was a kind man. The word kind is related to the word kin. When we are kind to someone, it doesn’t mean we necessarily agree with them, or even like them, but that we recognise a kinship, a common humanity and treat them accordingly; or as we sometimes say, “treat them in kind”.

David’s robust kindness came from his Christian faith. He was a devout Christian, a Roman Catholic. But the idea that we human beings belong to one another and have a responsibility to each other is not self-evident. Observation of our behaviour and attitudes shows us the opposite. Our worst desires can be seen everywhere, leading us to separation, fuelled by selfishness, and bearing fruit in hatefulness and the possession of each other.

The picture of humanity that God gives us in Jesus Christ offers something else. In this regard, perhaps the most radical words Jesus ever spoke are the ones most of us know and many of us say every day: “Our Father.” In saying these words we don’t just acknowledge we belong to God, we acknowledge our belonging to each other as kith and kin

David Amess, the friend with whom I sometimes disagreed, had the same values and the same vision. It shaped his life and it is what made him such a loved and effective constituency MP and an exemplar of what our democracy can be.

He was always very kind to me. He supported the Church. He cared. He liked to build coalitions of goodwill so that people could work together. Kindness and kinship, it turns out, gets things done.

My heart goes out to his wife and family and the constituents of Southend West. I am praying for them …

David Amess didn’t wear his faith on his sleeve. He wore it in his heart. That’s the best place for it. It means it runs through your very being.

Late on Friday, the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command took over the case from Essex Police:

Early on Saturday, October 16, it was established that the suspect is a Briton of Somali parentage.

The Mail on Sunday reported that the BBC’s home affairs correspondent, Dominic Casciani, downplayed the suspect’s parental origins:

The BBC‘s home affairs correspondent was accused yesterday of trying to downplay the suspect’s reported Somali origins …

Although every national newspaper with the exception of the Financial Times mentioned that the suspect had Somali ‘origins’, ‘heritage’ or ‘descent’ yesterday, Casciani appeared to wrestle with the issue on Radio 4’s Today programme.

Presenter Nick Robinson asked him: ‘The suspect is a British citizen, but he’s also of Somali origin. Is that regarded as significant?’

Casciani replied: ‘The Somali element – erm, no. The reason why some reporters have established this fact is that there has been some misreporting …’

Twelve hours earlier, he had tweeted: ‘We have learnt from official sources that detectives have established the individual is a UK national, seemingly of Somali heritage. We report this in the interests of accuracy’ …

The BBC says Casciani ‘focuses on stories relating to law, order, society and belonging – including immigration, ethnicity’.

The Telegraph reported on the Met’s discoveries made on Saturday. The suspect lived in London, far from Sir David’s constituency:

On Saturday, officers from the Metropolitan Police’s counter-terrorism team, which is leading the investigation into his death, were searching three addresses in London – at least two of which were believed to be in the east of the capital. One search had ended but the others remained ongoing on Saturday night. The suspect, a British national of Somali origin, is thought to have acted alone and travelled by train from his north London home to Essex to carry out the attack.

The Daily Mail told us that the suspect lives among at least one celebrity in London, the rest of his neighbours clearly well-heeled, and might have spent a week planning the bloody attack:

Ali, who is thought to have been targeted by the Government’s anti-terror Prevent programme, may have lived in Sir David’s Southend West constituency in Essex in the past.

His most recent residence is believed to be in London. Officers have been carrying out searches at three addresses.

The security services are providing assistance to Scotland Yard, which is leading the investigation. Last night, detectives were granted a warrant of further detention, allowing them to keep Ali in custody until Friday.

Police officers were yesterday standing guard outside the North London council house where Ali lives. It is in a street of £2 million three-storey townhouses where the late actor Roger Lloyd Pack, who played Trigger in Only Fools And Horses, used to live.

That day, news emerged that Sir David had received a menacing threat just days before his murder. However, police believe that the two events are unconnected, according to The Telegraph:

The threat to the veteran MP was made in the past few days and reported to police …

It is understood that Essex Police received a report of the threat, but they are not connecting it with Friday’s attack.

John Lamb, the former Mayor of Leigh-on-Sea and a close colleague of the murdered MP, said Sir David had received the “upsetting” threat in the past few days …

Mr Lamb said it had been Sir David’s idea to hold his surgeries in places like the Methodist church, so he could be more accessible to his constituents, rather than in the local Conservative Party offices in Southend.

It is understood this came despite concerns being expressed by some of his staff over the potential security risk at more open venues.

Mr Lamb said: “Sir David used to hold them at the Conservative Association, but that made it hard for older people to see him so around a year ago he started going out into the community. He didn’t want to hide away, he wanted to be visible and accessible. He told me: ‘I want them to be able to see me in their local area’.

Before this, the last time an MP was murdered was in June 2016, just days before the Brexit referendum. A white male fatally stabbed Labour MP Jo Cox outside her own surgery. He was said to have had mental health problems, aggravated by the threat of eviction. His mother was also in poor health. That is not in any way to excuse his horrific crime of murdering a young wife, mother and MP. However, at the time, the media said the motive was because he was pro-Brexit and she was not.

Sir David, along with every other MP, was deeply affected by her death. He mentioned it and attendant security issues in his 2020 book, In Ayes and Ears: A Survivor’s Guide to Westminster, published last November.

He wrote:

The British tradition has always been that Members of Parliament regularly make themselves available for constituents to meet them face to face at their surgeries. Now advice has been given to be more careful when accepting appointments. We are advised to never see people alone, we must be extra careful when opening post and we must ensure that our offices are properly safe and secure. In short, these increasing attacks have rather spoilt the great British tradition of the people openly meeting their elected politicians.

He also said that he had to check the locks on his property and that certain ‘nuisance’ (his word) members of the public occasionally showed up outside his home. Other MPs have installed CCTV cameras on their properties.

Jo Cox’s sister, Kim Leadbeater, is now an MP in her former constituency, Batley & Spen. She tweeted her condolences:

The Emir of Qatar also sent a message of sympathy. Last week, he and Sir David were discussing Afghanistan refugees who are currently living in Qatar, awaiting settlement in other countries:

On Sunday, October 17, the father of the suspect in custody spoke. The Sunday Times reported:

The father of the suspected killer of Sir David Amess said he had been left “traumatised” by his son’s arrest after the stabbing of the veteran Tory MP.

Harbi Ali Kullane, a former adviser to the prime minister of Somalia, confirmed that his British-born son, Ali Harbi Ali, 25, was in custody. Kullane said that anti-terrorist police from Scotland Yard had visited him.

Speaking at his sister’s home in north London last night, Kullane said: “I’m feeling very traumatised. It’s not something that I expected or even dreamt of.”

The suspect was a “self-radicalised” lone operative known to counterterrorist police, according to Whitehall sources. He is believed to have been referred to Prevent, the government’s deradicalisation programme, before allegedly stabbing Amess on Friday

Investigators are examining the theory that he was radicalised online during lockdown.

Officers were yesterday granted a further warrant to detain him until Friday under terrorism laws. Scotland Yard said that early inquiries had uncovered “a potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism”.

Amess, 69, an MP for almost 40 years, was a devout Roman Catholic who was guided in his daily life by his strong faith

Intelligence sources said the suspect had not been on the radar of MI5, which is monitoring more than 3,000 people who it is feared could be plotting a terrorist attack. However, he is believed to be one of thousands of extremists who have been referred to the voluntary Prevent programme after displaying potentially disturbing behaviour such as inflammatory postings on social media.

More than 6,000 people were referred by police and other agencies to the programme in the year ending March 31, 2020.

By the way, referral to the Prevent programme does not include monitoring by police and/or security services.

That day, the Amess family issued a statement thanking the public for their messages of support and urged the Government to grant Southend-on-Sea city status.

The Times reported:

Sir David Amess’s family have said that achieving city status for Southend would be a way of paying tribute to a “patriot and man of peace”.

In their first public comments since the MP’s murder, his family thanked people for the “wonderful, wonderful tributes paid to David following his cruel and violent death. It truly has brought us so much comfort.”

Amess, 69, was married with five children and in a statement tonight they said: “The support shown by friends, constituents and the general public alike has been so overwhelming. As a family it has given us strength.”

They urged people “to set aside their differences and show kindness and love to all” so that some good might come from their father’s death. His family said there was “still so much David wanted to do” insisting: “This is not the end of Sir David Amess MP. It is the next chapter and as a family we ask everyone to support the many charities he worked with.”

They cited his efforts to raise money for a statue of Dame Vera Lynn and said: “Closer to home, David was working hard for Southend to gain city status. In his memory, please show your support for this campaign.”

As I write on Monday, no known motive for Sir David’s gruesome murder has emerged.

Some of his friends believe it was because he was a devout Catholic. I’m not sure about that. I did not know he was one until he died, and I’m a political junkie and frequent viewer of BBC Parliament.

A radical Islamist preacher says it was because Sir David was pro-Israel, as the MP had been an honorary secretary of the Conservative Friends of Israel since 1998.

However, let us not forget Qatar and the current tensions in Somalia.

In Monday’s Times, speculation arose over whether Amess was murdered because he headed the APPG fostering relations between the UK and Qatar. Qatar supports the current regime in Somalia:

Meanwhile, members of the public are calling for those voting for the Westminster Dog of the Year to choose Sir David and Vivienne as a fitting posthumous tribute to the tireless yet cheerful MP, who will be sorely missed.

I will have more on Sir David’s life in tomorrow’s post.

My deepest condolences go to the Amess family, Sir David’s staff and his many friends. May the good Lord grant them His infinite grace and comfort in the days and months ahead.

Eternal rest grant unto your servant David, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed rest in your eternal mercy and peace. Amen.

William ‘Bill’ Pelham Barr is America’s current attorney general.

He has been in various government positions since the Reagan years in the 1980s.

Prior to that, he was a member of the CIA between 1973 and 1977, after having served as a summer intern in 1971 and 1972.

Between 1982 and 1983, he served in the Reagan White House as Deputy Assistant Director for Legal Policy on a domestic level.

He built his legal career at the law firm of Shaw, Pittman, Potts & Trowbridge from 1978 to 1982, resuming after he left his position with Reagan in 1983. He remained with the firm until 1989.

During the George HW Bush years, he began working as assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel in 1989. In 1990, he became deputy attorney general before being promoted the following year to acting attorney general. Later in 1991, he was appointed attorney general after an unusually smooth two-day confirmation hearing. He served in that capacity until 1993.

In 1994, he re-entered the private sector and worked for GTE Corporation as executive vice president and general counsel.

In 2009, he joined the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis, then left to work as a consultant for various corporations, advising them on government enforcement matters and regulatory litigation issues. He rejoined Kirkland & Ellis in 2017.

During President Trump’s first two years in office, Barr, unsolicited, came to his aid, defending the president’s outspoken statements, including those about Hillary Clinton. In another unsolicited move, Barr sent a 20-page memo to the Department of Justice criticising the Mueller investigation, even though Robert Mueller and his wife are close friends of Barr and his wife.

In December 2018, Trump nominated Barr for the attorney general position to succeed Jeff Sessions. He was sworn in on Valentine’s Day 2019.

As for his personal life, both his father and mother were educators. His mother, Mary Margaret Ahern, lectured at Columbia University. She brought her son up as a Roman Catholic. She must have had a strong influence in matters religious at home, because Barr’s father, Donald, converted from Judaism and became a Catholic. He is probably best known for being headmaster at the Dalton School in Manhattan in the early 1970s.

Barr attended Columbia University, earning his BA in government in 1971 and an MA in government and Chinese studies in 1973.

He earned his law degree in 1977 at George Washington University Law School, graduating with highest honours.

Barr married Christine Moynihan in 1973. The Barrs have three daughters, all of whom have government jobs.

Barr is an avid bagpiper and is a past member of the City of Washington Pipe Band.

——————————————————————————

On Friday, October 11, 2019, William Barr spoke at the University of Notre Dame, just outside of South Bend, Indiana.

He addressed the university’s law school and de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture.

These are the headlines:

I am most grateful to one of my readers, GA/FL, who supplied me with the link to the transcript of his talk at Notre Dame.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

Barr began by explaining what America’s Founding Fathers had in mind for religious freedom. This differs to the false secularist narrative so prevalent today:

From the Founding Era onward, there was strong consensus about the centrality of religious liberty in the United States.

The imperative of protecting religious freedom was not just a nod in the direction of piety. It reflects the Framers’ belief that religion was indispensable to sustaining our free system of government.

In his renowned 1785 pamphlet, “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments,” James Madison described religious liberty as “a right towards men” but “a duty towards the Creator,” and a “duty….precedent both in order of time and degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society.”

It has been over 230 years since that small group of colonial lawyers led a revolution and launched what they viewed as a great experiment, establishing a society fundamentally different than those that had gone before.

They crafted a magnificent charter of freedom – the United States Constitution – which provides for limited government, while leaving “the People” broadly at liberty to pursue our lives both as individuals and through free associations.

This quantum leap in liberty has been the mainspring of unprecedented human progress, not only for Americans, but for people around the world.

He went on to say that this philosophy began to change in the late 20th century, continuing on to the present day. I was particularly struck by the ever rising rates of illegitimate births, statistics that rarely see the light of day:

I think we all recognize that over the past 50 years religion has been under increasing attack.

On the one hand, we have seen the steady erosion of our traditional Judeo-Christian moral system and a comprehensive effort to drive it from the public square.

On the other hand, we see the growing ascendancy of secularism and the doctrine of moral relativism.

By any honest assessment, the consequences of this moral upheaval have been grim.

Virtually every measure of social pathology continues to gain ground.

In 1965, the illegitimacy rate was eight percent. In 1992, when I was last Attorney General, it was 25 percent. Today it is over 40 percent. In many of our large urban areas, it is around 70 percent.

Along with the wreckage of the family, we are seeing record levels of depression and mental illness, dispirited young people, soaring suicide rates, increasing numbers of angry and alienated young males, an increase in senseless violence, and a deadly drug epidemic.

As you all know, over 70,000 people die a year from drug overdoses. That is more casualities in a year than we experienced during the entire Vietnam War.

I will not dwell on all the bitter results of the new secular age. Suffice it to say that the campaign to destroy the traditional moral order has brought with it immense suffering, wreckage, and misery. And yet, the forces of secularism, ignoring these tragic results, press on with even greater militancy.

Among these militant secularists are many so-called “progressives.” But where is the progress?

We are told we are living in a post-Christian era. But what has replaced the Judeo-Christian moral system? What is it that can fill the spiritual void in the hearts of the individual person? And what is a system of values that can sustain human social life?

The fact is that no secular creed has emerged capable of performing the role of religion.

Scholarship suggests that religion has been integral to the development and thriving of Homo sapiens since we emerged roughly 50,000 years ago. It is just for the past few hundred years we have experimented in living without religion.

We hear much today about our humane values. But, in the final analysis, what undergirds these values? What commands our adherence to them?

What we call “values” today are really nothing more than mere sentimentality, still drawing on the vapor trails of Christianity.

He cautioned that we should not consider this to be a short-term trend. It is becoming ever pervasive, with serious effects:

We have all thought that after a while the “pendulum will swing back.”

But today we face something different that may mean that we cannot count on the pendulum swinging back.

First is the force, fervor, and comprehensiveness of the assault on religion we are experiencing today. This is not decay; it is organized destruction. Secularists, and their allies among the “progressives,” have marshaled all the force of mass communications, popular culture, the entertainment industry, and academia in an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values.

These instruments are used not only to affirmatively promote secular orthodoxy, but also drown out and silence opposing voices, and to attack viciously and hold up to ridicule any dissenters.

One of the ironies, as some have observed, is that the secular project has itself become a religion, pursued with religious fervor. It is taking on all the trappings of a religion, including inquisitions and excommunication.

Those who defy the creed risk a figurative burning at the stake – social, educational, and professional ostracism and exclusion waged through lawsuits and savage social media campaigns.

The pervasiveness and power of our high-tech popular culture fuels apostasy in another way. It provides an unprecedented degree of distraction

But, as Blaise Pascal observed, instead of grappling with these questions, humans can be easily distracted from thinking about the “final things.”

He also warned about our increasing dependence on government to resolve moral and social problems. Previously, individuals took it upon themselves to rectify their personal lives for the better:

But today – in the face of all the increasing pathologies – instead of addressing the underlying cause, we have the State in the role of alleviator of bad consequences. We call on the State to mitigate the social costs of personal misconduct and irresponsibility.

So the reaction to growing illegitimacy is not sexual responsibility, but abortion.

The reaction to drug addiction is safe injection sites.

The solution to the breakdown of the family is for the State to set itself up as the ersatz husband for single mothers and the ersatz father to their children.

The call comes for more and more social programs to deal with the wreckage. While we think we are solving problems, we are underwriting them.

We start with an untrammeled freedom and we end up as dependents of a coercive state on which we depend.

Interestingly, this idea of the State as the alleviator of bad consequences has given rise to a new moral system that goes hand-in-hand with the secularization of society. It can be called the system of “macro-morality.” It is in some ways an inversion of Christian morality.

Christianity teaches a micro-morality. We transform the world by focusing on our own personal morality and transformation.

The new secular religion teaches macro-morality. One’s morality is not gauged by their private conduct, but rather on their commitment to political causes and collective action to address social problems.

This system allows us to not worry so much about the strictures on our private lives, while we find salvation on the picket-line. We can signal our finely-tuned moral sensibilities by demonstrating for this cause or that.

And there is more to the story. We are using law as a weapon:

A third phenomenon which makes it difficult for the pendulum to swing back is the way law is being used as a battering ram to break down traditional moral values and to establish moral relativism as a new orthodoxy.

Law is being used as weapon in a couple of ways.

First, either through legislation but more frequently through judicial interpretation, secularists have been continually seeking to eliminate laws that reflect traditional moral norms.

At first, this involved rolling back laws that prohibited certain kinds of conduct. Thus, the watershed decision legalizing abortion. And since then, the legalization of euthanasia. The list goes on.

More recently, we have seen the law used aggressively to force religious people and entities to subscribe to practices and policies that are antithetical to their faith.

The problem is not that religion is being forced on others. The problem is that irreligion and secular values are being forced on people of faith.

This reminds me of how some Roman emperors could not leave their loyal Christian subjects in peace but would mandate that they violate their conscience by offering religious sacrifice to the emperor as a god.

Similarly, militant secularists today do not have a live and let live spirit – they are not content to leave religious people alone to practice their faith. Instead, they seem to take a delight in compelling people to violate their conscience.

For example, the last Administration sought to force religious employers, including Catholic religious orders, to violate their sincerely held religious views by funding contraceptive and abortifacient coverage in their health plans. Similarly, California has sought to require pro-life pregnancy centers to provide notices of abortion rights.

This refusal to accommodate the free exercise of religion is relatively recent. Just 25 years ago, there was broad consensus in our society that our laws should accommodate religious belief.

In 1993, Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act – RFRA. The purpose of the statute was to promote maximum accommodation to religion when the government adopted broad policies that could impinge on religious practice.

At the time, RFRA was not controversial. It was introduced by Chuck Schumer with 170 cosponsors in the House, and was introduced by Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatch with 59 additional cosponsors in the Senate. It passed by voice vote in the House and by a vote of 97-3 in the Senate.

Recently, as the process of secularization has accelerated, RFRA has come under assault, and the idea of religious accommodation has fallen out of favor.

Because this Administration firmly supports accommodation of religion, the battleground has shifted to the states. Some state governments are now attempting to compel religious individuals and entities to subscribe to practices, or to espouse viewpoints, that are incompatible with their religion.

This is not restricted to adults. American schools are making certain sex education and identity politics courses mandatory, even for young children:

The first front relates to the content of public school curriculum. Many states are adopting curriculum that is incompatible with traditional religious principles according to which parents are attempting to raise their children. They often do so without any opt out for religious families.

Thus, for example, New Jersey recently passed a law requiring public schools to adopt an LGBT curriculum that many feel is inconsistent with traditional Christian teaching. Similar laws have been passed in California and Illinois. And the Orange County Board of Education in California issued an opinion that “parents who disagree with the instructional materials related to gender, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation may not excuse their children from this instruction.”

Indeed, in some cases, the schools may not even warn parents about lessons they plan to teach on controversial subjects relating to sexual behavior and relationships.

This puts parents who dissent from the secular orthodoxy to a difficult choice: Try to scrape together the money for private school or home schooling, or allow their children to be inculcated with messages that they fundamentally reject.

Some states are also restricting funds to religious schools:

A second axis of attack in the realm of education are state policies designed to starve religious schools of generally-available funds and encouraging students to choose secular options. Montana, for example, created a program that provided tax credits to those who donated to a scholarship program that underprivileged students could use to attend private school. The point of the program was to provide greater parental and student choice in education and to provide better educations to needy youth.

But Montana expressly excluded religiously-affiliated private schools from the program. And when that exclusion was challenged in court by parents who wanted to use the scholarships to attend a nondenominational Christian school, the Montana Supreme Court required the state to eliminate the program rather than allow parents to use scholarships for religious schools.

It justified this action by pointing to a provision in Montana’s State Constitution commonly referred to as a “Blaine Amendment.” Blaine Amendments were passed at a time of rampant anti-Catholic animus in this country, and typically disqualify religious institutions from receiving any direct or indirect payments from a state’s funds.

The case is now in the Supreme Court, and we filed a brief explaining why Montana’s Blaine Amendment violates the First Amendment.

Barr said that the only solution to this dangerous trend is go back to Judeo-Christian basics by addressing moral education at home, rather than depending on government institutions:

We understand that only by transforming ourselves can we transform the world beyond ourselves.

This is tough work. It is hard to resist the constant seductions of our contemporary society. This is where we need grace, prayer, and the help of our church.

Beyond this, we must place greater emphasis on the moral education of our children.

Education is not vocational training. It is leading our children to the recognition that there is truth and helping them develop the faculties to discern and love the truth and the discipline to live by it.

We cannot have a moral renaissance unless we succeed in passing to the next generation our faith and values in full vigor.

The times are hostile to this. Public agencies, including public schools, are becoming secularized and increasingly are actively promoting moral relativism.

If ever there was a need for a resurgence of Catholic education – and more generally religiously-affiliated schools – it is today.

In conclusion, Barr spoke these lines during the middle of his speech. However, they are to me the most enduring now and in future:

For anyone who has a religious faith, by far the most important part of exercising that faith is the teaching of that religion to our children. The passing on of the faith. There is no greater gift we can give our children and no greater expression of love.

I couldn’t agree more.

It was during the 2016 presidential campaign that I first heard of and read articles by Salena Zito, one of America’s great journalists.

Although not fully on board with candidate Donald Trump, Salena Zito nonetheless wrote honest and impartial stories about his supporters when travelling through Ohio and Pennsylvania. She is originally from Pittsburgh.

Recently, Henry Olsen posted an excellent article on American Greatness, ‘Take Salena Zito Seriously and Literally’. When all the polls and all the pundits said that Trump couldn’t win, Zito was the contrarian.

Olsen’s article is in a response to a Huffington Post hit piece, ‘Take Salena Zito Neither Seriously Nor Literally on Trump Voters’. The Left are vilifying her for speaking the truth. From HuffPost:

The critiques amount to a wholesale demolition of the Zito method. Her shtick — which, as she has told us time and again, is absolutely not a shtick — consists of driving to blue-collar Rust Belt towns and letting regular folks tell her in their own words why they support Donald Trump. Thus does she fashion herself as the antithesis of the fake-news coastal elite.

Much of her gimmick rests on the idea that her interlocutors are apostate populist Democrats who swung to the Republican Party. This is the story many conservatives prefer to tell about Trump — that he is a populist phenomenon, not the product of regular country-clubs-and-chambers-of-commerce Republicanism. Certainly these left-to-right populists exist in America, but Zito has a knack for finding the ones who, apparently unbeknownst to her, have become Republican Party officials. This is why the criticisms of her are so damning. Zito is supposed to be the one telling you how it actually is. 

There are two lines of attack on her journalism. The first is the straightforward accusation that she makes stuff up. A number of people have pointed to her always on-the-nose quotations.

This is basically unprovable without access to the recordings that Zito insists she always makes.

The article shows that leftist attacks carried over to Twitter.

After that, Zito responded with an article, ‘The Twitter trolls attacking my work are all wrong’, which begins with this (emphases mine):

“Dad, it’s not true,” I said, fighting to keep my voice steady through tears.

My 81-year-old father had just seen a Huffington Post headline — “Take Salena Zito Neither Seriously Nor Literally On Trump Voters” — with a picture of me next to it. The piece accused me of fabricating stories and omitting facts. None of that is true, but that didn’t stop the attack from ricocheting to every corner of political journalism’s Twitter-sphere.

It began days earlier with a story I wrote for The New York Post about President Trump’s followers continuing to support him after Michael Cohen’s guilty plea and Paul Manafort’s conviction. Facebook took that story down from my Facebook page, and others who re-posted it soon found it removed from their pages as well. With the story marked as “spam,” or not meeting “community standards,” I tweeted, then wrote about the experience.

That’s when things got worse. Within hours, an anonymous troll with an account created only a few days earlier went on the attack. The thread tossed false accusations that I withheld information from the book I co-authored this year. The troll and his followers alleged that some Trump supporters who struggled with their decision in the 2016 election and were profiled in the book are actually elected Republican officials who (in the trolls’ opinion) could not possibly have struggled with that decision.

First, that wasn’t true. Half the thesis of the book I co-wrote with Brad Todd, “The Great Revolt: Inside the Populist Coalition Reshaping American Politics,” is that Trump’s polarizing style causes many Republicans to fit uneasily, if at all, into his coalition. Many people in the book were profiled explicitly because they are Republicans, not in spite of it.

Within minutes, the initial Twitter attack was retweeted by other anonymous trolls and online bullies who have attacked my writing before — some continuously since I first reported in the summer of 2016 that this political shift was happening. They demanded that the publications for which I write, including The Post, the Washington Examiner and Crown Publishing, address their allegations or fire me.

That is madness.

Now onto Henry Olson’s article for American Greatness, which tells us:

Zito’s reporting chops aren’t what’s really at issue. What’s really at stake is her narrative, that Trump’s victory was due to millions of fed-up, blue-collar Americans angry at coastal elite condescension and the failed policies that flowed from that conceit. Strike her down, and the most prominent advocate of that explanation for 2016 gets removed from the conversation—and with her, perhaps the narrative itself drops by the wayside.

See, NeverTrump resisters—Left and Right—still don’t want to admit this is why he won. They would prefer to chalk it up to Russian hacking or to misinformation, the political nerd’s version of Area 51 and Roswell. Or they contend it’s all a matter of latent racism, which somehow never expressed itself when Barack Obama twice won in these same areas or when two Hispanics and a black man won majorities of the votes in early GOP primaries and caucuses. Anything—anything—but that Americans who have different cultural interests than coastal or suburban college graduates were mad as hell and didn’t want to take it anymore.

Olson then goes into an examination of voter polls from 2016, which you can read.

Olson tells us when Zito first contacted him:

Zito saw all of this as she traveled throughout the Midwest. She called me in the summer of 2016 for data on a piece she was writing, the first time we came into contact. Her anecdotes and reporting confirmed what my data were telling me: Trump was riding an enormous tidal wave of support among blue-collar whites. I saw it firsthand when I drove the backroads of Pennsylvania in October for speaking gigs: hundreds of Trump signs, many obviously not made by the campaign, decorated lawns across the land, more than I had ever seen in over 40 years in politics.

Since then, she has made many media appearances. Imagine how that’s destroying the received media narrative:

Salena’s books, CNN appearances, and columns give voice to these people. Her interviews and stories put faces and names on real concerns. This means she reaches many more people than do analysts and writers like me, focused as we are on numbers and data. That makes her dangerous, someone who must be brought down. That is why Twitter trolls are poring over her work to find any error, no matter how slight, to discredit her.

Zito will survive this onslaught. She’s too careful, too competent not to …

How sad for her.

Haven’t her opponents ever heard the old saying ‘Don’t shoot the messenger’?

Happening around this time was the revelation that the priest from her childhood was among 99 named as child molesters in a grand jury report:

Excerpts follow from Zito’s article for the Washington Examiner.

In it, she captures many of my memories of a Catholic childhood back in the 1960s:

I adored Fr. John Maloney, a young priest who came to our church when I was five years old, and going to church at five meant different things than it does to an adult. For me it was the honor of wearing a lace covering over my head the way the grown-up women did. (Before Vatican II, it was mandatory for females.)

But it also meant the mysterious rhythms of the Latin Mass that seemed to be telling sacred secrets. Mass meant being with my parents, sometimes my entire extended family of aunts and uncles and grandparents — all warm, comfortable, safe feelings that helped draw me in to what faith would mean for me as an adult.

Children then really looked up to priests as true representatives of the Lord:

We were taught to respect and revere his station, it wasn’t hard, he was young, handsome, and charismatic. When he talked about the Scripture or Jesus he made you feel as though he knew Jesus personally and he was simply sharing the stories that his close friend wanted you to know.

All decent Catholics remember their First Holy Communion:

It was he who administered my first two sacraments outside of my baptism: He heard my first confession, (I do not remember what sins I committed, but I do remember it did not require me to be sent to the principal’s office) and my first Holy Communion, which for a young Catholic child is a monumental moment.

When Fr. Maloney was transferred to another parish when I was 11, I was sad.

Then, years later, in August 2018:

When Fr. Maloney’s name appeared last week on the list of deviant offenders, I was devastated.

How could someone who had our complete trust abuse it in such a heinous way? How could he have robbed children of their childhood?

The grand-jury report named 99 priests in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Three of them served in my parish when I or one of my siblings attended the school: Fr. Maloney, Fr. Ray Rhoden, and Fr. James Somma.

How can we trust the bishops that allowed this to happen?

Simply, we cannot. All of those responsible must be held accountable.

The actions of those priests and those in charge cannot take our faith away, but they have made it impossible for me to trust this Church.

Too right — and well said. Despite these heinous events:

I will stand by my faitha faith that has guided and shaped me at my core and is difficult to square with the corrupt institution that allowed sick men to steal my classmates’ lives and then facilitated them to do the same elsewhere.

Even then, a question remains:

The only things that are uncertain now is how I find forgiveness.

How true.

I know a fellow Anglican in England whose headmaster, an Anglican priest, was found guilty at an advanced age of molesting his pupils when my friend attended his prep school decades ago. He expressed the same sense of shock and betrayal as Salena Zito, since a faith school and church provided — or was supposed to provide — a safe, happy environment.

But I digress.

Happily, Salena Zito was blessed with a grandson last week:

God provides what we need, when we need it. Best wishes to Ms Zito in her role as a new grandmother!

May God also bless mother and baby.

My apologies for not posting Forbidden Bible Verses today.

I intend to schedule it for tomorrow.

Unfortunately, I had something to do this afternoon which took much longer than expected and had to be done within a particular deadline. It’s finished now and I can truly agree, once again, that there is a wideness in God’s mercy.

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy is a hymn that Dr Frederick William Faber, a clergyman with a Doctor of Divinity degree, wrote in 1862 to the melody of WELLESLEY (Tourjee).

Since then, Dr Faber’s lyrics have been adapted to other melodies, such as Corvedale by Maurice Bevan (b. 1921), sung below by the Choir of St Paul’s Cathedral, London:

The hymn is widely sung across many denominations and appears in 785 hymnals.

Hymnary.org has the lyrics to Faber’s hymn:

1 There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
like the wideness of the sea.
There’s a kindness in God’s justice,
which is more than liberty.
There is no place where earth’s sorrows
are more felt than up in heaven.
There is no place where earth’s failings
have such kindly judgment given.

2 For the love of God is broader
than the measures of the mind.
And the heart of the Eternal
is most wonderfully kind.
If our love were but more faithful,
we would gladly trust God’s Word,
and our lives reflect thanksgiving
for the goodness of our Lord.

Faber was part of the Oxford Movement — members of the Church of England who moved to High Church (traditional Roman Catholic-style) liturgy — in the 19th century. The movement later became known as Anglo-Catholicism and exists today.

John Henry Newman was one of the Oxford Movement adherents. He eventually became not only a Roman Catholic but also a Cardinal.

Faber also ‘crossed the Tiber’ and became a Roman Catholic in 1846. Hymnary.org tells us that he was the son of a Church of England clergyman, Mr T H Faber, and:

was born at Calverley Vicarage, Yorkshire, June 28, 1814, and educated at Balliol College, Oxford, graduating B.A. in 1836. He was for some time a Fellow of University College, in the same University. Taking Holy Orders in 1837, he became Rector of Elton, Huntingdonshire, in 1843, but in 1846 he seceded to the Church of Rome. After residing for some time at St. Wilfrid’s, Staffordshire, he went to London in 1849, and established the London “Oratorians,” or, “Priests of the Congregation of St. Philip Neri,” in King William Street, Strand. In 1854 the Oratory was removed to Brompton. Dr. Faber died Sept. 26, 1863.

Balliol College is one of the foremost Oxford colleges. It is interesting that Faber served a parish in Huntingdonshire, part of Cambridgeshire, which was known for its Low Church adherence. During Cromwell’s time, two centuries earlier, Cambridgeshire was Calvinistic in belief, the very antithesis of High Church beliefs and worship.

Anyone who knows London will also know that the London Oratory is one of the centres of the capital’s Roman Catholic worship. The Oratory also has a famous boys’ school, which is over-subscribed year on year.

On Sunday, January 7, 2018, Peter Sutherland died at St James’s Hospital in Dublin.

He had been ill since he suffered a heart attack in September 2016. The Irish Times reports:

“He was substantially impacted by this and was in hospitals in London and Dublin since then. Despite great efforts by his medical staff and his own indomitable spirt, he succumbed to an infection,” the family said.

The paper had a thorough obituary, which began with his background:

Peter Sutherland, the former European commissioner, attorney general and chairman of Goldman Sachs International, has died. He was 71.

Mr Sutherland served in a number of senior positions in the worlds of law, business and government during his career. Most recently, he was the United Nations special representative for international migration.

In a long career, he also held the positions of director general of the World Trade Organisation; chairman of the London School of Economics; a member of the UN commission on human security; chairman of the European Institute of Public Administration and chairman of British Petroleum.

Born in Dublin in April 1946, Mr Sutherland was educated at Gonzaga College in Ranelagh before going on to study law at University College Dublin. He worked as a senior counsel for more than a decade before being appointed attorney general in 1981 by the Fine Gael-Labour coalition, the first of two spells in the role.

Many of us in the UK will remember him as a globalist, particularly with regard to migration policies. A number of YouTube videos discuss his views. In fact, he was considered to be the ‘father of globalisation’.

He disliked European culture and wanted more immigration from non-European countries.

In 2012, the BBC reported that he disliked Britain’s immigration policy, which was and is quite open, then and now:

He also suggested the UK government’s immigration policy had no basis in international law.

He was being quizzed by the Lords EU home affairs sub-committee which is investigating global migration.

Mr Sutherland, who is non-executive chairman of Goldman Sachs International and a former chairman of oil giant BP, heads the Global Forum on Migration and Development , which brings together representatives of 160 nations to share policy ideas.

He told the House of Lords committee migration was a “crucial dynamic for economic growth” in some EU nations “however difficult it may be to explain this to the citizens of those states”.

An ageing or declining native population in countries like Germany or southern EU states was the “key argument and, I hesitate to the use word because people have attacked it, for the development of multicultural states”, he added.

“It’s impossible to consider that the degree of homogeneity which is implied by the other argument can survive because states have to become more open states, in terms of the people who inhabit them. Just as the United Kingdom has demonstrated.”

He also said that European countries were biased against immigrants:

The United States, or Australia and New Zealand, are migrant societies and therefore they accommodate more readily those from other backgrounds than we do ourselves, who still nurse a sense of our homogeneity and difference from others.

And that’s precisely what the European Union, in my view, should be doing its best to undermine.

Never mind the countless millions of immigrants European countries take in every year. He made it sound as if we are insular, which could not be further from the truth.

It turns out he was a devout Catholic. In 2015, he became president of the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC).

People like Peter Sutherland don’t have to live with the consequences of their policies. The Irish Times obit says he attended Mass at Brompton Oratory in London, which implies he lived in one of the richest boroughs of the capital — Kensington and Chelsea.

Peter Sutherland did average Europeans a great disservice. That’s putting it politely.

When I lived in the US, I enjoyed watching The McLaughlin Group on PBS.

(Photo credit: The McLaughlin Group on Facebook)

It was a political programme unlike any other: rapid-fire conversation concluding with weekly predictions in soundbites. I watched during the 1980s, when the line up was host Dr John McLaughlin with panellists Morton Kondracke of The New Republic, Jack Germond of The Baltimore Sun and Bob Novak. The show always closed with McLaughlin’s trademark ‘Bye bye’.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was still on the air and that McLaughlin never missed an episode until last weekend, when he was too ill to broadcast. He was 89 years old and, sadly, died on Tuesday, August 16, 2016 of prostate cancer.

Can you imagine hosting a television show, especially one on politics, when you’re 89 years old? I can’t. Americans were blessed to have had John McLaughlin on their television screens for over three decades.

Host versus panellists

I recall episodes of The McLaughlin Group which indicated backstage tension. My mother and I used to discuss the show during our weekend phone calls. She told me I was reading too much into personalities.

However, The New York Times reveals that not all the panellists were happy campers. Bob Novak left the show in 1988 and later hosted his own programme on CNN. During a PBS interview in 2007, the truth came out. Novak said:

He may not be pure evil, but he’s close to it.

Jack Germond, who was rather quiet on occasion although he always added much to the conversation:

called the show “really bad TV,” and said he had stayed on only because he needed the money to pay his daughter’s medical school tuition.

Whatever they say, millions of us loved the show, in large part for McLaughlin’s style of hosting:

Regardless of the panelists’ political persuasions, Mr. McLaughlin, whose own politics leaned decidedly right, would often fire off questions and cut them off, shouting “Wronnnng!”

Then there were the question and answer predictions at the end of each episode. A NYT reader recalls:

he made my favorite prediction on the last 1999 show: “The question of the 21st century will be science vs. religion and the answer is science! Bye-bye!”

Interesting facts

John Joseph McLaughlin was born in Providence, Rhode Island, on March 29, 1927. He was the son of Eva P. (née Turcotte) and Augustus H. McLaughlin, who was a regional salesman for a furniture company.

McLaughlin attended LaSalle Academy in Providence and went to Weston College, a Jesuit seminary in Massachusetts. He was ordained as a Jesuit priest in 1947.

His further education did not stop there, and the young priest went on to earn masters degrees in philosophy and English literature from Boston College before obtaining a doctorate from Columbia University.

McLaughlin taught at the Jesuit-run Fairfield Preparatory School in Connecticut and later moved to New York to edit the Jesuit magazine America. Then came the 1960s and the Vietnam War.

By the end of the decade, a handful of Jesuit priests raised their heads above the parapet and became involved in politics. Daniel Berrigan was one well known antiwar activist. Robert Drinan was another; he was a US congressman for Massachusetts between 1971 and 1981.

The same year that Drinan first ran for election — 1970 — saw John McLaughlin, SJ, throw his hat into the ring. He ran for US Senate in Rhode Island as the Republican candidate against the long-serving politician, the much-loved Democrat John Pastore. Not surprisingly, he was trounced.

Whereas Robert Drinan’s superiors approved of his run for Congress, McLaughlin’s sharply disapproved of his. It would not be the first time the feisty priest ran into trouble with his superiors, including the Bishop of Rhode Island.

McLaughlin resigned his editorship of America and went to Washington, DC, to become a speechwriter for then-president Richard Nixon. A mutual friend, Republican adviser and pundit Pat Buchanan, introduced the two. McLaughlin became known as ‘Nixon’s priest’.

McLaughlin was fiercely loyal to the then-president. The NYT tells us:

At one news conference, he dismissed Nixon’s use of profanity as “emotional drainage.” Less than two weeks before the president resigned, Father McLaughlin warned in a speech at the National Press Club that the nation would face a “parade of horrors” should Nixon be impeached. (On July 31, 1973, Father Drinan became the first congressman to call for impeachment in a House resolution.)

Whereas Drinan lived in plain quarters with other Jesuits in Georgetown, McLaughlin had his residence at the upmarket Watergate complex.

When Nixon resigned in 1974, Nixon’s successor Gerald Ford abolished McLaughlin’s post. His superiors ordered him to leave Washington DC for Boston for a period of ‘reflection’. He refused and left the Jesuits. In order to leave the order, he had to petition Pope Paul VI for permission, which was granted in 1975.

Shortly after leaving the Jesuits, McLaughlin married his 1970 campaign manager Ann Dore, who later served as secretary of labor under Ronald Reagan. The couple set up their own media relations and public affairs consulting firm. They divorced in 1992.

Five years later, McLaughlin married Cristina Vidal, who was the vice president of operations for his production company, Oliver Productions, named after his treasured basset hound from the Nixon era. The couple divorced in 2010.

Media career

McLaughlin was a man who always had something to say. Fortunately, Washington DC’s WRC radio recognised this and gave him a weekend talk programme to host in the early 1980s.

From there, McLaughlin worked at National Review when William F Buckley Jr was at the helm. McLaughlin was the magazine’s Washington editor and a regular columnist from 1981 to 1989.

His friends from the early 1970s helped him set up a television production company in the 1980s (pre-Oliver) through which he was able to sell a new kind of political talk show to WRC-TV. The NYT explains what a departure this was:

At the time, TV round tables of journalists like “Agronsky & Company” and “Washington Week in Review” dissected the week’s developments in a sober, nonpartisan style. Mr. McLaughlin envisioned a more animated, argumentative format including a panel reflecting conservative, moderate and liberal views, with him as moderator.

I can tell you that Agronsky & Company and Washington Week in Review were incredibly boring. With The McLaughlin Group, it was as if someone had thrown open a window in a stuffy room. Agree or disagree, it engaged the viewer — and continues to do so.

You can see episodes from 1998 to the present on McLaughlin’s personal website. The episodes also have a link to YouTube. I would recommend watching them rather than selecting the MP3 option, if you can. N.B.: McLaughlin did not appear in the August 12, 2016 show.

His other television shows were John McLaughlin’s One on One, broadcast on PBS and NBC between 1984 and 2013, and a daily interview show which ran on CNBC between 1989 and 1994.

However, The McLaughlin Group was his most popular. In 1992, the NYT asked the ex-Jesuit if his programme ‘depreciated’ journalism. McLaughlin strongly disagreed and replied:

Journalists can get very pompous, especially in the formalized days of Meet the Press, when they took themselves so damned seriously. This show demythologizes the press, and I think people like that.

They do. One NYT reader had this to say:

The Irish have a way with words and the gift of the gab. John McLaughlin was very intelligent and highly educated. I think this is the reason his show was so successful and ran for so many years. I do not think there is an equal in quality programming today.

Nor will we see his like again.

May John McLaughlin rest in peace. He did a great service to the United States, engaging millions of Americans in politics via television for over 30 years.

A new channel showing vintage American classics recently launched in Britain.

BonanzaBonanza (Freeview 64) not only shows a lot of episodes of the famous Western, as its name implies, but also an eclectic variety of American television classics from the 1950s and 1960s including The Lone Ranger and the original Dragnet.

Having grown up on the second incarnation, still with Jack Webb as Sgt Joe Friday, but with Harry ‘MASH’ Morgan as Officer Bill Gannon, I was surprised to see old black and white versions.

Yet, it is instructive to find that crime hasn’t changed much since the postwar years and Los Angeles had its fill even then of armed robbery, murder, gang fights and immigrants innocently skirting the periphery of the dark side of the City of Angels.

Chesterfield sponsored the original version of the show and during the commercial breaks Webb would have given a short, scripted spiel. (Photo credit: LAmorguefiles.com) That is how advertising was done then. A network pitched a show to a well known corporation which then sponsored the programme. The show’s stars then advertised that company’s products at the beginning, middle and end of the programme: often cars, a brand of petrol or home appliances. This type of star-delivered advert disappeared in the early 1960s but was preceded by an announcer in the background solemnly saying:

And now a word from [about] our sponsor …

As you can see, the adverts translated nicely into print. They reminded the reader to watch the show and buy the sponsor’s products.

If I remember rightly, radio is where the star-sponsor advert style began and carried over into television.

Jack Webb himself was the brains behind Dragnet, which began life as a radio show. Although I greatly enjoyed Dragnet‘s run from 1967 through 1970, I began watching the old 1950s black and white episodes with greater concentration.

I notice that in many of the episodes from 1957, Webb’s narration, which ties in with contemporary film from Los Angeles, mentions the Church. The camera shows at least one church, normally in California Mission style, and, on occasion, shows another. Of course, Webb is matter of fact in his presentation, but the camera lingers on them as if to impart a suggestion to the viewer just as he is about to see a true crime story.

It is this mention of churches which made me interested in Webb as a person.

What you are about to read is true. Unlike Dragnet, however, the names have not been changed to protect the innocent.

The Old Time Radio Bulletin features a revealing article from The Milwaukee Sentinel which appeared on September 12, 1954. Maurice Zolotow, the journalist, tells us ‘The True Story of Jack Webb’. Not only did he meet Webb, he also looked for interviews with his mother to get the inside track. Some of Zolotow’s discoveries appear below.

Childhood

Jack was born on April 2, 1920 in Santa Monica, California, to Margaret ‘Maggie’ Smith, a Catholic of Irish and Native American ancestry, and Samuel Chester Webb, who was Jewish.

The two fell in love just after the First World War. Jack never knew much about his father except that he was, in Zolotow’s words, ‘a wartime hero’. The couple married, his father still in uniform, and Jack was born a year later. In 1921, the Webbs divorced.

Jack never knew his dad. He had fled the scene for good. Mrs Webb never mentioned him and, even as a child, Jack never asked.Yet, he could sense he stood apart from other boys his age; he had no one to teach him the things boys learn — from dads.

Incidentally, I knew a boy in the same situation. As much as he loved his mother, psychologically, things were very difficult for him growing up. School projects and discussions about Father’s Day drove him to tears. (In his country, school is still in session in June.) To this day — he would now be in his early 30s — I do not think he knows his father’s identity.

Mrs Webb returned with Jack to her mother in San Francisco. Grandma Smith lived on a huge estate left her by her late husband who worked for the railroad. There should have been enough money for all three of them for a long time, however, within three years it was gone.

Zolotow says they moved to Los Angeles when Jack was three. Wikipedia specifies that it was the Bunker Hill neighbourhood. (This part of town underwent slum clearance in the 1950s and was transformed into a modern high-rise business district.)

Zolotow describes the Webbs living at Third and Flowers Street, just south of Main. They had a one-bedroom flat with a kitchen. The communal bathroom, shared by 12 tenants, was down the hall. That was no place for a little boy to be.

According to Zolotow, Mrs Webb helped to run the block of flats during the day. At night, she was the cashier in a neighbourhood cafe. Jack knew his mother was too well educated and too much of a lady to be in that situation. He couldn’t fathom what had happened.

In the late 1920s, he and his mother moved from Bunker Hill to Echo Park. Jack attended Our Lady of Loretto School and served as an altar boy.

Zolotow’s article tells us that, previously, Jack dreaded school. He was a sickly child; his slight frame and jug ears made him a target for bullies.

On one occasion, Mrs Webb, working as a shop clerk in Bunker Hill at the time, managed to save enough money to buy him a new shirt and a leatherette pencil case for his seventh birthday. Not long after, on the way home, a bully confronted Jack, grabbed his shirt and, in doing so, pulled off the buttons. The bully’s pals then stepped in to beat up little Jack, alone and defenceless, leaving him wondering if he would survive.

Just then, Zolotow’s article says that Jack felt an adult’s arm and saw a blue sleeve. It was a policeman who sent the bullies packing then got down to the business of putting Jack’s pens, pencils and eraser back into his new, but probably scuffed, pencil case.

Zolotow reasons (emphases mine):

A lot of kids think of a cop as a mortal enemy.  To Jack this cop represented decency and justice.  Maybe he also represented a symbol for the father he was always unconsciously seeking.  Maybe what Webb has done in Dragnet, in paying tribute to the hard-working men of the police force, is his way of saying “thanks” to the cop who befriended a small boy 27 years ago.

After finishing his studies at Our Lady of Loretto, Jack attended nearby Belmont High. Both schools are close to downtown Los Angeles.

At Belmont, he was elected student body president. This was no mean feat as it was the largest high school in the city at that time. His words to the students in the 1938 edition of Campanile, their high school yearbook, read:

… you who showed me the magnificent warmth of friendship which I know, and you know, I will carry with me forever.

Influences

Both Our Lady of Loretto and Belmont High gave Jack the opportunity to read and discover the world of imagination. Zolotow says Jack suffered from asthma from the ages of 8 to 17. In all seriousness, I imagine he began smoking later on in high school and the symptoms cleared. I’ve known several asthmatics; some respond well to smoking and others do not.

In any event, during his asthmatic years, as he couldn’t tolerate too much physical activity, Jack began reading library books, especially adventure classics.

But there is something else. Zolotow’s article tells us that Mrs Webb said in a previous interview:

Almost any time I looked out the window, my boy was looking in trash cans.  Always searching for something.  He didn’t know what. 

The armchair psychologist in me says this might have been a subconscious displacement activity in looking for a lost father.

One day, whilst rummaging around, young Jack found a broken crayon. He began drawing on old paper bags. Mrs Webb saved up enough money to buy him crayons and a proper sketch pad. Jack took to drawing and, according to his mother, sketched anything and everything.

Along with art and reading came a love for jazz, nurtured by a neighbour living in the same building. The man was once a professional cornet player; then he fell on hard times, aggravated by alcohol. He played the cornet for Jack and introduced him to Bix Beiderbecke. Jack listened to the records the neighbour played on his Victrola; these gave him a lifelong love of jazz and Beiderbecke’s music. When the neighbour was evicted for rent arrears, he gave Jack a copy of Beiderbecke’s 1930 recording of At the Jazz Band Ball. Jack went on to collect more of Bix’s music and, along the way, also became a fan of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. When Zolotow met him, Webb had managed to collect a copy of every record Beiderbecke had ever made.

Tantalisingly, the other instalments of Zolotow’s article on Webb are lost to history. The next one would have revealed (italics in the original):

how Jack Webb passed up a chance to inherit a prosperous plumbing business, and a scholarship that might have led to a career as an artist, to hang around radio studios and pick up many of the tricks at which he later became a master. 

The start of a career

After graduating from Belmont High, Webb studied art at St John’s University, Collegeville,  Minnesota. Even today, the university continues to follow the Benedictine values modelled after Christ’s life.

When the United States entered the Second World War, Webb enlisted in the US Air Force but ‘washed out’ of flight training. He obtained a hardship discharge as he was the sole provider for his mother and grandmother.

In 1946, Webb got his own eponymous comedy show in San Francisco on ABC’s KGO radio. By the end of the decade, he had switched from comedy to drama via another radio show, this time on KFRC, called Pat Novak for Hire. It was about an unlicensed private detective and co-starred Raymond Burr.

Webb also broke into film in 1948 with a role as a crime lab technician in He Walked by Night, the true story of a California Highway Patrolman who was murdered in 1946. That was the time when film noir with its dissolute criminals and corrupt police was highly popular. He Walked by Night, however, was semi-documentary in style with Detective Sergeant Marty Wynn (LAPD) providing technical assistance.

Dragnet

During filming, Webb considered a series which would profile more real-life crime cases. He talked his ideas over with Wynn. Dragnet premiered on NBC radio in 1949 and ran until 1957.

NBC television picked up a few episodes each season starting in 1952. It seems the television series began in earnest once the radio show ended. The television series ran until 1959.

Dragnet was a near-instant hit as soon as it aired — on television and radio. Webb wanted to portray the police to the public and LAPD superiors as underrated working class heroes. However, if there was wrongdoing or corruption on the part of the police, he would air it. The LAPD at the time was known for not paying decent wages and for dismissing officers who had become ill or injured in the line of duty.

The show was largely produced under the aegis of Webb’s Mark VII production company. Mark VII began in 1951 and operated until Webb’s death in 1982. If you’ve ever watched to the end of a Dragnet episode, the following will be familiar:

The Mark VII production logo depicted a pair of grimy, sweaty hands working on a silver sheet of metal, holding a stamp in place and hitting it twice (and, in later years, once) with a hammer. From 1954 to 1977, a drum roll sounded. When the hands and tools pull away, a “VII” is seen imprinted on the metal. Above the Roman numeral in white is the word “MARK,” and below “LIMITED.” The hands were later revealed to be those of Jack Webb himself. There are several different variations of this logo.

Imdb.com describes Webb’s production values as follows:

his Mark VII productions routinely used minimal sets, even more minimal wardrobes (Friday and Gannon seem to wear the same suits over entire seasons, which minimized continuity issues) and maintained a relatively tight-knit stock company that consisted of scale-paid regulars who routinely appeared as irate crime victims, policewomen, miscreants and clueless parents of misguided youth … During the production of Dragnet 1967 (1967), he maintained a rigorous daily work schedule while ignoring his health. He loved chili dogs and cigarettes, enjoyed late nights playing cards and drinking with cast members who were amazed to find him fully alert at 7 a.m. the next day, expecting the same from them. The combined effect of this lifestyle made him appear older than he actually was by the late 60’s.

What Imdb.com doesn’t mention are the tight scripts, the interesting stories, the varied main characters, scenes and witnesses. All these combined — and this was the genius of Jack Webb — make a compelling half-hour crime drama based on real police cases. Actually, less than 30 minutes, once one factors in ad breaks. Wherever it’s shown today, people still tune in. Maybe they’ve seen the series or the episode before. Maybe they haven’t. It’s excellent, timeless television — including the second series which aired from 1967 to 1970 and was still getting good ratings when it ended.

Subsequent series

Webb was ultimately interested in more than Dragnet, which isn’t surprising, given that he had spent the 1940s and 1950s on radio, television and in film at the same time. It seemed, therefore, that Dragnet was part of his life but he didn’t intend for it to define him.

Webb had roles in two minor films in 1959 and 1961. Neither did well at the box office.

In 1963, Warner Brothers Television hired him as Head of Production. One of his duties was to revamp 77 Sunset Strip. Some readers might remember the theme tune. Ratings plummeted and Webb pursued other options.

Interestingly, one of these concerned Jeffrey Hunter, who had played Jesus in the 1961 version of King of Kings, directed by Nicholas Ray.

Webb and Hunter set up their own company, Apollo Productions, to make the television series Temple Houston which ran between 1963 and 1964. It was Hunter’s only television series in which he regularly starred. And it was Webb’s only successful series sale to a television network — NBC — whilst he was Head of Production at Warner Brothers Television. The show was a light version of the cases which Sam Houston’s son Temple Lea Houston dealt with as a lawyer. A critic described it as ‘Perry Mason out West’. Although it was short-lived, 26 episodes aired.

Dragnet reappeared after an updated pilot film in 1966. Harry Morgan co-starred as Officer Bill Gannon in the new series with Webb in 1967. However, times were changing and, although it was popular with audiences, young adult viewers sided more with the criminal than Friday and Gannon. This was the Vietnam War era, after all, and putting someone in the slammer was pretty uncool; police were seen as oppressors.

I remember great episodes though, most of which explained the psychological aspect to the crime. One particularly sad one dealt with a young rapist who never knew his father. His mother, then his grandmother brought him up, rather harshly. He grew to become a misogynist. His way of getting back at the women in his family was by raping other women. It was very sad, indeed.

Webb had more luck with the 70s and 80s generations. His subsequent productions  included Adam-12 and Emergency. He had no televisual role in either.

Private life

Webb was married four times. His first wife, the beautiful actress Julie London, bore him two daughters, Stacy and Lisa. Stacy collaborated on a book of Webb’s life called Just the Facts, Ma’am; The Authorized Biography of Jack Webb, Creator of Dragnet, Adam-12, and Emergency! She died in a car accident in 1996 three years before it was published. Lisa, born in 1952, survives her.

Webb and London divorced in 1954 after being married for seven years. He married Dorothy Towne in 1955 and divorced her in 1957. He married former Miss USA Jackie Loughery in 1958, divorcing her in 1964. Then came a long hiatus until he married Opal Wright in 1980.

Webb died in 1982 at the age of 62. The LAPD gave him a funeral with full police honours. They also retired the badge number he used in Dragnet: 714.

At the time Webb suffered his fatal heart attack, he was putting together a third series of Dragnet with a new co-star, Kent McCord.

I couldn’t find out how or if Catholicism fit into Webb’s later life. Perhaps the divorces created a perceived state of no return for him.

However, the self-discipline he must have learned at Our Lady of Loretto and the Benedictine values at St John’s University served him well professionally.

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