Forest for the Trees

In testimony last November before the panel, Erik Prince was questioned extensively about the January 2017 Seychelles meeting and whether it was an attempt to set up secret communications between the Trump administration and Russia. As Prince furiously denied that was the case, he also did not reveal that George Nader -- a Lebanese-American businessman and Middle East specialist with ties to the Trump team -- also attended at least one meeting there, raising fresh questions among Democrats about whether Prince misled the panel when testifying under oath.
If the meeting had been about "setting up secret communications between the Russians and the Trump administration," that would mean that there were not any extant communications. The meeting was in January 2017, only days before Trump would become President. Where's the 2016 collusion if he had to set up back-channel comms at as late a date as this? If you prove the thing you're asking about, you've proven that 2016 collusion probably didn't exist.

A possible counter argument: perhaps they'd had such comms before, but they'd become compromised and had to be abandoned. If that were the case, though, the same intelligence community that's been leaking like a sieve here would have leaked this too.

Dispatches from Kennesaw

I passed by Kennesaw, Georgia last night on my way home from the Dropkick Murphys concert near Atlanta. (If you have the opportunity, they put on a great live show.) It's now a full-fledged suburb of Atlanta, not the quiet little town it was when it first adopted the law described in this article.
“In Kennesaw, Georgia, local law says that ‘every head of household residing in the city limits is required to maintain a firearm.’

"‘If you're going to commit a crime in Kennesaw and you're the criminal -- are you going to take a chance that that homeowner is a law-abiding citizen?’ asked Kennesaw Mayor Derek Easterling."
The violent crime rate is below two percent all these years later.


The Texas primaries were today.  In my four-way race, I came in first by 3 votes and will face a run-off on May 22 with the guy in second place.  We both got about 32% of the vote.  The other guys got 24% and 12%.  Since the fellow I'm running against is basically the establishment candidate, I like my chances for picking off the votes of the other two.

Otherwise, all the incumbents in my county were re-elected, despite all the talk about the upheaval because of the storm.  The seat I'm running for is open, as the current commissioner elected not to run again.

Against Conformity

An academic from 'low backgrounds' asserts her claim not to have to adopt the mores that rule in the Ivory Tower.
The image is no longer unsullied simplicity but befouled by bigotry, misogyny and cruelty. This too is a stereotype, and one that, however different, achieves force precisely in its distance. I wrote about this just after the 2016 presidential election, and was surprised by how quickly the contempt directed at the poor rural voter came my way. A friend of mine summed up the new atmosphere: ‘No one wants to read about poor rural people struggling to walk upright.’ This too works to keep the ivory tower pristine, for even fewer now are likely to confess low origins.

Academia’s representations of the poor and rural inspire an oppositional impulse in me – a resistance to seeing people like mine as people like that, as people tidily captured, whether quaint or corrupt, pitiable or pitiless. Assimilation in academia entails the denial of one’s own experience and history. It demands epistemic sacrifice, a willingness to shed complexity and, along with it, possibilities. It’s the possibilities I begrudge the most.

Stripping out the Christianity

There's a piece at the Federalist arguing against the authenticity of the new "A Wrinkle in Time."
Lee seems to feel that the Christian faith of L’Engle is not a big deal, and that it’s something that should be moved on from.... A story by a Christian author who made deliberate choices to incorporate Christian themes in a story about good vs. evil is a story with Christianity as a central theme, not just some minor element to be shrugged off.

The Christianity of “A Wrinkle in Time” is not implied or subtle, but rather masterfully and beautifully interwoven throughout the whole story. It’s a shame if the motivations and understandings of the characters are stripped from them. At the climax of the book, when the main character, Meg, is discouraged and needs hope, it is the Bible that is quoted to her: “The foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
The culture as a whole is trying hard to shrug off Christianity, so it's not surprising that they wish to do so here. Nor is this the first time this has happened. Though C. S. Lewis (mentioned in the piece) and L'Engle were explicitly attempting to tell Christian fairy tales that would reinforce the faith, other authors for whom Christianity was central have also seen it stripped of its place in their works.

To take just one example, consider the centrality of Christianity to Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur. Malory's sources are clear about Arthur's status as a Christian king. The whole book is built around the Christian liturgical year, so much so that you won't realize that scenes take place in winter or spring except by the feasts cited. The Quest for the Holy Grail makes up the dramatic center of the work, beginning at the high water mark of the secular Arthurian kingdom and hastening its downfall as so many knights -- successful at establishing worldly goods and attaining worldly virtue -- are destroyed by the pursuit of spiritual perfections of which they fall far short. Though the destruction of Arthur's kingdom is eventuated by Lancelot and Guinevere's sin, and Gawain's sin of pride and wrath in pursuing vengeance against them, the pursuit of the Holy Grail weakened the kingdom as a practical power; it stored up treasures in heaven for the martyrs, but at substantial earthly cost.

Yet go and find any version of the Arthurian story told since the 1970s, and you'll find that some sort of paganism is presented as the real moral core of the work. Arthur is secretly a worshiper of Mithras, or really the hero(ine)s were pagan goddess worshipers, or Merlin was secretly a pagan and guided Arthur around a benighted Christianity, or....

Indeed, the one easy counterexample is Tolkien. Tolkien's great work differs in that it barely makes reference to the Christianity it nevertheless assumes as basic to its structure. This seems to have been a conscious decision on Tolkien's part. You can engage with Frodo and Sam's quiet faith based on the stars being beyond Sauron's reach; you don't need to believe in a transcendent God. You can examine the heroism of Gimli and Legolas, or their friendship across differences of species and culture and history. Aragorn's acceptance of his need to strive heroically against the winds of fate is noble in a way that a Roman or a Viking would appreciate. Only occasionally, in the whispers of Gandalf, do you get the idea that there is a hidden power directing the world, a "Secret Fire" before whose worn and tired servants even Balrogs cannot prevail.

Even at the end of the book, you have only received a hint that Gandalf is one of those beings like the 'Wrinkle in Time' messengers. If you don't read further into the legendarium, you'll never be told that Gandalf is not just a 'wizard,' but a Maiar, a kind of lower angel. Tolkien hid it for them, for reasons of his own.

The Powers of a King

Conservative Review points out that yesterday was supposed to be the end of the DACA program, except that the courts have so far said that the President isn't allowed to end a program created purely by the action of the previous President.
Yet thanks to a political system that has crowned district judges the kings of our society, the very underpinnings of the self-governing nation established in the Declaration of Independence have now been abandoned. We have district judges who can unilaterally make denizens of aliens – the power of a king, according to Alexander Hamilton in Federalist #69.
The relevant section of Federalist 69 is about why a president is preferable to a king.
The President of the United States would be an officer elected by the people for FOUR years; the king of Great Britain is a perpetual and HEREDITARY prince. The one would be amenable to personal punishment and disgrace; the person of the other is sacred and inviolable. The one would have a QUALIFIED negative upon the acts of the legislative body; the other has an ABSOLUTE negative. The one would have a right to command the military and naval forces of the nation; the other, in addition to this right, possesses that of DECLARING war, and of RAISING and REGULATING fleets and armies by his own authority. The one would have a concurrent power with a branch of the legislature in the formation of treaties; the other is the SOLE POSSESSOR of the power of making treaties. The one would have a like concurrent authority in appointing to offices; the other is the sole author of all appointments. The one can confer no privileges whatever; the other can make denizens of aliens, noblemen of commoners; can erect corporations with all the rights incident to corporate bodies. The one can prescribe no rules concerning the commerce or currency of the nation; the other is in several respects the arbiter of commerce, and in this capacity can establish markets and fairs, can regulate weights and measures, can lay embargoes for a limited time, can coin money, can authorize or prohibit the circulation of foreign coin. The one has no particle of spiritual jurisdiction; the other is the supreme head and governor of the national church! What answer shall we give to those who would persuade us that things so unlike resemble each other? The same that ought to be given to those who tell us that a government, the whole power of which would be in the hands of the elective and periodical servants of the people, is an aristocracy, a monarchy, and a despotism.
I've highlighted three areas in which we've gone astray.

1) The Iran Deal was a treaty governing nuclear weapons that was effected without any input from the legislature -- the Corker-Cardin bill set up a means for Congress to express disapproval, but Democrats in the Senate filibustered a vote, so no vote was ever taken on approval or disapproval. The 2/3rds majority consent, required by the language of the Constitution, wasn't seriously considered as a standard the Obama administration would attempt to meet.

2) The 'denizens of aliens' was the intent of DACA. The courts are merely affirming Obama's right to rule as king, such that his successor by democratic election may not undo his fiat.

3) At this point most of the regulations on commerce originate in the executive. At some point the legislature consented to the delegation of its authority to the executive, and now most things affecting commerce that have the force of law are created undemocratically by the executive bureaucracy.

Serious problems, all, and it's just one paragraph of one of the Federalist papers.


Oh, and as for the power of declaring war, Obama's actions in Libya never once passed any sort of 'by your leave' by Congress.

Mill Your Own

Reason has an interview with a guy who can help you make your own 1911s at the house.

Yankees With Guns

A good piece in the NYT, by a native of New Jersey, on why she bought a gun.