Lin-Carter-Down-to-a-Sunless-Sea

Down to a Sunless Sea by Lin Carter

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Lin Carter was important to my early literary education, such as it was. Were it not for his books Tolkien: A Look Behind ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and Imaginary Worlds: The Art of Fantasy I may have never found some of my favorite writers, such as Lord Dunsany, Mervyn Peake, Peter S. Beagle, and the great James Branch Cabell.

But Carter’s own fiction did not beckon my attention. The books of his I saw looked like hackwork, rehashes of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Leigh Brackett. And, what with their garish covers, I avoided them as if they were the Gor books by John Norman.

Well, as if to break a long habit, I bought two Gor novels, not long age. I took a dip its pages. Not exactly my cup of tea, and I did not get very far. Which does not mean I found anything objectionable. They seemed somewhat like throwback fiction, good Burroughsian fun. But of course their reputation is harshly negative, especially along “political correctness” lines. That is, as Jack Woodford might have said, there is no Communism in them, and (I hear tell) Norman does not believe today’s accepted feminist fictions, er, norms. I do not either, so I may return to Gor some day.

Not long after I put down Norman’s Tarnsman of Gor a few months ago, I bought a few Lin Carter fantasy/science fiction paperback on a whim. And I then read the one that seemed to have the most promising beginning, Down to a Sunless Sea, one of his last books, written, I gather, while he was dying of cancer.

The romantic-sexual interest in the book is not too far from what I have heard to be John Norman’s. The hero is masculine, and the two women are distinct and familiar feminine types, though both Martian. There is no political correctness in it, just as there is no Communism. But there is frank sexual talk, and acceptance of the Sapphic practice. Not very far from Woodford territory, after all, though the focus is on the hero, not the heroine — which is where it almost always was with Woodford (who claimed to have written the same book over and over).

This retro-sexuality does not bother me. It seems pitiful and weak to even bring it up. Masculine and feminine are archetypes, and reflect a lot of biological and historical reality. To object to it now is merely to accept current ideological fashion as Eternal Truth, which is of course bilge water.

Carter combines, as he states in his afterword, Brackettian fantasy with a Merrittesque descent into a Lost World. The first half or more of the short novel is adventure; the second half introduces our ragtag band of outlaws to a fantastic underworld civilization that is mainly shown to us in a slightly dramatized utopian format. The point being: the utopia is too good for these depraved, uncivilized Terran and Martian adventurers.

I cannot say that this seems in any way exceptionable — or very exceptional. Except — yes, there is an “except”: the writing, on the sentence level, is superior to popular No Style style writing of current popular fiction.

So, there is more than one way that Down to a Sunless Sea is throwback fiction. And more than one way that this is not at all a bad thing.

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The Loud Literary Lamas of New YorkThe Loud Literary Lamas of New York by Jack Woodford

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bitter fun, Woodford at peak invective. The target? The book publishing industry at mid-century.

His main advice? Ignore publishers; self-publish.

Whether this advice be good or ill, the contempt and wit and contrarianism sparkle on every page.

If you are interested in writing, in literary culture, or, more generally, in American character, this book by an authentic American character is almost required reading.

Besides, the book is short.

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The Certain Hour: Dizain des Poëtes (Biography of the Life of Manuel, #12)The Certain Hour: Dizain des Poëtes by James Branch Cabell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first tale in The Certain Hour (1916), “Belhs Cavaliers,” is set in the England of 1210 A.D., and features a love triangle of

1. the hero, Raimbaut de Vaquiras,

2. the open antagonist, Guillaume de Baut (Prince of Orange), and

3. Dona Biatritz, with a fourth figure added to form a sort of love rhombus, Raimbaut’s servant,

4. the converted Saracen, Makrisi.

“Love prefers to take rather than to give; against a single happy hour he balances a hundred miseries, and he appraises one pleasure to be worth a thousand pangs.” The musings of the hero, at the outset.

The tale appears to be heading for tragedy, but romantic melodrama concludes the foray into doomed love — the doom being a happy ending.

First published in Lippincott’s Magazine, June 1915.

The second tale in the book is “Balthazar’s Daughter.” It is the only tale I had read before the present reading of all the book’s stories. It is quite good. Like all of the tales, it is what in the movies we would call a costume drama. But here we witness an early example of the sly sexual innuendo that would land the author in court and on the bestseller list: methinks the “jewels” that the heroine would like to see at court — and especially of which her interlocutor says the eminent men of the court would be delighted in showing her — might refer not merely to “the four kinds of sapphires, the twelve kinds of emeralds, the three kinds of rubies” etc. mentioned by the tale’s antagonist, Duke Alessandro.

The story first appeared in The Smart Set, May 1913. Cabell turned the story into a one-act play, The Jewel Merchants (1921), which was used as a libretto for an opera, by Louis Cheslock (1941).

The book’s third story is “Judith’s Creed,” which first appeared in Lippincott’s Magazine, July 1915. Our protagonist is none other than William Shakespeare, confronting his Dark Lady. Here is a defense of his modus operandi by the Bard: “The man of letters, like the carpenter or the blacksmith, must live by the vending of his productions, not by the eating of them.” His former lover, his “dark lady,” expresses disapproval of the “paunchy, inconsiderable little man” he has become, and for his lifelong besetting sin, “money-grubbing.” Judith, mentioned in the title, is his daughter; her creed is her much more natural, humble view of the world than contemplated by literary people demanding greatness.

The fourth story was apparently written directly for the volume, and deals with the author of the famous lines “Gather Ye rosebuds while Ye may.” Yes, Robert Herrick is the subject of “Concerning Corrina,” which more than suggests that the poet was an adept of the dark arts. Though technically a mystery-horror story, it is best categorized as a philosophical comedy.

The next is “Olivia’s Pottage,” originally titled “The Second Chance,” published in Harper’s Magazine (October 1909). It is a story I could not properly read. Oh, I read it, every word, but had trouble following it, or caring. Could be my fault. Or it could be the author’s early and quite unsuccessful effort.

“Verse-making,” says the hunchback dwarf Alexander Pope in the sixth story, “A Brown Woman” (Lippincott’s Magazine, August 1915), “is at best only the affair of idle men who write in their closets and of idle men who read there.” The great poet has fallen in love. With a milkmaid. And yearns to be happy. “To write perfectly was much,” our narrator informs us, “but it was not everything.”

Standing in the way of any traditional arrangement for happiness, however, is his own physical construction: “My body is at most a flimsy abortion such as a night’s exposure would have made more tranquil than it is just now.” So he does the honorable thing. And then fate throws in a monkey wrench.

“It is deplorable how much easier it is to express any emotion than that of which one is actually conscious.”

Yes.

“Pro Honoria” saw the light of the reading public’s gaze in 1915, courtesy of McBride’s Magazine. That is all I will say for it. The next story, “The Irresistible Ogle,” is something else again.

Selah.

After many months with this volume misplaced in one of my cluttered rooms, sitting in a corner under a few other books nowhere near as well written or conceived, I finally got back to this story collection last night. It is two months more than a year after I first opened up the pages of the Kalki edition (1920) of this book, and high time that I plowed through to the end.

It is easy plowing.

“A Princess of Grub Street” is yet another story of a writer and his love life. Normally I get tired of this sort of thing — stories about writers and stories about love. But when Cabell is telling the tale, and wit and elegance are what is paraded before us, not ripped bodices or psychological confessions of an embarrassing sort. This is all very civilized.

But there is a touch of frivolity here, too, and I have to admit something that probably will not please the litterateurs: this story would make a fine “rom-com” for either the silver screen or Amazon Prime, or suchlike. Here we have a tale of Prince Hilary (nicknamed “Prince Fribble”), a young nobleman who, to escape a life of dreary service to the class of royalty and duties of state, fakes his death with the help of his heir and cousin, and flees Saxe-Kesselberg for England, to live a life of poetry, hack writing, and freedom. And of course finds love.

Taking the name of Paul Vanderhoffen, he eventually becomes a tutor to the young charge of Leamington Manor, Mildred Claridge:

Prince Fribble would have smiled, shrugged, drawled, “Eh, after all, the girl is handsome and deplorably cold-blooded!” Paul Vanderhoffen said, “I am not fit to live in the same world with her,” and wrote many verses in the prevailing Oriental style rich in allusions to roses, and bulbuls, and gazelles, and peris, and minarets — which he sold rather profitably.

But there are complications to Fribble’s plan to live a quiet life of literature and penury. A visitor from Saxe-Kesselberg demands his return to the life of ruling.

“I repeat to you,” the tutor observed, “that no consideration will ever make a grand-duke of me excepting over my dead body. Why don’t you recommend some not quite obsolete vocation, such as making papyrus, or writing an interesting novel, or teaching people how to dance a saraband? For after all, what is a monarch nowadays — oh, even a monarch of the first class?” he argued, with what came near being a squeak of indignation. “The poor man is a rather pitiable and perfectly useless relic of barbarism, now that 1789 has opened our eyes; and his main business in life is to ride in open carriages and bow to an applauding public who are applauding at so much per head. He must expect to be aspersed with calumny, and once in a while with bullets. He may at the utmost aspire to introduce an innovation in evening dress,—the Prince Regent, for instance, has invented a really very creditable shoe-buckle. Tradition obligates him to devote his unofficial hours to sheer depravity——”

Fleshed out, as I say, this would make for great filmed comedy, especially with the final moments of his courtship of Mildren, which he had not been aware he was pursuing. And yes, I would keep in the long, droll, flowery speeches.

Which is why it will not get made. Not in the Ideal Form.

The story first appeared as “Prince Fribble’s Burial” in The Red Book (May 1911).

The final tale, “The Lady of All Our Dreams,” first found public view in The Argonaut (November 23, 1912), as “The Dream.” And here we meet one of Cabell’s recurring characters, the author John Charteris, who served as the fictional mouthpiece for Cabell’s first literary manifesto, Beyond Life: Dizain des Demiurges (1919). The tale begins, after the usual Cabellian prefatory verse and fake citations, this way:

“Our distinguished alumnus,” after being duly presented as such, had with vivacity delivered much the usual sort of Commencement Address. Yet John Charteris was in reality a trifle fagged.

And so the All Passion Spent motif serves as a contrast to the passion to come. Charteris characterizes his public speechifying as a “verbal syllabub of balderdash” when confronted by his lost love, Pauline. She expresses her disappointment at what he has become, and is becoming: comfortable.

“So I am going to develop into a pig,” he said, with relish,—“a lovable, contented, unambitious porcine, who is alike indifferent to the Tariff, the importance of Equal Suffrage and the market-price of hams, for all that he really cares about is to have his sty as comfortable as may be possible. That is exactly what I am going to develop into,—now, isn’t it?” And John Charteris, sitting, as was his habitual fashion, with one foot tucked under him, laughed cheerily. Oh, just to be alive (he thought) was ample cause for rejoicing! and how deliciously her eyes, alert with slumbering fires, were peering through the moon-made shadows of her brows!”

We have here Cabell’s recurrent theme: lost love, compromise, artistic egoism, and . . . many of the themes that bubble up on consideration of Cabell’s own twice-married life, ably narrated with enough veracity in As I Remember It (1945). And always there are dreams and regret, with Charteris (Cabell) saying:

Pauline, I haven’t been entirely not worth while. Oh, yes, I know! I know I haven’t written five-act tragedies which would be immortal, as you probably expected me to do. My books are not quite the books I was to write when you and I were young. But I have made at worst some neat, precise and joyous little tales which prevaricate tenderly about the universe and veil the pettiness of human nature with screens of verbal jewelwork. It is not the actual world they tell about, but a vastly superior place where the Dream is realized and everything which in youth we knew was possible comes true. It is a world we have all glimpsed, just once, and have not ever entered, and have not ever forgotten. So people like my little tales. . . . Do they induce delusions? Oh, well, you must give people what they want, and literature is a vast bazaar where customers come to purchase everything except mirrors.

And there is even a question of a past murder — ostensibly perpetrated by Pauline herself — as there was in the biography of young Cabell.

So, I suspect if you want to find about what this author, of the famous families Branch and Cabell, was all about, this tale might be a touchstone. Note, future biographers.

And though this ends with humor, the humor — liquid, you know — flows from the reader’s eyes.

The Certain Hour ends as it begins, in poetry — it is not for nothing that it is subtitled Dizain des Poëtes in the 1920 edition, and all subsequent printings. The prefatory poem, “The Ballad of the Double Soul,” is quite good. Excellent even. But this last one, “Ballad of Plagiary,” is not quite so easy to understand, or is not as profound — or is so profound that I cannot now understand it.

Explain it to me.

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The Democratic Party, in America, is in disarray. And is astoundingly weak.

But why?

Because Democrats lost their way, embracing oppositionalism, racism-baiting, and vulgar stupidity in place of the kind of power negotiations that made Tip O’Neill tops in the 1980s.IMG_1239

At the beginning of the Obama Administration, the Democrats had a chance at establishing a lock on the American polity. It is obvious that there are enough progressives to ride herd over the rest of America. But the progressives have one major problem: they are intellectually flaccid, morally depraved and clueless about how the world works.

The Democrats could have succeeded by doing one thing in 2009: embrace the Tea Party. But they couldn’t do that. Not because the Tea Party was saying anything inherently Democratic, but because Progressives need white, Flyover Country rubes to hate. And because they support ever-more government not because it is better for people, but because that trend-line conforms to their religious bigotries, their statism.

So the left waited a year or two and started their own, made-in-hell protest movement:  Occupy X. And that quickly became so repellent (messy, hysterical, raping mobs “protesting” what they were not quite sure) that they lost face with normal people.

Concurrently with this, the Democrats pushed through an unpopular Jerry-rigged health care reform package — which in turn made life really hard for working folks. (Though it was a boon to non-working folks, and, perhaps, the very sick. It basically ruined my finances for two or three years. So I was not a happy camper.) Indeed, Obama backed it all the way, thereby pissing away much of his political capital.

Add to that fiasco Obama’s racial stance, with the Trayvon Martin case and others, where Obama exacerbated tense racial relations. He basically doubled down on the left’s moral preening about racism. To say that middle-class white Americans were not impressed would be to understate it.

What’s worse, Obama’s foreign policy appeared incoherent: the Libya fiasco, the proposed Syria coup, the rise of ISIS, and a continuing Afghanistan war sat on top of Obama’s ramping up of the drone strike policy — all followed by the Russia uranium deal (which people did not understand) and the Iran deal (which people understood even less). There was nothing really good on the foreign policy front. Obama got his Nobel Peace Prize upon election, and apparently decided that this undeserved honor gave him the green light to mess up the rest of his term in office.

Finally, the Democrats offered up for American consideration a self-satirizing socialist and a corrupt insider harpy . . . to take Obama’s place. And insiders in the corrupt party used chicanery to squelch the socialist. They all rallied around A Woman, and the left’s besetting reverse discrimination play became obvious for all to see. Nothing was kept close to the chest. The cards were on the table. The Queen of Spades was up to ride into the presidency and rule America — a second dynasty in our time was set to change everything by changing nothing.

Obama may very well have been elected “because he was black,” but enough Americans got squeamish about voting in a woman for no better reason than her “gender.”

And that was the final straw. Republicans, adrift since the Tea Party fizzled, flitted from one candidate to another, finally selecting the Mule, the weirdest candidate in American history, Donald Trump.

Because Democrats had so disgraced themselves, and because they went hysterical at the very idea of Trump, enough Americans voted for the outsider to send him to Washington, D.C.

Though going in I knew the election would be closer than Democrats were saying, I was nevertheless surprised that The Donald took the Electoral College.

I was pleased, of course, to see an obvious slimeball booted off stage. But I confess, Trump made me a bit nervous.

But there has been little time to worry, for the Democrats could not help themselves: they doubled down. The Resistance went into full protest mode. And the left disgraced Progressivism again. The left’s invective against the new president just wouldn’t let up. And seemed so unhinged.

And as if to prove every point I have ever made against partisanship, leftists accused the new president of nearly everything their side exhibited better:

  • Ignorance
  • Sexism
  • Racism
  • Vulgarity
  • Corruption and self-dealing

The list could go on and on. Only with the petty “orange hair” crap could I see something that might not apply better to the Democrats themselves — though pussy-hats mimicked Trump’s hairdo’s color and risible nature. (This must have something to do with one’s head and the collective unconscious.)

Democrats could have played nice with Trump and got him to do all sorts of things they wanted. After all, the man had been a self-described Democrat for much of his adult life, a hobnobber with the Clintons and (I am told, if not necessarily reliably) a guest on the Epstein Rape Plane. But instead of cultivating Trump, their anti-Trump hysteria turned off even many #NeverTrumpers. Huge mistake, that. In the game of coup-stick insult and grudge-holding, Trump is the master. He knows how to use others’ vices for his benefit.

Now Trump has made some sort of deal with North Korea. This is obviously good from a Democratic point of view — accept that it was not a Democrat who did it. So Trump is riding high and the Democrats look like losers.

Still, after all this, the Trump win remains a bit strange, no matter how bad a candidate Hillary Clinton was. Perhaps the election was fixed — not by Russians or Julian Assange, but by time travelers from the future. The devastation of a Hillary Clinton presidency was just so much that they broke protocols and “fixed” history.

Anything being better than Hillary. Even post-human Americans can understand that.

We live in interesting times.

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The day neoliberals embraced neoconservatism.

President of RedEye

I am very curious what “deal” the Trump team will offer to North Korea — or what the team will negotiate Kim’s emissaries into bringing back to the dictator.

Aren’t you?

I’m hoping that John Bolton was taken on not as a real plotter of foreign policy, but as a threat, to get better terms. Bolton’s idea to apply the “Libya plan” to North Korea seems sheer idiocy to me . . . on the face of it.

Why? Well, Dictator Kim wants to survive. If he gives up on all attempts to obtain (and threaten to deploy) nuclear weapons, he would eventually go the way of Muammar Mohammed Abu Minyar Gaddafi: killed by the United States military or by U.S.-backed forces.

Kim would be crazy to take the deal. Lunatic. MAD. If Bolton is pushing it earnestly, he’s an idiot. But if Trump is using him as “bad cop” in a good cop/bad cop routine, that might work.

Is there a badder cop in America than John Bolton?

I know what I would offer Kim: make him a king.

That is, make Kim king . . . or de facto king, but under a constitutional monarchy where his powers would be limited to two: ceremonial and Defender of the Realm — that is, head of the military. Give him a tax base and let North Korea be as free as such a thing could be.

There might have to be another word for “king,” I suppose. But the idea of a dual executive is very old. The Khazar empire was run by two figures, the Khagan and the Bek. The latter was in charge of the military. Normally one might offer Kim merely a figurehead role, but I don’t think he’d take that. He needs to be i n control of something.

Arguably, the United States should move to a dual executive, one selected by the people (or, better yet, the Electoral College as is) and the other selected by sortition from a limited pool of applicants pushed by the states (or some such).

In any case, Kim needs to be made an offer that would secure his life and some aspect of his prestige. Not because he deserves it, but because no real change can happen without doing so.

One does not need to be enthusiastic about such an offer, just reasonable.

Do you have a better idea? Am I crazy?

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Image credit: Bosch Fawstin’s great icon for Greg Gutfeld’s crowning John Bolton as “President” of his old Red Eye show. Note: Fawstin likes and admires Bolton, and will no doubt be really annoyed with what I have written above. Sorry, Mr. Fawstin — you are a great “illustwriter,” sure, but we disagree about a number of things. Reader — look over Fawstin’s work. He is very talented.

 

Categories Diplomacy, Politics, tyranny

A Conjecture I Have Not Yet Tested in a Meaningful Way (but which nevertheless seems to explain a whole lot)

Sibelius MONUMENT

Early adopters of a meme — which could be a folkway, a technology, an idea or whole ideology — are different from late adopters; indeed, early adopters are psychologically distinct from late adopters across time, even regarding the same idea.

This means that the early adopters of “progressive” statism in the 19th century and early 20th centuries do not look like current proponents of the same ideology. That is, because today’s progressives are late adopters — indeed, holdouts . . . as their ideology, once dominant, begins to receive significant cultural challenge — they are essentially conservative or reactionary in temper.

This explains current ideological conflict, and the outrageous censoriousness of the left. The people who think they are radicals are conservative, and the people who think themselves conservatives may, in psychological fact if not on some historical ideological maps, be the radicals.


From Alex Ross’s The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century (2008):

In 1984, the great American avant-garde composer Morton Feldman gave a lecture at the relentlessly up-to-date Summer Courses for New Music, in Darmstadt, Germany. ‘The people who you think are radicals might really be conservatives,’ Feldman said on that occasion. ‘The people who you think are conservative might really be radical.’ And he began to hum the Sibelius Fifth.

Categories Ideological currents, memetics, Psychology

Those Whom We Need Not Consult

When politicians speak of the inconvenience of the Constitution, or insinuate that it is “outdated,” we should neither be shocked nor impressed.

Thieves don’t like security systems, murderers don’t like electric chairs. We don’t ask an aggressor’s opinion of the law. Likewise, professional politicians* are the very last folks to listen to for judgments about the troubles associated with systems of limited government power.

Constitutions — explicit frameworks for the rule of law — are not designed to make it easy for politicians to do what politicians do.

A constitution is designed to protect the citizens from political government’s historical and ongoing and seemingly inevitable excesses.

States rarely (if ever) arise “for the good of the people.” States arise by conquest and imposition, and are best at exploitation of some for the good of others. To curb the severity of the State’s innate “inconveniences,” law is marshaled against it, myths are erected to guide its behavior, ethical principles are held up to check its powers.

Which is why Jefferson wrote of the necessity of severe limits: “in questions of power then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the constitution.”

And the “man” most in need of such chains is not your everyday worker, or parent, or child, or loafer. It is the politician. Normal folks place so much confidence in politicians perhaps in impatience to go about their lives, or in desperation or hope. But it has been discovered, over the vast eons of history — the rise and fall of states and empires, kingdoms and republics, tyrannies and democracies and everything in between — that confidence in leadership is over-rated.

Hence the need for limits on government. Written constitutions have been tried. But because they are in the hands of politicians to interpret and rewrite and skirt, they have proved imperfect.

But that does not mean that they should be gotten rid of. Still, if we could find a better way to limit state power than parchment rule-of-law frameworks, it might be a good idea to look into it. For what all government limits point to is the limits that liberty itself requires. “Liberty is the only thing we cannot have unless we give it to others,” William Allen White said.

Another quotation suggests even better the limits at the heart of liberty: “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.”

“Constitutionality” is the practical concern with such limits.

And we cannot trust politicians to provide it. Nor should we be surprised when we see politicians balk. We should even remain a bit suspicious when they play encomiast to the concept.

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* Throughout this piece, by “politician” I mean the professional pol. In other contexts, citizens are also politicians, as well, insofar as they attempt, through activism, argumentation, litigation, or voting, to influence the State. But come to think of it, this points to a problem inherent in the question of “whom to trust” regarding matters of constitutionality. For even citizens play politician . . . and can be as corrupt or evil as any pol.

N.B. The visual “meme” is from my second memegenerator.net account: Wirkman. (Not my first, Lucian.) The Jefferson quotation is from the draft of the Kentucky Resolutions. The famous “fist” quote turns out to have been written by one Zechariah Chafee.

Categories Basic Principles, Constitutional Concerns, tyranny

How to Lose in Politics (Without Really Trying)

NOPE to Trump

Once upon a time, the center-left held great cultural power. It had taken the flag of the moral high ground away from traditional ethics and government by claiming the Civil Rights movement wins as their own, and proceeded to wave it in front of political opponents for decades.

What center-left activists knew how to do most effectively was marginalize and ignore by misdirection. Calling someone a racist or a sexist really hurt. With that in play — or by parlaying some more traditional outrage (like corruption) — center-left activists, mavens and politicians could ruin their opponents’ careers. Political careers. 

The first big success was taking down Nixon.

And ignoring inconvenient facts? They were masters of evasion, stonewalling, and spin.

But no more. They cannot seem to get marginalization and misdirection right — even though they scream about marginalization all the time . . . when practiced by their enemies, of course.*

Now their greatest hero, Barack Obama, is in danger of being found out. President Trump tweeted about the apparent scandal a few days ago:

I nearby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes — and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!

The left went nuts over this, of course. And tweeted it and memed it around helter skelter.

President Trump seems to be playing them like the proverbial fiddle, goading them into spreading the news about the scandal far and wide.

You don’t win that way. 

Which is good. They deserve to lose. And we need (if not deserve) better than they can offer.

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Categories Politics

Tyranny Is Just Around the Corner

In a far corner of Facebook I found someone citing two justices of the Supreme Court in an infamous marijuana case. I was pleased to be reminded of this. What follows are a few passages from the case, with my commentary — though what I write is indeed duplicative in spirit to the OP.

img_5132In the case of Gonzales v Raich the Supreme Court ruled that under the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution, Congress may criminalize the production and use of homegrown cannabis even if state law allows its use for medicinal purposes. But of course the ruling applies to a lot more than just marijuana.

Justice Stevens, writing in the majority opinion, proves himself to be quite the lawyer:

The case is extremely troublesome because respondents have made such a strong showing that they will suffer irreparable harm if denied the use of marijuana to treat their serious medical illness.

But the question before us is not whether marijuana does in fact have valid therapeutic purposes, nor whether it is a good policy for the Federal Government to enforce the Controlled Substances Act in these circumstances.

Rather, the only question before us is whether Congress has the power to prohibit respondents’ activities.

Of the dissents, Justice Clarence Thomas’s was the most interesting:

If the Federal Government can regulate growing a half-dozen cannabis plants for personal consumption (not because it is interstate commerce, but because it is inextricably bound up with interstate commerce), then Congress’ Article I powers — as expanded by the Necessary and Proper Clause — have no meaningful limits. Whether Congress aims at the possession of drugs, guns, or any number of other items, it may continue to ‘appropria[te] state police powers under the guise of regulating commerce.’

And what is the consequence of a lack of constitutional limits?

If the majority is to be taken seriously, the Federal Government may now regulate quilting bees, clothes drives, and potluck suppers throughout the 50 States. This makes a mockery of Madison’s assurance to the people of New York that the ‘powers delegated’ to the Federal Government are ‘few and defined,’ while those of the States are ‘numerous and indefinite.’

What Thomas has indicated, here, is simple: the federal government behaves in an unconstitutional manner as a matter of course. When Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was asked about the Constitutional rationale for Obamacare, for example, she expressed incredulity: “Are you serious? Are you serious?”

Politicians and ideologues are almost united in showing contempt for the Constitution and its structure.

For all our laws, we live in a lawless State. It is not just that the modern federal government exists by a sort of social consent that we may lie about the Constitution and that this is a good thing. Congress can make the general government do almost anything it wants, really, if enough politicians say so, and congresspeople think they get reëlected despite doing what they do.

This means that there are no effective foundational checks on government power. The checks are mainly political. Sure, lawyers still hold sway, and can use existing law even against existing political opponents — the whole Russiagate investigation sure seems like that is what is happening re Trump. But, at the merest crisis, we could slip into society-wide tyranny, not the little, sectoral tyrannies we now must endure. 

So, what is the bottom line? If you are an enthusiastic voter who is generally in favor of the shape of the U.S. Government and its wide regulatory reach, you are in league with the forces of tyranny. How so? By accepting all the little tyrannies we have now, and endorsing politicians who do not see themselves as in any way meaningfully checked by any constitutional structure.

I consider this no different in kind between apparatchiks in the Soviet Union or Nazi Party members in the Third Reich. It’s only a difference in degree.

We just haven’t had our Night of Long Knives yet.

twv

Categories Constitutional Concerns, Facebook

Stormy Whether

Stormy Daniels

The Stormy Daniels Affair has reached something like closure: it happened, but President Trump will not likely be prosecuted for failing to disclose the $130,000 that his lawyer paid the porn star to keep her mouth shut.

For those few Americans who doubted the porn star’s allegation — effectively making the case one of “Stormy Whether-or-Not” — Wednesday’s revelations pretty much clarify the whole seedy business. 

The White House still officially denies the story. But that’s just stonewalling in the modern post-Reagan/post-Clinton style. Besides, Trump is a liar.

Yes, now we know that the President of the United States, about a decade ago, had spent an intimate evening with a porn star. Who really doubted this?

It seems, uh, “Trumpian.” 

And Ms. Daniels seems very . . . ’ho’. Which is not a shock, either. I mean, she’s a porn star. To engage in sex acts for money is what porn stars do. And engaging in sex acts for money is what prostitutes do. Sure, ’tis a pity she’s a “’ho.’”

Worse yet, she is a blackmailer — a dishonest blackmailer. She took the money — and still squawked.

Regardless, this has never about whether she is what she is. Or whether we know this by analytic or synthetic argument. Neither has it ever been about the president’s character.

It has always been about whether he or his lawyer illegally used campaign funds (or contributed funds themselves) to pay her off.

And it is now settled. It was his own funds that were used: his lawyer paid the harlot, and Trump paid his legal harlot — I mean, lawyer. We are left with the small matter of Trump not filling out an FEC form to include the payment.

Since one should be able to spend any amount of money on one’s political campaign, and since (I believe) regulations requiring reporting are un-American, this is, legally, a big Nothing.

Impeachable? Maybe. But he won’t be impeached. Not for this affair. And it looks like Mueller will not prosecute, either.

At bottom this is just . . . ugly and dumb.

twv

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Categories Politics