Snippets

In Lupin, the mystery drama currently on Netflix, one nefarious character said to another the notable cliché of financial crime dramas: “The money will be transferred to an offshore account in the Cayman Islands.” Are there onshore accounts in the Caymans?

I watched the delightful first season of Kim’s Convenience, also on Netflix. I learned that in spite of logic and experience, it is always delightful, summery weather in Toronto.

It seems years ago, but it was actually only a few seasons back, that conservative politicians and commentators were railing against “sanctuary cities.” These were localities that did not always obey federal requests to detain a person whom feds claimed was an undocumented migrant. In what was a common situation, a person driving to work was stopped by local police for a traffic offense. The detainee, call him Sean, would have his fingerprints sent off to the FBI. Someone at the FBI would conclude that Sean was not in the country legally and would send a request to the local police to detain him until the feds could get a legal detention warrant. The FBI detention request was just that—a request. It is not a legal order to keep someone behind bars. Sanctuary cities, acting within the law, did not honor such requests. Indeed, detention because of an FBI request beyond what was authorized by the local law might have proven illegal. Whether the locality’s policy was wise or not, it caused something akin to apoplexy among conservative politicians and commentators who claimed that the rule of law was ending and everyone in a sanctuary city was in mortal danger from a horde of undocumented aliens. Following the lead of at least eight other states, Missouri has recently enacted a law that threatens a penalty of $50,000 against any local policing agency that enforces certain federal gun laws and regulations. This is, of course, analogous to the policies of sanctuary cities, but don’t expect to hear a similar outcry about “sanctuary states” from conservative politicians and commentators.

Old saying: It’s not fair to have a battle of wits with an unarmed man.

If you are a non-conservative, shouldn’t you reconsider leftist politics and actions when you learn what has happened in Portland, Oregon?

I wonder how many people who have opinions about the 1619 Project have read at least a quarter of it.

In one of my first post-Covid trips onto the subway, I was greeted by a usual sight. A young man, speaking so that the entire car could hear him, said that he was staying out of trouble by selling M&M’s and other sugary snacks for a buck a pop. As the train approached the next station, he got ready to exit and move to another car. He then enjoined, “Don’t buy a Lotto ticket. Don’t go to the liquor store. My candy is guaranteed.” And I wondered what that guarantee was and how I would ever collect on it.

Two Miami men sat at the next table after a round of golf. After introductions, my companion asked them if they were concerned about the rising water levels in Florida. They said that Dade County was taking some steps to alleviate high water, but nothing as drastic as a sea wall. One of them continued, “I’m not really that concerned; I’ll be dead.” I wondered if I would adopt that attitude if I lived in Miami.

Hail, Hail Hillsdale (concluded)

(This entire essay will be posted again in order on Wednesday, April 1.)

The last two questions of the Hillsdale College survey on the Electoral College were not about the constitutional provision but were meant to promote Hillsdale’s outreach efforts. However, the last question about the Electoral College, was, in technical polling terms, a doozy. It said I could check any or all the answers to the question, “Why do you think the movement to do away with the Electoral College has been so successful as it is?” You might wonder about their definition of “successful.” The Electoral College is with us. No constitutional amendment to abolish it recently has even passed Congress and been sent to the states. The odds that the Electoral College will not be with us for our next presidential election are about as large as me winning the 100 meter race at the Olympics. Or me being mistaken for Marilyn Monroe. (I’ve been thinking about Rudy Giuliani again.)

The answers, however, were doozier than the question. First, I could pick that civics education has been neglected. I can’t tell if Hillsdale thinks American civics has always been deficient or if they think that is a recent phenomenon. If recent, then views about the EC should vary significantly by age, and those of us of a certain age should have markedly different views of the Electoral College from those whose knees still work because our civics education was not neglected. Although there are many reasons why views of the Electoral College might differ by age besides changing civics courses, Hillsdale might have found it useful or at least interesting to capture the age differences of the respondents. However, the poll, while asking for my name and email address (Why? They already have that information or I would not have gotten their poll. Or did they want my name and email for some big brother thing? Cue Jaws music again.), did not ask for my age.

The second choice for explaining why the movement to rid us of the Electoral College had been so successful is that because “too many Americans are so overcome with partisanship that they forget how the Electoral College works to unify the country” and ensures representation of all regions and interests. On the one hand, according to this answer, the Electoral College unifies; on the other, the country is split by forgetful partisans. They are going to need to explain to me that positive unification function again because they have told me in the same sentence that it is not working.

 The third choice offers me an explanation that all of the left-wing media and in particular “The New York Times’ ‘1619 Project’” has undermined “informed patriotism by promoting a biased distortion of our nation’s history and our Constitution.” I wondered how many Kevin Bacon degrees of separation it takes to get logically from The 1619 Project to efforts to reform the Electoral College. It can’t be a straight (nor logical) path. In addition, those Times articles are eighteen months old, and almost all adults surely must have formed impressions of our presidential selection process long before that. Efforts to change the Electoral College existed well before The 1619 Project was published or printed. And surely, if The Project caused this reaction to the Electoral College, Hillsdale must think that since the 1776 Commission report is now available to all, everything is looking rosy. (Cue “Put on a Happy Face.”)

I then came to the fourth and last option for an answer to why Electoral College reform proposals have been so successful. It allowed me to check off “Unsure.” There were no more responses. I was not given any options such as the movement to change the Electoral College has been “successful” because a) it is a good idea; b) because “the people” want a more democratic country; c) because the Electoral College was an unfortunate historical accident; d) because each vote in our country should count equally; e) because each voter in the country should have an equal incentive to vote; or f) any other reason. I was reminded of Stephen Colbert’s regular shtick a decade ago when he would ask liberal guests whether George W. Bush was merely a great president or whether he was the greatest.

The Hillsdale poll is not a serious one even though it purportedly “will help Hillsdale College more clearly understand the views of mainstream Americans concerning this issue—views we will make available to policymakers and opinion leaders.” Apparently if I fill it out, I can now count myself for one of the few times ever as a mainstream American. That is a mighty incentive to do so, but I need a few more options in the answers than the ones I am offered, and any American, mainstream, sidestream, slipstream, upstream, or downstream, should feel the same if they do a modicum of thinking or research about how we select our president.

I have gotten and seen other polls that are equally as partisan as this one, but almost always these are from overtly advocacy groups. (I have been approached on the street by solicitors for the American Humane Association, for example, with, “Do you love animals?” They never seem to think mine is the right answer: “I love to eat them.”) I am not surprised when political parties or other partisan groups send me senseless, leading questions. Hillsdale College, however, claims not to be an advocacy group or a clown show. It claims to be an institution dedicated to upholding and promoting the standards of a rigorous education, and therefore it should be held to different standards from partisan or advocacy groups. It should be seeking to enlighten not indoctrinate with shoddy history and worse logic.

However, if this drivel on the Electoral College is meant as an example of the historical knowledge or critical thinking Hillsdale imparts, this conservative college is failing its students and, sadly, the country. And my ladies and lassies, perhaps you can join me in shedding a few more tears for the further dumbing down of America.

On the other hand, some of the Hillsdale online lecture offerings still intrigue me.

Hail, Hail Hillsdale

          The Constitution was missing. I work at two different desks, and in easy reach on both desks I keep a pocket-sized copy of our fundamental charter. I was at one of those desks participating by Zoom in a history book club discussion. Wanting to make a point, I reached for the ever-present Constitution, but it was not there. After the meeting, I searched unavailingly for it. I assumed that I had inadvertently mingled the little booklet together with other papers slated for disposal. This straighten-up-the-office routine does not happen often. A few weeks before, though, I had put sheets of paper into a cardboard box for recycling, but the box remained on the floor next to the desk. I went through it. The Constitution was still missing. I did not regard the missing Constitution as a metaphor for our recent politics, as I might have done—I considered it merely mystifying.

          I felt out of sorts without my Constitution. I did find that the fundamental charter was printed in the back of one of my legal books. I knew that it was easy to find online. I know there are apps that provide the Constitution. But I knew that for me sought-for constitutional provisions were more easily found in the pocket-sized booklets than elsewhere. My local bookstore’s website said that the store had something akin to a pamphlet-sized copy, but I was going to have pay ten bucks for it, and I feel that the Constitution should be free. A friend who is teaching a college course in legal history had obtained a trove of Constitutions to hand out to his class and offered me one, but with the coronavirus, I was not seeing him except on Zoom and that would not get me a copy.

          Then I remembered that some organizations online offered free, pocket-sized Constitutions. I went surfing and quickly found two sources. I don’t think you can really draw a statistical conclusion when the n is 2, but both were from conservative entities.

          I ordered the document from each source. Both told me that my free Constitution—no requirement to pay even shipping and handling—would arrive in six weeks. There was no explanation from either as to why it would take so long, and they did not tell me how I was supposed to fight for freedom in the interim. Two months later, a copy from each has finally arrived. But, of course, emails from both organization started appearing within hours of my requests. And surprise, surprise—although the Constitution is free, each organization will be willing to take money from me; indeed, they regularly beseech me for donations. They do more than that, however. One sees itself as a fighter for religious freedom, and they send me articles about that topic. The other is Hillsdale College, a small, private liberal arts college in southern Michigan. Known for a curriculum that stresses the Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian traditions, Hillsdale got national attention several decades ago when it gave up all government moneys and therefore no longer had to comply with federal and state laws concerning racial and other discrimination. Hillsdale’s college president is Larry Arnn, best known nationally these days for chairing Trump’s 1776 Commission on “patriotic education,” which was formed in response to the New York Times “1619 Project,” detailing America’s racist history. (The executive director of the 1776 Commission was Matthew Spalding, a Hillsdale vice president.)

          Hillsdale has kindly emailed me a copy of the 1776 report, but I have yet to read its forty-five pages. The college has also encouraged me if I visit their campus to tour, not their library or their biology labs, but their John A. Halter Shooting Sports Center, completed during Arnn’s tenure as president. The shooting center surprised me because I was not aware that rifle ranges were an essential component of the classical Greek or Roman world or that skeet traps were part of traditional Judaism. On the other hand, I did know that since the Reformation, guns have played a large part in helping believers in Christ impose their religion on native heathens around the globe; fight other Christians who believed in some different and therefore unholy doctrine; use them often in crimes; and of course, employ them in suicides.

          Hillsdale also touted an array of free online courses. Many seemed of interest: “The Genesis Story: Reading Biblical Narratives”; “Winston Churchill and Statesmanship”; and “The Young Jane Austen: Northanger Abbey.” Since I came to Hillsdale to get a copy of the Constitution, I thought it only fitting that I take “Constitution 101: The Meaning and History of the Constitution.” The course had accompanying texts, most of which I had read and did not read again, but I did watch the twelve lectures, which averaged about thirty minutes each. The presenters, sitting in a room with burning candles presumably to give a colonial feel, were good. I was never bored. At the end of each lecture, a multiple-choice quiz of about a dozen questions was offered. (You will be shocked, shocked I say, but I did not always get 100 percent.) I took another test at the course’s conclusion. I passed and got a certificate announcing my constitutional proficiency. I did print it out to show one and all (one and all in this case was the spouse), but I have not yet (?) had it framed for presentation.

(continued March 24)