Evan’s Friday Briefing: 6/23/17

Welcome to the 6/23/17 edition of “Evan’s Friday Briefing,” a quick list of what I’ve been enjoying, learning, and trying out.

Long YouTube Video I’m Enjoying

Vox Day and Stefan Molyneux discussing Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment.”

Book I’ve Been Rereading

Machiavelli’s “The Prince.” Getting a lot more out of it the second time around.

Theological Work I Recently Started

Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev’s “Christ the Conqueror of Hell: The Descent into Hades from an Orthodox Perspective.” I’m Roman Catholic, not Eastern Orthodox, but the Orthodox Church is as equally apostolic as the RCC. I have great respect for the Orthodox and find their history and theology rich and fascinating. I’ll never stop praying for reunification.

My Tip Of The Day

One of my mentors passed on this tip in an email exchange and felt it was worth a share: Reading is never ever a waste of time or mind. Even if you lived to be 100 and did nothing but read and sleep, you still wouldn’t get around to many of the books you wanted to read. Cherish each minute you spend reading, and if you don’t like a book, stop reading it. Life’s too short to read books you hate reading.

Great Quote I’ve Been Ruminating On

“There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. Yet that will be the beginning.” – Louis L’Amour

The Thucydides Trap in the White House

Remember my post a few days ago on two new books about a possible Sino-American war? Well Graham Allison, one of the authors, recently discussed his book with a group of White House staffers.

Politico:

The 77-year-old Allison is the author of a recent book based on the writings of Thucydides, the ancient historian famous for his epic chronicle of the Peloponnesian War between the Greek states of Athens and Sparta. Allison cites the Greek scholar’s summation of why the two powers fought: “What made war inevitable was the growth of Athenian power and the fear which this caused in Sparta.” He warns that the same dynamic could drive this century’s rising empire, China, and the United States into a war neither wants. Allison calls this the “Thucydides Trap,” and it’s a question haunting some very important people in the Trump administration, particularly as Chinese officials arrive Wednesday for “diplomatic and security dialogue” talks between Washington and Beijing designed, in large part, to avoid conflict between the world’s two strongest nations.

It might seem curious that an ancient Greek would cast a shadow over a meeting between a group of diplomats and generals from America and Asia. Most Americans probably don’t know Thucydides from Mephistopheles. But the Greek writer is a kind of demigod to international relations theorists and military historians, revered for his elegant chronicle of one of history’s most consequential wars, and his timeless insights into the nature of politics and warfare. The Yale University historian Donald Kagan calls Thucydides’ account “a source of wisdom about the behavior of human beings under the enormous pressures imposed by war, plague, and civil strife.”

There are some big fans of Thucydides in the White House too, including Steve Bannon:

Thucydides is especially beloved by the two most influential figures on Trump’s foreign policy team. National security adviser H.R. McMaster has called Thucydides’ work an “essential” military text, taught it to students and quoted from it in speeches and op-eds. Defense Secretary James Mattis is also fluent in Thucydides’ work: “If you say to him, ‘OK, how about the Melian Dialogue?’ he could tell you exactly what it is,” Allison says—referring to one particularly famous passage. When former Defense Secretary William Cohen introduced him at his confirmation hearing, Cohen said Mattis was likely the only person present “who can hear the words ‘Thucydides Trap’ and not have to go to Wikipedia to find out what it means.”

That’s not true in the Trump White House, where another Peloponnesian War aficionado can be found in the office of chief strategist Steve Bannon. A history buff fascinated with grand conflict, Bannon once even used “Sparta”—one of the most militarized societies history has known—as a computer password. (“He talked a lot about Sparta,” his former Hollywood writing partner, Julia Jones, told The Daily Beast. An unnamed former colleague recalled for the New Yorker Bannon’s “long diatribes” about the Peloponnesian War.)

In an August 2016 article for his former employer, Breitbart News, Bannon likened the conservative media rivalry between Breitbart and Fox News to the Peloponnesian War, casting Breitbart as the disciplined warrior state of Sparta challenging a decadently Athenian Fox. There’s also NSC spokesman Michael Anton, a student of the classics who owns two copies of Thucydides’ fabled work. (“The acid test for me is: Do you read the Hobbes translation?” he says. “If you’ve read that translation, you’ve got my respect.”)

Trump Wins “Referendum”

An important U.S. House election took place in Georgia’s sixth congressional district last night. The liberal media kept referring to it as a “referendum” on Trump’s presidency, and sure enough, Trump passed.

Fox News:

Republican Karen Handel on Tuesday night defeated rival Jon Ossoff in Georgia’s record-spending, special-election congressional race, keeping yet another House seat in GOP hands and denying Democrats a chance to deliver a rebuke to President Trump.

With all precincts reporting, Handel, a former Georgia secretary of state, led Ossoff 52 percent to 48 percent — a margin of nearly 11,000 votes out of more than 250,000 ballots cast.

The race smashed fundraising records for a House contest — with both campaigns and outside groups combining to spend a record $50 million.

Ossoff’s defeat was another setback for Democrats hoping to capitalize on Trump’s low approval ratings to win a long-standing Republican seat.

It was the party’s fourth straight defeat this year in attempts to win a Republican seat and take the momentum into the 2018 midterms. They now must win 24 GOP House seats to retake control of the chamber next year.

Whenever the media thinks they have Trump in a corner, he manages to escape every time. He may not win every battle, but he won this one handily.

Two observations: 1) The polls heading into the election were wrong once again and 2) Ossoff spent $30 million and still lost. How many times have we seen this pattern of the Democratic candidate polling too high and the biggest spender ending up losing?

Meanwhile, Democrats are scrambling to figure out why they keep losing over and over again. The theories are numerous: focusing too much on the Russian investigation, being too reactive to Trump, not having a clear vision, losing touch with the average American, etc.

2018 is going to be an interesting election year.

Steve Bannon Has Sense of Humor, Liberals Don’t

When asked via text message why press briefings are no longer on camera, Steve Bannon responded with the following:

“Sean got fatter.”

Chelsea Clinton, like most liberals, take everything too seriously. So she tweeted this in response:

Yes, Chelsea, it is the current year. So what?

When informed it was a joke, she said this:

Well ok then.

Jeet Heer of New Republic has also written an article calling Bannon’s joke a prime example of “everything that’s wrong with the White House.” Tell us how you really feel!

Happening in Belgium

If this was an attempt at a terrorist attack, it doesn’t sound like it went very well for the terrorist, fortunately.

ABC News:

A train station in Brussels, Belgium, was evacuated today after an explosion, a senior Belgian law enforcement official told ABC News. Police said the situation is “under control.”

One suspect has been shot by the military after the explosion at Brussels Central Station, the official said.

Several Belgian officials told ABC News that the suspect was wearing what appeared to be an explosive belt, but authorities have yet to confirm whether it was real.

There are no reports of fatalities at this point, a senior Belgian law enforcement official said.

Eyewitness Arash Aazami told ABC News he heard two explosions and gunfire. He was sheltering inside a restaurant as he told ABC News there was a heavy presence of military, ambulances and police.

Resort Town Built by Third Reich Redeveloped and Reopened

A Third Reich-era resort town built on the Baltic Sea is now open to the public after years of renovations.

CNBC:

More than 75 years after Adolph Hitler’s commissioned a dream tourist destination nestled near the Baltic Sea, the Nazi-era resort has been redeveloped for the general public.

Prora, which is located on the north eastern German Baltic coast on Rüegen Island, was originally commissioned by Hitler as a massive, 4.5 kilometers long beach holiday resort complex for German workers, under a program called “Strength through Joy.”

The original plans called for a festival hall and rooms located in eight, 450 meter-long blocks to accommodate 20,000 guests, with each room facing the sea. However, construction halted in 1939, and during World War II the complex housed Soviet soldiers. Decades later, the German government, which assumed administration after 1989, sold the five existing blocks to private investors.

Fast forward to 2017, and Prora is now a massive real estate development. While some parts are still in ruins, others have been rehabilitated to include a hotel, holiday apartments, a museum and a youth hostel.

“Strength Through Joy” was the world’s largest tourist program in the 1930s but fell by the wayside due to the Second World War. The massive project had a pragmatic goal in spurring the German economy and an ideological goal in fostering the Volksgemeinschaft, the National Socialist ideal of bringing Germans of all classes together into a single national (and thus racial) purpose.

Go here to check out Prora. Plenty of pictures!