Luke’s Weekly Dispatch 1/15/17

This week started off in Washington D.C., where I was attending the Hertog Foundation’s seminar on the Iraq War taught by Paul Wolfowitz and Scooter Libby alongside my friends Marshall Kosloff and Nayeli Riano among others. It was interesting hearing those who prosecuted the war give their explanations for why they did what they did, especially in light of the legacies they had to protect. I got to portray the Secretary of Defense in simulation, which was fun.

Aside from the usual drinks with classmates and such, I made a point over the course of the five days of the seminar to visit several people in my DC network, as I usual do while passing through the City of Power. The day before the event, Jan. 4th, I had breakfast at the indomitable Founding Farmers with my dear cousin Thomas, scurried off to meet the impressive Lina Abisoghomyan and discuss podcast business, walked past the White House to meet my intellectual idol and mentor Michael Lind at New America (a meeting which as usual sparked plenty of thoughts,) and had a late dinner (which I organized) with most of the class. In the free time over the next five days, what little there was, I schemed with my fellow moderate John Burns, discussed book-writing with my friend and mentor the historian of the moderate Republicans Geoffrey Kabaservice down in Alexanderia, was inspired to not preclude another run for public office by my CRS friend Raj, and had drinks with the brilliant TAI writer, my friend Nick Gallagher, at the suit-and-tie DC University Club. I had a brief hot chocolate in Dupont Circle with Nayeli before catching the metro down to Springfield and getting picked up by my Dad.

I had a good night with my family that last night before flying out to Los Angeles. Jingles was as beautiful as always, and my mom and dad and sister all sat around on the couches making jokes and thinking about the future. (Jake and Zach had left for Ohio State a few days before.)

The next morning Dad dropped me off at Reagan Airport and after a long, uneventful flight, I touched down in Los Angeles. I stopped at AhiPoki almost as soon as I got home- Hawaiian Poke is a delicacy to me- and proceeded to clean emails, read articles, and do general bookkeeping work. First day of class for me was Wednesday, a political philosophy- as distinguished from political science or political theory- class with Professor Anthony Kammas. I’ve been meaning to read Marx and other European political thinkers, so this class will be beneficial to my own self-education (though my love remains with American political philosophy.) I encountered an old friend from the Unruh Institute’s Cerrell Seminar, Mary Perez, and had a pleasant chat with her after class.

On Thursday the 12th I dressed in California formal- jeans, button up shirt with the top two buttons undone, black blazer- in preparation for the first day on the new job. (Back over break I had emailed John Cox to let him know I was interested in rejoining the Neighborhood Legislature ballot campaign, and he graciously took me in. I had worked for him for a few months in the Fall.)

After a wonderful coffee discussion with Sam Zhai, the recently baptized Catholic-turned-theology student, I picked up a Zipcar on Ellendale and drove out to meet Cox for an event in Chino Hills. We got dinner at a little Italian place and discussed my involvement on the future of the campaign-Cox wants me full time when I’m back from New Mexico in September (more on my forthcoming Philmont Scout Ranch job later) and I’m most likely going to take it. My professional goal is to help reform the national GOP and help rebuild the California GOP, and working on campaigns out here between now and the November 2018 election is probably the best way to build capital and gain experience to do that. Additionally, Cox is a great boss and I enjoy working for him.

We then drove over to the event at Calvary Chapel. John delivered the usual pitch to this right-leaning Christian audience, stressing the corruption of our state government due to special interest influence and the need for radical legislative reform to curb it. The response, as it usually is in right-leaning audiences, was generally positive. Some city councilmen from local towns were present and I made sure to get their cards. There was talk, in the announcements section at the end of the meeting, of organizing protests in an effort to shut down the local Planned Parenthood clinics. I’m a pro-life Catholic but the moderate in me believes intimidation tactics is a step far too far for comfort in a civil society. I stayed quiet, though, either out of prudence or cowardice- I’m not sure which.

The next day I met a few friends- Brian Mendoza, “Tubacabra” as we called him in the Trojan Marching Band; Alex Gregath, a charming and wonderful fellow intellectual friend who’s working to get into med school; and Mina, a Berber girl, a liberal Muslim, with whom I occasionally have political banter. I made the poor choice of getting a drink during happy hour- so it was two drinks, and I’m very much a lightweight- and then going to Leavey Library to study. Drunk studying doesn’t work well, as it turns out, and I went to sleep a lot earlier than I’d anticipated. The drinks were good, though.

Saturday I finally stopped by that new Bird’s Nest Café down the street and wasn’t too impressed, but at least it’s coffee. Aside from getting a lot of work done, the highlight of the day was going out to Westwood and meeting up with my good old friend Holly Chan for the first time in about five years. We chatted about life and then she had to get over to an event. But it’s always good seeing old friends and realizing that no matter how much people change, they’re usually always what you remember of them.

Sunday morning I took a run for the first time in a while, determined to get fit for the marathon coming up in March, to start feeling healthy again, and to be prepared for three months of leading trail crews in New Mexico this summer. I made a point of doing a few sets of pushups and crunches too. I won’t write the mileage here because it was wimpy and pathetic, especially considering that I’ve actually run a marathon before. But, I suppose you gotta start small. We’ll see how long I keep up the routine- hopefully for a good long time.

I received a FB message request from a guy working for a new website called The American Moderate, and chatted with him a bit. The American Moderate seems like a better-funded, better-organized, more fully-staffed version of the moderate reformist websites Heberto Limas-Villers and I have been trying to make succeed over the last few years. So I connected the guy, Fairooz, with Heberto and John Burns, suggesting collaboration or merger. I realized long ago that Heberto and I don’t have much talent on the business side of things, and that hurt the Progressive Republican League and The New Hamiltonian. Maybe if we wind up being bloggers or staff writers for The American Moderate, we can focus on content and let others worry about the business side of things.

In any case, regardless of how much I wind up writing for TAM, if anything at all, my main focus remains California politics for the foreseeable future. TAM could be a nice outlet for national commentary and party commentary.

Sunday evening I went to the USC Caruso Catholic Center community dinner and met a few interesting people, chatted with good friends, saw Father Jim for the first time in a while, and ate a lot of rice (so Asian, I know.) After dinner, I went to choir practice- yes, I’m technically a choir boy- and practiced with Scott Rieker & co. before mass. The songs weren’t anything special today, but nonetheless it’s always a real pleasure and joy to sing to God. It also gives me another interesting thing to do aside from mere reading, writing, and politicking.

After mass I came back here to write all this. That’ll probably be the normal pattern with this weekly journal- after mass on Sundays, I will retire to the library or my home to record the week.

So onto other things.

I’m trying to get back into good writing habits. I’m in maybe half-good reading habits- I almost always get through my daily briefings and articles on California, U.S. and world politics, but I rarely read from books. That’s a problem, and however this works I need to set more time aside to read books more, even if it’s just a chapter a day. Especially if I’m going to get anywhere near my goal of two books per week/100 books over the course of the year.

As for writing, I just need to get back into battle rhythm. Hopefully writing a daily blog post, Via Meadia style, for The American Moderate will help. Maybe keeping this weekly journal will help too. I’m making a point of outlining a couple of series for Fox & Hounds, some essays for The American Interest, and other pieces for the Nixon Foundation blog, NewGeography, CityWatchLA, and other sites. If you’re a writer, you might as well be a prolific writer. Sometimes you just need to put pen to paper and the ideas already floating around your head will form themselves and come out whole, like Athena bursting from the head of Zeus fully formed. I just don’t know where to start. Start with something.

The big political news this week, at least in my intellectual universe, was the continuing flow of statements from the California Democrats concerning resistance to President Trump and the conservative-led federal government. From Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer’s (whom I ran against, briefly, this last summer- more on that later) Medium piece declaring that he was “ready for war” with Trump’s Washington, to Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom’s declaration that the California Environmental Quality Act could and should be use to preclude Trump’s border wall with Mexico from being built- so THAT’S what CEQA’s about, they admitted it!- the California Democrats are engaging in dangerous rhetoric and quite likely wading into dangerous waters concerning federal supremacy and states’ rights. I have no sympathy for the Trump Administration, but actively flipping off the President of the United States doesn’t seem like something our public servants should be doing. And I understand the complexity of the issues involved, particularly the question over deportation or protection of the undocumented immigrants residing in California. But the law of the land is the law of the land, and actions amounting to nullification weaken the fabric of our Constitution, not strengthen it. (To be fair, I’m aware of the Texas and Arizona governments doing the same thing in the Obama Administration. I don’t condone that, either.)

We’ll see what happens with this journal and how long I keep it going. To be quite honest I hope it’s forever- it would be nice to keep a running memoir going, especially as a resource if I ever need to look back for information. But that’s a question of personal discipline and will.

This coming week should be full of interesting meetings, travels, and thoughts. I hope to publish at least one piece if not more. President-elect Trump becomes President Trump on Friday. I’ll have some thoughts on that.

In the meantime, journal, I’ll see you in a week.

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