Double Voting; Hostage Freed; Lessons of Troy

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Good morning, it’s Tuesday, June 11, 2019. Today’s date is a testament to the idea that even a great cultural, economic, and military power such as the United States can be brought down by hubris -- or stealth. It’s an ancient theme, literally.

On June 111184 B.C., according to the calculations of Greek mathematician and astronomer Eratosthenes, Troy was sacked and burned. I’ll have more on this in a moment. First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion columns spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following:

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Impasse Blocks Effort to Fix Calif. Double-Voting Loophole. Susan Crabtree explores how officials in one county have been thwarted in their attempts to address the problem.

Iran Frees U.S. Resident Held for Three Years. Susan has this story also.

Blumenthal’s Pro-Abortion Bill Removes All Choice. Thomas Jipping finds much to dislike in the Women’s Health Protection Act.

Devaluation Weakens Us, Imports Improve Us. RealClearMarkets editor John Tamny writes that “conservatives would be wise to re-acquaint themselves with these basic economic truths.”

Why Is There Magnetite in the Human Brain? RealClearScience editor Ross Pomeroy spotlights a geobiologist’s theory.

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The tragedy that befell Troy three millennia ago is among the oldest written stories in Western civilization. It was first an oral history passed down among the ancient Greeks for centuries by the time Homer wrote it down -- in an alphabet he helped create for that purpose. As best we can tell, Homer lived about 800 years before the birth of Christ. In “The Iliad,” he's describing events that occurred some 400 years before his time.

(The story was later revisited by the Roman poet Virgil in “The Aeneid.” In that version, a Trojan named Aeneas is told by a comrade, “We’ve had our day, our power, our glory. A heartless Jove has handed all to the Greeks. Our city is ashes! Greece is lord!”)

In one of the most memorable lines of Homer’s account -- so vivid it was repeated by Brad Pitt in the 2004 movie “Troy” -- a vengeful Achilles tells Hector in front of the gates of the city, “There are no pacts between lions and men.”

But in Homer's telling, Achilles' words contain a self-destructive element. Hector is requesting modest terms before their fight to the death: He's only asked Achilles to agree that the loser’s body will not be desecrated.

“Don’t talk to me of pacts," Achilles snarls in reply. “There are no binding covenants between men and lions. Wolves and lambs can enjoy no meeting of the minds. They are all bent on hating each other to the death. So [it is] with you and me. No love between us. No truce until one or the other falls and gluts with blood.”

The blood spilled is Hector's, but with his dying breath, the Trojans' vanquished hero predicts that Achilles' contemptuousness will lead to his own death. I’m not making a direct connection to how Donald Trump supporters treated Hillary Clinton in 2016 (or even, necessarily, how Democrats are treating President Trump today). Arrogance takes many forms, and anyway, other lines and lessons from “The Iliad” have more obvious relevance to our times. I’m thinking now about Homer's observation about “the most preferable of evils.”

Today, this concept is usually rendered as the “lesser of two evils,” and the frequency with which this sentiment is invoked during election time in the United States ought to give both Republicans and Democrats pause.

It might, however, have reminded American moviegoers from an earlier generation of a more lighthearted invocation of that concept, the one Mae West used in “Klondike Annie.”

“Well, when I’m caught between two evils,” she quipped, "I generally like to take the one I never tried.” 

Carl M. Cannon  
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics
@CarlCannon (Twitter)

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington bureau chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

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