“First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.” — Epictetus
If you want to make a change, start now instead of waiting for some arbitrary date on the calendar. Or at least that’s what I tell myself when new year’s resolution time rolls around. Then comes January 17 and March 22 and October 12 and I still haven’t gotten around to setting some modest goals let alone achieving them.
So, 2018 is one of the rare years I’ll actually write down some resolutions. I haven’t done this in several years, however, so I’ve accumulated so many goals that I’ll fill up several color-coded Excel spreadsheets and need to borrow an architect’s plotter printer for the Gantt chart. Hopefully, I can thin down my list before the clock strikes Midnight.
The stakes were upped Thursday when the US military dropped a MOAB on ISIS forces in eastern Afghanistan. Nicknamed the “Mother Of All Bombs,” the MOAB is the largest non-nuclear weapon ever used in combat, weighing 22,000 pounds and filled with 18,700 pounds of H6 explosive.
The MOAB creates explosive shockwaves through overpressure, especially in caves and canyons. Waves of pressure enter the narrow spaces, killing people and collapsing tunnels. This made the bomb ideal to use against the ISIS tunnel complex in the Nangahar province. Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., US commander in Afghanistan, said, “This is the right munition to reduce these obstacles and maintain the momentum of our offensive.” But what do generals know about military tactics compared to our nation’s journalists?
Donald Trump’s press conference Thursday was the worst political failure in presidential history. And the presser was the most deft performance by a President ever witnessed.
Wait … which of the above sentences is true? Depends who you ask. First, let’s look at the response of Trump’s detractors.
On Election Day 2008, many Democrats welcomed a new post-racial America. The hideous blight of slavery and Jim Crow could never be forgotten, but our first African-American President would in some small way help atone for those sins and ultimately transcend them. Even Republicans shared the emotions of Grant Park, where thousands crying elderly blacks finally saw that America could elect a person of color.
Despite these bipartisan hopes, the nation is more racially obsessed than it has been in 25 years. In a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, 63 percent of Americans think race relations are “generally bad.” Shortly after Obama took office, that number was 22 percent. In the same time period, those who think race relations are “generally good” plummeted from 66 percent to 32 percent.
Of course, Obama fans assert that this increase in racial division is due to white contempt for a black president. This is illogical since months after he took office, the American people thought racial harmony was higher than it had ever been. So what changed?
Between jeremiads decrying “fake news,” the mainstream media has created and advanced the biggest fake news story of 2016: That the presidential election was hacked.
The old adage says, “write what you know.” As you can see from my profile picture, I know coffee. As a little kid, my Finnish uncle would roust me before dawn to go fishing, then serve us the morning’s catch with heavily sweetened java. I started guzzling the stuff in earnest as a 13-year-old paper boy. Over time, I used less cream and sugar, so by the middle of high school I was slamming down black coffees before trig class. (I was also very ADD, so I apologize to my mom and teachers for being such an annoying spaz.)
There are a zillion ways to make coffee, many of them complicated and insanely expensive. But after trying most, I can tell you that simple and cheap is the best way to brew the finest damn cup of joe you’ve ever tasted.
The Brothers Karamazov is Fyodor Dostoevsky’s final masterpiece. It offers superb characterization, psychological depth and insight; intrigue, murder, and suspense; great daubs of humor, both madcap broadsides and satirical with a capital slice; that never-ending, cyclonical struggle between faith and reason; a sublimely Slavic melange of love, lust, deception, betrayal, violence, flight, revenge, apostasy, and redemption—capped off by a court trial scene that overrules Perry Mason and, in the renowned chapter The Grand Inquisitor, a full-court press by an impassioned Hierarch against Jesus’ abandonment of mankind to a terrifying freedom and overwhelming spiritual responsibility it neither wanted nor could manage that alone is worth the price of the book.
All right, I didn’t write the paragraph above (stole it from here), but it’s similar to what I would have cribbed from my CliffsNotes had I spent high school reading classics instead of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and the D&D Monster Manual. A few years back I decided to make up for my literature deficit by reading at least one classic a year. Liked Moby Dick, loved The Kalevala, and 2016 was the year I’d finally read the book that smart people have told me to read for decades, The Brothers Karamazov. So what did I think of this, the greatest Russian novel ever written?
Eh. It was a bit of slog.
The English language evolves quickly. New terms emerge and old ones die with remarkable speed, especially in our accelerated age. Changes in culture, technology, and entertainment are often the catalysts, but more and more, the pursuit of social justice is the cause.
The latter leads to what author Steven Pinker named the “euphemism treadmill.” One term is deemed offensive, so it is replaced with a new term, which, over time, is deemed offensive itself.
A good example of this comes from the field of mental health. Offended by hopelessly vague and unscientific terms like “crazy” and “madness,” early psychologists chose sterile, humane terms such as “moron,” “imbecile,” and “idiot.” But if you happened to visit a schoolyard any time after the Harding administration, you know it didn’t take long for kids to yell those well-meaning terms as they pantsed the kid with his tongue stuck to the flagpole.
The internet features lots of snark, but precious little wit. Spend any time on social media, and you’ll find that most confuse the two.
Wit is defined as “the keen perception and cleverly apt expression of those connections between ideas that awaken amusement and pleasure.” Snark is “to be critical in a rude or sarcastic way.” Of course, sarcasm and rudeness can be funny, but the problem with most snark is its purely negative intent. Don Rickles is obnoxiously rude but everyone knows he doesn’t mean it. And funny sarcasm contains a wink to the recipient that it’s all in good fun. But snark holds the subject in contempt and the goal is harm and virtue signaling to the cool kids.
I joined the GOP when I turned 18, just weeks after Ronald Reagan’s re-election. Since I was unable to vote in that race, I accompanied one of my conservative friends to the polling place as a kind of silent vote. I had become a big Reagan fan in high school and began learning more about conservatism through Goldwater, various books on the Cold War, and National Review. (That made me quite the hit with the ladies, as you might imagine.)
These early studies of policy, patriotism, and civic virtue led me to enlist in the US Navy and, once I got to college, challenge my ex-hippie professors. For years I voted along party lines, donated to Republican candidates, and volunteered for their campaigns. I was proud to belong to the party of Abraham Lincoln, Calvin Coolidge, and, of course, Ronaldus Magnus. Even when Bush Sr. raised taxes, some GOP congressman floated bizarre conspiracy theories about Clinton, and Tom DeLay’s House spent us into oblivion, I still identified with the party’s higher ideals. Limited government. Peace through strength. Personal freedom.