Friday, May 24, 2019

Photo of the Day: ‘An Universal and Unmoving Cloud’—Beaufort SC

“The sky above us showed
An universal and unmoving cloud,
On which, the cliffs permitted us to see
Only the outline of their majesty,
As master-minds, when gazed at by the crowd!
And, shining with a gloom, the water grey
Swang in its moon-taught way.”—English poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861), “A Sea-Side Walk,” in Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Poems and Letters (Everyman’s Library, 2003)

While vacationing in Hilton Head, SC, in November 2014, I took a day trip to the nearby Lowcountry community of Beaufort. It also impressed me with its lovely seaside views, as you can tell from this photo I took at the time.

Quote of the Day (P. G. Wodehouse, on How to Deal With ‘A Fat Man in a Yachting Cap’)

"When you see a fat man in a yachting cap, horn-rimmed spectacles, plus fours, and black and white buckskin shoes, I maintain that there is convincing evidence of premeditation and that the matter should be firmly dealt with by the proper authorities." — English humorist P. G. Wodehouse (1881–1975), Louder and Funnier (1932)

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Quote of the Day (James Joyce, on ‘The Object of the Artist’)

“The object of the artist is the creation of the beautiful. What the beautiful is, is another question.”—Irish novelist and short-story writer James Joyce (1882-1941), A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916)

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Quote of the Day (Michelle Obama, on the ‘Truly Strong’)

“People who are truly strong lift others up. People who are truly powerful bring others together.”—Former U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, “The Full Transcript of Michelle Obama's Powerful New Hampshire Speech,” The Guardian (U.K.), Oct. 14, 2016

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Quote of the Day (Robert Benchley, on ‘The Secret of My Incredible Energy and Efficiency’)

“The secret of my incredible energy and efficiency in getting work done is a simple one. I have based it very deliberately on a well-known psychological principle and have refined it so that it is now almost too refined. I shall have to begin coarsening it up again pretty soon.

“The psychological principle is this: anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn't the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.”—American humorist and actor Robert Benchley (1889-1945), Chips Off the Old Benchley (1949)

Monday, May 20, 2019

Quote of the Day (Rob Long, Channeling John Bolton and His Boss)

[The President of the United States has placed a call.]

POTUS: “Listen, can we talk, like, honestly? We gotta do something about John Bolton. He’s not getting the job done. Is it a whole thing if I fire the guy, I mean, you fire the guy? Should you fire him?”

Unidentified male voice: “Sir, I am John Bolton. You called me.”

POTUS: “I know that. I was just raising the issue, on a think-about-it basis.”

Unidentified Male Voice: “Are you unhappy with my performance, sir?”

POTUS: “No. Of course not. We have a tremendous relationship.”

Unidentified Male Voice: “I’ve always thought so.”

POTUS: “I’m just thinking out loud here, you know.” —Rob Long, “The Long View: Office of Independent Counsel — Wiretap SurveillanceTranscript,” National Review, Dec. 3, 2018

When Rob Long first concocted his satire, John Bolton had been serving as National Security Advisor nine months. His predecessors, Michael Flynn and H. R. McMaster, hadn’t lasted long. In this, they resembled virtually every other high-level appointee in this administration.

Bolton’s boss goes through four stages of employee management.

First is the honeymoon, when so many superlatives come the new appointee’s way—“terrific,” “fantastic,” “the best ever”—that one expects the President to call him “honey” next. 

At some point later, the appointee enters stage 2, by doing or saying something (does it really matter what?) to annoy the boss. Soon they read about how irked the President is about something, and leaks begin to mysteriously appear in the newspapers in which the President’s close aides wish the new guy would just—disappear, as he’s stiffing the President’s chances for reelection. 

In Stage 3, usually appearing at a rally of supporters, the President publicly denies that anything is amiss, even claiming that the whole thing is another case of “fake news.” 

In Stage 4, the employee resigns. Depending on how docilely the staffer goes, the President will either praise him to the skies or bestow on him the metaphorical equivalent of the “golden crown” received by Daenerys’ brother Viserys on Game of Thrones

So far, the President has gotten to Stage 3 with Bolton. But stay tuned.
The appointment of Bolton has already triggered a psychodrama in this administration: a President bellicose by reputation paired with an adviser bellicose not only in temperament (a colleague in a past GOP administration, Carl Ford, called him out 15 years ago as a “kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy”) but also in policy.

For some people, a threesome is a relationship often occurring behind closed doors. For Bolton, it’s a considerably riskier adventure: public threats by the U.S., delivered in short order to three different nations (Venezuela, North Korea and Iran). In other words: Make war, not love.

Just as the President has cheerfully disregarded political and constitutional norms, so Bolton has shrugged off a rule of thumb that diplomats throughout history have found to be wise: If you can’t build a network of allies, then at least don’t threaten more than one nation at a time

In the present period of rising tensions with Iran, the President has gone from declaring “I actually temper John, which is pretty amazing,” to—well, trumping him in apocalyptic rhetoric (this morning’s tweet: “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran”).

News reports suggest that the President has been bothered less by Bolton’s hawkish orientation than by the growing perception that the Moustache Man is driving U.S. foreign policy. In the world of this boss, there is only one government official who sets policy: himself. Woe betide anyone who forgets that.

Who can predict the exact outcome for Bolton? If recent history is any indication, he’ll be shown the door soon. But if he remains at his post, it might be America—even the world—that comes to an end, not just him.