Reflections upon the recent holiday: The first time my wife saw tears in my eyes was in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, at the tomb of Jonathan Swift. The brilliant 18th-century Irish satirist was my first and most enduring literary hero, a towering figure who Yeats thought “slept under the greatest epitaph in history” — composed by Swift himself.
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Helicopter parents, start your engines.
Recently, I had the disconcerting experience of seeing Lady Mary Crawley on a Boeing 747. Costumed as a flight attendant, she was, and looking rather alarmed at the spectacle of that great Irish lout Liam Neeson heroically rampant in the passenger cabin with a pistol.
Politically speaking, here’s the thing about those melodramatic ads attacking the Affordable Care Act currently running on TV: In terms of actual policy, they’re as futile as the 40-odd votes to repeal the law that House Republicans have already cast.
I said there was a Society of Men among us, bred up from their Youth in the Art of proving by words multiplied for the Purpose, that White is Black, and Black is White, according as they are paid. To this Society all the rest of the People are Slaves.
Let’s cut to the chase: If Big Brother wants you, he’s got you, telephone metadata notwithstanding. This disconcerting fact of modern life has been true more or less since the invention of the camera, the microphone and the tape recorder.
To paraphrase Tolstoy, every successful small business shares the same traits. And they all begin with high-quality employees. I’m thinking of three local establishments where I’ve traded for years: an auto repair garage, a dentist’s office, and a one-size-fits-all country store where I buy cattle and horse feed.
Moscow has always been hard on idealists. So it’s no surprise to find the world-renowned civil libertarian Edward Snowden feeling shaky midway through his first Russian winter. In a televised Christmas message recorded by Britain’s Channel 4, Snowden waxed alternately as grandiose and apocalyptic as a Dostoyevsky character.
Somewhere in the midst of an avalanche of sickening revelations about child sex abuse by Catholic clergy, it occurred to me that if the Vatican sought an appropriate penance for its sins, it would go mute on issues of sexual morality for about 100 years.
“We have just enough religion to make us hate,” wrote Jonathan Swift, “but not enough to make us love one another.” A lifelong religious controversialist, the 18th-century Irish satirist definitely knew whereof he wrote. After all, it’s fewer than 20 years since Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland quit dynamiting each other’s gathering places.
For all the regional tensions in American politics, have you ever stopped to think what a boring country this would be without the South?
For a guy whose presidency was supposed to be on life support, Barack Obama has certainly had a productive couple of weeks. With his poll numbers sinking toward George W. Bush territory — 53 percent in a recent CNN survey said he’s not a strong or decisive leader — Obama took bold action on two issues that dramatized the power of the presidency.
Bad news for CLNN, the Chicken Little News Network, that is, just about all of them lately: In states which have set up their own Affordable Care Act marketplaces, enrollment is proceeding apace. Indeed, media melodrama about “Obama’s Katrina” and similar formulations appears paradoxically to have reminded people that dependable health insurance is at last available to them and their families.
The comic figure of the braggart soldier first appears in Plautus’s play “Miles Gloriosus” in roughly 200 B.C., although the Roman dramatist acknowledged a now-lost Greek model. So it’s surprising that somebody who’s spent as much time in war zones as “60 Minutes’” Lara Logan failed to recognize the type: a swaggering, self-anointed hero describing military feats nobody witnessed but him.
“Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter.”
Not every fundamentalist is a right-winger. Crackpot utopianism and black-and-white thinking infect all social, political and religious movements. Indeed, it often appears that abandoning common sense for dogma is one of the main concomitants of a certain kind of liberal arts education.
“It’s easier to fool people,” Mark Twain apparently never said, “than to convince them that they have been fooled.” You can find those words all over the Internet attributed to Twain, but I can locate no credible source.
For readers who skip the sports page, an update: There are no New York teams in the MLB playoffs this season. The Mets were dreadful right out of spring training, while the Yankees high-salaried lineup succumbed to age and injury.
Chances are that when the GOP inevitably capitulates, the vote to end the government shutdown will be surprisingly one-sided.
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