I concur with John Kelly – the columnist, not the White House chief of staff – in his exhaustion of special names for weather patterns.
These days, nothing can be normal. Now a full moon is a “supermoon.” A cold snap is a “polar vortex.” A snowstorm is a “bomb cyclone.”
Really? A bomb cyclone? That doesn’t even make sense. Shouldn’t it be cyclone bomb?
Actually, it should be: “It’s January. It’s going to be cold. It may get windy. It may snow.”
It’s as if the weather suddenly hired a public-relations consultant: “We’re really going to try to add drama and danger to your brand, to make people sit up and take notice and maybe want to hide under the bed when they hear your new, much more menacing name.”
I’ll make one exception for our cute-nickname purge: The 2011 “Carmageddon” in Washington D.C., because the horror of that event — I sent about six hours in traffic trying get from downtown D.C. to the suburbs — was driven less by the weather than by how little most Washingtonians can function with even the slightest bit of snow. The federal government let workers leave early, ensuring everyone tried to leave at once. The plows couldn’t get onto the roads because of the traffic, and all of those BMWs, sports cars, and Priuses found themselves struggling in the accumulating slush. (It was a great night to have an SUV with four-wheel drive, my friends.) Buses committed gridlock in intersections, people abandoned cars by the side of the road and walked, and I recall one of the radio traffic guys saying that for the first time, he had absolutely no moving routes at all anywhere on any of his monitors. It was a vivid demonstration that any talk about evacuating the city during a crisis is thoroughly unrealistic.
2018 In Preview
Each year, I buy The Economist’s special annual publication, “The World In [insert year here],” a compendium of columns and articles attempting to give readers a preview of the coming year’s big issues, events, controversies and threats. It’s usually interesting reading, other than the written-a-long-while-back-by-staff string-of-buzzwords essay by some world leader. I love you, Bibi Netanyahu, but “the future belongs to those who innovate” is pretty generic wisdom.
Trying to accurately envision America or the world a year from now is a tough task.
From last year’s edition:
Trump could withdraw from the North American Free-Trade Agreement with just six months’ notice, without consulting Congress. With the right legal manoeuvres, he could probably impose the tariffs he has floated: 45% on goods from China and 35% on those from Mexico. He has claimed that these are merely threats which will lead to better trade deals. However, ‘when planning a war, it is not advisable to assume that one’s adversary will surrender when the first shot is fired,’ notes a gloomy forecast from the Peterson Institute, a think-tank. This could spook investors, derailing growth whatever Mr Trump ends up doing.
Of course, here we are in 2018, we’re still in NAFTA, GDP growth was above 3 percent for the last three quarters, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average soared 25 percent in a year. I don’t point this out to mock a prediction that didn’t come true; I’ve done plenty of that in my life. My point is that this president’s decisions and priorities aren’t that predictable, world events aren’t predictable, and the way people react to them is sometimes even less predictable.
You could argue it’s the surprising events that really define and shape our era: Trump’s election, Brexit, the death of Antonin Scalia, the rise of ISIS and then the subsequent pummeling of the Islamic State, North Korea’s increasingly frequent and seemingly increasingly effective nuclear and missile tests.
We’re five days into the new year and no one foresaw Steve Bannon accusing Donald Trump Jr. of committing treason in his Trump Tower meeting with Russians, nor Trump declaring that Bannon “lost his mind.” No one expected Intel chips to be vulnerable, Iran’s people to rise up in protest, or whatever happens in this afternoon’s end-of-the-week news dump.
Still, we know a few things for certain about the coming year.
The World Economic Forum will meet in Davos January 23, and world leaders will discuss how terrible Donald Trump is, and how bizarre it is that so many things are going well despite his presidency.
The Winter Olympics start in February in South Korea. While there will be some talk about the tensions on the border not too far away, we’ll mostly be asking each other if we saw the video of that guy wiping out on the giant slalom.
The annual Conservative Political Action Conference begins February 21, and I suspect that like last year, both President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence will speak to attendees. Some alt-right type will attend and he will be surrounded by cameras, and many media stories will be written about “the Right is in crisis” and the “conservative crack-up.”
The Academy Awards ceremony is held March 4, and stars are pledging to wear black to protest sexual harassment. How, precisely, this is any different for any of the guys who usually wear tuxedos is unclear. There will be quite a few speeches about how terrible President Trump is, because that’s a much more fun topic to discuss than how the entire industry was a factory for enabling sexual harassment for decades.
AIPAC’s annual conference begins March 4, and the mood will be cheerful as the U.S. embassy slowly begins the process of moving to Jerusalem.
Russia will hold its presidential election on March 18 and Vladimir Putin will win his fourth term as dictator.
The NFL draft begins April 26 and I will probably be complaining about the Jets pick.
The National Rifle Association holds its annual meeting in Dallas beginning on May 3, and I would be surprised if President Trump did not speak to attendees again. If Congress has passed concealed-carry reciprocity, the mood will be cheerful. If not, there may be some grumbling.
Avengers: Infinity War opens May 4, and it will probably be awesome, if overstuffed.
The royal wedding of Prince Harry and Megan Markle is scheduled for May 19.
In July, Mexico picks a new president. We will be told that the new president represents a potentially dramatic change for U.S.-Mexican relations and then notice no real changes.
The midterm elections will be held in November.
The next National Review cruise will begin December 1.
‘President Trump Is Reshaping the Judiciary for Generations.’
Here’s something you don’t see every day: political ads thanking candidates for a job well done!
The Judicial Crisis Network is launching a weeklong, more than $350K television and digital ad campaign thanking President Trump and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell “for their work on appointing and confirming exceedingly well-qualified judges.” They will air on Sunday morning, January 7 on the network public affairs shows in the D.C. metro area, and will continue through the rest of the week running on Fox News morning and primetime shows, as well as MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
ADDENDA: For a few moments Thursday night, a decent portion of political Twitter wondered if Michael Wolff’s new book really did include an anecdote of newly-inaugurated President Trump demanding “The Gorilla Channel” be added to the White House’s television options, and the White House staff quickly putting together a regular feed of nature documentaries and tailoring it to his taste for watching gorilla fights.
It’s one of those jokes where the ludicrousness grows so slowly and steadily that you almost don’t notice.