Reading List: August 30, 2019

Reading is good, and good for you.

I’m fortunate, my folks read to me when I was a wee bairn, and never hesitated to buy me books throughout my youth. I read in the car on trips, read in my spare time, and generally fell in love with the written word.

Here’s what I’m reading this week:

The Man Who Couldn’t Take It AnymoreThe Atlantic, October 2019 issue
“Why did James Mattis Resign?” is the central question of this somewhat lengthy read into the final days of retired Marine General James Mattis’ tenure as Secretary of Defense, and into the days since he stepped down.

With Mattis penning an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal this week and dropping his memoir next week (Sept. 4, available via Amazon), this is a timely introspective.

I’m perhaps irrationally fascinated by the bachelor warrior scholar and his time as one of the “adults in the room” of the Trump Administration. I often thought that he, along with former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly (another retired Marine four-star), kept the country from teetering into oblivion. With all three out of the picture, it’s an open question as to how well The Republic weathers the storm for another 508 days or so.

Several things about this piece in The Atlantic jumped out to me, one being his honorable notion of keeping his own counsel about his feeling toward the Commander In Chief.

“Do you know the French concept of devoir de réserve?” he asked.

I did not, I said.

“The duty of silence. If you leave an administration, you owe some silence. When you leave an administration over clear policy differences, you need to give the people who are still there as much opportunity as possible to defend the country. They still have the responsibility of protecting this great big experiment of ours. I know the malevolence some people feel for this country, and we have to give the people who are protecting us some time to carry out their duties without me adding my criticism to the cacophony that is right now so poisonous.”

Many of Mattis’ admirers, and of Trump’s detractors more especially, would love nothing more than for the General to unload with both barrels on a man who is clearly his inferior in terms of leadership, character and intelligence. And mayhaps at some point he will… but he will on his own time and by his own choice.

Another, more important passage struck me (emphasis added):

About El Paso he said: “You know, on that day we were all Hispanics. That’s the way we have to think about this. If it happens to any one of us, it happens to all of us.”

But about this treacherous political moment?

“You’ve got to avoid looking at what’s happening in isolation from everything else,” he said. “We can’t hold what Trump is doing in isolation. We’ve got to address the things that put him there in the first place.” Mattis speaks often about affection: the affection that commanders feel for their soldiers, and that soldiers ought to feel for one another—and the affection that Americans should feel for one another and for their country but often, these days, don’t. “ ‘With malice toward none, with charity for all,’ ” he said. “Lincoln said that in the middle of a war. In the middle of a war! He could see beyond the hatred of the moment.

“…and the affection that Americans should feel for one another and for their country but often, these days, don’t.” Man, that’s powerful stuff, isn’t it?

Farm Like PharoahFarm Futures, July 3, 2019
This award-winning piece from my Farm Progress colleagues Mike Wilson and Bryce Knorr is a fantastic blueprint for grain marketing geared toward farmers – and holds a lot of wisdom for business owners in general: “A game plan focused on financial planning, long-term sales and risk management can help take some of the rough edges off farming’s cycles.”

I’m a big fan of Wilson and Knorr in general, and this piece, with its Biblical storytelling device, really hit it out of the park for me.

How Reporters for Niche Publications Conquered Capitol HillThe Washington Post, August 27, 2019
I’m a journalist at heart. More specifically, a farm journalist, and most specifically, a farm radio broadcaster. So this WaPo profile of longtime ag reporter Jerry Hagstrom really made my day. Jerry is one of the old hands on The Hill, and any of us who have ever covered the Congress Critters or Bureaucrats at the Whitten Building have worked alongside him at some press gaggle or the other.

Far from being a piece that made me feel good about my chosen career path, this piece did a nice job of pointing out how media ownership – and more importantly how media usage trends – has changed the landscape of who is providing public affairs journalism in the 21st Century… and who is willing to pick up the tab.

Wrestling Breakdown: Pound-for-Pound King Abdulrashid SadulaevBloody Elbow, August 30, 2019
In addition to being an ag marketing consultant and professional speaker, I do a little moonlighting as a sportswriter covering The Ohio State University Wrestling Program (everyone needs a hobby, right???). My first season covering the team coincided with the senior campaign of Kyle Snyder, affectionately dubbed Captain America.

I have tended to err to the side of superlative when writing about Snyder because he is truly one of the greats in the sport, and he’s young enough that the oft-misapplied appellation “Greatest of All Time” could well be within reach for the young Buck.

But when you read this profile of his current nemesis, Abdulrashid “The Russian Tank” Sadulaev, you realize the tall task the American faces in battling for his fourth senior-level world title.

Over the past seven years the Russian has won two Cadet world titles, three European championships, four consecutive Russian National titles, and four senior world-level titles including gold at the Rio Olympics. He’s 1 and 1 against Snyder, with the third match in the series expected to come later this month. To put all of this into perspective:

If Sadulaev’s upward trajectory from 2018 Worlds continues, it’s hard to see him failing to dominate the next decade or so of competition.

The wrestler currently regarded as the greatest freestyle competitor of all time is the Russian Buvaisar Saitiev. Saitiev racked up nine gold medals – three Olympic titles and six World titles.

At the moment, Sadulaev has “only” three World and one Olympic title.

He’s 23. Stay tuned for the 2019 World Wrestling Championships in mid-September, where Sadulaev will likely see Kyle Snyder for the rubber match as he chases his fifth senior gold medal.

So that’s what I’m reading this week, along with a book titled The New Breed, book seven in W.E.B. Griffin’s vaunted “Brotherhood of War” series. If you have any love at all for historical fiction, and especially military historical fiction, this series is one of my favorites.

What’s on your reading list this week?