Same as the Old High

If Marx posited that religion is the opiate of the people, then we have reached a new, more clarifying moment in the history of the West: Opiates are now the religion of the people.

Andrew Sullivan

This is a plague ripping America apart from within, far greater public health crisis than AIDS ever was.

And the Presidential solution is to give it to his wife to manage.

Once again, the band plays on.

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In Search of an Historical Metaphor

I am crafting my list of essential reads for politics and policy in America (I’m calling it the Bull Moose List) with a view to sharing it on July 4 if all goes well.

I have just added to that list Cullen Murphy’s controversial Are We Rome? I know that Murphy’s thesis – that there are enough similarities between us and Rome in the fading days of the empire that we should take a hard look at ourselves – was inspired not a little by Bushian/Neocon overreach abroad when he wrote in the mid-aughties. His analysis was nuanced and his verdict equivocal.

I cannot but wonder how the book would come out today. Bush may well have been America’s Diocletian, but Donald Trump is looking increasingly like the Nero that only a decadent empire could raise to leadership.

The question that presses on me is this: is America more like Rome today than it was eleven years ago?

I fear the answer. But I will let you know more when I finish Murphy’s book.

Pork the Navy Doesn’t Want

The $230 billion for operations and maintenance is $2.43 billion above the Pentagon request. The summary boasts of adding $550 million specifically for the services to “improve military readiness, including increased training, depot maintenance, and base operations support.” Whereas Congress added $12.9 billion above the figure requested by the Pentagon to purchase ships and aircraft. That is a 19 percent increase the Pentagon didn’t ask for to buy new equipment, compared to a mere 1 percent increase to solve the supposed “readiness crisis.”

Source: Military Readiness Sidelined For Ships the Navy Doesn’t Want | The American Conservative by Dan Grazier

I give the Pentagon a hard time for its role in procuring gold-plated weapons systems that don’t work and deliver low returns on our investment in national defense. (Cough F-35 cough LCS cough Humvee.) They deserve it: too many careers are built on weapons systems that wind up costing us dearly in American blood and treasure, and in the meantime throttle potential avenues of savings and innovation.

But the Pentagon is not the only culprit here, and Dan Grazier’s article points to the pork-barrel caucus in Congress as a huge part of the problem in the misallocation of our defense funds. In this case, the culprits are ranking Appropriations committee members Senator Richard Shelby from Alabama and Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin. And lest we feel that these distinguished Solons are simply doing their part to preserve America’s ability to build its own weapons:

Industrial base concerns are important, but when they’re the only remaining justification for a program, they amount to an admission that the product was never worth the investment. They also demonstrate that the keening about a “readiness crisis” is often just a subterfuge for more pork-barrel spending.

Keep in mind that Grazier is not coming at this from the armchair: he is a retired captain in the US Marine Corps and a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan.

So as we hold the Pentagon accountable, so must we hold Congress – and specific members of that body – accountable for their excesses. Do not let these people hide their corruption behind the flag or the Capitol Building.

 

 

Anderson Cooper says Infidelity is not the Point

CNN’s Anderson Cooper says the fallout around allegations leveled against President Donald Trump by porn actress Stormy Daniels is not about the infidelity, but paying to hush it up just before the 2016 US election.

Source: Anderson Cooper: It’s not about the infidelity

Anderson Cooper is not entirely correct. The issue of whether Mr. Trump committed adultery – and did so for the worst of reasons – may be irrelevant to Mr. Cooper under his code of values and beliefs. This does not mean that the issue is irrelevant to all Americans, for at least two important reasons.

First, many voters care whether or not the President of the United States has sufficient personal integrity to adhere to his wedding vows. To some of us, a man who would casually flaunt a vow he took before G-d and the law cannot be trusted with the future of the nation.

Second, and more important, Mr. Trump has been elected into office by a party and by voters who espouse socially conservative values. As the nominal head of that party – a party which took Bill Clinton to task for his infidelity two decades ago – it should not be unreasonable to expect himself to behave in accordance with those beliefs in his personal life. If he cannot, he can hardly call himself a social conservative.

A genuine conservative should be troubled by the President’s behavior.

The National Story

To overcome populism, the U.S. needs to recover its national story, providing a compelling counter to the zero-sum narrative of tribal conflict put forward by the populist right.

Source: Bruce Springsteen Is Antidote to Populist Tribalism – Bloomberg

Agreed. Traditionalism FTW.

To be an anti-populist does not mean to be dedicated to the disenfranchisement of the politically neglected. On the contrary: populist politicians, demagogues that they tend to be, tend to mistreat their own constituencies, using the downtrodden as political ladders only to pursue their own ambitions, discarding the populace later like so much used Kleenex, or using them as cannon fodder in their political battles and military engagements.

A genuine anti-populist movement would pursue policies designed to eliminate the American political underclass, not by rallying them against everyone else, but by tweaking the system so that they can return to the fold.

The way we do that is to remember those things that made us a nation in the first place, articulate them, and then make them relevant and tangible. It is time to give Americans a stake in America again, and that process starts with a rededication in both word and deed to our national narrative, not by a headfirst plunge into the cesspool of national chauvinism.