The Empire Strikes Fat

Seems we are going to have to think outside the box to keep our fighting forces up to strength.

It does not take a particularly jaundiced eye to see that the American Empire is foundering. And now, to the long and growing list of wheels coming off the juggernaut, comes a new and startling piece of evidence of the decline and fall, one that is a profound shock to those swaddled most deeply in the myths of American exceptionalism.

Let’s first review, briefly, the last few years  in the life of the Empire That Couldn’t Shoot Straight, setting aside the fact that it has started an endless progression of wars that it has been unable to win or, in many cases, end. This has in no way hampered the Empire’s (illogically named) defense budget — it spends twice as much on war, each year, as its two principal adversaries, Russia and China, combined. With the result that: Continue reading

The Russians Are Not Coming

Although Hillary and Putin both like the idea conveyed by this illustration, it is not the way it happened. By a long shot.

Turns out it is possible to overstate the impact the Russians had on our last presidential election. According to the latest Mueller indictments, the Russian government spent as much as $1.25 million dollars a month to influence the 2016 elections. Imagine! If they had kept that up for only 12 and a half years, they would have almost matched what Jeb Bush spent before dropping out of the primary races in February. After spending $150 million, Jeb had managed to win the support of most, but not all, of his extended family. His mother remained on the fence. Continue reading

The Freedom Train is Leaving

Refugees from Syria on a freedom train to somewhere. Migrants like this all over the world are leaving countries where there is no hope of living a decent life, and they’ve added a new country to the list of those to be shunned. (Photo by electronicintifada.net)

They come all day, starting before full daylight. They come to the end of the road in taxis, or in beat up old cars driven by friends. They come alone sometimes, but usually in pairs or in families, often families with small children. When their transport has left, they gather their suitcases and cardboard boxes and struggle into the woods. Their goal is a shallow gully not far down the well-trodden path. With many a fearful glance behind them, looking for those who are out to intercept them, they reach the gully.

On the other side stands a uniformed police officer. He greets them politely. He tells them that they are about to cross an international border, and by so doing will have broken the law, and will be taken into custody. That is their plan. Being arrested on the other side is far preferable to the increasing levels of harassment, discrimination, forced deportation and overt bigotry they are experiencing on this side. And so they cross, relieved to be in a kinder country, and willingly submit themselves to its bureaucracy.

Here’s the kicker: these refugees are running away from the United States of America, seeking safety and a better future in Canada. Continue reading

Advice to a Young Friend Running for Congress

As long as you’re running for Congress you will be spending six hours a day on your smartphone, dialing for dollars. Did they tell you that in the recruiting brochure?

First of all, I’m glad you’re doing it. You’re young, energetic and smart, and seem to have a moral compass that can still find true north, so you probably won’t do very much harm to anybody. At first. I’m glad you’re running as a Democrat, because the wind is at your back this year. But I have to tell you — you, and your party, are blowing it. Hugely.

You’re doing all the right things that all the right people tell you to do. You’re spending six hours a day and more on the phone, begging strangers for money, answering their inevitable question: “Where do you stand on (fill in the special-interest blank)?” Then with the little time you have left, you’re spending the money on consultants: fundraising consultants, social-media consultants, data-analysis consultants, communication consultants,  campaign-management consultants, consultant consultants. And after all the meetings you need to have with them, you rarely get a chance to go to a public event. Continue reading

How to Identify a “Shithole” Country

If you look around your country and see a lot of these, that would be one clue. But there are others.

It’s important in national and international affairs that the terms of statecraft be precisely defined. When making policy and alliances, the parties must at all times be rigorously clear about what is meant by such labels as “nuclear power,” “developing country,” and the like. Now, a new term of art just introduced by the President of the United States, “shithole country,” begs a proper definition. Let us fix that for ya. Here is how you tell whether a country qualifies for the new designation.

Exhibit One — Airports. If you have an airport, named for one of your most popular presidents, located just outside your largest city, in which earlier this month:

Then you might be living in one of those countries the President was talking about. Continue reading

The Accidental Narcissist: A Fable

[I am re-posting this from last December in honor of the performance of the Dow Jones Industrial Average on Black Monday, 2/5/2017]

It’s one of the oldest stories of human association — a viral meme, if you will, that predates Facebook. Things are going well in the camp/village/pueblo/kingdom, and the family/clan/tribe is prospering. Before long, somebody — a priest/shaman/elder/king — takes credit for the good times. “Yes,” he/she/it says demurely, “It’s all my doing. I control the weather/game/crops, and if you want the good times to continue, you’d better keep me happy.”

It starts with a few extra sandwiches from a few dubious neighbors — “what the hell, just in case, what could it hurt” — and if the weather holds, proceeds rapidly to absolute power, virgin sacrifices, massive demonstrations of loyalty, and crushing taxes for the multitude to provide unimaginable luxury for the top guy. Continue reading

America: You Fogged the Mirror. Carry On.

Trust us, America, you’re going to feel a lot better soon. We’re going to elect better doctors. (Wikimedia Commons image)

Many years ago, as a young soldier (in civvies, but somehow they always knew) quaffing a few beers in a Georgia bar as far from the post as I could afford to get, I saw a young black soldier (in civvies, but I could tell) come through the door with a lovely date on his arm. She was white. Actually, blonde. I was sore afraid, and looked for a table to get under, envisioning the bar existing only as a pile of kindling when the riot was over.

As far as I could tell, not one person in the bar — remember I said it was far from the post, so it was not an all-Army crowd, but mostly locals — no one gave the couple a second glance or seemed to comment on their presence. That was in 1968, and it was then I began to rethink my easily-acquired caricature of Southerners as racist hicks. Having rethought it, and having similar Southern epiphanies many times over the years, I retained some faith in the decency of Alabamans, and became convinced they would not elevate the odious Roy Moore to the Senate of the United States. Continue reading

America, Please, Fog This Mirror

“Sir, I know you’re not feeling all that well, but we need you to get up and go back to work.” (US Defense Department photo)

Please, America, I know you are not well, but open your eyes just a little and listen to me. I know you were too weak to fend off Trumpicitis a year ago, and that it left you too weak in the aftermath to do much except marvel at your own ensuing insanity. I know your doctors have been trying some untested experimental treatments on you — the 25th Amendment, the Emoluments Clause, probiotics, that sort of thing — without any success. But dammit, sit up and listen to me, and stop mumbling “Do not resuscitate.”

You used to be “the last, best hope of earth,” for a lot of good reasons. I can remember when you still were, although you started to lose it in the 1960s. It was understandable; you lost three of history’s finest public figures to assassination in just a few years, and you became ensnared in Vietnam. But it was in the 1980s that you became really sick. That’s when the awful, metastasizing cancer of greed overwhelmed your defenses and began turning you into a pathetic shadow of your former self. Continue reading

Robert Mueller: The Last Man Standing

Don Blankenship was once the most baronial of the West Virginia coal barons. His greed and contempt for the law were legendary — John Grisham used him as the template for his villain in the 2008 best-selling novel The Appeal. Annoyed by lawsuits that were costing him money, Blankenship spent $3 million to elect a judge to the state supreme court, after which he stopped losing lawsuits. Even after 29 miners died in an explosion in one of his mines — an explosion that miners and regulators claimed was the result of Blankenship’s penny pinching and disdain for miner safety — he remained untouchable.

Except by Booth Goodwin. While state authorities stood by, U.S. Attorney Goodwin spent years meticulously putting together and trying cases against Blankenship’s underlings and ultimately Blankenship himself. Goodwin was the reason Blankenship spent last Christmas in a jail cell instead of cavorting on the French Riviera with his favorite State Supreme Court judge (named Spike — I am not making this stuff up, there are pictures). Continue reading

Dopamine Dreams

Madness manifests in people and countries in some ways that are obvious to other people and countries, even while the crazy ones remain oblivious to their own affliction. People with dementia, for example, often don’t see anything out of the ordinary in having to be reintroduced to people they have known for years, who just left the room a few minutes ago, but friends and family understand instantly what has been lost. Countries that repeatedly invade patches of jungle or sand in Asia or the Middle East, expecting each time they do the same thing to win hearts and minds, accept their state of constant war and failure as normal, but the countries around them do not.

The crazier you are, it seems, and the more completely unhinged your behavior, the less aware you are that anything is amiss. It’s one of those situations where, if you think you have a problem, you don’t; it’s when you cannot conceive of anything being wrong with you that you are screwed. Continue reading