Current Affairs Feed

Afghanistan: 15 years of making progress

From the military humour site Duffelblog a reminder that for 15 years we've been making progress in Afghanistan.  The best paragraph: 

Gen. Nicholson, the current RSM commander, is looking to continue the progress made by his predecessors over the past 15 years. He has big shoes to fill, as at least two presidents and perhaps a dozen commanders have successfully won the war thus far.


End of Work?

In recent months I've seen a lot about the end of work, how automatization is reducing the need for jobs.  We already have fewer jobs than people and that problem is only going to get worse.  Of course people and governments have begun experimenting with what's next.  We had a really interesting three part series in First Forum at church on this topic.

Here is a provocative essay saying that the goal of full employment is wrong, as such a thing is not even possible anymore.  The essay invites us to consider the meaning of life once work has ceased, a radical change in our Western picture of the good life, dating back to Plato.

So this Great Recession of ours – don’t kid yourself, it ain’t over – is a moral crisis as well as an economic catastrophe. You might even say it’s a spiritual impasse, because it makes us ask what social scaffolding other than work will permit the construction of character – or whether character itself is something we must aspire to. But that is why it’s also an intellectual opportunity: it forces us to imagine a world in which the job no longer builds our character, determines our incomes or dominates our daily lives.


Trump beyond the Pale

Last winter conservative columnist David Brooks predicted that Donald Trump's presidency would end up in a place where no one serious worked with him and everyone ignored him and the executive branch largely failed to function.  Brooks did know exactly what would happen once we reached this place, as it would be new for the republic, but he said we would get there because the Republicans in the House were not going to remove the President.  Even this week there has been clear evidence that they will condemn his remarks but do nothing about it, such as censure him.

On Tuesday Trump finally went beyond the pale. He never had much authority to begin with but none remains.  No one serious will ever take him serious or listen to him again.  Here are two columns making that point.  One by John Zogby, the other by Frank Bruni.

If I were world leaders I'd simply not meet with or negotiate with him and just wait the years until someone else occupies the office.

He should not be invited to any of the ceremonial functions--anniversaries of significant events, openings, disaster responses, etc.  People holding such events should invite living ex presidents.  Sports teams and others should refuse invitations to the White House.

The real crisis will come when some Cabinet members leaves and the Senate doesn't confirm a replacement. We may actually get small government for a while, unwittingly.  Unfortunately, we have major global crises that require responses.  We will be in unchartered territory.

And I advise that the rest of us simply begin to ignore him.  No point in continuing to get outraged at each individual thing he says and does.  This week he finally proved that he is completely unworthy of our even bothering to pay attention to him.


More from Conscience of a Conservative

A few notable excerpts from Conscience of a Conservative.

We are only as good as our information, and if we lose our sense of objective truth, we lose everything. We must protect and preserve our healthy public sphere--that civic space in which we vigorously debate and negotiate, agree and disagree--or else.

***

Giving away one's agency and becoming captive to such outlandish and vile alternative facts would be bad enough were one an average person, quietly living his or her life. But giving away one's agency to such a confusion of fact and fantasy when one has power--well, that is truly dangerous.  And it is something else, too: highly influential.  Bad information propagated by powerful people spreads like a contagion, infecting vulnerable people in its path.

I really appreciated the concept of giving away one's agency related to dishonesty.

From a very young age in ranch country, you also get to know immigrants intimately and honestly.  You learn through experience how indispensable they are to making things work in America. It seems that once every generation or so, we have these spasms of immigrant resentment and scapegoating, if not outright hatred. We are at our worst when we give in to these impulses and resort to a device that can be emotionally satisfying, perhaps, and politically expedient but very self-destructive--the impulse to look for somebody else to blame for our problems.  If only these people weren't here, we would be much better off. The nativist impulse is always destructive, always comes with a cost, and never ends well.

***

Seemingly overnight, we became defined not by the limitless aspirations of a free people but by our grievances and resentments and our lowest common denominators. . . .  The quick answer: We did it because it was cheap and easy and the real world is hard and defending a principled position to voters is harder still.

***

Far from conservative, the president's comportment was rather a study in the importance of conflict in reality television--that once you introduce conflict, you cannot de-escalate conflict.  You must continually escalate.  

Reading this comment during the weekend of white supremacist violence and the President's sociopathic, racist response to it made me even more frightened for the future.

What is best for the country is for neither base to fully get what it wants but rather for the factions that make up our parties to be compelled to talk until we find policy solutions to our problems.

As I said in my review earlier this week, a worthy book. 


On Trump Now

I watched yesterday's press conference in horrified disgust. This morning these are my thoughts: We always knew he was an insecure, pathetic, little man. We knew for years he was vile and disgusting. We have come over the last few months to realize he is mentally unstable. Yesterday we realized he is a sociopath.