The U.S. has become a defacto one-party state, with the legislative branch permanently controlled by an incumbent's party and every president exploiting his role as Commander-in-Chief to expand on the imperial prerogatives of his office.
Memorial Day orators will say that a G.I.'s life is priceless. Don't believe it. I know what value the U.S. government assigns to a soldier's life: I've been handed the check. It's roughly what the Yankees will pay Roger Clemens per inning once he starts pitching next month.
I began to appreciate that authentic truth is never simple and that any version of truth handed down from on high - whether by presidents, prime ministers, or archbishops - is inherently suspect. The powerful, I came to see, reveal truth only to the extent that it suits them.
Time and again-from the collapse of the Soviet Union to the events of 9/11 to the onset of the Arab Spring-events have caught the experts, whether in government or on the outside, completely by surprise. Business owners with comparable performance records go bust. Brokers lose their clients. Physicians get sued for malpractice. Yet think-tankers and policy wonks continue to opine, never pausing to reflect on-or apologize for-their spotty records.
To divine the course of world events, you'd do as well to probe the entrails of dead animals. Better still, ask your hairstylist. She will be at least as insightful and probably more entertaining a prophet than anyone you can read in Foreign Affairs or the op-ed page of the Washington Post.
You know, we live in a country where if you want to go bomb somebody, there's remarkably little discussion about how much it might cost, even though the costs almost inevitably end up being orders of magnitude larger than anybody projected at the outcome. But when you have a discussion about whether or not we can assist people who are suffering, then suddenly we come very, you know, cost-conscious.
For the majority of contemporary Americans, the essence of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness centers on a relentless personal quest to acquire, consume, to indulge, and to shed whatever constraints might interfere with those endeavors.