America is in a dark place. There are no simple ways forward or easy solutions that could bring people together.

In Boston they just did a poll where they asked "even though it means less space on the streets for cars, do you want to keep the parklets we've put in during COVID?" Eighty-one percent said keep the parklets. They asked about keeping the bike lanes and 79 percent said keep the bike lanes. This is a randomized poll, they're not stopping cyclists on the street. That's where public opinion is, but that's not necessarily what the leaders are hearing whenever the question comes up about keeping or eliminating an individual parklet or bike lane.

Western people perceive the smile as a sign of a positive approach while Russians necessarily identify the smile with laughter. Western people perceive a smiling person as "happy" and "well-off" person. For Russians happiness and prosperity are not associated with the smile, at least not to the extent they are in the United States. A happy person is not obligated to smile. On the other hand, the smiling man is not necessarily happy or more prosperous than anyone else. Sometimes these states coincide, sometimes not.

Despite a handful of new laws designed to force the Pentagon to submit to at least a partial audit in the next few years, Reuters's investigation indicates that they'll miss those deadlines. Why? In recent years, the department wasted billions of dollars installing faulty software intended to make them audit-ready.

In the meantime, a disparate patchwork of offices in the Defense Department attempt to do the best they can to "balance" the budget against what the U.S. Treasury says they should have spent. This is a monthly process, and it often involves a healthy imagination. Here's an example from the Navy's bookkeeping at the Defense Finance and Accounting Service:

Every month, they encountered the same problem. Numbers were missing. Numbers were clearly wrong. Numbers came with no explanation of how the money had been spent or which congressional appropriation it came from ... The data flooded in just two days before deadline. As the clock ticked down ... staff were able to resolve a lot of the false entries through hurried calls and emails to Navy personnel, but many mystery numbers remained. For those, Woodford and her colleagues were told by superiors to take “unsubstantiated change actions” - in other words, enter false numbers, commonly called “plugs,” to make the Navy’s totals match the Treasury’s.

Health care spending in the United States greatly exceeds that in other wealthy countries, but the U.S. does not achieve better health outcomes. Policymakers commonly attribute this spending disparity to overuse of medical services and underinvestment in social services in the U.S. However, there has been relatively little data analysis performed to confirm that assumption. Writing in JAMA, researchers led by former Commonwealth Fund Harkness Fellow Irene Papanicolas and mentor Ashish Jha, M.D., report findings from their study comparing the U.S. with 10 other high-income countries to better understand why health care spending in the U.S. is so much greater.

The APBA began pushing back against plastics restrictions around the country in 2011. Around 2015, the industry group upped its game. Rather than just opposing individual bans, the APBA began lobbying for state preemption laws. The approach, which another Koch brothers-affliated group, the American Legislative Exchange Council, has used to fight local action on other issues, including pesticide restrictions and living wage laws, prevents cities and towns from passing local plastic bans. In the past eight years, the American Chemistry Council has helped pass preemption bills based on ALEC’s model in 13 states. According to Seaholm, who joined the group in 2016, 42 percent of Americans now live in states where they can’t pass local bans on plastics.

Yet today, the US continues to hold overseas territory. Besides Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and a handful of minor outlying islands, the US maintains roughly 800 overseas military bases around the world.

None of this, however – not the large colonies, small islands, or military bases – has made much of a dent on the mainland mind. One of the truly distinctive features of the US’s empire is how persistently ignored it has been. This is, it is worth emphasising, unique. The British weren’t confused as to whether there was a British empire. They had a holiday, Empire Day, to celebrate it. France didn’t forget that Algeria was French. It is only the US that has suffered from chronic confusion about its own borders.

Rote introduction dispensed with, Trump's solemn tone forecasted a serious, on-message speech. That is, until his very next sentence. "In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country," he said — prompting laughter from his audience. Trump interrupted himself to say his declaration was "so true," which only evoked heartier laughter from the crowd.

Since 1945, the United States has very rarely achieved meaningful victory. The United States has fought five major wars — Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan — and only the Gulf War in 1991 can really be classified as a clear success.

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The US doesn’t think several moves ahead. The US military is good at taking out bad guys. But the removal of the bad guy creates a power vacuum, and that power vacuum is filled by somebody else.

In Afghanistan, we created disorder and then the Taliban returned — the power vacuum there was also filled by ISIS. And in Iraq, the vacuum was filled by militant groups, most notably al-Qaeda in Iraq. In Libya, the vacuum was filled by a complicated range of militant groups.

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We’re still stuck in this view that war is like the Super Bowl: We meet on the field, both sides have uniforms, we score points, someone wins, and when the game ends you go home. That’s not what war is like now. Now there are tons of civilians on the field, the enemy team doesn’t wear a uniform, and the game never ends. We need to know there’s no neat ending.

Parking spaces are everywhere, but for some reason the perception persists that there’s “not enough parking.” And so cities require parking in new buildings and lavishly subsidize parking garages, without ever measuring how much parking exists or how much it’s used.

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