Thursday, August 31, 2006

Citizens Need Educating on Gravity of Terror Threat

Johnathan Gurwitz is a columnist with the San Antonio Express-News. He had an important essay published yesterday in the paper, arguing that Americans are uneducated on the serverity of the terror war, and that there is little evidence of widespread national sacrifice among citizens beyond those who have volunteered for military service. To provide a comparative illustration of the nature of national duty, Gurwitz uses the example of Dr. Reuven Hazan, an Israeli political science professor, traveling in the U.S., who told a colleague he wished he could have done more to contribute to Israel's recent battle against Hezbollah:

"Actually," Hazan said, "I'm anxious to get back. This is the first conflict I've sat out. The government didn't call me up. But all my friends and colleagues — they went."

Israel fought a war in Lebanon for 34 days, and this man doesn't know anyone who didn't serve. The United States has fought one war for nearly five years and another for more than three years. And beyond some select communities, you'd be hard-pressed to find many people who know anyone who has served in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Israel's situation is, of course, unique. As an exceedingly small country in a very dangerous neighborhood, the threats it faces are frequently existential. Universal conscription is as much a matter of defense necessity as it is national ethos. Men serve for three years, women for two. And men like Hazan can be called up until they are 50, women until they are 24.

The decision to respond to Hezbollah's attack and go to war was one that Israelis knew would be felt in every Israeli home. Yet as the fighting ensued, polls showed public support for the war against Hezbollah consistently exceeded 90 percent.

IDF reservists are now holding protests, demanding that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, his defense minister and the IDF chief of staff resign. Not because they oppose the war or dismiss the threat — on the contrary, because the response of the political and military leadership was unequal to the threat. A well-respected, apolitical government watchdog group has launched an emergency campaign to establish an official commission of inquiry into the government's preparation and conduct of the war.

How different from the United States.

Two decades before the cataclysm of the American Civil War, Ralph Waldo Emerson delivered a philosophical discourse on the role of war and peace in human development.

"War educates the senses, calls into action the will, perfects the physical constitution, brings men into such swift and close collision in critical moments that man measures man. On its own scale, on the virtues it loves, it endures no counterfeit, but shakes the whole society, until every atom falls into the place its specific gravity assigns it."

Unlike the Civil War, unlike Israeli wars, the war on terror does not shake the whole of American society. It shocks on occasion. It shoves its way into the national consciousness when some round number of casualties is reached. But in a nation of nearly 300 million people, the physical, financial and mortal burden of the current conflict is being borne by an exceedingly small number of American families.

There have been many foreign and domestic failures over the past five years. But a brief examination of Israeli society suggests the greatest failure has been the utter inability of our political leadership to convey the sense that we are engaged as a society in a real conflict of historical significance, one that demands sacrifice from more than only the volunteers of its armed forces.

Newsweek published a compelling article on American military families last June, indicating how those who perform military service today are becoming more and more isolated from the rest of American society, and suggesting that the shared sacrifice of Americans during World War II is a distant memory.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Metro or Retro? What Kind of Man Are You?

This week's cover story at Business Week looks at the "Secrets of the Male Shopper". What kind of man are you when it comes to shopping? The article boasts an intriguing typology of men's shopping archetypes, which includes, for example, the effeminate male consumer ("The Metrosexual"), the sophisticated guy shopper, who's a bigger spender than his dad and comfortable around women and moisturizers ("The Modern Man"), and the traditionalist who rejects feminism and thrives on manly nostaligia ("The Retrosexual").

Click here for the article's slide show: "A Handy Guide to the Male shopper." Here's the introduction to the article:

A couple of years ago, you couldn't escape the metrosexual. He was everywhere, with his Paul Smith pinstripes, $100 haircuts, and chemical tan. This character became so much a part of the zeitgeist that some regular guys began wondering if they were metrosexual. He seemed hip and urban. Women, it was said, loved him because he smelled good and knew gabardine from twill. And if a man wasn't a metrosexual, he risked being tagged as the metro's alter ego: the retrosexual, a guy's guy who wouldn't be caught dead wearing chartreuse.

In the Age of the Metrosexual, mission shopping (know what I want, know where to get it) was out. A visit to Barneys or Nordstrom became an indulgence in style. On cable, ratings soared as the Fab Five of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy repurposed the style-challenged as hip and urbane. Condé Nast Publications jumped in with Cargo, a shopping magazine (of all things) for men. From the image factories of Madison Avenue came a slew of ads aimed at the new, preening male shopper. And the folks in white lab coats got busy cooking up lotions and potions with names like Nivea for Men Revitalizing Eye Relief Q10.

Now Madison Ave has turned on the metrosexual. Why? Because he's half the man he was cracked up to be. Not only is this archetype too feminine for most men, he's also pretty rare -- maybe one- fifth of the U.S. male population, according to a recent study by Leo Burnett Worldwide Inc. As for the retrosexual, star of the sophomoric beer ad, he's not that common either. Put all the metros and retros together, and they probably add up to fewer than two in every five men, says Leo Burnett.

So who is the elusive man in the middle of the two extremes? Truth is, marketers are only beginning to understand the secrets of the male shopper. It stands to reason that just as women break down into subsectors, so do men. By targeting just the metro and the retro, Mad Ave has been ignoring half the male population. Largely forgotten are the millions of boomer dads, who shop a lot more than their fathers or grandfathers ever did. Also often overlooked is the army of men in their 20s and 30s who care about their appearance but still like to drink beer and watch sports. The male teen is another big shopper, a sophisticated consumer with the Web research skills to give him an outsize say in family purchases. We don't hear a lot about him, either. (Our guide to these forgotten guys and their metro and retro brethren is above.)
What's my archetype? I'm probably a combination of "The Modern Man" and "The Dad," one who's characterized in the male shopper's guide as "somewhat goofy," and "as likely to be strolling down the diaper aisle as mom is." However, while I'll lay around on weekends in cargo shorts and patriotic T-shirts, I am a traditionalist when in comes to workplace attire, as my earlier post on the decline of the well-dressed man indicated.

By the way, the article cites a mind-boggling Gentleman's Quarterly study finding "that 84% of men said they purchase their own clothes, compared with 65% four years ago." C'mon guys! Time to do your own shopping!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

New Orleans Rebuilding Largest Federal Effort Ever

This week marks the one year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the tragedy of New Orleans. Today's Wall Street Journal marks the occasion with a corrective editorial noting that federal disaster relief spending in New Orleans is the highest in history, though you wouldn't know it from the remarks by Democratic Members of Congress -- including Senator Hillary Clinton -- denouncing the federal government for "turning its back on the people who need us":

Turned its back? As the chart nearby indicates, Congress has approved $122.5 billion for the Gulf Region, a figure incomprehensible in size to anyone but, well, a politician. The real wonder is that anyone is surprised, much less feigning surprise, that things are going poorly.

New Orleans' plight is not the result of federal underspending. Uncle Sam has spent some five times more on Katrina relief than any other natural disaster in the past 50 years. Both parties in Congress and the White House opted for the status quo by relying on federal bureaucracies to oversee the rebuilding effort. If Uncle Sam were deliberately trying to waste these funds, it is hard to imagine a better way than to funnel the money through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Small Business Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Both HUD and the SBA have been on the chopping block back to the early Reagan years.

The post-Katrina spend-fest in Louisiana will be remembered as one of the greatest taxpayer wastes in U.S. history. First came the FEMA $2,000 debit-cards fiasco intended to pay for necessities that were used for things like flat-panel TVs and tattoos. Then came the purchase of thousands of mobile homes that cost as much as $400,000 per family housed; the $200 million for renting the Carnival Cruise Ship; millions more in payments that went for season football tickets, luxury vacation resorts, even divorce lawyers. Federal flood insurance policies surely will encourage many to rebuild in the same flood plains and at the same height as before.

There has been some notable progress away from the most damaged areas of New Orleans. Coastal Mississippi is well on the way to full recovery, thanks in part to the leadership of Governor Haley Barbour. The number of building permits in Mississippi are four times higher than in New Orleans. The business district in New Orleans and the French Quarter, where flooding was minimal, are nearly back to the normal rhythm of life. But the neighborhoods that were overwhelmed with water remain mostly deserted wrecks, with electricity, hot water and sewage systems spotty at best.

Where rebuilding progress has been swiftest in New Orleans, it has been companies like Wal-Mart and Home Depot that have stepped up to make contributions along with the $4 billion in charitable donations. While billions of dollars of federal flood insurance payments and community development dollars remain tangled in red tape, the private insurance industry has made at least 80% of its payments to homeowners.

Given the famously ingrained culture of political corruption in New Orleans--a system designed to siphon public money of any sort away from its intended purpose--President Bush was right to call on Congress to convert New Orleans into a massive "enterprise zone." That included tax breaks for new business investment, health savings accounts for those without medical insurance, school vouchers for families located where schools have been ruined and a reappraisal of all regulations.
Some of the tax incentives were enacted and have spurred more business investment. And charter schools will serve thousands of the kids still residing in New Orleans this fall. But Congress and Louisiana's pols have ignored most of the promising free-market reforms, opting instead for red tape as usual.

After the hurricane, newspapers around the world showed photos of New Orleans under headlines that shouted: "America's shame." In truth, New Orleans was America's shame long before Katrina. In large part the residents of the Big Easy were victims of the predatory behavior of their own politicians. Louisiana already ranked among the bottom five of all the states in crime, poverty, health care and school performance; the murder rate in New Orleans today is 10 times the national average.

For all the finger-pointing this week, Congress hasn't spent much more than a dime to clear away the debris of corruption, patronage, welfare dependency, high taxes and racial division of decimated neighborhoods. What is still lacking in the life of New Orleans is the vital architecture of local capitalism.
See also this month's Fortune magazine cover story on the New Orleans rebuilding effort, which says that the government's Katrina recovery job there is the most mismanaged in history.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Northern Upstart: Santa Maria Surpasses Santa Barbara as Largest City in Central Coast County

Santa Maria has overtaken Santa Barbara in the number of residents, according to this Sunday Los Angeles Times story on the longstanding urban growth battle in Santa Barbara County:

What happens when the "Barbecue Capital of the World" dethrones the self-proclaimed American Riviera?

It depends, of course, on which city you're in. Here in the town that boasts that it made tri-tip famous, there were flashes of glee at the news that working-class Santa Maria had unseated glossy Santa Barbara as the most populous city in Santa Barbara County for the first time.

"We are on the way up," laughed Santa Maria Mayor Larry Lavagnino. "They have leveled off and are heading down."

They, of course, were not impressed."

It's finally happened," sniffed a Santa Barbara News-Press editorial. "But what does it matter beyond bragging rights?"

By itself, the fact that Santa Maria was home to 656 more people as of Jan. 1 than its graceful, famous neighbor to the south doesn't really mean much. But the state Department of Finance's late spring announcement is one more harbinger of change here on the Central Coast and throughout California — where population continues its determined march inland and fast-growing regions hope influence follows.

As the longtime underdog in this geographic rivalry and the unofficial capital of the north county, Santa Maria, at least, is betting that population will breed power and that the burgeoning north's interests will someday trump those of the shrinking, slow-growth south.

Because a lot is at stake here in Santa Barbara County. Developers have their eyes on the pristine Gaviota Coast, from Isla Vista to Vandenberg Air Force Base. The north county's oil reserves are increasingly attractive in this $70-a-barrel era. The county Board of Supervisors has a conservative, pro-industry majority for the first time in nearly a decade, but growth is actually making the political picture more complicated than ever."

At the end of the day, who's moving north?" asked political consultant John Davies. "Some of the same people who would be voting in the south" but can't afford to live there anymore.

These days, a state's worth of struggles are playing out across this county. There's inland versus coast and north versus south, rural versus urban, and poor versus rich. There's young versus old, development versus slow growth, Republican versus Democrat. There's property rights versus environment, affordability versus million-dollar tract houses, pickup trucks versus BMWs.

Over the last five years — and for the foreseeable future — job growth in the north county has trumped the south, according to the UC Santa Barbara Economic Forecast Project, which also noted that Santa Maria's population jumped 3.6% last year, while Santa Barbara's dropped 0.4 %. It should come as no surprise that both trends are fueled, at least in part, by housing. The median home price in Santa Maria was $455,000 in July; in Santa Barbara, it was $1.05 million.Santa Maria is "an economically vigorous place," said Bill Watkins, forecast director. "In some sense, the center of the county is migrating to the north…. [But] I'm not sure the south always knows there's a north county."

Or as Santa Barbara resident Angelina Favia, 25, replied when asked what she thinks about Santa Maria: "I don't really think about Santa Maria."And therein lies the rub. The north county has forever felt like a stepchild to "sophisticated" Santa Barbara and the south coast, said housing activist Bud Laurent. Santa Maria has had "housing policies that said grow, grow, grow. It's tempting to interpret that as a strategy for gaining more power in county politics."If there is a single statistic that symbolizes the yawning distance between Santa Barbara (population 89,548) and Santa Maria (population 90,204), it would be housing permits rather than miles.
This is a very interesting article. I lived in Santa Barbara from 1992 to 1999, while attenting
graduate school in political science at UC Santa Barbara. It's absolutely true, as noted by city local Angelina Favia above, that Santa Barbara residents hardly even think about Santa Maria, and it's no wonder. Santa Barbara is probably as close to paradise as one can get, a city that ranks among the top coastal destinations anywhere in the world in stunning beauty, with temperate climate year round, miles of sandy beaches, and a wealth of cultural and historical attractions. When I graduated from my Ph.D. program in late-'99, I naturally was reluctant to leave the city -- indeed, if I could live anywhere in California, Santa Barbara would be my first pick.

But slow growth has its downside. When my wife and I first moved to Santa Barbara in '92, it was interesting to notice how slow-growth politics had affected the city's development. K-Mart was the largest merchant, besides a couple of major downtown department stores (including Nordstrom's). Big-box retailers would not arrive (in the form of Costco) until about 1998. There was virtually no new housing development in city the whole time we were there, and it wasn't unusual for new professors hired by the university to seek homes far from the university, in northern towns such as Lompoc. Apartment rentals were very expensive, and as the article notes, the city's housing market is basically unaffordable for the middle class. Slow-growth policies can be felt in ways such as highway congestion, energy consumption, air pollution, concentrated poverty in the rental housing market, declines in elementary school enrollment, and spillover growth to the north and south, in cities like Oxnard, for example.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Did 9/11 Change International Politics?

In the September/October issue of Foreign Policy, William Dobson argues that international politics changed very little following the attacks of September 11, 2001:

At 8:45 a.m., Sept. 11, 2001, we were living in the post-Cold War era. At 9:37 a.m., just 52 minutes later, as the third hijacked airliner careened into the Pentagon, the post–9/11 era had begun. Everyone told us that everything had changed.

It was the beginning of a new chapter in history. The image of thousands of people perishing as the Twin Towers collapsed in a cascade of fire and dust, live on television, was a bookmark for the ages. There was a world before this tragedy, and then there was something very different that was about to follow. It is tempting to assume that this attitude was just another example of American narcissism. (The United States was attacked, so the world had changed.) But that wasn’t the case. A poll taken shortly after the attacks by the Pew Research Center found a remarkable degree of agreement among opinion leaders around the world about what the September 11 attacks represented. In Western Europe, 76 percent of those polled said the events of that day had amounted to a turning point in world history. In Russia and Asia, 73 and 69 percent of people agreed. In the Middle East and Latin America, the percentage of opinion leaders who believed 9/11 marked the beginning of a new era rose to 90 percent. Rarely have so many agreed about the meaning of a single moment.

Five years on, this response must be understood as one being born out of shock. Certainly, for some, there could not have been a more life-changing moment. Collectively, we feared what was about to end. Globalization would surely grind to a halt. Borders—in particular, the need to maintain them—would undergo a renaissance as governments looked to shield themselves from the next attack. Global trade, capital flows, and immigration could no longer be what they once were. National economies would cool, as the realization of a “clash of civilizations” grew hot. Industries like tourism and air travel would be crippled.

Yet, if you look closely at the trend lines since 9/11, what is remarkable is how little the world has changed. The forces of globalization continue unabated; indeed, if anything, they have accelerated. The issues of the day that we were debating on that morning in September are largely the same. Across broad measures of political, economic, and social data, the constants outweigh the variations. And, five years later, the United States’ foreign policy is marked by no greater strategic clarity than it had on Sept. 10, 2001.

The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were theatrical terrorism of the worst kind. But, even in an age when image usually trumps substance, the tragic drama of that day did not usher in a new era. No, if there was a day that changed the world forever, it was 15 years ago, not five. New Year’s Eve, 1991. It was on that day, far away from any cameras, that the Soviet Union finally threw in the towel, dissolving itself and officially bringing an end to the Cold War. From that moment on, the United States reigned supreme—“the sole superpower,” “the hyperpower,” “the global hegemon,” call it what you like. And from that moment on, the world was out of balance—and it still is. The tragedy of 9/11 was a manifestation of the unipolar disorder the world had already entered a decade earlier. A day after 9/11, we were still living in the post-Cold War era, we still are today, and that is precisely the problem.
Dobson continues by indicating that the global economy has been remarkably resilient in the wake of the attacks, substantial flows of human capital through immigration have been sustained, and global anti-Americanism -- while acute -- is not much worse the global backlashes against American power before the 1990s.

Dobson's analysis is essentially structural -- the basic patterns of international politics, and especially the dynamics of the world balance of power -- remain fundamentally unchanged in the post-9/11 era. Dobson does, however, take exception the Bush administration's forward policy of counter-terrorism and democracy promotion in Afghanistan and Iraq, by lamenting the expansion of defense spending and by saying that the world is by far a "more dangerous place for everyone -- everyone, that is, except Americans."

The structural aspect of Dobson's analysis is not controversial. There's more to post-9/11 international politics, however, than continunity in the distribution of world capabilities. Only five years after the terrorist attacks, Dobson's piece seem representative of the loss of shock and moral outrage arising from Al Qaeda's assualt on the American homeland.

It's appropriate, therefore, to recall how policy analysts in 2001 were arguing that the 9/11 attacks created fundamental change in post-Cold War world politics. For example, James Hoge and Gideon Rose, in the introduction to their edited volume, How Did This Happen: Terrorism and the New War, said that "everything had changed" on September 11, 2001:

Suddenly the world rushed in, stiking brutally at symbols of the very wealth and power that had underwritten the public's geopolitical nap....America is now at war. It accepts that the struggle will be lengthy, will involve casualties, and may have no neat or clear end. The initial targets are in Afghanistan, but Washington has vowed to pursue terrorists elsewhere as well.
Fareed Zakaria, the editor of Newsweek International and a top foreign policy scholar, argued in an essay from the same volume, that traditional patterns of epochal conflict returned with the September 11 attacks, particularly with the full engagement of radical Islam in its challenge to Western civilization. Zakaria uses Francis Fukuyama's formulation of the revival of "History," that is, history in the dialectical sense of the ideological conflicts that have animated international competiton through the millenia:

Radical Islam contests not simply the power of the West and the United States, but also the principles they hold dear. It rejects the Western liberal model in much the same way that communism did. And although radical Islam may not have many adherents in the West, more than a billion people around the world are potentially receptive to this message. In this sense they do have an argument with the West over the direction of History. The West might not want to take part in this debate, but that was also true about the struggles with fascism and communism. History finds you out.
Recent world events have demonstrated the truth of Zakaria's statements. I think Dobson's analysis neglects these truths, in favor of arguing that the United States of the post-Cold War era is abusing its hegemonic power, and that in time, a balancing coalition will reign in American preponderance, and a truly new era of global politics will emerge. I think, moreover, Dobson's piece, coming only five years since the attacks, reflects a "realist" weariness in our current long struggle against terror that is not healthy.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Sea Monsters! Amazing Blue Demons of the Deep

The Los Angeles Times has a fascinating story in today's sports section on present-day monsters of the deep-blue sea. They say a picture's worth a thousand words, which is especially true in this case, so be sure to check out the article's companion photo gallery. Here's a good chunk of the main story:

If you don't believe in sea monsters, consider yourself warned: They are among us. Exhibit A lies in a freezer at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum, soon to go on display as it appeared before being pulled from the ocean: a serpent-like denizen, 15 feet long and sinuous, with a hatchet-shaped head and a silver body adorned by a flowing crimson mane.

If that's not enough, evidence of larger and perhaps scarier beasts in our seas is under scrutiny at Santa Barbara's Museum of Natural History: a 10-foot slithery tentacle and two stout sucker-pocked arms that had previously belonged to a creature measuring perhaps 20 feet.

The recent capture of an oarfish in a Santa Catalina Island embayment, and the discovery by sport fishermen of giant squid appendages near Santa Cruz Island, have scientists excited. Both finds are rare specimens.The oarfish, a deepwater species so named because of long, oar-shaped fins that dangle from its sides, startled swimmers when it appeared in Catalina's Big Fisherman's Cove on the morning of Aug. 16.

It was clearly in distress, moving lethargically and bumping into rocks. Harbormaster Doug Oudin, who donned snorkeling gear and swam with the fish before it eventually perished, described its coloring as "metallic silver with bright blue-brown spots and splotches, along with its amazing pinkish-red full-length dorsal fin." Oudin added that the oarfish appeared to be blind, not surprising, considering that these animals, which have large saucer-shaped eyes, live at lightless depths of 1,500 to 3,000 feet.

Little else is known about these longest of bony fishes because so few have been found, but, like the giant squid, they're steeped in lore, believed responsible for spawning tales of sea serpents and dragons rising demonically to steal crewmen and sink tall ships.

Their modern discovery may date to 1808, when a 56-foot serpent-like creature washed ashore in Scotland. In 1901, a 22-foot oarfish drifted onto the sand in Newport Beach, becoming, according to one reference book, "the basis for many sea-serpent stories told by local bar patrons for more than a decade after its discovery."

Oarfish are not monsters, of course. They have tiny mouths and, moving through the blackness the way a snake slithers over land, they prey largely upon krill — tiny crustaceans — and sea jellies.

The encounter with a live specimen at Catalina was at least the second such incident. Ten years ago, swimmers near the Baja California city of La Paz snorkeled with an 18-foot oarfish briefly before it died. It then was delivered to the local university. Christine Thacker, assistant curator of fishes at the L.A. County Natural History Museum, says the Catalina find is the facility's third oarfish, but by far the largest, freshest and most complete specimen. DNA samples may help scientists learn who a specimen's relatives are, "whether it's a tuna, a salmon or a sea monster," Thacker joked.

Perhaps even more mysterious than the oarfish is the giant squid. With its spontaneous color fluctuations and wild mass of tentacles and arms, it may represent the perfect embodiment of the sea monster. Ancient mariners referred to the giant squid as the kraken, a savage animal much larger than the squid and octopus they had grown accustomed to encountering.

A mollusk that may reach 70 feet in some parts of the world, the giant squid has been the fictional star of such books as Jules Verne's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" and Peter Benchley's "Beast." A kraken is also featured in "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest." Verne's 1870 classic — in which a submarine is engulfed by the tentacles of a giant octopus-like creature — reportedly was inspired by an incident reported in 1861, involving the crew of a French ship that confronted a giant squid in the mid-Atlantic. The captain ordered its capture, and cannons were fired and harpoons hurled, but all that could be recovered was what the crew believed to be part of the sea monster's tail.

The discovery Aug. 11 of giant squid appendages, floating near a seamount eight miles east of Santa Cruz Island, was less eventful than that of the oarfish, but no less exciting from a scientific standpoint.

Bennett Salvay, who had been fishing with his son Daniel and nephew Evan, were looking for floating kelp paddies that might be sheltering game fish when they spotted a glistening mass.

From a distance Evan, 14, said it looked like a giant squid, and that proved correct. Salvay, 49, a film and television composer from Tarzana, used a gaff to gather up the thick arms, then pulled the tentacle aboard. All the while, Salvay said, there was the eerie sense that the rest of the creature might burst forth and give them a fright. "

It was obvious that it was dead, but it was also very fresh," Salvay said. "We had caught squid before, but they were 50-pounders, and this was different because its arms and tentacles were, like, 15 feet long, so we figured it had to be from a giant squid."
With reference to my previous post on the the decline of newspapers, I doubt that I would have come across this story as readily had I not opened up my sports page to check the game time for today's Angels-Yankees game (I guess there's still a lot to be said for the old hard-copy news model).

Will Newspapers Go the Way of the Edsel?

The days of the traditional hard-copy newspaper are numbered. Print journalism, of course, has been around for centuries, but the ultimate fate of the daily paper may not be unsimilar to that of the Edsel, Ford Motor Corporation's infamous and most spectacular failure.

According to this week's Economist, newspaper circulation and advertising revenue have declined steadily in recent years, as generational tastes in informational media evolve, and as the Internet continues to transform the news business:

Of all the “old” media, newspapers have the most to lose from the internet. Circulation has been falling in America, western Europe, Latin America, Australia and New Zealand for decades (elsewhere, sales are rising). But in the past few years the web has hastened the decline. In his book “The Vanishing Newspaper”, Philip Meyer calculates that the first quarter of 2043 will be the moment when newsprint dies in America as the last exhausted reader tosses aside the last crumpled edition. That sort of extrapolation would have produced a harrumph from a Beaverbrook or a Hearst, but even the most cynical news baron could not dismiss the way that ever more young people are getting their news online. Britons aged between 15 and 24 say they spend almost 30% less time reading national newspapers once they start using the web.

Advertising is following readers out of the door. The rush is almost unseemly, largely because the internet is a seductive medium that supposedly matches buyers with sellers and proves to advertisers that their money is well spent. Classified ads, in particular, are quickly shifting online. Rupert Murdoch, the Beaverbrook of our age, once described them as the industry's rivers of gold—but, as he said last year, “Sometimes rivers dry up.” In Switzerland and the Netherlands newspapers have lost half their classified advertising to the internet.

Newspapers have not yet started to shut down in large numbers, but it is only a matter of time. Over the next few decades half the rich world's general papers may fold. Jobs are already disappearing. According to the Newspaper Association of America, the number of people employed in the industry fell by 18% between 1990 and 2004. Tumbling shares of listed newspaper firms have prompted fury from investors. In 2005 a group of shareholders in Knight Ridder, the owner of several big American dailies, got the firm to sell its papers and thus end a 114-year history. This year Morgan Stanley, an investment bank, attacked the New York Times Company, the most august journalistic institution of all, because its share price had fallen by nearly half in four years.

Having ignored reality for years, newspapers are at last doing something. In order to cut costs, they are already spending less on journalism. Many are also trying to attract younger readers by shifting the mix of their stories towards entertainment, lifestyle and subjects that may seem more relevant to people's daily lives than international affairs and politics are. They are trying to create new businesses on- and offline. And they are investing in free daily papers, which do not use up any of their meagre editorial resources on uncovering political corruption or corporate fraud. So far, this fit of activity looks unlikely to save many of them. Even if it does, it bodes ill for the public role of the Fourth Estate.

Read the whole thing. There are reasons to be hopeful about the future of newpapers. Citizen journalists -- mostly bloggers, but anyone with a mouse, keyboard, and a modem -- are not likely to overthrow the mainstream press any time soon, though old-line news establishments have taken the blogosphere seriously, and are slowly beginning to adapt by incorporating blog-related content and opinion in mainstream news coverage.

The Economist article is also interesting in noting how the decline in newspapers' viability threatens the print medium's traditional role in society as a political watchdog.
Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein are only the most famous examples of journalists whose work exposed corruption and abuse of power at the highest levels of government. Newspapers overall have historically been the main source of political information for the average citizen -- and thus print journalism has been the traditional source facilitating government accountability.

I have been an avid newspaper reader for over 20 years, and I'm now a blogger who obviously enjoys and benefits from the bountiful opportunities of online information. I nevertheless hope the traditional paper hangs on for a while, as there's nothing like waking up every morning, grabbing a cup of coffee and the local daily, and beginning the day by catching up with the happenings of the world in which we live.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Australian Conservatism: Lessons for the GOP

E. J. Dionne argues in today's Washington Post that Australian Prime Minister John Howard's approach to political strategy holds lessons for the Republican Party in the U.S.:

Last week, Howard organized a "history summit" to call attention to the decline of Australian history as a subject in high schools. In most states here, history has been subsumed within (and thus displaced by) a broader social studies curriculum focused on "studies of society and the environment."

"I think we have taught history as some kind of fragmented stew of moods and events," Howard declared, "rather than some kind of proper narrative."

This is the sort of cultural and educational fight familiar to Americans. My gut is with those who see history as a distinct subject. Wherever we live, we should know our country's national story.

Notice what has just happened: This writer, on the other side of politics from the Australian prime minister, has embraced his argument that old-fashioned history is worth teaching.

Howard has a genius for picking the right wedge issues. In this case, his argument appeals to conservatives who don't like what Howard has called "black armband history" -- i.e., a history that is primarily critical of Australia's white settlers. But it also draws in many from outside the ranks of the right who have moderately traditional views about school curriculums.

This has been Howard's way since he defeated Paul Keating, a Labor Party prime minister, in 1996. Oddly, the two political enemies have a lot in common.

As George Megalogenis argues in his new book, "The Longest Decade," both Howard and Keating believed in opening up the once highly protected Australian economy to global market forces. The two, Megalogenis writes, "bombarded us with change."

But there was a big difference. Keating was also in favor of cultural change -- bravely so, in the eyes of his friends. He proposed that Australia get rid of its old flag. He wanted the country to stop being a constitutional monarchy theoretically under the queen of England and instead become a republic.

Howard, on the other hand, thought that in a time of rapid economic change, Australians needed to cling to some of the old sources of stability, including the symbols. He was for the old flag and against the new republic. David Kemp, a former member of Howard's cabinet, said his old boss understood the reaction against globalization and economic change among conservative voters.

Howard has also waged war on political correctness. His liberal Australian critics see him as appealing in code to racist sentiment by, among other things, taking a hard line on refugees. Howard's supporters see him instead as defanging hard-core racism. He has acknowledged that Australians have "badly treated our aboriginal people, shamefully treated them." But he insists that "in the greater sweep of history, Australia has been a very tolerant, humane society." Voters like to hear that sort of thing.

What's exportable about Howard's politics is his shrewd understanding that conservative parties embracing hard-line market economics need to provide those threatened by economic change with something to hang on to -- tradition, nation, family, flag -- so that their world doesn't fly apart. Except on the immigration issue, where he used a sledgehammer, Howard has pulled off in a subtle way what Republicans in the United States have pursued with less finesse and a greater emphasis on religion than would work in this more secular country. Interestingly, though, the political role of religion is on the rise here.

Particularly interesting is how Howard embraces the political culture of the British Commonwealth, triumphally seeking to carry on the Anglo tradition of reverence for continuity in history. The British past represents a trajectory of true conservatism. The British, perhaps more than any other people, maintain political legitimacy though reaffirmation of cultures and traditions -- like the monarchy -- whose primary purpose is to maintain regime legitimacy in the face of greater diversity, democratization, and the decline of British imperial grandeur.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

U.S. Command Sees Improvement in Iraq Security

According to this this Washington Times piece, U.S. military officials see improvement in Iraq's security situation:

The U.S. command in Iraq yesterday spoke of "life coming back to some normalcy" in violence-racked Baghdad, where for weeks American and Iraqi forces have launched raids to subdue various insurgent groups and militias that seem bent on instigating a civil war. "We are cautiously optimistic and encouraged by all the indicators that we are seeing," Army Maj. Gen. William Caldwell told reporters in the Iraqi capital in an assessment of Operation Together Forward. "What we're seeing in these areas is life coming back to some normalcy. We see women and children walking freely in Amiriyah [neighborhood], something that was not seen prior to Operation Together Forward." He displayed a map of the multiethnic city, with neighborhoods shaded in different colors to show how far they had progressed in reducing violence and restarting city services. Gen. Caldwell's report came a month after Army Gen. John Abizaid, chief of U.S. Central Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee he had not seen such a high level of violence in Baghdad since the city was liberated from dictator Saddam Hussein in April 2003. The general said he feared a Sunni-Shi'ite civil war, but added that he thought the new government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki would prevent it. Gen. Caldwell said that today, the Iraqi government is preventing such a war, and pointed to statistics that attacks in some city sections have gone from 30 a day to zero. "There in fact has been a downturn in the level of violence within Baghdad over the last three weeks," he said. "The prime minister and his government has formulated a plan that is in fact proven at this point to have been very effective. And time will tell -- months will tell how effective it really is, but the initial indicators are very positive."
See also this Power Line post for an ABC News report indicating improving conditions in Baghdad. Also, according to Zalmay Khalilzad, in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, referring to the "Battle for Baghdad" and the troubling security situation:

Contrary to those who portray Iraq as hopelessly mired in ancient ethnic and sectarian feuds, Iraqis themselves want to put the divisions of the past behind them. The Battle of Baghdad will determine the future of Iraq, which will itself go a long way to determining the future of the world's most vital region. Although much difficult work still remains to be done, it is imperative that we give the Iraqis the time and material support necessary to see this plan through, and to win the Battle of Baghdad.
Some analysts are arguing that Iraq has now developed into a full-scale civil war. However, Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution argues that Iraq's not quite there yet:

Right now Iraq faces a Sunni-based insurgency that is morphing into a Sunni-Shiite civil war. To have any hope of defeating the insurgency, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's administration needs to establish its legitimacy in the eyes of the Sunni community, giving Sunnis a stake in the success of a government they no longer dominate and depriving the resistance of the support it enjoys from as much as 20 percent of the population. To have any hope of preventing civil war, the government must eliminate the Shiite death squads that have fueled the downward spiral toward an all-out sectarian conflict. To succeed, the Iraqi government must make substantial progress over the next few months in:

* Adopting a series of constitutional amendments and related legislation that address the concerns of the Sunni community, while also being acceptable to Kurds and Shiites, on key issues such as federalism and the equitable distribution of Iraq's future oil revenue.

* Reining in the Shiite militias. This is the hardest challenge of all, since Maliki's government depends on the support of the party leaders whose militias he needs to bring under control.

* Creating and implementing a plan for rehabilitating lower-level Baathists so that those who were essentially forced to join the party under Saddam Hussein but were never directly complicit in its crimes can fully reenter the nation's political and economic life.

* Establishing functioning government ministries capable of delivering essential services. These are all steps that both the Bush and Maliki administrations have already endorsed. But this approach would make our continued military presence in the non-Kurdish areas of Iraq contingent on their implementation within a reasonable period.

To be sure, the cost of failure in Iraq would be enormous. Jihadists would gain a new bastion in the region and be confirmed in their view that the United States is a paper tiger. In addition, a major oil producer would be condemned to a sectarian conflict that would probably be much worse than the Lebanese civil war in the 1970s (in which 150,000 Lebanese lost their lives). Our claims to care about a key Muslim nation would be mocked, and a strategically crucial part of the world would risk slipping into a broader regional conflict. But whether such a failure can be averted depends much more on the Iraqis than it does on the United States. The debate over Iraq in the United States has become extraordinarily polarized. Given the implications of an American failure, most Republicans argue that we should stay the course regardless of the cost in life and money and even our prospects for success. Given the price being paid, most Democrats believe we should begin the process of withdrawing now, regardless of the consequences. National disunity in time of war is a recipe for failure. By recognizing the imperative of success in Iraq, while also recognizing that success is not possible in the absence of measures that only the Iraqi government can take, a conditions-based commitment strategy has the potential not only to induce the Iraqi government to do what it must but also to unite the American people around a policy more firmly rooted in Iraqi and American realities.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Lessons from Israeli Airport Security

Jeff Jacoby's got an interesting piece up today at the Boston Globe on what Israeli airport security could teach the U.S. about airline safety. Jacoby notes that Israel's Ben Gurion Airport is the world's safest, and Israel's national airline, El Al, has gone three decades without a terrorist attack on one of their planes. Airport security differs in the U.S. and Israel. For example, Americans take off their shoes for X-ray screening, while Israelis are spared the inconvienence. Jacoby notes that Israeli air security peronnel are more interactive with travelers, making a point to communicate with most passengers boarding planes, quite a different security regime than in the U.S. Most important, though, is that Israeli officials don't hesitate from ethnic profiling:

Nearly five years after Sept. 11, 2001, US airport security remains obstinately focused on intercepting bad things -- guns, knives, explosives. It is a reactive policy, aimed at preventing the last terrorist plot from being repeated. The 9/11 hijackers used box cutters as weapons, so sharp metal objects were barred from carry-on luggage. Would-be suicide terrorist Richard Reid tried to ignite a bomb in his shoe, so now everyone's footwear is screened for tampering. Earlier this month British authorities foiled a plan to blow up airliners with liquid explosives; as a result, toothpaste and cologne have become air-travel contraband.

Of course the Israelis check for bombs and weapons too, but always with the understanding that things don't hijack planes, terrorists do -- and that the best way to detect terrorists is to focus on intercepting not bad things, but bad people. To a much greater degree than in the United States, security at El Al and Ben Gurion depends on intelligence and intuition -- what Rafi Ron, the former director of security at Ben Gurion, calls the human factor.

Israeli airport security, much of it invisible to the untrained eye, begins before passengers even enter the terminal. Officials constantly monitor behavior, alert to clues that may hint at danger: bulky clothing, say, or a nervous manner. Profilers -- that's what they're called -- make a point of interviewing travelers, sometimes at length. They probe, as one profiling supervisor told CBS, for ``anything out of the ordinary, anything that does not fit." Their questions can seem odd or intrusive, especially if your only previous experience with an airport interrogation was being asked whether you packed your bags yourself.

Unlike in US airports, where passengers go through security after checking in for their flights and submitting their luggage, security at Ben Gurion comes first. Only when the profiler is satisfied that a passenger poses no risk is he or she allowed to proceed to the check-in counter. By that point, there is no need to make him remove his shoes, or to confiscate his bottle of water.

Gradually, airport security in the United States is inching its way toward screening people, rather than just their belongings. At a handful of airports, security officers are being trained to notice facial expressions, body language, and speech patterns, which can hint at a traveler's hostile intent or fear of being caught.

But because federal policy still bans ethnic or religious profiling, US passengers continue to be singled out for special scrutiny mostly on a random basis. Countless hours have been spent patting down elderly women in wheelchairs, toddlers with pacifiers, even former US vice presidents -- time that could have been used instead to concentrate on passengers with a greater likelihood of being terrorists.

No sensible person imagines that ethnic or religious profiling alone can stop every terrorist plot. But it is illogical and potentially suicidal not to take account of the fact that so far every suicide-terrorist plotting to take down an American plane has been a radical Muslim man. It is not racism or bigotry to argue that the prevention of Islamist terrorism necessitates a special focus on Muslim travelers, just as it is not racism or bigotry when police trying to prevent a Mafia killing pay closer attention to Italians.

Of course most Muslims are not violent jihadis, but all violent jihadis are Muslim. ``This nation," President Bush has said, ``is at war with Islamic fascists." How much longer will we tolerate an aviation security system that pretends, for reasons of political correctness, not to know that?
I've posted a couple recent entries based on Jacoby's essays, for example, "
What is a Chicken Hawk?," and "The Threat from Hezbollah to U.S. Security Interests."

Success in Iraq is Vital to Checking Iran's Ambitions

A fresh New York Times poll indicates that a 51 percent majority sees no link between the conflict in Iraq and the global war against Islamist terror:

Americans increasingly see the war in Iraq as distinct from the fight against terrorism, and nearly half believe President Bush has focused too much on Iraq to the exclusion of other threats, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

The poll found that 51 percent of those surveyed saw no link between the war in Iraq and the broader antiterror effort, a jump of 10 percentage points since June. That increase comes despite the regular insistence of Mr. Bush and Congressional Republicans that the two are intertwined and should be seen as complementary elements of a strategy to prevent domestic terrorism.

Should the trend hold, the rising skepticism could present a political obstacle for Mr. Bush and his allies on Capitol Hill, who are making their record on terrorism a central element of the midterm election campaign. The Republicans hope that by expressing a desire for forceful action against terrorists, they can offset unease with the Iraq war and blunt the political appeal of Democratic calls to establish a timeline to withdraw American troops.
The public's perception shouldn't be surprising, as there has been little mainstream media coverage of Iraq's historical ties to Middle East terrorism. Yet, as this Washington Times editorial from last April points out, a wealth of evidence linking Saddam's Iraq to Al Qaeda is emerging as more and more of the millions of documents from the former regime become declassified. For example, recently released information shows Iraqi intelligence supporting Al Qaeda propaganda efforts to destabilize Saudi Arabia, and there is new documentation as well indicating Uday Hussein's sponsorship of fedayeen terrorist training camps inside Iraq in 1994.

Withdrawing from Iraq precipitously -- which is what would likely take place with Democratic victories in upcoming elections -- would seriously erode American efforts to counter Iran's program to establish Mideast regional hegemony, as this commentary by A. Yasmine Rassam in today's Los Angeles Times indicates:

IF THE ANTIWAR CROWD and Democrats have their way, the United States will be Iran's hostage once again. An immediate pullout from Iraq would be a victory for Iran, a regime that has declared its ambitions to wipe Israel off the map and establish a caliphate throughout the Middle East. If we allow democracy to be defeated in Iraq, it will only get harder to release Iraq and perhaps the greater Middle East from the grip of its would-be rulers in Tehran.

Decades ago, the United States underestimated the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's appeal to the Iranian masses and his ability to convert the latent hostility to modernism into political clout. Khomeini overthrew the shah and took more than 50 Americans hostage, thus delivering a significant blow to U.S. prestige and clout in the Middle East.

Now the U.S. is underestimating Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his willingness to use proxies — Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Muqtada Sadr in Iraq. In the short term, Iraqis, Lebanese, Palestinians and Israelis are paying for this sneaky strategy with their lives, but in the long term, it is the United States that will suffer the most....

Iraq is the crucial test of Iran's ambitions. The majority of Iraqi Arabs share the basic Shiite creed with the majority of Iranians. Iraq and Iran share a long history of conquest and reconquest, of intertwined culture. However, many Iraqi Shiites do not share the fundamentalist theology and hegemonistic ambitions of Iran's ayatollahs and its government. They are represented not by Sadr but by the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the revered and influential Shiite cleric and a voice of reason in Iraq.

It makes sense, therefore, that the first line of defense against Iran's ambitions is a stable, democratic Iraq, which would provide a formidable counterbalance to Iran. A pro-Western Iraq that develops its economic ties throughout the Middle East and beyond would compete over growing markets for oil with Iranian economic interests. More important, a democratic Iraq would be a long-sought beacon for the oppressed Shiites of the world, an alternative to the appeal of extremist Iran.

The U.S. military's presence in Iraq keeps Iran in check. An immediate pullout, as prescribed by antiwar liberals and demagogic Democrats, would leave Iraq to Iran — and to the likes of Al Qaeda. And that would be a hostage-taking far more harmful to the United States than the one that happened in Tehran nearly 30 years ago.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Joe Rosenthal, 94, Captured "The Soul of a Nation"

Joe Rosenthal, the Associated Press photographer famous for capturing the iconic image of American Marines hoisting the U.S. flag over Iwo Jima's Mt. Suribachi in February, 1945, died Sunday in the Northern California town of Novato. Today's Chicago Tribune had a moving editorial in memorial of Rosenthal's achievement:

Mt. Suribachi, all of 546 feet tall, was the highest point on Iwo Jima. The Pacific island, 750 miles south of Tokyo, would be a steppingstone for B-29 bombers during a U.S. invasion of Japan. So on Feb. 19, 1945, some 30,000 Marines began an assault on 21,000 Japanese defenders.

On day five of the five-week onslaught, when victory was still an aspiration rather than an achievement, Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal missed the first flag-raising atop Suribachi. But someone in the military decided that first flag was too small. Rosenthal arrived to find a cluster of five Marines and a Navy corpsman preparing to raise a bigger flag. "Out of the corner of my eye, I had seen the men start the flag up," he wrote 10 years later. "I swung my camera and shot the scene."

The action he captured -- a fleeting one-400th of a second -- became the best-known, most enduring photograph of World War II. The image of muscles straining, of hands letting go as the 100-pound pole rose, of a breeze filling Old Glory, inspired an America eager for World War II to conclude. The photo drew power from its composition--its triangles project strength and stability--but especially from its faceless Marines: To their countrymen they were the unknown, individually undistinguished soldiers who were triumphing over tyranny.

The fight for Iwo Jima cost nearly 7,000 Americans--and most of the Japanese defenders--their lives. Joe Rosenthal, who died Sunday outside San Francisco at age 94, never confused his role as chronicler with that of the American heroes who captured one of their enemy's best-fortified strongholds. "What I see behind the photo is what it took to get up to those heights--the kind of devotion to their country that those young men had, and the sacrifices they made," Rosenthal once said. "I take some gratification in being a little part of what the U.S. stands for."

The editors of US Camera magazine were more succinct: "In that moment, Rosenthal's camera recorded the soul of a nation."

A magazine correspondent's assertion that Rosenthal staged the photo--he did pose a different shot of Marines cheering the flag--is remembered better than the accuser's later retraction.

This image of the struggle for Iwo Jima inspires us still. A great story, told briefly and well.
Click here for Rosenthal's Los Angeles Times obituary. For the iconic image of the Marines' flag-raising atop Mt. Suribachi, click here.

America's Covert Enemies

Michael Barone, as usual, published an excellent piece at Real Clear Politics yesterday. Barone argues that America's elite, multicultural left constitutes a core constituency of America-haters who wants to see the U.S. lose to the forces of Islamo-fascism worldwide:

In our war against Islamo-fascist terrorism, we face enemies both overt and covert. The overt enemies are, of course, the terrorists themselves. Their motives are clear: They hate our society because of its freedoms and liberties, and want to make us all submit to their totalitarian form of Islam. They are busy trying to wreak harm on us in any way they can. Against them we can fight back, as we did when British authorities arrested the men and women who were plotting to blow up a dozen airliners over the Atlantic.

Our covert enemies are harder to identify, for they live in large numbers within our midst. And in terms of intentions, they are not enemies in the sense that they consciously wish to destroy our society. On the contrary, they enjoy our freedoms and often call for their expansion. But they have also been working, over many years, to undermine faith in our society and confidence in its goodness. These covert enemies are those among our elites who have promoted the ideas labeled as multiculturalism, moral relativism and (the term is Professor Samuel Huntington's) transnationalism.

At the center of their thinking is a notion of moral relativism. No idea is morally superior to another. Hitler had his way, we have ours -- who's to say who is right? No ideas should be "privileged," especially those that have been the guiding forces in the development and improvement of Western civilization. Rich white men have imposed their ideas because of their wealth and through the use of force. Rich white nations imposed their rule on benighted people of color around the world. For this sin of imperialism they must forever be regarded as morally stained and presumptively wrong. Our covert enemies go quickly from the notion that all societies are morally equal to the notion that all societies are morally equal except ours, which is worse.

These are the ideas that have been transmitted over a long generation by the elites who run our universities and our schools, and who dominate our mainstream media. They teach an American history with the good parts left out and the bad parts emphasized. We are taught that some of the Founding Fathers were slaveholders -- and are left ignorant of their proclamations of universal liberties and human rights. We are taught that Japanese-Americans were interned in World War II -- and not that American military forces liberated millions from tyranny. To be sure, the great mass of Americans tend to resist these teachings. By the millions they buy and read serious biographies of the Founders and accounts of the Greatest Generation. But the teachings of our covert enemies have their effect....

We have always had our covert enemies, but their numbers were few until the 1960s. But then the elite young men who declined to serve in the military during the Vietnam War set out to write a narrative in which they, rather than those who obeyed the call to duty, were the heroes. They have propagated their ideas through the universities, the schools and mainstream media to the point that they are the default assumptions of millions. Our covert enemies don't want the Islamo-fascists to win. But in some corner of their hearts, they would like us to lose.
Actually, some of our most hardcore enemies -- like International ANSWER -- are intent on the destruction of our country. For Samuel Huntington's recent book attacking the multicultural outlook of American elites, in academe and business, click here.

Liberals Need to Have More Babies!

Arthur Brooks has an interesting commentary piece up today at the Wall Street Journal, arguing that liberals (and the Democrats) have a fertility gap that over time will result in a decline in left-leaning voters in American elections:

The midterm election looms, and once again efforts begin afresh to increase voter participation. It has become standard wisdom in American politics that voter turnout is synonymous with good citizenship, justifying just about any scheme to get people to the polls. Arizona is even considering a voter lottery, in which all voters are automatically registered for a $1 million giveaway. Polling places and liquor stores in Arizona will now have something in common.

On the political left, raising the youth vote is one of the most common goals. This implicitly plays to the tired old axiom that a person under 30 who is not a liberal has no heart (whereas one who is still a liberal after 30 has no head). The trouble is, while most "get out the vote" campaigns targeting young people are proxies for the Democratic Party, these efforts haven't apparently done much to win elections for the Democrats. The explanation we often hear from the left is that the new young Democrats are more than counterbalanced by voters scared up by the Republicans on "cultural issues" like abortion, gun rights and gay marriage.

But the data on young Americans tell a different story. Simply put, liberals have a big baby problem: They're not having enough of them, they haven't for a long time, and their pool of potential new voters is suffering as a result. According to the 2004 General Social Survey, if you picked 100 unrelated politically liberal adults at random, you would find that they had, between them, 147 children. If you picked 100 conservatives, you would find 208 kids. That's a "fertility gap" of 41%. Given that about 80% of people with an identifiable party preference grow up to vote the same way as their parents, this gap translates into lots more little Republicans than little Democrats to vote in future elections. Over the past 30 years this gap has not been below 20%--explaining, to a large extent, the current ineffectiveness of liberal youth voter campaigns today.
Brooks goes on to note that even if a conservative and liberal were identical on a range of factors such as age, income, education, gender, and race, the liberal will still be 19 percent more likely to be childless than a conservative. I'd like to see some more data on this, and some historical background to this type of demographic change as well. Perhaps Brooks provides some of that information in his forthcoming book, Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Minorities Rejecting Country Music Radio Airplay

I'm not a huge fan of country-western music, although I did find interesting this Los Angeles Times article on radio station KZLA's decision to change formats from country music to rhythm-and-blues and hip-hop. The article notes that "cowboy crooners know that more country music is sold in Los Angeles than anywhere else," a point reflected in Faith Hill and Tim McGraw's two sold-out shows at Staples Center, although L.A. radio listeners would have trouble finding the couple's music, or "any other twangy troubadours," on the local radio dial:

The Burbank-based station's shift is part of a national trend. Although country fans have long been well-served in Texas, Indiana and other landlocked states, over the past decade stations have completely disappeared in New York, San Francisco and half a dozen other coastal markets. The shift demonstrates how America's changing ethnicity is remaking media, especially in big cities. Because of their size and loyalty, minority audiences are becoming more coveted by radio companies than white listeners — at least in ethnically diverse metropolitan areas. Once-essential genres such as country, rock and classical music are increasingly being replaced by formats such as pop, hip-hop and talk radio. Executives say stations are willing to make almost any adjustment to attract listeners at a time when radio audiences are declining industrywide. Just as cable television's niche programming has eroded the large broadcast networks' audiences over the decades, new technologies such as iPods and satellite radio are now drawing listeners looking for specialized playlists or genres disappearing from the dial.
The story notes further:

Ironically, KZLA's change comes at a time when country music is flourishing. While album sales of most genres have declined, country music has experienced one of its best years. During the first six months of 2006, U.S. sales of country albums increased by 17.7% to 36 million, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Best sellers from bands such as Rascal Flatts and the Dixie Chicks have driven those increases. Moreover, country music listening nationwide has remained steady for almost a decade, according to the radio-ratings agency Arbitron Inc. However, the listening audiences of Spanish-language and urban formats such as rap and hip-hop have exploded during that same period, as cities such as Los Angeles have become more ethnically diverse. While Los Angeles' white radio audience has shrunk slightly since 1998, the number of Hispanic listeners has increased by almost 500,000, according to Arbitron.
Read the whole thing -- the article's an incisive window into how dramatically American demographics are changing amid successive decades of massive immigration, a trend that is causing some cultural resentment. KZLA, in fact, had a number of angry callers on Thursday protesting the format switch. According to one listerner: "I almost threw up, I was so upset," said longtime KZLA listener and Mission Viejo resident Ruth Rogers, 53. "I think it's racist. This is becoming a nation of minorities. I'm not going to turn on my radio anymore. Country music promotes patriotism and family values, and they've replaced it with something that just promotes money and hate."

I've blogged quite a bit about immigration, and in one of my posts I asked "
Does Eva Longoria Symbolize the Future of American Culture?" Well, for the urban music industry, maybe Nelly Furtado is that scene's new cultural representative.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Israel, Hezbollah, and the Balance of Soft Power

Joseph Nye's a professor of political science at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. He had an interesting article up yesterday at the Boston Globe, arguing that the shift in international sympathy toward Hezbollah a few weeks into the 2006 Mideast conflict strengthened the Shiite terrorist organization's "soft power," the ability to exercise influence based on the attractiveness of one's values rather than pure material capabilities. Here's an interesting passage:

Israel used its hard military power in a manner that bolstered Hezbollah's soft power and legitimacy in Arab eyes, including many Sunnis who were originally skeptical of a Shi'ite organization with ties to non-Arab Iran. We know that terrorist organizations most often lose popular support by their own excesses -- witness the drop among Jordanians in the soft power of Al Qaeda in Iraq, led by Abu Musab al -Zarqawi, after the organization bombed a wedding in an Amman hotel.

Israel had to use force in response to Hezbollah's attack to reestablish the credibility of its deterrence, but it misjudged the scale and duration of its hard-power response. Sooner or later, continued large-scale aerial bombardment, even in an era of precision munitions, was bound to produce a disaster like Qana with dozens of dead children. And with dead Lebanese children continually displayed on television day after day, public outrage was bound to limit the leeway of moderate Arab leaders and enhance Hezbollah's narrative.

A shorter military response might have kept the onus on Hezbollah's initial destabilizing attacks. Israeli leaders are quoted as telling the United States that they wanted more time to degrade Hezbollah's rockets and other military capabilities, and the Bush administration provided a green light. But the costs of such a campaign seem to have exceeded the benefits. An alternative course would have been diplomacy to end the isolation of Syria, which the United States had driven into the arms of Iran and thus facilitated the transfer of equipment to Hezbollah.

Lebanon provides larger lessons for the United States about how to conduct a war against jihadist terrorism. The current struggle is not a clash of Islam vs. the West, but a civil war within Islam between a minority of terrorists and a larger mainstream of more moderate believers. America cannot win unless the mainstream wins, and needs to use hard power against the hard core like Al Qaeda because soft power will never attract them. But soft power is essential to attract the mainstream and dry up support for the extremists.
Nye's one of the founders of liberal institutionalist theory in international relations scholarship. His coauthored book, Power and Interdependence, is a classic in the field, and is an entry text into the transnational relations side of the literature. I think his theory of soft power fairs better in the analysis of great power strategies and success, however. Here, as applied to Hezbollah's surprising resiliency against Israel, the theory seems to condemn too easily Israel's response, and doesn't take into account the spinelessness among Sunni-Muslim Mideast regimes in the face of domestic public opinion sympathethic to Hezbollah. Moreover, had Israel's military planning been more effective, perhaps with an early lightning ground offensive saturating Southern Lebanon with a massive troop deployment, and with less reliance on indiscriminate (and collaterally deadly) airpower, perhaps events on the battlefield would have remained in Israel's favor, with the balance of soft power staying with the Jewish state.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

A Vote for a Democrat is a Vote Against Victory!

Hugh Hewitt's post on Friday indicates that not a single top Democrat has come out against the decision by U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor striking down the government's domestic wiretapping program:

Not a single Democrat of any stature or visibility has stepped forward to criticize much less reject the opinion from Judge Anna Diggs Taylor declaring NSA surveillance of our enemies contacting their operatives inside our country to be unconstitutional. Their collective silence has grown more and more revealing as the chorus of legal commentary mocking the absurd opinion has grown throughout the day.

The Democrats cannot be seen to say anything against the opinion because of Kosputin and his minions. The party of Lamont is unhinged, and Judge Taylor's opinion is now a new icon of the movement.

It is clear that the Democrats are invested in her conclusion and her reasoning, a position on national security that will bind the party if it reaches a majority in either the House or the Senate, and paralyze at least some of the intelligence collection activities already underway. We have to assume that their zeal for ignorance will extend to every presidential directive not explicitly backed by Congressional mandate, and thus an understanding of the Article II war powers more circumscribed than ever in our history.

Expect a major retreat in the war on Islamic fascism across many fronts if the Dems frenzy their way to a majority in either body, and hearings upon hearings. The Church Committee will look like child's play compared to a John Conyers or patrick Leahy-led assault on the conduct of the war, a conduct that has prevented attacks on the homeland from abroad since 9/11.

Thus it is simply true: Any vote for any Democrat is a vote against victory and a vote for vulnerability.
Hat tip to
Power Line for the reference.

Be sure to read Hewitt's original post, which includes a penetrating update skewering the claim by an irate reader that Hewitt is calling the Democrats traitors.

Can the Boeing C-17 Be Saved?

Boeing Aircraft moved Friday toward implementing a final closing plan for its Long Beach C-17 facility, placing at risk the production of our nation's winged military workhorse. According to Retired Air Force General John Handy, in an essay yesterday, the loss of the Long Beach C-17 production plant would be a devastating loss for the country:

Dismantling the C-17 line now means that the U.S. will be limited in its ability to adequately support the war against terrorists, as well as the loss of the most capable aircraft ever used in support of humanitarian crises at home and abroad. How will we respond to hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis?

A decision to stop production would likely cost the Defense Department many more dollars in the long run. In the not too distant future, our military will face the costly decision of whether to resurrect the production line at a cost of about $4 billion or fund research and development for a replacement aircraft at even higher cost.

The C-17 takes about three years to build at a price of about $200 million each. Currently, 154 of these aircraft and their Air Force crews are serving all over the world — flying peacekeepers to Kandahar, airlifting the wounded from Iraq to Germany and delivering troops to Kabul, among other duties.

In fact, because of its long-range, high-payload capacity and nimble landing abilities, the C-17 is in such high demand that it is being flown at rates — and in combat situations — far exceeding original expectations, effectively shortening the predicted lifespan of each aircraft. In Iraq, the C-17 has delivered more than 70% of all material moved via air, with high reliability rates.

The Department of Defense contends that the military needs only 180 C-17 aircraft to meet current needs — which will be filled by the end of the current production run in 2008. This is well below the Pentagon's original January 2001 recommendation of at least 222 aircraft. In fact, the 222 figure was calculated before the 9/11 attacks, after which military needs multiplied significantly, particularly for airlift requirements. The adequacy of our existing C-17 fleet is not the only issue. If we do not commit to fully funding the C-17 program this week, Boeing would be forced to shut down its production line in Long Beach.

The B-2 bomber is a cautionary tale. Considered the most expensive plane in history, the original B-2 procurement was cut from 132 aircraft to 20, exponentially increasing the cost per plane and leaving our military with an aging bomber fleet that we are now seeking to replace.

It would be unwise to do the same with the C-17 aircraft. Our nation's military has many well-defined requirements and limited resources. Meeting the multiple challenges presented by the global war on terrorism demands an agile, well-armed force that can be deployed with large payloads effectively around the world.
So far the signs from the Pentagon don't augur well for the survival of the C-17. In May,
Boeing announced the completion of the last commercial airliner -- the Boeing 717 -- to be built in Long Beach, marking the end of an era in a long, storied history in Southern California aviation. My college is right across the street from the 717 plant -- I can see from my classrooms the American flag waving atop the corporate towers -- and I find the whole plant-closing episode a sad chronicle in the deindustrialization of American aeronautics.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The IRS Nixes Popular Hollywood Swag Packages

In one of yesterday's posts, I blogged about the strong condemnation of terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezbollah in a full-page Los Angeles Times advertisement by a number of top movie stars. Well, it turns out today's interesting bit of news on Hollywood is the IRS's decision to impose tax consequences on the receipt of "swag" gifts (loot) by presenters at glamorous awards ceremonies. Here's the Times' story, indicating that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has already eliminated the distribution of the expensive gift baskets for next year's Oscars:

Gift bags and swag suites have exploded in recent years, as clothing companies, hotels, cellphone manufacturers and the makers of seemingly every imaginable kind of consumer goods (chocolates, lingerie, cufflinks, sunglasses, luggage, etc.) dole out items to celebrities in the hopes of garnering free advertising when those celebrities are photographed wearing those shoes or chatting into that cellphone. The value of the Oscar gift basket, a tradition that dates to the 1970s, has approached $100,000 in recent years. Top celebrities at this year's Sundance Film Festival — such as Steve Carell and Terrence Howard — had the opportunity to come home with plasma televisions, vouchers for weeklong vacations at posh resorts and even $10,000 discounts on Las Vegas condos for sale. Around awards shows as diverse as the MTV Movie Awards and the ESPYs, swag suites are erected to give celebrities free shopping sprees. The IRS couldn't help but notice. "There was an awful lot of publicity about the ever-increasing value of these baskets," IRS Commissioner Mark V. Everson said. "And somebody said, 'Why don't we do something about this?' It was just so clearly taxable we felt we had to step in." The IRS reminded Oscar presenters before this year's ceremony that noncash compensation was just as taxable as a paycheck. Everson said the effort was linked to his drive to bring "a sense of fairness that resonates throughout the system. You can't let the rich get away with something." Sid Ganis, the academy's president, said the gift baskets had outlived their usefulness. "I don't think a presenter says, 'I am going to present an Academy Award because I am going to get a gift basket.' They do it because they want to be a part of the show."
Really? The swag packages had "outlived their usefulness?" Or is it that the elite, super well-compensated Hollywood presenters don't want to increase their tax liability? Too bad we don't have some hard data on the ideological orientation of the Academy's membership, because there's interesting irony here, in that the movie community's supposedly overwhelmingly liberal, and as contempory liberal ideology supports progressive taxation as underpinning the interventionist state, one might assume there'd be little objection to boosting payments to Uncle Sam as a consequence of these luxurious gift items. I guess it's one thing to posture as a liberal activist, denouncing conservative domestic and foreign policy. But on fiscal matters, it's another thing, and maybe the Academy has a lot in common with the GOP's position on taxes?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Nicole Kidman's Hot -- She Condemns Terror, Too!

Yesterday's Los Angeles Times ran a full-page advertisement -- signed by a number of top movie stars -- lamenting the civilian casualties in Lebanon and denouncing "the terrorist actions initiated by terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas." The statement continued: "If we do not succeed in stopping terrorism around the world, chaos will rule and innocent people will continue to die. We need to support democratic societies and stop terrorism at all costs."

That's strong! Nicole Kidman's perhaps the biggest star to sign-on to the statement, although a bunch of other top Hollywood celebrities also endorsed the document: Danny DeVito, Michael Douglas, Patricia Heaton, Dennis Hopper, William Hurt, Don Johnson, Bernie Mac, Gary Sinise, Bruce Willis, James Woods, and Sylvester Stallone.

Well as it turns out, Jules Crittenden, in an online commentary over at the Boston Herald, couldn't resist getting some humorous mileage out of the ad:

I’ve been wondering if it is possible for me to describe exactly how much I don’t give a damn what actors think. Or rock stars. I should state at the outset that when actors lend their celebrity to raise money for cancer research and similar causes, I think it’s wonderful. On foreign policy, I just don’t give a damn. George Clooney has been almost as incensed about Iraq and the evils perpetrated by the Bush military junta, I mean administration, in the last few years as he was pre-911 about paparazzi paying attention to him. I don’t care.

Susan Sarandon and Barbra Streisand, amazingly, have stumped against Democratic presidential fodder Hillary Clinton and Joe Lieberman for their unforgiveable support for the war in Iraq. That, I cared about a little, because I am after all a tabloid newsman and it does have that "pigs aloft" quality to it. Ditto the Dixie Chicks, because everyone was running that naughty photo of them with the stories about them bashing Bush. Theirs is a special case. The Chicks, as a country act, have learned it isn’t wise to poop where you eat. Country fans didn’t appreciate their heartfelt peacenik blabbering.

Preachy Irish rocker Bono on third-world debt? Bono is loaded with cash. Hundreds of millions of our fan dollars. Maybe he should pay that debt off instead of coming after our tax dollars. I have appreciated his silence on Iraq, however. That’s a smart rocker. He still gets invited to the White House.

Crittenden goes off next on Sean Penn, and generally bemoans the preachy opinions of the glitter crowd. He does, further down, indicate that some stars occasionally buck the herd and come out with some backbone on an issue:

The problem with the gratuitous yammering is, actors and rock stars generally aren’t very bright. They are superficial. Their professional focus is on conveying emotion, whatever emotion the paycheck and the director demands at any given moment. They spend most of their time on stage, on movie sets, in Hollywood or in various vacation locales where the emphasis is not on reality. They are surrounded by staff whose jobs depend on keeping all mortal nuisances at bay. Presumeably, we’re supposed to care what they think, because we feel like we know these people, and they are everything we wish we could be. They say clever things on screen, look good and have money.

And war is bad. The tragic plight of innocents is important. These are easily grasped truths. Bitter experience shows us it is sometimes necessary to look beyond these immediate undeniable facts. This is a cruel truth. Foreign policy and war are extremely complex matters. Sometimes it has been that innocents are accidentally, tragically killed in the process of removing parties who purposefully have killed hundreds of thousands, or intended to do so. Sometimes those parties are directly responsible for the deaths of innocents when they hide and fire from among them.

This level of complexity is generally beyond the scope of the glitterati. Yesterday, a full-page ad in the Los Angeles Times by an A-list of actors denounced the killing of innocents in Lebanon and Israel. They laid the blame exactly where it belongs. La-la luminaries Nicole Kidman, Michael Douglas, Danny DeVito, Dennis Hopper, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Don Johnson, James Woods, Kelly Preston, Patricia Heaton of "Everyone Loves Raymond," William Hurt and 73 others said they are "pained and devastated by the civilian casualties in Israel and Lebanon caused by terrorist actions initiated by terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas." The amount of logic and empathy on display, the willingness to break from prevailing views that Israel’s act of self-defense was "disproportionate" and that Hezbollah should be allowed to fire from within civilian populations, is astonishing.

I still, by and large, don’t give a damn what actors think. But in this case, the pigs have taken flight. I have a prediction. More of them will emerge. Actors who think it’s cool to oppose murderous terrorist groups and have the totally cool sophistication to appreciate some level of complexity in world affairs. Actors who have the ability to look past the immediate emotional impulse, buck the cocktail party clucking, and transcend superficiality. This is something different, and I’m interested.

Besides, Nicole Kidman is hot.

And she condemns terror, too!