Friday, December 28, 2007

Pakistan; The Next 7

Pakistan is quite likely to be the single most difficult item in [the] new president’s inbox.

--Richard Haass, President
Council on Foreign Relations

The U.S. had hoped Benazir Bhutto’s return to Pakistan and her installation as prime minister following next month’s parliamentary elections would have stabilized an anti-extremist, pro-Western government in that important country. Her assassination threatens to make Pakistan instead the world’s potentially most frightening nuclear power. The nation has over 33 million males under 15, most of them poor, many headed for unemployment.

Pakistan itself, with 165 million, is the world’s sixth largest nation, though eighth in our population ranking, because we count the European Union as two countries of equally large size. Pakistan and six other large nations just outside our Big 8 make up the “Next 7”. Collectively, the “Next 7” have 13% of the world’s people, 7% of its wealth and, because the grouping includes oil-rich Iran and Canada, 28% of world petroleum reserves.

None of our “Next 7” are European Union countries, because the EU—all of it—is represented by its two Big 8 representatives. By contrast, two term members of the current 15-member Security Council are EU nations (Belgium and Italy).

Adding the Next 7 to the Big 8 gives us a Top 15 that accounts for 70% of the world’s people, 4/5ths of its wealth, and nearly 2/5ths of its oil. The Top 15 together represent Asia (5 nations), Europe (3), North America (2), Latin America (2), the Middle East (2), and Africa (1).

If we care about people—population—not flags, we should create and support this Top 15, which if it worked together, could truly benefit the world’s masses.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Religion in America

It’s Christmas.

America benefits from religious freedom, and the competition generated between various beliefs, including secularism. Today, however, our nation isn’t in a sweet spot. The political divisions between Republicans and Democrats parallel the divide between those who attend church regularly and those who live outside the church. The recent Des Moines Register Iowa Democratic presidential debate underscored this point. On the Fox television screen, pollster Frank Luntz posted a real-time graph that tracked his Democratic focus group’s response to the debate as it unfolded. Viewers watching the graph could see focus group reaction to each speaker’s words, just as the candidates’ answers left their mouths.

When Joe Biden [picture] mentioned attending church and quoted words from a hymn he sang on Sunday (here at 2:37 of Part 4), the focus group’s negatives plunged through the floor. Judged by the group’s response to Biden, Democrats are uncomfortable with politicians who bring their personal faith into political dialogue. And probably Republicans react the opposite way; many are drawn to candidates who discuss their personal faith.

Because religious/cultural differences parallel our nation’s political divide, it will be harder to unite America in 2008.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Big 8

The Big 8 represent 56% of the world’s people, 72% of the world’s wealth, and a hold relatively small share (9%) of the world’s oil reserves. Henry Kissinger, saying the Security Council doesn’t represent “current realities,” has called for a similar grouping of leading world nations.

The current Security Council has five permanent members. The U.S., China, and even Russia should be permanent members. But today, so should India, Brazil and Japan. Adding the three non-European powers would enlarge the permanent membership to eight. So what about the UK and France? Should they be there? Not as individual nations with only 60 million people each. Permanent membership for the UK and France is a historical anachronism left over from World War II. United Germany has more people, and is more economically powerful.

The European Union, with 500 million people, 27 countries, and an economy twice the size of #2 China, could fill two permanent seats. So the permanent 5 would then become the Big 8, with two EU representatives, the U.S., China, Russia, India, Brazil and Japan. The Big 8 collectively represent Europe (3 seats), Asia (3 seats), North America, and Latin America. That mix is far better than today’s Security Council permanent members, or the so-called "Group of Eight," a largely white, European-origin group made up of the U.S., the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Canada, and Japan.

The world has changed since 1945, and even since 1975, when the “Group of Six” (Canada and Russia came later) was formed. It’s time the world’s leading nations honor the change, include China, Japan, India and Brazil, and reduce the ranks of Europeans and North Americans.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Big 8, The Top 15

Here’s our latest look at the world’s 15 most important nations. It’s a revised version of the current UN Security Council, and we call the top group, an updated version of the Security Council’s five permanent members, the Big 8. The remaining 7 countries include 5 of the 13 most populous nations, and two others with large economies and significant oil reserves.

The revisions incorporate data from the World Bank’s revised list [look up "ICP" at link] of the world’s largest economies, based on GDP Purchasing Power Parity (PPP GDP). The Bank’s revised list came out December 17. We have also updated population totals and looked again at oil reserves. As we explained when preparing last year’s Top 15 list, our point total also gives credit to nations with a nuclear weapons capability, even though doing so truly is an undesirable way to measure world power.

Our biggest change from last year is recognizing the European Union as a political entity. We leave it to the EU to determine how to fill its two allotted seats. Right now, the UK and France are permanent members of the Security Council, while Germany, bigger and more powerful, is not even on the Council, and Italy and Belgium are term members until next year. The EU should decide for itself whether the UK and France hold permanent seats in what would be our Big 8, or whether the EU should rotate membership to include Germany and Italy. The EU’s combined strength and size does justify its holding two of the Big 8 seats.

If all people are equal, then it’s time to recognize that 70% of the world’s people live in 15 nations with—except for Nigeria and Bangladesh—significant economic clout. These Top 15 (if we agree the two EU representatives account for the entire EU) also have nearly 4/5ths of the world’s wealth, and nearly 2/5ths of its oil reserves. Once this group starts meeting, the world will be able to take effective collective action. The UN can continue as a forum for the remaining 177 nations.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Person of the Year? Not.

On “Person of the Year,” TIME blows it again.

I said an Arctic iceberg. TIME named Al Gore first runner-up. Close. Close.

Putin? Why, for having oil? Sarkozy wasn’t even a runner-up, and Petraeus was fourth runner-up, after J.K. Rowling. TIME doesn’t recognize great leaders when they’re staring its editorial staff in the face.

TIME's Ed Board meeting; something like this. “We can’t name Petraeus! Are we going to tell everybody we’re wrong on the war? No way! Well, so how about we pick a villain then, in the tradition of Hitler, Stalin, the Ayatullah? That’ll keep us away from any ‘Why not Petraeus?’ stuff. Yeah, a real villain. But Chaney. . .well, it just hasn’t been his year. Not enough mean in '07. Hey, but how about Putin??? Yeah. Putin!”

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Person of the Year

He’s the obvious choice. In an era when so many leaders disappoint, Petraeus grabbed a hold of the biggest problem facing America, and in a matter of months whipped that baby into submission. He is the Chester Nimitz, John Pershing, and U.S. Grant of our latest war, a leader who made a difference, a real hero. In the classic tradition of TIME “men” of the year, he single-handedly changed the course of history.

Will TIME choose Petraeus “Person of the Year”? They are more likely to select an Arctic Ocean iceberg. But if TIME picks Nicholas Sarkozy instead of Petraeus, I will forgive them.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

"Recession? Happy Days!"

The odds for a recession dropped today, because of an unexpected rise in retail sales. Still, the watch is on for economic bad news that will displace Iraq bad news in paving the path to Democratic victory.

One guy who's got this all right is New York Magazine columnist Kurt Anderson. Tongue firmly planted in cheek, Anderson lays out the truth: Democrats love bad news. Or as the article’s sub-head says, “The surge is working! Yikes. Stem cells can be harvested embryo-free! Boo-hoo. A recession in the offing? Happy days are near again.”

According to Anderson:

 every four years, we “put on our own special pair of red plastic decoder glasses that enable us—force us, really—to . . . scan each day’s headlines [asking] . . . Is it bad for the Republicans?”

 the New York Times’ front-page lead . . . warned of “intensifying worries that the economy may be headed for recession.” Total bummer, right? Yes … um … unless you’d prefer that a Democrat be elected president next year. Since the Civil War, whenever the economy was in recession at election time, the opposition party has won the White House.

 for Democrats, every news story pointing to imminent economic ugliness is a gift. Such is our duplicitous American version of Leninism lite: The worse, the better—but don’t ever say so. Our cynical Bizarro selves must remain closeted.

Thank you, Mr. Anderson, for opening your closet door!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Obama Time

David Brooks feels the nation’s zeitgeist has changed. To Brooks, Obama’s call for voters to reject fear, partisanship and textbook politics and vote for a new era of national unity—a call in tune with our new zeitgeist—helps explain Barack’s rising popularity. Brooks attributes our changed mood to Iraq’s dropping from the headlines, the Iran threat’s possible decline, reduced Israeli-Palestinian tensions, Pakistan’s avoiding implosion, and Hugo Chavez’s reversal in Venezuela. Brooks could have added to his list North Korea’s stepping back from confrontation.

Ellen Goodman worries Brooks could be right about Obama. In her weekend column, Goodman goes after Obama as could only someone worried history has passed her by. Goodman writes Obama “described boomer politics with something close to disdain as a psychodrama ‘rooted in old grudges and revenge plots hatched on a handful of college campuses long ago', and. . . [called] Hillary [one who’s] ‘been fighting some of the same fights since the '60s.’” Ouch!

To Goodman, those were fights worth fighting. “The '60s opened up huge and important conflicts. It was . . . about . . . black and white relationships, male and female relationships, gay and straight relationships, all kinds of authority and our place in the world.”

Goodman believes “the campaign against any Republican will take place in the fray. . . [I]n an era of ugly politics. . . [w]e don't need healing but resounding defeat. . . [That means we need a] bulldozer [who] can't be kissed into submission.”


Friday, December 07, 2007

Iraq Surge Success Continues

Here’s our latest monthly, highly abbreviated version of the Iraq Index, published and updated twice a week by Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution:

Americans Killed in Action, Iraq (monthly average)
2003: 32
2004: 59
2005: 56
2006: 58
2007: 67
November: 33

Americans Killed in Action, Vietnam (monthly average)
1965: 128*
1966: 420
1967: 767
1968: 1140
1969: 785
* = First U.S. combat troops arrived in Vietnam, 5.3.65
Vietnam table compiled by Galen Fox using Defense Department sources.

Crude Oil Production (m. bbls./day)

Prewar Peak: 2.50
Goal: 2.10 (Revised downward, 1/07)
actual: 2.40 (11/07)

Electricity (megawatts)

Prewar: 3,958
Goal: 6,000
actual: 4,120 (11/07)

Since our last monthly report, the American KIA total rose from October's 28 up to 33. Still, that KIA total is, except for last month, the lowest since March 2006, and the recent two-month total of 61 is the lowest bi-monthly American KIA total since February-March 2004. [Please note: the number of KIA is almost always lower than the media-reported total of American deaths, which covers all causes, including non-hostile. Our Iraq and Vietnam figures are KIA only.] American deaths in Iraq are the monthly statistic most closely watched to measure how the war is going.

Our other indicators continue to show success. Oil output is up to its highest daily total since October 2004, and is the fifth-highest oil daily output average for any month since the war began. Once again, revenue from oil exports is the highest ever except for the previous month--a pattern that suggests a month's lag in compiling the revenue total, meaning the November revenue total will be a new Iraq record once we see the first Brookings' report in 2008. Iraq's oil revenue gains are of course helped by record prices for crude on the world market.

As for electricity, here output is down for November--falling to 4,120 megawatts from October's 4,725 megawatts. But electricity usage drops with the temperature. The U.S. interim national target for Iraq is 10-12 hours of electricity a day. Iraq topped that figure in both October and November, the first time that's happened for two months in a row since October-November 2005.

All these measurements portray progress in Iraq.

This blog follows Iraq-related news fairly closely, as does the world. About one-fifth of our blog entries deal with Iraq. Here they all are:

Pew: Public Sees Progress in War Effort

What’s in the Times’ Washington Bureau Water Cooler? (11.21.07)

Facts on the Ground (Reprise)

Succeeding in Iraq

Is War Necessary?

War: Answering the Euro-Democrats (10.29.07)

In-Your-Face Media Bias (10.8.07)

An Excellent Month in Iraq

AP Cooks the Books on Iraq

ABC’s Raddatz Cues Up Reid on How to Blacken Petraeus

Iraq: KIA Down on Eve of Petraeus Report

Can Friedman let Iraq go? Maybe not.

Iraq: American KIA Surpass 9.11 Total

Quitting the War on Terror

Quitters (Part II)

Quitters (Part I) (7.10.07)

Iraq Surge Comes with a Price (7.8.07)

Iraq Death Toll Reaches New High

Why White House May Cave on Iraq

Damning Bob Kerrey with Faint Praise

Thank Heaven for Bob Kerrey (5.22.07)

What to Do About the Islamic Threat

Iraq Surge Costs American Lives

Losing Iraq = Bad News for U.S.

Backlash Times 3

Iraq: Light at the end of the tunnel?

Hope in Iraq

Al-Qaeda: Bigger than Ever

Iraq: No Measurable Progress (4.11.07)

Early Stage Iraq Surge Brings Little Change (3.8.07)

Common Myths about Iraq (2.11.07)

Iraq: Oil Production Target Lowered

The Answer is More Democracy

Baker-Hamilton Support Iraq Troop Surge

Iraq War Loss is Democrats’ Gain

Iraq: Is Winning that Hard?

Iraq: December a Bad Month; 2006 a Bad Year (1.4.07)

Gore’s Running Mate: More Troops in Iraq (1.3.07)

Hey, Look, Patton! (12.12.07)

Do We Need to Win? (12.10.06)

Iraq: November better for Americans (12.5.06)

Uncle Sadr

If Iraq is Vietnam, Where is Uncle Ho? (11.27.06)

Media on Iraq: Losing is Winning (11.21.06)

Iraq: Worst Month in Years

For all Iraq items posted before November 2006, go here.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

God Lives

The Economist has a special section on religion. As an answer to globalization's challenges, religion’s coming back, a theme in line with Tom Friedman’s The Lexus and the Olive Tree (1999), and touched on in this blog’s “computers v. culture”. The world’s biggest religions—Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism—are larger than ever, and Islam’s extreme version is a truly serious threat to globalization. Secularism, once thought the wave of the future, is a North American-Western Europe exception to a picture that has seen Christianity grow from 10 million to 400 million African believers in the 20th century, and China moving toward becoming the world's largest Christian nation by 2050. As The Economist puts it, modernization was thought to lead to secularization, but in fact modernization means pluralism, or different religions (including Atheism as a choice).

Nationalism followed the Age of Faith, and it dominated world history from 1648 to the Berlin Wall’s 1989 fall. We are now in the era of globalization, with religion in its shadow, making a comeback.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Pew: Public Sees Progress in War Effort

Pew Research has the first solid evidence I’ve seen that the public is accepting evidence of the Iraq surge’s success.
According to Pew,

there has been improvement in how both Democrats and Republicans view the war. At the lowest point in February, 51% of Republicans said things were going well. Today, 74% of Republicans say the same. And . . . the proportion of Democrats expressing a positive view of the Iraq effort has doubled since February (from 16% to 33%). [In addition,] 41% of independents offer a positive assessment, while half say things are not going well. In February, 26% of independents expressed a positive view of . . .Iraq.

Pew also found that “improving” has replaced “mess” as the most popular single-word description for Iraq.

Why are these men laughing?

Neither Bush nor Ehud Olmert nor Mahmoud Abbas have the clout to deliver a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement. Hamas takes out Abbas if he compromises, and likewise the Israeli right wing takes out Olmert if he makes concessions. When Ariel Sharon went into a coma, the leader who could have achieved peace with Palestine left the scene. So even though Bush has nothing to lose, even though Iraq’s improving security situation gives the U.S. more clout, even though Syria really does want peace with Israel, and even though Hamas’ shift to Gaza offers Abbas latitude he didn’t expect to have in dealing on the West Bank, these guys just aren’t the three to make it happen. Not the British in 1948. Not Bush in 2008. (Ouch! Sixty years!)

Politics is always local in the sense that a leader weak at home can’t make the compromises that move history forward.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

U.N. Security Council Doesn't Work

Henry Kissinger has some comments about how poorly the current U.N. structure serves international security needs:

The Security Council must be reformed, since it does not represent current realities. . .India, Japan, Germany and Brazil are not included. Yet this reform is unlikely, since it would either involve expansion of the veto-wielding permanent membership--rendering the Security Council even less capable of decisive action--or elimination of the veto, [which] would be unacceptable to the United States and the other four permanent members. But some change is necessary. The Council itself is breaking down--the interests of its permanent members are not parallel enough to permit a unanimous decision. . .

Kissinger’s comments are in line with this blog’s more detailed, earlier discussion of who really counts in world affairs.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

U.S. economy fundamentally sound.

New York Times columnist David Brooks is impressed with Summers’ warning about where the U.S. economy is headed. But he offers several points of optimism, admittedly from a longer-term perspective:

 the World Economic Forum and the International Institute for Management Development produced global competitiveness indexes, and once again they both ranked the United States first in the world. . . it leads the world in . . .higher education and training, labor market flexibility, the ability to attract global talent, the availability of venture capital, the quality of corporate management and the capacity to innovate.

 The U.S. . . has successfully absorbed more than 20 million legal immigrants over the past quarter-century, an extraordinary influx of human capital. . .Birthrates are relatively high, meaning that in 2050, the average American will be under 40, while the average European, Chinese and Japanese will be more than a decade older. . .The U.S. standard of living first surpassed the rest of the world’s in about 1740, and . . . the country has resolutely refused to decay.

 Between 1991 and 2007, the U.S. trade deficit exploded to $818 billion from $31 billion. Yet . . . during that time the U.S. created 28 million jobs and the unemployment rate dipped to 4.6% from 6.8%. . . Every quarter the U.S. loses . . . seven million jobs, and creates a bit more than seven million . . . the essence of a dynamic economy.

U.S. Financial Distress

Larry Summers, the former Harvard president who earlier was Clinton’s Treasury Secretary, is worried about where the U.S. economy is going. He makes these cautionary points (comments no Harvard president, even Summers, would utter in public):

1. forward-looking indicators suggest that the housing sector may be in free-fall from what felt like the basement levels of a few months ago. . . nationwide house prices could fall from their previous peaks by as much as 25% over the next several years. . . it is hard to believe declines of . . . this magnitude will not lead to a dramatic slowing in . . . consumer spending . . .

2. only a small part of the financial distress that must be worked through has yet been faced. . .the rate of foreclosure will more than double over the next year . . .total losses in the American financial sector would be several times the $50bn or so in write-downs that have already been announced, [spreading] to the credit card, auto and commercial property sectors.

3. the capacity of the financial system to provide credit in support of new investment on the scale necessary to maintain economic expansion is in increasing doubt. . . powerfully demonstrated last week when the yield on the two-year Treasury bond dropped below 3% for the first time in years.

So Summers offers these recommendations:

1. the Fed has to get ahead of the curve and recognise – as the market already has – that levels of the Fed Funds rate that were neutral when the financial system was working normally are quite contractionary today.

2. policymakers need to [adopt] non-traditional [measures], given how much of the problem lies outside bank balance sheets. . . The priority [is] maintaining the flow of credit.

3. [we need to maintain] demand in the housing market to the maximum extent possible. The government . . . needs to assure that there is a continuing flow of reasonably priced loans to credit worthy home purchasers.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What’s in the Times’ Washington Bureau water cooler?

News of Iraq’s improved security situation has reached the New York Times—at least its Washington Bureau. Michael Gordon, its military correspondent, has written that attacks in Iraq had declined to the lowest level since January 2006, “adding to a body of evidence. . . that the violence had diminished significantly since the United States reinforced troop levels in Iraq and adopted a new counterinsurgency strategy.” The Gordon article quotes Brookings’ Michael O’Hanlon, another Washington insider, saying “These trends are stunning in military terms and beyond the predictions of most proponents of the surge last winter.”

Of still greater significance, Washington-based Timesman Tom Friedman has quietly signed on to the guardedly more optimistic view of how things are going in Iraq. Here’s how Friedman words it:

 It’s clear that the surge by U.S. troops has really dampened violence in Iraq. . .The surge has made Iraq safe. . . for an ‘A.T.M. peace’. . . the Baghdad government. . . as an A.T.M. cash machine — supporting the army and local security groups and dispensing oil revenues to the provincial governors and tribal chiefs from each community.

 Can the informal arrangements they’re cobbling together reach a level of stability that would enable a major drawdown of U.S. forces next year? I don’t know. My Iraq crystal ball stopped working a long time ago. I’m taking this one step at a time. Right now what is indisputable is that we are seeing the first crack in years in a wall of pessimism that has been the Iraq story.

Whoa! Friedman back to hoping for an Iraq win?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Will Sarko beat the unions?

In the heart of Old Europe, an event of historic proportions. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is attempting to face down the unions that have held French democracy hostage for over a century. Shortly after coming to power this past Summer, Sarkozy made it clear he would have to break union power in order to reform France. Now the transit workers are striking France, costing the country roughly $500 million a day. According to the International Herald Tribune, these are the facts:

Sarkozy: "We will not surrender and we will not retreat. France needs reforms to meet the challenges imposed on it by the world.” Sarkozy warned that the walkout must halt before it brought "the economy to its knees," and he cited the millions of French people who "are exasperated by being held hostage. . . You have to think of all those who have to go to work."

The strikers: railroad, subway and bus workers; energy workers and employees at the Paris Opera; air traffic controllers; newspaper printers; primary and high school teachers; firefighters, weather-service employees and staff of the Bank of France. Threatening to go out: Air France pilots.

How it’s going: demonstrators mobilized about 30% of the 2.5 million civil service employees. There were signs train workers were going back to work—fewer than 30% of the workers for the national railroad, SNCF, and the Paris transport network, RATP, were absent Tuesday, compared with 61.5% on last week’s walkout opening day.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Hollywood Goofs

Here’s the truth. The war in Iraq is unpopular. But Hollywood’s anti-Iraq movies are even bigger bombs. “The Kingdom,” in its 8th week, grossed a mere $102,000, a feeble stab at the $70 million cost to make it. But at least “The Kingdom,” wisely marketed as an action flick, grossed $47 million in the previous seven weeks. The other four anti-war pics have together grossed but $28 million (see chart), and one of the four—“Rendition”—is gone after only four weeks. Yikes!

Chart extrapolated from: LA Times, 11.19.07

Even more amazing, stars of the movies are Oscar winners and A-listers Reese Witherspoon [pictured], Meryl Streep (twice), Jake Gyllenhaal, Tom Cruise, Robert Redford, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper, Tommy Lee Jones, Susan Sarandon, and Charlize Theron. What gives?

USA Today commentator Jonah Goldberg offers his reasons for Hollywood’s missing its mark, among them:

 Hollywood cares less and less about what Americans think of their products because . . . Hollywood shifted its aim to foreign markets. Denouncing the war isn't only good marketing in Europe, it's the fastest route to critical acclaim.

 Perhaps the studios of yesteryear knew something today's moguls don't. . .Americans don't like to see America and her troops run down, even during an unpopular war.

To Goldberg, the following illustrates how little Hollywood understands America today:

When Peter Berg tested “The Kingdom” on Americans, he was horrified when the audience cheered when the FBI killed the terrorists at the end. "Am I experiencing American bloodlust?" the director agonized.

Polarized News Junkies

I have argued (here and previous) that mainstream media control the national agenda. The intensity of their effort to retain control suggests to me a fear that control is slipping away, a fear given indirect support by Markus Prior’s recent book on Post-Broadcast Democracy: How Media Choice Increases Inequality in Political Involvement and Polarizes Elections. The author first describes a golden age of television news, when TV “consisted essentially of three networks, and many people watched news. At the height of the broadcast era, from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s, almost half of all Americans watched one of the three network newscasts at 6:30 p.m. on a regular weekday evening.” Prior calls people of that era “politically informed, at least on some basic level.” During that time, network television helped end the Vietnam war, remove Nixon from the White House, and bring down Carter as well.

In his look at the same period, James Q. Wilson found that while the mainstream media changed middle class American views on Vietnam, their impact on working- class people proved less significant, a finding Wilson attributed to the media’s realizing they were serving a mass audience, and restraining their overt bias in order to hold that audience. Wilson believes today’s niche-marketed media, no longer with a mass audience, more freely express their true views.

As for Prior, he writes that the population currently watching network news is below 10%, and identifies 20% of the TV audience as happy enough with cable and other news to make news their preferred viewing choice. He’s worried about the lack of political participation of the other 80%—those who get their news from Leno, Letterman, or nowhere. People who follow the news re-enforce their partisan views with their preferred niche choices. They help make politics confrontational. The less partisan uninvolved, by voting in reduced numbers, deny America the benefit of their more moderate, middle-of-the-road sentiments.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Academia's PC Rot

"White culture is a melting pot of greed, guys, guns, and god."

--From University of Delaware’s August 2007 "diversity facilitation training" program for resident assistants (RAs).

You know what I object to most? Giving "melting pot" a bad name.

The irony of what’s happening on college campuses is that in the name of diversity, the marketplace of ideas that used to distinguish a great university is giving way to an ideologically rigid world view that brooks little dissent. This from the National Journal’s Stuart Taylor Jr., who says he has “never been conservative enough to vote for a Republican presidential nominee.”

According to Taylor:

 One Delaware University RA report classified a young woman as one of the "worst" students in the residence life education program for saying that she was tired of having "diversity shoved down her throat" and responding "none of your damn business" when asked "when did you discover your sexual identity?" Said Kelsey Lanan, a 19-year-old sophomore, "it seemed like they were trying to convince us we were racist and sexist and were horrible people".

 "At least in the humanities and social sciences," Emory University professor Mark Bauerlein wrote in a 2004 essay, "academics shun conservative values and traditions, so their curricula and hiring practices discourage non-leftists from pursuing academic careers. The quasi-Marxist outlook of cultural studies rules out those who espouse capitalism. . . If you think that the nuclear family proves the best unit of social well-being, stay away from women's studies."

 the 88 Duke professors who signed [the] April 2006 ad in the school paper spearheading the mob rush to judgment against falsely accused lacrosse players included 80% of the African-American studies faculty; 72% of the women's studies professors; 60% of the cultural anthropology department. . .

 Duke literature professor Grant Farred has produced . . . a monograph styling Houston Rockets center Yao Ming, a native of China, as "the most profound threat to American empire." In the fall of 2006, Farred accused hundreds of Duke students of "secret racism" against "black female bodies" because they had registered to vote. . . to defeat rogue Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong. . . [Now] Cornell [has] hire[d] away and tenure[d] Farred. . ."We are very enthusiastic about Professor Farred, whose work everyone in this department has long admired," remarked Cornell English Department Chairwoman Molly Hite.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Facts on the Ground (Reprise)

[Iraq is] a debacle and that’s a fact. We’re only debating the causes.

--“Facts on the Ground,” 10.17.06

A year ago, I argued that the combination of Saddam, militant Sunni Islam, and the world’s fourth largest oil reserves made Iraq the world’s most dangerous country in 2003, before the U.S. liberated Iraq. A year ago, the future of Iraq as a unified country was very much in doubt. The overthrow of Saddam had exposed long-standing fissures within the Iraqi body politic.

Since then, the U.S. surge has helped increase security for Iraq’s people, particularly in areas formerly controlled or threatened by al-Qaeda in Iraq. Improving security in turn is helping the economy. But Iran’s influence over Iraq’s Shiite majority remains a concern, and includes uncertainty about the power of Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi militia, armed by Iran.

The American media do control our agenda, but in the end, the national debate revolves around actual facts. In the end, no matter the spin, truth emerges. The reason Iraq hurt Bush and Republicans so much is because we were losing there in 2006. And our Iraq difficulties in turn colored how people viewed Republicans, the War on Terror, and the economy. That may change, now that conditions in Iraq are improving.

Friday, November 09, 2007

For unhappy Americans, thank the media.

American forces have routed Al Qaeda in [Iraq] from every neighborhood in Baghdad a top American General [Maj.Gen. Fils, pictured] said today, allowing American troops involved in the 'surge' to depart as planned.

--Item in New York Times, found at p. A-19

The news here is no news—the New York Times is determined to bury good news out of Iraq.

For the era of Democratic dominance, 1933-64, the media largely supported the president, shouldering their patriotic duty to help the president move America out of depression and through a major war, post-war recovery, the challenges of the Cold War, and the early civil rights struggle. But after Kennedy died and Johnson led us astray in Vietnam, the media retched out its sicky sweet treatment of the White House, becoming the adversary it probably was supposed to be, all the way until Gingrich tried to tie Clinton into knots with Newt’s December 1995 government shutdown.

In the face of this conservative attack on Clinton, the media turned themselves into cheerleaders for the weakened Democrats, and helped hold the White House together through Clinton's impeachment crisis (1998-99). The media were then collectively outraged by Bush’s illegitimate election victory in 2000, and worried about what complete Republican control of Washington would do to the country. Knocked off their game by 9.11, the media pounced on Iraq as Bush’s Vietnam—a God-given (except media mostly don’t believe in God) gift to be used to drive Bush from the White House.

The media’s principal goal is to replace Republicans with Democrats. Iraq has been their best means for doing so. But any bad news will do: Katrina; high gas prices and mortgage foreclosure rates; Congressional GOP corruption; troubles with Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Korea; dissatisfaction in Europe; global warming; health care costs; tuition costs. Remember the high cost of prescription drugs? That was a big one, until Bush fixed it. Anything that will reflect badly on Republicans. And bury all good news, particularly about the economy—tax cuts working, 50 continuous months of job growth, rising personal income, falling deficits, record increases in productivity, world prosperity lifting the U.S.

The American media are powerful. They shape our national agenda. No wonder Americans, happy in their personal lives, think government stinks.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Americans: Unhappy with Government

Faced with declining monthly American death totals from Iraq, ABC News last night chose to talk about the fact that the death toll in Iraq for 2007 is now the highest for any year. Always able to dig bad news out of good.

David Brooks has a column about the “happiness gap”—that between people’s private optimism and their public gloom. Brooks writes:

 American voters are happy with their own lives: 86% say they are content with their jobs, 76% say they are satisfied with their family income, 62% expect their personal situation to get better, and 65% are satisfied over all with their own lives — one of the highest rates of personal satisfaction in the world today.

 Yet Americans are overwhelmingly pessimistic about public institutions: only 25% are satisfied with the state of their nation; the 4th largest gap in the world between public and private satisfaction, trailing only Israel, Mexico and Brazil. 80% think this Congress has accomplished nothing, 68% think the country is on the wrong track, 62% think that when government runs something, it’s inefficient and wasteful, 60% feel the next generation will be worse off. We’re more pessimistic about government’s ability to solve problems today than in 1974, at the height of Watergate.

Noting that people are not personally miserable or downtrodden, Brooks speculates that neighborhood happiness is threatened by the global problems beyond people’s control: terrorism, rising health care costs, illegal immigration, global warming and the rise of China and India. He recommends politicians offer voters a few big proposals (and implementing strategies) that respond to these global threats. Brooks believes the New Deal succeeded because voters wanted to change the country and their own lives. But today, he suggests, people want the government to change so their own lives can stay the same.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Succeeding in Iraq

[W]e have certainly been successful in significantly improving the security situation in Iraq, and I would say that what we need to do is continue this effort and ensure that the economic reconstruction and development follows.

--Defense Secretary Robert Gates, November 1, 2007

Here’s our latest monthly, highly abbreviated version of the Iraq Index, published and updated twice a week by Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution:

Americans Killed in Action, Iraq (monthly average)
2003: 32
2004: 59
2005: 56
2006: 58
2007: 71
October: 28

Americans Killed in Action, Vietnam (monthly average)
1965: 128*
1966: 420
1967: 767
1968: 1140
1969: 785
* = First U.S. combat troops arrived in Vietnam, 5.3.65
Vietnam table compiled by Galen Fox using Defense Department sources.

Crude Oil Production (m. bbls./day)

Prewar Peak: 2.50
Goal: 2.10 (Revised downward, 1/07)
actual: 2.33 (10/07)

Electricity (megawatts)

Prewar: 3,958
Goal: 6,000
actual: 4,750 (10/07)

Since our last monthly report, the American KIA total dropped from September's 38 down to 28. That KIA total is the lowest since September 2004, and is the third lowest monthly American KIA total since September 2003. It is also less than one-fourth (23.9%) of May's KIA total of 117. [Please note: the number of KIA is almost always lower than the media-reported total of American deaths, which covers all causes, including non-hostile. Our Iraq and Vietnam figures are KIA only.] More than any other closely-watched data, the sharp drop in American KIA provides concrete evidence the surge is working.

Our other indicators also point to success. Oil output is up to its highest daily total since September 2004, and is the fifth-highest oil daily output average for any month since the war began. Only one month since Saddam's overthrow, September, produced more revenue for Iraq from oil than October. And the figure for electricity output is also excellent--4,750 megawatts is the second highest monthly average the Iraq Index has ever recorded (September's total of 4,860 megawatts was higher).

After two excellent months in Iraq for the three indices we have faithfully followed since early 2006, it's hard to refrain from indeed saying, "We seem to be succeeding."

Saturday, November 03, 2007

War: Answering Derek

This is my response to Derek's comment here.

(1) No one (well, hardly anyone) is suggesting leaving Afghanistan, the invasion of which was a measured response to the attacks of 9-11

Europeans are having difficulty maintaining NATO’s presence in Afghanistan. Several nations put severe limits on how their troops are deployed. Canada debates its presence in Afghanistan the way we debate ours in Iraq. U.S. marines have suggested transferring from Anbar to Afghanistan partly to deal with the waning Allied support there.

(2) I would like to see Gerson's plan for actually saving his "flawed democrats of Iraq," with expected costs, etc., before signing on for an everlasting occupation of their country... which they do not want us occupying

If Iraqi’s elected government wants us out, we will go. “Everlasting occupation?” Who says? “Costs, etc.” What “etc.”? It’s all about costs. Liberals want to spend money at home to support worthy projects here, not waste money building democracy in Iraq. Here’s the point. We are at war with Islamic extremists, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, everywhere these forces choose to fight us. It’s an asymmetric war, meaning our costs will be much higher than theirs. Do we fight or not?

(4) The "war on terror" can be won every day by vigilant police work, rights-respecting intelligence gathering, maintenance of our open society, and the peaceful spreading of freedom, capitalism, and democracy

Yes. But what do we do when confronted with organized terrorism, such as the Iran-backed Mahdi militia? All the tools you mention, plus bullets, I believe.

"[it’s] false [to assert] the Iraq War has actually been creating the terrorist threat we seek to fight..."Wrong. It has and it does. The evidence is overwhelming - from surveys of actual muslims, including jihadists. Gerson's counterargument is evidence-free. Why in the world would you excerpt it?

Sigh. Gerson notes that bin Laden used U.S. actions in Iraq in the 1990s to help justify 9.11—Osama didn’t need our overthrow of Saddam to oppose us in Iraq. Osama's attacks came first. We are responding to his war; of course, we would prefer a world at peace. Gerson says flatly that if bin Laden beat us in Iraq, militant Islam would be strengthened around the Muslim world. I so believe. It’s o.k. for you to disagree, but key observers are on my side. Here’s just one post that makes my case (from no friend of Bush).

hardly anyone) is advocating paralysis. What about diplomacy?

Right now, the national foreign policy debate is between those who wish to have “the stick,” “arrows in our quiver” a part of our diplomacy (Clausewitz: "War is nothing but the continuation of policy with other means") and those who are so fed up with Vietnam + Iraq that they want war eliminated as a U.S. foreign policy option. The latter group believes that somehow, one can engage in diplomacy without using the threat of war. What’s so difficult for observers like Gerson to understand is how in the post-9.11 era—when we face others determined to kill as many Americans as possible—we can possibly base policy on foreswearing the use of force.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Universal Health Care is Coming

Mort Kondracke is the very sharp (he won a Washington Post award in 2006 for most accurately predicting the outcome of that year’s congressional elections) executive editor of Roll Call. He’s happy because the next election will result in universal health care. Though Republicans won’t use the word “universal,” the leading candidates’ plans offer tax credits or deductions that enable everyone to buy private insurance.

Kondracke has problems with “HillaryCare 2.0”. Clinton, he writes, “by creating a Medicare-like government alternative to private insurance and heavily regulating private plans, [will drive people] to the government plan, leading to Canadian-style medicine. As Joseph Antos, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute put it, Clinton has designed ‘a reasonably clever way to prove that the private sector doesn't work and have the government swoop in on a white horse.’” Kondracke adds, “studies document that public satisfaction with Canada's single-payer system is low because of long waits for diagnostic tests and surgery.”

But Kondracke also feels GOP plans are flawed because “tax deductions or credits . . .encourage younger, healthier workers to drop company coverage and buy cheap policies on their own, raising the cost for older workers left behind.” Kondracke favors the plan of Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) that combines mandatory coverage, tax credits and a regulated private market; a plan discussed here earlier.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Is War Necessary?

"Wall Street Gets Rich, Iraqis and GIs Die"

"Drop Tuition Not Bombs"

--San Francisco War Protest Signs

Now that things are going better in Iraq, the anti-Iraq message is shifting from “What’s happening?” on the ground there to “Why?” do we keep wasting resources (money and lives) in Iraq. Here’s the rub: if Iraq’s about money and lives we can’t afford, then the message might be to avoid all war, not just Iraq. War costs money. War costs lives. Democracies—in Europe and North America—want to fix life at home, not “save the world.”

So 9.11 was no “Remember Pearl Harbor!”-like turning point after all. Instead of uniting to fight Islamic extremism, we’re one part of a divided nation going after the other part. We want to skewer the evil Americans (Wall Street) who make money off war and the high price of oil. But what’s this about lowering tuition? I thought universities raise tuition unreasonably high so that those who can afford college subsidize those who can’t.

Monday, October 29, 2007

War: Answering the Euro-Democrats

Newsweek carries a summary of Michael Gerson’s views on the War on Terror, as expressed in his book Heroic Conservatism. Gerson, formerly Bush’s speechwriter, indirectly answers the Euro-Democrats’ laid-back approach to terrorism:

 do we stand with the flawed democrats of Iraq, or abandon them to overthrow and death? . . . If America abandons Muslim[s] who are risking their lives to fight Islamic radicalism and terror—in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere—the War on Terror cannot be won.

 [it’s] false [to assert] the Iraq War has actually been creating the terrorist threat we seek to fight. . .America is not responsible for the existence of Islamist ideology. Yet . . . American success . . . does have an effect on the recruitment of radicals. All "pan movements"—political ideologies that claim historical inevitability—expand or contract based on morale. . . If America were really to retreat in humiliation from Iraq, Islamist radicals would trumpet their victory from North Africa to the islands of the Philippines.

 the most dangerous and self-destructive lesson [to] be drawn from Iraq is a hyper-caution indistinguishable from paralysis.

Amen, Mike.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Democrats “Going Native”

In politics, if you can’t win, you face two choices: 1) change the message, or 2) change the size of the arena. In 2004, Karl Rove kept Bush’s pro-life message, but changed the arena by bringing millions of evangelicals to the polls who hadn’t voted in 2000.

Democrats fear the “War on Terror” issue. It cost them the 2002 and 2004 elections, and might bite them again next year. So they change the message (it worked in 2006): “It’s not about ‘terror’ or Afghanistan, it’s about the stupid war in Iraq.” But Democrats have a fall-back position that moves the “War on Terror” to a larger arena—the world stage. Democrats embrace what Europeans think about Islamic extremism. Their tendency to look to Europe comes naturally. After all, if Western Europeans voted for president, Kerry [pictured] would have won in a landslide.

“Going native” is the pejorative hurled at U.S. diplomats who work so fully inside a foreign culture that their policy recommendations become those of the host country. Here’s how the latest Foreign Affairs Quarterly tome on fighting terrorism, by Philip Gordon of the liberal Brookings think tank, makes the European case for how to handle terrorism—“Don’t worry, most of all, don’t fight, because time will find a cure.” Gordon recommends the U.S.:

 not overreact to threats but instead . . . reestablish its moral authority and the appeal of its society, which have been so badly damaged in recent years.

 end the large U.S. combat presence in Iraq, which has become more of a recruiting device for al Qaeda than a useful tool in the war on terror.

 [recognize] Muslims themselves will turn against the extremists in their midst. . .If the United States is . . . patient, [Muslims] will . . . transform their world -- and ours.

Sure, Phil. That’ll take care of bin Laden.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Liberal Triumph Likely

If Paul Krugman speaks for liberals, then liberals are pretty much what I say they are: an elite trying to return America to when they ran it, strongly anti-business, righteous as priests (liberals were right on civil rights), and dismissive of hoi polloi and their Christian superstitions. I didn’t much like Barry Goldwater and his conservative arrogance in 1964, and I dislike the 2007 Krugman liberal version just as much.

Which matters not one wit. Krugman’s elite is on the verge of recapturing America. According to the latest Gallup Poll analysis, a likely Democratic sweep next year rests on these facts:

 people can’t stand Bush;
 Just 33% of Americans describe economic conditions in the country today as "excellent" or "good;"
 the public believes the war in Iraq is going badly, and was ill-conceived initially, so unsurprisingly;
 59% have an unfavorable view of Republicans and just 38% have a favorable one, while 43% of Americans rate Democrats unfavorably and 53% favorably.

Gallup doesn’t mention healthcare, an issue that so far, is a big winner for Democrats.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Coming Political War

Stanford historian David Kennedy has written for the New York Times what Paul Krugman [pictured]’s friends call a “scathing review" (see here) of Krugman’s latest book—Conscience of a Liberal. Krugman’s title means that without apparent irony, he sets out to be the liberal answer to Berry Goldwater, who wrote Conscience of a Conservative in 1960, then used the book to run for president in 1964 in a campaign that birthed the political Ronald Reagan.

Kennedy makes these points about Krugman’s creed:

 the nation suffered through a “Long Gilded Age” of let-’er-rip, dog-eat-dog capitalism until the New Deal created a new social order characterized by income-leveling taxes, job security, strong labor unions, a prosperous middle class, bipartisan solidarity and general social bliss: a post-World War II “paradise lost.”

 where the orthodox see market miracles, Krugman sees many a market failure. And where they detect the invisible hand, he finds manipulation by the richest Americans to rig the game in their favor.

 the malefactors of megawealth have triumphed. Chief executives who typically earned 30 times more than their average employee in the 1970s now take home more than 300 times as much, and “have become rich enough to buy themselves a party”.

 “radicals of the right” have spawned a toxic level of partisanship. [Goldwater, Reagan, and company] set out in the 1960s to exploit racial tensions, national security anxieties and volatile value-laden matters like abortion, school prayer and gay rights “to change the subject away from bread and butter issues.” By century’s end they had managed “a second Gilded Age” in which inequality is on the rise and the New Deal is in danger of being dismantled.

 The ascendancy of modern conservatism is “an almost embarrassingly simple story,” he says, and race is the key. “Much of the whole phenomenon can be summed up in just five words: Southern whites started voting Republican.”

Kennedy adds that:

For this dismal state of affairs the Democratic Party is held . . . blameless. Never mind the Democrats’ embrace of inherently divisive identity politics, or Democratic condescension toward the ungrammatical yokels who consider their spiritual and moral commitments no less important than the minimum wage or the Endangered Species Act, nor even the Democrats’ vulnerable post-Vietnam record on national security.

As Krugman sees it, the modern Republican Party has been taken over by radicals. “There hasn’t been any corresponding radicalization of the Democratic Party, so the right-wing takeover of the G.O.P. is the underlying cause of today’s bitter partisanship.” No two to tango for him. . .

Krugman astonishingly concludes by repudiating the chimera of “bipartisan compromise” and declaring that “to be a progressive, then, means being a partisan. . . Yes, Virginia, there is a vast right-wing conspiracy.”

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Cost: The Core Healthcare Problem

The Economist uses John McCain’s healthcare plan to make the magazine’s own point about the U.S. healthcare crisis. According to The Economist, McCain is the only candidate to say the truth: healthcare costs too much and we’ve got to cut costs.

The article notes:

 private health insurance, on average, costs $12,000 a year for a family of four.

 since 1967, American health-care costs have increased faster than the economy by an average of an extra 2.5% a year. Health care now consumes around 16% of America's entire GDP, a much higher proportion than in other industrial economies.

 ever-rising costs of this kind are not sustainable, one reason why the proportion of firms offering health care to employees has been steadily falling, from 69% in 2000 to 60% now.

 for people who must pay for their own insurance, rising costs have far outstripped increases in earnings (see chart). This has helped increase the number of uninsured.

 for the government, the geometrically rising price of coverage is inexorably busting the budget. By 2050, Medicare and Medicaid will together consume 20% of GDP—almost the same share as the entire federal budget now.

Of McCain’s solutions, The Economist says,

The most important is to shake up the insurance market, by, for instance, allowing health- insurance companies to tout for business across state lines. . . McCain also wants to see much greater pooling of national data on best practices. . . He wants to see doctors rewarded according to results, rather than procedures, because he argues that the current system is stacked against preventive medicine. His plans are skimpy. . . But at least he is asking the right question.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Women Just Wanna Have Fun

A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.

-- Gloria Steinem

It’s not right to blame women for men’s failure to carry out the duties of fatherhood. But Kay S. Hymowitz, City Journal contributing editor, persuasively argues that women around the world want a new lifestyle that has limited space for men and even children. She calls it, “The Carrie Bradshaw lifestyle,” after the “Sex and the City” star:

 Conceived and raised in the United States, you can find Carrie in cities across Europe, Asia, and North America. Seek out the trendy shoe stores in Shanghai, Berlin, Singapore, Seoul, and Dublin, and you’ll see crowds of single young females (SYF) who spend their hours working their abs and their careers, sipping cocktails, dancing at clubs, and (yawn) talking about relationships. Sex and the City has gone global.

 women are getting married and having kids considerably later than ever before. According to the UN’s World Fertility Report, the worldwide median age of marriage for women is up two years, from 21.2 in the 1970s to 23.2 today. In the developed countries, the rise has been far steeper—from 22.0 to 26.1. In 1970, just 7.4 % of all American 30- to 34-year-olds were unmarried; today, the number is 22%. In today’s Hungary, 30% of women in their early thirties are single; in South Korea, 40% of 30-year-olds are single.

 in the global economy, good jobs go to those with degrees, and women are enrolling in colleges and universities at unprecedented rates. The majority of college students are female in the U.S., the U.K., France, Germany, Norway, and Australia, and the gender gap is quickly narrowing in more traditional countries like China, Japan, and South Korea. In Denmark, Finland, and France, over half of all women between 20 and 24 are in school.

 in the U.K., close to a third of 30-year-old college-educated women are unmarried; some demographers predict that 30% of women with university degrees there will remain forever childless. In Spain, women now constitute 54% of college students, up from 26% in 1970, and the average age of first birth has risen to nearly 30, which appears to be a world record.

 today’s bachelorettes move from their native village or town to Boston or Berlin or Seoul because that’s where the jobs, boys, and bars are—and they spend their earnings on themselves. By the mid-1990s, in Canada, France, Hungary, Ireland, Portugal, and Russia, women were out-urbanizing men, who still tended to hang around the home village.

 according to The Economist, many towns in what used to be East Germany now face Frauenmangel—a lack of women—as SYFs who excelled in school have moved west for jobs, leaving the poorly performing men behind. In some towns, the ratio is just 40 women to 100 men. Women constitute the majority of both high school and college graduates in Poland.

 to delayed marriage, urbanization, expanded higher education—add a global media and some disposable income, and voilà: an international lifestyle is born—long hours of office work, often in quasi-creative fields like media, fashion, communications, and design, followed by new realms of leisure and consumption enjoyed with a group of girlfriends.

 Marian Salzman of the Intelligence Factory notes that by the 1990s, “women living alone had come to comprise the strongest consumer bloc in much the same way that yuppies did in the 1980s.” The National Association of Realtors reports that in the U.S. last year, single women made up 22% of the real-estate market, compared with a paltry 9% for single men. The median age for first-time female buyers: 32.

 a majority of Japanese single women between 25 and 54 say that they’d be just as happy never to marry. The SYF is partly to blame for a worldwide drop in fertility rates. To keep a population stable, women must have an average of 2.1 children. But save Albania, no European country stood at or above replacement levels in 2000. Three-quarters of Europeans now live in countries with fertility rates below 1.5. The most Catholic European countries—Italy, Spain, and Poland—have the lowest fertility rates, under 1.3. Much of Asia looks similar. In Japan, fertility rates are about 1.3. Hong Kong, according to the CIA’s World Factbook, at 0.98 has broken the barrier of one child per woman.

 yet in the United States—the Rome of the New Girl Order—surveys suggest large margins of American women want to marry and have kids. Our fertility rates are healthier than those in most SYF countries. Still, the most recent census data show a “sharp increase” over the past six years in the percentage of Americans in their twenties who have never married, and every year sees more young women working full-time now outearning their male counterparts; trends that are bound to further impact marriage and childbearing rates.

 SYFs complain about a chasm between their own aspirations and those of the men who’d be their husbands. But there’s another glaring fact: the New Girl Order is fun. Why get married when you can party on?

America's Families Hurting

America’s problem getting black men involved in family life is the most extreme example of a general trend—the breakdown of the American family. Mort Zuckerman, publisher of the New York Daily News and U.S. News & World Report, discusses the problem in a recent column:

 the American family has lost its place. Households of unmarried couples and households without children outnumber "American family" households. In the 1950s, 80% of adults were married; today, roughly 50% are.

 births to unmarried mothers, white and black, have risen from 5% in 1960 to about 35% today.

 the stable family of two biological parents is the best vessel for molding character, for nurturing, for inculcating values, and for planning for a child's future. Lack of marriage is the best single predictor of poverty, greater than race or unemployment. Children in mother-only families are more likely to be suspended from school, to have emotional problems, to become delinquent, to suffer from abuse, to take drugs, and to perform poorly on virtually every measure.

 there is a serious divide in our society between the children of poorer, less educated, single parents and those of richer, better educated, and married parents. Married parents typically earn more than $75,000; in only 20% of cases do married parents with children earn less than $15,000.

 parental time with children has dropped from about 30 hours a week to around 17.

Monday, October 15, 2007

America’s Need for Involved Black Men

“Meet the Press” did a special show with Bill Cosby and Alvin F. Poussaint, authors of the just-published Come on People. The book presents some startling facts:

In 1950, five out of every six black children were born into a two-parent home. Now, roughly 70% of black babies are born each year to single mothers. . . Some black women simply don’t want to marry the fathers of their babies because these men appear to have little else to offer beyond the sperm. . . Currently, in college and professional schools, black women outnumber black men two to one. . . In poor communities, more than half of all black men do not finish high school. . . By 2004, the unemployed share of black male high school dropouts in their twenties had increased to a preposterous 72%, almost four times more than among Hispanic dropouts. . . Society keeps laying the problem on the “unwed mother.” You never hear anything about the “unwed father.” We have to talk more about these men and to these men if we are ever to see them assume their responsibilities as men.

Enough young black males behave badly at an early age that they set the norm for other black boys. Check the numbers:

 Homicide is the number one cause of death for black men between fifteen and twenty-nine years of age and has been for decades.
 Of the roughly 16,000 homicides in this country each year, more than half are committed by black men. A black man is seven times more likely to commit a murder (excluding military actions) than a white man, and six times more likely to be murdered. (Black mothers live with these numbers. We don’t know how they sleep at night.)
 94% of all black people who are murdered are murdered by other black people.
 Although black people make up just 12% of the general population, they make up nearly 44% of the prison population.
 At any given time, as many as one in four of all young black men are in the criminal justice system—in prison or jail, on probation, or on parole.
 By the time they reach their midthirties, six out of ten black high school dropouts have spent time in prison.
 About one-third of the homeless are black men.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Last Liberal

National Review's Rich Lowry discusses Jim Piereson’s new book Camelot and the Cultural Revolution.

 the assassination of President Kennedy represented the descent of liberalism from an optimistic creed focused on pragmatic improvements in the American condition to a darker philosophy obsessed with America's sins—echoes that can still be heard in the querulous tones of contemporary liberalism.

 the real John F. Kennedy, though a liberal, did not want anyone to tag him as such. He was also vigorously anti-communist, a tax-cutter and a cautious supporter of civil rights.

 the nation's opinion elite made the "tough and realistic" Kennedy—liberal in the tradition of FDR and Truman—into a martyr to civil rights instead of the Cold War. Thus, the assassination curdled into an indictment of American society. Until that point, 20th-century liberalism had tended to see history as a steady march of progress.

 Kennedy’s assassination turned American history into a twisted story of rapine and oppression. "With such a bill of indictment," Piereson writes, "the new liberals now held that Americans had no good reason to feel pride in their country's past or optimism about its future."

 the left developed ambivalence about national power, in which the old liberal reformers had placed such faith. The Vietnam War was seen through the prism of American malignancy established by the Kennedy assassination. That makes Kennedy, in Piereson's words, "the last articulate spokesman for the now lost world of American liberalism."

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

GOP Suffers Through Good Economy

Last night, ABC News’ Charles Gibson briefly mentioned the big news that both the Dow Jones and the S&P had on the same day each reached all-time record highs. Gibson’s announcement followed the ABC News opening story, complete with reporter and interviewees, about how the high cost of heating oil is going to hammer much of the country this winter, hurting people in their pocket books. Out with the old. In with Clinton. [For this blog, the media’s spinning to boost Clinton’s election will go under the initials “SOS”, for “same old story.”]

The Wall Street Journal’s Stephen Moore [picture] provides reasons why Republicans get so little lift from good economic news:

 according to top Republican pollsters and pundits, independents are not much attracted to what the GOP is saying about taxes. A top strategist said, "Our tax message has worn thin."

 the Republican message that the Bush tax cuts were a resounding success “crashes like the Hindenburg," because politicians who boast about the rosy economy seem delusional, given the rising costs of gasoline, health insurance and college tuition.

 also, because local property and school taxes have been skyrocketing, many independent voters scratch their heads and wonder: What tax cuts?

 voters are unattracted to talk of new tax cuts, which they think are pie-in-the-sky, given the current war costs and budget-deficit. And they favor raising taxes on "the wealthy," a group they are persuaded is taking advantage of tax loopholes to avoid paying their fair share.

Some silver linings for Republicans:

 roughly half of voters are convinced that when politicians say they are only going to soak the rich, it means the voters' own tax bills will go up. As Arizona’s Jon Kyl said, "an overriding concern of economically anxious voters today is that they don't see their own taxes rise." 65% believe now isn't the time to raise taxes, while only 31% believe it is.

 says pollster Tony Fabrizio, "There's no question that for seven out of 10 American voters, wasteful government spending is one of the largest problems in Washington." Polling finds voters believe about 40 cents of every dollar spent by Washington is wasted. According to pollster Winston, 75% of respondents agreed that, "Taxes should not be increased as long as Congress continues to waste the tax money it already receives." Only 23% did not.

 when Winston's poll asked, "Which approach is more likely to increase federal revenues?" 81% said "increasing economic growth" while only 13% said "increasing taxes."