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."

Monday, October 08, 2007

In-Your-Face Media Bias

Howard Kurtz is doing his job. The host of CNN’s “Reliable Sources” has exposed the media’s bias on Iraq, noting that when casualty figures dropped last month, “the media paid little attention. A couple of sentences on the CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News, The New York Times ran it on page 10, The Washington Post, page 14, USA Today page 16. The L.A. Times, a couple of paragraphs at the bottom of a page 4 story.”

Kurtz then got the Post’s Robin Wright to flash her bias when she said, “it's not even sure that it is a trend yet. There is also an enormous dispute over how to count the numbers. There are different kinds of deaths in Iraq." Oh Ms. Wright? And those numbers were a problem when casualties were higher?

Finally, Kurtz turns to CNN’s military correspondent Barbara Starr and remarks, “let's say that the figures had shown that casualties were going up for U.S. soldiers and going up for Iraqi civilians. I think that would have made some front pages.” Starr candidly responds, “Oh, I think inevitably it would have. I mean, that's certainly -- that, by any definition, is news.”

OK, so we have the truth. The media is out to—let’s cut to the chase folks; we've only got 13 months—elect Hillary Clinton. “News” is anything that supports Clinton’s run for the White House: bad stuff from Iraq or on the economy. Good stuff from Iraq or on the economy is “no news”.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Carrying Democracy to the World

The world must be made safe for democracy.

--Woodrow Wilson’s Declaration of War
April 2, 1917

This blog is about the world's best hope: expanding democracy and capitalism to achieve peace. Mandelbaum published The Ideas that Conquered the World in the aftermath of 9.11, a time when “every significant government” (p. 4) had rallied behind the U.S., and we had just achieved our quick victory over the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Mandelbaum is an overt Wilsonian. He credits Wilson with bringing democracy, free enterprise, and peace together in what he calls the “Wilsonian Triad” (p. 6). When Mandelbam's book came out in 2002, it seemed we had indeed made the world “safe for democracy.”

That was then. Now it’s late 2007. After our struggles in Iraq, making even just one other nation (never mind the world) “safe for democracy” is out of fashion everywhere.

Yet the Muslim extremist threat that destroyed the World Trade Center—the heart of global capitalism—remains the chief obstacle to world peace. Muslim extremists are absolutely opposed to capitalism, democracy, and peace, and will die to destroy the modern world these concepts have built.

Our world is very much smaller than it was in Wilson’s time—even flat, in Tom Friedman’s terms. So those unhappy Muslim extremists truly do threaten us all. Hard as it may be to do so, we must take them on, as Wilson took on evil in 1917, when he said:

It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war, into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars, civilization itself seeming to be in the balance. But the right is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts—for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments, for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Democracy Means Isolationism

The Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Henninger has written a sentence that gets to the heart of America’s security policy divide. Henninger is discussing the how anti-Bush forces in Europe and the U.S. are uninterested in promoting democracy anywhere, not just in Iraq. In today’s atmosphere, Henninger explains, the Burmese people don’t have a chance of gathering meaningful Western support. He contrasts Democrats’ current attitude with Democratic President Kennedy, who pushed for democracy abroad as vital to America’s interest.

Then Henniger delivers his fateful sentence:

“The argument for democratic government in places such as Iran is in fact crudely pragmatic: nations with freely operating political parties are likely to be centripetal; their energies bend inward, fighting with each other.”


Henninger, without meaning to, describes the U.S. today, and develops the major argument against his position. America has “freely operating political parties.” Our politics is “centripetal.” Our “energies bend inward, fighting with each other.” We are, in fact, a democracy, and therefore uninterested in going abroad to convert others to democracy. We have our own struggles.

As England fought the Nazis alone, Roosevelt pushed against the natural American tendency to fix on what’s happening here. Bush is only the latest in a long line of presidents who seek to pull Americans together at home to support democracy abroad. But Americans, like Brits, French, Germans, Canadians, Italians, and other democratic people, have “energies” that “bend inward,” toward “each other.” Bush is pushing against the normal state of politics in a democracy.

From World War I to Vietnam, Democratic presidents did most of the pushing. Now Democrats are content to leave the pushing to Republicans, and to reap the political rewards of supporting isolationism. “Return to normalcy,” as GOP President Harding [picture] put it in 1920.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Religion is Source of Evil

With or without [religion] you’d have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, it takes religion.

--Nobel prize winning physicist Steven Weinberg

The quote is from an article by Richard Dawkins, a biologist at Oxford [picture]. It comes from a Washington Post-Newsweek website called, “On Faith,” which encourages discussion of religion because, as Homer said 3000 years ago, "All men need the gods." For the new elite, faith is a curious phenomenon worthy of study. For believers like me, the elite’s difficulty with faith is a curious phenomenon worthy of study.

Dawkins has more to say about religion:

 Nobody is suggesting that all religious people are violent, intolerant, racist, bigoted, contemptuous of women. . . [It’s just that] religion might . . . make them more likely to exhibit [those tendencies].

 humanists tend to define good and bad deeds in terms of the welfare and suffering of others. Murder, torture, and cruelty are bad because they cause people to suffer. . . [S]ome religions (for example the religion of the Taliban) sanction all of them under some circumstances. The actions of the Taliban. . . seem to me to be as close to pure evil as anything I can imagine. Yet, by the lights of their own religion they are supremely righteous – really good people.

 There is a logical path from religious faith to evil deeds. There is no logical path from atheism to evil deeds. . . it can never be rational to say that, because of my nonbelief in religion, it would be good to be cruel, to murder, to oppress women. . .

So there you have it. The Taliban are religious, and by association, all religious people are capable of progressing from “religious faith to evil deeds,” a path no true atheist would follow.

Remarkably inverted logic. Evil stems from religion. What times we live in!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Are People Deserting Republicans?

The Wall Street Journal has a longish article on how business is deserting the Republican Party. Much of it relates to Bush’s failure to balance the budget, understandable to me since we are at war, and anyway, our strong economy is reducing the annual deficit’s size every month. But the article does point out that Republicans seem to be on the wrong side of some popular positions. According to the article:

 Schwarzenegger at last month’s state Republicans convention sounded the alarm. Noting that California Republicans have lost 370,000 registered voters since 2005, the former actor said, "We are dying at the box office." The voters that Republicans need, Mr. Schwarzenegger argued, "often hold conservative views on fiscal policy and law-and-order issues, while taking more liberal stands on social and environmental issues."

 [In a recent poll, ] Pew found that between 1987 and this year, support for "old-fashioned values about family and marriage" had dropped 11%. Those who said gay teachers should be fired dropped 23%. But 75% of the population is worried about growing income inequality, Pew found, while two-thirds favor government-funded health care for all [emphasis added]. Support for a government safety net for the poor is at its highest level since 1987.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

An Excellent Month in Iraq

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: 75
September: 38

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 (9/07)

Electricity (megawatts)

Prewar: 3,958
Goal: 6,000
actual: 4,975 (9/07)

Since our last monthly report, the American KIA total dropped from August's 52 down to 38. That KIA total is the lowest since March 2006, which was just after al Qaeda's destruction of the Samarra mosque triggered the sharp upturn in sectarian violence from which we are only now recovering. [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.] We are a long way down from May's total of 117 KIA, concrete evidence the surge is working.

Oil output is up sharply to its highest daily output in a year, well above the target level of 2.1 million barrels a day. And the figure for electricity output is even better--4,975 megawatts is the highest monthly average the Iraq Index has ever recorded.

In the 18 months we have been summarizing O'Hanlon's report, there has never been a month anywhere near as good as September 2007. Let's hope the good news continues to build, and that it affects Iraq's political situation as well.

Monday, October 01, 2007

The Secular Believers

Capitalists dominated the victorious North and the U.S. after the Civil War, industrializing the nation and filling out the West. America was Protestant and supportive of business. Though still confident through the Roaring Twenties (the business of America is business), business-led Protestantism was humbled by the Great Depression. Starting in 1933, from FDR to LBJ through the New Deal, the Fair Deal, the New Frontier, and the Great Society, progressive presidents carried America through a social revolution, until it all came undone with Vietnam. By then, America had a new elite based upon the power of government that included those who benefited from government’s countervailing power to the business-led elite.

The Democratic presidency was in tatters by 1968. At that point, a new force stood astride America. The media in 1968 not only helped prevent Johnson’s re-election, in 1974 they literally drove Nixon from office. Watergate showed us the president no longer ran the nation. Instead, it was the national media led by The New York Times, The Washington Post/Newsweek [Kay Graham, pictured], CBS, NBC, ABC, TIME, and the Los Angeles Times—David Haberstam’s The Powers That Be (1979). When Jimmy Carter didn’t measure up in 1979-80, the media helped reduce his presidency to powerlessness as well.

Reagan in 1980 ushered in a populist counter-revolution to new elite rule. But in the aftermath of Bush’s Iraq failure, the Katrina disaster, the Republican congress’ corruption problems and its 2006 election defeat, the new elite are again setting America’s agenda. What makes our elite run?

1. Comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. “The comfortable” are wealthy businesspeople and their friends in the Republican Party, including Christian conservatives who reject the new elite's secular values. “The afflicted” are the working class as represented by organized labor, and special classes of victims, including women, children, the elderly, those in poverty, minorities, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and trans-gender individuals. “Comforting” means employing the resources of government to help, and “afflicting” means employing taxes, laws, regulations, and the courts to re-balance the scales toward equality.

2. Celebrating life, protecting the living, and punishing the forces of death. The elite have moved past belief in eternal life, and related codes that restrict personal freedom. The elite want to make the world better within their short lifetime, here and now. They support freedom of expression, except when it's used against the weak. They oppose killing and wars, profit- making activities that harm the environment, and actions that hurt anything living. They take on those who consciously hurt people, animals, trees, air, water, and glaciers.

3. Preserving rule by the enlightened. Members of the elite act on behalf of those less able to defend themselves. So it is vital that the elite retain their power to do good. Americans (the new elite does not fear foreigners) who would take away the new elite’s power are fighting on behalf of selfishness and death. They must be defeated. The new elite rule on our behalf. In that sense, they are as old as temple priests at the dawn of civilization.