The opening of a new American think tank isn't usually much of a story. (I have trouble keeping track of the ones in our building.) But the new Russian Institute for Democracy and Cooperation is raising a few eyebrows. The first Russian think tank based in the United States is seen by many as Vladimir Putin's payback for all the grief he's gotten from U.S. human rights NGOs over the years. Statements from the Institute's already-opened Paris branch about looking for "weak spots" in American democracy would seem to confirm the characterization.
But the institute's U.S. director, Andranik Migranyan, says that all they want to do is learn from U.S:
"We have very serious problems today concerning these problems of immigration, integration, and adaptation," Migranyan said at a recent press conference in Washington. "Russia is becoming more multinational, multiethnic, multireligious, and we have serious problems in this area. This country [the United States] has a long-lasting history on all these issues. And we would like to know how these problems are discussed here, how they are solved here -- as well as institutional problems, and problems [with values]. What do those things mean?"
The RIDC has bought office space in New York but hasn't yet announced a date for their opening. Meanwhile, Migranyan is holding meetings with established think tanks like the Brookings Instution and the Heritage Foundation.
Migranyan is pretty vague about where the institute gets its funding, which doesn't do much to dispel the notion that it will be little more than a Kremlin propaganda tool. Of course, if they ever open a D.C. office, they're welcome to join our softball league.
(Hat tip: David Johnson)
The folks at Rock the Vote just sent over the results of their latest poll, conducted by using jukebox-like machines to "survey" more than 72,000 bar and nightclub patrons. Here's the results, as provided by their PR flack:
I guess we can conclude:
1) A fair number of beer guzzling bar rats think all three of the candidates are pretty lame as drinking buddies.
2) Old beer guzzling bar rats in Florida would really like to sit down with McCain and commiserate about how the Maginot Line totally sucked.
3) Three in 10 bar rats have no clue what either the Republican or Democratic party is -- and probably don't care to.
4) Most bar rats could really use some extra cash to pay for beer.
Yesterday the U.S. House of Representatives voted 324-84 to permit the U.S. Justice Department to sue OPEC for manipulating oil supplies and prices. Fortunately, the White House opposes the measure, saying that going after OPEC countries "would likely spur retaliatory action against American interests in those countries."
Rep. Steve Kagen, a Wisconsin Democrat who sponsored the legislation, issued a press release that said, "American consumers remain at the mercy of OPEC nations." Hmmm … Americans, living in one of the wealthiest and most innovative countries on Earth, are helpless weaklings who survive at the mercy of others? Perhaps they should pay attention to columnist Thomas Friedman when he said:
It baffles me that President Bush would rather go to Saudi Arabia twice in four months and beg the Saudi king for an oil price break than ask the American people to drive 55 miles an hour, buy more fuel-efficient cars or accept a carbon tax or gasoline tax that might actually help free us from what he called our “addiction to oil.”
FP readers already know the story of "How Sushi Went Global." And it's generally no secret that you can get a spicy tuna roll everywhere from Bangalore to Belize. But barbecue? Yes, apparently slow-cooked pig's butt is starting to go global, too.
The word out of the 2008 World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, the world's largest pork BBQ contest held last weekend in Memphis, is that the globalization of barbecue is in the "embryonic" stages.
The trend can apparently lead to some awkward interactions:
At one point this year, a member of the Deominox team [from Belgium] was trying to talk his way in past the gate. The 'good old boy' working the entrance [had to ask for] help.... The language barrier almost got the Deominox team disqualified when it turned in its blind box in the whole-hog contest. Two of the non-English-speakers handled the delivery, but they missed the deadline after walking past signs they didn't understand. A sympathetic official interceded and successfully made the case for giving the team a break and letting their samples be judged...."
Now, before getting carried away about diluting of an American icon, it's important to remember that around two-thirds of this year's contestants still hailed from Tennessee. Perusing the list of winners, I don't see any foreign teams. Nor did I see baby backs on the menu the last time I was in Beijing. Of course, that was two years ago....
Yesterday, John McCain's campaign announced that the candidate's wife Cindy has sold off $2 million she held in mutual funds that include Sudanese businesses. The Wall Street Journal also reported that McCain shares a consulting firm with the Vladimir Putin-backed Party of the Regions in Ukraine.
This follows last weekend's firing of McCain's mid-Atlantic regional manager and convention CEO when it was revealed that they had lobbied for the Burmese government in Washington. McCain, who fancies himself the scourge of totalitarian regimes worldwide, has now vowed to do a more thorough job vetting his campaign hirings.
To be fair, there's no evidence that his wife's investments or his advisors' lobbying ties have in any way influenced McCain's stances on these countries. Indeed, McCain has always been an outspoken supporter of Ukraine's Orange Revolution and has called for international action against the "thugs" in the Burmese junta. But this has been an election where candidates have been judged by their associations (see: Wright, Jeremiah) as much or more than by their positions, statements, and political record. So McCain's new caution about who gets a seat on the straight-talk express is probably a smart move.
Responding to a question from the Politico about why he hasn't played golf in recent years, U.S. President George W. Bush said:
"… playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal."
Admittedly, it's probably a bigger sacrifice than most Americans have made so far, as suggests the recent FP article, "The War We Deserve."
(Note: A quick search of Getty Images seems to confirm Bush's sacrifice: The site doesn't appear to have any photos of Bush playing golf after Oct. 13, 2003. There are, however, many photos of him driving golf carts, such as the one here of Bush giving his wife Laura and Afghan President Hamid Karzai a ride at Camp David, Maryland, in August 2007.)
In December 2006, Jeremiah S. Johnson, 25, began serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Rozdilna, Ukraine, a town near the border with Moldova. When he started, he was HIV negative. In January of this year, he had a midservice medical exam in Kiev and agreed to an HIV test. It came back positive. The Peace Corps told him to pack his bags and return to the United States.
Johnson says the Peace Corps director for Ukraine told him he had to go home because Ukraine doesn't allow HIV-positive foreigners to work there. (If so, this isn't unique. As blogger Andrew Sullivan has pointed out repeatedly, the United States has its own fair share of restrictions on HIV-positive immigrants and tourists.)
Back in Washington, Johnson had an end-of-service medical exam and received written notification that he was being "medically separated" from the Peace Corps. He contacted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the organization sent a demand letter to the Peace Corps saying that it is violating the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits discrimination based on disability. (The State Department, by the way, changed its policies just this February to permit HIV-positive Americans, on a case-by-case basis, to work in the Foreign Service.)
Johnson doesn't have any physical symptoms of HIV. He and the ACLU say the Peace Corps did not assess him to determine if he could continue serving with reasonable accommodations. Additionally, his requests to be assigned to another country were denied.
What do you all think? A few questions come to mind:
Just a few ordinary days in modern Mexico...
Gunmen killed 17 people over the weekend in the southern coastal state of Guerrero in a wild hunt for the head of the state cattlemen’s association, who has gone into hiding, the authorities said Monday.
On Saturday morning, several men dressed as commandos and carrying assault rifles opened fire on a cattlemen’s meeting at a hotel in Iguala, killing seven ranchers but missing the leader of the group, Rogaciano Alba Álvarez.
The next day, eight trucks full of armed men pulled up outside a house on Mr. Alba Álvarez’s ranch in Petatlán. The men asked for the owner of the ranch. His family and ranch hands denied knowing his whereabouts.
The gunmen then lined people up against a wall and opened fire, killing 10 people, including two young sons of Mr. Alba Álvarez, Alejandro and Rusbel, a witness told The Associated Press. Then they kidnapped a teen-age girl believed to be Mr. Alba Álvarez’s niece or daughter and fled, authorities said.
TIJUANA – A confrontation between rival criminal gangs left 13 dead and nine injured early yesterday in gunbattles that started along a major thoroughfare and continued near a private clinic where police exchanged gunfire with injured suspects.
Police have recovered the remains of seven men who were killed and dumped along a road in northern Mexico.
Dana Milbank on the twilight of the Bush presidency:
Eight months before the end of his second term, President Bush is forgotten but not gone. Power has shifted to Congress, attention has moved to the campaign trail, and the White House seems at times to be just going through the motions. For many reporters who remain on the White House beat, it has become a time to phone it in -- literally.
Four minutes after the scheduled start time for yesterday's White House briefing, only 14 of the 49 seats were occupied -- and the 14 included flamboyant radio host Lester Kinsolving, who sat in the Bloomberg News seat; Raghubir Goyal of an obscure Indian American publication, who occupied the New York Times chair; and a foreign journalist in the back row, perusing the White House's Cinco de Mayo dinner menu. Though attendance eventually swelled to 28, many of the nation's leading news outlets left their chairs empty, among them National Public Radio, the Washington Times, the New York Daily News, the Dallas Morning News, the Houston Chronicle, the Boston Globe, the Baltimore Sun, the Chicago Tribune and the Politico.
Maybe we don't have to worry that Americans are too dumb to read the Economist after all.
A teenage rap duo in Chicago has recorded a track, aptly called "The Economist," that extols the British publication's breadth and brevity and samples podcast commentary by correspondents Edward Lucas and Anthony Gottlieb.
"The style in which they write is simple and concise, how do they get their sentences so precise?" the rappers wonder. [UPDATE: Matt Yglesias quips, "The answer, of course, is 'heavy-handed editing' facilitated by lack of bylines."]
And the chorus is a gem, too: "He reads the Economist so he can get the gist, its solid competence gives him confidence that his intelligence is correct."
The rappers also weigh in on accusations that the Economist pushes a particular line: "Yes, they have a bias; it's pro-democratic. And pro-free trade; they are very emphatic."
Jay-Z it is not. But it is funny stuff.
When Hillary Clinton signed on to John McCain's proposal to suspend the 18.4-cent federal gas tax this summer and Barack Obama didn't, the Democratic candidates suddenly had a real substantive difference to debate.
The trouble is, there's not much to argue about. Everyone who's looked at this knows that a gas-tax holiday is a silly idea. With gasoline supplies pretty much fixed in the short term, demand will increase and the price will go back up. But instead of the U.S. government capturing that revenue, the oil companies will pocket it. Factcheck.org tried and failed to find a single economist who thought gas prices would drop as a result of the holiday. PBS couldn't find a supporter, either.
Asked about this by ABC's George Stephanopoulos Sunday, Hillary sniffed, "I'm not going to put in my lot with economists." What's it going to be then, prayer circles?
Now, you might say: There's almost zero chance this proposal will go anywhere, so what's the harm? Well, it makes no sense to say you're for "energy independence" while vowing to cut gas taxes. If anything, the U.S. government should raise the federal gas tax to at least 50 cents a gallon, not cut it. Or better yet, tax carbon and bring coal emissions into the mix, too. But above all, don't mislead voters about the choices before them.
Over at the Huffington Post, National Interest Senior Editor Jacob Heilbrunn worries that realists such as Kissinger and Scowcroft have failed to groom a generation of young Republicans to follow in their pragmatic foreign-policy footsteps:
[W]hile Henry Kissinger, Brent Scowcroft, and other realist elders are consulted by [John] McCain, his heart is with the younger neocons, the 'beavers,' in the words of one McCain supporter, who draft the speeches and get the grunt work done ... the result is disastrous recommendations such as threatening to expel Russia from the G-8.... The gap -- and it is fundamental -- in the GOP today is generational. The elderly realists haven't groomed anyone to replace them. The neocons have."
I think the simplest explanation for why the neocon voices within the McCain campaign are the loudest is that in recent years McCain has most closely identified with them ideologically. That's why, as I pointed out a couple months ago, he surrounded himself with foreign-policy minds like Mark Salter, Daniel McKivergan, Marshall Wittmann, and Randy Scheunemann (though McCain has never really fully signed on to the neocon cause).
As for the generational gap between GOP realists and neocons, Heilbrunn is probably right that it exists. But when I talk to young Republicans, I get the sense that, thanks to the Iraq war, the problem will be self-correcting. Just because a group of young realists hasn't found a home in the McCain camp doesn't mean they aren't out there. Still, it is unfortunate that they had to come to their thinking based on a botched war instead of being groomed by the old guard.
Reader Jonathan Hendry wrote in with some interesting backstory related to my post about Apple, Inc. becoming a defense contractor:
Actually, [Steve] Jobs isn't a stranger to selling to the Pentagon. While his products are thought of as consumer electronics, there was a time when his best customers were in very serious industries like defense and high finance (UBS, Swissbank, Merrill Lynch, First Chicago, Soros, etc).
Jobs' company NeXT Computer (which Apple bought in 1997, bringing him back into the fold) sold quite a few machines to the spooks in the early 90s. The spy agencies liked how quickly software could be developed on the NeXT operating system. I personally interviewed for a defense-oriented NeXT programming job with, I think, Lockheed-Martin back in 1994, my senior year of college. (I don't recall what the system was, but I know I would have needed a security clearance - they gave me the forms to fill out. I wound up taking a job in Chicago that put me on a contract at Swissbank.)
Around 1993, NeXT stopped making computers, changing to an OS-only strategy. Supposedly they had to run the assembly line for a little while longer, in order to fulfill the spare-parts stock requirements of their defense contracts.
I expect Mr. Jobs is feeling a little deja vu right now.
Jonathan's email reminded me that the Pentagon has recently begun integrating Apple computers to bolster its network security. So, high-profile defense contracts are nothing new to the most powerful man in business.
Matt Yglesias complains about the media's campaign coverage, and offers a plausible reason as to why there's such a relentless focus on trivia:
What's driving this, I think, are the dual desires to be "tough" and to be "objective." In particular, being objective is thought to preclude being tough about public policy because that would entail picking sides in ideology-inflicted arguments. And people didn't get into this business in order to provide softball coverage. So instead you ask tough questions about process or about trivia, even though there's little evidence that these are the subjects about which people want to hear.
I don't buy this last bit, because, sadly, I think there is plenty of evidence that more people are actually interested in trivia than they are the issues. Why did the Drudge Report pull in 590 million "page loads" in March? Why has the horserace-centric Politico been such a resounding success? If Yglesias really believed that more people are interested in substance, he should use his book earnings to open a new network devoted to hashing out the issues and see how it fares.
He could call it... "PBS."
Steve Jobs's shop recently announced the $278 million purchase of a small computer-chip maker named P.A. Semi—a takeover that most analysts assumed was designed to shore up efficient chip technology for future versions of the iPhone.
But it turns out some of P.A. Semi's best customers are defense contractors, including Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, and they're not at all comfortable with the company's new latte-drinking, yoga-practicing, peacenik boss. Rumors are flying that Apple will shut down production of a key processor used in "more than 10" different defense systems.
EE Times reports:
Apple Inc. may have to face the ire of the U.S. Department of Defense following its planned acquisition of P.A. Semi Inc. The startup's PWRficient processor is designed into DoD programs in every major branch of the armed services, said one P.A. Semi customer who expects Apple will end production of the parts.
"We've had customers saying they are going to the DoD on this one," said a source in one of the several companies making embedded computer boards with the processor.
Lends new meaning to the term "iPod Killer," doesn't it?
Due to skyrocketing rice prices, Liberians are switching to pasta and learning how to twirl spaghetti on a fork. In India, the government has restricted rice exports, and moms are choosing between eating and paying for their children's schooling. Meanwhile in the United States, Wal-Mart's Sam's Club warehouse stores are limiting the sale of 20-pound (9 kg) bags of jasmine, basmati, and long-grain white rice to four per customer.
In the developed world, food shortages might be overhyped. The head of the California Rice Commission told Reuters, "Bottom line, there is no rice shortage in the United States. We have supplies." Plus, how many Americans buy 80 pounds of rice per shopping trip? (Apparently, it's restaurant owners and small-business owners who typically buy in bulk.)
But for people in developing countries, outrageous food prices and shortages are a serious reality. Josette Sheeran, executive director of the U.N. World Food Program, which provides food aid to the needy, told FP in this week's Seven Questions, "This is a silent tsunami." Video, audio, and prepared remarks from her recent talk on global food insecurity at the Center for Strategic and International Studies is also available here.
By the way, if you want to help hungry people get rice, play the Free Rice vocabulary game.
Where In the World Is Osama bin Laden?, a documentary by Morgan Spurlock -- the man who ate McDonald's cuisine for 30 days straight for Super Size Me -- took on the task of finding al Qaeda's leader. As Spurlock explained in a Seven Questions interview with FP last week, sometimes a comedic film can get an audience to pay attention to a serious topic.
This week, Harold and Kumar -- those two guys from Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle -- take on the subject of Guantánamo Bay, though their purpose doesn't seem to have anything to do with prompting serious discussion about the controversial prison. In Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, debuting this Friday, the pair board a flight to Amsterdam with a bong. That gets them sent to Gitmo. The duo make a wild escape, of course. Politically incorrect humor is abundant.
Some reviews say the movie falls short of White Castle's charm, but it currently has a 78 percent on the tomatometer. So, if you need something to do this weekend, you have two choices: Gain a bit of enlightenment with Spurlock, or lose a few IQ points with Harold and Kumar.
When I read today that Hillary Clinton is playing John Mellencamp's "Small Town" at her rallies this week, I had to laugh. Because, seriously? How literal are we going to get here? (Plus, I had to wonder whether Mellencamp, a former Edwards supporter, has endorsed anyone yet. He famously asked John McCain to stop playing his songs at rallies earlier this year.)
And in my 5-minute Google search to find out whether Mellencamp's made a pick, I discovered that Bruce Springsteen has just announced this afternoon that he's backing Obama. Here's what Mr. Working Class America said about Bittergate:
He has the depth, the reflectiveness, and the resilience to be our next President. He speaks to the America I've envisioned in my music for the past 35 years, a generous nation with a citizenry willing to tackle nuanced and complex problems, a country that's interested in its collective destiny and in the potential of its gathered spirit. A place where '...nobody crowds you, and nobody goes it alone.'
Does this mean no more Springsteen songs at Clinton rallies?
UPDATE: A Getty Images search for "Springsteen Obama" brings this result:
Paul Kedrosky sees the bright side of the U.S. financial crisis: Direct-mail offers for mortgages and home equity fell by 30 percent in 2007, while credit-card mailings have dropped 19 percent since October of last year. He quips:
Imagine how peaceful it would be if we ever had an outright depression. You could go back to checking your mailbox again.
I guess that's one way to look at it.
The Olympic torch relay organizers have now resorted to switching their route at the last minute to avoid protests:
The first runner held the torch aloft and began the route, flanked by tall, blue-clad Chinese security officials. But the group then promptly disappeared into a large waterfront warehouse for a last-minute change of route by authorities to head off trouble. What Chinese Olympic organizers have called a "Journey of Harmony," quickly became the mystery of the missing flame.
Note to China and the IOC: At the point where you're actually hiding the torch from onlookers, it may be time to cut your losses and grab the next plane to Beijing.
This week’s Tuesday map comes to us from a billboard controversy south of the border.
Created by advertising agency Teran/TBWA and launched a few weeks ago in Mexico, the Absolut billboard ad depicted pre-1848
The campaign was obviously intended for a Mexican audience, as Favio Ucedo, creative director of a top Latino advertising firm, explained:
Many (Americans) aren’t going to understand it. Americans in the East and the North or in the center of the county -- I don’t know if they know much about the history… Probably Americans in Texas and California understand perfectly, and I don’t know how they’d take it.”
But Absolut quickly learned just how some Americans would take it: not well. Although the ad never appeared in the U.S., it was picked up by American media outlets, causing a flurry of complaint from
As of Friday, Absolut’s maker Vin & Spirits had decided to withdraw the apparently offensive advertisement even though it "was based upon historical perspectives and was created with a Mexican sensibility... [and was] in no way was meant to offend or disparage, nor...advocate an altering of borders..."
What do Russians think about the U.S. electoral campaign? I spoke with two distinguished Russian scholars last night here at the Salzburg seminar I'm attending this week.
The first scholar told me that the hardliners and the security establishment are eager to see John McCain in power. He's more or less a known quantity, and his recent statements about ejecting Russia from the G8 will make it easier for them to make the case that the United States seeks to humiliate and corner Russia. A McCain election would be seen as evidence that Americans want to continue George W. Bush's policies, which are generally unpopular in Russia.
On the other hand, the scholar said, Republican presidents from Nixon to Ford to Reagan have a much better track record in making overtures to Russia, perhaps because they don't fear being painted as weak.
Both scholars, who come from the liberal end of the political spectrum in Russia, seemed intrigued by Barack Obama as someone who could offer a "fresh start" in U.S.-Russia relations. They weren't so comfortable, however, when I told them that Michael McFaul is Obama's main Russia advisor. McFaul, a past FP contributor, is well known in Russian foreign-policy circles for his harsh criticism of Putin's democratic credentials.
Clinton would be more predictable, given that her main Russia advisor is Stephen Sestanovich. His 2006 report for the Council on Foreign Relations was read closely in Russian political circles. But Richard Holbrooke, another Clinton advisor and a potential secretary of state, is seen as hostile to Russian interests for his role in the Balkans during the 1990s. When I told them that it's not inconceviable that Holbrooke would get a top job even under Obama, they weren't too psyched.
Blake Hounshell is Web Editor of ForeignPolicy.com. He has been blogging this week from the Salzburg Global Seminar session on Russia: The 2020 Perspective.
The Department of Homeland Security has quietly eased restrictions on U.S. companies looking to hire looking to hire non-immigrant science and technology students. It's probably a step in the right direction for immigration policy, since there's always more demand for these visas than supply. But it's unfortunate that that DHS had to use administrative procedures that are normally reserved for emergencies in order to get around Congress.
Harry's Bar, the famous Venice restaurant where writer Ernest Hemingway used to hang out and sip martinis, is now offering a discount to "poor" American tourists who must contend with a weakened dollar, one that has resulted in horror stories about $40 ice creams and $10 bottles of water. A sign at Harry's reads:
Harry's Bar of Venice in an effort to make the American victims of subprime loans happier, has decided to give them a special 20% discount on all the items of the menu during the short term of their recovery.
Harry's owner, Arrigo Cipriani, says the number of American customers has fallen between 5 and 10 percent since January. His concern highlights similar worries that European tourism operators have about the weakened dollar.
But how will Harry's tell who's American? Cipriani told Reuters:
We will judge by the accent and if we make a mistake, we will give a 20 percent discount to the English as well.
Now may be a good time to learn to fake an American accent!
For this week's Seven Questions, "Waiting for a Cyber Pearl Harbor," FP asked Richard A. Clarke, former U.S. counterterrorism chief and former special advisor to the president on cybersecurity, about what offensive capabilities the new U.S. Air Force Cyber Command (AFCYBER) should have. He succinctly replied: "Highly classified ones."
Though Clarke isn't interested in mentioning specifics, someone else is. Lt. Gen. Robert J. Elder of the U.S. 8th Air Force, under which AFCYBER will be housed once it's officially launched this fall, has revealed how the United States plans to "hit back" in cyberspace.
In an interview with ZDNet.co.uk, he said offensive capabilities that AFCYBER is working on include denial of service, confidential data loss, data manipulation, and system integrity loss. These "cyberpunches" will be paired with kinetic (physical) attacks. Elder said:
Offensive cyberattacks in network warfare make kinetic attacks more effective, [for example] if we take out an adversary's integrated defence systems or weapons systems. This is exploiting cyber to achieve our objectives.
Now that the U.S. military has put on its cyber boxing gloves, it looks like it'll be no holds barred in the online world.
Roman Abramovich, the Russian dropout turned oil tycoon, recently invested $160 million in the 19-meter-wide drill, outdoing the previous recordholder by a good four meters.
Not only has Abramovich set the record, but his colossal purchase just happens to coincide with rumors that President Vladimir Putin will propose the construction of a physical link between
Abramovich has denied that his purchase has any connection to Putin's plans. But seriously, but what else is he going to do with a drill that can bore a hole wide enough for a four-lane highway?
Rumors of the tunnel come at a precarious time in U.S.-Russian relations, currently strained by the Kosovo decision, the proposed U.S. missile shield, and George W. Bush's renewed NATO membership push for former Soviet states Georgia and Ukraine.
Hopefully, all this Cold War nostalgia won't stand in the way of a great bicontinental highway. Just imagine the road trip possiblities -- you could park your RV in Red Square.
A couple weeks back, we pointed out that John McCain likes to refer to America as "She," a habit that I assume builds some linguistic distance between himself and Hillary Clinton. Hillary could never refer to America as "She," so McCain subtly infers that a president Clinton could never protect the country in the same way that a masculine figure could.
David Corn over at Mother Jones took the analysis a step further:
Could the implication be that Barack Obama is not quite American and that he is not interested in protecting our country, which the ad describes with the feminine pronoun. In other words, the half-black dude with a funny name--who might be a secret Muslim--can't protect her. Has Lee Atwater been resurrected? This smacks of the George H.W. Bush smear-tossing campaign against Michael Dukakis in 1988--but also of Hillary Clinton's claims that Obama is not yet ready to be commander in chief.
Here's McCain's latest ad with the gender-specific language. Is this subtle racism, sexism, or just traditional political language? You be the judge.
Stanley Fish is making sense:
The demand that Barack Obama denounce and renounce his pastor, who delivered himself of sentiments a million miles from anything Obama has ever said, is only the latest and most publicized example. In previous little dust-ups Obama has had to distance himself from Louis Farrakhan (after Hillary Clinton demanded that he both denounce and renounce) and from his own middle name. Clinton, in her turn, has been called on the journalistic carpet because of remarks made by Robert Johnson, Geraldine Ferraro, a campaign manager and her husband. John McCain has had to repudiate a talk show host who introduced him and a minister who embraced him. And it’s only March. What do we have to look forward to? Denunciations of grade-school friends who grew up to become neo-Nazis or sub-prime lenders?
Fish then goes on to lament that such key issues as "war, the economy, health care, the environment" aren't being fully debated because of this denunciation circus. "We should collectively denounce and renounce denouncing and renouncing," he concludes.
Allow me to suggest an explanation. Most people don't have well-developed views on the truly important issues of the day, because such topics are complicated and folks are busy living their own lives. It doesn't take any special expertise or research to react to an incendiary speech by Jeremiah Wright, so that's a lot easier (and frankly, more entertaining) for everyone to chatter about than the collapse of Bear Stearns. One major contributing factor is political journalists, who tend to know an awful lot about delegate-counting methodology and very little about, say, collateralized debt obligations. In a way, this relentless focus on trivia is a sign of trust in the system: Most folks would rather talk endlessly about nothing while elites sort out the nation's real problems. At least, that's the hope.
On Sunday, what has been described as a "game-changing" evolution in trans-Atlantic travel regulations will take place, when the open-skies agreement takes effect. Current regulations force carriers to base flights out of their own countries only, and place restrictions on which airlines can use which airports. The new agreement means that any airline can fly from any city to any airport. The move will undoubtedly increase competition between airlines, resulting in shorter flying times and greatly reduced fares. (A new European airline is already in the works that promises to send passengers from Liverpool to Baltimore for a mere 16 bucks.)
This is great news... if you live in Europe. New fares may apply to folks on both sides of the drink, but Europeans are finding great opportunities to spend their euros in the United States, while American tourists find that a dwindling few countries even accept dollars at tourist attractions anymore.
The effect of the dollar's fall on American tourists has been much discussed, and this European travel season for American tourists is shaping up to be the most painful in a five-year-slump. Stories about $40 ice cream or $10 bottles of water are scaring American tourists away from European summer jaunts, and make lower airline prices sort of look like the free food and drinks at Caesar's Palace.
Non-stop flights from European cities will no doubt open up new American markets to European travelers. And therein lies perhaps the one consolation for the dejected American Europhile: "I may have lost Paris, but they're only gaining Detroit." I mean, where would you rather vacation?
|Photos: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images News; JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images|
It reminds me of a joke well-known by Manhattanites: Q: "Why are New Yorkers so depressed?" A: "Because New Jersey's the light at the end of the tunnel."
Europe, welcome to New Jersey.
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