THE OTHER SHOE DROPS: Updates To Previous Posts
Black candidates in races around the country are struggling so much that the number of African Americans in major statewide offices is likely to drop from the already paltry three. And the possibility exists that there will be no black governors or senators by next year.
The defeats illustrate that Obama's victory, at least for now, did not signal greater success for other black politicians. …
Black voters and activists, perhaps because of doubts about the black candidates' ability to win, have not rallied around these candidates as they did Obama.
Black voters "are so invested personally in Barack Obama the man, and it's unique to him," said Cornell Belcher, an African American pollster who worked on the Obama campaign. "They are invested in him in a way they are not in other black political leaders."
Which is another way of saying that black voters aren’t automatically voting for black candidates. If electability outweighs race for black voters, it will be interesting to see whether they will continue to back Obama in near-monolithic numbers if he becomes unpopular enough to find himself facing a challenger from his own party for the 2012 nomination.
† Media Irrelevancy – A Self-Inflicted Wound: At the behest of President Barack Hussein Obama – he of the clenched jaw - the Federal Trade Commission released a study of the media landscape "Potential Policy Recommendations to Support the Reinvention of Journalism") which is premised on the notion unique to the Obama administration that the marketplace cannot function without the
guiding heavy hand of government. As Andrew Malcolm of the Los Angeles Times "Top of the Ticket" blog puts it: “silly you thought the private business of journalism was doing that by itself in its own stumbling ways without the help of the Washington branch of the Chicago Democratic political machine.” He adds:
[T]his FTC study is rated R for anyone who thinks the federal government, the object of copious news coverage itself, has no business deciding which sectors of the private media business survive and thrive through its support, subsidies and encouragement with things like tax incentives.
Yet that's what this Obama administration paper is suggesting as another of the ex-community organizer's galactic reform plans.
Would you believe: major changes to the copyright law, including government licensing provisions; government pilot programs to investigate potential new media business models, antitrust changes to allow media companies to unite on imposing online pay walls, establish a journalism division of AmeriCorps with government underwriting the training of young journalists, tax incentives per news employee, increased funding of public broadcasting, a 5% tax on consumer electronics and/or assessments on users of public airwaves.
FOX News quotes media analysts from across the political spectrum who point out the problems with this plan – but, really, the first and most serious problem is that anyone needs to point these things out in the first place:
"I find it dangerous for government to have a role in speech because the government gives and the government taketh away," Jeff Jarvis, an associate professor at the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism, told FoxNews.com. …
Cliff Kincaid, editor of Accuracy in Media, a Washington-based media watchdog group, questioned the "legal and constitutional justification" for the FTC's involvement in the news industry, noting that the agency's website indicates its mission is to protect the American consumer.
"It seems to me America's consumers are making their choices," he said. "I don't know why the FTC should interfere with that. [The report] seems to lament the decline of old liberal newspapers. But they're in decline because consumers are finding their news and information elsewhere." …
"If there was evidence that consumers were somehow being shortchanged, that'd be one thing," he said. "But consumers have more choices than ever before." …
[Jarvis] said he found the potential policy recommendations "disturbing," since they used the perspective of newspapers to show the issues facing journalism as a whole. He noted that the word "blog" appears only once within the 47-page report. (It appears several times in the report's footnotes.)
He said all of the proposals seek to "support the old power structure of the dying model of newspapers" rather than searching for new growth opportunities.
"No one is going to support a tax to support old newspapers," he said.
"They're talking about the future of journalism, but they only talk about the past of journalism. They equate journalism with newspapers strictly."
"It's too soon to give up on the market, which is what the FTC is doing," he added. "Everything you see in that document is an attempt to stifle new competition by sustaining the incumbents."
Jarvis is spot on. Forbes notes that “[w]hile many traditional media companies flounder to keep their subscription rates and their online clicks up, technological entrepreneurs - and the venture capital investors that back them - say the industry's uncertainty offers great opportunities for new disruptive innovations:”
Traditional media powerhouses have long nurtured their reputations for high quality, well-researched content. But newer companies that venture investors are pouring capital into will do this with fresh business models geared directly toward digital platforms that use less overhead.
Warren Lee, a venture partner at Canaan Partners, tells Forbes that traditional media companies need to personalize their content and engage with readers by “mak[ing] sure that the content is catered for each distribution channel.”
On that point, he won’t get an argument from Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Robert Iger. During an investor conference on Wednesday, Iger said that he wants Disney's content available to consumers on the iPad and other new technologies even if the business model behind the technologies has not yet fully evolved, because he is confident that the company will “find other and more robust ways to monetize in the future,” reports Dow Jones Newswires. In his opinion, “[i]t's too early to write the epitaph of new media when it comes to monetization.”
And it’s too late to resuscitate traditional media.
† Obama Is Just About Every U.S. President All Rolled Into One!: In a Washington Times op-ed, political biographer Craig Shirley observes that “Political history is replete with politicians blaming not themselves, but others, for their losses and mistakes,” and makes the case (as others also have) that President Obama's mishandling of the environmental-cum-economic disaster in the Gulf of Mexico shouldn’t be compared to George Bush's “response or purported lack thereof” to Hurricane Katrina:
The more accurate historical analogy to Mr. Obama's fecklessness is Mr. Carter's in dealing with the 444-day hostage crisis, in which more than 50 Americans were held at gunpoint by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Mr. Carter became and Mr. Obama now has become "engulfed" in crisis, down to a daily count-up by the media of each calamity.
The similarities are astonishing. Mr. Carter's administration was dominated by government technicians and academics obsessed with process and politics if not governance, just as Mr. Obama's administration is today. Decisiveness is not a hallmark of either profession. Rather, both are given to commissions; studies; grandiose pronouncements; speeches; endless, inconclusive meetings; and award presentations, but both eschew the harsh but necessary decisiveness found in the private sector or strong men.
It is the stagecraft, not the statecraft, that animates them and their zeal for power. Shakespeare said, "The play's the thing." But he did not say it was the only thing. With Mr. Carter then and Mr. Obama now, action means yet another timely photo-op; in Mr. Obama's case, childishly playing with oil globules on a beach in Louisiana. (Were those really street shoes Mr. Obama wore on the beach? Didn't the "beautiful people" make great sport of Richard Nixon for doing the same thing?) …
Decisive leadership often involves offending friends, and history is crowded with men - from George Washington to Abraham Lincoln to John F. Kennedy - willing to take tough stances and exert leadership.
History also is replete with failures in presidential leadership, from James Buchanan to Gerald Ford to Mr. Carter and now Mr. Obama and his objectively failed first 18 months in office.
† Living In These Mad, Mad, Madoff Times: Thanks to the recession, middle class consumers aren’t just scaling down their champagne taste to fit a beer budget – they don’t even have the budget for beer, reports Advertising Age:
Sales for 11 of the biggest brands fell in the four weeks ended May 16, according to SymphonyIRI, and only four of the top 30 - Keystone Light, Modelo Especial, Yuengling and Pabst Blue Ribbon - posted gains. …
What's happening? People are drinking less off the stuff. Industry shipments are down 4%, according to the Beer Institute. Several factors play into the trend, key among them the recession. MillerCoors Chief Marketing Officer Andy England said that unemployment remains particularly pronounced among the 21- to 35-year-old men who are the primary targets of beer companies, and also among Hispanics, another key segment. In many cases, they're opting for cheaper brews, or saving their consumption for a special occasion by splurging on craft-style beers. As a result, the "premium" lights are being squeezed by moves in both directions.
† Updates To Previous Posts (third item, Average Americans To Liberals: Existential Angst Over Torture? It’s All You.): Speaking before the Economic Club of Grand Rapids the other night, former President George Bush forthrightly admitted "Yeah, we waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed," and then added, "I'd do it again to save lives." Although after nearly a year and a half in office President Barack Hussein continues to blame Bush for his failures, Bush is resolutely sticking to the high road, reports The Grand Rapids Press:
"You are not going to see me in the public square criticizing the president." …
"I didn't like it when a certain former president made my life miserable," he said, a reference to former President Jimmy Carter and his frequent criticisms of Bush.
† Updates To Previous Posts (Is This Why We Fight?): The population of Iraqi Christians - Chaldeans, Eastern-right Catholics whose services are recited in the language of Jesus, and Assyrians, who embraced the faith in A.D. 1 – has dropped precipitously because of ongoing targeted attacks by Muslim militants, reports USA Today:
Before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 there were about 1.4 million Christians in Iraq, a Muslim-dominated nation of nearly 30 million. Since then, about 50% of Iraq's Christians have fled the country, taking refuge in neighboring Jordan, Syria, Europe and the USA, according to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). …
The security situation in Iraq has improved significantly during the last three years but the plight of the Christian community continues to be complicated, and has raised concerns among U.S. government agencies and lawmakers in Washington who worry that the Iraqi government isn't doing enough to protect the religious minority.
Earlier this year, the House of Representatives passed a resolution calling on the U.S. government and United Nations to put pressure on the Iraqi government to "enhance security at places of worship in Iraq, particularly where members of vulnerable religious minority communities are known to be at risk." …
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a government panel tasked with monitoring religious freedoms around the world for the State Department, recently recommended that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton designate Iraq as a "country of particular concern" because of the violence against Christians and other religious minorities.
The commission made the same recommendation in 2008, but then-President Bush did not act on it. With such a designation, Iraq potentially would face economic and military sanctions, according to the commission.
Leonard Leo, chairman of the commission, said even if the administration doesn't impose sanctions it has the leverage to push the Iraqi government to do a better job protecting minority rights.
"The big problem in Iraq is that there is a climate of impunity," Leo said in an interview. "We provide an enormous amount of aid and that can be used to push the Iraqis to calibrate and bolster some of the policies to protect Christians and other minorities."
† Updates To Previous Posts (third item, Obama Doctrine Taking Shape): President Barack Hussein Obama must be unfamiliar with the old saying, “Make new friends but keep the old; one is silver and the other's gold,” because he’s having trouble making new Muslim friends even as he is throwing Israel under the bus to make them like him.
The Washington Times notes that “[d]espite his best efforts, Mr. Obama has failed to woo the Muslim world,” citing a Gallup survey on opinions of the leadership of the U.S. that shows approval rating declining in Lebanon (25 percent, the same as in 2008), Egypt (from 37 percent to 19 percent), the Palestinian Territories (16 percent, three points better than under the Bush administration) and Iraq (now 25 percent vs. 35 percent in 2008).
Why the swift fall from grace? Michele Dunne and Robert Kagan senior associates at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, argue in this Washington Post op-ed that one reason is that in his Cairo speech he raised the hopes of Egyptians for change, but did not deliver:
When Obama declared his commitment to "governments that reflect the will of the people" and said that leaders "must maintain your power through consent, not coercion," Egyptians thought they heard a not-so-subtle reference to their aging leader. One enthusiastic Egyptian shouted, "Barack Obama, we love you!" - the only such interjection during the address.
A year later, Egyptians are scratching their heads about why Obama came to Cairo. In meetings in Cairo this week, Egyptian civil society and political activists across the spectrum voiced their disappointment, asking, "I know they're busy, but can't the Obama administration spare any time at all for what is going on inside Egypt?" and saying resignedly of the president, "He seems like a nice guy, but I guess he's just not going to do anything for us."
The disappointment is understandable. As Egypt heads into controversial parliamentary elections in fall 2010 and a presidential election in 2011, the Obama administration has been tone-deaf, intent on continuing to improve relations with the increasingly brittle and unpopular Mubarak regime. It has cut democracy assistance spending in Egypt by half, agreed to forbid assistance from the U.S. Agency for International Development to groups that lack the government's stamp of approval, and is discussing a future "endowment" that would commit the United States to years of assistance with diminished congressional oversight. …
Obama has strengthened ties with the aging Mubarak while ignoring the concerns of Egypt's increasingly restive population. "What about us?" one prominent democracy activist asked. "Do we count for anything in this U.S.-Egypt relationship?"
The Washington Times calls Obama out on his “weak response” to the Mavi Marmara incident – “no criticism of NATO ally Turkey for its threatening language and bellicose attitude, no condemnation of the attempt to run supplies to Hamas through the Gaza blockade, and no suggestion that the United States would take any action to prevent future such flotillas from fomenting other crises” – and suggests that he is “watching the crisis unfold as helplessly as he watches oil leak into the Gulf of Mexico.”