Hegemony mon amour

The only alternative to American leadership is a dramatically more dangerous and anxious world.

Yet we also choose to lead because it is a privilege to serve the values that gave us birth.

American leaders -- from Roosevelt, to Truman, to Kennedy, to Reagan -- rejected isolation and retreat because they knew that America is always more secure when freedom is on the march.

Our own generation is in a long war against a determined enemy, a war that will be fought by presidents of both parties who will need steady bipartisan support from the Congress.

And tonight I ask for yours. Together, let us protect our country, support the men and women who defend us, and lead this world toward freedom.

It's like we've been a broken-record bully ever since Woodrow Wilson collapsed under his authentic idealism, and I'm sure his ghost stared on in horror at the blank abstractions trotting out of Bush's teleprompter. The President spent the night soft-soaping the masses with silly domestic policy shell games, while angrying up our blood for an invented conflict that nobody wants. Democracy is good; why do arms manufacturers have to be deployed to bulldoze a path for it?

In any case, Woodrow Wilson's address to Congress is worth quoting, for contrast and comparison (you choose the nation that replaces "Germany" today):

In regard to these essential rectifications of wrong and assertions of right we feel ourselves to be intimate partners of all the governments and peoples associated together against the Imperialists. We cannot be separated in interest or divided in purpose. We stand together until the end. For such arrangements and covenants we are willing to fight and to continue to fight until they are achieved; but only because we wish the right to prevail and desire a just and stable peace such as can be secured only by removing the chief provocations to war, which this program does remove. We have no jealousy of German greatness, and there is nothing in this program that impairs it. We grudge her no achievement or distinction of learning or of pacific enterprise such as have made her record very bright and very enviable. We do not wish to injure her or to block in any way her legitimate influence or power. We do not wish to fight her either with arms or with hostile arrangements of trade if she is willing to associate herself with us and the other peace- loving nations of the world in covenants of justice and law and fair dealing. We wish her only to accept a place of equality among the peoples of the world, -- the new world in which we now live, -- instead of a place of mastery.


New Rags for New Money

The MPA's list of new magazine titles in 2005 includes a staggering twenty (20) rags catering to affluent markets. Here they are in case you want to subscribe:

  • 24: 24 is a new magazine devoted to nightlife & fine living for the affluent market. This magazine aims to cover night life and good living in the major cities on both coasts and in between.
  • Affluent Living Magazine: This magazine targets the affluent reader in Oregon.
  • Boston Commonwealth: Targeting affluent readers and to be distributed via high-end hotels, restaurants, limos and private jets. The magazine is to be a celebration of the city of Boston.
  • Bronzeville: A magazine for the "Buppies" of Chicago featuring articles for the achieving urbanite, covering all things of interest in Chicago. Not exclusively targeting affluent African Americans, but the achievers and up-and-comers in the urban communities.
  • Capitol File: A magazine that caters to the affluent in the DC area. The magazine will be mailed free to all homes valued over $1 million. It will regularly cover art and society.
  • Cookie: Launching as a test, the upscale parenting magazine; "Cookie" is billed as the magazine for sophisticated parents. It targets parents who want to spend money outfitting their kids in the latest gear and fashion.
  • Florida Travel & Life: Intended for the affluent Florida resident or well-heeled tourist wishing to get in closer to what's special and unique about the state.
  • Golf Living: A title aimed at the affluent golfer who travels, looks for the best equipment and insists on the finer things that surround the game.
  • Mason-Dixon Arrive: Mason Dixon Arrive is a digest size color magazine that serves the affluent homeowner. Fine restaurants, gardening, travel, fitness & health, antiques and interior design will form the basis of the editorial.
  • Men's Vogue: A spin-off of the classic Vogue targeting affluent men over 35 with varied and dynamic editorial and the high quality photography the Vogue brand is known for.
  • MotorTrend Classic: Motor Trend Classic is targeting an affluent automobile enthusiast audience. Aimed at baby-boomers seeking to reconnect with the cars they loved as children and in their youth who know have the discretionary income to act on their desire for special classic vehicles.
  • Noir: Serving the affluent and upwardly mobile African American communities, Noir magazine promises features on the entertainment scene, the world of fashion, personal finance, health and well being. It will also feature coverage of pressing social issues. Featuring profiles of African Americans in society, the role models and leaders.
  • OC Flair: A lifestyle magazine that targets the affluent readers of Orange County California. There will be recurring features on health and fitness as well as recreation and outdoor sports.
  • Our Weekly: Our Weekly is a new magazine created for the affluent African American communities of Southern California and the greater Los Angeles area. The magazine includes stories on human interest, social issues, health, fitness and new profiles of African American leaders in the community and beyond.
  • Positive: Positive Magazine is the must read for busy professionals who are constantly traveling but still desire the finer things and want to be kept up on lifestyle trends and innovations in leisure. It will combine high end photography from locations around the world but with local interest stories as well with thorough business features. Positive Magazine targets the discerning professional business traveler.
  • Premier Essentials: Premier Essentials will be an affluent men's magazine targeting men 30-49 with an incomes of $150,000 and a net worth of at least $500,000.
  • Satisfaction: Satisfaction is a new title aimed at adults age 55 to 64 who are making the transition to new stages in their lives. It will target affluent adults who are moving from full-time work to the next exciting phase of their life.
  • SW Quarterly: Sporting Woman Quarterly had its beginning online in 2002. A women's sporting magazine that will bring the women’s luxury sports calendar into the hands of the affluent sports socialite or enthusiast who attends regular sporting events and related charity functions. A historical perspective of women’s sports will be featured in the first print issue.
  • Ultimate Homes Magazine: Ultimate Homes showcases a first-ever list of more than 850 upscale homes for sale in the country. This new annual issue from the publishers of the leading luxury real estate magazine, Unique Homes, will cover the affluent home market with high-end photography and quality editorial content.
  • Weekend: Weekend targets the 30-something affluent woman. The magazine will focus on the time of the week related to leisure, family, recreation, home improvement and entertainment

On the other hand, Pride & Class magazine is catered to owner-operators of Peterbilt trucks. And Divorce in Denver magazine is, well, for Denver swingers with lighter-than-air ring fingers.

I interpret these new "affluence" periodicals as instruction manuals for how to spend those piles of extra cash. In other words, this is a sad misallocation of resources just like Veblen was growling about more than a century ago. Conspicuous consumption, complete with sparkly adverts and trifold photospreads.


The Men From U.R.K.E.L.

In case you were wondering whether President Bush's practical and very specific spy activities validate his bizarre defense of them, look to Denver, where a release of local "spy files" seems to indicate a culture of misdirection, lying, and "federally approved" privacy invasions within the local police department. Utterly incompetent, of course, but that's to be expected:

The documents accuse a retired police captain of misleading the police chief and then- Mayor Wellington Webb about whether the department's surveillance practices complied with federal guidelines.

How many cities have similarly misleading police captains on their forces? And maybe we're facing a general culture of lawless enforcers kicking privacy doors down just because Bush says such very specific prying is necessary? In other words, the President's crime now looks broader than we suspect. Spying and surveillance have trickled down to the local level, and such activities are probably irrelevant to any putative national emergencies.

U.S. MIlitary rounding up the wives of suspected insurgents

No good can possibly come of this:
Documents Show Army Seized Wives As Tactic

The U.S. Army in Iraq has at least twice seized and jailed the wives of suspected insurgents in hopes of "leveraging" their husbands into surrender, U.S. military documents show.

In one case, a secretive task force locked up the young mother of a nursing baby, a U.S. intelligence officer reported. In the case of a second detainee, one American colonel suggested to another that they catch her husband by tacking a note to the family's door telling him "to come get his wife."

Isn't that what Saddam did? Just asking.

More fake news.

Here's the thing about fake news, aka propaganda. It leads to a devaluation of liberty and a contempt for truth. It leads to cynical, greedy, amoral leadership that views citizens as marks.

U.S. Propaganda Aimed at Foreigners Reaches Public: Pentagon Document

The Pentagon acknowledged in a newly declassified document released Jan. 26 that the U.S. public is increasingly exposed to propaganda disseminated overseas in psychological operations.

But the document suggests that the Pentagon believes that U.S. law that prohibits exposing the U.S. public to propaganda does not apply to the unintended blowback from such operations.

The story refers to the practice of placing bought-and-paid-for news stories favorable to the Bush Administration in foreign newspapers, and then having them reported as "news" here at home. If you recall, the Bushies got caught red handed hiring columnists and producing fake newscasts at home. So they thought they'd take their show on the road. Against the law: No! The President will do what he needs to do to protect the American people while securing civil liberties - Let truth* be his sword!

*or a truth substitute

Imagine: If you could only promote all of your enemies...

Of all the candidates, in all the land, who should get the plum...

Prosecutor Will Step Down From Lobbyist Case

WASHINGTON, Jan. 26 — The investigation of Jack Abramoff, the disgraced Republican lobbyist, took a surprising new turn on Thursday when the Justice Department said the chief prosecutor in the inquiry would step down next week because he had been nominated to a federal judgeship by President Bush.

Is it possible to drown in irony? I mean, come on...in a payola scandal, promoting the prosecutor off the case? Wow.


Party cooperation on caucuses

It's nice to see the DFL and Minnesota Republican Party cooperating to get the word out about precinct caucuses.

Mark Kennedy is getting desperate

It's customary for underdogs to challenge incumbents and frontrunners to debates. A debate is likely to raise the underdog's profile at the very least, and sometimes you can score a knockout blow against an opponent. Similarly, it's common for frontrunners to refuse or limit debates. They're already winning, so why take a risk? When a candidate is calling for debates, it's a sure sign that he's desperate.

That's why I was amused to see Ford Bell accept Mark Kennedy's challenge to debate. Bell is obviously an underdog -- he's been trying to get Klobuchar to debate him for weeks.

But why is Kennedy trying to debate the Democrats at this time?

It's simple. Polls show him getting crushed by Klobuchar in the general election. Mark Kennedy is getting desperate.

Who controls the House?

Or more appropriately, who knows who controls the House?

Chris Bowers at MyDD has an interesting post with historical data on voter knowledge of who controls the House of Representatives.

Not only do very few people know who controls the House, but they are mostly wrong. People conflate control of the Presidency and Senate with control of the House.

Since people are usually angry with the way Congress is going, this presents a unique opportunity for minority parties to pick up a few seats. Just convince people that your party's not in charge!

P.S.: Looks like MyDD got a redesign today. Looks nice. Apparently the DD now stands for "Direct Democracy" instead of "Due Diligence".


Why is President Bush so awesome?


Save the Oak Street

Last night I went to the Oak Street Cinema for the "community meeting" to try to figure out what the heck is going on with MN Film Arts, and whether or not the Oak Street is going to close. Chuck was also there with his video camera, and promises video log footage at Minnesota Stories soon. For background on MN Film Arts troubles, see the City Pages.

As people walked into the theater, volunteers passed out a staff statement, which I've transcribed and uploaded here. The meeting was sprung on the board (they found out about it from the media) and this statement almost made them leave. I'm glad that cooler heads prevailed.

After a nearly-full house had piled into the theater, it got underway, with R.T. Rybak's aide Peter Wagenius moderating. Or, I should say, trying to moderate. The meeting quickly became chaotic, and no real answers were forthcoming.

I was disappointed how the meeting turned out. I did not like the belligerents in the audience shouting down the board members who were trying to speak. Let them answer the questions, damn it!

There were some decent suggestions from the audience, and more than a few half-baked ideas. The guy next to me proposed that the Oak Street should be an oasis from capitalism and asked why there isn't an endowment. Uh, yeah. It's kind of hard to have an endowment, when you're $130,000 in the hole

I agree to a certain extent that MN Film Arts should be buffered from the marketplace. But at a fundamental level, if money in is not greater than money out, there will be major consequences. The Oak can't show movies that only bring in $700/week.

There seems to be two big problems that need to be solved for the Oak Street Cinema to survive. First, MN Film Arts needs to get out of debt. Jamie Hook screwed them pretty bad by missing grants, but it seems the organization has been in trouble for some time. Second, the Oak Street needs to start playing movies that people will actually go see.

The first part is tricky. I would be happy to give MN Film Arts some money, but I want to be assured that it will go to good use. I need proof that the organization will still be around, and run by competent people. The organization could use a dedicated development director, but with no money it's tough to hire. They are in a major Catch-22. Tim Grady pledged to put $75,000 of his own money into MN Film Arts. I thought a lot of people in the audience were really unfair to Tim. It's a credit to him that he maintained his composure.

On the second point, most of us are guilty. I have a lot of great memories of the Oak, and the idea of it closing boggles me, but I couldn't name the last film I've seen there. Movie attendance is down nation-wide. People are watching DVDs or playing video games instead.

In the end, there were more questions than answers. I'm anxious to see what happens.

More coverage of the meeting:
- Star Tribune: A drama unfolds at Oak Street Cinema
- Pioneer Press: Oak Street Cinema is 'bleeding money'
- MNSpeak
- SaveTheOakStreet.com
- The Bug


What I've been up to

Sunset from Haleakala ("House of the Sun") on Maui.

Did you miss me?


Working at minimum, living beneath it

Here's some food for thought from an article about state efforts to raise minimum wages:

Opinion polls show wide public support for an increase in the federal minimum wage, which falls far short of the income needed to place a family at the federal poverty level. Even the chairman of Wal-Mart has endorsed an increase, saying that a worker earning the minimum wage cannot afford to shop at his stores.

Right, there you go: it's blindingly obvious that Republican efforts to discourage the public will on the matter of minimum wages are just your usual plutocratic greed in action. But what about small business owners?

"Restaurants are a low-margin business," said Geoff Hetrick, president of the Ohio Restaurant Association. "A number of marginal operations which are more or less on the ragged edge right now might find this to be the straw that breaks the camel's back, especially in northern Ohio where they've had a significant loss in manufacturing employment that's taken a lot of disposable income out of the economy."

So in other words, minimum wage should be kept low so that restaurants can stay in business in areas where jobs have hemorrhaged and only the more well-off can keep eating out? Sorry, you get no sympathy here pal. Let democracy (and not obese lobbyists) alter the minimum wage as necessary to keep up with inflation, and the affordability of basic needs.