Barack Obama's seemingly inexplicable winning of the Nobel Peace Prize says less about him than about the current mentality of Europe's leadership class. Lacking any strong, compelling voices of their own, the Europeans are now trying to hijack our president as their spokesman.
There's a catch, of course. In their mind, Obama deserves the award because he seems to think, and sound, like a European. In everything from global warming to anti-suburbanism to pacifism, Obama reflects the basic agenda of the continent's leading citizens--in sharp contrast to former President George W. Bush.
On almost any night of the week, Churchill's Restaurant is hopping. The 10-year-old hot spot in Rockville Centre, Long Island, is packed with locals drinking beer and eating burgers, with some customers spilling over onto the street. "We have lots of regulars—people who are recognized when they come in," says co-owner Kevin Culhane. In fact, regulars make up more than 80 percent of the restaurant's customers. "People feel comfortable and safe here," Culhane says. "This is their place."
Balding, affable and passionate, Uranio Adolfo Arrendondo may not be a general or political leader, but he stands on the front lines of a critical battle facing Mexico in the coming decade. This struggle is not primarily about the drug wars, which dominate the media coverage--and thus our perceptions--of our southern neighbor. It concerns the economic and political forces stunting the aspirations of its people.
You don't have to be a genius, or a conservative, to recognize that California's experiment with ultra-progressive politics has gone terribly wrong. Although much of the country has suffered during the recession, California's decline has been particularly precipitous--and may have important political consequences.
Outside Michigan, California now suffers the highest rate of unemployment of all the major states, with a post-World War II record of 12.2%. This statistic does not really touch the depth of the pain being felt, particularly among the middle and working classes, many of whom have become discouraged and are no longer counted in the job market.
Barack Obama goes to this week's Pittsburgh G-20 with what seems the weakest hand of any American president since Gerald Ford. In reality, he has a far stronger set of cards to play--he just needs to recognize it.
Our adversaries may like our new president, but they don't fear him. And, on the surface, why should they? The national debt is rising faster than the vig for a compulsive, debt-ridden gambler. And our primary rivals, the Chinese, continue to put the squeeze on American producers by devaluing their currency, subsidizing exports and penalizing imports.
California may yet be a civilization that is too young to have produced its Thucydides or Edward Gibbon, but if it has, the leading candidate would be Kevin Starr. His eight-part “Dream” series on the evolution of the Golden State stands alone as the basic comprehensive work on California. Nothing else comes remotely close.
The High Desert region north and east of Los Angeles sits 3,000 feet above sea level. A rough, often starkly beautiful region of scrubby trees, wide vistas and brooding brown mountains, the region seems like a perfect setting for an old Western shoot 'em up.
Today, it's the stage for a different kind of battle, one that involves a struggle over preserving the American dream. For years, the towns of the High Desert--places like Victorville, Adelanto, Hesperia, Barstow and Apple Valley--have lured thousands of working- and middle-class Californians looking for affordable homes.
For the time being, battles over health care and energy seem likely to occupy the attention of both the Obama administration and its critics. Yet although now barely on the radar, there may be another, equally critical conflict developing over how Americans live and travel.
Japan's recent election, which overthrew the decades-long hegemony of the Liberal Democratic Party, was remarkable in its own right. But perhaps its most intriguing aspect was not the dawning of a new era but the emergence of the country's low birthrate as a major political concern.
Many Japanese recognize that their birth dearth contributes to the country's long-standing economic torpor. The kid issue was prominent in the campaign of newly elected Democratic Party Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who promised to increase the current $100 a month subsidy per child to $280 and make public high school free. The Liberal Democrats also proposed their own pro-natalist program with a scheme for free child day care.
For most of those which were great once are small today; And those that used to be small were great in my own time. Knowing, therefore, that human prosperity never abides long in the same place, I shall pay attention to both alike
–Herodotus, Fifth Century B.C.
If the great Greek chronicler and "father of history" Herodotus were alive today, he would have whiplash. In less than a lifetime, we have seen the rapid rise of a host of dynamic new global cities – and the relative decline of many others. With a majority of the world's population now living in cities, what these places do with their new wealth ultimately will shape this first truly urban century.
Urban politicians have widely embraced the current concentration of power in Washington, but they may soon regret the trend they now so actively champion. The great protean tradition of American urbanism--with scores of competing economic centers--is giving way to a new Romanism, in which all power and decisions devolve down to the imperial core.
This is big stuff, perhaps even more important than the health care debate. The consequence could be a loss of local control, weakening the ability of cities to respond to new challenges in the coming decades.
America's ''kumbaya'' moment has come and gone. The nation's brief feel-good era initiated by Barack Obama's stirring post-partisan rhetoric--and fortified by John McCain's classy concession speech--has dissolved into sectarian bickering more appropriate to dysfunctional Iraq than the world's greatest democratic republic.
Yet little of the shouting concerns the fundamental economic issue facing the U.S. today: the decline of upward mobility and income growth for the working and middle classes. Instead we have politicos battling over two versions of ''trickle down'' economics.
California has been exporting people to Oregon for many years, even amid the recession in both states.
Indeed, the 2005 American Community Survey report shows that California-to-Oregon migration was 56,379 in 2005, the sixth-largest interstate flow in the United States. The 2000 census showed a five-year flow of 138,836 people, the eighth-largest over that time period. Until two years ago, Oregon was managing to absorb this population with mixed results, but generally as part of an expanding and diversifying economy. But that pattern has ended, at least for now.
Few topics stir more controversy between urbanists and civic boosters than city rankings. What truly makes a city "great," or even "livable"? The answers, and how these surveys determine them, are often subjective, narrow or even misguided. What makes a "great" city on one list can serve as a detriment on another.
Recent rankings of the "best" cities around the world by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Monocle magazine and the Mercer quality of life surveys settled on a remarkably similar list. For the most part, the top ranks are dominated by well-manicured older European cities such as Zurich, Geneva, Vienna, Copenhagen, Helsinki and Munich, as well as New World metropolises like Vancouver and Toronto; Auckland, New Zealand; and Perth and Melbourne in Australia.
Nothing is perhaps more pathetic than the exertions of economic developers and politicians grasping at straws, particularly during hard times. Over the past decade, we have turned from one panacea to another, from the onset of the information age to the creative class to the boom in biotech, nanotech and now the "green economy."