Stardom isn’t normal. It’s familiar, even commonplace—ever-present not only in the realm of actors, singers, and other pop entertainers, but also in the overlapping circles of athletes, politicians, tech “visionaries,” and ambiguously skilled celebrities-as-celebrities whom Americans love to ogle, aggrandize, belittle, and resent. The impulse to idolize is as old as the gods, of course. Jesus was a superstar some time before Andrew Lloyd Webber came around.
To put it mildly, the latest round of redistricting has not been the most edifying experience. Over the past year, politicians have assembled throughout the country to carve districts that are equal in population, but that otherwise serve their own interests rather than the public’s. Protracted litigation has determined, on a case-by-case basis, which districts will be represented by minority groups. And the courts have been intimately involved not just with minority representation but also with every other aspect of the process.
Just over a week ago, at the Chardon High School near Cleveland, Ohio, a seventeen-year-old youth opened fire on fellow students: Six were wounded and three have died. A teacher said it was important to get the rest of the students back to school to “show that terror and evil do not win out.” Such things keep happening, and people make brave, encouraging, and ridiculous statements.
Just a year has gone by since the Arab Spring first hit Libya, and celebrations of Libya's liberation from its despicable dictator aren't exactly making headlines. Indeed, has there been much to glorify? There is little semblance of a central government, and intertribal fighting shows no signs of abatement. Are the Libyan people better off now than they were before France and Britain, with the United States "leading from behind," rushed to the rescue of the 2011 revolution?
Time has not appeared to be on Rupert Murdoch’s side in the phone hacking scandal. The stream of revelations about the ethically and legally dubious practices at Murdoch’s media properties seems to have no end. And as the investigations have taken their toll, Britain’s Left has mostly watched in glee, assuming that their longtime adversary was finally receiving his comeuppance. Yet the schadenfreude seems to have been premature.
Last week marked the sixtieth anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the British throne. The government has already declared a four day public holiday in June, during which Her Majesty will lead a flotilla of a thousand boats along the Thames and a chain of fiery beacons will be lit across the United Kingdom. For a country in recession and at conflict with the European Union over its right to govern its own finances, this offers us a unique opportunity to reassert confidence and historical identity.
In 2005, when I ran as a Parliamentary candidate for my home town in England, I invited an American friend, who had worked on Barack Obama’s senatorial race, to join me on the campaign trail. He was expecting a rather more high-tech operation than the one he found. Leaflets were run off an old black and white photocopier and the balloons bore the name of the candidate from eight years before. The American’s first question was “How much have you invested in television ads?” Everyone on the staff laughed.
Here at the Metro Program we have long advocated a “bottom-up” approach to economic development. Such an approach calls for a major reorientation of federal-state-metro relationships--one that empowers metros and regions with real flexibility and resources so as to enable them to chart their own courses. And so we have often looked abroad for ideas as we have worked on concepts, such as Metropolitan Business Plans (coming soon: Metropolitan Export Plans) and our proposals for aiding and abetting the self-organized initiatives of innovation clusters. For example, we have closely followed devel
Before 2013 begins, catch up on the best of 2012. From now until the New Year, we will be re-posting some of The New Republic’s most thought-provoking pieces of the year. Enjoy.Note: At the State of the Union on January 26, President Barack Obama argued, "Anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, doesn't know what they're talking about." According to a Foreign Policy report, the president had read and been influenced by the TNR article below, discussing it at length in an off-the-record meeting on the afternoon of the speech. I.Is the United States in decline, as so many seem to believe these days? Or are Americans in danger of committing pre-emptive superpower suicide out of a misplaced fear of their own declining power? A great deal depends on the answer to these questions. The present world order—characterized by an unprecedented number of democratic nations; a greater global prosperity, even with the current crisis, than the world has ever known; and a long peace among great powers—reflects American principles and preferences, and was built and preserved by American power in all its political, economic, and military dimensions. If American power declines, this world order will decline with it. It will be replaced by some other kind of order, reflecting the desires and the qualities of other world powers. Or perhaps it will simply collapse, as the European world order collapsed in the first half of the twentieth century. The belief, held by many, that even with diminished American power “the underlying foundations of the liberal international order will survive and thrive,” as the political scientist G. John Ikenberry has argued, is a pleasant illusion. American decline, if it is real, will mean a different world for everyone.But how real is it? Much of the commentary on American decline these days rests on rather loose analysis, on impressions that the United States has lost its way, that it has abandoned the virtues that made it successful in the past, that it lacks the will to address the problems it faces. Americans look at other nations whose economies are now in better shape than their own, and seem to have the dynamism that America once had, and they lament, as in the title of Thomas Friedman’s latest book, that “that used to be us.”
One evening recently in Rangoon, my friend Ko Ye (not his real name) arrived at the apartment where I was staying, brandishing the latest issue of the weekly newspaper he runs. It was, he announced with great fanfare, a landmark edition: For the first time ever, government censors had allowed him to run a photo of Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s most prominent dissident, on the cover. The edition also included other previously banned topics: political analysis of U.S. relations with Burma and an article about Martin Luther King that contained the taboo phrase “human rights” in the headline.