Note: This blog draws in part on my experiences and observations interviewing political figures, writers, and analysts for "The Campbell Conversations" on WRVO. To hear past interviews I refer to in these posts, please go to the show's website. The views expressed here are solely my own, and do not represent Syracuse University, the Campbell Institute, or the WRVO Stations.

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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

U.S. Public Support for the Free Market Has Fallen -- Strange?

I came across this curious factoid today, which I plan to write about more fully in an upcoming newspaper editorial.  Since 2002, American support for the free market as "the best economic system for the future" has fallen, and dramatically so since 2009--at the same time as the Tea Party movement has been picking up steam.  At 59%, our support for the free market is now lower than that found in China or Brazil.  These survey results are from the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, and you can find them here

Recall that the financial crisis hit in 2007, so the recent steep drop is harder to explain through that lens.  Explanations anyone?

Monday, April 4, 2011

SSO -- What I Want to Know

I had lunch with a friend the other day, and after talking politics and basketball, we got to talking about the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra.  It turns out we were both season ticket holders--one of us had made a contribution during the "keep the music playing" appeal.  And we were now both in the same situation--more than a little miffed, and doubting that we'd buy season tickets again next year, if the opportunity presented itself.  We had similar questions, which have yet to be answered. 

I want to be cautious in any criticism of the board of directors, as they are volunteers who give a lot of their time--and a lot of their own money--to the orchestra.  But if one of the arguments to support the orchestra is that it is a cherished public resource for the community, then the ultimate line of management for that resource needs to be held publicly accountable for its actions.  Here's what I want to know:

--The board keeps talking about cutting back the size of the orchestra, but is an orchestra with an administrative staff that is almost a third as large as the group of core musicians more "administratively heavy" than is typically the case?

--Why have key administrative people been leaving? 

--Why weren't there direct and honest communications earlier on with the season ticket holders, so that we didn't have to become informed about our investment through newspaper accounts?

--What was the thinking, and what were the expectations, behind the decisions of the past few years?

--What's the path forward that is currently envisioned by the board--how and why does it expect that the orchestra will survive?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Feature Guest Post -- U.S. Military Aid in Tsunami-Stricken Japan: A Temporary Relief

The following is a guest post from Alexis Bonari.  She's a resident blogger at College Scholarships, where recently she's been researching Girl Scouts scholarships as well as grants for Asian students. Alexis writes that whenever this WAHM [I confess I had to look this up; now I know] gets some free time she enjoys doing yoga, cooking with the freshest organic in-season fare, and practicing the art of coupon clipping.  One quick editorial comment:  I think this post gets at an interesting and less considered wrinkle regarding the U.S. assistance to Japan.  As always, the views shared here are solely those of the author.

The U.S. military presence has never been more welcome in Japan than it is today, weeks since the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and ensuing—and more devastating—tsunami on March 11.  Many Japanese are grateful for international aid, but it is unlikely to do more than temporarily ease the tensions that escalated over the Futenma base in Okinawa last year.  The grudge there is deeper and heals with no band-aid.
Operation Tomodachi
About 20,000 U.S. troops have mobilized for Operation Tomodachi (“friend”) in an enormous bilateral humanitarian mission.  To aid the operation, the Navy has sent 19 ships, 140 aircraft, and 18,282 personnel along with barges of freshwater to cool the volatile reactor.  The Air Force has meanwhile opened its bases for relief flights and sent dozens of planes to help the Japanese observe Fukushima as well as search for survivors.  Although the Army is the branch with the smallest presence in Japan, it’s delivered blankets and supplies. 
The Marine Corps plays one of the most notable roles in the operation, exemplified by the most widely covered and successful operations thus far: cleaning up Sendai Airport.  According to Capt. Robert Gerbract as interviewed by NPR, the airport looked “like if you had left an airport alone for 1,000 years.  It was like an archaeological site.  It was hard to figure out where to begin.” 
The assignment appears to satisfy most of the troops.  “I’d much rather be carrying relief food packages than a rifle, to be honest,” Gerbract added.
Temporary Friendship
Having been educated on a U.S. Marine Corps base in mainland Japan but lived off-base among Japanese civilians, I daresay that I have a unique perspective on the issue of whether this humanitarian effort will change anything in Japanese-American relations in the long run.  Most of the Japanese public appreciated the U.S. military presence in Japan even before March 11.  Tokyo points to lower defense costs and greater security from growing powers such as China and North Korea as notable perks.  While many pacifists and WWII survivors remember only too well the devastation both the U.S. military and then Imperial Japanese government wreaked on the beloved island nation, most of the animosity has faded to a shrug of the shoulders and the occasional fuss over a traffic accident or a bar fight.
It is not, however, mainland Japan that hosts most of the tension between U.S. armed forces and Japanese civilians.  Over 50,000 U.S. troops, mostly Marines, work on the island of Okinawa.  Over 20% of the island is taken up by the military bases that, contrary to agreements made in the 1990s, show no sign of diminishing.  In fact, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama was forced to resign after making no progress in relocating some 8,500 Marines off Okinawa to Guam as was promised by 2014 by Washington; the latter has instead suggested replacing Futenma with another facility before the relocation, which the public opposed.  The sentiment on most Okinawans’ minds seems to be, “Sure, you’re welcome to stay, but why on Okinawa?”
Okinawa was the last place the Marines and other U.S. forces pitched camp before the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the ensuing surrender.  It may also serve as a more strategic location geopolitically when keeping an eye on Greater Asia.  Most likely, however, Okinawans have historically faced a prejudice by the Japanese government, and having the U.S. presence there is simply more convenient for Tokyo than having rough-housing Marines spread about the mainland.
Lasting Tensions
The Japanese across all islands are grateful for the U.S. military’s aid, but much of the warmth stoked by Operation Tomodachi will likely change few minds in Okinawa and even the on the mainland.
The question then: Should it?  Had Japan won the war, the firebombing of Tokyo and Dresden would have been tried as war crimes, even if aerial warfare was not at the time covered under international humanitarian law (air power was only just developing and diplomatic efforts proved too little, too late). 
Should it be any wonder that in a nation where, within living memory, 500,000 civilians died from the tactical bombings of 67 cities, the presence of foreign military personnel is undesired?  I’ve heard the argument of “revenge for Pearl Harbor” countless times, but the truth is that under 3,000 Americans, most of them military, died on that day, as opposed to the (conservative estimate) of 140,000 Japanese civilians in Hiroshima.  Then again, most people don’t like hearing that President Roosevelt had the power to evacuate Pearl Harbor well in advance of the attack, and that far too much money had been spent on the Manhattan Project to go untested, even if the mainland invasion hadn’t been scheduled for months later.  For people who have studied beyond the conventional WWII history, the ongoing presence of Marines in Japan as well as the lack of an official apology from the Japanese government is salt in a wound that’s too deep to heal.
“I feel thankful that they are helping us, but I still have reservations about having U.S. troops in Japan,” says Yoko Hiraoka in Higashi Matsushima, near Sendai.  “It doesn’t fundamentally change the way I feel.”