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December 27, 2002
Album sales plummet

In 2000, Soundscan reported that the record industry sold 785 million albums. In 2001, that number dropped to 763 million. In 2002, the latest reports indicate, only 624 million albums have been sold through December 22.

Reuters/Variety is calling that a 9% drop, so I guess that either means Reuters/Variety is innumerate or lots and lots of sales happen between December 23rd and December 31st, because 763 million minus 624 million is 139 million, and that's closer to an 18% drop.

For a second opinion, the New York Daily News says that album sales are down 13% from 2001.

But any way you slice it, things are pretty dismal for the record industry. Even if it sells, say, 40 million CDs in the final nine days of the year, that's still just 664 million albums sold, or 99 million fewer albums sold this year. At an average of, say, $14 per album, that's a loss of approximately $1.38 billion in revenue.

And yet, just about every person who says he downloads MP3 tracks from the web says he's buying more CDs than ever...

Posted by Greg Beato at 10:24 AM
December 24, 2002
The Stigma of Questionable Confidence

Add William Bennett to the list of pundits who argue that the real evil that Trent Lott embodies is affirmative action.

"To think of people deserving rights or privileges because they black, white, or any other color, perpetuates the idea that race should matter in law or privilege," he says, apparently employing a little Ebonics to show solidarity with his black brethren. (Italics mine.)

Or maybe it was just a copy-editing error. In any case, Bennett is right of course: people deserve rights and privileges only if they're rich; color should have nothing to do with it.

Or to put it another way: how can so many many conservatives decry affirmative action when George W. Bush is president?

"Now is the right time to finally end both forms of race-based policies that look to who one's great-grandparents were rather than who we are," Bennett insists.

While Bush didn't necessarily benefit from the fact that his grandfather was white, he did certainly benefit from the fact that his grandfather was his grandfather. Indeed, if Bush's grandfather and father hadn't attended Yale, it's doubtful that he would have been accepted: apparently his high school guidance counselor thought he should have a back-up plan because neither his grades nor his SAT scores were particularly strong. But lucky for him, three out of the seven admissions committee members who voted him in were former members of Skull and Bones, the super-secret, super-exclusive campus society that George Bush, Sr. was also a member of - so somehow Junior got in...

George W's grades at Yale were so lackluster that the University of Texas turned him down when he applied to its law school, but for some reason, Harvard Business School accepted him when he applied there. Did the fact that his father was the chairman of the Republican National Committee at the time help make up for his average marks? Or that Bush Jr. was able to list achievements on his resume (time spent in the Texas National Guard, a role in his father's failed campaign for U.S. Senator) that were the result of his high station in life? Of course.

And now of course, George W. Bush is president. True, some people think the special privileges he's enjoyed as a result of who his forebears were burden him with what Bennett says Shelby Steele calls "the stigma of questionable competence."

But many people think he's doing a great job. So all in all, I'd say he's a shining example of affirmative action in action. Bush was born with great innate abilities of course - including powerful kidneys and a certain amount of personal charm - but without the skills and connections he acquired at three of the most elite educational institutions in the country, would he have ever had the opportunity to exploit his innate abilities so fully? And if it hadn't been for that form of affirmative action known as "legacy admission," would he have ever gotten into Yale?

These days, of course, the advantage of being rich and well-connected is even greater than it was in George W. Bush's undergraduate days. A family can now easily spend over a hundred thousand dollars per child to prepare him or her for college: private schools, private tutors, SAT preparation courses, and admissions consultants all help ensure that wealth and status remain key factors in realizing what Bush calls "the promise of America."

Of course, such tactics are just as available to rich blacks as they are to rich whites. But it's incredibly dishonest for Bennett to suggest that race is the only obstacle that stands in the way of equalizing admission standards, when wealth plays such a huge role now too. And because wealth is still very much tied to race in this country, and there are a lot more white families that can afford private schools, tutors, and other services that increase one's chances to get into college, race ultimately does play a role in the process too.

Posted by Greg Beato at 09:23 AM