Contact Me By Email

Contact Me By Email

Atlanta, GA Weather from Weather Underground

Thursday, November 23, 2006

How to Fight Poverty: 8 Programs That Work - New York Times

How to Fight Poverty: 8 Programs That Work - New York Times:
November 16, 2006
Talking Points

How to Fight Poverty: 8 Programs That Work

Ask Americans whether they want to spend taxpayer money to educate girls abroad, and 80 percent say yes. Do they want to give food and medical assistance in poor countries? Eighty four percent do. Prevent and treat AIDS? That’s 79 percent.

But ask them whether they favor foreign aid, and only a bare majority does.

This disconnect occurs because a lot of Americans are concerned about how foreign aid is spent. Most Americans think Washington should help the needy abroad. But they worry the money will be wasted.

There are too many stories about taxpayer funds winding up in the Swiss bank accounts of dictators, financing dams and highways that never get built or paying exorbitant salaries to American consultants. Americans also wonder when they hear about how miserable life in some countries continues to be: why doesn’t foreign aid seem to be doing any good?

One reason is that not much money goes to combating that misery.

When pollsters ask people in the United States to guess how much their government spends on foreign aid, the median response is 25 percent of the federal budget – and Americans think that it should be 10 percent. The real number is less than 1 percent. And only a tiny percentage of that goes to fight poverty.

That percentage was even smaller during the Cold War, when a large chunk of American foreign aid went into dictators’ pockets or to their helicopter fleets. Its purpose was not to help people, but to buy friends.

But even today, 39 percent of the State Department's foreign aid budget goes to military aid, supporting congenial governments like Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Pakistan, and to fighting drugs.

Of the money that is marked for development – to help poor countries get richer – a lot goes to programs to help a nation’s central bank become more independent or to train congressional staff. This is important work, but it does not fight poverty. And a lot of what remains goes to help people in emergencies – feeding the hungry after crop failures, or rebuilding after a tsunami.

Not much is left for preventing crop failures in the first place. President Bush has proposed to give $23.7 billion in aid grants to poor countries in 2007. But even by the most generous calculations, only $3.7 billion is actually anti-poverty aid.

If antipoverty efforts do not help as much as Americans would like, one reason is that their government is spending far less than they think it is. This is unfortunate because there are programs out there with a proven track record of working — of lifting poor people out of poverty, and keeping them out — some run by governments, some by charity groups, and a few by businesses.

Here are some particularly effective ones.

I. The Gold Standard: Universal Vaccination

Universal vaccination is cost-effective foreign aid at its best. It is so successful, so widely considered essential, that many people today do not realize that it began only 20 years ago.

When Unicef and the World Health Organization started a global effort to vaccinate children against common childhood diseases in 1985, they were met with widespread skepticism. Vaccination rates for children in many countries were appalling – only 20 percent of the world's children in 1980 had gotten their third shot of D.P.T. (diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus) on time, the conventional measure of vaccine coverage.

But the program has had stunning success. By 1990, 75 percent of children had completed their D.P.T. shots on time. Bangladesh went from 9 percent D.P.T. completion in 1987 to 98 percent five years later. Worldwide, children were being immunized against polio and measles as well.

The logistics are heroic. Wars are routinely halted for inoculation campaigns. Entire countries get vaccinated in two days. Measles vaccines are successfully kept cold during day-long journeys by bicycle and canoe.

A full course of immunization, including everything in the supply chain, costs only $30. In the last 20 years this campaign has saved 20 million lives. It has given hundreds of millions of children a better start.

In the 1990s, however, the world’s attention turned to other problems, and vaccination rates slipped backwards. Bangladesh fell back to 66 percent in 1999. Every year 27 million children — a quarter of the world’s children — go unvaccinated against the basic diseases. Two to three million of these children die. Even for those who survive, these diseases can be crushing, forcing children to drop out of school, and parents to spend time and money they cannot afford on doctors and care for their sick children.

The challenge today is two-fold: to improve basic vaccine coverage, and to put new vaccines into global use. Vaccines now exist to protect children against common diarrheal and pneumococcal killers, against hepatitis B and a common influenza. But they are mainly in use in wealthy countries. Soon there may be a malaria vaccine as well. All these must become part of the universal vaccine package.

Help has come from an organization launched in 2000, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization. Financed by governments, organizations such as the World Bank and Unicef and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, GAVI gives poor countries money to improve their infrastructure and logistics – and then gives them more if they actually achieve improved vaccination rates. It also helps assure a predictable market for new vaccines, which encourages drug makers to produce them in large quantities. It has helped expand both basic and new vaccine coverage – because of GAVI, for example, 90 million children have been immunized against hepatitis B(pdf).

Immunization became a victim of its success, but close attention and new partnerships are now reviving vaccines. It is a lesson that eternal vigilance is needed, even to protect a program that became venerable practically overnight.

II. Give Poor People an Ownership Stake

Look around the edges of any large third world city and you will see vast settlements built by the residents themselves. Migrants from the countryside claim empty plots in nighttime land invasions, put up a blanket with a pole or a cardboard roof and begin stockpiling bricks. Their livelihoods are similarly jerry-rigged. A man will nail together a booth, at which he can sit and repair his neighbors’ shoes. A woman will open a window to the street to turn her living room into a mini-bodega, selling cooking oil and rice.

Most people surveying these kingdoms of dust and hope see only poverty. But Hernando de Soto saw something else – untapped wealth. Mr. De Soto, a Peruvian economist, realized that the world’s poor own trillions of dollars’ worth of assets. But their houses, plots of land and businesses lacked formal title – and so could not be used to do all the things that people in wealthy countries do to turn a little money into a lot of money.

Without title, people can not sell stakes in their businesses, use their homes as collateral for loans, buy insurance, or form limited liability corporations to reduce their personal risk. They cannot get credit in banks. They do not improve their businesses because their investment may suddenly vanish at any moment. They must spend money and time bribing the police to keep from being kicked off their land. In many cases they cannot even get electricity and telephone service.

Mr. De Soto’s crusade, which has now marched to El Salvador, Egypt, Mexico, Honduras, Tanzania, El Salvador, the Philippines, Haiti, Albania and elsewhere, attempts to turn these dead assets into living capital. All countries, of course, have ways to register property. But in most poor nations, they involve so much red tape that they are essentially useless for the poor. Mr. De Soto had tried an experiment in Peru – he established a two-sewing machine garment factory in a Lima slum and hired five college students to get all the necessary permits to legalize it. He claims it took them 289 days and cost them 31 times the average monthly minimum wage.

Mr. De Soto likes to say that when he walks through the rice fields in Bali, a different dog barks whenever he crosses from one farm to another. The dogs recognize the assets under their masters’ control. But the legal system does not.

To change this, Mr. De Soto founded an organization in Lima called the Institute for Liberty and Democracy. It carries out research on the informal sector. But the governments of Peru and El Salvador have also hired the I.L.D. to run registries that give poor people simple, quick ways to get title for their land, homes and businesses. It also helps them use those titles productively. In other countries, I.L.D. is helping governments design such agencies or train government officials to do this work.

The I.L.D.’s work in Peru means that legalizing a business can now be done in a day, by visiting a single desk. The cost dropped from $1,200 to $174. The group says that between 1990 and 1995, 300,000 titles were registered in urban Lima (pdf), and the value of the underlying land doubled by 1998. Hundreds of thousands of new businesses have been legalized. Poor people saved millions in administrative costs, and Peru raised millions of dollars in new taxes.

Getting title, of course, does not mean that poor people can necessarily turn it into higher incomes. To use newly legal assets, the poor must still contend with banks that won't lend to them, and courts that require bribes and put up other hurdles. Tackling these issues may help solve one of the most vexing drawbacks of globalization and the market economy – in much of the third world, they have tended to benefit only the wealthiest. But establishing property rights is a necessary first step.

III. Microcredit: The 62-Cent Solution

In 1976, a Bangladeshi economist named Muhammad Yunus came upon a group of 42 artisans – but perhaps the more appropriate word is “slaves.” They made crafts such as chair seats, and used materials lent to them each day at exorbitant rates of interest by the buyer of their work. They were forever in debt, unable to turn enough profit to buy their materials in advance at market prices. Mr. Yunus gave the group a loan from his pocket that averaged 62 cents per person. With that, they bought their freedom.

Twenty years later, the Grameen Bank, the organization Mr. Yunus founded, has lent small sums of money to 6.7 million people in Bangladesh, almost all of them women, many of whom had never before touched money. It offers savings, insurance, home mortgages, pension funds, scholarships, credit for families to buy fertilizer, build latrines or dig wells, and a program of no-interest loans for beggars, so they can offer candy or dried chiles for sale as they go house to house.

Microcredit now reaches nearly 100 million clients in more than 100 countries. The World Bank has found that microcredit accounted for 40 percent of the entire reduction in moderate poverty in rural Bangladesh —and that it had an even bigger impact on extremely poor borrowers.

Microcredit raises an entire village’s standard of living – even non-borrowers’ lives improve. (Lending to men, by contrast, proved not to affect poverty at all.) Studies of microcredit programs all over the world show that it produces higher incomes and better-fed children, and improves a family’s ability to survive illness or drought.

To many people, the name Grameen is synonymous with microcredit. But the Grameen Bank is not even the largest microcredit lender in Bangladesh – that is the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee. Nor were Mr. Yunus’s 62 cent loans the first – the earliest documented microloan took place in 1973, in Recife, Brazil, lent by Accion International , a group that has now lent over $10 billion.

But what Mr. Yunus and Grameen did – why they are sharing the 2006 Nobel Prize for Peace -- was show how an idea helping a few hundred people could be expanded to help millions. Grameen has also struck the proper balance – it is sustainable and profitable, with $600 million in savings from borrowers as capital. At the same time, it has never forgotten that its mission is to fight poverty, not maximize profit. It charges interest rates far lower than other commercial microlenders.

Grameen developed a model now in use globally. Although it is a bank, in many ways it is the opposite of a bank. Traditional banks in poor countries do not lend to the poor — administrative costs are too high, and the poor were thought to be bad risks. Normal banks stick close to business districts, require collateral, and lend mainly to men.

Grameen turned this on its head. Instead of collateral, Grameen depends on social pressure to guarantee loans. Women form borrowing groups of five, and must pay back their loans regularly for others in the group to be able to get one; borrowers must pledge to eliminate dowry, eat vegetables, have small families and educate their children — requirements not likely to be found at conventional banks.

It has been a decade since Grameen Bank accepted any donations or took loans. But hundreds of newer microfinance groups still look for donors. Accion International, for example, creates new microfinance institutions in 22 countries, which stop needing help once they become profitable. It also trains traditional banks in how to lend to the poor.

Microcredit started as an antipoverty program, but continues as a business. That is one reason it has grown and grown while other forms of aid fight for governments’ dollars and attention.

IV. Bribe the Poor

In 1995, the Mexican peso crashed and the economy contracted by 6 percent. At the time, Santiago Levy, the deputy finance minister, realized that the country’s antipoverty programs were going to fail its poor. The programs were a hodgepodge of food subsidies, adopted in response to powerful food producers. They were inefficient because they targeted foods everyone ate, rich and poor. Some even targeted foods the poor don’t eat, such as bread – poor Mexicans eat tortillas.

Mr. Levy saw a looming disaster – but also an opportunity to build political support for an antipoverty program that worked. Stealthily, he organized a pilot project to test a new idea in Campeche, far away from the capital so it would draw little notice. He began a program to pay poor mothers to keep their children in school and take their kids to the health clinic. He compared the results to poverty figures in a group of similar villages without the program. It was a great success. Data in hand, he persuaded President Ernesto Zedillo to phase in the new program and phase out the food subsidies.

Oportunidades, formerly called Progresa, is now embraced by all parties in Mexico and, with financing from the World Bank, is helping virtually every poor family. It not only focuses antipoverty spending on those who really need it, it does so in a way that encourages families to break the cycle of poverty for their children.

The average family in Oportunidades gets $35 a month – about a quarter of the rural family income. Families with many children in school can get up to $153 a month, a ceiling imposed to avoid providing incentive to have more children.

From the beginning, Oportunidades built in rigorous evaluation. Those studies have shown that it does focus its help on Mexico’s poorest people, and that the money is producing good results. Children are bigger and healthier. Oportunidades has also cut child labor and led to more schooling – in rural areas, for example, the number of children starting high school increased 85 percent. Moreover, by paying women, Oportunidades has augmented their power inside the family without increasing domestic violence.

There are fashions in foreign aid, and Oportunidades is hot. The World Bank sings its praises (pdf). So far 25 countries have adopted some version. New York mayor Michael Bloomberg just announced he is looking for donors to finance a pilot program to test whether New Yorkers, too, can be bribed out of poverty.

V. Link Up the Villages

When Shenggen Fan, now 45, was growing up in a village in China, it could take two days to get to Shanghai by motorboat and then bus. It took him an hour to walk to high school. Farmers grew only products they could eat or sell to their neighbors.

Now when he lands in Shanghai, he can drive to his family’s home in three hours. The high school is a 10-minute bike ride from his house. Farmers now buy animal feed and fertilizer from trucks visiting the village, and sell other visitors the cereals, watermelons and pigs they raise. The village has grown much more prosperous.

What has changed? Roads. Dirt trails were first replaced with all-weather roads made of broken bricks mixed with dirt, with drainage. Then the road to town was paved.

Almost everything people need to be able to live decently requires a road. A good dirt road with ditches is fine, or one built by villagers themselves with local stones or locally-made bricks. It just needs to be a road that allows a farmer to push his products to market in a hand cart, and that lets buses and trucks get from the village to the main trunk roads. The villagers themselves can maintain it.

Roads allow farmers to market their products, and bring in fertilizer and seeds. They let rural residents take non-farming jobs in nearby towns. Sick people can get to the hospital in time. Roads make it easier for the government to bring in water and electricity. Children can get to school faster, which means more will go. “With roads, people travel out and bring in new knowledge,” says Mr. Fan. “They change their behavior. Roads are a window to the outside world. In extreme cases, roads are life-saving – in the Ethiopian famine of 1984 and 1985, thousands of people died because they could not be reached by food aid.”

Today Mr. Fan is a Senior Research Fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington. The studies he and his colleagues have done on how poor governments should spend their money show that building small feeder roads is one of the single most effective ways to fight poverty (pdf). In India, it would be the single most effective antipoverty program, the group concluded. Feeder roads would also be among the best ways to spend money in Africa and China.

Rural roads are not glamorous. Government officials want to build highways, not feeder roads. China, for example, has expanded its national highway system by 44 percent a year since 1988. But rural roads have expanded only 3 percent a year. In Africa, fewer than 10 percent of feeder roads are currently passable during the rainy season, effectively cutting off villages for months at a time.

Thirty years ago, the World Bank concentrated on infrastructure. But many of its projects to build dams, highways and electrical plants were plagued with corruption and waste, or ended up hurting poor people. Building infrastructure, including roads, got a bad name. What's needed today is the infrastructure equivalent of microcredit – small projects for villagers that are a necessary first step out of poverty.

VI. Target the Decision-Makers

Suppose you are a parent in rural India, or parts of Africa, or China. You are poor. School is available for your children. But you may have to pay school fees, and you must buy uniforms and books. The nearest school is in the next village – a dangerous walk for a young girl.

Besides, you need your daughter at home to fetch water and take care of her younger siblings. You know that education is important – but it is your sons who will support you when you are old, while your daughters will become part of their husbands’ families. Your decision is easy – the boys, and only the boys, go to school.

Gene Sperling, formerly President Clinton’s national economic advisor, now at the Council on Foreign Relations, likes to talk about the central paradox in girls’ education: Going to school is good for girls. Educated girls make more money. They are more productive farmers and have smaller, healthier, better-educated families of their own. They are even less likely to catch the AIDS virus. Educating girls is also great policy for a nation. Closing the educational gender gap boosts economic growth.

But educating girls is not necessarily good for parents – and they make the decisions. Most poor people in the world live in societies in which the girl marries into her husband’s family. Educating a daughter, these cultures say, is like watering a neighbor’s garden. Parents will send their girls to school only if the costs are very low.

That’s one reason why far fewer girls than boys go to school. Of children in primary school today, 150 million will drop out before they finish – two thirds of them girls. In Africa, the majority of girls do not finish primary school.

School is often very expensive. School fees in some countries, such as the Congo, are more than the national per capita income. When Tanzania abolished school fees in January, 2002, school attendance doubled overnight – and most of the new students were girls. There are other costs. Parents must buy books and uniforms. When Kenya tried abolishing fees for uniforms, books and school construction in some places, students stayed in school 15 percent longer.

The other cost to parents is the lost value of the girls’ work at home. To solve this problem, many countries now pay families to send children, especially girls, to school. It is a central feature of Oportunidades-style cash payments, for example. Bangladesh's government provides 15 to 20 kilograms of grain, mainly wheat, per month to families of poor boys and girls if they maintain 85 percent attendance in primary school. The government also pays a stipend to all girls in rural areas in grades 6 through 10, covering the cost of tuition, exams, books, supplies, uniforms, transportation and even kerosene for lamps to study by. The girls must keep up minimum grades, attend classes and not get married until out of school. This program has boosted girls’ enrollment from 27 percent to 60 percent.

Bangladesh is also home to the schools run by BRAC, the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee. BRAC's community schools have doubled the completion rates of government schools by overcoming the hidden obstacles to educating girls.. BRAC runs more than 30,000 schools for poor students, many in places where the nearest government school is far away. Teachers are women – often local high school graduates given training by BRAC. These features reassure parents that their daughters will be safe on the way to school and while in class. School schedules work around harvests and allow girls to be home during peak chore times. BRAC schools are run in close consultation with parents and do everything possible to help parents give their daughters the gift of learning.

VII. A Green Revolution for Africa

What was probably the single most effective antipoverty program in world history began in northern Mexico in the 1940s. Test plots showed that new varieties of dwarf wheat resisted many plant pests and diseases, and doubled or tripled the usual yields. Similar improvements followed in corn and rice. The Rockefeller and Ford Foundations spread the seeds to India and Pakistan, and parts of Asia, Latin America and North Africa, along with irrigation techniques, pesticides and fertilizer.

The Green Revolution is not yet over – productivity continues to increase, and even faster than in the early days. It has prevented famine and brought improvements in income, health and survival to hundreds of millions of people.

But few of them are in sub-Saharan Africa. Africa’s farmers get less than half the amount of grain per acre that Asian farmers get. From 1980 to 2000, India’s agricultural yields rose 28 percent. Africa’s dropped by 7 percent.

A Green Revolution for Africa is a challenge. Africa’s climate is much more varied than south Asia’s, so what crops need varies from place to place. Africa’s infrastructure is worse than India’s was, the soil is more degraded and AIDS is killing off the continent’s labor force.

But while a single Green Revolution benefiting all of Africa may not be possible, a patchwork of Green Revolutions is. Indeed, this is happening.

The Earth Institute at Columbia University is working with 78 villages across Africa to help them improve crop yields, part of a demonstration project trying to attack several different causes of poverty at once. Each village gets help with crops, clean water, nutrition, schools and health, for a total cost of no more than $110 per person per year. The Millennium Village project hopes to show that conquering poverty is possible for very little money. In agriculture, the project provides appropriate seeds and fertilizers to farmers who pledge to contribute part of their surplus to local schools for their lunch program. The subsidies diminish as farmers become able to buy the seeds and fertilizers themselves, and after three years the farmers are on their own.

Even after just one year, success has been notable. Farmers are growing a minimum of 3.5 times as much grain as before, with one village in Rwanda increasing its output 62-fold.

Can this be done on a large scale? The evidence says yes.

Ethiopia – a country once emblematic of crop failure and hunger – has doubled food production in the last 10 years and the government says it will double again by 2010. Malawi’s harvest this year was double that of last year. Ethiopia’s strategy was to provide farmers with better seed, more fertilizer, and hundreds of extension agents to spread good techniques. Malawi began to pick up 75 percent of the cost of farmers’ fertilizer and seed. Many farmers are now able to feed their families and sell surplus crops for the first time. Part of the advance has been luck – good rains. But success today will give farmers a cushion and better tools for withstanding the next drought.

The initial costs of improving crop yields is daunting for many governments in Africa. But if the Millennium Villages and countries like Ethiopia and Malawi can show success, they will make a strong case that farmers mainly need a one-time boost and that the benefits are great for Africa’s poorest and most vulnerable to drought.

VIII. Hold the Patient’s Hand

Tuberculosis is curable. Millions of people alive today can personally attest to the power of antibiotics. A simple course of four antibiotics, which costs as little as $11, can now vanquish a dreaded killer.

So why do nearly 2 million people a year still die of it? Because these antibiotics must be taken daily for six to nine months. That means that the local health clinic must have a steady supply. Patients must continue to take the full course even though they stop coughing, and the medicine causes nasty side effects. TB strikes mostly the poor, especially those living in crowded conditions. Many of them are migrants, who may be lost to the health system when they move.

If they don't finish the course, terrible things can happen. Patients stay sick, but now with a form of TB resistant to the basic drugs. Medicines that can cure this form of TB can cost $10,000, and the course of treatment is two years. Because of poor adherence, resistance has reached the point where some forms of TB are incurable. South Africa is battling an outbreak of this extremely resistant TB, and no doubt many other places are as well – they just don’t know it yet.

The solution is a strategy invented in Tanzania in the 1970s and now in use all over the world, called DOTS, for Directly Observed Treatment, Short-course.

DOTS has several components – among them good supply management and diagnosis – but what is key is what it is named for. Someone becomes a pill pal, with the job of watching the patient swallow the medicines. This can be a neighbor, a family member, or a community health worker.

DOTS is now widespread – it covers about 60 percent of the world’s diagnosed TB cases. It greatly improves the chance of cure. DOTS gives patients a social incentive to take their pills. But sometimes other layers of incentive are necessary as well. In her book “Millions Saved ,” Ruth Levine, the director of programs at the Center for Global Development in Washington, writes about China’s TB program. In 1990, TB in China was the leading cause of death in adults, killing 360,000 people that year. The next year, China switched to DOTS.

China found a way to make DOTS even more effective – by relying on the market. With help from the World Bank, China’s government pays village health workers to find TB patients, get them to the lab for periodic sputum checks, and see them through the full treatment course. The pill pal gets a bonus, too, as does the health center. China’s TB cure rate went from 52 percent to 95 percent, which prevents 30,000 TB deaths per year. Rates of resistant TB are far lower in the parts of China where DOTS is used.

DOTS is one of the most cost-effective health programs around. Each cure costs just $100, and brings a return of $60 for every dollar spent. It works because the drugs are cheap and it relies on community workers instead of doctors. The DOTS strategy recognizes that the promise of being cured is not always enough to change the way people behave. It uses social – and occasionally monetary – incentives to get the community and the patient working towards health.

These are not the only good programs. There are many more out there – family planning, provision of small amounts of nutrients such as Vitamin A, agroforestry to restore the fertility of soil, to name a few. But the above eight are some of the best.

A few common threads link these eight programs.

Many of them rely on the market. Microcredit and property legalization help poor people to start businesses. Other programs pay people for desired behavior.

Another common element is a focus on women and girls, who tend to be poorest of the poor and use help more efficiently than men.

A lot of these programs got their start when one individual looked at a familiar landscape in a fresh way.

The most important things these programs share, however, is that they work -- and with more money they could be working on a grander scale. Financing them, and others like them, is the kind of foreign aid Americans say they want, and should have.

al number"

New York Daily News - News & Views Columnists - Stanley Crouch: The hate factory

New York Daily News - News & Views Columnists - Stanley Crouch: The hate factory:
The hate factory

N-word outburst adds to the denigration
that passes as entertainment


When "Seinfeld" comedian Michael Richards lost his cool and began a racist rant at some noisy customers in a Hollywood comedy club, it seemed to surprise a number of people. It shouldn't. What is actually surprising is that it has taken this long for some airhead made famous by a very popular but insipid television series to flip out within the context of today's minstrel entertainments.

Naturally, a lawyer representing the affronted audience members did not feel that it was enough for Richards to apologize on television; he still needs to pay them some money for what they had to suffer at his hands.

The question, however, is what exactly did the patrons suffer?

What they actually suffered, if anything, was an unintended caricature of a redneck in heated rage, expressing conventional disdain for black people. Richards said that 50 years ago, the black members of the noisy group of comedy club customers would have been hanged, and stabbed in the backside with a pitchfork. Before leaving the stage, Richards reminded the assembled that when it was all over, he would still be wealthy and the black people would still be, well, N-words.

The painfully unfunny comedian Paul Rodriguez performed on the same stage that evening and told the press that if one uses the N-word and is not African-American, a lot of explaining will have to be made.

In the interest of equality, no black comedian should get a pass when using insulting and denigrating words in the middle of an act. It all seems very simple to me. We do not need to accept the conventions of insult and denigration that have been established by black comedians and rappers.

And I do not feel that there should be a freedom of speech issue raised either. Nor do I feel that any laws need to be passed.

This was another moment to question what the ongoing vulgarization of our popular culture has actually come to mean. Two groups - women and black people - are disdainfully addressed and demeaned constantly. Only one has made any protest against being the constant butt of overstated vulgarity. White women have stood up against the misogyny in popular entertainment, but black people have not had much to say about the denigration.

Rap producers and others in the business of selling anything that gives a little spice to the minstrel content of our popular culture have been known to claim that the N-word has become a common means of expression and has taken on a universal understanding through rap. We can now be treated to young people of all ethnic groups referring to each other when using the word.

Does that prove anything? I think not. When Richard Pryor first made liberal use of the N-word, he could not have imagined what emerged in the wake of his performances. But when Pryor himself took a position against minstrel updates, no one listened to him. He had passed out the right of irresponsibility and could not take it back.

So what remains before us is the issue of coming to terms with a popular culture in which the N-word, bitches and hos have become no more than condiments in a particularly unappetizing meal. We need not ban their use, but we do need to face the fact that we have been hustled far more often than not.

Originally published on November 23, 2006

Fresh stories hot off the site every day via RSS!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Blue Note To Release Strayhorn's Lush Life Documentary :: eJazzNews.com : The Number One Jazz News Resource On The Net :: Jazz News Daily

Blue Note To Release Strayhorn's Lush Life Documentary :: eJazzNews.com : The Number One Jazz News Resource On The Net :: Jazz News Daily: Blue Note To Release Strayhorn's Lush Life Documentary
Posted by: editoron Friday, November 17, 2006 - 08:07 AM
BLUE NOTE RECORDS TO RELEASE BILLY STRAYHORN: LUSH LIFE, COMPANION SOUNDTRACK TO PBS/INDEPENDENT LENS DOCUMENTARY, FEATURING NEW PERFORMANCES OF STRAYHORN COMPOSITIONS BY BILL CHARLAP, ELVIS COSTELLO, HANK JONES, JOE LOVANO & DIANNE REEVES
Album To Be Released January 23, Film To Air On PBS February 6


On January 23, 2007, Blue Note Records will release the companion soundtrack to Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life, a 90-minute documentary film about the pioneering African-American composer, arranger and pianist. The film will present Strayhorn's fascinating life as it has never been told before, showcasing his talent and passions, as well as taking a hard look at his complex relationship with Duke Ellington and illuminating the issues that prevented Strayhorn from receiving the full recognition he deserved. It will debut nationally as part of PBS's Independent Lens series, on February 6, 2007.

Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life, the soundtrack, will feature 15 Strayhorn compositions performed by several of today's jazz stars including Blue Note artists Bill Charlap, Joe Lovano, and Dianne Reeves, as well as piano legend Hank Jones and special guest Elvis Costello. These vibrant new performances are also captured visually and featured throughout the film.


Strayhorn's 29-year collaboration with Ellington produced a body of work that has no rival in originality and range--from unforgettable popular songs and jazz compositions to orchestral suites and theatrical scores.


From the opening track, Bill Charlap's sparkling solo piano version of “Fantastic Rhythm,” an early composition from a Cole Porter-style musical revue of the same name written in 1935, the vitality of Strayhorn's timeless music is evident. The following performances display the remarkable breadth and depth of his writing as well, with compositions that span more than 30 years. Charlap also offers a solo piano version of one of Strayhorn's early classical works, “Valse,” and on one of the album's highlights joins the legendary pianist Hank Jones for a spirited four-hands rendition of “Tonk” (which was originally performed four-hands by Strayhorn and Ellington).


Jones also makes several more appearances, including a showcase solo piano performance of “Satin Doll,” and as part of a quartet with saxophonist Joe Lovano, bassist George Mraz and drummer Paul Motian. Lovano's blustery tenor leads the quartet through jaunty takes on “Rain Check” and “Johnny Come Lately,” and gives achingly beautiful readings of two Strayhorn ballads, the Debussy-inspired “Chelsea Bridge” and “Lotus Blossom.”


Lovano and Charlap also lend support to special guest vocalist Elvis Costello on one of the most striking performances on the album, a haunting version of Strayhorn's final composition “Blood Count,” which was written from a hospital bed shortly before he died in 1967. Here the tune is given lyrics penned by Costello and retitled “My Flame Burns Blue.”


Vocalist Dianne Reeves, who also plays the most prominent musical role in the film, performs six songs on the album, including some of Strayhorn's most defining works such as “Lush Life,” rendered here as a stunning duet with guitarist Russell Malone, and quartet versions of “Something to Live For,” “Day Dream,” “My Little Brown Book,” and the lesser-known “The Flowers Die of Love” and “So This Is Love.”

Opinion - Stanley Crouch: Ed Bradley lived up to his high hopes - sacbee.com

Opinion - Stanley Crouch: Ed Bradley lived up to his high hopes - sacbee.com:

Stanley Crouch: Ed Bradley lived up to his high hopes

By Stanley Crouch -

Published 12:00 am PST Saturday, November 18, 2006
Story appeared in EDITORIALS section, Page B7

Print | | Comments (0)

Ed Bradley died last week at age 65, and his passing drew a great deal of attention because he had been in the eye of the American public for a quarter-century. His work on "60 Minutes" made him one of the most highly regarded professionals in television. Both Bradley and the Sunday-evening show managed to maintain viewers while remaining separate from the medium's inclination to the superficial, the stupid and the overstated.

It was because of that separation that Bradley was so important in our time, which has come to distinguish itself by the descent into a vulgar combination of crude materialism supported by narcissistic self-obsession that would not have been imaginable when this black guy first kept turning up week after week. His extraordinary range of reporting was so rich in quality -- and the human depth that makes all quality possible -- that Bradley could not be dismissed as just another example of liberal guilt. He had been done no special favors because of his skin tone. Clearly, he was one of those superb individuals got where he was because of his talent and his belief in the possibility of upward mobility.

Bradley grew up impoverished in West Philadelphia and was told by one of his teachers at a Catholic school for the underprivileged that any one of the students in class could become whatever he wanted. He loved to point out that there he was, sitting and listening, having neither a pot to fill nor a window to throw it out of, but taking his teacher's word. He lived his life accordingly.

In our time, celebrity is almost always connected to wealth and popularity, not accomplishment. Bradley was fortunate to have grown up in an era that might have been much more overtly racist, but people of his caliber were not oppressed by the kind of mediocre dreams that come from the world of hip-hop and a mass culture in which one can be paid inordinate amounts of money for candid photographs taken of unknowing movie or pop-music stars.

Bradley benefited from the tough and unsentimental background that taught him there was a compensation for the fact that the world might not be fair and one might be cheated out of something he should win or something he should own. If one learned something, that information was his or hers for life. That could be why Bradley believed his teacher at Catholic school.

That belief led him to become a disc jockey, to report on the war in Vietnam from the ground, three years among the bullets, the grenades, the killed, the wounded, the maimed and the devastated countryside. Like all reporters who have bedded down in the mouth of death, Bradley understood the universals of courage, cowardice, competence and ineptitude. He learned that bullets and bad luck play no favorites in terms of color, religion, class or nationality.

That realization undergirded the quality that he brought to all that he did, as a professional and as a man in the world. The result is that he seemed to be as respected by a mass murderer like Timothy McVeigh as he was by Michael Jordan, perhaps the greatest athlete of his generation.

That was made possible by Bradley's upbringing, which supplied him with more than the paralytic cynicism of those who supposedly know all too well or all too much. He was also protected from the spiritual squalor, the ignorance and the putrid dreams of our debased popular culture.

Ed Bradley was a great individual, and whatever our culture does, it needs to nurture the cultural elements that fuel the drive of those who wish for more than a high position in the gutter.

Opinion - Stanley Crouch: Ed Bradley lived up to his high hopes - sacbee.com

Opinion - Stanley Crouch: Ed Bradley lived up to his high hopes - sacbee.com:

Stanley Crouch: Ed Bradley lived up to his high hopes

By Stanley Crouch -

Published 12:00 am PST Saturday, November 18, 2006
Story appeared in EDITORIALS section, Page B7

Print | | Comments (0)

Ed Bradley died last week at age 65, and his passing drew a great deal of attention because he had been in the eye of the American public for a quarter-century. His work on "60 Minutes" made him one of the most highly regarded professionals in television. Both Bradley and the Sunday-evening show managed to maintain viewers while remaining separate from the medium's inclination to the superficial, the stupid and the overstated.

It was because of that separation that Bradley was so important in our time, which has come to distinguish itself by the descent into a vulgar combination of crude materialism supported by narcissistic self-obsession that would not have been imaginable when this black guy first kept turning up week after week. His extraordinary range of reporting was so rich in quality -- and the human depth that makes all quality possible -- that Bradley could not be dismissed as just another example of liberal guilt. He had been done no special favors because of his skin tone. Clearly, he was one of those superb individuals got where he was because of his talent and his belief in the possibility of upward mobility.

Bradley grew up impoverished in West Philadelphia and was told by one of his teachers at a Catholic school for the underprivileged that any one of the students in class could become whatever he wanted. He loved to point out that there he was, sitting and listening, having neither a pot to fill nor a window to throw it out of, but taking his teacher's word. He lived his life accordingly.

In our time, celebrity is almost always connected to wealth and popularity, not accomplishment. Bradley was fortunate to have grown up in an era that might have been much more overtly racist, but people of his caliber were not oppressed by the kind of mediocre dreams that come from the world of hip-hop and a mass culture in which one can be paid inordinate amounts of money for candid photographs taken of unknowing movie or pop-music stars.

Bradley benefited from the tough and unsentimental background that taught him there was a compensation for the fact that the world might not be fair and one might be cheated out of something he should win or something he should own. If one learned something, that information was his or hers for life. That could be why Bradley believed his teacher at Catholic school.

That belief led him to become a disc jockey, to report on the war in Vietnam from the ground, three years among the bullets, the grenades, the killed, the wounded, the maimed and the devastated countryside. Like all reporters who have bedded down in the mouth of death, Bradley understood the universals of courage, cowardice, competence and ineptitude. He learned that bullets and bad luck play no favorites in terms of color, religion, class or nationality.

That realization undergirded the quality that he brought to all that he did, as a professional and as a man in the world. The result is that he seemed to be as respected by a mass murderer like Timothy McVeigh as he was by Michael Jordan, perhaps the greatest athlete of his generation.

That was made possible by Bradley's upbringing, which supplied him with more than the paralytic cynicism of those who supposedly know all too well or all too much. He was also protected from the spiritual squalor, the ignorance and the putrid dreams of our debased popular culture.

Ed Bradley was a great individual, and whatever our culture does, it needs to nurture the cultural elements that fuel the drive of those who wish for more than a high position in the gutter.

New York Daily News - Home - Stanley Crouch: Memo to young black men: Please grow up

New York Daily News - Home - Stanley Crouch: Memo to young black men: Please grow up:
Memo to young black men: Please grow up



Last week, I was in a studio in midtown where a popular program for black youths was being filmed. I found myself surrounded by black men, ages 18 to 35, and I was appalled.

As a father with a daughter nearly 30 years old who has never been close to marrying anyone, I was once more struck by what my offspring describes as "a lack of suitable men." She has complained often about the adolescent tendencies of young black men, as will just about any young black woman when the subject comes up.

Those who believe that America is perpetually adolescent will point at the dominance of frat-boy attitudes among successful white men and will say of the black hip-hop generation, "So what? How could they not be adolescent? They are not surrounded by examples of celebrated maturity. The society worships movie stars, wealthy athletes and talk show hosts. These are not the wisest and most mature of people."

There is more than a little bit right about that. Our culture has been overwhelmed by the adolescent cult of rebellion that emerges in a particularly stunted way from the world of rock 'n' roll. That simpleminded sense of rebelling against authority descended even further when hip hop fell upon us from the bottom of the cultural slop bucket in which punk rock curdled.

Hip hop began as some sort of Afro protest doggerel and was very quickly taken over by the gangster rappers, who emphasized the crudest materialism in which the ultimate goal was money and it did not matter how one got it. The street thug, the gang member, the drug dealer and the pimp became icons of sensibility and success. Then the attitudes of pimps took a high position and the pornographic version of hip hop in which women become indistinguishable bitches and hos made a full-court press on the rap "aesthetic."

At the television studio, as I watched and listened to those young men, each of whom seemed to be auditioning for a lifelong part as a "man-child," I discussed this phenomenon with a black woman in her 40s who is a writer.

She had worked for rap magazines, magazines that had focused on black women and in black television. Her analysis was quite direct and could be profoundly true. Her profession and being the mother of a teenage daughter has made her pay close attention and forced her to give these issues a good deal of thought.

The way she understood it was that these young black men do not see growing up as having any advantages to it. One is either current or old-fashioned and outdated. The only success they think they can believe in is had by either athletes or rappers. Young black men. So they hold on to adolescence and adolescent ways as long as they can.

The writer also said, "I am sure many knew of Ed Bradley but they did not identify with him. He was too sophisticated. They identify with the overgrown boy, who is everywhere and who is getting over. He's got a lot of cash, plenty of girls, lots of jewelry, an expensive car. To them, that's the world. Or it's the world they want to be a part of."

So what can be done to make adulthood seem attractive to these young black men?

Good question.

From one end of the country to the other, adults sleep in the street for nights on end as though they are homeless in order to have choice places in line when PlayStations go on sale. That alone gives us more than an indication of how great a problem we find ourselves facing.

Originally published on November 20, 2006

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Bandages and Bayonets - New York Times

Bandages and Bayonets - New York Times:

November 12, 2006

Op-Ed Columnist

Bandages and Bayonets

By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

GOZ BEIDA, Chad

In diplomatic circles, the Sudanese government can be wonderfully polished as it scoffs at accusations of genocide and denounces calls for U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur.

In isolated villages, everything is more straightforward — like the men in Sudanese military uniforms who on Tuesday captured Abdullah Idris, a 27-year-old father of two, in the fields as he was farming. They tried to shoot him in the chest, but the gun misfired.

“So they beat him to the ground,” explained Osman Omar, a nephew of Mr. Abdullah who was one of several neighbors who recounted the events in the same way. “And then they used their bayonets to gouge out his eyes.”

Mr. Abdullah lay on his back on a hospital bed, his eye sockets swathed in bandages soaked in blood and pus. A sister sat on the floor beside him, crying; his wife and small children stood nearby, looking overwhelmed and bewildered. He was so traumatized in the incident that he has been unable to speak since, but he constantly reaches out to hold the hands of his family members.

Three men and two women were killed in that attack by the janjaweed, the militias of Arab nomads that have been slaughtering black African farmers for more than three years now. A 26-year-old woman was kidnapped, and nobody has seen her since.

The janjaweed even explained themselves to the people they were attacking. Survivors quoted them as shouting racial epithets against blacks and yelling, “We are going to kill you, and we are going to take your land.”

Mr. Abdullah’s eyes were gouged out as part of a wave of recent attacks here in southeastern Chad. Officials from the U.N. refugee agency counted at least 220 people killed in the last week in this area near Goz Beida.

We’re used to seeing brutal janjaweed attacks in Darfur itself and along the border with Chad, but now they have reached 60 miles and more inside Chad, and Chadian Arab groups are joining in the attacks on black African tribes.

As I write this on my laptop, I’ve just returned from a long drive through abandoned countryside. The village of Tamajour was still smoldering after being burned by janjaweed attackers two days earlier.

I finally found some residents of Tamajour, clustered around the hospital of Goz Beida. Abdelkarim Zakaria, a 25-year-old man, lay in a bed with two bullets lodged in his back. Friends had carried him more than 20 miles to the hospital to save his life.

Outside the hospital, two old women from Tamajour lay on the ground, suffering from terrible burns. The women were too feeble to flee, and they said that the janjaweed fighters set fire to their huts even though they knew the women were inside. One woman, Gida Zakaria, who said she thought she was about 70, had a back that was just an ulcerating mass of raw flesh.

After more than three years of such brutality, it seems incredibly inadequate for the international community simply to hand out bandages when old women are roasted in their huts and young men have their eyes gouged out. What we need isn’t more bandages, but the will to stand up to genocide.

A starting point would be to rush U.N. troops to Chad and the Central African Republic to prevent the cancer of genocide from completely upending these two countries. It’s incomprehensible that we’re allowing the madness of Darfur to spread inexorably into two more countries.

President Bush could visit Chad and the Central African Republic as a show of support to keep those two countries from collapsing — and he could invite Chinese leaders, who provide Sudan with the guns used for atrocities, to join him.

At the least, Mr. Bush could dispatch Condi Rice to Chad to show the U.S.’s support — then have her stop off in Cairo for meetings with Arab leaders on the crisis. The U.S. could also try targeted sanctions against Sudanese leaders, a no-fly zone to stop Sudanese jets from bombing civilians, and especially a major new effort to start a real peace process in Darfur, for ultimately only a peace agreement can end these horrors.

The most painful sight I’ve seen here isn’t Mr. Abdullah’s bloody face, but the expression of disgust on his children’s faces as they stare at him. You see that, and you can’t help feeling equal horror and disgust — at our shamefully weak international response, which allows this first genocide of the 21st century to drag on and on.

2006: The Year of the ‘Macaca’ - New York Times

2006: The Year of the ‘Macaca’ - New York Times:
November 12, 2006
Op-Ed Columnist

2006: The Year of the ‘Macaca’

OF course, the “thumpin’ ” was all about Iraq. But let us not forget Katrina. It was the collision of the twin White House calamities in August 2005 that foretold the collapse of the presidency of George W. Bush.

Back then, the full measure of the man finally snapped into focus for most Americans, sending his poll numbers into the 30s for the first time. The country saw that the president who had spurned a grieving wartime mother camping out in the sweltering heat of Crawford was the same guy who had been unable to recognize the depth of the suffering in New Orleans’s fetid Superdome. This brand of leadership was not the “compassionate conservatism” that had been sold in all those photo ops with African-American schoolchildren. This was callous conservatism, if not just plain mean.

It’s the kind of conservatism that remains silent when Rush Limbaugh does a mocking impersonation of Michael J. Fox’s Parkinson’s symptoms to score partisan points. It’s the kind of conservatism that talks of humane immigration reform but looks the other way when candidates demonize foreigners as predatory animals. It’s the kind of conservatism that pays lip service to “tolerance” but stalls for days before taking down a campaign ad caricaturing an African-American candidate as a sexual magnet for white women.

This kind of politics is now officially out of fashion. Harold Ford did lose his race in Tennessee, but by less than three points in a region that has not sent a black man to the Senate since Reconstruction. Only 36 years old and hugely talented, he will rise again even as the last vestiges of Jim Crow tactics continue to fade and Willie Horton ads countenanced by a national political party join the Bush dynasty in history’s dustbin.

Elsewhere, the 2006 returns more often than not confirmed that Americans, Republicans and Democrats alike, are far better people than this cynical White House takes them for. This election was not a rebuke merely of the reckless fiasco in Iraq but also of the divisive ideology that had come to define the Bush-Rove-DeLay era. This was the year that Americans said a decisive no to the politics of “macaca” just as firmly as they did to pre-emptive war and Congressional corruption.

For all of Mr. Limbaugh’s supposed clout, his nasty efforts did not defeat the ballot measure supporting stem-cell research in his native state, Missouri. The measure squeaked through, helping the Democratic senatorial candidate knock out the Republican incumbent. (The other stem-cell advocates endorsed by Mr. Fox in campaign ads, in Maryland and Wisconsin, also won.) Arizona voters, despite their proximity to the Mexican border, defeated two of the crudest immigrant-bashing demagogues running for Congress, including one who ran an ad depicting immigrants menacing a JonBenet Ramsey look-alike. (Reasserting its Goldwater conservative roots, Arizona also appears to be the first state to reject an amendment banning same-sex marriage.) Nationwide, the Republican share of the Hispanic vote fell from 44 percent in 2004 to 29 percent this year. Hispanics aren’t buying Mr. Bush’s broken-Spanish shtick anymore; they saw that the president, despite his nuanced take on immigration, never stood up forcefully to the nativists in his own camp when it counted most, in an election year.

But for those who’ve been sickened by the Bush-Rove brand of politics, surely the happiest result of 2006 was saved for last: Jim Webb’s ousting of Senator George Allen in Virginia. It is all too fitting that this race would be the one that put the Democrats over the top in the Senate. Mr. Allen was the slickest form of Bush-Rove conservative, complete with a strategist who’d helped orchestrate the Swift Boating of John Kerry. Mr. Allen was on a fast track to carry that banner into the White House once Mr. Bush was gone. His demise was so sudden and so unlikely that it seems like a fairy tale come true.

As recently as April 2005, hard as it is to believe now, Mr. Allen was chosen in a National Journal survey of Beltway insiders as the most likely Republican presidential nominee in 2008. Political pros saw him as a cross between Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush whose “affable” conservatism and (contrived) good-old-boy persona were catnip to voters. His Senate campaign this year was a mere formality; he began with a double-digit lead.

That all ended famously on Aug. 11, when Mr. Allen, appearing before a crowd of white supporters in rural Virginia, insulted a 20-year-old Webb campaign worker of Indian descent who was tracking him with a video camera. After belittling the dark-skinned man as “macaca, or whatever his name is,” Mr. Allen added, “Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia.”

The moment became a signature cultural event of the political year because the Webb campaign posted the video clip on YouTube.com, the wildly popular site that most politicians, to their peril, had not yet heard about from their children. Unlike unedited bloggorhea, which can take longer to slog through than Old Media print, YouTube is all video snippets all the time; the one-minute macaca clip spread through the national body politic like a rabid virus. Nonetheless it took more than a week for Mr. Allen to recognize the magnitude of the problem and apologize to the object of his ridicule. Then he compounded the damage by making a fool of himself on camera once more, this time angrily denying what proved to be accurate speculation that his mother was a closeted Jew. It was a Mel Gibson meltdown that couldn’t be blamed on the bottle.

Mr. Allen has a history of racial insensitivity. He used to display a Confederate flag in his living room and, bizarrely enough, a noose in his office for sentimental reasons that he could never satisfactorily explain. His defense in the macaca incident was that he had no idea that the word, the term for a genus of monkey, had any racial connotation. But even if he were telling the truth — even if Mr. Allen were not a racist — his non-macaca words were just as damning. “Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia” was unmistakably meant to demean the young man as an unwashed immigrant, whatever his race. It was a typical example of the us-versus-them stridency that has defined the truculent Bush-Rove fearmongering: you’re either with us or you’re a traitor, possibly with the terrorists.

As it happened, the “macaca” who provoked the senator’s self-destruction, S. R. Sidarth, was not an immigrant but the son of immigrants. He was born in Washington’s Virginia suburbs to well-off parents (his father is a mortgage broker) and is the high-achieving graduate of a magnet high school, a tournament chess player, a former intern for Joe Lieberman, a devoted member of his faith (Hindu) and, currently, a senior at the University of Virginia. He is even a football jock like Mr. Allen. In other words, he is an exemplary young American who didn’t need to be “welcomed” to his native country by anyone. The Sidarths are typical of the families who have abetted the rapid growth of northern Virginia in recent years, much as immigrants have always built and renewed our nation. They, not Mr. Allen with his nostalgia for the Confederate “heritage,” are America’s future. It is indeed just such northern Virginians who have been tinting the once reliably red commonwealth purple.

Though the senator’s behavior was toxic, the Bush-Rove establishment rewarded it. Its auxiliaries from talk radio, the blogosphere and the Wall Street Journal opinion page echoed the Allen campaign’s complaint that the incident was inflated by the news media, especially The Washington Post. Once it became clear that Mr. Allen was in serious trouble, conservative pundits mainly faulted him for running an “awful campaign,” not for being an awful person.

The macaca incident had resonance beyond Virginia not just because it was a hit on YouTube. It came to stand for 2006 as a whole because it was synergistic with a national Republican campaign that made a fetish of warning that a Congress run by Democrats would have committee chairmen who are black (Charles Rangel) or gay (Barney Frank), and a middle-aged woman not in the Stepford mold of Laura Bush as speaker. In this context, Mr. Allen’s defeat was poetic justice: the perfect epitaph for an era in which Mr. Rove systematically exploited the narrowest prejudices of the Republican base, pitting Americans of differing identities in cockfights for power and profit, all in the name of “faith.”

Perhaps the most interesting finding in the exit polls Tuesday was that the base did turn out for Mr. Rove: white evangelicals voted in roughly the same numbers as in 2004, and 71 percent of them voted Republican, hardly a mass desertion from the 78 percent of last time. But his party was routed anyway. It was the end of the road for the boy genius and his can’t-miss strategy that Washington sycophants predicted could lead to a permanent Republican majority.

What a week this was! Here’s to the voters of both parties who drove a stake into the heart of our political darkness. If you’ll forgive me for paraphrasing George Allen: Welcome back, everyone, to the world of real America.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

courant.com: Still A Democrat, Joe Says, To Preserve Seniority

courant.com: Still A Democrat, Joe Says, To Preserve Seniority: Still A Democrat, Joe Says, To Preserve Seniority



By MARK PAZNIOKAS
Courant Staff Writer

November 9 2006

Now that he's won re-election as a petitioning candidate, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman is pledging to remain a Democrat, if for no other reason than to keep his 18 years' seniority in the Senate.

"I'll sign up with the caucus to protect my seniority," Lieberman said Wednesday. "My seniority is important to my ability to deliver for the state of Connecticut."

Lieberman briefly joked about how the Republicans might coax him into joining the GOP, a switch that could keep the closely divided Senate under Republican control.

"There is a little playfulness in me that wants me to make a joke about that, but it's too serious. The answer is no," he said. "When I give my word I stick with it, and I am definitely going to organize with the Senate Democrats."

He said he delivered that message Wednesday in a phone conversation with the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid of Nevada. He did not take Reid's call on election night.

"He was gracious enough to call me last night, but in the pandemonium, I didn't get to take the call," said Lieberman, who did accept a congratulatory call Tuesday from a Republican friend, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.

Lieberman was re-elected Tuesday without the backing of a major party, rebounding from losing the Democratic primary to Ned Lamont. Unofficial results showed Lieberman beating Lamont, 562,850 to 448,077.

With all precincts reporting, the finish of the five-man race was: Lieberman, 49.8 percent; Lamont, 39.6 percent; Republican Alan Schlesinger, 9.7 percent; Ralph Ferrucci of the Green Party, one-half of one percent; and Timothy Knibbs of the Concerned Citizens, four-tenths of one percent.

Lieberman said exit polling showed him winning only 25 percent of the Democratic vote; his victory was due to the support of unaffiliated and Republican voters.

On Tuesday night, he described his re-election as a victory of the "mainstream over the extreme," a statement that seemed to put him at odds with Democratic voters, who overwhelmingly backed the anti-war candidacy of Lamont.

"My mission now is really an independent mission," Lieberman said Wednesday, calling his win a mandate to "be beholden to no one except the voters of Connecticut and my own conscience."

At a noon-time press conference in Hartford, he declined to articulate his role in the Connecticut Democratic Party, nor could he give a philosophical reason for organizing with the Senate Democrats.

Other than keeping his seniority, he was asked, what is the reason to organize with the Democrats?

"Well, I've been a Democrat," he replied.

Any reasons beyond that?

"Seniority is an important factor," he said.

Democratic State Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo said she was uncertain what role Lieberman saw for himself in the state party.

"You know, everything is new right now," DiNardo said. "The senator never left the party. We don't have a litmus test for people to be members of the party. We certainly don't throw people out of the party."

She said she encouraged Lamont to remain active, saying his candidacy had energized the party and attracted new voters.

Under state law, Lieberman remained a registered Democrat as he sought re-election as a petitioning candidate on his own ballot line: Connecticut for Lieberman.

Lieberman, 64, is poised to become the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee if Democrats regain the majority. Official results from Tuesday give Democrats a 50-49 majority, with the race in Virginia undecided.

The senator said he remains opposed to imposing a deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

"What we are doing now there is not working, but that doesn't mean in any sense that it is time for us to retreat," he said. "This is a test in a very difficult and dangerous hour in our history."

(News broke of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's resignation after Lieberman's press conference. He later issued a statement praising the president's choice of a successor, Robert Gates, but withholding judgment until confirmation hearings.)

At times, Lieberman seemed to struggle with closing the book on his bruising campaign, in which he often was vilified by Internet bloggers as being too cozy with the Bush administration.

In response to a question, he had trouble describing how the energy exhibited by the bloggers and other Lamont supporters might contribute to politics. He saw many of them as "destructive."

"There's too much venom in our politics. There's too much hatred," Lieberman said, adding that his comment applied to both parties. "If we don't stop hating the people across the political aisle, how are we going to strengthen this country and get anything done?"

He also groped for an answer when asked whether he took anything to heart from his critics and opponents in the recent campaign, saying many of their comments were "hurtful."

Lieberman said he will continue to operate as always by making a judgment and sticking with it, even if unpopular. Then he softened his answer, perhaps sensing he was too unyielding.

"I have no sense of self-righteous perfection here, trust me," he said. "You just do the best you can. And you listen to people who have a different point of view. Because you know they might just happen to be right."

CBS 46: News and Weather for Atlanta, GA, WGCL, CBS46.com | Georgia Democrats Look to Regroup After Loss

CBS 46: News and Weather for Atlanta, GA, WGCL, CBS46.com | Georgia Democrats Look to Regroup After Loss
Georgia Democrats Look to Regroup After Loss

Nov 9, 2006 03:56 PM

ATLANTA (AP) -- In much of the country, Democrats this week were savoring victory at last. Not so in Georgia, where a humbling loss in the race for governor and gains by the GOP in other statewide contests made it clear that Democrats here had better get used to sitting in the cheap seats for awhile longer.

The state's most prominent Democratic stars -- Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor and Secretary of State Cathy Cox -- are packing it in at the end of the year, leaving the party without a clear leader. The two faced off in a bitter primary battle. Taylor won but emerged as damaged goods. He went on to lose resoundingly to Gov. Sonny Perdue.

State Democratic Party Chairman Bobby Kahn does not plan to stand for re-election in January. After generations in power, Georgia's Democrats are struggling to find their footing in the state's altered political landscape.

Still, Democrats say the news from Tuesday is not all bleak.

Not a single incumbent Democratic state legislator lost re-election in Georgia despite heavy spending and aggressive campaigns by some Republican challengers.

"I think what that says is the core of our party is still strong," state House Democratic Leader DuBose Porter, of Dublin, said.

The makeup of the state Senate remains 34 Republicans and 22 Democrats. The GOP picked up six seats in the state House of Representatives, but four of those were Democrats who defected. The other two were open seats.

In middle Georgia, U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall beat back a fierce challenge from former Mac Collins, a retired Republican congressman.

The lone question mark is in eastern Georgia, where Democratic U.S. Rep. John Barrow is leading challenger Max Burns by the slimmest of margins. An automatic recount is predicted.

Democrats said it is time to rebuild and regroup. That will mean grooming some young talent.

"We've got some really sharp, young, smart people," Porter said. "I think you'll be seeing more of them."

But in the short run, speculation centers on who will be in a position to run against U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss in 2008 or for governor in 2010 when Perdue wraps up his second term.

Attorney General Thurbert Baker, the top Democratic voter getter in the last election, could be a contender. He ran on a strong law-and-order platform and drew 1.17 million votes, almost 370,000 more votes than Taylor did at the top of the ticket.

So too could Marshall, who was able to eke out a victory in conservative middle Georgia despite President Bush touching down there twice to stump for his opponent.

Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin is a star in the metro area, but might be seen as too liberal in other parts of the state.

And there is talk that Cox could mount another bid for office after losing the Democratic gubernatorial primary in July to Taylor.

Democrats agree on one critical point: They cannot afford another divisive primary.

"The gubernatorial election was lost in July," state Rep. Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus, said.

"We lost not one but two key Democrats because of the clash between Mark Taylor and Cathy Cox. We do not have the luxury of running against each other."

Democrats will be hurt by not having much of a say in the redistricting process in 2010. And while they remain out of power they will likely lag in fundraising. Perdue and the state Republican Party raised almost twice as much money as Taylor and the state Democratic Party were able to muster in the last election cycle.

Porter said he expects Democrats will be united in the coming legislative session behind education, job training, open government and ethics -- issues he noted that Democrats nationally rode to victory on Tuesday.

Eric Johnson, the state Senate's top Republican, said he hoped his colleagues across the aisle would be willing to work together in a more bipartisan fashion now that the election was over.

But asked who he thought would speak for the Democrats in Georgia, Johnson quipped "some poor sucker."

Article written by Associated Press writer Shannon McCaffrey.

CBS 46: News and Weather for Atlanta, GA, WGCL, CBS46.com | Georgia Democrats Look to Regroup After Loss

CBS 46: News and Weather for Atlanta, GA, WGCL, CBS46.com | Georgia Democrats Look to Regroup After Loss
Georgia Democrats Look to Regroup After Loss

Nov 9, 2006 03:56 PM

ATLANTA (AP) -- In much of the country, Democrats this week were savoring victory at last. Not so in Georgia, where a humbling loss in the race for governor and gains by the GOP in other statewide contests made it clear that Democrats here had better get used to sitting in the cheap seats for awhile longer.

The state's most prominent Democratic stars -- Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor and Secretary of State Cathy Cox -- are packing it in at the end of the year, leaving the party without a clear leader. The two faced off in a bitter primary battle. Taylor won but emerged as damaged goods. He went on to lose resoundingly to Gov. Sonny Perdue.

State Democratic Party Chairman Bobby Kahn does not plan to stand for re-election in January. After generations in power, Georgia's Democrats are struggling to find their footing in the state's altered political landscape.

Still, Democrats say the news from Tuesday is not all bleak.

Not a single incumbent Democratic state legislator lost re-election in Georgia despite heavy spending and aggressive campaigns by some Republican challengers.

"I think what that says is the core of our party is still strong," state House Democratic Leader DuBose Porter, of Dublin, said.

The makeup of the state Senate remains 34 Republicans and 22 Democrats. The GOP picked up six seats in the state House of Representatives, but four of those were Democrats who defected. The other two were open seats.

In middle Georgia, U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall beat back a fierce challenge from former Mac Collins, a retired Republican congressman.

The lone question mark is in eastern Georgia, where Democratic U.S. Rep. John Barrow is leading challenger Max Burns by the slimmest of margins. An automatic recount is predicted.

Democrats said it is time to rebuild and regroup. That will mean grooming some young talent.

"We've got some really sharp, young, smart people," Porter said. "I think you'll be seeing more of them."

But in the short run, speculation centers on who will be in a position to run against U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss in 2008 or for governor in 2010 when Perdue wraps up his second term.

Attorney General Thurbert Baker, the top Democratic voter getter in the last election, could be a contender. He ran on a strong law-and-order platform and drew 1.17 million votes, almost 370,000 more votes than Taylor did at the top of the ticket.

So too could Marshall, who was able to eke out a victory in conservative middle Georgia despite President Bush touching down there twice to stump for his opponent.

Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin is a star in the metro area, but might be seen as too liberal in other parts of the state.

And there is talk that Cox could mount another bid for office after losing the Democratic gubernatorial primary in July to Taylor.

Democrats agree on one critical point: They cannot afford another divisive primary.

"The gubernatorial election was lost in July," state Rep. Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus, said.

"We lost not one but two key Democrats because of the clash between Mark Taylor and Cathy Cox. We do not have the luxury of running against each other."

Democrats will be hurt by not having much of a say in the redistricting process in 2010. And while they remain out of power they will likely lag in fundraising. Perdue and the state Republican Party raised almost twice as much money as Taylor and the state Democratic Party were able to muster in the last election cycle.

Porter said he expects Democrats will be united in the coming legislative session behind education, job training, open government and ethics -- issues he noted that Democrats nationally rode to victory on Tuesday.

Eric Johnson, the state Senate's top Republican, said he hoped his colleagues across the aisle would be willing to work together in a more bipartisan fashion now that the election was over.

But asked who he thought would speak for the Democrats in Georgia, Johnson quipped "some poor sucker."

Article written by Associated Press writer Shannon McCaffrey.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Stanley Crouch: Why Obama isn't black like me - sacbee.com

Stanley Crouch: Why Obama isn't black like me - sacbee.com:

Stanley Crouch: Why Obama isn't black like me

By Stanley Crouch -
Published 12:00 am PST Saturday, November 4, 2006

If Barack Obama makes it all the way to becoming the Democratic candidate for president in 2008, a feat he says he might attempt, a much more complex understanding of the difference between color and ethnic identity will be upon us for the very first time.

Back in 2004, Alan Keyes made this point quite often. Keyes was the black Republican carpetbagger chosen by the elephants to run against Obama in Illinois for a U.S. Senate seat. The choice of Keyes was either a Republican version of affirmative action or an example of just how dumb the party believes black voters to be, since it was very obvious that Keyes came from the Southeast, not the Midwest.

Keyes lost to Obama by a wide margin. Perhaps one of the reasons was that Keyes might get so hopped up and hysterical about religious issues that he could appall even a conservative audience with his self-righteousness until he was savagely booed away from the microphone.

Keyes was not able to make a distinction between himself as a black American and Obama as an African American. After all, Obama's mother is of white U.S. stock, and his father is a black Kenyan. Other than color, Obama did not share a heritage with the majority of black Americans, who are descendants of plantation slaves.

Of course, black Americans were obviously involved in bringing slavery to an end, but the peculiar institution initially came under fire from white Christians -- the first of whom to officially stand tall and separate themselves from slavery were Quakers. The majority of the Union troops were white, and so were those who have brought about the most important civil-rights legislation.

So why, with slavery having ended for good in 1865 with the loss of the redneck South to the Union Army, do we still have such a simple-minded conception of black and white? It seems to me that the naive ideas coming out of Pan-Africanism are at the root of the confusion.

Quite clearly -- and understandably -- when Pan-African ideas began to form in the 19th century, they were based in serious complaint. All black people suffered and shared a common body of injustices, regardless of where they lived in the world. Europe had colonized much of the black world in order to get control of its natural resources, and the United States had enslaved people of African descent for nearly 250 years. After American slavery ended, there was the time of long-suffering under segregation and bigotry, appearing in either hard or soft form.

So when black Americans refer to Obama as "one of us," I do not know what they are talking about. In his new book, "The Audacity of Hope," Obama makes it much clearer than he did when running against Keyes that he has experienced some light versions of the many negative assumptions based on his color, but he cannot claim those problems as his own, nor has he lived the life of a black American. That should not actually matter.

I doubt Obama will crash and burn as Colin Powell did when he seemed ready to knock Bill Clinton out of the Oval Office. But if Obama throws his hat in the ring, he will be running as the son of a white woman who married an African immigrant. So, if we end up with him as our first black president, he will have come into the White House through a side door, which might be the only one available at this point.