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Friday, July 30, 2004

New York Times > Editorial > John Kerry Speaks

July 30, 2004
Speakers at the Democratic convention were told to stay positive, but when John Kerry delivered his acceptance speech last night, his best moments came on the attack. His depiction of a Bush administration that misled the public into war did a fine job of rousing the faithful.
Modern presidential campaigns are all about expectations, and in many ways, Mr. Kerry had the advantage of a fairly low bar when he entered Boston's FleetCenter last night. America was already pretty well aware that it is not going to fall in love with him. But in tough times, the public loses interest in the president as a celebrity and yearns for solidity, trustworthiness and sensible judgment. Mr. Kerry was shooting for that standard. "I defended this country as a young man, and I will defend it as president,'' he promised.
The story of Mr. Kerry's performance in combat is a powerful one. But Republicans are going to accuse him of overselling a rather brief episode in his career, and he is going to have to be careful to devote time to the rest of his résumé as well. Last night the public got to hear a little about Mr. Kerry's childhood - the son of a diplomat, he was once grounded for riding his bike into Communist East Berlin - and his years in the Senate got at least a mention. Mr. Kerry's voting record has already been misinterpreted by his opponents in some ads, and he needs to discuss it. Biographies that make his few months in service overseas sound longer than his 19 years in the Senate will never be convincing.
Mr. Kerry has been criticized for a lack of specifics, but he did a good job of explaining how he'd fight the war on terror: by adopting a more aggressive homeland-security policy, reforming the intelligence system and refocusing diplomatic efforts on ending nuclear proliferation. Along with his belief in strong international alliances to solve global problems, these form the backbone of his approach to making America more secure. He did not, however, provide a clear vision on Iraq. Voters needed to hear him say that he understands, in retrospect, that his vote to give President Bush Congressional support to invade was a mistake. It's clear now that Mr. Kerry isn't going to go there, and it's a shame.
Mr. Kerry challenged Mr. Bush to join him in running a positive, optimistic campaign, but given the vigor with which he went on the offense, it's likely that we'll be hearing more about Mr. Bush's failures than Mr. Kerry's optimistic vision in the weeks ahead. The Kerry-Edwards team has a lot of interesting, detailed plans for a domestic agenda, particularly on health care. The promise to cut middle-class taxes, however, is pure pandering, given his new spending proposals and commitment to balanced budgets.
Mr. Kerry cannily defended his well-known preference for complex answers by noting the trouble some of President Bush's simple answers have gotten the country into: "Saying there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq doesn't make it so. Saying we can fight a war on the cheap doesn't make it so. And proclaiming mission accomplished certainly doesn't make it so." As an introduction to the candidates, the Democratic convention, on the whole, did its job. Now Mr. Kerry and John Edwards, who are still almost strangers to most voters, will need to reinforce their message before a team the public knows well arrives in New York to d

New York Times > Editorial > John Kerry and War

July 29, 2004
When he accepts the Democratic presidential nomination tonight, John Kerry needs to give the nation a clearer idea of how his choices would have differed from President Bush's - particularly when it comes to the war in Iraq. The nation deserves to be told whether Mr. Kerry would have voted to authorize the invasion if he had known that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction.
Mr. Kerry, as the world already knows, is not a black-and-white kind of thinker, especially when it comes to foreign policy. That's good - it should give voters a real sense of choice this fall, given George Bush's tendency to view the world in absolutes. But it's not an excuse for fudging every issue. Mr. Kerry's history on the critical Iraq question has been impossibly opaque. He voted to authorize Mr. Bush to go to war. He voted against $87 billion to pay for extra costs - after offering an amendment to raise the money by increasing taxes on the wealthy. That produced the infamous explanation, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.''
Mr. Kerry is very, very sorry for that phrasing. His campaign is well aware that if he had simply said, "I voted to spend the money - I just opposed increasing the deficit," the Republicans would have been deprived of one of their most salient commercials. We hope he's also sorry that he tried to parse his votes both ways during the difficult days of the Democratic primaries, when Howard Dean's antiwar candidacy was breathing down his neck.
Mr. Kerry and his running mate, John Edwards, have said that they voted to give the president the power to go to war to strengthen Mr. Bush's hand with the United Nations. They also had been given alarming intelligence reports, which they believed were accurate, showing that Saddam Hussein was stockpiling biological and chemical weapons and at least attempting to develop nuclear bombs.
Those reports were wrong, and Congress was wrong in presuming that Mr. Bush would go the last mile to get United Nations support. We can appreciate Mr. Kerry's complaints that he was misled on both counts. But he and Mr. Edwards have refused to say whether they would have acted differently if they had known then what they know now. That's unfair. When it comes to using force abroad, voters deserve a clear idea of how high Mr. Kerry would raise the bar from where Mr. Bush lowered it.
We know that Mr. Kerry does not rule out preemptive strikes if a country poses a clear and serious danger to the United States or its allies - that's longstanding American policy, and it's in the U.N. charter. But that was not the case with Iraq.
Saddam Hussein was a vicious dictator, certainly, who was continuing to disdain United Nations resolutions on weapons of mass destruction and refusing to give full access to weapons inspectors. But we know now that because of the resolutions and the inspections, Mr. Hussein no longer had the forbidden weapons, even if he still harbored ambitions of getting them someday. Knowing that, Mr. Bush still insists that he was right to invade. He says the war was justified because of Mr. Hussein's military ambitions and because Iraq is better off without him.
Voters need to know whether Mr. Kerry agrees. Or would he have held back on invading Iraq and chosen instead to pursue the hunt for Osama bin Laden and the destruction of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and to focus diplomatic resources on places like North Korea and Iran? Mr. Kerry's advisers don't want more accusations of flip-flopping, and they've told him to avoid hypotheticals. But while voters are certainly prepared to accept a candidate with a complex worldview, they also value the courage that comes with occasionally taking a leap and giving an answer that's straight and simple.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

New York Post > The master returned to center stage last night as Bill Clinton showed how to address a convention and use issues to win elections

By Dick Morris
July 27, 2004 -- The master returned to center stage last night as Bill Clinton showed how to address a convention and use issues to win elections.
Facing a national consensus that terror, Iraq and homeland security are the key issues, Bill Clinton dragged America back to the domestic issues on which Democrats retain a strong edge. Long after Clinton's recitation of his own achievements has faded, his effort to reinject health care, Social Security, Medicare, drug prices, education and crime into the national debate may endure.

By reminding voters how much they would support the Democratic agenda were it not for Bush's strong stance in fighting the War on Terror, he opens the door for a major shift of national issues to those on which Kerry has a clear edge.

Can John Kerry walk through the door that Bill Clinton has opened? Will he realize that he can't win on terrorism and focus on the domestic agenda on which Democrats can win? "By framing the issues as he did, Clinton articulated the differences between Democrats and Republicans without bashing Bush by name. By avoiding the four-letter word B-U-S-H and speaking instead of party positioning on key issues, he avoided the backlash that comes against any candidate who spends his convention time bashing his opponent. But, at the same time, he attacked Bush all the same by articulating the opposition in programmatic and partisan, rather than personal terms.

How odd that it took Clinton, the draft dodger, to make the case for Kerry the war hero. By speaking of "sailing the ship," Clinton has given Kerry a metaphor he can use for the rest of the campaign.

But one other four-letter word was almost entirely absent: I-R-A-Q. Clinton raised the possibility that a Democrat can again win not just by maximizing the domestic issues that dominated our attention before 9/11, but also by minimizing the war we are now in. Rallying his constituency and his program once again, he worked to roll back the clock to the simpler times in which we once lived.

But there is still a reality out there. Al Qaeda will be heard in this election. The date is not Sept. 10, 2001. The War on Terror is unavoidable. It will intrude into this contest and remind us of why we need Bush.

But for one night, in the thrall of the master's voice, we recognize the beat of the drummer to which we once marched.

And what of the contrast between Bill's speech and Hillary's introduction? How could one witness the modulated, varied, emotional delivery of the former president and not realize that the would-be president's delivery was flat, shrill and one-dimensional? The now brown-eyed lady from New York couldn't stand on the same platform with her husband.

New York Times > Democrats Offer a Simple Message Aimed at the Middle

July 27, 2004 NEWS ANALYSIS
BOSTON, July 26 - Franklin Roosevelt spoke of the "forgotten man," Bill Clinton of the "forgotten middle class." Now the Democratic Party of Senator John Kerry is reaching for that long - and politically successful - legacy with a promise to ease the "middle-class squeeze" and restore the booming economy of the Clinton years.
To that end, the Democratic National Convention on Monday night offered a simple message about the economy: It was better under the Democrats. The middle class had a brighter future. And Mr. Kerry has a plan to restore middle-class prosperity - to stem the loss of jobs overseas, to ease the burden of rising health, education and energy costs on families, to get the nation's fiscal house and economy in order.
Indeed, it was Bill Clinton himself who stood before a national television audience on Monday night and made the case, as he did so often in 1992, that the economic future need not be feared - and that the Democrats offered a better choice when it came to tax and budget policy. He scoffed at the Republicans' decision to give big tax cuts to wealthy Americans like himself while, he asserted, shortchanging critical national needs like education. He criticized the Republicans for turning a huge surplus into a deficit.
Again and again, he said voters faced a choice. If they liked the status quo, he said, stick with the Republicans. If not, he said,"take a look at John Kerry, John Edwards and the Democrats - we've got a very different economic policy.''
"Our way works better,'' he said.

Monday, July 26, 2004

The Boondocks by Aaron McGruder 

Bill Cosby has initiated a long overdue social debate in the African American Community.  It's about time.  John H. Armwood

Chicago Sun-Times > Bill Cosby's remarks at the Annual Rainbow/PUSH Conference


I had never seen the Rev. Jesse Louis Jackson cry in public.  And he's seldom upstaged.  Until Bill Cosby came to town.
Last week Jackson invited Cosby to the Annual Rainbow/PUSH Conference for a conversation about the controversial remarks the entertainer offered May 17 at the an NAACP dinner in Washington, DC.
That's when America's Jell-O Man shook things up by arguing that African Americans were betraying the legacy of civil rights victories. "The lower economic people," he said, "are not holding up their end in this deal.These people are not parenting.  They are buying things for their kids--$500 sneakers for what And won't spend $200 for Hooked on Phonics!"
Thursday morning, Cosby showed no signs of repenting as he strode across the stage at the Sheraton Hotel ballroom before a standing-room-only crowd. Sporting a natty gold sports coat and dark glasses, he proceeded to unload a laundry list of black America's self-imposed ills.
The iconic actor and comedian kidded that he couldn't compete with the oratory of the Rev.  But he preached circles around Jackson in their nearly hour long conversation, delivering brutally frank one-liners and the toughest of love.
The enemy, he argues, is us "There is a time, ladies and gentlemen,when we have to turn the mirror around."
Cosby acknowledged he wasn't critiquing all blacks -- just "the 50 percent of African Americans in the lower economic neighborhood who drop out of school, and the alarming proportions of black men in prison and black teenage mothers." The mostly black crowd seconded him with choruses of "Amens."
To critics who posit it's unproductive to air our dirty laundry in public, he responds, "Your dirty laundry gets out of school at 2:30 every day. It's cursing" on the way home, on the bus, train, in the candy store. "They are cursing and grabbing each other and going nowhere. And the book bag is very, very thin, because there's nothing in it."
Don't worry about the white man, he adds. "I could care less about what white people think about me. Let 'em talk. What are they saying thatis different from what their grandfathers said and did to us? What is different is what we are doing to ourselves."
For those who say Cosby is just an elitist who's "got his" but doesn't understand the plight of the black poor, he reminds that, "We're going to turn that mirror around. It's not just the poor -- everybody's guilty."
Cosby and Jackson lamented that in the 50th year of Brown vs. Board of Education, our failings betray our legacy. Jackson dabbed away tears as he recalled the financial struggles at Fisk University, a historically black college and Jackson's alma mater.
When Cosby was done, the 1,000 people in the room all jumped to their feet in ovation. Long after Cosby had departed, I could not find a dissenter in the crowd. But in the hotel corridor I encountered a vintage poster for sale that said volumes. The poster, which advertised the Million Man March, was "discounted" to $5. Remember the Million Man March? In 1995 Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan exhorted "a million sober, disciplined, committed, dedicated, inspired black men to meet in Washington on a day of atonement."  In 2004, perhaps all that's left of that call is a $5 poster.
We have shed tears too many times, at too many watershed moments before, while the hopes they inspired have fallen by the wayside. Not this time.
Cosby's plea to parents: "Before you get to the point where you say 'I can't do nothing with them' -- do something with them."
Teach our children to speak English.
When the teacher calls, show up at the school.
When the idiot box starts spewing profane rap videos, turn it off.
Refrain from cursing around the kids.
Teach our boys that women should be cherished, not raped and demeaned.
Tell them that education is a prize we won with blood and tears, not a dishonor.
Stop making excuses for the agents and abettors of black-on-black crime.
It costs us nothing to do these things. But if we don't, it will cost us infinitely more tears.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

The New York Times > Ex - Counterterrorism Chief Clarke Makes Suggestions

July 24, 2004
Ex - Counterterrorism Chief Clarke Makes SuggestionsBy REUTERS
Filed at 8:14 p.m. ET
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Saying that the 9/11 Commission's proposed changes would not have prevented the September 2001 attacks, former U.S. counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke outlined in Sunday's New York Times moves to prevent future attacks.
Clarke, author of a recent book that was critical of U.S. efforts to combat terrorism, wrote in the newspaper that the 9/11 commission's recommendations for a new cabinet-level intelligence director and a National Counterterrorism Center would ``marginally improve our ability to crush the new, decentralized al Qaeda, but there are other changes that would help more.''
He called for an overhaul of hiring and promotion practices within the intelligence community and the recruitment of ``more capable people,'' especially at the FBI and the CIA. He claimed a tradition of agents joining young and working their way up led to an atmosphere of ``uniformity, insularity, risk-aversion, torpidity and often mediocrity.''
Clarke wrote that CIA analysts should be placed ``in an agency that is independent from the one that collects intelligence,'' which he said was the only way to avoid the ``groupthink that hampered the agency's ability to report accurately on Iraq.''
He claimed that the bipartisan 9/11 commission, which he said had softened the edges and pulled its punches, ``failed to admit the obvious: we are less capable of defeating the jihadists because of the Iraq war.''
Addressing the need to defeat Islamic extremism in the arena of ideas as well as armed conflict, Clarke wrote:
``We need to expose the Islamic world to values that are more attractive than those of the jihadists,'' calling for economic development and aiding political openness in Muslim countries as well as efforts to stabilize nations such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
``Restarting the Israel-Palestinian peace process is also vital,'' he wrote.
Writing that ``we can't do this alone,'' Clarke suggested a need for ``a pan-Islamic council of respected spiritual and secular leaders to coordinate (without United States involvement) the Islamic world's own ideological effort against the new al Qaeda.''
``The jihadist enemy has learned how to spread hate and how to kill -- and it is still doing both very effectively three years after 9/11,'' Clarke wrote.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

July 25, 2004 New York Times - What's the Presidential Tipping Point?

N presidential elections much is made of the power of incumbency. Who but the president can order up an aircraft carrier for a speaker's platform? But there are perils, too, as George W. Bush is finding. Because when you are the incumbent the election is, fundamentally, about you.
On this summer weekend, jammed between the harsh report of the 9/11 commission and the nomination of John Kerry at the Democratic convention, Mr. Bush finds himself in the same difficult place as Harry S. Truman in 1948 and Jimmy Carter in 1980: an incumbent facing a dubious electorate that could tip either way.
"At some point, politicians can step over an amorphous line that separates good or questionable judgment from inexcusably arrogant, outrageous or incompetent behavior," said Professor Jeffery A. Smith, an historian at the University of Wisconsin and the author of "American Presidential Elections: Trust and the Rational Voter." "That shatters trust. Democracy is built on perceptions of trustworthiness. We bond with politicians who tell us they like us and are like us, but their images and stories can be built up and torn down by what they actually do. If they disappoint, they may be discarded if the alternatives don't look worse."
Confidence and trust are fragile things in any relationship, no less between a president and voters. Voters still rate Mr. Bush fairly well on the big question of fighting terrorism. But support for the war in Iraq has been sliding, particularly since the killings of American security guards who were burned and hung from a bridge for the world to see. When Mr. Bush launched the war last year, three-quarters of the country approved. This month, in the most recent New York Times/CBS News poll, nearly 6 of 10 potential voters disapproved.
A president's overall standing generally holds up longer than support on any specific issue or attribute. Support for the Vietnam War declined for several years before Lyndon B. Johnson's overall support began eroding. The 1968 election was already under way before Johnson realized the depth of his problems and withdrew from the race for re-election.
For Mr. Bush, the country is about evenly divided on approval of his presidency, according to the latest poll. But there are some ominous signs that Mr. Bush is beginning to suffer from a Johnson-style "credibility gap" after sending the country to war to root out weapons of mass destruction and links to Al Qaeda, and being unable to prove either one. When asked by The New York Times and CBS News in June whether Mr. Bush was being completely honest about the war in Iraq, 20 percent of voters said he was mostly lying and 59 percent said he was hiding something. Only 18 percent thought he was telling the entire truth.
The question for Mr. Bush is how damaged is his bond with the voters? Has he tipped into a negative zone from which he cannot recover? Or can he win a second term?
"The bond can break, and in Bush's case the bond has broken for some previous supporters," said Thomas E. Patterson, a professor of government and the press at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. "However, presidential support is based on multiple influences - including partisanship. It took a long time, for example, for certain groups of Americans to conclude in 1973-74 that Nixon had to go. Bush will have a lot of trouble regaining those that have become deeply dissatisfied with his leadership. But I don't have a sense yet that he's lost so many early backers that he's a goner."
The race is not so much too close to call, as too soon to call. Of the 52 presidential elections since the first in 1796, slightly more than half have involved incumbent presidents, a special dynamic. When an incumbent seeks another term, voters make a threshold calculation, students of elections say. "The basic issue is, does the president have the confidence of the voters on the big questions," said Andrew Kohut, the director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, who has been polling about presidents for a generation.
Ronald Reagan in 1984 and Bill Clinton in 1996 passed this referendum. The voters judged that they were trustworthy to deliver the proverbial peace and prosperity. Their opponents, Walter S. Mondale and Robert Dole, never got a serious look.
But when voters have enough doubts about a sitting president they begin to consider the alternative. That is not where an incumbent wants to be "with little over 100 days until an historic election," as Mr. Bush himself described the ticking clock last week.
An incumbent has two choices in this situation. He can work to repair strained bonds with crucial voters or he can try to tear down his opponents plausibility as a replacement. Mr. Bush and his campaign are doing both.
Mr. Bush was reassuring supporters Thursday night that he had been hitting the hustings hard in crucial swing states. The president's campaign schedule is just one example of the extraordinarily early - and expensive - start to this presidential race.
History shows that politically wounded presidents can come back. Certainly, Truman in 1948 had been counted out by nearly everyone, including the headline writers at The Chicago Tribune. But he campaigned relentlessly and in the final days turned the race into a choice between his common-man image and the buttoned-up Republican candidate, Thomas E. Dewey.
The 1980 election played out in almost the exact opposite way. The economy at home and the hostage crisis in Iran left Jimmy Carter in trouble. But with eight days to go the election was still close. Then Mr. Reagan and Mr. Carter stood side by side in debate, and voters decided Mr. Reagan was a legitimate alternative. Only then did a horse race turn into a rout.
History, with apologies to Marx and Hegel, is instructive, not determining. Of those 28 elections involving an incumbent president, the incumbent was turned out of office in nine. But only two of those elections involved an incumbent who came to office despite losing the popular vote. In both the incumbent lost a bid for reelection.
But neither John Quincy Adams nor Benjamin Harrison went through anything like what Mr. Bush has been through in office. Thomas H. Kean, the chairman of the 9/11 commission, said he could find no historical comparison - not even Pearl Harbor - to the impact on the country of the terrorist attacks of 2001.
Politically speaking, the shock of the attacks seemed to wipe away the debate about Mr. Bush's legitimacy. His support soared to historic highs as the nation rallied around him. In that sense, most Americans "voted for" Mr. Bush in the fall of 2001.
Some critics still do raise the legitimacy question. Michael Moore opens his documentary polemic against Mr. Bush with a reprise of the 2000 election. But the question that voters seem to be wrestling with now is not whether Mr. Bush is a legitimate president but whether he is a trustworthy one.

Voters Are Very Settled, Intense And Partisan, and It's Only July

July 25, 2004

Voters Are Very Settled, Intense And Partisan, and It's Only JulyBy ROBIN TONER
OLUMBUS, Ohio — Clif Kelley, a retired economist, stood in the leafy backyard of his suburban home one recent evening and summoned his Democratic neighbors, 62 of whom were arrayed before him, to the political barricades.
"We firmly believe that another four years of Bush in the White House will do incredible damage to this country," declared Mr. Kelley, 87, imploring his neighbors to get involved, knock on doors, make sure their precinct (which went to President Bush by six votes four years ago) goes for Senator John Kerry this time around.
"I am one of those World War II veterans who are dying off at a rapid pace, and I can't stand the thought of dying under a Bush administration."
That same intensity was palpable the following day, in Beckley, W.Va., where thousands of people like Jim Farnsworth, a 32-year-old telephone technician holding his 1-month-old son, turned out for a rally with Mr. Bush. "Voted for him last time, will vote for him again, would even vote for him a third term if he would run," Mr. Farnsworth said. "I like the convictions that he stands on. Abortion, family."
His wife, Tina, chimed in, "His belief in God." Behind them, as far as the eye could see, snaked a line of like-minded voters, patiently waiting for hours in the scorching sun to see their president.
This is not the typical July of a presidential election year.

Friday, July 23, 2004

IHT - New York Times - Frank Rich: Pop culture takes on the fear game Friday, July 23, 2004

Pop culture takes on the fear game
Frank Rich New York Times, Friday, July 23, 2004

NEW YORK You can't blame the broadcast networks for cutting their convention coverage to a fig-leaf minimum of just three hours of prime time spread over four nights. That's what both parties deserve for having steadily sanded down their quadrennial celebrations into infomercials with all the spark and spontaneity of the televised Yule Log. But though few want to say so aloud, there is one potential last-minute ingredient that would instantly bring back gavel-to-gavel coverage on the Big Three: a terrorist attack. That fearful possibility is both conventions' sole claim to suspense.

It is also the subtext of this entire presidential campaign. A late-June USA Today/CNN poll shows that 55 percent of Americans feel less safe because of the war in Iraq - a figure that has spiked 22 points in merely six months. Fear rules. Fear rocks. Fear of terrorism is George W. Bush's only second-term platform to date (unless you count fear of same-sex marriage). Let John Kerry roll out John Edwards as his running mate, and Tom Ridge rushes to grab back the television spotlight by predicting that Al Qaeda will "disrupt our democratic process." Never mind that he had no "precise knowledge" of such an attack or any plans to raise his color-coded threat level; his real mission, to wield fear as a weapon of mass distraction, had been accomplished. Odds are that the next John Ashcroft doomsday press conference will be timed to coincide with the run-up to Kerry's acceptance speech on Thursday night.

In the fear game, the Democrats are the visiting team, playing at a serious disadvantage. Out of power, they can't suit up officials at will to go on camera to scare us. Kerry is reduced instead to incessantly repeating the word "strength" and promising to put "a national coordinator for nuclear terrorism" in the cabinet. That will hardly cut it against these ingenious opponents. Every time a Bush administration official tells us the apocalypse is coming, the president himself brags that he has made America "safer." The message is in the bad news-good news contradiction: The less safe Americans feel, the more likely they'll play it safe on Election Day by sticking with the happy face they know.

Yet the Democrats still can't be counted out. They do have one card to play that the Republicans do not: pop culture. With a vengeance that recalls the Clinton-hating echo chamber when it was fantasizing about the "murder" of Vincent Foster, big guns in the culture industry are rousing themselves into a war-room frenzy of anti-Bush hysteria that goes well beyond fielding an inept talk-radio network and producing documentaries for the base at Their method for countering the Bush-Cheney monopolization of fear is to turn the administration into an object of fear in its own right.

It can be seen at full throttle in Jonathan Demme's remake of the classic cold war thriller "The Manchurian Candidate," which opens in the United States the morning after the Democratic convention ends. This movie could pass for the de facto fifth day of the convention itself.

I cannot recall when Hollywood last released a big-budget mainstream feature film as partisan as this one at the height of a presidential campaign. That it has slipped into action largely under the media's radar, as discreetly as the sleeper agents in its plot, is an achievement in itself. Freed from any obligations to fact, "The Manchurian Candidate" can play far dirtier than "Fahrenheit 9/11." Not being a documentary, it can also open on far more screens - some 2,800, which is more than three times what Michael Moore could command on his opening weekend (or any weekend to date).

"The Manchurian Candidate" is a product of Paramount Pictures, whose chairwoman, Sherry Lansing, is a loyal Democratic contributor, according to public records. (So, for the most part, is her boss, the Viacom chairman, Sumner Redstone.) One of the film's stars, Meryl Streep, shared the stage with Whoopi Goldberg at the recent Kerry-Edwards fund-raiser. As Bill O'Reilly will be glad to hear, the cameo role of a cable-news reporter is played by Al Franken.

The screenplay has holes as large as those in the still woefully inadequate U.S. homeland security apparatus. (At the outset the film actually posits that political conventions are exciting events where even the vice presidential nomination can still be up for grabs.) Hokey, literal-minded sci-fi gimmickry usurps the wit of the 1962 original, which was faithfully adapted by the director John Frankenheimer and the screenwriter George Axelrod from the 1959 Richard Condon novel. But the new version, even at its clunkiest, could not be more uncompromising in its paranoid portrayal of a political cartel with certain familiar traits that will stop at nothing, including the exploitation and even the fomenting of terrorism, to hold on to power for its corporate backers.

The original "Manchurian Candidate" was both anti-Communist and anti-Joe McCarthy. It theorized that the Chinese and Russians could try to overthrow the American government by using covert Washington operatives disguised as Commie-hunting American demagogues. The new "Candidate," which takes the first Gulf War instead of the Korean War as its historical template, finds a striking new international villain to replace the extinct evil empires of Mao and Stalin: Manchurian Global, a "supremely powerful, well-connected, private equity fund" that is in league with the Saudis and eager to scoop up the profits from privatizing the U.S. Army. Think of it as the Carlyle Group or Halliburton on steroids, just as its primary fictional political beneficiary, the well-heeled "Prentiss family dynasty," with its three generations of Washington influence, is at most one syllable removed from the Bushes.

Perhaps to fake out the right, the villain played by Streep has been given the look, manner and senatorial rank of Hillary Clinton. (The character's invective, typified by her accusation that civil libertarians enable suicide bombers, is vintage Fox News Channel, blond auxiliary division.) She has programmed her son to be the "first privately owned and operated vice president of the United States" - in other words, the left's demonized image of the current vice president. This conspiracy unfolds in a sinister present-day America where surveillance cameras track library visitors, cable news channels peddle apocalypse 24/7, and the American government launches pre-emptive military strikes in countries like Guinea to prolong a war on terror "with no end in sight." The crucial election at hand will use electronic touch screens for voting, a dark intimation of Floridian balloting mischief. It will not be an election at all, says the movie's military-man hero (Denzel Washington in Colin Powell's rimless specs), but "a coup - in our own country, a regime change."

The first "Manchurian Candidate" was a box-office flop. But it labored under two handicaps that its remake does not. Its premiere was just two days into the Cuban missile crisis, a terrifying real-life drama that would have dwarfed any fictional big-screen scenario of Communist malevolence. And daring as it was by Hollywood standards, the first "Manchurian Candidate" was not exactly on top of the news. McCarthy was not only dead by 1962 but had been out of power since his censure by the Senate in 1954.

It's a fool's errand to predict the commercial success of the remake.

But in movie theaters, fear will be back in the driver's seat of a ruthless campaign in which the battle over our nightmares about Al Qaeda will be bloody and decisive whether Al Qaeda itself is heard from or not.

The New York Times

he New York Times > Opinion > Mr. Berger's Incredible Misadventure

The New York Times > Opinion > Mr. Berger's Incredible Misadventure: "Mr. Berger's Incredible Misadventure

Exactly why Samuel Berger removed copies of classified documents from the National Archives last October is not clear. Mr. Berger, the former national security adviser to President Clinton who was a Kerry adviser until Tuesday, wasn't going to be able to alter the records or give John Kerry an edge. The missing documents were copies of memos, which Mr. Kerry would have had access to anyway.
If, as Mr. Berger says, the removal was simply a blunder, it was inexcusably careless legally and daft politically. Senator Kerry can't be too happy that Mr. Berger compounded his initial sin by not informing him of the Justice Department's inquiry when it began in January. Mr. Berger and his lawyers may be indignant about the investigation being leaked, but they must have known it would get out.
Meanwhile, the Republican hyperventilating is overdone. The same Congressional leaders who shrugged at the leaking of a C.I.A. agent's identity to punish her husband, a critic of administration policy, demand hearings on Mr. Berger. The politicians should all let the Justice Department do its job.
Of real concern is that bleeding, yet again, of politics into criminal justice. After initially claiming it knew nothing of the case, the White House has had to admit it was informed. That sort of heads-up taints both sides. It leaves the White House open to questions about whether it timed a leak to the release of the 9/11 panel's report, and it feeds cynicism about the independence of federal prosecutors. Mr. Kerry, by the way, ought to stop stoking that cynicism with groundless claims that the prosecution of Kenneth Lay was improperl"

Desire to beat Bush masks deep divisions within Democratic Party By Steven Thomma Knight Ridder Newspapers

Desire to beat Bush masks deep divisions within Democratic Party
By Steven Thomma

Knight Ridder Newspapers

BOSTON - If you watch next week's Democratic National Convention, you'll see the face of the party as Sen. John Kerry and party leaders want you to see it.
But there will be only about 5,700 delegates and other party members at Boston's Fleet Center, while there are about 48 million registered voters across the country who call themselves Democrats - and they don't always think the same as the people on the convention stage.
For now, Democrats are unified to an almost unprecedented degree by their intense desire to defeat President Bush. That could help Kerry win the White House.
But it obscures divisions among Democrats over issues such as the war in Iraq, leaves unsettled the definition of what it means to be a Democrat in 2004 and could make it difficult for Kerry to govern if he's elected, as he navigates between his party's vote base and the broader population. Bush faced the same problem after running in 2000 as a centrist, then governing as a hard-line partisan.
"There's a bit of a shell game going on," said Larry Gerston, a political scientist at San Jose State University in California. "What the candidates say and what they do are often very different. That creates alienation and confusion for voters."
The biggest disconnect between ordinary Democrats and their leaders - and between Democrats and the rest of the country - is over the Iraq war.
A sizable majority of rank-and-file Democrats think the war was a mistake - 68 percent in one recent CBS-New York Times poll. By comparison, 51 percent of independents and only 14 percent of Republicans think it was a mistake.
Yet Kerry, who voted to authorize the war, refuses to call it a mistake. Nor will he commit to withdrawing American troops anytime soon, as many antiwar Democrats urge.
"People of good will disagree about whether America should have gone to war in Iraq," the new party platform says. It also says the United States must remain in Iraq: "We cannot allow a failed state in Iraq that inevitably would become a haven for terrorists and a destabilizing force in the Middle East."
Another difference is over marriage for gays and lesbians, an issue put on the national agenda when the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that homosexuals should be allowed to marry. Gay couples in other states now are appealing to federal courts for legal recognition of their marriages.
Forty percent of Democrats think gay couples should be allowed to marry legally, a separate CBS-New York Times poll showed. While less than a majority, such a substantial minority again shows that the Democratic base is split on a deeply divisive issue that could complicate Kerry's handling of it. Kerry opposes gay marriage but favors "civil unions," an approach favored by only 27 percent of Democrats nationally.
Kerry also opposes a proposed constitutional amendment that would block national recognition of gay marriage, and would leave it to states to decide.
On most other issues, Democrats are more in sync with Kerry and their party's leaders. They all tend to support legal abortion, raising taxes on those making more than $200,000, increasing federal spending on health care and education, and regulating business more aggressively to protect the environment.
Democrats trace much of their thinking back to the New Deal of the 1930s and the Great Society of the 1960s, when their party championed redistributing wealth and expanding federal help for the poor. And many of their stands on social issues, and skepticism about the use of U.S. military power, stem from clashes over cultural values and the war in Vietnam during the 1960s and 1970s, according to Andy Kohut, the director of the nonpartisan Pew Research Center.
Former President Clinton underscored the point during a recent appearance promoting his new autobiography.
" If you look back on the '60s and, on balance, you think there was more good than harm, then you're probably a Democrat," Clinton said. "If you think there was more harm than good, then you're probably a Republican."
Demographically, the party on display in Boston reflects the rank and file. Nationwide, the Democratic Party is slightly more female than male, and disproportionately minority, older and less than wealthy.
In a benchmark survey last year, the Pew Research Center found that the ranks of self-identified Democrats include:
-36 percent of women and 27 percent of men.
-64 percent of blacks and 36 percent of Hispanics.
-38 percent of those 65 and older, the most solidly Democratic age group.
-36 percent of those with less than a high school education, the most solidly Democratic group by education, and 33 percent of those with a postgraduate college education, the second most Democratic group.
-39 percent of those making less than $20,000 a year, the most Democratic income group.
-27 percent of those making more than $75,000, the least Democratic income group.
(The CBS/New York Times Poll of 1,053 adults on Iraq was conducted June 23-27 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
The CBS/New York Times poll of 955 adults on gay marriage was conducted July 11-15 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
The Pew survey of 1,866 registered voters was conducted July 14-Aug. 5, 2003, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.)

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Guardian Unlimited | Columnists | The perils of power

Guardian Unlimited | Columnists | The perils of power: "The perils of power

Decisions on the Iraq war show that too much control is concentrated in the hands of the prime minister

Jonathan Freedland
Wednesday July 21, 2004
The Guardian

It's happened twice this year. Sceptics about the war against Iraq find themselves shouting at the TV, overwhelmed with the urge to hammer their fists against the chest of a cabinet minister or wondering if they have woken up in an Alice-in-Wonderland country where black is white and white is black.
In mid-winter it was Hutton. In mid-summer it is Butler. The problem then was a Hutton report that seemed blind to the reality the rest of us had seen with our own eyes. The problem now is not the Butler report, which sees the reality clearly enough, but the government response to it. It's as if Tony Blair and friends live on a different planet, where the usual rules of reason and logic do not apply.
So cabinet minister John Reid can go on the Today programme and say - not once but twice - that caveats had to be stripped out of the September 2002 dossier in order to preserve the anonymity of intelligence sources. As if a 'probably' here or a 'maybe' there would have exposed our secret agents. Of course, it would have done no such thing. But Reid says it all the same.
We have the prime minister insisting that his own good faith cannot be questioned. Most politicians and commentators bow to this demand, too courteous to resist it. But it is a strange kind of good faith that enables someone to read intelligence on Iraq's weapons capability chock full of doubts and qualifiers - and then declare that this same intelligence establishes 'beyond doubt' the nature of the Saddam threat. The one thing the intelligence did not do was establish anything beyond doubt - and Bl" : English :English: "EDITORIAL: Why was Iraq attacked?

Koizumi must explain why he backed the war.
It is now clear there was no foundation for the reasons that both the president of the United States and the prime minister of Britain used to justify the invasion of Iraq.
An independent British committee released a report researched over the one year and four months since the war began, and it concluded that the former Saddam Hussein regime did not have chemical or biological weapons ready to be deployed. They also found no evidence that plans to use such weapons existed.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair admitted the failure of his administration and accepted the report although he denied any deliberate distortion. The BBC reported that Blair hinted at resignation before the report was published, but that Cabinet members stopped him.
Prior to this report, in the United States a special Senate committee released its report concluding that most intelligence information from the CIA was incorrect. The report also said that not only were there no weapons of mass destruction, there were no plans to develop any. It played down the existence of ties between the Hussein regime and al-Qaida that U.S. President George W. Bush had insisted existed.
Yet, Bush still claims the invasion was justified because it overturned a potential threat. If that had been the only leg he was standing on before the invasion, the rest of the world would have opposed the attack even more strongly.
Certainly, a regime of terror was ended. An interim government has been established and Iraq is moving toward reconstruction. The international community should extend a hand to help rebuild the country.
However, it does not mean it is acceptable to obscure reasons for going to war. The war began based on perceived threats that turned out to be fabric"

The New York Times > Opinion > Making America Safer

The New York Times > Opinion > Making America Safer: "July 22, 2004
Making America Safer

Washington squandered many chances before Sept. 11, 2001, to reform the nation's outdated, encrusted intelligence bureaucracy. After the 2001 terrorist attacks exposed those agencies' horrifying shortcomings, the Bush administration made a stab at reform. But it involved half-measures that avoided the politically risky steps needed to fix the whole problem.
With the publication today of the report by the bipartisan commission on 9/11 and its recommendations on how to better protect the country, President Bush and Congress are getting another chance. The nation cannot afford for them to pass it up.
The panel is expected to recommend a much-needed change in the duties of the director of central intelligence, who has three jobs but not the power to do any of them particularly well. The director is supposed to run the Central Intelligence Agency and act as the president's chief adviser on intelligence. He is also nominally in charge of supervising and coordinating the 14 other intelligence agencies scattered through the federal government. But the director has no authority over their staffs or their budgets; about 85 percent of the intelligence money goes to the Pentagon. He is not part of the president's team, like the national security adviser, and just managing the C.I.A. is more than a full-time job."

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: The Arabian Candidate

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: The Arabian Candidate: "The Arabian Candidate"

Published: July 20, 2004

In the original version of 'The Manchurian Candidate,' Senator John Iselin, whom Chinese agents are plotting to put in the White House, is a right-wing demagogue modeled on Senator Joseph McCarthy. As Roger Ebert wrote, the plan is to 'use anticommunist hysteria as a cover for a communist takeover.'"

Monday, July 19, 2004

More than nine out of 10 white Britons have no or hardly any ethnic minority friends,

The Guardian

90% of whites have few or no black friends

Vikram Dodd
Monday July 19, 2004
The Guardian

More than nine out of 10 white Britons have no or hardly any ethnic minority friends, according to a poll that reveals the continuing gulf between races and religions more than 40 years after the UK became a multicultural society.
The Guardian has seen details of the survey, to be released this week by the Commission for Racial Equality.
It shows that a majority of white people do not share the bonds of close friendship with their fellow black, Asian or Muslim Britons, meaning they may lack the empathy that close contact can bring. The CRE warns this leaves swaths of the population open to believing the worst of different ethnic and religious groups.
The poll found that 94% of white people say most or all their friends are of the same race, while 47% of ethnic minorities say white people form all or most of their friends. More than half of white people, 54%, said they did not have a single black or Asian person they considered a close friend.
More than eight out of 10 white people have no friends who are practising Muslims, and only one in 10 white people was close to a Hindu or Sikh. Pollsters YouGov asked 2,065 white and 808 ethnic minority people aged over 18 for details of their closest 10 to 20 friends in an internet survey.
Peter Kellner of YouGov said: "It is unusual for white Britons to have any close friends who are from the ethnic minorities. He said this had an effect on the knowledge the majority white community had of their ethnic minority fellow citizens. "There is an empathy born of experience. With a great number of white people there is not that empathy born of experience."
Around two-thirds of all ethnic groups believe that ethnic minority Britons too often live apart from the rest of society, but they diverge over whether tackling inequality or achieving integration is more important.
The poll found that 54% of white people have no friends at all from the ethnic minorities, with 46% saying they have at least one. Three in 10 of ethnic minority people surveyed said all or most of their friends were Asian or black.
The CRE chair, Trevor Phillips, said: "It surprised me the extent to which the majority community still does not really know minority communities." He said the lack of close knowledge could lead white people to believe lurid tabloid headlines and racist propaganda. "When it comes to race and religion this clearly demonstrates we are dealing with a difference of which most people in this country have no first-hand experience, and therefore it is not surprising that they can be misled about blacks, Gypsies and Muslims, and it's not surprising that for no apparent reason they can become hostile and racist."
Mr Phillips said integration could not be left to chance. He believed the government should fund US-style summer camp places for 16-year-olds where they can take part in activities with teenagers they would otherwise not meet: "In Britain we still don't know each other. We are not like Americans who do know each other but have made an active choice to live in a segregated society."
The survey indicates the situation may be worsening. While younger whites mix more than older ones, the reverse is true of some ethnic minority communities.
The friends of 60% of white people over 50 are of the same race as them, compared with 43% for white people under 30. But while 19% of ethnic minority Britons over 50 have friends who are almost exclusively from ethnic minority communities, that rises to 39% for those aged 30 or under.
YouGov says: "We cannot tell from a single survey whether this is mainly a cohort effect [as people get older, their circle of friends widens] or whether this reflects an enduring generational difference, with some younger non-whites less willing than their parents' generation to mix with white friends."
In January, a Mori poll found that 41% of white people and 26% of ethnic minority people surveyed wanted the races to live separately.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Wrong on China . . . and Taiwan

July 18, 2004

Wrong on China . . . and Taiwan

By William C. Triplett II

If Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, becomes president, adding his tour of duty in Vietnam to his two decades on Capitol Hill, he will have had more familiarity with East Asian affairs than all other American presidents combined. And yet nine years of close professional observation leads to the inescapable conclusion Mr. Kerry is profoundly wrong about the most important issues in the region.
Arriving in the U.S. Senate in early 1985, Mr. Kerry was assigned to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and showed an immediate interest in matters relating to East Asia. In recent years, he has been chairman or ranking member of the SFRC East Asia Subcommittee. For almost 20 years, he has been in the middle of Capitol Hill's East Asia considerations attending hundreds of hearings, highly classified briefings and legislative mark-up sessions. Except for his successful effort to defend the communist government of Vietnam's honor from charges of secretly holding American MIAs, he has no legislative record of note. No significant "Kerry Statutes" or "Kerry amendments" or "Kerry initiatives" come to mind, certainly relating to East Asia.

While Mr. Kerry is not the only senator without a positive record, it is his position on Communist China that is the most troubling — the nature of the Communist Chinese regime, its espionage assault on the United States, China's role as the world's leading proliferator of Weapons of Mass Destruction and its increasing military threat against Taiwan.
• The Communist Chinese regime: At an SFRC hearing on June 27, 2001, Mr. Kerry got into a strange debate with Sen. Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican, over whether China has a "communist government." Mr. Kerry held that it does not have a "communist government" anymore, a position no serious China scholar would support.
He further argued the dictatorial regimes of East Asia calling themselves "communist" do so "more for historical purposes" and do not represent "any kind of current reality." Perhaps the most brilliant account of the present depredations by the Chinese Communist Party against the people of China is found in an essay by Princeton Professor Perry Link in the current issue of China Rights Forum. Professor Link likens China today to "a fetid swamp of suppression and lies."
• Chinese espionage: In 1998 I reported ("Year of the Rat," Regnery), and this year NBC News confirmed, Mr. Kerry's unfortunate relationship with Chinese military intelligence. During the 1996 election cycle, Chinagate figure Johnny Chung made a $10,000 contribution to Mr. Kerry's campaign in return for arranging a high-level meeting at the Securities and Exchange Commission. The beneficiary of Mr. Kerry's assistance was Chinese military spy Lt. Col. Liu Chao-ying. NBC has a photograph of the Communist Chinese espionage agent with Mr. Kerry, taken in his office.
• China's role in proliferation: Recently, Mr. Kerry told the press that if he became president, Communist China would become the "principal partner" in his antiproliferation efforts. This conveniently ignores Beijing's role as the world principal proliferator of WMDs, something Mr. Kerry should know, given his attendance at highly classified briefings. Without China's illicit arms sales and WMD technology transfers, neither North Korea nor Iran would be significantly threats to anyone. When Libya turned over its secret nuclear weapons plans earlier this year, American specialists were astonished to discover they were written in Chinese.
• Taiwan: Barely a day goes by that Communist China does not issue another threat against Taiwan. This year's Pentagon report on Chinese army power has a new section on Taiwan that can only be described as "grim." Many Western observers of the People's Liberation Army believe January 2005 will begin a dangerous period in East Asia as the military balance in the Taiwan Strait tilts to the communists. President Bush's response to these threats has been to declare the United States would do "whatever it takes" to help defend Taiwan. Not only has Mr. Kerry never made a statement of comparable forcefulness in defense of Taiwan, the draft of the Democratic Party Platform under Mr. Kerry fails to indicate support for U.S. law — the Taiwan Relations Act. Al Gore's DNC platform had such support in 2000. Further, on Jan. 6, 2004, Mr. Kerry declared that the way to resolve the cross-straits tension is to "push" Taiwan to accept the communists' "One country, two systems" proposal. One only has to ask the Tibetans and the people of Hong Kong what it's really like under "One country, two systems."
In short, at the very moment, January 2005, when a President John Kerry would be inaugurated, East Asia will enter its most dangerous period in several decades. And, the Western Alliance could be led by an American president who doesn't understand the evil nature of communism in China, has no problem doing favors for Communist Chinese military intelligence (if the price is right), does not know of Beijing's role as the world's No. 1 proliferator and intends to force appeasement on Taiwan.

William C. Triplett II was a staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's East Asia Subcommittee from 1985 through 1993.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

The New York Times > Opinion > Editorial Observer: Strom Thurmond Continued: The Known World of Ms. Washington-Williams

Strom Thurmond Continued: The Known World of Ms. Washington-WilliamsBy BRENT STAPLES

If newspapers reach the afterlife, then Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina is having a fitful time in that great Senate chamber in the sky. Mr. Thurmond, who died last year at the age of 100, spent half of the 20th century fending off the rumor that he had fathered a child of Carrie Butler, a black maid who worked in his family's home during the 1920's. He had been dead less than a year when Ms. Butler's daughter, a retired teacher named Essie Mae Washington-Williams, came forward to claim him as her father, explaining that he had met secretly with her for decades while denying her existence in public.
As a young woman, Ms. Washington-Williams calculated that having a fraction of a father glimpsed in back rooms was preferable to having no father at all. But since his death, she has laid claim to the Thurmond legacy in a very public way, not least of all by having her name inscribed alongside the names of the senator's other children on the Thurmond memorial outside the South Carolina Statehouse. Along the way, she has consciously transformed her family's story into a penetrating lesson on the history of race in the early South.
White patriarchs who trafficked in racism by day and sired black children at night are an archetype in the history of the South, where white and black families have always been more closely related by blood than many whites cared to admit. The final public outing of Mr. Thurmond was viewed with amusement in black communities across the country.
But amusement turned to perplexity recently when Ms. Washington-Williams announced that she would embrace her white heritage by applying for membership in the United Daughters of the Confederacy, a historically white group founded in the 19th century to memorialize Southern valor in the war to preserve slavery.
Ms. Washington-Williams said through her lawyer that she was not condoning slavery but was exploring her heritage in a way that she hoped would produce a richer dialogue about race. As a former teacher, she clearly recognizes the instructional value of her family's story. By showing that families who appear to be white at one time can appear to be black at another, she is underscoring the fact that race is a more elastic concept than most contemporary Americans understand.
She also wants to show that black Americans played roles in all aspects of the nation's history, including the Civil War. That war featured African-American participants on both sides, as did the slave trade, where blacks served not just as slaves but also as owners

Friday, July 16, 2004

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Bush's Not-So-Big Tent

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Bush's Not-So-Big Tent: "Bush's Not-So-Big Tent

Published: July 16, 2004

Columnist Page: Bob Herbert

Just as George W. Bush is on track to be the first president since Herbert Hoover to preside over a net loss of jobs, he is now the first president since Hoover to fail to meet with the N.A.A.C.P. during his entire term in office.
Mr. Bush and the leadership of the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization get along about as well as the Hatfields and the McCoys. The president was invited to the group's convention in Philadelphia this week, but he declined."

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

China renews protest against visit to Taiwan by Singapore's Lee

China renews protest against visit to Taiwan by Singapore's Lee: "China on Tuesday renewed its protest against a visit to Taiwan by Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, rejecting Singapore's claim that it is a private visit and warning that it would harm bilateral relations.
'Mr. Lee Hsien Loong has held senior offices in the Singapore government for many years,' Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue told a regular press briefing. That fact cannot be changed 'by a simple remark that it is an unofficial, private visit,' she said.
Lee's visit 'undermines the political foundation of China-Singapore relations, and will inevitably cause severe consequences for bilateral relations and cooperation,' the spokeswoman said.
Asked whether Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People's Bank of China, has canceled a scheduled visit to Singapore to protest Lee's trip to Taiwan, Zhang said, 'Under the current circumstances, China-Singapore exchanges will of course be severely affected.'
Lee arrived in Taiwan on Saturday and met with Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian on Monday.
China considers Taiwan, which separated from the mainland in 1949, part of its territory awaiting reunification"

Monday, July 12, 2004

Taiwan Straits, from Kaohsiung, looking towards China. I took this picture in December of 2002.  Posted by Hello

Morning.Com Reports Tensions Rise accross the Taiwan Straits

China is putting increasing pressure on Taiwan's ruling Independance Party and on the United States government. China is opposed to U.S. Taiwan arm sales and recent moves by the Taiwan government which China believes are moving Taiwan towards independence. The United States is standing by its one China policy by publically opposing Taiwanese independance but it is also selling Taiwan advance military hardware to counter the buildup of Chinese forces accross the Taiwan Straits. Unfortuneately for Taiwan China's increasing economic clout has caused many democracies to abandon the cause of freedom in Taiwan. One might wonder which country is more deserving of America's military support, Iraq or Taiwan? I hope U.S. policy towards Taiwan become an issue in this years U.S. Presidential election. The Taiwanese people deserve to decide for themselves if and when they unite with China. Taiwan was part of China for only four of the past one hundred and six years. China's claim to Taiwan is tenuous at best.

The Bible Posted by Hello

Christianity, Fundamentalism and the Bible

Christianity, Fundamentalism and the Bible

I have been moved recently by the question of who was the historical Jesus Christ and also by the question which asks whether the Bible as written is accurate as history. My recent questioning was inspired by two discussions on the NPR show Fresh Air hosted by Terry Gross. Both parties interviewed on her show had recently published books challenging the Fundamentalist Christian dogma that states in part that the Bible is the literal word of God having no errors, contradictions or mistakes. Fundamentalists go on to argue that all of the books of the New Testament were written by Jesus’ Apostles.

This view, which to me seems incredibly naive and implausible, is widely held. My own family follows this view with no one even entertaining the thought of questioning this viewpoint. I do not understand how otherwise intelligent people can so miserably fail to apply their intellect and reason to their religious belief system which is such an important part of their lives. I cannot fathom such a self imposed and willful, self inflicted ignorance. One family member, a wonderfully gifted student, blindly accepts religious dogma stubbornly refusing to apply even the most rudimentary form of scholastic inquiry to his rigidly held religious beliefs. I simply do not understand this mindset.

I seek to understand all truth with an open, questioning mind, letting the chips fall where they may. Let the evidence speak for itself. I cannot throw away my rational mind in order to perceive spiritual truth.

I do believe that there is one God of the entire universe. The complexity and organized nature of the natural world speaks to me loudly of the manifest presence of a rational personal God who is the creator of the universe. In nature, matter left alone tends to decay. There is simply to much complexity and order in the universe for me to believe that there is no rational, conscious ordering force.

In my own life I have seen God answer my personal prayers in wonderful, glorious ways. I have seen, in my life, more examples of God's love, mercy and forgiveness than I can ever count. I have even in times of crises felt the direct, palpable presence of God in my life. Skeptics may rightfully question my perception of the presence of God which I have felt in times of crises but I hold no such doubts. I cannot explain my perceptions at those times due both to the other worldliness of those feelings and because my perception of these occurrences has faded with time. I do hold however hold great faith in the validity of both my personal, subjective perceptions and experiences.

I really have difficulty accepting as fact the doctrinal statements of the various world religions. I cannot rationally believe that they are or could be written by the hand of God through man. On the other hand however I truly believe that God's wisdom has inspired the writings of the Judeo-Christian tradition in a unique way.

I know the aforementioned statement seems at first blush to be contradictory but I do not believe that there is any inherent contradiction in my statement. What I am saying is simply that even if the events described in the Bible are not literally true there are spiritually discernable meanings which can be derived from the events and stories contained in the Bible.

The whole Bible may be read as a collection of parables which can be used to help us understand God and ourselves as well as set out a set of moral principle for our every day lives. It, for me, really does not matter whether Jesus was born of a virgin or whether he arose from the dead on the third day. What matters are the principles he or the writers of the Gospels wrote down and are directly applicable for our lives today. I know that for some what I am saying is hearesy, but this I what I truly believe. I am not definitively saying that Jesus did not exist or that he did not have a miraculous birth or resurrection. I honestly do not know the answers to these questions. I do know that I do not require an answer to these questions to know that God exists, life is eternal, and that there is inspired truth found in the pages of the Bible.

American Foreign Policy At a Cross Road

American Foreign Policy At a Cross

The present direction in American foreign policy is frought with peril. The Bush administration seems to not understand the nature and scope of the peril we face. Our President has apparently misread the true meaning of the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks. These attacks were not state sponsored terrorism. They were not carried out because the terrorists hate freedom or hate our way of life even though they do hate what they perceive as our decadent western culture. The terrorists attacked us as part of a long term strategy to reestablish an intercontinental Islamic empire, one which the world has not seen since what we in the west call the middle ages.

Al Quaeda, “The Base” in Arabic, is a new type of enemy, different from any that we have faced in the past. Al Queada is a loosely knit confederation of terrorist organizations who share a common goal and a common religious based revolutionary agenda. Their common agenda centers around their shared desire to establish a Koran based Religious theocracy in all of the current and formerly held Muslim lands. These lands include all of the lands in Asia and Africa where there are large Muslim populations as well as the formerly Muslim controlled lands in Europe such as Spain and present day Bosnia. They share a dangerously ambitious dream. In their minds we westerners are simply infidels, non believers. The fine details of our western cultures are inconsequential in their world view.
This dream of a modern Koran base Islamic empire was first nurtured in the religious schools in Egypt Egypt, during the nineteen fifties by a group calling itself the Islamic Brotherhood, decades before the formation of Al Queada. During the nineteen fifties the socialist Egyptian leader, Jamil Nasser sought to crush this organization by imprisoning it’s leadership as well as many of its rank and file followers. The next Egyptian leader, Anwar Sadat, as part of his political reforms, released many of this groups members from jail. Shortly after Sadat entered into a peace treaty with the state of Israel members of the Islamic Brotherhood assasinated Sadat. Sadat’s successor, Hosni Mubarak has led Egypt since the 1973 assassination. The United States has helped Mubarak remain in power by supplying his repressive regime with large amounts of foreign aide. Only Israel receives more American foreign aide than Egypt. This policy of financing this repressive government has successfully kept the the lid on this Egyptian fundamentalist pressure cooker for over thirty years. Mubarak is seventy-six years old and reportedly in poor health. He recently was in Germany undergoing back surgery. How long will his regime last? Are we in the next few years facing an Iranian style Islamic Revolution in Egypt? What would be the consequences of such an occurrence be for Israel or the whole region? I shudder over the thought of such a disastourous occurrence.

Al Queada was formed by Osama Bin Ladan and other veterans of the war fought by the people of Afganistan
and their foreign allies to repel the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union. This war to defeat the infidel Soviet Union became a rallying cause for Islamic fundamentalists from all over the region. These fighters, known as the Mujah Hadin, received substantial aid from both the United States and wealthy Persian Golf states such as Saudi Arabia. This cause brought Osama Bin Laden, a member of the wealthy Saudi, Ben Laden, family to Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, Bin Laden brought to the table, his families great wealth and connections. Even though he was a young man he rose to a position of leadership in the Musha Hadin resistance movement.

The defeat of the Soviet Union and its subsequent collapse further emboldened Bin Laden. If a super power could be defeated by Islamic revolutionaries what else was possible?

In 1991 the Arab world was shaken by Sadaam Hussein’s invasion of the neighboring, small, oil rich kingdom of Kuwait. The Saudi royal family, the household of Saud, felt threatened by Saadam’s actions. They agreed to the first Bush administration request to station American troops on Saudi territory. This stationing of western, non Muslim troops, on Saudi Arabian territory enraged Muslim fundamentalists around the world. They were enraged by the fact that infidel, non Muslim, troops were in the land which hosted two of the three holiest sites in all of Islam. These sites are Mecca, the location of a yearly international pilgrimage and Medina. The third site is the Mosque of the “Dome of the Rock” in Jerusalem, also the exact site of the last temple of ancient Israel destroyed by the Roman emperor Titus in 63 A.D..
Al Qaeda was born as an unintended consequence of the Gulf War of 1991. American efforts to repel an invasion by an aggressor, Iraq, contributed to the development of America’s first post Communist era foe, the militant international fundamentalist, terrorist movement known as Al Qaeda.

George W. Bush’s war against Sadaam Hussein was an ill advised ideologically driven diversion from the real war against terrorism. Hell bent on regime change in Iraq Bush allowed Bin Laden and his cronies escape in the Toro Boro region of Afghanistan, near its border with Pakistan immediately after the United States over through the Taliban regime who were stubbornly giving sanctuary to Al Qaeda. Bush and his secretary of defense Donald Rumsfield failed to put a sufficient number troops in the field to complete the job. As a result of this poor decision making many of the Al Qaeda leadership and the former Taliban leadership of Afghanistan were able to escape. Instead of focusing on defeating Al Qaeda the Bush administration prematurely engaged in a preemtive war in Iraq. As a result of this policy many of the top Al Qaeda leadership escaped.

The various semiautonomous components of the Al Qaeda confederation use Islamic Schools, Mosques’ led by radical clerics and terrorist actions to recruit new members. Like any revolutionary group they seek to foster revolution by utilizing time tested revolutionary methodologies. The leadership of Al Qaeda is both well educated and patient. The policies of the George W. Bush administration demonstrate a woeful ignorance of basic revolutionary philosophy and strategies. Professor Tilden Lemelle, formerly Provost and chairman of the Department of Black and Puerto Rican Studies, Hunter College C.U.N.Y. developed a theory of revolution which he taught in a Black Political Thought class I took in 1972. He argued then that there were certain circumstances which were needed for any revolution to occur. To grossly over simplify his theory his theorem required 1) a disaffected group which was a small group of activists who wanted a dramatic change in the political structure 2) An elite or power structure which the disaffected group views as intransigent 3) One or a series of “X” factors. X factors are events which bring about a leadership crisis for the intransigent elite. The key as to whether a revolutionary situation arises lies in the ability of the disaffected group to expand its size and to effectively destroy the emotional, social and economic ties that bind the disaffected group to the elite. The goal is for the leadership of the disaffected group to convince a large number of that groups membership and sympathisers that the elite is intransigent, meaning both unwilling and incapable of meeting the wishes or desires of the disaffected group. This is done in large part by the disaffected groups leadership provoking the elites by acts of terrorism to become more and more repressive. The revolutionary leadership seeks to create “X” factors in order that they cause the society to conclude that the elite regime is both intransigent and dysfunctional.

This type of revolutionary theory or argument can be found in similar form in early Soviet Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky’s pamphlet Terrorism and Communism. If one understands this strategy it is easy to understand why the current war in Iraq has been a dream recruiting tool for Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda has been able to effectively link Arab governments of predominately Muslim countries like that of Saudi Arabia and Indonesia with the United States and her alies such as Great Britain, Spain, Japan and South Korea. The stated goal of Al Qaeda is to remove the western presence from Islamic lands. The terrorist attacks in Indonesia Saudi Arabia and in Spain are a direct attempt to both destabilize these governments. The attack in Spain led directly to a change in the Spanish government coupled with a removal of Spanish troops from Iraq. The Al Qaeda leadership knows what it is doing.

The Iraqi prison scandal is another example of how the Bush administration’s inept foreign policy has created a recruiting bonanza for Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda can now use the prison pictures to recruit fighters to come to Iraq to fight Americans. I have heardmany well intentioned Bush supporters argue that it is better to fight Al Qaeda in Iraq than in the United States. They are correct. It is better to fight Al Qaeda anywhere but in the United States but what they do not realize is that for the foreseeable future Al Qaeda has an inexhaustible supply of recruits. We cannot win this war on the battlefield simply by killing more of them than they kill of us. The only way to win this war is for us to win the hearts and minds of the young people of the Islamic world. We must show these young people that they have alternatives to the poverty and corrupt governments that controls their lives. We must reach Muslim youth like we have reached the youth of China and India. They must, in their lives, see the realistic possibility of obtaining for themselves what we call the good life. Instead of seventy virgins in the after life young Muslins must learn to see that they can become upwardly mobile within their societies. This is not their present reality. Preemptive wars such as the ill advised war in Iraq may successfully change a regime but will it end the translational recruitment of young terrorists? I do not believe that it will. America must encourage a policy of openness and restructuring of the economies of the Islamic world. Hope for the young people must be the centerpiece of our war on terrorism. Our military must systematically crush the Al Qaeda leadership but it must be sophisticated enough to appreciate the difference between secular political movements like the Iraqi and Syrian Bathist parties and religious movements like the Shite political and religious movement in Iran and in Iraq and the predominantly Sunni Al Qaeda movement which developed in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia with its philosophical roots deriving from the Egyptian Islamic Brotherhood. We must learn to effectively navigate through the intricate strands of religious and secular politics in the Muslim world. All Muslins are not alike. We must win the hearts and minds of the young while defending ourselves against our ever present enemies. Time is short. I hope America understands what we are facing soon.

My Remembrance of Ronald Reagan

My Remembrance of Ronald Reagan, an African American Perspective

By John H. Armwood

It is unfortunate though common that at the death of a prominent leader people praise that leader in an uncritical manner. Shakespeare's truism from the play Julius Caesar does not apply to Ronald Reagan. Shakespeare wrote that "the evil that men do lives after them while the good is oft interred with their bones". Reagan is remembered for his leadership in helping to end the cold war but his leadership in an anti black backlash against the civil rights movement is all but ignored. Reagan, in death, has remained as he was in life the "Teflon President". All I now hear is praise being heaped on Ronald Reagan. Even liberal media outlets like CNN and the New York Times have joined in this love fest. I know it is in bad taste to speak ill of the recently departed but truth must be told. Young people must have a balanced account of history, not a self serving one separate and distinct from realty. I, above all else, remember Ronald Reagan as a person who seemed to give tacit, if not overt support to those who supported racism and segregation.

I remember Reagan launching his 1980 presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the site of the brutal murder of three civil rights workers in 1964 by praising "states rights". Those apologists of legal segregation (American apartheid) in the south supported legal segregation under the banner of "states rights". The argument was that local states should be able to decide what policies those states should follow. Southern states in particular wanted to continue the three hundred year old policy of violently violating the human rights of African Americans. This symbolic beginning of Reagan's 1980 presidential campaign signaled to the old south that he was their champion. He was the philosophical heir not just to the 1964 presidential campaign of Barry Goldwater but the 1968 campaign of former Alabama segregationist governor George Wallace.

During the 1960s Reagan opposed the 1964 Civil Rights Act which made segregation in public facilities illegal. During his presidency Reagan opposed the extension of the 1965 Voting Rights Act which authorized the U.S. federal government to monitor local elections in areas of the country which had a history of voting rights abuses. Reagan even vetoed congressional legislation which would have placed economic sanctions on the murderously repressive, segregationist apartheid South African government of that era. He called the racist South African regime "a good friend of the United States". Congress passed this sanction legislation once again with a super majority including many Republicans, over Reagan's veto and it became the law of the land.

I remember Ronald Reagan stating that it was the "right thing" to order the Internal Revenue Service to violate United States law by giving tax subsidies to Bob Jones University, a fundamentalist Christian school which prohibited interracial dating. This conservative religious school through the 1990s still refused to allow interracial dating. Their students, exclusively white, were not allowed to date African Americans, Asians or Hispanics. As a result of this racial policy this school was not eligible to receive federal tax exemptions. In a court case arising out of the Reagan decision the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Ronald Reagan's actions were illegal. The Supreme Court vote against the Reagan policy was eight justices to one.

I remember Ronald Reagan illegally ordering the mining of the Nicaraguan capital of Managua in violation of U.S. law. Even the father of American conservatism, Barry Goldwater strongly criticized Ronald Reagan for this illegal policy. This was part and parcel of a policy that included trading arms for hostages with the tyrannical Iranian regime.

I remember the Reagan administration arguing that ketchup should be considered a vegetable in determining minimum nutritional standards for poor children under the federal student lunch program.

Were not these Reagan views and policies the very face of evil in America? Would the American majority celebrate the life of a leader who had such extremist views and policies against a majority ethnic subgroup group in America? I think not.

For me, an African American, President Reagan represented the electoral coup d'etat of an eight year evil empire which captured Washington D.C. during the nineteen eighties. Mr. Reagan was arguably the most anti black president of the 20th Century. He clearly was the most anti black president of the post World War II era. We must not whitewash our history. Reagan was the great communicator but his message often was seeded with the fruits of the same character of evil that he decried in the anti Semitic Soviet Union. Yes, I know he signed the Martin Luther King holiday bill. He did it begrudgingly stating at the time "if that is what the people want" and that " in thirty-five years we would know if Martin Luther King was a communist".

Reagan was no friend of African Americans, Hispanics or Asians irrespective of his unseemly multimillion dollar television endorsements contracts he entered into in Japan shortly after he left office. Reagan's was able to present to the world a positive, sunny image which hid from those who were not inclined to look, a deeper, more sinister political agenda.

In conclusion I would like to say that the Reagan presidency made me personally feel less like an American than at any other time in my fifty-one year lifetime. His dream of a America as a city on a hill did not seem to include me. This is Reagan's legacy for me and for many other like minded Americans. This national celebration of the Reagan legacy is an affront to my sense of patriotism, justice and honor. For me is it un-American. It makes me question the sense of fairness and of justice of the American majority population. I can hardly wait for my cloud of sadness to pass as the Reagan legacy fades into the sunset of our surreal national mythology.

John H. Armwood