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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

New York Daily News - Ideas & Opinions - Stanley Crouch: Down-to-Earth angel digs in to lift needy

New York Daily News - Ideas & Opinions - Stanley Crouch: Down-to-Earth angel digs in to lift needyDown-to-Earth angel
digs in to lift needy

If one is interested in the direction of American civilization and the uplift of those who are down, one eventually has to address Oprah Winfrey.

Winfrey could only have developed into what she is in the U.S., where her career appears to be something of a miracle to those who have followed her evolution closely. She is not only the most powerful woman on Earth but, for all of her wealth, sumptuous luxury and influence, she remains a down-home Mississippi woman full of mother wit and new age inclinations.

Above all, she is a complex social angel who actually seems obsessed with the idea of being as good as one can, refusing to stay down no matter how hard one has been hit, and supporting those in the world who stand up and give no quarter to the demons they must face.

That is why one of Winfrey's greatest early contributions was helping to lift the veil of shame from the victim of rape and put it on the rapist, where it always belonged. Winfrey has taken this even further in her recent support of the Ithuteng school, which is of revolutionary importance in South Africa. Its founder is one of those remarkable women who seem to rise from the Earth to focus on rooting out crippling sorrow and despair.

At Ithuteng, the objective is pulling up young girls who have been raped and boys who have become menaces through drugs and violent crime. Rape carries with it the plague of AIDS, which even the inarguably great Nelson Mandela ignored during his eight years as president. There is also the problem that black South African women have written about: the enduring, primitive superstition of men who believe they can cure themselves of AIDS by having sex with virgins.

Winfrey became aware of this school because the comic actor Chris Tucker went there and brought its founder back to America for the BET Awards. Winfrey has been searching out schools in America deserving of financial support. But the interest sparked by the meeting led Winfrey to fly to South Africa, where she was so impressed that she gave the school a million dollars. Her mere presence kicked the South African government out of its willed slumber and it is now attempting to involve itself with the project.

Though Winfrey is not included in "Ithuteng," a film about the project that won the humanitarian film award at the 2005 Telluride Mountainfilm Festival, it makes clear how much the urban blight of modern Africa - though much worse - seems to mirror that with which we have become familiar in America.

At a recent dinner following the screening of the film, which still seeks a distributor, I sat with Gayle King, Winfrey's best friend, who accompanied her to South Africa. King recalled how their souls shook with awe at what they witnessed. But what was most important about that evening is how much it expressed Winfrey's vision. The film was made by two young men, Willie and Charlie Ebersol, was partially edited by their mother, the actress Susan Saint James, and was bankrolled by their dad, Dick Ebersol, president of NBC Sports. That is the sort of engagement by people in high places that Oprah Winfrey symbolizes, inspires, and is inspired by herself. It is key to the meaning of contemporary civilization.

Originally published on June 27, 2005

Monday, June 27, 2005

Daily Kos: Karl Rove's selective memory

Daily Kos: Karl Rove's selective memoryKarl Rove's selective memory
by Plutonium Page
Sun Jun 26th, 2005 at 14:41:07 PDT

Man. The Mystery Pollster dug up some fantastic post 9/11 polls regarding what Americans thought about taking military action:

CBS/New York Times, 9/13-14/2001, n=959 adults (source: National Journal's Hotline).

Should the U.S. take military action against those responsible? Yes: 93% of Republicans, 86% of Democrats, 76% of independents

Should the U.S. take military action against those responsible for attacks, even if it means innocent people are killed? Yes: 74% of Republicans, 64% of Democrats, 67% of independents

What if that meant going to war with a nation harboring those responsible for the attacks, then should the U.S. take military action against those responsible for the attacks? Yes: 74% of Republicans, 61% of Democrats, 65% of independents

What if that meant thousands of innocent civilians may be killed, then should the U.S. take military action against whoever is responsible for the attacks? Yes vs. No: Republicans 66% to 16%, Democrats 55% to 28%, independents 60% to 19%.

And, regarding the question of whether or not the U.S. was in a state of war:

Los Angeles Times, 9/13-14/2001, n=1,561 adults:

In your opinion, is the United States now in a state of war? Yes: 74% of Republicans, 70% of Democrats, 66% of independents (Q11)

If it is also determined that the Taliban ruling party in Afghanistan is harboring Osama bin Laden, would you support the United States and its allies retaliating with military action against Afghanistan, even if it could result in civilian casualties, or would you oppose that? Support: 91% of Republicans, 80% of Democrats, 78% of independents (Q37)

What about Osama bin Laden's organization itself? Do you think the United States should retaliate against Bin Laden's group through military action, or should the United States pursue justice by bringing him to trial in the United States? Retaliate vs. bring to trial: Republicans 80% to 17%, Democrats 66% to 28%, independents 64% to 27% (Q38)

(All emphases are mine)

I'm preaching to the choir to emphasize, yet again, that Karl Rove's speech to the Conservative Party of New York is complete evil bullshit. But it's also obviously an example GOP propaganda. We were truly united as a nation back then, but the Republican rhetoric since then brainwashed the electorate to the point of believing that Democrats don't care about terrorism.

Note: Thanks to Kossack stevetat for pointing to the Mystery Pollster's post.

* Bush Administration ::

Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Armstrong Williams NewsHour - New York Times

The Armstrong Williams NewsHour - New York TimesJune 26, 2005
The Armstrong Williams NewsHour

HERE'S the difference between this year's battle over public broadcasting and the one that blew up in Newt Gingrich's face a decade ago: this one isn't really about the survival of public broadcasting. So don't be distracted by any premature obituaries for Big Bird. Far from being an endangered species, he's the ornithological equivalent of a red herring.

Let's not forget that Laura Bush has made a fetish of glomming onto popular "Sesame Street" characters in photo-ops. Polls consistently attest to the popular support for public broadcasting, while Congress is in a race to the bottom with Michael Jackson. Big Bird will once again smite the politicians - as long as he isn't caught consorting with lesbians.

That doesn't mean the right's new assault on public broadcasting is toothless, far from it. But this time the game is far more insidious and ingenious. The intent is not to kill off PBS and NPR but to castrate them by quietly annexing their news and public affairs operations to the larger state propaganda machine that the Bush White House has been steadily constructing at taxpayers' expense. If you liked the fake government news videos that ended up on local stations - or thrilled to the "journalism" of Armstrong Williams and other columnists who were covertly paid to promote administration policies - you'll love the brave new world this crowd envisions for public TV and radio.

There's only one obstacle standing in the way of the coup. Like Richard Nixon, another president who tried to subvert public broadcasting in his war to silence critical news media, our current president may be letting hubris get the best of him. His minions are giving any investigative reporters left in Washington a fresh incentive to follow the money.

That money is not the $100 million that the House still threatens to hack out of public broadcasting's various budgets. Like the theoretical demise of Big Bird, this funding tug-of-war is a smoke screen that deflects attention from the real story. Look instead at the seemingly paltry $14,170 that, as Stephen Labaton of The New York Times reported on June 16, found its way to a mysterious recipient in Indiana named Fred Mann. Mr. Labaton learned that in 2004 Kenneth Tomlinson, the Karl Rove pal who is chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, clandestinely paid this sum to Mr. Mann to monitor his PBS bête noire, Bill Moyers's "Now."

Now, why would Mr. Tomlinson pay for information that any half-sentient viewer could track with TiVo? Why would he hire someone in Indiana? Why would he keep this contract a secret from his own board? Why, when a reporter exposed his secret, would he try to cover it up by falsely maintaining in a letter to an inquiring member of the Senate, Byron Dorgan, that another CPB executive had "approved and signed" the Mann contract when he had signed it himself? If there's a news story that can be likened to the "third-rate burglary," the canary in the coal mine that invited greater scrutiny of the Nixon administration's darkest ambitions, this strange little sideshow could be it.

After Mr. Labaton's first report, Senator Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, called Mr. Tomlinson demanding to see the "product" Mr. Mann had provided for his $14,170 payday. Mr. Tomlinson sent the senator some 50 pages of "raw data." Sifting through those pages when we spoke by phone last week, Mr. Dorgan said it wasn't merely Mr. Moyers's show that was monitored but also the programs of Tavis Smiley and NPR's Diane Rehm.

Their guests were rated either L for liberal or C for conservative, and "anti-administration" was affixed to any segment raising questions about the Bush presidency. Thus was the conservative Republican Senator Chuck Hagel given the same L as Bill Clinton simply because he expressed doubts about Iraq in a discussion mainly devoted to praising Ronald Reagan. Three of The Washington Post's star beat reporters (none of whom covers the White House or politics or writes opinion pieces) were similarly singled out simply for doing their job as journalists by asking questions about administration policies.

"It's pretty scary stuff to judge media, particularly public media, by whether it's pro or anti the president," Senator Dorgan said. "It's unbelievable."

Not from this gang. Mr. Mann was hardly chosen by chance to assemble what smells like the rough draft of a blacklist. He long worked for a right-wing outfit called the National Journalism Center, whose director, M. Stanton Evans, is writing his own Ann Coulteresque book to ameliorate the reputation of Joe McCarthy. What we don't know is whether the 50 pages handed over to Senator Dorgan is all there is to it, or how many other "monitors" may be out there compiling potential blacklists or Nixonian enemies lists on the taxpayers' dime.

We do know that it's standard practice for this administration to purge and punish dissenters and opponents - whether it's those in the Pentagon who criticized Donald Rumsfeld's low troop allotments for Iraq or lobbying firms on K Street that don't hire Tom DeLay cronies. We also know that Mr. Mann's highly ideological pedigree is typical of CPB hires during the Tomlinson reign.

Eric Boehlert of Salon discovered that one of the two public ombudsmen Mr. Tomlinson recruited in April to monitor the news broadcasts at PBS and NPR for objectivity, William Schulz, is a former writer for the radio broadcaster Fulton Lewis Jr., a notorious Joe McCarthy loyalist and slime artist. The Times reported that to provide "insights" into Conrad Burns, a Republican senator who supported public-broadcasting legislation that Mr. Tomlinson opposed, $10,000 was shelled out to Brian Darling, the G.O.P. operative who wrote the memo instructing Republicans to milk Terri Schiavo as "a great political issue."

Then, on Thursday, a Rove dream came true: Patricia Harrison, a former co-chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, ascended to the CPB presidency. In her last job, as an assistant secretary of state, Ms. Harrison publicly praised the department's production of faux-news segments - she called them "good news" segments - promoting American success in Afghanistan and Iraq. As The Times reported in March, one of those fake news videos ended up being broadcast as real news on the Fox affiliate in Memphis.

Mr. Tomlinson has maintained that his goal at CPB is to strengthen public broadcasting by restoring "balance" and stamping out "liberal bias." But Mr. Moyers left "Now" six months ago. Mr. Tomlinson's real, not-so-hidden agenda is to enforce a conservative bias or, more specifically, a Bush bias. To this end, he has not only turned CPB into a full-service employment program for apparatchiks but also helped initiate "The Journal Editorial Report," the only public broadcasting show ever devoted to a single newspaper's editorial page, that of the zealously pro-Bush Wall Street Journal. Unlike Mr. Moyers's "Now" - which routinely balanced its host's liberalism with conservative guests like Ralph Reed, Grover Norquist, Paul Gigot and Cal Thomas - The Journal's program does not include liberals of comparable stature.

THIS is all in keeping with Mr. Tomlinson's long career as a professional propagandist. During the Reagan administration he ran Voice of America. Then he moved on to edit Reader's Digest, where, according to Peter Canning's 1996 history of the magazine, "American Dreamers," he was rumored to be "a kind of 'Manchurian Candidate' " because of the ensuing spike in pro-C.I.A. spin in Digest articles. Today Mr. Tomlinson is chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the federal body that supervises all nonmilitary international United States propaganda outlets, Voice of America included. That the administration's foremost propagandist would also be chairman of the board of CPB, the very organization meant to shield public broadcasting from government interference, is astonishing. But perhaps no more so than a White House press secretary month after month turning for softball questions to "Jeff Gannon," a fake reporter for a fake news organization ultimately unmasked as a G.O.P. activist's propaganda site.

As the public broadcasting debate plays out, there will be the usual talk about how to wean it from federal subsidy and the usual complaints (which I share) about the redundancy, commerciality and declining quality of some PBS programming in a cable universe. But once Big Bird, like that White House Thanksgiving turkey, is again ritualistically saved from the chopping block and the Senate restores more of the House's budget cuts, the most crucial test of the damage will be what survives of public broadcasting's irreplaceable journalistic offerings.

Will monitors start harassing Jim Lehrer's "NewsHour," which Mr. Tomlinson trashed at a March 2004 State Department conference as a "tired and slowed down" also-ran to Shepard Smith's rat-a-tat-tat newscast at Fox News? Will "Frontline" still be taking on the tough investigations that network news no longer touches? Will the reportage on NPR be fearless or the victim of a subtle or not-so-subtle chilling effect instilled by Mr. Tomlinson and his powerful allies in high places?

Forget the pledge drive. What's most likely to save the independent voice of public broadcasting from these thugs is a rising chorus of Deep Throats.

Chinese Strength, U.S. Weakness - New York Times

Chinese Strength, U.S. Weakness - New York TimesJune 26, 2005
Chinese Strength, U.S. Weakness

If China's attempt to buy an American oil company does nothing else, it should, at long last, force the United States to decide how it plans to protect its economy, husband its resources and grow in a world where it is no longer the only economic powerhouse.

With China on a buying binge for raw materials to feed its ever-expanding economy, it was inevitable that it would eventually go beyond the more modest corporate purchases it has already begun and make a grab for something the United States really cares about. Last week, history's biggest Communist country made the ultimate capitalist play: an $18.5 billion all-cash takeover bid by the state-controlled China National Offshore Oil Corporation for the American oil company Unocal.

The bid landed with the impact of an unexploded missile in Washington, where anti-China sentiment has been running high. From both sides of the aisle, members of Congress sounded the alarm that China was threatening to gobble up world energy resources. There is politics in that: Congress has an election next year and gasoline prices are already high. But whatever happens to the deal, Americans should be glad China reminded them that it is time to examine this country's economic strategy.

China's New Power

The chairman and chief executive of the Chinese company, Fu Chengyu, insisted that American national security was not an issue and called the unsolicited bid friendly. "This transaction is purely a commercial transaction," he told reporters. That's a bit disingenuous considering the money he is using is mostly from the Chinese government and his company owes its first allegiance to Beijing authorities, not world markets. And it raises the interesting question of whether the China National Offshore Oil Corporation can have it both ways: playing by Chinese rules at home while taking advantage of American rules abroad to buy an American business. After all, this is a government-owned company operating in an authoritarian state that limits the ability of foreign companies to take their profits out of China.

"Does anybody honestly believe that the Chinese would ever let an American company take over a Chinese company?" asked Senator Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York. Actually, they have, although on a scale that hardly raised national security issues. Last year, Anheuser-Busch won a takeover battle for the Harbin Brewery Group.

The CNOOC bid is of a much higher order and deserves examination above and beyond the regulatory scrutiny normally given to corporate mergers and acquisitions. But Mr. Schumer's question ignores the way American companies have been buying up stakes in Chinese companies. Bank of America just agreed to pay $2.5 billion for a 9 percent stake in the state-run China Construction Bank. According to The Wall Street Journal, even Chevron, the rival bidder for Unocal, has a stake in a chemical plant in China and is exploring for oil in China.

So in some ways, the opposition to the CNOOC bid is the latest installment in the anti-China fervor already gripping Washington. There are a half-dozen proposals in Congress for across-the-board tariffs against Chinese imports, spurred in part by American manufacturers who complain that China's currency, the yuan, is undervalued, which results in cheaper Chinese goods coming into America and hurting American jobs. This comes on top of moves by the administration - urged on by Congress and a huge trade deficit - to forcibly stem the importing of Chinese textiles this year.

Beating up on the Chinese is fine for sound bites to convince voters that politicians care. But the real problem has less to do with China's current strength than America's current weakness. A far more rational approach to China's economic ascendancy would be to consider what steps the United States should be taking to protect itself and to grow.

America's Energy Policies

The national security of the United States is already at risk because the nation depends on imported oil for nearly 60 percent of its daily needs. That will only grow as demand increases and domestic supplies dwindle. Much of that oil comes from volatile countries in the Persian Gulf region, and the American money flowing there does nothing to encourage either more-balanced economic development or democracy. The rest comes from other parts of the world - often the most unstable parts. In any case, it all contributes to America's monstrous trade deficit and worries about what would happen to the economy if some international crisis disrupted the supply.

The antidotes are simple. Americans need to use far less oil than they do now, which means requiring more fuel-efficient vehicles and finding an alternative to refined oil to power cars and trucks.

Beijing's desire for Unocal is fueled in part by the company's natural gas reserves, most of which are in Asia. The United States cannot claim much of a national security threat from that. North American gas supplies are still fairly robust if you count Canada, and the United States can always fall back on coal to keep the lights on. Coal now provides more than half of the country's electricity anyway.

But none of that should lead to complacency. The United States needs open, accessible markets. And no fuel source is free from the effects of rising demand around the world. Natural gas prices are rising rapidly, and Americans need more-efficient power plants and more-efficient appliances to reduce demand, just as we need to develop more-efficient transportation to reduce dependency on oil.

Trade, Currencies and Debt

Congress's fixation with devaluing China's yuan to help cut American job losses is another example of blaming China for what the United States is not doing. There is no reason to think that revaluing the yuan would lead to American job growth. Indeed, Alan Greenspan said Thursday that he saw no credible evidence that a stronger yuan would increase American manufacturing activity and jobs.

Instead of bashing China, Congress and the Bush administration should be putting money into bolstering retraining programs to help American workers whose jobs migrate overseas. American school systems, American parents and American students are going to have to focus on the fact that young people with mediocre educations are not going to be able to compete with energetic, educated young people in places like China.

The United States also cannot blame the Chinese government for the weak position that its own policies have created. The Bush administration's damaging practice of combining profligate deficit spending with huge tax cuts for the rich feeds the need for Washington to borrow hundreds of billions of dollars a year just to keep things going. China has become a major buyer of the Treasury bonds that finance that debt, and because of that, the American economy depends more and more on the willingness of our Chinese underwriters to buy and hold our Treasuries. A sudden decision by China to invest elsewhere would very likely have a far more devastating effect on the country than a withdrawal of Unocal's resources.

But the solution is not to blame China. It is to institute more sensible economic policies, including revoking the unnecessary gifts that President Bush has given to very wealthy Americans at tax time.

Despite Mr. Fu's claim about China's friendly bid, it is a contested one, coming two months after Unocal agreed to be sold to Chevron for $16.4 billion. There are many shots that remain to be fired in the trench warfare of this corporate takeover battle. China may or may not come out on top. But even if China loses this skirmish, it is part of a longer struggle, and those charged with leading America would do well to spend this time strengthening America from within. No matter how big and powerful China becomes, it is no match for the United States when this country is at its best.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Run, Dick, Run - New York Times

Run, Dick, Run - New York TimesJune 22, 2005
Run, Dick, Run

George Bush has a Dick Cheney problem.

It's not the one you think: an overbearing, archconservative vice president imposing his will and ideas on a less-seasoned president.

No, George Bush has a different V.P. problem. It is the fact that his vice president has made clear that he is not running for president after Mr. Bush's term expires in 2008. So Mr. Bush has no heir apparent. And that explains, in part, why his second term is drifting aimlessly, disconnected from the problems facing the country.

"If President Bush had a vice president, or someone who was clearly designated as heir apparent to his administration, [the president] would have a more immediate incentive to widen his political base, to offer policies that would appeal more to the center," argued Don Baer, a former senior adviser to President Clinton. But if one looks at the sorts of policies that Mr. Bush has chosen, or not chosen, for his second term, it suggests that Mr. Bush "is not thinking of the bigger implications" for three years down the road, Mr. Baer added.

For instance, the spending and tax cutting by the Bush team is ridiculously out of control. It will be a miracle if there is no market-induced implosion in the economy or the housing market in the next three years. But you can bet the farm there will have to be a huge correction after 2008 to get taxes and spending back in line. If Mr. Bush had a V.P. who was clearly anointed to succeed him, and whose success would be viewed as part of Mr. Bush's own legacy, it is hard to believe the president wouldn't be interested in a more sane fiscal policy. One thing for sure, his vice president would be.

Instead, Mr. Bush seems to be governing as though he were on a permanent campaign - much like Bill Clinton did. But Bill Clinton was on a permanent presidential campaign. Mr. Bush seems to be governing as if he were on a permanent primary campaign against John McCain in South Carolina.

So far, the second Bush term, to the extent that it has any discernible agenda, seems to be to cater to the far-right wing of his party - period. It's been urgent midnight meetings about Terri Schiavo and barely a daylight session about energy.

With gasoline prices soaring, and the biggest beneficiaries being the very Arab dictatorships who are tacitly sponsoring the terrorists killing Americans in Iraq, it is blindingly obvious that our country needs a comprehensive strategy for reducing our energy consumption and developing alternative fuel systems. The president has utterly failed in this regard.

To travel around America today is to find a country also deeply concerned about education, competition, health care and pensions. It is a country worried about how its kids are going to find jobs, retire and take care of elderly parents. But instead of focusing on a new New Deal to address the insecurities of the age of globalization, the president set off on his second term to take apart the old New Deal, trying to privatize Social Security, only feeding people's anxiety. It won't fly.

Yes, Mr. Bush has laid down a bold proposal for also fixing Social Security, but by not putting that front and center, it has gotten lost behind his private accounts obsession, which is not the country's priority. A president with a V.P. running behind him never would have let that happen.

Mr. Bush would also not be taking the head-in-sand positions he has in opposition to stem cell research, climate change, population control and evolution - positions from which centrist Republicans are now distancing themselves. Just last week, the Senate's top Republican energy-bill negotiator, Senator Pete Domenici, split from Mr. Bush and indicated that he believes the science is clear - climate change is occurring - and we need to do something about it.

If Mr. Bush's hope is to make the Republican Party into a permanent majority party and sustain his legacy, he would have picked a handful of significant proposals to widen the party's circle - especially with the Democrats so clearly out of ideas. But instead of widening and broadening, by focusing on getting things accomplished that would benefit the vast middle of the country, Mr. Bush is catering to right-wing fetishes.

If this is how he intends to use his political capital, that's his business. But if Mr. Bush had a vice president with an eye on 2008, I have to believe he or she would be saying to the president right now: "Hey boss. What are you doing? Where are you going? How am I going to get elected running on this dog's breakfast of antiscience, head-in-the-sand policies?"

A Verdict in Mississippi - New York Times

A Verdict in Mississippi - New York TimesJune 23, 2005
A Verdict in Mississippi

The name Neshoba County, Mississippi, became synonymous with publicly sanctioned murder when a sheriff's deputy conspired with the Klan to kill three young civil rights workers during the summer of 1964. The slaughter of James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner became known not just for its brutality but also for the conspiracies of silence and inaction that developed inside Mississippi itself and protected the murderers by pushing the case out of public view.

This week's conviction of Edgar Ray Killen, an 80-year-old former Klansman, brings the case to a conclusion of sorts and affords some solace to the survivors of the dead. But the lingering mystery about why the state took 40 years to bring its first charges will very likely prevent this case from achieving the definitive end that the prosecutors and citizens of Neshoba County were hoping for.

When Mississippi initially failed to act against the killers, the federal government intervened and gathered evidence enough to charge 18 people in 1967. Seven of them went to prison for brief sentences, but Mr. Killen, who was said to have recruited the mob, went free when an all-white jury deadlocked in his case.

Despite the evidence laid out in the federal case, it was not until earlier this year that Mississippi could rouse itself to indict even a single person in connection with these heinous crimes. By that time, memories of the living had faded and three crucial witnesses were dead.

Faced with a weakened case and testimony of witnesses now beyond the grave, jurors failed to convict on the primary charge of murder and settled instead on manslaughter.

The conviction of the ailing and infirm Mr. Killen is very likely the final act in one of the most notorious murder cases of the civil rights era. The underlying lesson of the case, however, is that justice delayed is quite often justice denied.

New York Daily News - Ideas & Opinions - Stanley Crouch: Hate burns bright

New York Daily News - Ideas & Opinions - Stanley Crouch: Hate burns brightHate burns bright

Ghosts of Miss. racism are alive,
well & living in U.S. politics

It has now become common wisdom that the practices of Southern racists were no less than terrorist acts. The bombings, beatings and murders were used to maintain the power of white over black. In essence, it was a legal issue.

Those rednecks were intent on making sure that the equality spelled out in the Constitution was never taken seriously below the Mason-Dixon line.

Since the Ku Klux Klan and its various offshoots were dominated in number by what has long been called "white trash" - crude, poorly educated, lower-class men who were blue collar at best - what we actually saw in their barbaric acts was the hysterical desire to be appreciated or respected as "full" white men, not the dregs of society who were never accepted, appreciated, or thought of as equal to whatever might pass as a Southern aristocracy. These men never married the boss' daughter and their own daughters never married the sons of the boss.

They were separated by social conventions.

So the only way they could get that good old feeling of being equal was in the symbolic garb of a white sheet or in the cowardly acts that proved to the world that they were not the kind of white men who were going to let those coons, those darkies, those monkeys, abuse Southern tradition by getting out of their place, which was always supposed to be beneath the feet of the white South.

Forty-one years ago, three young men were murdered because they were intent on getting the Constitution to function in Mississippi and because the idea of Negroes getting out of their place was a joyous dream.

At that time, we did not have the tasteless violence of our mass media or barbaric braggadocio, glamorization of violence and obscenity of rap to desensitize, corrupt and pollute our culture.

The howling white men we saw on television, their equally horrible wives and monstrously indoctrinated children were all very clear to us. They were authentic and part of what was wrong with this nation. Whatever they wanted to do or uphold in the social arena was something all people with civilized intentions had to oppose.

When those three young men - James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner - disappeared, they were searched for high and low. Before their bodies were uncovered, many dead black men were found in the state's rivers, proving that the murder of Negroes in Mississippi was a fairly normal thing.

It was equally normal for any white men charged with murdering black men to be released so that they could walk with their heads up, laughing at the idea that they might be convicted for homicide - especially if they did it.

All the laughing stopped when that 80-year-old klansman was convicted by an integrated jury way down yonder in good old Mississippi, where I am sure some feel that he was a victim, a scapegoat. But those people can take heart in the fact that redneck strain of American thought remains alive and well.

The GOP has taken up the slack. No longer Democrats, the Dixiecrat is now a Republican, or a Republicrat. As such, we heard their voices just last week when 19 Republicans and one Democrat failed to support the Senate's formal apology to lynching victims and their families, but under pressures were reduced to eight unrepentant Republicans.

Those are the real ghosts of Mississippi backwardness, and they are still with us.

Originally published on June 23, 2005

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

New York Daily News - News & Views Columnists - Stanley Crouch: Nader's N-word flap bares tastelessness

New York Daily News - News & Views Columnists - Stanley Crouch: Nader's N-word flap bares tastelessnessNader's N-word flap bares tastelessness

Now that Ralph Nader has decided he should speak in ways that we have unfortunately become accustomed to from rappers, we are faced with a serious cultural problem.

What those who would be politically correct in our moment have dubbed "the N-word" was used by Nader when he was publicly describing his woes during the last presidential campaign. Nader broke ranks with today's speech codes by saying, "I felt like a ... ."

Once upon a time, comedian Lenny Bruce referred to himself in the same way while appearing in an obscenity case before Judge Thurgood Marshall in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. Bruce, always a square if you ask me, thought he was being hip. But Marshall felt insulted, and ruled against him. I'm sure Bruce thought that Marshall was overcome by the pieties of "white" standards.

I doubt that. Marshall was responding to disrespect of his court, in which Bruce was assuming an unearned familiarity. But Bruce was just an overrated and narcissistic comedian who felt that he was forcing our culture forward by attempting to publicly sanitize certain words - words that he felt would be cleaned of all their ability to hurt if they were constantly repeated until no one could be made to feel bad by the forbidden syllables.

Nader is a great man who has made enormous contributions to our culture by calling the corporate world out when he has found its customers and our environment suffering from irresponsible or ruthless business policies. Let us salute him.

But that does not mean Nader should not be chastised for presenting himself as irresponsibly as a gangster rapper - someone who has learned the neat college trick of claiming their thoughtless use of an insult is actually intended to sanitize the word.

That shallow idea has not persuaded racists to stop using the so-called N-word. They have not thrown it aside in favor of another more effective term for dehumanization. Any footage from a meeting of white racists proves that.

And rap has not sanitized the word. Again, Lenny Bruce is proven wrong.

The problem is not a simple one, and it will not be addressed by speech codes that assume there is but one way to handle difficult terms. There should be freedoms of speech and there should be artistic license when one is attempting to realistically render the speech of a given group of people. But beyond that, the overall answer is the question of taste.

Rap is essentially tasteless, and that which is tasteless cannot be a measure for the appropriate use of anything.

If we are to demand anything of our public personalities, it should not be that they adhere to some poorly thought-out speech code. It should be adhering to a real sense of taste that does not set aside the sting of the street, which after all can be summoned as much by subtle implication as by thoughtless recourse.

Yes, there are places and ways in which whites can use the now forbidden "N-word." One is to quote someone else, another is to make a character more real in his speech, the last is in a discussion of insults and how they came to be.

Beyond that, one runs the risk of sinking down into the hole of tastelessness, where one can be sure neither he nor she will feel alone. Not in times like these.

Originally published on June 19, 2005

Monday, June 20, 2005

As Toyota Goes ... - New York Times

As Toyota Goes ... - New York TimesJune 17, 2005
As Toyota Goes ...

So I have a question: If I am rooting for General Motors to go bankrupt and be bought out by Toyota, does that make me a bad person?

It is not that I want any autoworker to lose his or her job, but I certainly would not put on a black tie if the entire management team at G.M. got sacked and was replaced by executives from Toyota. Indeed, I think the only hope for G.M.'s autoworkers, and maybe even our country, is with Toyota. Because let's face it, as Toyota goes, so goes America.

Having Toyota take over General Motors - which based its business strategy on building gas-guzzling cars, including the idiot Hummer, scoffing at hybrid technology and fighting Congressional efforts to impose higher mileage standards on U.S. automakers - would not only be in America's economic interest, it would also be in America's geopolitical interest.

Because Toyota has pioneered the very hybrid engine technology that can help rescue not only our economy from its oil addiction (how about 500 miles per gallon of gasoline?), but also our foreign policy from dependence on Middle Eastern oil autocrats.

Diffusing Toyota's hybrid technology is one of the keys to what I call "geo-green." Geo-greens seek to combine into a single political movement environmentalists who want to reduce fossil fuels that cause climate change, evangelicals who want to protect God's green earth and all his creations, and geo-strategists who want to reduce our dependence on crude oil because it fuels some of the worst regimes in the world.

The Bush team has been M.I.A. on energy since 9/11. Indeed, the utter indifference of the Bush team to developing a geo-green strategy - which would also strengthen the dollar, reduce our trade deficit, make America the world leader in combating climate change and stimulate U.S. companies to take the lead in producing the green technologies that the world will desperately need as China and India industrialize - is so irresponsible that it takes your breath away. This is especially true when you realize that the solutions to our problems are already here.

As Gal Luft, co-chairman of the Set America Free coalition, a bipartisan alliance of national security, labor, environmental and religious groups that believe reducing oil consumption is a national priority, points out: the majority of U.S. oil imports go to fueling the transport sector - primarily cars and trucks. Therefore, the key to reducing our dependence on foreign oil is powering our cars and trucks with less petroleum.

There are two ways we can do that. One is electricity. We don't import electricity. We generate all of our needs with coal, hydropower, nuclear power and natural gas. Toyota's hybrid cars, like the Prius, run on both gasoline and electricity that is generated by braking and then stored in a small battery. But, says Luft, if you had a hybrid that you could plug in at night, the battery could store up 20 miles of driving per day. So your first 20 miles would be covered by the battery. The gasoline would only kick in after that. Since 50 percent of Americans do not drive more than 20 miles a day, the battery power would cover all their driving. Even if they drove more than that, combining the battery power and the gasoline could give them 100 miles per gallon of gasoline used, Luft notes.

Right now Toyota does not sell plug-in hybrids. Some enthusiasts, though, are using kits to convert their hybrids to plug-ins, but that adds several thousand dollars - and you lose your Toyota warranty. Imagine, though, if the government encouraged, through tax policy and other incentives, every automaker to offer plug-in hybrids? We would quickly move down the innovation curve and end up with better and cheaper plug-ins for all.

Then add to that flexible-fuel cars, which have a special chip and fuel line that enable them to burn alcohol (ethanol or methanol), gasoline or any mixture of the two. Some four million U.S. cars already come equipped this way, including from G.M. It costs only about $100 a car to make it flex-fuel ready. Brazil hopes to have all its new cars flex-fuel ready by 2008. As Luft notes, if you combined a plug-in hybrid system with a flex-fuel system that burns 80 percent alcohol and 20 percent gasoline, you could end up stretching each gallon of gasoline up to 500 miles.

In short, we don't need to reinvent the wheel or wait for sci-fi hydrogen fuel cells. The technologies we need for a stronger, more energy independent America are already here. The only thing we have a shortage of now are leaders with the imagination and will to move the country onto a geo-green path.

Let's Talk About Iraq - New York Times

Let's Talk About Iraq - New York TimesJune 15, 2005
Let's Talk About Iraq

Ever since Iraq's remarkable election, the country has been descending deeper and deeper into violence. But no one in Washington wants to talk about it. Conservatives don't want to talk about it because, with a few exceptions, they think their job is just to applaud whatever the Bush team does. Liberals don't want to talk about Iraq because, with a few exceptions, they thought the war was wrong and deep down don't want the Bush team to succeed. As a result, Iraq is drifting sideways and the whole burden is being carried by our military. The rest of the country has gone shopping, which seems to suit Karl Rove just fine.

Well, we need to talk about Iraq. This is no time to give up - this is still winnable - but it is time to ask: What is our strategy? This question is urgent because Iraq is inching toward a dangerous tipping point - the point where the key communities begin to invest more energy in preparing their own militias for a scramble for power - when everything falls apart, rather than investing their energies in making the hard compromises within and between their communities to build a unified, democratizing Iraq.

Our core problem in Iraq remains Donald Rumsfeld's disastrous decision - endorsed by President Bush - to invade Iraq on the cheap. From the day the looting started, it has been obvious that we did not have enough troops there. We have never fully controlled the terrain. Almost every problem we face in Iraq today - the rise of ethnic militias, the weakness of the economy, the shortages of gas and electricity, the kidnappings, the flight of middle-class professionals - flows from not having gone into Iraq with the Powell Doctrine of overwhelming force.

Yes, yes, I know we are training Iraqi soldiers by the battalions, but I don't think this is the key. Who is training the insurgent-fascists? Nobody. And yet they are doing daily damage to U.S. and Iraqi forces. Training is overrated, in my book. Where you have motivated officers and soldiers, you have an army punching above its weight. Where you don't have motivated officers and soldiers, you have an army punching a clock.

Where do you get motivated officers and soldiers? That can come only from an Iraqi leader and government that are seen as representing all the country's main factions. So far the Iraqi political class has been a disappointment. The Kurds have been great. But the Sunni leaders have been shortsighted at best and malicious at worst, fantasizing that they are going to make a comeback to power through terror. As for the Shiites, their spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has been a positive force on the religious side, but he has no political analog. No Shiite Hamid Karzai has emerged.

"We have no galvanizing figure right now," observed Kanan Makiya, the Iraqi historian who heads the Iraq Memory Foundation. "Sistani's counterpart on the democratic front has not emerged. Certainly, the Americans made many mistakes, but at this stage less and less can be blamed on them. The burden is on Iraqis. And we still have not risen to the magnitude of the opportunity before us."

I still don't know if a self-sustaining, united and democratizing Iraq is possible. I still believe it is a vital U.S. interest to find out. But the only way to find out is to create a secure environment. It is very hard for moderate, unifying, national leaders to emerge in a cauldron of violence.

Maybe it is too late, but before we give up on Iraq, why not actually try to do it right? Double the American boots on the ground and redouble the diplomatic effort to bring in those Sunnis who want to be part of the process and fight to the death those who don't. As Stanford's Larry Diamond, author of an important new book on the Iraq war, "Squandered Victory," puts it, we need "a bold mobilizing strategy" right now. That means the new Iraqi government, the U.S. and the U.N. teaming up to widen the political arena in Iraq, energizing the constitution-writing process and developing a communications-diplomatic strategy that puts our bloodthirsty enemies on the defensive rather than us. The Bush team has been weak in all these areas. For weeks now, we haven't even had ambassadors in Iraq, Afghanistan or Jordan.

We've already paid a huge price for the Rumsfeld Doctrine - "Just enough troops to lose." Calling for more troops now, I know, is the last thing anyone wants to hear. But we are fooling ourselves to think that a decent, normal, forward-looking Iraqi politics or army is going to emerge from a totally insecure environment, where you can feel safe only with your own tribe.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Los Angeles Times: Why Latinos Are Walking Out on the Democrats

Los Angeles Times: Why Latinos Are Walking Out on the DemocratsCOMMENTARY
Why Latinos Are Walking Out on the Democrats
By Dan Schnur
Dan Schnur, a Republican political consultant, teaches at the Annenberg School for Communication at USC. He served as communications director for McCain's 2000 presidential campaign.

June 6, 2005

On his recent victory tour of Washington, Antonio Villaraigosa admonished a group of Democratic activists that their party needed to concentrate more on outreach and diversity. But if Los Angeles' first Hispanic American mayor in 133 years really wants to show his party how it's done, he could easily point to the other side of the nation's partisan divide, where Republicans have made unprecedented inroads toward building a solid base among Latino voters. FOR THE RECORD:
Latinos —A Commentary article on Monday about Latinos and Democrats said Democratic presidents appointed the first Jewish Supreme Court justices. Benjamin Cardozo, the second Jewish justice, was named by GOP President Herbert Hoover.
While Cuban Americans have historically voted Republican by wide margins, primarily because of the GOP's strong anti-communist credentials, Americans of Mexican, Central American and South American descent have been equally ardent supporters of the Democratic Party and its candidates. But that Democratic advantage is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Over the last three presidential election cycles, Latino American support for Democrats has steadily declined, from the 72% that voted for Bill Clinton in 1996 to the 53% that John Kerry received last year.

Although these percentages are based on exit polling and the precise numbers are still being debated, the overall trend is beyond dispute, and a party that loses nearly a quarter of a core constituency in less than a decade is a party with cause for distress. And when that constituency represents the country's fastest-growing demographic — the U.S. Latino population has doubled since 1980 and is expected to increase even more rapidly over the next 20 years — Villaraigosa has every right to be concerned.

Various theories try to explain this shift in voting behavior. Like most ethnic groups that immigrated to America during the 19th and 20th centuries, Latinos became more conservative economically as they achieved greater prosperity. Also, Latinos serve in the armed forces at much higher levels than any other ethnic or racial group, leading to higher support of the Republican agenda for national security and military preparedness. Finally, there are rising numbers of Latino voters, both Catholic and evangelical, who relate to the GOP's platform on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.

In years past, the debate over illegal immigration allowed some Democrats to try to paint Republicans as racists and xenophobes. But President Bush has outlined a plan that would combine stiffer penalties for illegal immigrants with provisions for a legal guest-worker program that provides a path to citizenship. His former presidential primary rival, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, has introduced separate legislation that accomplishes many of the same goals.

Although most Americans support a crackdown on lawbreakers coming to the U.S., support for legal immigration remains high. By combining these two sentiments into one plan, Bush and McCain have taken the first steps toward making Democratic charges of immigrant-bashing a much harder sell to Latino voters.

The other brewing debate worth considering involves Supreme Court nominations. With Chief Justice William Rehnquist almost certain to retire at the end of the court's current session, and at least three other justices expected to follow his lead before 2008, Bush has an opportunity to dramatically reshape the court. Reports are that he is considering several Latino Americans as nominees, including Alberto Gonzalez, who was confirmed earlier this year as the first Latino U.S. attorney general in history.

In the early part of the 20th century, Democratic presidents appointed the court's first Jewish justices, Louis Brandeis and Felix Frankfurter, which helped lock in Jewish support for Democratic candidates that continues today. Jewish voters support Democratic candidates for many reasons, but the appointments of Brandeis and Frankfurter sent a strong message that the Democratic Party was committed to Jewish Americans.

Coupled with a policy agenda that has already made substantial gains with Latino voters, a Bush appointment of Gonzalez would continue and accelerate the movement of Latinos toward the GOP.

As Villaraigosa would almost certainly agree, that doesn't bode well for Democrats trying to figure out how to fix their broken party.

Dan Schnur, a Republican political consultant, teaches at the Annenberg School for Communication at USC. He served as communications director for McCain's 2000 presidential campaign.

New York Daily News - Ideas & Opinions - Stanley Crouch: No Child Left Behind is starting to work

New York Daily News - Ideas & Opinions - Stanley Crouch: No Child Left Behind is starting to workNo Child Left Behind is starting to work

Dan Rose, a businessman and philanthropist, recently visited China and became aware of the fact that the Chinese are now graduating 10 million high school students a year who cannot speak English, but who can read and write English. His question was, "I wonder how long it will take the Chinese, at this rate, to end up with more people who can read and write English than we have in the United States?"

Those sorts of education "miracles" are fairly easy within totalitarian systems because an unambiguous decision at the top can lead to successful practice if the necessary components are in place. Those who are not attracted to totalitarian methods in order to achieve success should take heed of what is now happening in the world of American public education, where reform is taking place against the will of the teachers union.

The United Federation of Teachers has said that No Child Left Behind is a measure that has been misapplied since it was enacted. But the recent spike in math and reading scores for states including Delaware, Ohio, Maryland, Illinois and yes, New York, says otherwise.

The union is invaluable in terms of representing teachers as a labor group for collective bargaining. But the union also is the greatest enemy of public education. It has far more often than not fallen into the pit where unions can become menaces to society because quality work takes a backseat to keeping its membership employed and increasing its benefits.

Only a fool would assume that teachers or any other labor group could get a fair deal if they had no numbers behind them. For all of the screaming and hollering, however, No Child Left Behind, as recent figures and testimony have shown, is beginning to work because the bill takes the position that failure is no longer an acceptable option.

What this proves, and what we must learn from the beginnings of success in this arena, is that the only way that ingrained social programs can be effectively handled is by city, state and federal government committing to measurable change. Beyond racism and class contempt, there is the ongoing problem of laziness, the presence of layabouts disguised as teachers who disgrace the profession and bring a bad name to those many serious educators whom they hide behind.

In capitalism, things change as often because of money as they do because of morality and deep thinking, so it is always smart to attach money to morality and vanguard conceptions. Then the choice of profit over deficit can bring about better results. Once the federal government made it clear that no funds would be forthcoming unless there were improvements in student performance - which meant improvements in teacher performance - things began to change.

We have now been freed from a debilitating illusion, which was that those children unfortunate enough to be born the wrong color or in the wrong class were just incapable of learning. When we get rid of that kind of hogwash, we get ever closer to realizing the potential of our richly diverse population and move closer to putting up a good fight for the world markets that places like China and India intend to take as many of as they can.

Originally published on June 6, 2005

On The Air...: Village Voice on Stanley Crouch

On The Air...: Village Voice on Stanley CrouchWednesday, March 16, 2005

Village Voice on Stanley Crouch
Crouching Stanley, Hidden Gangsta-Is this Critic a Thug?

Crouching Stanley, Hidden Gangsta
Why the hanging judge can't keep his hands to himself

by Ta-Nehisi Coates,1.html

Stanley Crouch is a gangsta rapper. Throughout his career, Crouch has moved through black nationalism, bohemia, and places we haven't yet developed the vocab to name. But if there's one thing we've gleaned from Crouch's recent assault on novelist and critic Dale Peck, it is this—we have found Crouch's muse, and his name is Suge Knight.

The backstory is simple, and for Crouch routine. On July 12, out for lunch at Tartine in the West Village, Crouch spotted Peck, who'd trashed his book Don't the Moon Look Lonesome a few years back. After greeting Peck with one hand, Crouch smacked him with the other. "What I would actually have preferred to happen," says Crouch, "was that I had the presence of mind to hawk up a huge oyster and spit it in his face."

Crouch claims he recieved several calls thanking him for the act, which wouldn't be a surprise given that Peck made his name by penning extended negative and, often personal, reviews of other fiction writers.

This was not a moment of hot-headed indiscretion. Crouch may use his perch at the Daily News to inveigh against gangsta rap with all deliberate fury and alarm ("Hip Hop's Thugs Hit New Low," "Hip Hop Gets The Bruising It Deserves," or "Morally, Allen Iverson's a Bad Guy"), but his habit of violent exchanges with writers and editors puts him a notch above Snoop on the ne'er-do-well scale. In most cases gangsta rap is just talk—Biggie and Tupac are the exceptions. But while Crouch has yet to peel caps, the gangsta ethos is realer for him than it is for your average gun-talker.

"The thing is that Stanley will get gangsta on you," says Nelson George, who worked with Crouch here at the Voice, in the 1980s. "There is nothing more gangsta than just walking up and pimp-slapping someone. Not even punching them, just slapping them, almost as a sign of disrespect."

It's almost unfair to accuse Crouch of taking a page from, say, Masta Killa—Crouch was smacking critics when hip-hop was still laceless shelltops and battle raps. Along with being one of the great essayists of his generation, Crouch has always been a man who took Ishmael Reed's Writin' Is Fightin' a little too seriously. During his colorful tenure at this paper, Crouch repeatedly threatened editors and menaced fellow writers. By the time Crouch left, he'd sealed his rep as an iconoclastic curmudgeon and a critic without peer. His litany of incidents usually began with debates over some bit of jazz arcana and ultimately ended in fisticuffs.

"Stanley deserves better than his own temper" says jazz writer Peter Watrous, who also worked here with Crouch. "There are two things that happen at the same time—one of them is that Stanley is a utopian. He strongly believes people should behave in certain way. That combines with an inability to control his own temper, and it makes for a bullying streak."

There was the time Crouch was arguing with jazz writer Russ Musto and told him that if he were a foot taller he'd knock his block off. Musto kept arguing, since he knew he wasn't growing any. Crouch went back on his word, and swung at him anyway. After the two men were separated, Crouch calmed down and offered to buy Musto a drink. Musto says they're friends to this day. Then there's what happened to Guy Trebay, whom Crouch stalked through the Voice's old offices threatening to kill him, relenting only after writer Hilton Als intervened. Another time, writer Harry Allen approached Crouch, hoping to exchange some notes on hip-hop. Instead Crouch, evidently in a bad mood, caught Allen's neck in the cobra clutch, prompting the Voice to give Crouch his walking papers.

By then the Hanging Judge had secured his rep as king of the literal literary brawlers—an accolade that ranks right up there with prettiest journalist. Really now, administering beat-downs to pencil-necked critics is about as macho as spousal abuse, croquet—or gangsta rap.

Much like the acts he derides, Crouch has a taste for swinging that is nothing short of a variation on the "I ain't no punk" theme seemingly encoded on the DNA of all black males. "I have a kind of Mailer-esque reaction to the way some people view writers," Crouch once told The New Yorker. "I want them to know that just because I write doesn't mean I can't also fight." Put another way, Crouch wants you know he keeps it gangsta.

"People perceive writers as being soft and not assertive. And there is a legacy of writers, going back to Hemingway, asserting their masculinity in an overt way," says George. "Maybe it gives Stanley personal satisfaction, but I don't think it's necessary. This is something you'd expect from a rapper in The Source's office because they got three mics in a review."

Crouch's street mojo also adds another layer of mystique, particularly for his white fans. His brand of withering attacks against black nationalism and the black left would normally open the assailant to essentialist charges about his "blackness." But to the frustration of his targets, Crouch is the real deal for the Tina Brown set. From his jazz criticism, to his folksy Southern lilt, down to his willingness invoke the ghost of Joe Louis, Crouch always manages to sound like his ghetto pass is at the ready.

Even if in his writing Crouch derides the ethics of the street, his actions close the distance between him and the gangsta rappers he abhors, making cartoons of them all. Both could live without the electric slide, whop, or moonwalk. Both could give up the cross-over and dunk.

But never let it be said that he who purports to be a black male gives up the beast. That it's all an act, and he really won't kick your ass. That in the middle of politicking over Fitzgerald, Faulkner, and tea, he won't go David Banner, upturn your table of crumpets and coffee-cake, grab you by the collar, drag you out into the darkest alley, and show you that, yes, what you have heard is true. That he will not swing through on his dick and snatch your Jane on a vine like Tarzan. Never let it be said that Jim Brown was not the essence of him. Never let it be said that he—whether Crip or Crouch—failed to be a nigga.

New York Daily News - News & Views Columnists - Stanley Crouch: The sound & the fury

New York Daily News - News & Views Columnists - Stanley Crouch: The sound & the furyThe sound & the fury

The violence and misogyny of rap at its dominant extremes have become such negative influences that there is much to be learned from listening to the problems that even middle-class black parents have as they try to rear their children free of its polluting impact.

I recently spoke with two parents, both successful and suburban. One is a father with two teenage sons, the other a mother with a teen daughter. Both are troubled by the angry, pornographic and thuggish culture that has attracted their children.

The father finds that his two sons have no interest in anything of substance - no art, no music, no theater, no books. They look at videos, read rap magazines and do their best to imitate the look and the talk of inarticulate rappers.

He finds that it is hard to counteract the pornographic exploitation of adolescents because the material is not like dope. It may be tasteless, but it is legal. It's not considered illicit. It's not underground. It's right in the face of everyone and has become the basic language of expression for young people.

"This stuff has very little to do with any of the richness of black American culture. All of this is from the gutter, which is supposed to make it authentic. Young black kids are given the idea that if they don't want to become soulless suburban kids who have sold out to 'white' ideals and values, they have to embrace this cursing, bullying, misogyny and thug materialism. Part of its appeal is that stupidity and ignorance are easy to imitate. There is no challenge," the father says.

The mother is sending her daughter to boarding school to get her away from the street influences of the suburban black kids who have been swallowed whole by the blob of street culture, which has given the thug, as she says, "the strongest cachet. Everybody wants to be as unpleasant and as bad as they can be. They want to fight, they want to curse at the top of their lungs, they want to run over everyone. When my 14-year-old daughter got involved with this 16-year-old boy who was pulling armed robberies, she felt she was into the real thing. She was authentic. She was tough. That was enough for me. The talk was over. She was going to boarding school."

These are but a few examples of what is going on in our country today. This is neither a joke nor a game, and the danger to our children is as great as anything that has ever emerged. Do not be confused. It is not a censorship issue. It is not a free speech issue. What is wrong would be the same if the language were as pure as spring water. The issue is facing up to the problem of denigration and dehumanization that is being huckstered for profit under the sheep's clothing of youth rebellion. Thugs and pimps are being celebrated; the hatred of women is projected as a norm, and all is justified by the crudest imaginable elevation of materialism.

As the mother of that teenage girl says, "It has always been hard to be a parent, but I don't think that previous generations have had to face anything like this."

That is why it is so important that Essence magazine and a growing number of editorial writers are exposing this danger. Our children and their parents need all the help they can get.

Originally published on June 12, 2005

New York Daily News - News & Views Columnists - Stanley Crouch: Down for the count

New York Daily News - News & Views Columnists - Stanley Crouch: Down for the countDown for the count

Ex-champ turned chump not a tragic hero,
but a spoiled thug

Mike Tyson became the first hip-hop heavyweight fighter, the boxer who began with simple, straightforward ability but eventually embraced the idea of authenticity rooted in the negative. He decided to become not the people's hero, but the villain the people loved to hate, or the mad dog the public loved to pat with attention. By the end, Tyson was one for whom there were no rules other than making money and bringing attention to himself.

He had settled for garish tattoos, savage threats, attacking his opponents at press conferences and threatening to sodomize reporters who asked him questions he did not like.

Tyson's story rose from a bucket filled with sentimental suds; the tale spun by sports writers was one of a bad black boy from Brooklyn who had been redeemed by the art of boxing and the saintly attention of his white trainer, Cus D'Amato. Black and white together; ebony and ivory. What a symbol of our most consistent social dream, that those in possession of knowledge will use it to liberate those at the bottom.

Yes, D'Amato had surely discovered Tyson.

But Tyson had been wild and unpredictable when D'Amato was his trainer, and D'Amato ignored the tantrums because he saw in Tyson the chance to have one last champion. But D'Amato died before Tyson took the belt.

Being an uneducated man, Tyson was that odd combination of egocentrism, irrationality, insecurity and naivete one often encounters in the world of criminal behavior. In the tradition of the rappers who were committed to vulgar jewelry and the limousine life, he spent money as if it were going out of style and went from one expensive divorce or bad business arrangement to the next. He finally ended up embracing hip hop's contempt for women, going to prison for rape after he had conducted himself on the witness stand as if he were in a gangster rap video. Tyson returned a Muslim but soon disgraced himself and his sport by gnawing off part of Evander Holyfield's ear, a move he might have picked up from a scene in "The Godfather: Part III."

From that point on, Tyson became a professional villain. He had begun as a bad boy who appeared to have transcended his background; he ended his career - for now, at least - by flaunting every reprehensible thing he could think of saying or doing. Now, in the supposed sunset of retirement, he has philanthropic things on his mind.

In an era when so many have fallen into the muck of corruption, decadence and abuse, we can see that Mike Tyson is not a tragic hero who was felled by a world of such moral turpitude it proved too much to handle.

He seems but another of those famous people who had an overrated skill that could bring him fame and great wealth but a soul that never evolved beyond that of a sullen teenager. If there is a tragedy, it is that Mike Tyson never grew up because the world around him provided no charismatic examples of what being a grown man meant.

Dr. Gingrich: Wise Prescriptions - New York Times

Dr. Gingrich: Wise Prescriptions - New York Times The New York Times
June 16, 2005
Dr. Gingrich: Wise Prescriptions

A bipartisan, Congressionally mandated task force headed by Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, and George Mitchell, the former Senate majority leader, has presented a clear statement of America's national interest in a revived and effective United Nations. Their balanced and thoughtful report, prepared over six months, features an unsparing analysis of the U.N.'s current problems and weaknesses. It also offers constructive recommendations on mobilizing Washington's powerful influence to promote urgent and necessary reforms, including some already proposed by the U.N. itself.

Lawmakers should take the time to at least thumb through this report, especially those who have been demanding Secretary General Kofi Annan's resignation, supporting the ill-conceived nomination of John Bolton as the United States ambassador to the United Nations and backing the latest benighted attempt to withhold America's legally obligated dues.

The task force report offers useful proposals on restraining nuclear and other weapons proliferation, and on peacekeeping and peace-building, human rights, economic development, and strengthening the U.N.'s badly discredited management systems. It offers more than 100 specific recommendations, and while we do not agree with every one, we can readily endorse most of them.

The most important include the creation of an independent audit and oversight board, more militarily robust peacekeeping operations, strengthened access and inspections rules for the International Atomic Energy Agency and other international bodies monitoring the proliferation of unconventional weapons, and stronger cooperation between the United Nations and the World Bank.

It also usefully calls for stronger measures to prevent and punish sexual abuse by peacekeepers; enhanced protection for whistle-blowers; American leadership in preventing genocide, starting with Darfur; and United States support for regional war crimes tribunals and truth commissions.

Along with its deserved criticism of U.N. problems, the Gingrich-Mitchell report refreshingly notes that many of the charges commonly leveled against the United Nations - for example, its failure to halt genocide and other threats to humanity and peace - should more properly be directed against those member states that blocked or undermined effective international action.

It also takes note of the ambitious reform agenda proposed earlier this year by Mr. Annan and specifically embraces some of its ideas, like replacing the morally bankrupt Human Rights Commission with a more credible Human Rights Council and creating a new peace-building commission to follow up on the work of peacekeeping missions.

When a United Nations summit meeting convenes in New York this summer to discuss and build on the secretary general's proposals, the United States should take a leading role. As the Gingrich-Mitchell report correctly notes, the goals and principles of the charter "embody and reflect" American interests today as much as they did when the United States played the leading role in founding the United Nations 60 years ago.

New York Daily News - Ideas & Opinions - Stanley Crouch: The descent of Michael

New York Daily News - Ideas & Opinions - Stanley Crouch: The descent of MichaelThe descent of Michael

Celebrity is now something that comes about as much through attention as achievement. But the case of the Michael Jackson trial is more than a blip of photographs and prose loaded down with gush, hysteria and snoop. Michael Jackson is not Paris Hilton, though some might think he would like to be. He is such a master of step, spin and turn on the dance floor that Fred Astaire called him a genius.

Yet Jackson the man is like many of the people and things that have emerged since the upheaval of the 1960s. We saw revolutionary social changes that made for a much better society, but nothing ever arrives alone, especially in America. Our enormous latitude for invention, lunacy and profit always allow the worst to come along almost immediately following a set of innovations.

In the case of the '60s, irrefutably important social changes were contrasted by the adolescent blob of rock culture that eventually swallowed up much of the taste and obscured much of the talent of the society. We saw the loud and the obvious take up more of our cultural space. Adolescent obsessions with sensation and the sensational pushed most subtle forms of expression into the margins as teenage angst became more and more dominant.

Michael Jackson is an expression of that part of our social history, but also a symbol of other things - plastic surgery, the kind of adolescent attraction to childhood fantasies that we see in his Neverland home and our threadbare rock and roll aristocracy, which we witnessed when he married Elvis Presley's daughter.

This trial brought up questions about all this, but it seems to me that illusions of the man have been on trail along with Jackson himself. These illusions are grounded in what people assumed their relationship to Jackson was during periods of being enthralled by his music and videos. The amount of emotion we heap on our pop celebrities is suspect. People are not good guys just because they have ability.

The descent of Michael Jackson is testing that whole arena. For all that Jackson has done to control our illusions over a career that became progressively eccentric, his powers have fallen before the forces of this trial.

The publicity, the infinitude of speculations and the images of him either dancing atop a car on his first day of court appearance or being admonished for coming to court dressed in what seemed to be pajamas have proved his undoing.

He will never again be able to get by as any more than a vastly talented eccentric. He has now joined the ranks of the great freaks of our age and has no one to blame other than himself and his own willingness to play with the carnivorous forces that created his illusion.

Originally published on June 9, 2005

Thursday, June 09, 2005 Top Worldwide > Taiwan Constitution Vote May Ease China Tensions Top WorldwideTaiwan Constitution Vote May Ease China Tensions, Analysts Say

June 9 (Bloomberg) -- Taiwan's constitutional changes passed this week could help ease tensions with China as they made it more difficult for the island to declare independence and may prod President Chen Shui-bian to improve ties with the mainland, analysts said.

Taiwan's National Assembly ratified legal amendments on June 7 that added a requirement that future revisions of the constitution will need the support of half of Taiwan's eligible voters in a referendum. Previously, such revisions needed approval by three-quarters of members of the island's Legislative Yuan, the parliament, and the assembly.

``The hurdle is very high, making it almost impossible for future constitutional revisions,'' such as one declaring independence, said Liu Bih-rong, a political science professor at Soochow University in Taipei.

The week's passage of constitutional changes is the latest in a series of steps in recent months that have eased investors' worries about strained Taiwan and China relations. President Chen is under pressure to continue to improve ties following visits to the mainland by the chairmen of Taiwan's biggest two opposition parties, Lien Chan and James Soong.

``Political risks are lower for the market now,'' said Victor Shih, who manages the equivalent of $220 million for HSBC Investments (Taiwan) Ltd. ``Chen's government may ease restrictions on mainland tourists and then direct links,'' he said, referring to air and sea transport across the Taiwan Strait.

Improving Ties

Chen, who took power in 2000 advocating independence, is facing demands from Taiwan companies, including Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., to do more to improve ties with the mainland, where international rivals are expanding.

Taiwan is considering allowing in as many as 1,000 mainland tourists a day. More mainland visitors would bolster tourism- related shares and help spur domestic demand, Shih said. Private consumption accounts for about 60 percent of the Taiwan's economy, which grew in the first quarter at the slowest pace in almost two years.

The Taiex Tourist Index, which tracks six stocks, has gained 24 percent since May 3, when China announced plans to ease travel restrictions, outperforming the 5.9 percent rise of the benchmark Taiex index. Shares of Formosa International Hotels Corp., the island's largest hotel operator, have also risen 24 percent.


China made the tourism offer after Lien met Chinese President Hu Jintao, in the first reported meeting between a Nationalist chairman and China's top leader since Nationalist troops lost a civil war to the Communists and fled to Taiwan in 1949.

Taiwan limits investment in China. Taiwan Semiconductor, the world's biggest contract chipmaker, is the only Taiwan company with government approval to build a chip plant on the mainland. The island also restricts investment in China's infrastructure, including power plants.

Taiwan also bars direct flights with mainland China, located about 150 kilometers (94 miles) from the island, citing security concerns. A trip from Taipei to Shanghai, China's commercial capital, now takes about five hours, or more than triple the time for direct travel.

The mainland's parliament on March 14 passed a law authorizing an attack should the island declare independence, prompting Taiwan's Premier Frank Hsieh to describe cross-straits relations as ``very tense.''

``There may be chances for the two governments to sit down and talk about economic and trade issues, such as direct links,'' now that tensions may ease, said Andrew Yang, secretary-general of Taiwan's Council for Advanced Policy Studies.

Spurning Chen

China's government has refused to talk directly with Chen's government on suspicion he may seek to lead the island further toward formal independence.

Taiwan has 16.8 million voters, who are split on their views on mainland relations. About 19 percent of people support independence, compared with 13 percent for unification, while most of the rest prefer the status quo, according to a May government poll.

The National Assembly, whose only function was to review constitutional changes passed by the Legislative Yuan, Taiwan's parliament, also approved the implementation of a single- constituency election system for parliament to replace the current multi-constituency one.

The change will reduce the chances for radical candidates to be elected and President Chen's party ``must move toward the center to win elections,'' Soochow University's Liu said. ``That could mean Chen may become more moderate on mainland relations.''

Chen's Legacy

Chen, who is barred from seeking a third term, has said repeatedly he hopes to meet China's President Hu and resume regular direct transportation links with the mainland. His second term ends in May 2008.

Chen's rivals in presidential elections, Lien and the People First Party's Soong, traveled to China in April and May. An opinion poll released on May 11 by the Taipei-based China Times showed Lien's approval rating rose to 47 percent from 31 percent in late February, while Soong's rose to 35 percent from 29. Chen's rating fell five percentage points to 39 percent.

``Chen will want to leave a legacy during his presidency, and he probably hopes to launch direct links,'' Liu said.

On Jan. 29, Chen's government allowed a mainland commercial carrier to land in Taiwan for the first time since 1949. The charter flight carried Taiwan business people home for the Lunar New Year.

To contact the reporter on the story:
Yu-huay Sun in Taipei

The EIU ViewsWire

The EIU ViewsWireMalaysia politics: A more coherent opposition?



Malaysia's political balance appears set to shift following the election of moderates to senior posts in an Islamist opposition party, and following signs that the reformist former deputy prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim, could accept an offer to spearhead a coalition against the government. A united pro-reform opposition could increase the difficulties for the prime minister, Abdullah Badawi. But unity will be hard to achieve, and there is little threat to the dominance of Mr Abdullah's ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition—though his own position within it could be weakened.

In party elections on June 5th, the Islamic opposition party, Parti Islam sa-Malaysia (PAS), elevated relatively liberal candidates to top positions within its leadership, including the deputy presidency and three vice-presidential slots. Among those elected was Nasharuddin Mat Isa, 42, a Western-educated politician with known sympathies for the reformist movement once spearheaded by Mr Anwar. He becomes party deputy president.

Changing of the guard

The party's conservative but pragmatic president, Abdul Hadi Awang, kept his position unopposed. But otherwise the election results may signal a shifting of momentum towards the party's younger, moderate elements. This sets the stage for a struggle between progressive and conservative factions. If the moderates prevail, the party's hardline religious stance could soften. That stance, which includes calls for the establishment of an Islamic state, has alienated moderate Muslim voters as well as opposition parties that might otherwise be allies.

With a more progressive leadership, PAS could be in a stronger position to rally supporters of political reform from all parties, and to use the issue of reform—in particular, the fight against corruption—to weaken the ruling BN coalition. Such intentions may also be evident in the overtures PAS has made to the former deputy prime minister. Mr Anwar was jailed in 1999 on corruption (and later sodomy) charges after clashing with Mr Abdullah's predecessor, Mahathir Mohamad, and was only released from prison last year. On June 7th Mr Anwar was reported to have indicated that he welcomed an invitation by PAS to be the unofficial leader of a pro-reform opposition alliance. (Mr Anwar's corruption conviction prevents him from formally re-entering politics until 2008.) It remains unclear whether Mr Anwar has actually accepted the offer or merely indicated he is open to the idea. But clearly he is becoming more politically prominent again—a development with implications both for the ruling and opposition forces.

The ultimate champion of reform?

Mr Anwar's greatest assets to the opposition include his status as a figurehead for political protest. His imprisonment from 1999 to 2004 was widely regarded as politically motivated, and thus galvanised the reform movement in the country. Mr Anwar also has the potential to act as a bridge between different political groups. He has strong enough Islamic credentials, dating back to his early political career, to be acceptable to some PAS members. Yet he is also seen as reassuringly modern by some of the non-Islamic opposition parties, such as the mainly ethnic-Chinese Democratic Action Party (DAP). The DAP opposes PAS's plans for an Islamic state, and relations between the two parties have been strained over the issue. Also, of course, Mr Anwar's status as a former stalwart of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), now headed by the prime minister, could enable the opposition to mobilise some rump support from within the ruling coalition's dominant party.

If Mr Anwar were to become the de facto front man for a united opposition, it would add to the worries facing Mr Abdullah. Although the prime minister oversaw a crushing victory for the BN in the March 2004 parliamentary election, he has failed to capitalise on the result. His administration's perceived squandering of the opportunity provided by its strong election mandate to combat corruption, combined with economic policy blunders such as an ill-conceived crackdown on illegal foreign workers, has led to growing dissatisfaction with the prime minister. Internal elections at UMNO's congress in September 2004 weakened Mr Abdullah's position within his party, and the chances of an internal challenge to his leadership appear to be rising. If an Anwar-led opposition campaign gained momentum, this would increase the nervousness within UMNO and could accelerate any move within the party to oust Mr Abdullah.

Major challenges face the opposition

It is nonetheless premature to see in these developments a serious threat to the ruling coalition. Most of the opposition parties were severely weakened in the last general election. The worst affected were PAS itself and, notably, the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (often referred to as Keadilan) led by none other than Mr Anwar's wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail. Although PAS appears hopeful Mr Anwar can attract supporters over from UMNO, it would take a defection of monumental proportions to undermine seriously UMNO's power base at the centre.

Moreover, it is far from certain that PAS will be able to achieve the multi-party unity it now purports to seek. The immediate challenge will be to resolve its own internal tensions, but the rise of the party's progressive faction could now lead to a showdown between conservatives and moderates that could paralyse the party and, ironically, make it less able to mount an effective challenge to UMNO. Although PAS moderates appear to be gaining the upper hand, the leadership will still have to defer to the party's supreme council of conservative appointees.

PAS's ability to convince other parties, such as the DAP, that it can and will relax its hardline Islamist agenda is also suspect. Although the DAP supports the idea of Mr Anwar heading an opposition alliance, any signs PAS is once again hardening its religious stance could rapidly end any DAP co-operation. Despite Mr Anwar's reform credentials, some within the opposition parties also may mistrust the former deputy prime minister because of his background in UMNO.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

New York Daily News - Ideas & Opinions - Stanley Crouch: At its depths, Watergate was a Nixonian tragedy

New York Daily News - Ideas & Opinions - Stanley Crouch: At its depths, Watergate was a Nixonian tragedyAt its depths, Watergate
was a Nixonian tragedy

In Larry Cohen's 1977 film "The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover," it was suggested that the architect behind the Watergate granulation of Richard Nixon's presidency was Clyde Tolson, Hoover's closest friend and confidant. Hoover was never married and his friendship with Tolson created the kinds of rumors that one expects a man of Hoover's power and ruthlessness would draw. So the film took the position that Tolson was getting revenge for his special friend and that all of the dirt amassed by Hoover would smother Nixon.

Now we know that, though it might have been a good guess, the thesis of the film was incorrect, It was right, however, in assuming that "Deep Throat" was someone inside the FBI. As it turns out, that someone was second in command and thought it absolutely important that he not run deep and silent on what the Nixon White House had put into practice, which appeared to be the highest level of vindictive corruption that had ever come through Washington.

Nixon had come up through the era of red-baiting that followed World War II and lasted into the mid '50s. The bullhorn of the moment was Sen. Joe McCarthy, who used the hysterically wielded tarbrush of Communist association to destroy careers in and out of politics. Nixon was vice president at the time and after serving two terms, would have been elected President in 1960 if Chicago's Mayor Daley had not helped John Kennedy steal the election.

That, and other career disappointments, planted enough resentment in Nixon to grow a poison bush in his soul. It came to flower when he took office in 1968 and proceeded to get America out of Vietnam, open relations with China, give American Indians the first less-than-raw deal, put affirmative action in place and sell the Republican Party out to Southern rednecks, which begat "republicrats."

When I first went to Europe in 1977, Europeans were still in shock that a man of Nixon's power and popularity had been brought down, essentially, by two reporters from The Washington Post, Carl Bernstein and Robert Woodward. There was no parallel in European history and there was surely no parallel in the Communist world, where nothing like a free press existed (the ongoing revolution had to be protected from lies and distortion). The bloodless removal of Richard Nixon was an American original in the history of massive political power. It revealed the depth of our system to us and to the world.

What I value most about Watergate and the fall of Richard Nixon is the final address the disgraced former President made to the White House staff before walking to a waiting helicopter and whirling away into the history of darkness. Nixon took on a tragic grandeur then because of his insight into the human soul and how hatred, like a spiritual cancer, can devour its host. It was almost Shakespearean in its simple eloquence.

On Aug. 9, 1974, near the end of his address, Richard Milhous Nixon said, "Always give your best, never get discouraged, never be petty; always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don't win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself."

Originally published on June 2, 2005

New York Daily News - Ideas & Opinions - Stanley Crouch: A grateful nation

New York Daily News - Ideas & Opinions - Stanley Crouch: A grateful nationA grateful nation

Wars as controversial as the one in Iraq can make us deaf, dumb and blind to the facts of our military history. All conflicts can be seen as irrevocably muddy, which extreme leftists and long-gone pacifists seem to believe is always the case.

Yes, we've fought for freedom and democracy, and we've been involved in imperialism, whether pushing the United States to the Pacific Ocean or doing in native populations when it served our interests. I mean those interests defined by the fine men, bigots and opportunists of Washington. Those foghorns of situational ethics led us into the fog as often as they led us through it.

Yet we can be quite proud of the war that inspired the Memorial Day celebrations that have been reduced to flag-waving and barbecue smoke. Except for those who have lost friends or relatives or limbs in armed conflict, most of America looks at the Memorial Day weekend as a chance for as much fun as possible. Such is the national life.

We should remember that the conflict that inspired the holiday weekend was the Civil War. It cost the lives of 646,392 soldiers, 260,000 of whom were in rebellion and had the job of defending the slave states that had seceded, intending to maintain ownership of the human chattel upon which their economy was built and flourished.

The initial task of the federal troops was to hold the Union together, but it evolved into ending slavery.

Along the way, Abraham Lincoln grew into a President of unchallenged greatness. He came to know what the deal was and did not bite his tongue about it. His second inaugural made that clear. Standing tall in comparison to the average man of his time, Lincoln let forth the speech that must have deepened John Wilkes Booth's resolve to assassinate him.

Lincoln, with great eloquence, regretted the loss of blood and the terror of the war. But near the end of his address, he laid the issue down so that there would be no doubt what the war meant and what might have to be paid:

"Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's 250 years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said 3,000 years ago, so still it must be said 'the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.'"

Few conflicts have had such a noble purpose while addressing, with mournful recognition, the tragedy of armed force as shown on the bloody ground of Gettysburg.

It is in the shadow of those Union men who died by the thousands that we should humbly give thanks to our fallen military personnel and to those others who stood and stand in harm's way, ready to die for the people of the United States.

Originally published on May 30, 2005

Friday, June 03, 2005

A Race to the Top - New York Times

A Race to the Top - New York TimesJune 3, 2005
A Race to the Top

Bangalore, India

It was extremely revealing traveling from Europe to India as French voters (and now Dutch ones) were rejecting the E.U. constitution - in one giant snub to President Jacques Chirac, European integration, immigration, Turkish membership in the E.U. and all the forces of globalization eating away at Europe's welfare states. It is interesting because French voters are trying to preserve a 35-hour work week in a world where Indian engineers are ready to work a 35-hour day. Good luck.

Voters in "old Europe" - France, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy - seem to be saying to their leaders: stop the world, we want to get off; while voters in India have been telling their leaders: stop the world and build us a stepstool, we want to get on. I feel sorry for Western European blue collar workers. A world of benefits they have known for 50 years is coming apart, and their governments don't seem to have a strategy for coping.

One reason French voters turned down the E.U. constitution was rampant fears of "Polish plumbers." Rumors that low-cost immigrant plumbers from Poland were taking over the French plumbing trade became a rallying symbol for anti-E.U. constitution forces. A few weeks ago Franz Müntefering, chairman of Germany's Social Democratic Party, compared private equity firms - which buy up failing businesses, downsize them and then sell them - to a "swarm of locusts."

The fact that a top German politician has resorted to attacking capitalism to win votes tells you just how explosive the next decade in Western Europe could be, as some of these aging, inflexible economies - which have grown used to six-week vacations and unemployment insurance that is almost as good as having a job - become more intimately integrated with Eastern Europe, India and China in a flattening world.

To appreciate just how explosive, come to Bangalore, India, the outsourcing capital of the world. The dirty little secret is that India is taking work from Europe or America not simply because of low wages. It is also because Indians are ready to work harder and can do anything from answering your phone to designing your next airplane or car. They are not racing us to the bottom. They are racing us to the top.

Indeed, there is a huge famine breaking out all over India today, an incredible hunger. But it is not for food. It is a hunger for opportunity that has been pent up like volcanic lava under four decades of socialism, and it's now just bursting out with India's young generation.

"India is the oldest civilization, the largest democracy and the youngest population - almost 70 percent is below age 35 and almost 50 percent is 25 and under," said Shekhar Gupta, editor of The Indian Express. Next to India, Western Europe looks like an assisted-living facility with Turkish nurses.

Sure, a huge portion of India still lives in wretched slums or villages, but more and more of the young cohort are grasping for something better. A grass-roots movement is now spreading, demanding that English be taught in state schools - where 85 percent of children go - beginning in first grade, not fourth grade. "What's new is where this movement is coming from," said the Indian commentator Krishna Prasad. "It's coming from the farmers and the Dalits, the lowest groups in society." Even the poor have been to the cities enough to know that English is now the key to a tech-sector job, and they want their kids to have those opportunities.

The Indian state of West Bengal has the oldest elected Communist government left in the world today. Some global technology firms recently were looking at outsourcing there, but told the Communists they could not do so because of the possibility of worker strikes that might disrupt the business processes of the companies they work for. No problem. The Communist government declared information technology work an "essential service," making it illegal for those workers to strike. Have a nice day.

"This is not about wages at all - the whole wage differential thing is going to reduce very quickly," said Rajesh Rao, who heads the innovative Indian game company, Dhruva. It is about people who have been starving "finally seeing the ability to realize their dreams." Both Infosys and Wipro, India's leading technology firms, received more than one million applications last year for a little more than 10,000 job openings.

Yes, this is a bad time for France and friends to lose their appetite for hard work - just when India, China and Poland are rediscovering theirs.

Paul Krugman is on vacation.