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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

New York Daily News - Home - Stanley Crouch: It's racist, and not in name only

New York Daily News - Home - Stanley Crouch: It's racist, and not in name onlyIt's racist, and not in name only

Back when Jane Fonda was married to Ted Turner, she made mention of the discomfort she felt when the home fans of the Atlanta Braves, which Turner then owned, used the gesture called the "tomahawk chop." Fonda surely considered it warlike, stereotypical and offensive, which was an idea pushed by the American Indian Movement, or AIM.

That idea recently led the NCAA to ban schools from postseason play if their nicknames or mascots use American Indian names, calling them "hostile" and "offensive." Is this just some more overstated and self-righteous bunk? Is someone jockeying for the opening of another untaxed casino? Can this be dismissed as no more than Guilt-Mongering 101?

Not quite. We all know that the American government destroyed whatever got in its way and broke treaties with indigenous Indians that would have hampered expansion and economic development. Warlike Indians, such as the Apaches, were overrun, and so were those who were not warlike - the pastoral Nez Perce, for instance.

Distinctions between Chief George of the Nez Perce and men like Geronimo, a butcher as cruel as Pol Pot, were not important. They were Indians and they were in the way.

Nothing is going to change history, but we should contemplate whether some people are dehumanized so others can have what they claim is "innocent fun."

I say that because there were people who "harmlessly" wore blackface in the yearly Mummers Parade held in Philadelphia. A man named Cecil B. Moore brought this to an end when he headed up the city's NAACP during the 1960s. He did not find it harmless, but reminiscent of minstrelsy, an entertainment that brought howls from whites but set up a number of stereotypes that still bedevil us as recycled in the extremes of rap.

Of course, none of this is simple. The NCAA had to reverse restrictions upon Florida State University that were imposed with sanctimoniousness dripping from every word. Florida State's mascot name, the Seminoles, had long been approved and supported by the Seminole Tribe of Florida. A complaint against the school, it turned out, was raised by a group of Seminoles in Oklahoma! Apparently, all Indians sounded the same to the NCAA.

Distinctions are always the problem and always the goal. Before we try to make up for every wrong committed against the American Indian nations, it would do us some good to know just what we are talking about and just whom we are talking about. It always begins with correct information. That is forever better than pompous good intentions.

Originally published on August 29, 2005

Sunday, August 28, 2005

New York Daily News - Home - Stanley Crouch: Faith lost in W's designs on science

New York Daily News - Home - Stanley Crouch: Faith lost in W's designs on scienceFaith lost in W's
designs on science

The newest controversy surrounding George W. Bush brings into plain sight the issue of the relationship of religion to our educational system. President Bush has said that he believes that the newest term for a universe created by a supreme being, "intelligent design," should, right next to evolutionary theories, be given equal time in public schools.

Perhaps he has forgotten about the separation of church and state. We do not have any obligations to religion other than to allow those who believe to state their beliefs freely unless those beliefs embrace terrorist acts or the murder of abortion doctors (which are largely the same thing).

At the same time it seems to me that those who want to rant and rave about the stupidity of those who believe in God seem to miss another very important point about the species: People love to know things, and they also find great comfort in thinking they know things.

Those in religion and those in science will become huffy and condescending if asked for a bit of detail about how they concluded how it all began. That is because our insecurity demands that we have some sense of where it all came from and, as some in the sciences now claim, when our world came into existence.

But what those in the sciences do not seem to understand is that there are people in their own world who have no difficulty accepting "intelligent design" even if they have risen to the top of their fields.

I know two men, one a master of high-tech innovation and the other a neuroscientist who teaches at a blue-ribbon university. Neither of these men has lost or questioned his faith in the face of his scientific knowledge. That is how it is and that is why, however glibly one can dismiss religious belief, it is an absurd proposition.

We should all know by now that either position can lead to insanely immoral actions. Overweening religious confidence has allowed people to brutalize others throughout human history. On the other hand, the confidence that there is nothing beyond what we currently live has shown in the totalitarian barbarism of Marxist-derived regimes.

The problems of both extremes makes it important to stick with our fundamental separation of church and state. The world of religion is safe as long as religious freedom is considered a fundamental right, but the world of politics is always endangered when there are those who are sure that a democracy is not enough; what we need is a theocracy that bends its knee before a particular god and a specific area of belief. We know what that can lead to; we have seen the footage and heard the explosions all over the world because religious hysteria can easily give way to immense brutality.

Those given to an "intelligent design" need to assume that their churches can handle the job. Preachers and holy men are better at their trades than politicians who rarely ever express the poetic power at the center of great religions. Those politicians willing to sell out to the religious right need to take cold showers and calm down. There is always room for more opportunism. They can leave religion alone and be sure that there will soon be another bandwagon that they can jump aboard. That is part of their skill and part of human failing that always invades the world of the political. Our Founding Fathers understood those truths very well and that is one of the reasons that our system remains great.

Originally published on August 25, 2005

Saturday, August 27, 2005

The Vietnamization of Bush's Vacation - New York Times

The Vietnamization of Bush's Vacation - New York TimesAugust 28, 2005
The Vietnamization of Bush's Vacation

ANOTHER week in Iraq, another light at the end of the tunnel. On Monday President Bush saluted the Iraqis for "completing work on a democratic constitution" even as the process was breaking down yet again. But was anyone even listening to his latest premature celebration?

We have long since lost count of all the historic turning points and fast-evaporating victories hyped by this president. The toppling of Saddam's statue, "Mission Accomplished," the transfer of sovereignty and the purple fingers all blur into a hallucinatory loop of delusion. One such red-letter day, some may dimly recall, was the adoption of the previous, interim constitution in March 2004, also proclaimed a "historic milestone" by Mr. Bush. Within a month after that fabulous victory, the insurgency boiled over into the war we have today, taking, among many others, the life of Casey Sheehan.

It's Casey Sheehan's mother, not those haggling in Baghdad's Green Zone, who really changed the landscape in the war this month. Not because of her bumper-sticker politics or the slick left-wing political operatives who have turned her into a circus, but because the original, stubborn fact of her grief brought back the dead the administration had tried for so long to lock out of sight. With a shove from Pat Robertson, her 15 minutes are now up, but even Mr. Robertson's antics revealed buyer's remorse about Iraq; his stated motivation for taking out Hugo Chávez by assassination was to avoid "another $200 billion war" to remove a dictator.

In the wake of Ms. Sheehan's protest, the facts on the ground in America have changed almost everywhere. The president, for one, has been forced to make what for him is the ultimate sacrifice: jettisoning chunks of vacation to defend the war in any bunker he can find in Utah or Idaho. In the first speech of this offensive, he even felt compelled to take the uncharacteristic step of citing the number of American dead in public (though the number was already out of date by at least five casualties by day's end). For the second, the White House recruited its own mom, Tammy Pruett, for the president to showcase as an antidote to Ms. Sheehan. But in a reversion to the president's hide-the-fallen habit, the chosen mother was not one who had lost a child in Iraq.

It isn't just Mr. Bush who is in a tight corner now. Ms. Sheehan's protest was the catalyst for a new national argument about the war that managed to expose both the intellectual bankruptcy of its remaining supporters on the right and the utter bankruptcy of the Democrats who had rubber-stamped this misadventure in the first place.

When the war's die-hard cheerleaders attacked the Middle East policy of a mother from Vacaville, Calif., instead of defending the president's policy in Iraq, it was definitive proof that there is little cogent defense left to be made. When the Democrats offered no alternative to either Mr. Bush's policy or Ms. Sheehan's plea for an immediate withdrawal, it was proof that they have no standing in the debate.

Instead, two conservative Republicans - actually talking about Iraq instead of Ms. Sheehan, unlike the rest of their breed - stepped up to fill this enormous vacuum: Chuck Hagel and Henry Kissinger. Both pointedly invoked Vietnam, the war that forged their political careers. Their timing, like Ms. Sheehan's, was impeccable. Last week Mr. Bush started saying that the best way to honor the dead would be to "finish the task they gave their lives for" - a dangerous rationale that, as David Halberstam points out, was heard as early as 1963 in Vietnam, when American casualties in that fiasco were still inching toward 100.

And what exactly is our task? Mr. Bush's current definition - "as the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down" - could not be a better formula for quagmire. Twenty-eight months after the fall of Saddam, only "a small number" of Iraqi troops are capable of fighting without American assistance, according to the Pentagon - a figure that Joseph Biden puts at "fewer than 3,000." At this rate, our 138,000 troops will be replaced by self-sufficient locals in roughly 100 years.

For his part, Mr. Hagel backed up his assertion that we are bogged down in a new Vietnam with an irrefutable litany of failure: "more dead, more wounded, less electricity in Iraq, less oil being pumped in Iraq, more insurgency attacks, more insurgents coming across the border, more corruption in the government." Mr. Kissinger no doubt counts himself a firm supporter of Mr. Bush, but in Washington Post this month, he drew a damning lesson from Vietnam: "Military success is difficult to sustain unless buttressed by domestic support." Anyone who can read a poll knows that support is gone and is not coming back. The president's approval rating dropped to 36 percent in one survey last week.

What's left is the option stated bluntly by Mr. Hagel: "We should start figuring out how we get out of there."

He didn't say how we might do that. John McCain has talked about sending more troops to rectify our disastrous failure to secure the country, but he'll have to round them up himself door to door. As the retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey reported to the Senate, the National Guard is "in the stage of meltdown and in 24 months we'll be coming apart." At the Army, according to The Los Angeles Times, officials are now predicting an even worse shortfall of recruits in 2006 than in 2005. The Leo Burnett advertising agency has been handed $350 million for a recruitment campaign that avoids any mention of Iraq.

Among Washington's Democrats, the only one with a clue seems to be Russell Feingold, the Wisconsin senator who this month proposed setting a "target date" (as opposed to a deadline) for getting out. Mr. Feingold also made the crucial observation that "the president has presented us with a false choice": either "stay the course" or "cut and run." That false choice, in which Mr. Bush pretends that the only alternative to his reckless conduct of the war is Ms. Sheehan's equally apocalyptic retreat, is used to snuff out any legitimate debate. There are in fact plenty of other choices echoing about, from variations on Mr. Feingold's timetable theme to buying off the Sunni insurgents.

But don't expect any of Mr. Feingold's peers to join him or Mr. Hagel in fashioning an exit strategy that might work. If there's a moment that could stand for the Democrats' irrelevance it came on July 14, the day Americans woke up to learn of the suicide bomber in Baghdad who killed as many as 27 people, nearly all of them children gathered around American troops. In Washington that day, the presumptive presidential candidate Hillary Clinton held a press conference vowing to protect American children from the fantasy violence of video games.

The Democrats are hoping that if they do nothing, they might inherit the earth as the Bush administration goes down the tubes. Whatever the dubious merits of this Kerryesque course as a political strategy, as a moral strategy it's unpatriotic. The earth may not be worth inheriting if Iraq continues to sabotage America's ability to take on Iran and North Korea, let alone Al Qaeda.

As another politician from the Vietnam era, Gary Hart, observed last week, the Democrats are too cowardly to admit they made a mistake three years ago, when fear of midterm elections drove them to surrender to the administration's rushed and manipulative Iraq-war sales pitch. So now they are compounding the original error as the same hucksters frantically try to repackage the old damaged goods.

IN the new pitch there are no mushroom clouds. Instead we get McCarthyesque rhetoric accusing critics of being soft on the war on terrorism, which the Iraq adventure has itself undermined. Before anyone dare say Vietnam, the president, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld drag in the historian David McCullough and liken 2005 in Iraq to 1776 in America - and, by implication, the original George W. to ours. Before you know it, Ahmad Chalabi will be rehabilitated as Ben Franklin.

The marketing campaign will crescendo in two weeks, on the anniversary of 9/11, when a Defense Department "Freedom Walk" will trek from the site of the Pentagon attack through Arlington National Cemetery to a country music concert on the Mall. There the false linkage of Iraq to 9/11 will be hammered in once more, this time with a beat: Clint Black will sing "I Raq and Roll," a ditty whose lyrics focus on Saddam, not the Islamic radicals who actually attacked America. Lest any propaganda opportunity be missed, Arlington's gravestones are being branded with the Pentagon's slogans for military campaigns, like Operation Iraqi Freedom, The Associated Press reported last week - a historic first. If only the administration had thought of doing the same on the fallen's coffins, it might have allowed photographs.

Even though their own poll numbers are in a race to the bottom with the president's, don't expect the Democrats to make a peep. Republicans, their minds increasingly focused on November 2006, may well blink first. In yet another echo of Vietnam, it's millions of voters beyond the capital who will force the timetable for our inexorable exit from Iraq.

Morning-After Pill: Politics and the F.D.A. - New York Times

Morning-After Pill: Politics and the F.D.A. - New York TimesAugust 28, 2005
Morning-After Pill: Politics and the F.D.A.

WASHINGTON, Aug. 27 - For more than a year, federal drug officials have insisted that their repeated delays in deciding whether to approve over-the-counter sales of a morning-after contraceptive have nothing to do with abortion politics.

Among veterans of the battles over drug approvals here, it is hard to find anyone who believes them.

On Friday, the food and drug commissioner, Lester M. Crawford, announced that he would indefinitely postpone a ruling on Plan B, the morning-after pill made by Barr Laboratories. He explained that while the science supported over-the-counter access for women 17 and older, the agency had not figured out how to do that without younger teenagers getting the pills.

While the announcement prompted familiar responses on each side of the abortion debate - protest from abortion rights groups, support from abortion opponents - other veterans of the drug wars sounded more exasperated than anything else.

"At some point, the statute requires that the agency make a decision," said Dr. Eve E. Slater, an assistant secretary of health from 2001 to 2003. "You can't just delay forever."

The Plan B decision has become "overly politicized, and it shouldn't be," Dr. Slater added. Under federal regulations, the Food and Drug Administration was required to reach a decision on Plan B by January. Nothing happened. Indeed, Barr executives said they had no discussions with the agency after January. Usually when the agency is actively considering an application, there is a constant back-and-forth with the company.

As the months passed, two Democratic senators who support abortion rights, Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Patty Murray of Washington, vowed to block any vote on President Bush's nomination of Dr. Crawford to become agency commissioner unless the F.D.A. made a decision on the pill, for or against. Mr. Bush has long been aligned with abortion opponents.

The senators relented in July after the secretary of health and human services, Michael O. Leavitt, promised that a decision would be made by Sept. 1. On Friday, both senators attributed Dr. Crawford's latest announcement to political interference.

Dr. Robert Fenichel, a former deputy division director for cardiovascular and renal drugs who left the F.D.A. in 2000, agreed, saying the agency's decisions on Plan B were being driven by abortion politics.

"I've never seen anything like this before," Dr. Fenichel said.

That the Plan B fight is politically charged is nothing new, of course. During Dr. Crawford's confirmation hearings, Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah and a supporter of Dr. Crawford, called it not "a pharmaceutical issue as much as it's a social issue."

Nor is it new that politics would play an important role in the decisions of the F.D.A. or any other politically appointed regulatory agency. Elliott Millenson, former president and chief executive of Direct Access Diagnostics, a company that sought to sell an at-home test for H.I.V. infection in the 1980's and 90's, recalled that when gay rights groups opposed the test, the agency initially refused even to accept the company's application. "The commissioner's office explicitly told us in 1992 that if we wanted approval we would need to get political support for our product," Mr. Millenson said.

He sued the agency and won. The agency eventually approved the test, although for business reasons the company never sold any.

"On sensitive issues, politics are business as usual at the F.D.A.," Mr. Millenson said.

The agency approved Plan B as a prescription contraceptive in July 1999. The pill provides a concentrated dose of the medicines available in most daily birth control pills; it can prevent pregnancy if taken as long as 72 hours after intercourse. Many abortion opponents view it as tantamount to abortion.

The F.D.A.'s announcement on Friday led to open bickering between abortion rights advocates and Barr executives. Publicly, the two sides have been supportive of each other for nearly two years, but privately, they have long disagreed on strategy.

In May 2004, the food and drug agency rejected Barr's application to sell its drug over the counter, saying the company had failed to provide enough information about how well girls younger than 16 understood the drug's label and whether they might engage in riskier sex if the drug was easily available.

At that point, Barr had two choices. It could have undertaken another "label-comprehension" study with scores of young teenagers and then resubmitted an almost identical application. Or it could have used the data that it had on hand and reapplied to sell the drug as an over-the-counter pill only to women 16 years of age and older. Younger girls would have to get a prescription. On Friday, the agency changed the age to 17.

Kirsten Moore, president of the Reproductive Health Technologies Project, an abortion rights advocacy group here, said she and fellow advocates suggested that Barr do another label study. Barr decided to reapply with existing data. No one knows whether the advocates' strategy would have worked, but Barr's has not, at least so far.

Ms. Moore said label-comprehension studies were relatively easy, cheap and quick to perform. Most are done in malls, where researchers set up a table and ask passers-by to read a drug label and answer a few questions.

Bruce Downey, Barr's chairman and chief executive, said he did not regret the company's actions. And Dr. Carol Ben-Maimon, chief of Barr's proprietary research, said F.D.A. officials never told the company exactly what questions a new study should answer.

In addition to label comprehension, the agency voiced concerns about Plan B's effects on sexual promiscuity and sexually transmitted diseases, Dr. Ben-Maimon said. To answer those questions, a quick study at a mall would not suffice, she said.

Dr. Crawford said Friday that the F.D.A. would seek public comments over the next 60 days on whether it had the authority to approve Barr's application and whether it could enforce any regulation that would stop girls younger than 17 from buying the pill freely.

Ms. Moore said she and other abortion-rights advocates wanted Barr to withdraw its present application, perform a label-comprehension study and then apply to sell the drug over-the-counter to women of all ages. Rejecting the application again if it contained clear data showing that young teenagers understood how to use the drug would be more difficult for the agency to justify with scientific or regulatory rationales, she said.

"It's time to call F.D.A.'s bluff," Ms. Moore added.

Mr. Downey, of Barr, said the company was considering a new label-comprehension trial and added that it would provide comments to the F.D.A. during the next 60 days.

Whether the agency will listen to those comments is unclear.

"We volunteered repeatedly to put proposals forth to the F.D.A.," Dr. Ben-Maimon said. "They didn't really seek out our opinions or thoughts on how we could implement them."

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Justice Weighs Desire v. Duty (Duty Prevails) - New York Times

Justice Weighs Desire v. Duty (Duty Prevails) - New York TimesAugust 25, 2005
Justice Weighs Desire v. Duty (Duty Prevails)

WASHINGTON, Aug. 24 - It is not every day that a Supreme Court justice calls his own decisions unwise. But with unusual candor, Justice John Paul Stevens did that last week in a speech in which he explored the gap that sometimes lies between a judge's desire and duty.

Addressing a bar association meeting in Las Vegas, Justice Stevens dissected several of the recent term's decisions, including his own majority opinions in two of the term's most prominent cases. The outcomes were "unwise," he said, but "in each I was convinced that the law compelled a result that I would have opposed if I were a legislator."

In one, the eminent domain case that became the term's most controversial decision, he said that his majority opinion that upheld the government's "taking" of private homes for a commercial development in New London, Conn., brought about a result "entirely divorced from my judgment concerning the wisdom of the program" that was under constitutional attack.

His own view, Justice Stevens told the Clark County Bar Association, was that "the free play of market forces is more likely to produce acceptable results in the long run than the best-intentioned plans of public officials." But he said that the planned development fit the definition of "public use" that, in his view, the Constitution permitted for the exercise of eminent domain.

Justice Stevens said he also regretted having to rule in favor of the federal government's ability to enforce its narcotics laws and thus trump California's medical marijuana initiative. "I have no hesitation in telling you that I agree with the policy choice made by the millions of California voters," he said. But given the broader stakes for the power of Congress to regulate commerce, he added, "our duty to uphold the application of the federal statute was pellucidly clear."

The court's press office made the text of his speech available here.

While the substance of his remarks was interesting, so was the timing. The 85-year-old Justice Stevens, who will observe his 30th anniversary on the court this fall, is a savvy observer of the political landscape. It certainly did not escape his notice that Supreme Court confirmation hearings were looming and that a microscopic examination of the views of the nominee, Judge John G. Roberts Jr., was under way.

Perhaps Justice Stevens intended a gentle reminder that no matter what views Judge Roberts held as a young lawyer in the Reagan White House, the real question was one that only the nominee could answer: not what views he holds today, but the impact he would permit those views to have on his work as a Supreme Court justice.

While Justice Stevens is the only member of the court to have addressed the issue in a speech, others have used their written opinions to acknowledge the conflict between a judge's policy preferences and decisions the judge may feel forced to render because of legal precedent or judicial philosophy.

In March, for example, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, whom Judge Roberts would succeed, dissented from the court's opinion that declared unconstitutional the execution of those who commit capital murder before the age of 18.

"Were my office that of a legislator, rather than a judge, then I, too, would be inclined to support legislation setting a minimum age of 18," Justice O'Connor wrote in her dissenting opinion in Roper v. Simmons in the course of explaining why, in her view, the Constitution did not support that outcome.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, in providing a fifth vote for the court's 1989 decision that burning an American flag as a political protest is protected by the First Amendment, noted that the decision "exacts its personal toll." In his concurring opinion in the case, Texas v. Johnson, Justice Kennedy wrote: "The hard fact is that sometimes we must make decisions we do not like. We make them because they are right, right in the sense that the law and the Constitution, as we see them, compel the result. And so great is our commitment to the process that, except in the rare case, we do not pause to express distaste for the result, perhaps for fear of undermining a valued principle that dictates the decision."

For a justice on the speaking circuit, Justice Stevens gives unusually good value. Rather than retreating to the safety of historical anecdotes or constitutional platitudes, as some others do, he often talks about what is actually on his mind. This month, he went to the American Bar Association's annual meeting in his home city, Chicago, and offered some pointed criticism of the death penalty.

Sometimes, of course, justices and other judges express themselves at their peril, as Justice Antonin Scalia learned after criticizing an appeals court decision that barred the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public school classrooms. He was obliged to recuse himself a few months later when the case reached the Supreme Court.

On the other hand, Justice Scalia's more abstract discussion of his jurisprudence, in a book titled "A Matter of Interpretation," has proved a steady seller since its publication in 1997.

Next month, his colleague and occasional debating partner, Justice Stephen G. Breyer, will offer his own very different views of constitutional interpretation in a new book titled "Active Liberty: Interpreting Our Democratic Constitution."

Justice Breyer's book is based on the Tanner Lectures on Human Values, which he delivered last year at Harvard. Justice Scalia's book was based on his lectures in the same series, which he delivered at Princeton in 1995.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

New York Daily News - News & Views Columnists - Stanley Crouch: Simply, the best

New York Daily News - News & Views Columnists - Stanley Crouch: Simply, the bestSimply, the best

Joyce Wein's life & death area model for all of us to follow

Joyce Alexander Wein, wife of jazz impresario George Wein, was laid to rest last week in New York at a very unusual funeral. What one comes to expect at a funeral for someone connected to jazz is a lot self-aggrandizement in which the speakers reveal more about their obsessions than they do about the one considered the dearly departed.

This was so different that it seemed a high point in the culture of our time because the ceremony and the speakers gave vent to their affection for a black woman who was so far outside the stereotypes that burden the educated, the middle class and the sophisticated black people who rise to positions of authority or prominence. They are too often considered inauthentic unless they cannot speak the English language or seem no more sophisticated than a badly cooked pot of chitlins or some low-grade corn bread.

Born in 1928, Joyce Alexander Wein was from the black middle class of Boston. When she married her Jewish husband in 1959, he was the one who rose socially and developed layers of taste and understanding from her, which is so often reversed in the conventional tale of the Jewish guy who marries the black woman and educates her in the finer things of life.

Joyce Alexander had graduated from high school at 15 and from college as a chemistry major four years later. She loved literature, knew much about painting and was not a woman who suffered either the limited expectations or the racism of her time in silence. As is traditional at jazz funerals, there was a level of integration that we see too little of when great souls are lost in the worlds of literature, dance, theater, concert music and film. As one person pointed out, the gathering was integrated in the way that Joyce Wein's personality and intellect were integrated. She was everything that she liked - the joy and variety of jazz, the sweep of literature, the craft of painting, the nuance of cuisine, the discipline common to all people of achievement, the dignity of the species and the great sense of humor that we Americans all know in our very special way.

Jazz has always celebrated the individual at the same time as it ultimately values group cooperation, and it has been on the front line of integration in the most important ways. In the world of jazz, one gets recognition not for one's color or background but for what one can create alone and in combination with others.

Joyce Alexander Wein represented the best of jazz and the best of American womanhood because she never took a backseat to anyone. She sat in the front and brought as many people to the first row as she could whenever she could. That was her greatness, and that was what she stood for, because she believed much more in fairness than in favors. She was a model for our nation.

Originally published on August 21, 2005

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Viewpoints: Japan's approach to history

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Viewpoints: Japan's approach to history Viewpoints: Japan's approach to history
In the week that Korea celebrated independence from Japanese rule, a Japanese teacher and a retired South Korean man gave the BBC News website their perspectives on Japan's relationship with its own history.

Shoichi Minagi teaches English at a school in Japan's rural Okayama prefecture. He thinks Japan needs to confront its difficult past.

Where I live in rural Japan, there were no special events to mark the anniversary of our defeat in World War II.

I don't think Japanese people take the issue of war responsibility very seriously. If anything, we try to evade the subject. I sometimes ask my schoolchildren about the war but they never want to discuss it. Most ordinary Japanese have hardly any idea what they are criticised for.

Our society doesn't provide much opportunity to think about our past. I grew up in the 1950s in a remote village in a mountainous region, west of Osaka.

The war did not affect our area; life went on as usual, and after defeat nobody really spoke of the war. My mother had a horrible experience during the American air raid in Kobe where she worked as a midwife, but she never refers to the war.

I think Prime Minister Koizumi's official statement about the war and the Japanese war responsibility sounded too formal and ritualistic, even hollow.

The problem is history. Many Japanese people didn't understand when the anti-Japanese protests erupted across China and Korea after those controversial history textbooks [which some accuse of glossing over Japan's war crimes] were published.

The government is fully to blame - school textbooks should be free of government censorship. It's incredibly important to learn good history, to compare the present with the past and learn from it.

But we must also realise that Japan has played a positive role in the world. We were the only Asian nation that stood up to a Western colonial power and defeated it in the Russo-Japanese war. We were the first Asian nation to industrialise.

Nevertheless, the future depends on how Japan and its people understand and cope with their past.

Kim Sae Joong is retired and lives in rural Kangwon-Do, east of Seoul. He says nations that fabricate their history run the risk of losing their history.

I live in a farming area about 100 miles from Seoul. Independence celebrations were very muted here. But I have strong feelings about the Japanese occupation of Korea. It feels a bit like our nation was robbed at gunpoint.

I was three years old when Korea was liberated. But I remember the difficult stories my parents told me about that time. Some of our neighbours were persecuted because the Japanese requisitioned private property and land. Many people we knew lost their land and some lived in starving conditions.

North and South Korea celebrated independence together for the first time. But this seemed to me simply a political gesture. At least some people from the North got a chance to see how their brothers and sisters in the South live. Maybe they will return and tell others.

They have been educated with a different history - the history they are taught is not the history we are taught.

History is a problem for Japan too. The history textbook controversies are unfortunate because the Japanese will lose their true past if they continue to fabricate it. They are trying to erase events out of a sense of patriotism. But patriotism to me is about understanding your past.

Many Japanese prime ministers have made apologies, even the Japanese emperor. But these politicians still visit the Yasukuni shrine, which honours war criminals. How could they pay respect to those people? Apologies make no difference when they continue to act like that.

We don't want to take revenge on those who persecuted us but every country needs to acknowledge its history.

Life is different for Koreans now. We are an affluent people these days, there is no starvation. Many Japanese visit Korea and enjoy our culture. I'm optimistic that if politicians do not manoeuvre people by visiting shrines, international resentment will fade.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Business Centre - network

Business Centre - networkChina differs from Japan in '80s: politics combines with potential for growth

Rachel Beck, Ap Business Writer
Canadian Press

Saturday, August 20, 2005

NEW YORK (AP) - It sounds like history repeating itself: The United States faces a huge trade deficit with an Asian country, which is also under intense scrutiny for its interest in buying U.S. assets and having a currency many deem undervalued.

Today, that best describes how China is viewed. Two decades ago, Japan came under similar attack for its growing global presence, and that spurred all sorts of protectionist talk out of Washington.

The Japanese hysteria eventually died down as the country fell into a long recession. But don't look for that to happen with China, where its politics combined with its potential for growth may make it a far tougher force to reckon with going forward.

China has drawn the ire of many countries because of the vast amount of T-shirts, toys and everything else that it is exporting at lower prices than many local markets' products.

The United States' trade deficit with China hit $162 billion last year, making it the largest imbalance ever recorded with a single country. This year's deficit is already running 32 per cent above last year's pace, and political pressure is heating up to put tighter restrictions on imports from China.

American lawmakers have blamed some of this on China's undervalued currency. They threatened to impose punitive tariffs on China if it didn't switch to a more flexible currency system rather than have the yuan trade at a fixed exchange rate that was pegged to the U.S. dollar - which has kept its export prices low.

In July, China announced it would gradually let the yuan rise in value against a basket of currencies, although some critics say that its move isn't enough.

And Chinese companies have come up against great resistance when expressing interest to acquire U.S. assets. Their bids this summer for American oil and gas company Unocal Corp. and appliance maker Maytag Corp. didn't ultimately result in any deals, but such interest was seen as a sign of greater Chinese ambition in the global marketplace.

All this China-bashing is reminiscent of the talk directed at Japan in the 1980s, when fuel-efficient Japanese cars were gaining popularity with U.S. consumers while the Japanese were buying up American companies as well as trophy U.S. real estate.

Back then, the U.S. trade deficit with Japan was ballooning, and there were many claims that Japan was keeping its currency artificially low to boost its exports. To fix that, U.S. politicians demanded that Japan either strengthen the yen, or face trade sanctions.

"What is being said about China sounds like the same speeches and arguments that were heard about Japan. Back then, we had senators protesting on the steps of the Capitol" about foreign-made goods, said Milton Ezrati, a senior economic strategist at the money management firm Lord Abbett.

But while China today looks a lot like yesterday's Japan - before its asset bubble burst and it headed into a prolonged economic slump - Morgan Stanley global economist Stephen Roach sees big differences. "In terms of the scale of their economies and financial markets, China and Japan are like day and night," he said in a recent note to clients.

Among the distinctions: Japan's equity-market capitalization amounted to 41 per cent of the world's total market capitalization in 1989; by contrast, China's equity markets currently account for only 0.5 per cent of the value of global equity markets.

He also notes that China has a much more outward-looking growth and development model than Japan. In 2004, exports and imports combined equalled 74 per cent of Chinese GDP, more than three times Japan's 23 per cent share.

That is why Chinese currency reforms take on much greater importance, Roach said, pointing out that the Chinese might have learned from the Japanese to resist U.S.-led political pressure for currency revaluation. Japan ran into trouble in the late 1980s, in part by abdicating control over the yen and letting the dollar-yen conversion soar from 259 in 1985 to 121 by the end of 1987. Many blame that for setting the stage for an asset bubble that eventually collapsed in Japan.

"The last thing China wants is to go down that road - placating U.S. politicians on the currency front while, at the same time, sowing the seeds of an increasingly dangerous liquidity bubble of its own," Roach said.

There are also significant political differences between the two. While the Chinese have been more open to foreign investment than Japan, there are some concerns that the communist political structure means that the Chinese won't embrace all kinds of foreign involvement such as an American company buying a big Chinese company.

In addition, Standard & Poor's chief economist David Wyss points out that China's huge population - which he estimates is 10 times as large as Japan's - means that China has the capability of taking over world production of just about everything.

So talking about China today as though it were Japan 20 years ago might not accurately size up the situation of this fast-growing empire. China's might just be beginning to build its power as an economic force.

To the dismay of many Americans, that will likely mean a bigger, bolder China to contend with for many years to come.

Friday, August 19, 2005

What They Did Last Fall - New York Times

What They Did Last Fall - New York TimesAugust 19, 2005
What They Did Last Fall

By running for the U.S. Senate, Katherine Harris, Florida's former secretary of state, has stirred up some ugly memories. And that's a good thing, because those memories remain relevant. There was at least as much electoral malfeasance in 2004 as there was in 2000, even if it didn't change the outcome. And the next election may be worse.

In his recent book "Steal This Vote" - a very judicious work, despite its title - Andrew Gumbel, a U.S. correspondent for the British newspaper The Independent, provides the best overview I've seen of the 2000 Florida vote. And he documents the simple truth: "Al Gore won the 2000 presidential election."

Two different news media consortiums reviewed Florida's ballots; both found that a full manual recount would have given the election to Mr. Gore. This was true despite a host of efforts by state and local officials to suppress likely Gore votes, most notably Ms. Harris's "felon purge," which disenfranchised large numbers of valid voters.

But few Americans have heard these facts. Perhaps journalists have felt that it would be divisive to cast doubt on the Bush administration's legitimacy. If so, their tender concern for the nation's feelings has gone for naught: Cindy Sheehan's supporters are camped in Crawford, and America is more bitterly divided than ever.

Meanwhile, the whitewash of what happened in Florida in 2000 showed that election-tampering carries no penalty, and political operatives have acted accordingly. For example, in 2002 the Republican Party in New Hampshire hired a company to jam Democratic and union phone banks on Election Day.

And what about 2004?

Mr. Gumbel throws cold water on those who take the discrepancy between the exit polls and the final result as evidence of a stolen election. (I told you it's a judicious book.) He also seems, on first reading, to play down what happened in Ohio. But the theme of his book is that America has a long, bipartisan history of dirty elections.

He told me that he wasn't brushing off the serious problems in Ohio, but that "this is what American democracy typically looks like, especially in a presidential election in a battleground state that is controlled substantially by one party."

So what does U.S. democracy look like? There have been two Democratic reports on Ohio in 2004, one commissioned by Representative John Conyers Jr., the other by the Democratic National Committee.

The D.N.C. report is very cautious: "The purpose of this investigation," it declares, "was not to challenge or question the results of the election in any way." It says there is no evidence that votes were transferred away from John Kerry - but it does suggest that many potential Kerry votes were suppressed. Although the Conyers report is less cautious, it stops far short of claiming that the wrong candidate got Ohio's electoral votes.

But both reports show that votes were suppressed by long lines at polling places - lines caused by inadequate numbers of voting machines - and that these lines occurred disproportionately in areas likely to vote Democratic. Both reports also point to problems involving voters who were improperly forced to cast provisional votes, many of which were discarded.

The Conyers report goes further, highlighting the blatant partisanship of election officials. In particular, the behavior of Ohio's secretary of state, Kenneth Blackwell - who supervised the election while serving as co-chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign in Ohio - makes Ms. Harris's actions in 2000 seem mild by comparison.

And then there are the election night stories. Warren County locked down its administration building and barred public observers from the vote-counting, citing an F.B.I. warning of a terrorist threat. But the F.B.I. later denied issuing any such warning. Miami County reported that voter turnout was an improbable 98.55 percent of registered voters. And so on.

We aren't going to rerun the last three elections. But what about the future?

Our current political leaders would suffer greatly if either house of Congress changed hands in 2006, or if the presidency changed hands in 2008. The lids would come off all the simmering scandals, from the selling of the Iraq war to profiteering by politically connected companies. The Republicans will be strongly tempted to make sure that they win those elections by any means necessary. And everything we've seen suggests that they will give in to that temptation.


Thomas L. Friedman is on vacation.

New York Daily News - Ideas & Opinions - Stanley Crouch: To push Sudan forward, U.S. biz must pull back

New York Daily News - Ideas & Opinions - Stanley Crouch: To push Sudan forward, U.S. biz must pull backTo push Sudan forward,
U.S. biz must pull back

There is now a divestment movement focused on the genocidal actions of Arabs toward the black Africans in Sudan. This is new and important. It is growing and will sooner or later reach the point of having international impact.

This is important because the various tragedies that fall or are imposed on Africans by black leadership or Arabs usually go by unnoticed unless they get to the size of Rwanda and the rotting bodies of men, women and children fill the streets or lay as carrion in the killing fields of the bush. This is not because of a lack of concern over injustice. It is because too many black Americans feel it is their job to see, speak and hear no evil when black Africans or Arabs are involved in unremittingly barbaric and savage acts toward black Africans. Beyond that, there is a sentimental attitude toward Africa that distorts clear and unblinking evaluation. Consequently, unless a white culprit can be found, mum's the word.

The problem of Arab racism underlies Arab participation in the slave trade, just as tribal hostilities and greed underlie black African participation in the same filthy business. Accepting that as no more than another example of the lower inclinations of human nature is the high road to the sort of sober assessment that can promote justice in human terms.

We should not expect the Sudanese dictatorship of Gen. Omar al-Bashir to cease and desist out of a sudden rash of morality. But we can be sure that a shortening of purse strings will bring the bloody regime to attention. Everyone knows how to count, or to find someone who can do the counting. That is why it is not surprising to find the American abolition movement in the middle of this. The organization,, is one we all should know about.

The divestment movement is having very strong results. Stanford University seems about to pull the plug on investments, the State of Illinois has passed a law banning investments, and the State of New Jersey has backed out of more than a billion dollars in investments.

The situation in Sudan and the organized movement advocating divestiture is one of the most important things happening in our time. This is true because it sets aside sentimentality in favor of morality, disdains ethnic exclusion and speaks purely in the interest of humanity.

One of Colin Powell's greatest concerns during his last days as secretary of state was to bring the genocide in Sudan to a halt and begin thenecessary negotiations that would protect the lives of the innocent people. The good work to aid Sudan continues. And this is something we see too rarely in our time of opportunism, self-righteousness and crude materialism.

Originally published on August 18, 2005's Race Relations Guide explores both sides of the ongoing debate about use of Native American symbols, figures and slogans in sports - Print's Race Relations Guide explores both sides of the ongoing debate about use of Native American symbols, figures and slogans in sports - Printer FriendlyDo We Honor When We Use Native American Indian Images and Mascots?

From Susan Pizarro-Eckert,Your Guide to Race Relations.
Are Native Mascots Right or Wrong?
Starting in February, 2006, the NCAA will prohibit sports teams from using Native American "Indian" nicknames and logos on team uniforms and via team mascots in postseason events. Beginning in 2008, it will also prohibit cheerleaders and band members from using Native American images, nicknames and logos as well. As it now stands, at least 18 schools are affected by this policy change.

Incorporating Native American images, logos, mascots and rituals into team sports is a long standing tradition in the U.S., and recent policy shifts have polarized the American response - with some welcoming the change and others vehemently opposing it.

Take, for example, the case of Florida State University: their Mascot, "Chief Osceola," will no longer be allowed to perform at games - a tradition that's been in place since 1978.

While the NCAA has deemed such representation of Native culture "hostile and offensive," Governor Jeb Bush feels this stance is "ridiculous" and that such representation instead honors Native culture.

Let's take a closer look at the issues on both sides.
To Honor...
Those who support continued use of Native American Indian mascots, logos and images argue:

* Such use furthers our appreciation of Native American culture.

* It's a long standing tradition that should be respected, besides it's only a game.

* Native American names tend to be used in a positive manner and as a compliment.

* Having Native American Indian names for teams is the same as having teams like "The Fighting Irish" or "The Vikings."

* Some Native Americans don't feel offended. In fact, the Seminole Tribe of Florida has formally signed on and supports use of the mascot by FSU.

Are Native Mascots Right or Wrong?
To Offend...
Those who lobby against use of Native American Indian mascots, logos and images argue:

* In response to claims that some Native American Indians, such as the Seminole tribe in Florida, support use of mascots, the following is pointed out:

o About 75 percent of the Seminole population lives in Oklahoma, not Florida.

o There are actually three Seminole tribes in Florida, and only one tribal government - the one which uses the name "Seminole Tribe of Florida" - has formally supported use of the "Chief Osceola" mascot.

o Curiously, just prior to getting the Seminole tribal endorsement (which occured in 2005), Florida State announced the establishment of scholarships covering 80% of tuition costs for "Seminole Scholars" recruited from reservations (along with a number of other incentives).

* An Indian Country Today survey showed that a full 81% of respondents felt use of Native American Indian names, symbols and mascots are "predominantly offensive and deeply disparaging."

* The subtext - the messages underlying the manner in which these images are portrayed - are clearly negative. Even young people get the message. For example, take this comment by an eighth Grade student writing about his school's mascot in 1997: "We simply chose an Indian as the emblem. We could have just as easily chosen any uncivilized animal."

* The American Counseling Association deems such use of Native American images and symbols to "create a hostile environment for their [Native Americans] development and dignity."

* Headlines often render derogatory images: "Redmen on the Warpath;" "Redmen Scalp Braves;" The Braves "hung the Redmen."

* Hank Aaron - a baseball legend - points out the inequity of the situation: "Would we think of calling teams names such as the "Chicago Caucasians," the "Buffalo Blacks," or the "San Diego Jews?" Could you imagine people mocking African Americans in black face at a game? Yet go to a game where there is a team with an Indian name and you will see fans with war paint on their faces. Is this not the equivalent to black face? Although the thought of changing tradition is often painful, the sting of racism is always painful to its victims."

* In 1950, The Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes (including Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cherokee, Muscogee (Creek), And Seminole Nations), announced:

o "...the use of derogatory American Indian images such as mascots by public schools perpetuate a stereotypical image of American Indians that is likely to have a negative impact on the self-esteem of American Indian children."

o Such use "contributes to a hostile learning environment that affirms the negative images and stereotypes that persist in America about American Indians."

o "American Indians as mascots is a negative means of appropriating and denigrating our cultural identity that involves the display and depiction of ceremonial symbols and practices that may have religious significance to American Indians."

o Their perception that such use "would be considered intolerable were other ethnic groups or minorities depicted in a similar manner."

o On April 13, 2001, the United States Commission on Civil Rights issued a Statement on the Use of Native American Images and Nicknames as Sports Symbols that:

+ Called for an end to the use of American Indian images and team names by non-Indian schools.

+ That stereotyping of any racial, ethnic, religious or other groups when promoted by public education institutions, teach all students that stereotyping of minority groups is acceptable, a dangerous lesson in a diverse society.

+ That schools have a responsibility to educate their students.

+ They [schools] should not use influence to perpetuate misrepresentations of any culture or people.

Where it stands...
Since an overwhelming majority - 81% - of this particular ethnic group admits they are offended by these practice, it is my opinion that it is incumbent upon the American people to reflect on their behaviors and to truly assess for themselves whether or not the damage cause by these practices doesn't outweigh the benefits of maintaining the status quo. It is a curious thing when a dominant oppressor tells a group with less social power, a group it has conquered and almost obliterated, that they have no right to feel offended, violated or insulted by its trivial use of their religious and cultural practices. Perhaps, in this case, it is this very perspective - the basic role of social power - that we, the majority of Americans, are sorely lacking.

As it stands, FSU has an opportunity to appeal the NCAA decision, so long as they do so by February 1st.

Given that this ongoing debate is decades old, it remains to be seen just how much and how fast change will come.

Tony Blair's Antiterrorism Package - New York Times

Tony Blair's Antiterrorism Package - New York TimesAugust 19, 2005
Tony Blair's Antiterrorism Package

Terrorism typically prompts democratic societies to sacrifice some liberty in the name of more security, and Britain, after the deadly July 7 subway and bus bombings in London, has been no exception.

The problems come when hastily considered security measures damage essential democratic rights or consign whole communities - the law-abiding along with the dangerous - to second-class citizenship. That kind of broad-brush profiling is not only unjust but also unwise, because it tends to dry up the cooperation from community leaders that is essential to isolating the terrorist fringe.

Britain's latest package of antiterrorism measures is still being refined. But the basic thrust of the new approach was announced by Prime Minister Tony Blair earlier this month. Some of the contemplated steps seem sensible and appropriate, like developing sterner rules to exclude foreign supporters of terrorism from entering Britain.

Others, however, are seriously troubling, like Mr. Blair's plan to criminalize not just direct incitement to terrorism in Britain but anything the government may categorize as "condoning," "glorifying" or "justifying" terrorism anywhere in the world. Words like that are far too vague, elastic and subject to diplomatic selectivity. Similarly troubling is the government's plan to expand its list of deportable offenses to include the expression of "what the government considers to be extreme views." And the idea of making naturalized, but not native-born, British citizens deportable for "extremism" is inherently divisive and should not be pursued.

Considering the costly damage the Bush administration has done to America's reputation and liberties through its abuse of similar authority, Mr. Blair should have known better than to open himself up to a repeat of the same mistakes. Of course, he expects the British people and Parliament, which will be called on to approve most of these changes, to trust his government to use such new powers carefully and wisely. But that is never a responsible basis for enacting laws that could be around longer than today's government officials.

Besides, pleas for trust are sounding rather hollow just now in light of this week's shocking disclosures about the circumstances under which the police shot an innocent man to death on a London subway train in July. It now appears that the most crucial elements of the explanation the authorities told the public about this incident are wrong. The man was not, it turns out, knowingly running from the police. He was not wearing a heavy padded jacket that might have hidden a bomb. And he did not jump the turnstile. Further, it now appears that the authorities knew the truth even as they continued giving out false and misleading information.

A full disclosure of what really happened and why, followed by full accountability for those responsible, would help clear the air for serious parliamentary consideration of new antiterrorism laws.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Gaza Reality Check - New York Times

Gaza Reality Check - New York TimesAugust 18, 2005
Gaza Reality Check

Ever since Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced plans to remove nearly 9,000 Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip, the withdrawal has been certain to be an emotional scene. Images beaming from the desert this week are bearing that out. As Israel moved to leave land it has held for 38 years, soldiers carried crying and screaming residents out of their homes. Some Gaza settlers pinned orange stars to their chests in a reference to the Holocaust. One West Bank settler grabbed a security guard's gun and opened fire, killing several Palestinians - an act that Prime Minister Sharon rightly denounced as "Jewish terror."

Without denying the genuine grief of many of the protesters, it's perhaps helpful to do a historical reality check. Gaza, a 25-mile-long, 6-mile-wide strip of land, was part of Mandatory Palestine, which was ruled by the British after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. It was never part of the Zionist state intended by the United Nations partition plan that led to the establishment of Israel in 1948. At that point, five Arab nations immediately attacked the new nation, but Gaza wasn't even part of the territory Israel got in signing truces in 1949. It became the home of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fleeing Israel, and Israel's armistice with Egypt in 1949 put it under Egyptian rule.

In the 1967 Israeli-Arab war, Israel captured Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, along with the West Bank (from Jordan) and the Golan Heights (from Syria). Israel returned the Sinai to Egypt after making peace, but kept control of Gaza. A second agreement called for negotiating eventual Palestinian autonomy there.

Gaza represents the worst side of Israel's settlement movement. The densely populated strip is home to 1.3 million Palestinians - most of them refugees, or offspring of refugees. Each square mile of Palestinian land holds, on average, about 14,000 people. Until this week, the Jewish settlers occupied 33 percent of the land.

Because of an army blockade of Gaza that started during the Palestinian intifada in 2000, the Palestinians who live there have generally been unable to cross into Israel for work. Israeli military checkpoints, set up in response to terrorist attacks from militant groups, also hamper the movement of Palestinians within Gaza. Unemployment among Palestinians is estimated at 45 percent, and most Gaza families live on less than $2 a day.

One Israeli official, trying to explain the reluctance of Israel to withdraw from Gaza, recently maintained that Israeli leaders had never intended to keep Gaza, but had simply sought to use the territory as a negotiating chip. "The problem," he said, "is that Israel fell in love with its chips." So Israeli leaders allowed Jewish settlers to take over the best parts of the captured land.

It cannot be easy to be escorted out of one's home by soldiers. And there is plenty of reason to worry about how the new Gaza will be governed. But it's past time - 38 years past, to be exact - to give the Palestinians there a chance at a better life.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Underprivileged Press - New York Times

The Underprivileged Press - New York TimesThe Underprivileged Press

Published: August 16, 2005


LIKE many Americans, I am perplexed by the federal investigation into the alleged leak of classified information that exposed Valerie Plame Wilson, the wife of Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former ambassador, as a Central Intelligence Agency officer. So far the special prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, has achieved one notable result: putting a New York Times reporter, Judith Miller, in jail for refusing to break her promise of confidentiality to her sources in response to a grand jury subpoena. The incarceration of Ms. Miller is all the more baffling because she has never written a word about the C.I.A. flap.

If state rather than federal authorities were conducting this investigation, Ms. Miller most likely would not be in jail. Today 49 states and the District of Columbia recognize a "reporter's privilege," either by statute or through state judicial decisions, which allows journalists to report information and protect confidential sources without fear of imprisonment.

Unfortunately, at the federal level the legal landscape is much less clear. In 1972, the Supreme Court held that reporters do not have an absolute privilege to protect their sources from prosecutors. And various federal appeals courts have developed inconsistent standards on how and when such a privilege may apply.

Congress can help rectify this situation by passing a bill introduced by Senator Richard G. Lugar and Representative Mike Pence, both Indiana Republicans, that sets clear standards the federal government must meet before it issues a subpoena to a reporter in a criminal or civil case. For example, in a criminal investigation, a reporter would be required to turn over confidential information only if a court determined that there are reasonable grounds to believe a crime has been committed, that the requested information is essential to the investigation and that it could not be obtained from nonmedia sources. This is hardly a free pass for journalists; importantly, the bill specifically authorizes the forced disclosure of a source's identity if doing so is necessary to prevent imminent and actual harm to national security.

As someone with a long record of government service, I must admit that I did not always appreciate the inquisitive nature of the press. But I do understand that the purpose of a reporter's privilege is not to somehow elevate journalists above other segments of society. Instead, it is designed to help guarantee that the public continues to be well informed.

Of course, some critics will contend that protecting the news media along the lines of the Lugar-Pence bill would make it harder to prosecute crimes because of the potential loss of relevant evidence. But this argument ignores the dozens of whistle-blowers who would not share information about government wrongdoing with the press unless they felt reporters could protect their identities. This is why the attorneys general of 34 states filed an amicus brief in May asking the Supreme Court to recognize a federal reporter's privilege.

I am also greatly concerned about Judith Miller's situation because she has been incarcerated as a result of an investigation into possible violations of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, of which I was a sponsor. The law was intended to protect covert intelligence operatives whose lives would be endangered if their identities were publicly disclosed. We were particularly concerned about people like the notorious Philip Agee, a former C.I.A. officer who systematically exposed the agency's covert operatives.

Thus the act was drafted in very narrow terms: our goal was to criminalize only those disclosures that clearly represented a conscious and pernicious effort to identify and expose agents with the intent to impair America's foreign intelligence activities. Not surprisingly, there has been only one prosecution under the act since it was passed.

With the facts known publicly today regarding the Plame case, it is difficult to see how a violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act could have occurred. For example, one of the requirements is that the federal government must be taking "affirmative measures" to conceal the agent's intelligence relationship with the United States. Yet we now know that Ms. Wilson held a desk job at C.I.A. headquarters and could be seen traveling to and from work. The journalist Robert D. Novak, whose July 14, 2003, column mentioned Ms. Wilson, using her maiden name, and set off the investigation, has written that C.I.A. officials confirmed to him over the telephone that she was an employee before he wrote his column.

I, of course, do not know what evidence Mr. Fitzgerald has presented to the grand jury, nor will I hazard a guess as to the final outcome of his investigation. But the imprisonment of Judith Miller will be even more troubling if it turns out that no violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act has occurred. As she sits in jail, Congress can honor her commitment to principle and her courage, and that of all reporters who have helped expose wrongdoing by protecting their sources, by passing the Lugar-Pence bill and creating a federal privilege for reporters.

Bob Dole, the Republican candidate for president in 1996, was a senator from 1969 to 1996.

Monday, August 15, 2005

New York Daily News - News & Views Columnists - Stanley Crouch: The birth of the hustle

New York Daily News - News & Views Columnists - Stanley Crouch: The birth of the hustleThe birth of the hustle

Forty years ago this month, the black community of Los Angeles, which was nationally called Watts, blew up and a riot spread over 40 square miles. It was especially hot in 1965, and the Los Angeles Police Department had done its best to earn the hatred of its nonwhite communities.

So when word went out - incorrectly - that there had been an attempted arrest and that the cops had gone so far as to beat the black man, his wife and his mother, the community began to unhinge. Bottles and bricks were thrown at cars carrying whites. The police chief, the legendary William Parker, said on TV that the people in Watts were "acting like monkeys in a zoo." Hmm.

Maybe that triggered the overflow of violence. Perhaps not, because the people who moved through the community encouraging a riot were not residents. No one knew who they were then, and no one knows who they were now. As the riot reached its highest flame, there were Negro thugs who thought that they were going to move on up north and take the capital of California! Delusions ran as deep as the bitterness of the poor, which led to white-owned businesses being burned out. When things got completely wound up, all businesses were looted and burned and that was that.

Thirty-four people were killed. National Guardsmen rode through the community in Jeeps mounted with .50-caliber machine guns. An army of rioters was arrested, and explanations began that helped establish the race hustle that has maintained itself these last four decades.

What we saw in the rise of the race hustler was the one who speaks for "the people" and always has a program intended to reestablish in the souls of black folks all of the things that were lost during the travail of slavery and in the humiliations of segregation and racism. These hustlers, some in African robes, others in combat fatigues, still others in suits, had mouths full of theories about what would definitely uplift the Negro. True to what has become a sustained form, they provided very little of substance, but they had an ever ready sense of how vulnerable the white and the black people were to the race con, which became a bigger commodity over the years than rap.

One of the most repulsive examples of the fact that race hustling has become a nationwide phenomenon since 1965 was shown in the Tawana Brawley case.

Doubtless in these decades there have been many people willing and able to work on difficult things that take time, such as education. But little was really done that helped the community of Los Angeles, which cannot be said to be better off now than it was 40 years ago.

It is now overrun by murderous street gangs; 40% of the murders in the city take place among black people; more than half of the adults are unemployed, and too many black high school seniors read and do math on an eighth-grade level. Beyond that, many of the businesses that were burned down in 1965 have not been replaced. Empty lots meet the eye.

For many, optimism may have burned to the ground as well, but it seems that what we need now is to stockpile all of the information drawn from every successful program in public education, employment, and community development so that an actual model for the future can be imagined that will not end up in a dark room with all of the candles blown out by hot air.

Originally published on August 14, 2005

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Two Steps Toward a Sensible Immigration Policy - New York Times

Two Steps Toward a Sensible Immigration Policy - New York TimesAugust 14, 2005
Two Steps Toward a Sensible Immigration Policy

San Antonio

What do you say to the working-class guy from the south side of San Antonio? He feels his wages are stagnating because he has to compete against illegal immigrants. He watches thousands of people streaming across the border, bankrupting his schools and health care system, while he plays by the rules.

He's no racist. Many of his favorite neighbors are kind, neat and hard-working Latinos. But his neighborhood now has homes with five cars rotting in the front yard and 12 single men living in one house. Now there are loud parties until 2 a.m. and gang graffiti on the walls. He read in the local paper last week that Anglos are now a minority in Texas and wonders if anybody is in charge of this social experiment.

What do you tell him about the immigration system?

Here's what you tell him: You're right. The system is out of control. But we can't just act like lunkheads and think we can solve this problem with brute force. Tough enforcement laws make us feel good but they don't do the job. Since 1986, we've tripled the number of Border Patrol agents and increased the enforcement budget 10 times over, but we haven't made a dent in the number of illegals who make it here. We've got agents chasing busboys while who knows what kind of terrorists are trying to sneak into this country.

The problem is that we make it nearly impossible for the immigrants to come here legally. We issue about 5,000 visas for unskilled year-round labor annually, but the economy requires hundreds of thousands of new workers to clean hotel rooms and process food. We need these workers but we force them underground with our self-delusional immigration policies. As Tamar Jacoby of the Manhattan Institute says, "It's very hard to enforce unrealistic rules."

So it doesn't matter how many beer-swilling good old boys appoint themselves citizen border guards, we're not going to get this situation under control until we understand this paradox: The more we simply crack down, the more disorder we get. The only way to re-establish order is to open up legal, controllable channels through which labor can flow in an aboveground, orderly way. We can't build a wall to stop this flood; we need sluice gates to regulate the flow.

Smart people understand this, and there has been an important change in the immigration debate. Among practical people, it's no longer pro-immigrant folks against anti-immigrant folks. It's no longer law-and-order hawks versus amnesty doves. Practical people understand the only way to establish law and order is to create a temporary-worker program and step up enforcement to make sure people use it.

In the Senate there are two bills, which if combined would get us a long way toward a solution. The McCain-Kennedy bill has an effective temporary worker program. The Kyl-Cornyn bill has tough border security provisions. As Jacoby notes, the sponsors of both may come to realize the two bills are not rivals. They complement each other.

This reform won't satisfy people who want immigrants to disappear. But most Americans just want to know the system is under control, and this will do it.

That still leaves the transitional problem of what to do with the 11 million illegals who are already here. We can't build an aboveground immigration system if we've still got millions living in a criminal swamp below.

We're not going to deport 11 million people, many of whom own homes and businesses. But normalizing their status is a question of balance. If we treat them too punitively, we'll just push them further underground. On the other hand, they broke the law, and they have to pay. McCain-Kennedy would lure them into the sunlight with the prospect of normalization, but would make them pay all back taxes and a $2,000 fine to become regularized, and they'd have to get in the back of the line. That's a start, but the penalties will probably have to be a bit tougher to be politically palatable.

So here's the bottom line for the guy in San Antonio: Everybody's expecting a big blowup on this issue, but we've got a great chance of enacting serious immigration reform. It won't solve all problems. There will still be wage pressures and late-night parties. But right now immigration chaos is spreading a subculture of criminality across America. What we can do is re-establish law and order, so immigrants can bring their energy to this country without destroying the social fabric while they're here.


Friday, August 12, 2005

New York Daily News - Ideas & Opinions - Stanley Crouch: Road less traveled

New York Daily News - Ideas & Opinions - Stanley Crouch: Road less traveledRoad less traveled

John Johnson broke new ground
with positive portrayals of blacks

When John Johnson, who died Monday at 87, began publishing his highly influential magazines, ethnicity was not the commodity that it is now. The obstacles were many, and it was very hard to sell something of quality if it came from a Negro. It also was not yet as easy to sell black pornography and black bathroom humor.

America was a very different nation.

To truly understand what a big deal it was that this grandson of slaves became a millionaire by building a magazine empire, we need to look a little closer at how things were in 1942. That's when Johnson published his first magazine, Negro Digest.

There were no movie stars of the sort we now have, there had been no Academy Awards for parts beyond maids, the armed forces were segregated and so was baseball. So were the states below the Mason-Dixon line. One would have been run out of the world for predicting that a Negro woman with blue eyes and blond hair would become Miss America, then have her crown taken away after nude pictures from her past were published in a pornographic magazine.

Skeptical looks would meet the prediction that the descendant of West Indian immigrants would one day be the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The laughter would have burst one's eardrums if he said that black men like Dick Parsons and Ken Chenault would sit as economic generals at the top of two of America's most powerful corporations.

John Johnson had a particular dream, which he pushed most strongly in Ebony, his black version of Life magazine. Johnson was at war with the stereotypes that racists used to justify the biases that dominated black and white relations.

Johnson's philosophy was simple. He said that his intention was to "show not only the Negroes but also white people that Negroes got married, had beauty contests, gave parties, ran successful businesses and did all the other normal things of life."

Johnson was able to get famous black people to write articles, like the one Louis Armstrong did in the early '50s, explaining "why I like dark-skinned women."

But Johnson, while always a supporter of civil rights, also knew how to shrewdly adjust to the "black is beautiful" times and Negro Digest, which was modeled on Reader's Digest, was renamed Black World before it went out of business and, to address the publishing convention of black always being lowercase, his publications always capitalized both black and white when they were meant to identify ethnicity. That policy continues today.

John Johnson was a businessman, but he also was what was once called "a race man." He was only interested in the ethnic market, and could not be tempted into competing with other magazines.

In terms of the long march that Negroes endured from poverty and exclusion to a healthy middle class and black men and women in unprecedented positions of influence, Johnson kept his eye on the prize and lifted into view every black man and woman worthy of attention.

In the past few decades, Jet, his weekly, covered anyone who made or spent big money. What began as a noble purpose settled for being in perfect keeping with a society in which the crudest visions of materialism are elevated across the board. In that way, Johnson succumbed to the decadence that is now as much a burden of his community as racism once was. Such is the blues of American life.

Originally published on August 11, 2005

Officials See Risk in the Release of Images of Iraq Prisoner Abuse - New York Times

Officials See Risk in the Release of Images of Iraq Prisoner Abuse - New York TimesAugust 12, 2005
Officials See Risk in the Release of Images of Iraq Prisoner Abuse

Senior Pentagon officials have opposed the release of photographs and videotapes of the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, arguing that they would incite public opinion in the Muslim world and put the lives of American soldiers and officials at risk, according to documents unsealed in federal court in New York.

Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a statement put forth to support the Pentagon's case that he believed that "riots, violence and attacks by insurgents will result" if the images were released.

The papers were filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan in an ongoing lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union to obtain under the Freedom of Information Act the release of 87 photos and four videotapes taken at Abu Ghraib. The photos were among those turned over to Army investigators last year by Specialist Joseph M. Darby, a reservist who was posted at Abu Ghraib.

The documents reveal both the high level and the determination of the Pentagon officials engaged in the effort to block disclosure of the images, and their alarm at the prospect that the photos might become public.

In his statement, dated July 21, General Myers said he became aware on June 17 that a release might be imminent. He said he consulted with Gen. John P. Abizaid, head of the United States Central Command, and Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the commander of the American forces in Iraq. Both officers also opposed the release, General Myers said.

His statement makes it clear that he has examined the images and finds them disturbing.

"I condemn in the strongest terms the misconduct and abuse depicted in these images," General Myers said in the statement. "It was illegal, immoral and contrary to American values and character."

Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein authorized the A.C.L.U. yesterday to make public papers it filed on Aug. 3 contesting the Pentagon argument that the images must be withheld because they put individuals at risk. The A.C.L.U. said the government was seeking to withhold the photos only "to avert adverse reaction," undermining the information act.

The A.C.L.U.'s papers drew attention to the Pentagon's filings, which had been unsealed last week.

"The situation on the ground in Iraq is dynamic and dangerous," General Myers said, with 70 insurgent attacks daily. He also said there was evidence that the Taliban, though still weak, was gaining ground because of popular discontent in Afghanistan.

General Myers cited the violence that erupted in some Muslim countries in May after Newsweek published an item, later retracted, saying that a Koran had been thrown in a toilet in the United States detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. He also said the images could fuel terrorist disinformation campaigns.

"It is probable that Al Qaeda and other groups will seize upon these images and videos as grist for their propaganda mill, which will result in, besides violent attacks, increased terrorist recruitment, continued financial support and exacerbation of tensions between Iraqi and Afghani populaces and U.S. and coalition forces," he said.

US rhetoric over China needs tempered with sound judgment - says senior US Senator

US rhetoric over China needs tempered with sound judgment - says senior US SenatorUS rhetoric over China needs tempered with sound judgment - says senior US Senator
Daya Gamage – US Correspondent to Asian Tribune

Washington, D.C. 12 August ( “The United States has an opportunity to shape a cooperative relationship that would allow us to influence China’s overall strategic choices. It would be a colossal mistake if misguided assumptions, rhetoric and actions lead to a dangerous and conflicting relationship. This is not a time to let paranoia chart the course of U.S. policy toward China” is what U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel advises the United States administration and his own colleagues in the Congress.

Chuck Hagel is no spring chicken. A very senior lawmaker, he belongs to the same political party to which President Bush belongs: the Republican Party, which captured both the Senate and the House of Representatives in 1996 after 40 years. The Senator is the number two Republican on the most influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee and chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. He belongs to a handful of Senators who have influential voices in the United States Congress. The Bush White House often gets succumbed to their opinions, reviews and deliberations.

His special review on U.S. policy toward China and the relations of both economic giants to the OP-ED page in the widely read Financial Times of August 10 issue, Senator Hagel warns, “today’s overheated U.S. rhetoric over China needs to be tempered with sound judgment and wise long-term considerations.

He qualifies his above statement saying, “both competition and cooperation will feature in U.S.- China bilateral ties in the 21st century. That does not mean relations are destined to be hostile although they could be if mishandled.”

The senior Senator further adds, “The rise of China is a reality. No amount of Congressional legislation or U.S. bludgeoning will change that. This is a country with a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, the world’s largest population and, by some measure, the world’s second largest economy.”

Chuck Hagel, who is aware of the United States tendency to impose its will on Third World nations without giving much attention to their views says “an important U.S. response to the rise of China is to strengthen alliances and friendships in the (Asian) region, especially with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and to work with its partners to sustain America’s stabilizing role in Asia and the Pacific.”

He gives saner advice to both the Administration and both arms of the U.S. Congress declaring “the U.S. must also make positive steps to maintain its competitive position in the world. It also must get its own house in order. Raising trade barriers or compromising its core free trade values will undermine America’s overall long-term interests.”

Hagel gives reasons for close relations between the two countries: “A U.S.-China partnership based on mutual self-interest is important to both countries. Each has a clear stake in the other’s success. China has become America’s third largest trading partner. The U.S. and China have worked together to strengthen regional security, fight terrorism and international crime, help stabilize Afghanistan and address the North Korean nuclear problem.”

He warns “In 2004, China’s exports to the U.S. were nearly six times its imports of U.S. goods and services. Trying to close that gap through artificial tariffs that violate World Trade Organization rules and public threats will not resolve the differences. Most likely, such actions would further divide us, complicating the issues we should be working on and magnifying Chinese recalcitrance.”

The Senator reminded “China has enacted some basic economic reforms in recent years, in large measure to comply with WTO standards. But China has many more reforms to make not least, opening its markets to U.S. companies. This will require continued economic reform, a more transparent and consistent regulatory and licensing system, enforcement of distribution rights for foreign companies and strong enforcement of intellectual property laws.”

- Asian Tribune -

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Oil-for-Food Corruption - New York Times

Oil-for-Food Corruption - New York TimesAugust 10, 2005
Oil-for-Food Corruption

The latest report on the oil-for-food program at the United Nations and a guilty plea by a procurement officer provide the most troubling evidence yet of criminality at the U.N. The commission investigating the program charges that Benon Sevan, who ran it, received kickbacks. The panel concludes that Mr. Sevan deposited at least $147,000 in cash generated by Iraqi oil transactions and did not receive the money from an aunt, as he has claimed.

Mr. Sevan denies any wrongdoing. If he did take kickbacks, it is still unclear whether the Iraqis thought they were bribing him, rewarding him for being on their side on many issues or simply yielding to his persistence.

The report cites instances in which Mr. Sevan argued for easing constraints on Iraq and contends that he knew from personal experience that Iraq was imposing surcharges on recipients of oil allocations yet played down the problem. What's striking is how small-bore the corruption he is accused of looks against the backdrop of a $65 billion oil-for-food program.

The guilty plea from the procurement officer, Aleksandr Yakovlev, had little to do with the oil-for-food program, but underscores how corruption may have infected many procurement programs at the organization. The panel, headed by Paul Volcker, the former Federal Reserve chairman, found that Mr. Yakovlev had unsuccessfully solicited a bribe from a company seeking an oil-for-food contract. It concluded that he had received more than $950,000 in payments from companies that won contracts in other U.N. programs.

Much of the evidence against Mr. Yakovlev seems to have been uncovered by the U.N.'s own internal investigators, who provided leads to the Volcker panel and the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, whose office is doing its own investigation of the oil-for-food program. The accusations were clearly on target. When the U.N. lifted Mr. Yakovlev's immunity from prosecution, he promptly pleaded guilty to several charges.

The U.N. clearly needs management reform and closer monitoring to prevent corruption. But neither of these cases sheds much light on what sins, if any, can be attributed to Secretary General Kofi Annan, or on how Saddam Hussein was able to manipulate the program to gain perhaps $2 billion in illicit revenue. For that, we must await next month's report.

Why No Tea and Sympathy? - New York Times

Why No Tea and Sympathy? - New York TimesAugust 10, 2005
Why No Tea and Sympathy?


W. can't get no satisfaction on Iraq.

There's an angry mother of a dead soldier camping outside his Crawford ranch, demanding to see a president who prefers his sympathy to be carefully choreographed.

A new CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll shows that a majority of Americans now think that going to war was a mistake and that the war has made the U.S. more vulnerable to terrorism. So fighting them there means it's more likely we'll have to fight them here?

Donald Rumsfeld acknowledged yesterday that sophisticated bombs were streaming over the border from Iran to Iraq.

And the Rolling Stones have taken a rare break from sex odes to record an antiwar song called "Sweet Neo Con," chiding Condi Rice and Mr. Bush. "You call yourself a Christian; I call you a hypocrite," Mick Jagger sings.

The N.F.L. put out a press release on Monday announcing that it's teaming up with the Stones and ABC to promote "Monday Night Football." The flag-waving N.F.L. could still back out if there's pressure, but the mood seems to have shifted since Madonna chickened out of showing an antiwar music video in 2003. The White House used to be able to tamp down criticism by saying it hurt our troops, but more people are asking the White House to explain how it plans to stop our troops from getting hurt.

Cindy Sheehan, a 48-year-old Californian with a knack for P.R., says she will camp out in the dusty heat near the ranch until she gets to tell Mr. Bush face to face that he must pull all U.S. troops out of Iraq. Her son, Casey, a 24-year-old Army specialist, was killed in a Sadr City ambush last year.

The president met with her family two months after Casey's death. Capturing W.'s awkwardness in traversing the line between somber and joking, and his love of generic labels, Ms. Sheehan said that W. had referred to her as "Mom" throughout the meeting, and given her the sense that he did not know who her son was.

The Bush team tried to discredit "Mom" by pointing reporters to an old article in which she sounded kinder to W. If only her husband were an undercover C.I.A. operative, the Bushies could out him. But even if they send out a squad of Swift Boat Moms for Truth, there will be a countering Falluja Moms for Truth.

It's amazing that the White House does not have the elementary shrewdness to have Mr. Bush simply walk down the driveway and hear the woman out, or invite her in for a cup of tea. But W., who has spent nearly 20 percent of his presidency at his ranch, is burrowed into his five-week vacation and two-hour daily workouts. He may be in great shape, but Iraq sure isn't.

It's hard to think of another president who lived in such meta-insulation. His rigidly controlled environment allows no chance encounters with anyone who disagrees. He never has to defend himself to anyone, and that is cognitively injurious. He's a populist who never meets people - an ordinary guy who clears brush, and brush is the only thing he talks to. Mr. Bush hails Texas as a place where he can return to his roots. But is he mixing it up there with anyone besides Vulcans, Pioneers and Rangers?

W.'s idea of consolation was to dispatch Stephen Hadley, the national security adviser, to talk to Ms. Sheehan, underscoring the inhumane humanitarianism of his foreign policy. Mr. Hadley is just a suit, one of the hard-line Unsweet Neo Cons who helped hype America into this war.

It's getting harder for the president to hide from the human consequences of his actions and to control human sentiment about the war by pulling a curtain over the 1,835 troops killed in Iraq; the more than 13,000 wounded, many shorn of limbs; and the number of slain Iraqi civilians - perhaps 25,000, or perhaps double or triple that. More people with impeccable credentials are coming forward to serve as a countervailing moral authority to challenge Mr. Bush.

Paul Hackett, a Marine major who served in Iraq and criticized the president on his conduct of the war, narrowly lost last week when he ran for Congress as a Democrat in a Republican stronghold in Cincinnati. Newt Gingrich warned that the race should "serve as a wake-up call to Republicans" about 2006.

Selectively humane, Mr. Bush justified his Iraq war by stressing the 9/11 losses. He emphasized the humanity of the Iraqis who desire freedom when his W.M.D. rationale vaporized.

But his humanitarianism will remain inhumane as long as he fails to understand that the moral authority of parents who bury children killed in Iraq is absolute.


Thomas L. Friedman is on vacation.