The Great Debate UK Thu, 02 Jun 2016 21:12:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Prince, Bowie and Haggard: Icons? Legends? What’s the difference? Wed, 27 Apr 2016 05:29:24 +0000
Prince performs during his 'Diamonds and Pearls Tour' at the Earl's Court Arena in London, Britain, June 15, 1992.   REUTERS/Dylan Martinez      TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTX2B3UX

(L-R) David Bowie, Prince and Merle Haggard REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/Dylan Martinez/Robert Galbraith

The year 2016 has so far witnessed the death of three musical greats: Prince, David Bowie and Merle Haggard. When Haggard died, National Public Radio felt comfortable announcing “Country Music Legend and Icon, Dies at 79.” Those two terms are often considered interchangeable, but are they? Is there a difference?

Many entertainers have been labeled icons -- Britney Spears is a prime example. But the three musicians who just passed seem to be in a different realm. Not just their artistic genius unites them. It’s the fact that our culture, and our world, are different because they existed.

An icon can show us who we are. But a legend shows us who we could be.

Prince, a child prodigy who taught himself to play a wide range of instruments, explored daring erotic themes in his music. He played with new ways to be a man of color in America, putting on theatrical stage performances in which the musician/sex symbol showed off his feminine side in purple silk and diamonds.

Singers Prince (L) and Beyonce perform during the 46th annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles February 8, 2004. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn  PJ - RTRC7AJ

Singers Prince (L) and Beyonce perform during the 46th annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, February 8, 2004. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn

Creating a style never before heard, Prince blended pop, funk, blues, jazz and rock ‘n’ roll. He set his own rules in the music industry and branched out from music into film. His songs could be explicitly raunchy (“Darling Nikki”) but could also bring passion to a spiritual plane (“Adore”). Prince, a committed Jehovah’s Witness, broke with pop tradition to include frequent religious motifs in his songs, such as the messianic “I Would Die 4 U.”

Philosopher and Princeton professor Cornel West noted Prince’s strong social consciousness, which channeled rebellion against oppression and care for society’s most vulnerable into his art. In 2015, he wrote “Baltimore,” a song lamenting the death of Freddie Gray, the unarmed African-American whose fatal encounter with Baltimore police sparked riots in the city and widespread outrage nationally. Prince’s lyrics became a mantra for protesters: “If there ain't no just then there ain't no peace.”

Prince will be remembered as an artist who not only remade the sonic landscape but also left us with expanded notions of what it means to be male and female, black and white, erotic and spiritual.

Bowie, too, changed musical and cultural paradigms. In his first TV appearance in 1964 as the founder of the hilariously named Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Long-Haired Men, the 17-year-old announced himself as an impish subvert, someone who was not going to take society as he found it.

That attitude was evident in Bowie’s 1983 challenge to MTV, to include more black musicians. Upon the news of his death, rap artist MC Hammer tweeted, “Salute and Thank you to #DavidBowie for standing up for #BlackMusicians.” Bowie’s views on society’s wrongs emerged in songs like “Under the God,” which depicts the rise of neo-Nazis and the horror of racism.

David Bowie performs on stage during The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert at Wembley Stadium in London, Britain April 20, 1992. Sales of David Bowie's last album - released two days before his death from cancer, announced January 11, 2016 - have soared along with downloads of his greatest hits, testimony to the powerful appeal of a pioneer in pop culture and the music business. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez - RTX2209O

David Bowie during The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert at Wembley Stadium in London, April 20, 1992. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

From his incarnations as the glam Ziggy Stardust and the avant-garde Thin White Duke, to his nimble turns at rock ‘n’ roll, disco, new wave, folk rock, industrial rock and electronica -- as well as his memorable turns in films like The Man Who Fell to Earth -- Bowie became known as an innovator and a surprising shape-shifter. According to music journalist Joe Lynch, Bowie influenced more musical genres than any other rock star. “Without David Bowie,” the singer Moby said, “popular music as we know it pretty much wouldn't exist.”

Prince and Bowie not only transcended the particularities of the decades most closely associated with them (Bowie, the 1970s and 1980s; Prince, the 1980s and 1990s), but they also transformed their art form. They created fresh outlets for expression in music, as well as in the spheres of fashion and gender identity.

Prefabricated categories could not hold them. They broke down barriers and blazed trails. Their surges of creativity could barely be contained in their astonishing output. Both Prince’s and Bowie’s bodies of work contain patterns of unexpected twists and turns.

The word “icon” comes from Latin, meaning a picture or statue, and from the Greek “eikon,” referring to a likeness or portrait but also to an image in a mirror. Spears’ status as pop icon is easy to justify. If you were watching MTV in the 1990s, her pigtailed debut as a sexy Catholic schoolgirl in "Baby One More Time" is indelibly etched into your brain. She launched a new phase of teen pop, grew to be world famous, and her songs became ubiquitous earworms. But is she a legend? Maybe not.

While an icon mirrors and captures certain impulses and trends in society, a legend offers something more. Spears may be more a product of a specific time than an artist who transcends the moment and whose legacy is more lasting. The word “legend” has its roots in notions of storytelling and map-making, of understanding and finding our way. Legends do not just reflect the culture; they reveal it and point society in new directions.

Merle Haggard is credited for helping to create the raw-edged Bakersfield sound of country music in the 1950s -- which, in turn, influenced rock-and-rollers like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. He brought the roughness of his hardscrabble background (including prison stints) to the genre and expressed solidarity with the plight of the working man in songs like “Big City,” which rails against economic inequality in a way that resonates today: “There’s folks who never work and they’ve got plenty / Think I’ll walk off my steady job today.”

Music legends Merle Haggard (L) and Willie Nelson perform together at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles May 5, 2004. Nelson was taping "Willie Nelson & Friends: Outlaws and Angels" for a two-hour Memorial Day broadcast on USA Network on May 31. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith  RG - RTRIVRQ

Merle Haggard (L) and Willie Nelson at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles May 5, 2004. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

Haggard is notable because he became iconic for reasons that almost run counter to his legendary status. In 1969, his hippie-blasting hit “Okie from Muskogee” became the anthem for Americans angry with the left for protesting the Vietnam War.  The song brought him wealth, fame and the appreciation of President Richard M. Nixon. If he’d stayed in this mode, his status as a cultural icon for conservative whites would have been more than secure. But he didn’t.

Because he is also the musician who wrote “Irma Jackson,” a song about a white man’s thwarted love for a black woman in a world that doesn’t understand that “love is colorblind.” He released that song in 1972 -- years after he wrote it -- because his record company feared it would hurt his image. Hag did not care.

He was also open to change and admitted when he had been wrong. He explained his evolving political views and thoughts on “Okie” to writer RJ Smith in 2000:

“At the time I wrote that song, I was just about as intelligent as the American public was. And they was about as dumb as a rock. About Vietnam, about marijuana and other things. When you get older, you find that things you were absolutely, positively sure about, you didn't know nothin' about."

Haggard expressed an openness to change that was about healing wounds as much as challenging wrongs.

Through their art, Prince, Bowie and Haggard not only showed us new possibilities for our individual identities, but they also revealed to us how to better connect to one another as a society.

Such is the power of true legends.

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The next Chernobyl may be intentional Tue, 26 Apr 2016 04:01:52 +0000
A general view shows the sarcophagus covering the damaged fourth reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant April 21, 2015. Ukraine will mark the 29th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, the world's worst civil nuclear accident, on April 26.  REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

The sarcophagus covering the damaged fourth reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, April 21, 2015. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

Chernobyl’s 30th anniversary on April 26 comes against the backdrop of growing apprehension that nuclear reactors may become a terrorist target.

Serious concern arose during the recent Islamic State attacks in Brussels. Evidence suggested that the assailants were considering a nuclear-related incident. The terrorists had a senior Belgian nuclear official under surveillance, and two former nuclear power-plant employees were reported to have joined Islamic State.

This may help explain why Belgian authorities rushed military forces to protect its nuclear plants.

A windmill is pictured near the cooling towers of the Doel nuclear plant of Electrabel, the Belgian unit of French company Engie, former GDF Suez, in Doel near Antwerp, Belgium, January 4, 2016. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

A windmill near the cooling towers of the Doel nuclear plant of Electrabel, the Belgian unit of French company Engie, near Antwerp, Belgium, January 4, 2016. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

The scare provided a reminder that nuclear reactors are radiological mines that terrorists could exploit. Destruction of a plant would mark a zenith of terrorist violence. Radioactive elements would spread across national boundaries. It would endanger the lives of many, while creating economic and environmental havoc mimicking the Chernobyl or Fukushima explosions.

How concerned should the West and other regions be? And if the peril remains so serious, why doesn’t the international community impose mandatory security standards?

Actually, Washington has tried to do just that. On June 14, 1946, the United States proposed the Baruch Plan at the United Nations. It called for an International Atomic Development Authority that would maintain “managerial or ownership of all atomic energy activities potentially dangerous to world security” and “the power to control, inspect and license all other atomic activities.”

Had Cold War politics not intervened, reactors would likely be safer and more secure today. Instead, the international community now faces a patchwork of national regulations. The result leaves open a terrorist nuclear Pandora’s Box.

Certainly, enforcement of robust security standards -- including adequately manned, trained and armed guard forces; physical barriers to vital areas; detection, alarm and communication systems; a careful vetting of all plant employees to ensure against infiltration of terrorists and criminals, along with other measures -- are but a small price to pay to avoid yet another intentional or accidental Chernobyl or Fukushima.

Unfortunately, given inertia, we may have to wait for the intentional Chernobyl to take place to get action. Consider that nuclear critics have been concerned for decades that reactors are likely terrorist targets and not enough is being done to protect them.

They insisted that terrorists could breach the containment structures of nuclear power plants using sophisticated hand-held weapons, rocket-propelled grenades, vehicular bombs and water-based or airborne attack. They also warned about insider sabotage of vital plant life lines, which could release the core's deadly radioactive contents.

But with no serious attack so far, complacency has set in. Belgium finally put armed guards at its plants only after last year’s Paris terrorist attacks.  How many other nations among the 30 with power reactors have been equally complacent?

But smugness has been revealed to be an embarrassment. In 2012, Greenpeace activists broke into a Swedish nuclear installation. The environmental activists scaled fences surrounding two nuclear power reactors and hid four of its party overnight on the roof of one. In 2014, another group of Greenpeace activists broke into a French nuclear power plant near the German border and hung a large banner from the reactor building.

These stunts demonstrate there is something seriously wrong with power-plant security practices in the two countries, and in perhaps many others.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the World Association of Nuclear Operators and the European Union -- all press for reactor security and safety by offering guidelines. They send survey teams to evaluate plant security at the request of the host country. But they cannot force countries to change their security habits.

Generally, such mindsets don’t change easily. It takes events, not hypotheticals, to do that.

It took the 1993 truck bombing of the World Trade Center in New York, for example, to push the United States into setting tougher standards for protecting reactors against vehicular bombings. Then, the Sept. 11, 2001, attack prompted the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to boost defenses against ground attacks because members believed that better airport security would protect against a 9/11-style air attack on reactors.

But even in the United States, which purports to apply the security gold standard, mock attacks have repeatedly found holes in reactor security.

We should expect that only an intentional Chernobyl incident will get complacent countries to dramatically change their security culture. Here is where international groups if given authority, can do some planning to address the issue.

The plan should lay out mandatory security and safety requirements for all nuclear plants worldwide, to be administered by the International Atomic Energy Agency or other authorized body to license plant operations. Were the security at a licensed plant found to be inadequate, the authorized agency would suspend the plant’s license until operators made the required fixes.

Unfortunately, we may have to await an intentional Chernobyl to take place first to galvanize this sort of preventative action.

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Women on the money – Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, America’s Harriet Tubman Sun, 24 Apr 2016 16:37:55 +0000
A British 10-pound banknote and Chinese 100-yuan banknotes are seen in a picture illustration, in Beijing, China, January 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee

A British 10-pound banknote and Chinese 100-yuan banknotes are seen in a picture illustration, in Beijing, China, January 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee

As the United States announced the first female face on its currency in almost a century, the woman who appears on all of Britain’s was turning 90.

On the surface, it seems strange – perhaps even wrong – to compare the UK’s longest reigning hereditary monarch, Elizabeth II, to Harriet Tubman, the escaped slave turned fighter, spy and campaigner who died in 1913, herself nine decades old.

Until she was announced as the new face on the $20 bill, Tubman was largely unheard of outside the United States – indeed, as a Brit, I had barely come across her story. A woman who started life as property before helping other slaves flee the South. Operating as an armed scout for Union forces during the Civil War, she also has a claim to be one of the first American women to command troops in combat.

Queen Elizabeth, of course, has never faced anything quite like that – although she did ride out the German bombing of London as a teenager before serving in uniform, making her the last remaining head of state to also be a World War II veteran. Like Tubman, in some respects she represents a much larger generation – including all races and genders – that sacrificed a great deal to produce the imperfect but unquestionably better world we have today.

Faces on bank notes are unavoidably tokenistic. Even the plethora of white men often find themselves representing something much broader than themselves – Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin, for example, both featured on UK notes, were in some ways a simplistic shorthand for “science”.

Having a diversity of figures held up as role models, however, is also hugely important and can have a much wider impact.

Every time we see and acknowledge that a person of different gender, race, sexuality, disability or even just background can achieve something new, that makes the world a more accepting place. It shapes the understanding of everyone else in society.

The presence of women on currency and in other noteworthy places makes a very blunt point. It says that women – and in the case of Tubman, also people of color – are human, equal, have agency and can be worthy of authority and respect. That shouldn’t be a radical statement, yet sometimes it still feels like one.

The complete absence of anyone representing women or African-Americans on currency over the last century also sends a message, I fear – and a much less positive one.

That’s something I wasn’t necessarily aware of until 10 years ago. I was a straight, able-bodied, white Englishman. There wasn’t exactly a shortage of role models who looked a bit like me – quite the opposite.

On Sept. 5, 2006, I was covering the Sri Lankan civil war on its eastern front when my minibus slammed into a tractor. I found myself instantaneously paralyzed from the shoulders down.

Suddenly facing life with a catastrophic disability is a very intimidating thing. In fact, I had several pieces of luck on my side – not least that the then very recent development of voice recognition software allowed me to continue my chosen profession as a journalist. I was also hugely fortunate to be British, with a welfare state that could – just about – allow me to live independently with the support I needed.

Overall, of the potential role models I could find, only physicist Stephen Hawking – so paralyzed by a degenerative disorder he cannot even speak – was notably more disabled than me.

It hasn’t been an easy journey. Still, with hindsight, I think I was very fortunate to already have in mind individuals with serious disabilities who had continued to achieve very considerable things.

The most obvious and directly relevant was BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner. Though shot in the back almost exactly two years before my injury, he relatively swiftly returned to reporting despite largely losing use of his legs.

The practical lessons of his case were somewhat limited – he had the good fortune, after all, to still have use of his arms and hands. The mere fact he was doing it so visibly, however, helped open doors for me. It also provided at least some limited reassurance that something might be possible.

The same went for the variety of other stories I knew of disabled people still functioning valuably within society. Some were from my personal experience, others much further afield. They included RAF pilot Douglas Bader, who had both legs amputated after an air crash before reenlisting for the Battle of Britain, during World War Two, and becoming one of its top aces. Further back in time and on the other side of the Atlantic, deaf-blind activist Helen Keller had shown what was possible with a very different – but in some ways even more challenging – form of impairment.

Both unconsciously and consciously, I was also inspired by other people who had overcome the combination of adversity and diversity, from gay people living their lives openly despite homophobia to the struggles of all races to build a successful post-apartheid South Africa. And, of course, the ongoing battle over centuries of women to be heard and exert influence within society.

And that, I think, is the point – it’s all about having the broadest possible range of stories in your head that reveal what is possible.

A queen may not, at first glance, appear an obvious progressive or feminist icon. Anything Queen Elizabeth has achieved for the position of women in general, she has done as the ultimate insider (although she did once apparently force the King of Saudi Arabia to sit as a passenger in her Range Rover, making the point that women could drive even if they were banned from doing so in his country).

Making serious progress on diversity, I suspect, also requires outsiders taking a much more aggressive stance. For every Barrack Obama working within the system, then needs to be a Malcolm X.

America’s Harriet Tubman is amongst the closest to taking both boxes – an unquestioned iconoclastic activist who also worked with him a more conservative and indeed white dominated chain of command during the Civil War.

Believe me, if you ever wake up “diverse,” that’s the kind of example you are looking for.

Follow Peter Apps on Twitter

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Also recall the executive formerly known as Prince Thu, 21 Apr 2016 20:16:59 +0000 The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

The executive formerly known as Prince deserves as much acclaim as the artist. While hits like “Little Red Corvette” will be his lasting legacy, his high-profile battles against the music and technology establishment also presaged an era where the recording industry ceded power to musicians. Prince experimented as much with the business as he did in the studio.

Born Prince Rogers Nelson, he churned out nearly 40 albums before dying at age 57 on Thursday. Since his 1978 debut “For You,” Prince has sold more than 100 million records.

He owed his start to an A&R music system that nurtured up-and-coming talents. Throughout his career, however, Prince fought to retain control over his compositions, image and even his name. The unusual pushback brought a greater balance to the business-artist dynamic well before the digital era eroded the influence of the musical-industrial complex.

In 1985, after the success of his fifth studio record, “1999,” and the acclaimed follow-up “Purple Rain,” Prince set up his own label, Paisley Park Records. It was partly bankrolled by Warner Music. The terms of that arrangement became the subject of a high-profile spat, during which Prince painted the word “slave” on his face before he declared his “emancipation” and changed his name to a symbol.

Prince ultimately fulfilled his contract, but then worked through a variety of other recording partners, retaining a level of independence enviable even among stars of his caliber. With the rise of downloads and the corresponding crash of recorded music finances, Prince kept exploring new means of distribution.

In 2007, he gave away 2 million copies of his “Planet Earth” CD to readers of Britain’s Mail on Sunday newspaper to coincide with a 21-night stint in London. Prince would rail against Apple’s iTunes, calling the internet “completely over” in 2010, and the unauthorized posting of his videos on websites like YouTube. He considered modern streaming services with similar disdain, pulling most of his music from all except one started by rap impresario Jay Z.

When last December he finally blessed the release of a video of his cover of Radiohead’s “Creep” from the 2008 Coachella festival, it became a web sensation. Among fans and fellow artists, the freakish control Prince wielded over his work made him something of a king.

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Islamic State has erased the line between foreign and domestic policy Thu, 21 Apr 2016 04:36:57 +0000
French army paratroopers patrol near the Eiffel tower in Paris, France, March 30, 2016 as France has decided to deploy 1,600 additional police officers to bolster security at its borders and on public transport following the deadly blasts in Brussels.  REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

French army paratroopers patrol near the Eiffel tower in Paris, France, March 30, 2016. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

Not since the Vietnam War has a foreign-policy issue transformed Western domestic politics in the way the threat from Islamic State has. Neither the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, nor the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq -- however costly and corrosive of national purpose -- so profoundly reset the playing field of politics.

Across the West, domestic policy debates -- ranging from immigration to law enforcement to education -- are now refracted through the lens of the new terrorism. Because of the Islamic State-related attacks in the United States and Europe, the line between foreign and domestic policy is gradually being erased.

Distinctions of left vs. right, or liberal vs. conservative now obscure rather than illuminate the policy decisions confronting governments. Today, an anti-immigrant policy can just as easily emerge from the political far left as from the far right.

French army paratroopers patrol near the Louvre museum in Paris, France, March 30, 2016 as France has decided to deploy 1,600 additional police officers to bolster security at its borders and on public transport following the deadly blasts in Brussels.  REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

French army paratroopers patrol near the Louvre Museum in Paris, France, March 30, 2016. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

The metastasizing crisis of confidence in mainstream politics may have been sparked by the Islamic State atrocities in Paris, Brussels, Istanbul and San Bernardino, California. But it is rooted in something deeper: a corrupting gulf between the professed values of democracy and civil rights in Western policies, and the reality of the ways national interests in stability and security are pursued, both at home and abroad.

Establishment politicians as diverse as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande are struggling to manage this peril. Can they hold a center of moderation and pluralism? Or will fringe forces of isolation and exclusion overwhelm a half century of mainstream Western policies?

The answer to this challenge is a new conditionality in both foreign and domestic policy. Abroad, this requires a new basis for alliances in which economic and military support is dependent on a common commitment to the values of modernity -- and not just an interest in stability. At home, this means crafting a new compact between native and immigrant communities, with a promise of equality of citizenship going hand in hand with acceptance of pluralism and gender equality as the bedrock of free societies.

For the past half century, Western policy in the Middle East has been straining under the weight of its own contradictions: stability vs. democracy; oil dependency vs. wider economic development; military intervention vs. non-interference. If today there is a major Middle East government acting in ways other than deeply inimical to Western interests, as well as values, it is doing so by stealth. A parade of policies emanating from Riyadh, Tehran, Baghdad, Cairo, and Damascus are stoking sectarianism, inflaming radicalism, increasing the risk of regional armed conflict, destroying development and setting back human rights.

But merely acknowledging this -- even as openly as President Barack Obama did in a recent Atlantic interview -- without altering Western policy will do nothing to change this dynamic between the West and the Middle East.

Worse, it can only widen the popular distrust of government emanating from the gap between the West’s professed values of democracy and civil rights, and their relative absence from much of its foreign policy.

Now, the reality of U.S. energy independence and the threat of a new global scourge of jihadism present a unique opportunity to challenge the half-century-long bargain between Western and Middle Eastern regimes.

In the age of Islamic State, the reality for Western nations is that securing the stability of Middle East regimes matters less, and the West’s own national security matters more. Today, Western support for Middle East governments can be conditioned -- in reality and not just rhetoric -- on the degree to which their actions align with Western values and interests.

Critically, however, what will distinguish the solutions of centrist politicians like Clinton from the slogans of fringe leaders like GOP front-runner Donald Trump is a recognition that within each of these Middle Eastern countries are genuinely innovative forces of reform. Today, Western governments often encourage these forces of modernity with words, but still support the region’s reactionary governments with weapons and funds.

The new conditionality would turn this decades-long approach on its head. If Middle East regimes embrace their own vibrant agents of reform among the young and often women activists and leaders -- rather than imprison, torture or delegitimize them -- they can continue to rely on Western political, security and economic support. If not, they can look elsewhere for allies.

Aligning values and interests in foreign policy will, however, only address half the hypocrisy undermining traditional politics in the West today. In domestic policy, too, a dangerous gap has opened up between the values underlying Western modernity and their violation among certain marginalized immigrant communities.

Within European and U.S. societies, the rising tide of intolerance toward refugees and migrants betrays fundamental Western values. However, another equally dangerous betrayal of values is the indulgence of reactionary, occasionally extremist, practices of religious intolerance within many immigrant communities.

This policy has undermined domestic security in troubled suburbs from Paris to Brussels to Copenhagen and constitutes a fateful abdication of modernity’s values by centrist politicians, which has left their ostensible defense too often in the hands of bigots, reactionaries and xenophobic populists.

To confront their surging support, mainstream leaders have to recognize that standing up for pluralism has two aspects to it. If upholding liberal values means defending a Muslim woman’s right to wear a head scarf to work, it must also mean defending her right to education, equality and a free choice in her life decisions.

Instead, European government policies have often left the brave and embattled agents of modernity within immigrant communities caught in a vicious vise between two exclusionary forces of native and immigrant intolerance. Upholding the values of pluralism against the forces of exclusion within both communities is the surest path to securing the interest in development and human dignity.

Divorcing the values of modernity from the design of foreign and domestic policies in an age of migration and jihadist terror serves only to undermine economic stability and domestic security. Ultimately, aligning values with interests will get the West not just the right policies, but the right politics.

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Betrayal is at the heart of U.S. politics Tue, 19 Apr 2016 04:10:36 +0000
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump points to a supporter as he leaves a campaign event in an airplane hanger in Rome, New York April 12, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Donald Trump points to a supporter as he leaves a campaign event in Rome, New York, April 12, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

A powerful sense of betrayal is driving the 2016 campaign. The Donald Trump campaign has always been angry. We are now beginning to see the same anger in the Bernie Sanders campaign. No candidate left in the race is echoing Barack Obama's 2008 message of hope and optimism. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush tried it -- and look where it got them.

On the Republican side, the sense of betrayal started long before the Trump campaign. It emerged with the Tea Party movement in 2010, which claimed that Republicans in Washington were failing to do what Republicans elected them to do -- namely, stop Obama, particularly his Obamacare policies. The Tea Party accused GOP party leaders like former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and former House Speaker John Boehner of selling out the conservative cause.

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event in Buffalo, New York, U.S., April 18, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event in Buffalo, New York, April 18, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

The Trump campaign does not come out of the conservative movement, which favors Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. Trump's support among Republicans is broader than ideological conservatives. He appeals to a lot of white working-class voters, who feel intensely alienated from the GOP. Republican leaders got elected with their support, and they then ignored them on issues like trade, immigration, entitlement spending and isolationism. Trump amplifies their complaints.

Conservatives have long nurtured a keen sense of betrayal. In the 1950s, Senator Joseph McCarthy led a campaign against New Deal policies by charging communist betrayal in the highest ranks of government. In the 1990s, as Pat Buchanan ran for the Republican presidential nomination against President George H.W. Bush and Senator Bob Dole of Kansas, he claimed that establishment figures were betraying President Ronald Reagan’s legacy.

On the Democratic side, Sanders has expanded his campaign message from an attack on Wall Street to an attack on the Democratic Party. “We're taking on not only Wall Street and the economic establishment,” he said in January. “We're taking on the political establishment.” He accused former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of being part of the establishment because of her support from Planned Parenthood. He even slammed the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's leading gay-rights organization, for supporting Clinton because she is the establishment candidate.

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders takes part in a round table to discuss immigration, public housing, and the current economical state of Puerto Rico in the Bronx borough of New York, U.S., April 18, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Senator Bernie Sanders takes part in a round table discussion in the Bronx, New York, April 18, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Sanders is running a vigorous campaign against the legacy of Clintonism in the Democratic Party. Last year, he said, “I disagree with [former President Bill Clinton] strongly on NAFTA [the North American Free Trade Agreement] and permanent trade relations with China. … I very strongly disagreed with President Clinton on the deregulation of Wall Street.  I opposed that strenuously.”

Many Sanders supporters regard Clintonism as a betrayal of Democratic values. They cite Wall Street, trade deals, the Defense of Marriage Act, “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” welfare reform, Clinton's balanced-budget deal with then House Speaker Newt Gingrich and the 1994 crime bill, one factor in the mass incarceration of African-Americans.

Bill Clinton has acknowledged that the 1994 crime bill “went too far.” Hillary Clinton said during the last debate, “I am sorry for the consequences that were unintended and had a very unfortunate impact on people's lives.”

Bill Clinton was the first Democrat to get elected after the party lost three consecutive presidential campaigns -- Jimmy Carter in 1980, Walter Mondale in 1984, Michael Dukakis in 1988. With a string of losses like that, a party is likely to conclude, “We can't go on like this.”  Clinton led the Democrats back to power by reaching an accommodation with the still dominant Reagan consensus. He was a “New Democrat” and an advocate of “the third way.”

The Reagan consensus was brought down by the failures of the George W. Bush administration. Today, after the destruction wrought by free-market capitalism in the 2008 economic collapse, a self-described “democratic socialist” doesn't sound so extreme. It's a different era, and many Democrats want to renounce the compromises of the Clinton era as a betrayal of the party's true values.

Sanders may cause real damage to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. One in three Sanders supporters said last month that they would refuse to vote for Clinton if she's the Democratic nominee. Even if he doesn't win the nomination, Sanders seems intent on provoking showdowns at the Democratic convention over issues (trade, Wall Street) and over rules (the power of super-delegates).


Senator Barry M. Goldwater September 25, 1962. Library of Congress/Marion S. Trikosko

The theme of betrayal was prominent in the 1960s. It transformed both political parties. Senator Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign claimed that the Republican Party had been betrayed by the “Eastern Establishment.” The establishment Republican president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, was never a hero to conservatives. He, like Bill Clinton afterward, was seen as too accommodating to the prevailing consensus. In the 1950s, that was the New Deal consensus.

The cry of betrayal was also heard on the Democratic left in the 1960s. The left had no problem with the Democratic establishment's commitment to New Deal social-welfare liberalism or civil rights. But they were enraged by the Vietnam War and broke with the party establishment's commitment to anti-communist containment that dated back to President Harry S. Truman and the onset of the Cold War.

Betrayal is an enduring issue in American politics. That's because the Constitution mandates check and balances and a separation of powers. Every elected president has to compromise in order to get things done -- even with members of his own party. That's how American government works. “Read the Constitution,” Bill Clinton once said to a Tea Party protester. “It might as well be called `Let's Make a Deal.'”

Purists don't like deals. They call people who make them sell-outs. Deal making may be the way the United States has to be governed, but it will always carry the risk of betrayal.

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Vote to quit EU could tip UK into recession Mon, 18 Apr 2016 08:57:50 +0000 The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist.  The opinions expressed are his own.

A vote to quit the European Union could tip the UK into recession. This is no longer an academic possibility. Opinion polls show British people evenly divided on whether they want to remain in the EU or leave; betting odds suggest there is a one in three chance that the pro-Brexit camp will prevail in the June 23 referendum.

Such a vote would trigger political turmoil and acrimonious divorce talks. Investment would grind to a halt as firms wait for the fog to clear. Consumer confidence could also be hit.

The long-term impact of a vote to leave the EU would also be damaging. After all, the EU accounts for half Britain’s trade. It would be impossible to retain full access to that market if the Leave camp sticks to its goal of ending free movement of people between the EU and the UK and stopping budget contributions to Brussels. This “has never happened in Europe”, Klaus Regling, head of the European Stability Mechanism, was quoted by the FT as saying at the International Monetary Fund meetings last week. The UK government is predicting the economy will be 6 percent smaller by 2030 than if it stayed in the bloc.

But it is the short-term impact of a Brexit vote that will be at the forefront of investors’ minds. This is likely to be nasty.

For a start, David Cameron, who is campaigning for Britain to stay in the EU, would probably have to resign as prime minister. Boris Johnson, the popular mayor of London who is campaigning to quit, would be in pole position to replace him.

Wolfgang Schaeuble, the German finance minister, told his British counterpart, George Osborne, at the IMF meetings that the divorce talks would be tough, according to the FT. There are several reasons to believe this.

One is that the UK’s partners wouldn’t want other EU countries to think it was easy to quit. Otherwise, the whole bloc might unravel as, say, the French said they didn’t want to abide by competition law, the Italians said they wouldn’t stick to the budget rules, and so forth.

Another reason is that some countries would want to use Brexit to grab business that until now has been transacted by the UK. The French economy minister has already promised to roll out the red carpet to bankers. The way to do that would be to stop Britain having full access to the EU market.

Yet another reason is the electoral timetable. French presidential elections are held in May next year, while the German federal election is next autumn. Neither government would want to give an inch to Britain before those were out of the way.

The pro-Brexit camp disagrees. It says the EU would be desperate to do a trade deal because it sells more to the UK than vice versa. The snag is that this argument ignores proportionality. Exports to the EU account for 13 percent of UK GDP; exports from the EU to Britain account for just 3 percent of its GDP. As such, the UK needs the EU more than the bloc needs Britain.

What’s more, if worst came to worst, the EU could fall back on World Trade Organisation trading terms. These limit the tariffs Britain could impose on imports of goods from the EU. Unfortunately, the UK’s comparative advantage is in services, including financial services, and the WTO does virtually nothing to protect its exports of these.

If the Leave camp was preparing the electorate for tough times ahead, that would be bad enough. But its wild promises about how easy it would be to clinch a deal with the EU mean the negotiations could be especially bitter.

Britain’s post-Brexit government would be in some ways like the radical left-wing party Syriza just after it took power in Greece last year. It would have made promises it couldn’t deliver. And, because it would be hard to tell the British people that they had been conned, the new administration would probably respond by taking a confrontational approach to the EU and blaming its former partners.

Such a government would also be under tight deadline pressure. The EU’s divorce process is set out in Article 50 of the Treaty. This says a deal has to be done within two years of the article being triggered, or Britain has to leave without any agreement.

If little was achieved in the first year because of the French and German elections, the heat would be on. The deadline could be extended with the unanimous approval of the other 27 countries. But, as the Greeks have discovered, negotiating with one’s back to the wall isn’t fun.

Unsurprisingly, the IMF predicts the divorce talks “would likely be protracted… resulting in an extended period of heightened uncertainty that could weigh heavily on confidence and investment.” Equally, 31 out of 35 economists polled by Reuters think Brexit would hurt the economy. None of them think it would be good. They are right.

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Who was pulling the strings when Ukraine unraveled? Fri, 15 Apr 2016 00:23:41 +0000 When Ukraine pulled itself apart in 2014, the world was confused over who was doing the pulling. Was the takeover of Luhansk, Donetsk and other regional capitals all part of a Russian plan, or a local movement?
This week on War College, we speak with Antony Butts. He was in Donetsk when it all went down and has a unique story to tell.

PARTICIPANTS: Tom Barton, Antony Butts, Jason Fields
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A dirty – not particularly funny – poem just turned into an ‘international crisis’ Wed, 13 Apr 2016 18:14:14 +0000
Jan Boehmermann, host of the late-night "Neo Magazin Royale" on the public ZDF channel is pictured during a TV show of Markus Lanz in Hamburg, Germany, August 21, 2012. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has filed a complaint against a comedian who recited a satirical and sexually crude poem about him on German television, complicating Berlin's attempts to get Turkey's help in dealing with Europe's migrant crisis. Picture taken August 21, 2012.   REUTERS/Morris Mac Matzen - RTX29LPX

Jan Boehmermann, host of the late-night show "Neo Magazin Royale." REUTERS/Morris Mac Matzen - RTX29LPX

Just when German Chancellor Angela Merkel thought she had checked “Turkey” off her to-do list for solving Europe’s refugee crisis, a filth-laden poem read by a late-night comic is presenting her with a new dilemma.

Two weeks ago, comedian Jan Boehmermann recited a 24-line ditty on German public broadcaster ZDF describing the Turkish president as a pedophile who engages in sex acts with animals. Now Recep Tayyip Erdogan is demanding that Merkel’s government sanction an investigation under an obscure German law that prohibits insulting foreign leaders.

If Merkel blocks the investigation, she risks incensing Erdogan — a key partner in stemming the flow of refugees to Europe — even more. If she allows it, she lets the prickly Turkish leader export his assault on freedom of speech to Germany. Bild, Germany’s largest circulation newspaper, calls Merkel’s quandary “a serious international crisis.”

“Angela Merkel can only lose. In fact she’s already lost,” wrote one commentator in Spiegel Online. “The whole country sees that Erdogan has the chancellor in hand and can lead her around like in a circus ring.”

Merkel, eager to stop the exodus of refugees from Syria’s civil war to Europe, cut a controversial deal with Turkey last month. In return for taking back migrants crossing illegally into the European Union, Ankara will get billions of euros in assistance, visa-free travel for its citizens, and a faster track to EU membership.

Merkel’s critics had a field day. German comics broadcast a satirical song about Erdogan, “the boss from the Bosphorus,” with a video mocking his giant residence and treatment of journalists and minorities. The Turkish government reacted angrily, summoning the German ambassador in Ankara. That’s where Boehmermann, not exactly a household name, came in.

In his weekly show “Neo Magazin Royale” on March 31, the 35-year-old comedian intentionally tested the limits of Germany’s right to free expression, bantering with a colleague that what he was about to say was verboten under German law.

Calling the 121-word poem juvenile would be an insult to teenagers. Erdogan predictably blew his top; ZDF pulled the offending broadcast from its website; and Merkel was forced to have an awkward phone conversation with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in which she acknowledged that the poem was “deliberately offensive,” according to her spokesman.

On Tuesday, Merkel insisted that the refugee deal with Turkey was “completely detached” from the ruckus over Boehmermann, probably making her the only person in Germany who didn’t make that connection. Erdogan is undoubtedly a problematic partner, but Merkel can’t afford to lose him at a time when the number of migrants reaching Europe begins to ebb.

As easy a target as Erdogan makes himself for humorists, it’s hard to ignore the negative stereotypes about Turks — Germany’s largest ethnic minority — that played into Boehmermann’s skit. As a huge Turkish flag waved in the background, Boehmermann first addressed “dear Turks” and lectured them about the freedom of expression anchored in the German constitution. His scandalous poem wasn’t complete without a reference to smelly kebabs.

Another problem with Boehmermann’s performance is that it barely qualifies as satire. While the song that originally inspired Erdogan’s wrath is actually funny, the offending poem is simply a string of crudities that the author himself announces is a violation of German law. The purpose isn’t irony but provocation.

There isn’t anything particularly brave about a German comedian testing the limits of free expression in Germany. Whatever happens — and the worst will likely be a fine — Boehmermann emerges as a champion of free speech and a great comic. Turkish journalists persecuted by Erdogan, the real victims in this story, aren’t helped one bit.

To act like anything and everything can be said is disingenuous. Every democracy puts limits — via laws and norms — on the type of speech acceptable in public. In the United States, it’s the use of the “N-word;” in Germany, the defamation of Jews or denial of the Holocaust. It’s doubtful Boehmermann would have considered reciting a similar poem about an Israeli leader.

Instead of basking in the free publicity, Boehmermann has gone into hiding. He and his family are reportedly under police protection, and the comedian canceled this week’s show.

In the meantime, the German government’s legal experts are deliberating whether a case is warranted under the law that bans insulting foreign leaders. Even if they decide against it, Erdogan has also filed a defamation suit as a private person in a German court. The Turkish president will exhaust all legal options to have Boehmermann punished and stop him from repeating his insults, Erdogan’s German lawyer told ZDF on Tuesday.

It’s taken another comedian, Dieter Nuhr, to propose a much better solution. Nuhr has suggested that Erdogan write a response to Boehmermann in verse. Then the two can duke it out to see whose poem is worse.

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Why China’s latest power play may roil Russia Tue, 12 Apr 2016 10:27:26 +0000
Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) shakes hands with Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai (L) as Chinese President Xi Jinping looks on during a group photo for the fourth summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in Shanghai, May 20, 2014. REUTERS/Ng Han Guan/Pool (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS) - RTR3PZF3

Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) shakes hands with Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai (L) as Chinese President Xi Jinping looks on during a group photo for the fourth summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in Shanghai, May 20, 2014. REUTERS/Ng Han Guan/Pool

Western media and political institutions tend to describe China and Russia as something of an anti-Western bloc. More autocratic than Western governments -- and more skeptical of open institutions and a free press -- China and Russia often side with each other in international disputes against European and American interests.

While this characterization isn’t entirely wrong, it overlooks the competition and suspicion between Moscow and Beijing. Today the Sino-Russian rivalry is back in the spotlight, thanks to a recent Chinese proposal for an anti-terror alliance in Central Asia, which does not include Russia -- and raises the possibility that tension between the two countries will grow in the coming decades.

For centuries, the region had been a source of strategic insecurity for both China and Russia, but more so for China, which was regularly on the receiving end of raids from Central Asian tribes. By the mid-18th century, both empires’ efforts to establish more control over the region -- and also security for themselves -- had borne fruit, as Russia brought Siberia under its control, and Qing-dynasty China established settlements in Xinjiang, which literally means “New Border Region.” While this permanent presence managed to mitigate the threat they faced from local tribes, it also put the two Eurasian empires on a course of competition and rivalry with each other in Central Asia that has endured to the present day.

For most of the period since, Russia has been more powerful than China, sometimes significantly so, and it grew accustomed to its “top-dog” role in the region, eventually extending its influence into control of the Central Asian Republics, and even Mongolia, during the Soviet period. Now the shoe is on the other foot, as re-emergent China continues to assert itself in a big way, worrying Moscow.

China’s proposed anti-terrorism alliance is the latest iteration of this kind of “Great Power Foreign Policy.” If formalized and constituted, the alliance would focus on sharing intelligence and coordinating monitoring and military efforts among China and Central Asian governments. Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan have expressed interest, and early talks have been proposed with other republics as well. The relative absence of details so far suggests that many sticking points could arise and torpedo the whole proposed enterprise, particularly since Chinese diplomacy has sometimes been ham-handed and overreaching when dealing with countries China regards as junior partners in a project.

That said, the proposal follows China’s recent $70 million grant to Afghanistan to help with anti-terror efforts, as well as broader Chinese commercial diplomacy in the region, notably involving Xi Jinping’s “One Belt, One Road” infrastructure initiative, designed to link up Europe and China overland through Central Asia. None of these efforts explicitly involve Russia at the top tables, so to speak. This omission of Russia from the proposed alliance is especially notable given that both countries have been involved in a major treaty group in Central Asia, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, for the last 15 years. This organization, at least on paper, is designed to engage in exactly the kinds of activities that Beijing is now attempting to undertake without Russian involvement and in an entirely new entity.

Possible terrorist activity from local Islamist groups is a real problem in the region; indeed, Islamic State has recently made more efforts at expanding to the region and has put Beijing more firmly in its crosshairs. This complicates any Russian efforts to claim that the alliance is merely a ploy for China to expand its influence. Central Asian peoples, mostly Turkic, are not part of the ethnic or cultural majority in either country. Nearly 25 million of them live in Russia and China, and are not especially well-integrated into local society, producing no small amount of resentment and tension. Ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang have tried to mobilize and agitate against Chinese rule before, and it’s possible that they will again, given Beijing’s harsh treatment of them. The Chinese security presence in Xinjiang has increased substantially, leading to what amounts to martial law in certain parts of the province. A permanent Chinese security presence in Central Asia would be merely an extension of this.

What makes these Chinese efforts at diplomacy and alliance-building in Central Asia especially notable is that they come at a time when Beijing is starting to throw its weight around with global diplomacy. Earlier this year, China finalized arrangements to establish its first overseas military base, a naval station in Djibouti -- where the United States and Japan, among others, are already present. These developments come on the heels of a massive shakeup in the People’s Liberation Army, which involves trimming land forces and giving the armed forces a more explicit role to protect Chinese national interests around the world, rather than purely on national defense. This pattern of Chinese behavior is not lost on Moscow, which has been historically very uncomfortable with foreign involvement in what Putin often calls Russia’s “near abroad,” including Ukraine, the Caucasus and Central Asia.

A major “X factor” in any possible Sino-Russian showdown in Central Asia is the United States. After nearly 15 years of military involvement in Afghanistan, the United States has a great deal of direct interest and experience in the region’s security, and may yet decide to weigh in or engage with the new Chinese efforts, should they come to fruition. The alliance could also provide a unique diplomatic venue for the United States to cooperate with Russia, if it considers Chinese efforts more suspect than Russian ones in the region, or indeed possibly the converse, with China and the United States jointly resisting Russian pressure. It could also set the stage for a “Mexican standoff,” if Washington decides it isn’t comfortable with either country’s presence there.

Ultimately, though, the Chinese alliance remains at this point a proposal. Russia, China and the United States often need each other as much as they distrust each other in foreign policy. For that reason, they may choose not to square off in Central Asia -- at least for now.

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