Thursday, December 18, 2008

Odetta ( 1931 - 2008 )

Folk legend Odetta has expired. Perhaps more than any other singer Odetta was the face of the Civil Rights movement in the United States. Odetta took an interest in music at a young age. When she moved with her sister and mother from Birmingham, Alabama to Los Angeles, California her mother recognized her talent and made great sacrifices to provide her at the time young teenager with costly music lessons. Odetta's career took off when she caught the eyes and ears of two performing legends...Harry Belafonte and Pete Seeger. Odetta was one of the first female performers to wear the "Afro" hairstyle. During the 60s she sold the bulk of her albums which included everything from interpretations of Leadbelly songs to my favorite Odetta classic "The Battle Hymn of The Republic.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Miriam Makeba (1932 - 2008)

Miriam Makeba, perhaps the most famous exponent of world music passed away performing on stage in Italy, the victim of a heart attack at the age of 76. Ms. Makeba's career began with the Manhattan Brothers in South Africa. Ms. Makeba was forced to leave South Africa due to her opposition to the racist oppressive Aparthied regime, especially after one of her recordings "Beware Voerwoed" gained international attention. In her lifetime Ms. Makeba was married to two equally famous spouses; Hugh Masekela, South Africa's internationally acclaimed trumpet and flugelhorn player then Trinidadian Civil Rights activist Stokely Carmichael. Makeba's marriage to the later put her on the FBI's blacklist and forced the couple to live in Guinea. The FBI deliberately set out to destroy Makeba's career in The United States, making it illegal to play any of her material on the airwaves. She also was denied any performing venue within the United States.
At this time Miriam Makeba was celebrating her biggest hit "Pata, Pata" In spite of this harsh character assassination Ms. Makeba still prevailed, as time went by the demand for her music steadily grew even though she could not perform in the USA. This only seemed to make her even more popular outside the US where she was known for such classics as "The Click Song", "Can't Cross Over", "Be Humble" and "Maliaka". Miriam Makeba (a.k.a. Mama Africa) and her music will live on forever in the hearts of millions around the world who adored her.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Obama Wins Big!!!

Barack Obama is now President-elect Obama with a larger than expected victory over Arizona senator John McCain. Mr. Obama became the first-ever elected African-American president. Throughout the campaign Mr. Obama never made race an issue and became president primarily because most Americans, black and white felt that he would be best suited to tackle the nation's most serious problem....the economy. Early on the pundits said that he could never carry the south and still win, but he did just that. He didn't win the south but he made serious inroads taking Florida, Viginia and North Carolina. This combined with taking the states with huge electoral votes, New York, California, Illinois made his victory a landslide. Two states that went to Bush in 2004 Indiana and Nevada were in the Obama column in 2008.
The voters judged Obama by the "content of his character and not by the color of his skin." Obama began this campaign in Iowa, a state with a 97% white population. Nationally Obama attracted the same percentage (44%) of white voters that John Kerry
had in 2004. The right wingers threw everything they had a him but nothing stuck (His middle name Hussein means that he is a muslim, he went to school in an anti-American madrassa in Indonesia, he never repudiated the Anti-American remarks of his
pastor of 20 years Jeremy Wright, he "palled around" with a known revolutionary (Ayers) who blew up buildings, he didn't wear an American flag on his lapel) Across the country McCain and Palin tolerated blatantly racist remarks by their supporters at rallies. Finally when McCain did come to Obama's defense he was soundly booed.
President-elect Obama's victory was an historic event and a proud one for the United States because now any black parent can tell his or her child that they can be what they want to be as long as they are willing to work hard for it. You can even be president. McCain in his own words ended his chances of winning this election when he said earlier "I don't know much about the economy" and "I voted with
President Bush 90% of the time"
Obama's election is NOT going to solve ALL of the nation's problems, but at least we can say we believe that we are going in another direction. There has been a rise in Klan membership and skinhead activity. This is something to be expected because whenever there are hard times racism rears its ugly head, but fortunately most of America is behind Mr. Obama and that could make all the difference.

Dee Dee Warwick (1945 - 2008)

It is with regret we acknowledge the passing of Dee Dee Warwick. Ms. Warwick was the younger sister of famed vocalist Dionne Warwick. She expired at a New Jersey nursing home. Dee Dee didn't have a "commercial" voice like that of her multi-grammy award winning sister but it can be said that she was among the best female R&B performers of her era. Dee Dee's biggest hit was "She Didn't Know (She Kept On Talking) but she also was famous for the original version of "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me", which was also recorded by Madeline Bell and became a #2 smash for Diana Ross and The Supremes with The Temptations. Other Dee Dee Warwick gems were "Yours Until Tomorrow", "I Wanna Be With You" and "I Haven't Got Anything Better To Do". My favorite Dee Dee Warwick recording was "Foolish Fool" penned by Ed Townsend (of "For Your Love" fame). Ms. Warwick did not like the song and did not want to record it and nearly walked out of the studio in protest. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and next to "She Didn't Know" this was her biggest hit. In 2007 Chaka Khan recorded an updated version of this R and B classic. Dee Dee Warwick like her sister Dionne, Cissy Houston, Whitney Houston and Darlene Love all have a connection to the
gospel group The Drinkard Singers.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Obama Slams McCain Manager For Saying Issues Don't Matter

Barack Obama has won all three debates because he has addressed the issues. This is something the McCain/Palin team does only when forced to or when it happens to be an issue they support. Since the economy is bad and John McCain said he would stay in Iraq another hundred years in necessary (when the majority of the country is against the war). McCain would rather talk about Joe The Plumber, who in actuality isn't a plumber yet, and how he would be victimized by Obama taxing people who make more than $250.000.00 a year. McCain says at this time no one's taxes should be raised. This is ridiculous. If there are no taxes, who pays for infrastruction, education etc. McCain fails to tell us about the huge number of corporations that don't pay anything at all in taxes. When you can't confront the issues honestly you have no other recourse than to resort to criticizing Rev. Jeremiah Wright (when his associate Rev. John Hagee has said worse than Wright including an obbvious penchant for anti-semitism). How can McCain condemn Ayers for blowing up building when his "good friend" Gordon Liddy had done the same. McCain's campaign director talks about making "personalities" the focus of the campaign instead of "issues" because when it comes to the issues they don't have a leg to stand on




more about "Obama Slams McCain Manager For Saying...", posted with vodpod

The Vet Who Did Not Vet

Here's the absolute truth. There was such a hoopla about Barack Obama's experience
"Sarah Palin (Pales In) in comparison"




more about "The Vet Who Did Not Vet", posted with vodpod

Friday, October 24, 2008

Levi Stubbs (1936 - 2008 )

One would think that this is a music site, it isn't, but with the succession of deaths of R&B legends once again I must pay homage. These were the people who made the music for the soundtrack of my life, one such person was the late Levi Stubbs Jr.
I don't think I've seen any professional entertainer more than Levi Stubb's Four Tops. I saw them for the first time in 1964 at the Brooklyn Paramount Theatre promoting their new song "Baby I Need Your Loving" I knew then that they were going to be BIG.
The Four Tops went on to have 24 top 40 hits which included two #1's "I Can't Help Myself(Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)" in 1965 and "Reach Out I'll Be There" in 1966 and in the process sold over 50 million records world-wide. The Four Tops and The Dells hold the record for longevity. The Dells had one personnel change early in their career, but the Four Tops had the same unit for over 40 years. They were only separated by death. With the passing of Levi Stubbs only one original member Abdul "Duke" Fakir is alive. The Four Tops and The Dells had other things in common besides longevity together. They both had lead singers with big booming voices. To this day there are still people who debate whether Marvin Junior or Levi Stubbs had the stronger voice.
The Four Tops were hitmakers for four decades. The group had an uncanny knack for making comebacks. The association with the legendary writing and producing team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Edward Holland created the bulk of the Four Tops hit repertoire: "Baby I Need Your Lovin" , "I Can't Help Myself", "It's The Same Old Song","Reach Out I'll Be There", "Something About You", "Shake Me, Wake Me (When It's Over)", "Standing In The Shadows Of Love", "Bernadette", "You Keep Running Away" When Holland-Dozier-Holland had a dispute with Motown President Berry Gordy and left Motown it initially had a debilitating effect on the record label and acts like the Four Tops and The Supremes experiencing slumping sales. The Four Tops resorted to making cover songs. Some were successful "Walk Away Renee" "If I Were A Carpenter" but these songs never reached the sales of the Holland-Dozier-Holland era. At this time the Four Tops worked with another blossoming Motown writer/producer Frank Wilson who along with Smokey Robinson created the Four Tops big comeback hit of 1970 "Still Waters (Love)". The album "Still Waters Run Deep" is considered by many to be their best ever. About a year later Berry Gordy decided to move Motown to Los Angeles. The Wilson produced "(That's The Way) Nature Planned It" Lp got a lot of attention, especially the medley "Hey Man/We Gotta Get You A Woman" that was featured regularly on the dance line on the popular tv program "Soul Train". This song would have been another big hit for the group had it not been for the Tops' reluctance to transplant to the west coast. The Four Tops insisted on staying in Detroit so Motown and The Four Tops parted company and Motown decided not to release "Hey Man/We Gotta Get You A Woman".
It was time for the Four Tops to make yet another comeback, this time moving to ABC/Dunhill records and working with another successful writing/producing team Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter. The duo returned the Tops to the higher positions on the charts with songs like "Keeper Of The Castle", the #4 hit "Ain't No Woman (Like The One I Got)", "Are You Man Enough" and "Sweet Understanding Love"
Then for some inexplicable reason the Four Tops disappeared from the pop chart but continued to triumph on the R&B Charts with songs like "We All Gotta Stick Together","One Chain(don't make no prison)" and "Midnight Flower" History then repeated itself when the Dennis Lambert-Brian Potter writing and producing team split from each other and from ABC Records, which a short time later folded.
After returning from England where they found success with a song that wasn't well received in the United States "Simple Game" (#3)it was time for yet another
comeback. The Four Tops signed with Casablanca Records and had another big hit
"When She Was My Girl" (#1 R&B, #11 Pop), but like ABC, Casablanca also bit the dust, leading the Four Tops to Arista Records where in 1988 they had their last Top 40 hit "Indestructible" with Smokey Robinson filling in for the ailing Lawrence Payton who passed away in 1997.
In 2000 Levi Stubbs was no longer able to perform with the Four Tops and Theo Peoples (formerly of the Temptations) replaced him as lead singer. Reinaldo "Obie" Benson, the composer of Marvin Gaye's smash hit "What's Goin' On?" and the Four Tops'
own "Sweet Understanding Love" died in 2006, he was replaced by Roquel Payton (the son of Lawrence Payton). The current Four Tops are Abdul Fakir, Theo Peoples, Ronnie McNeir and Roquel Payton. Just last week Levi Stubbs, who suffered from a stroke, cancer and a heart attack died in his sleep at the age of 72. The Four Tops were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. Stubbs came from a family of exceptional entertainers, his younger brother Joe Stubbs was the lead voice on the 100 Proof (aged in soul) hit "Somebody's Been Sleeping" and the great Jackie Wilson was Levi's cousin.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Immortals - The Greatest Artists of All Time: 79)The Four Tops by Smokey Robinson

The Four Tops are a one-in-a-million singing group. They were the best in my neighborhood in Detroit when I was growing up. When I was eleven or so, my first group was an early version of what would become the Miracles. Back then the Four Tops were called the Four Aims. We all used to sing on the corners, at school functions and at house parties. Sometimes we'd have talent competitions. But all the groups in the neighborhood knew that if the Four Aims were going to be there, you were going to be singing for second place at best.
They were the first group from the neighborhood that sang modern harmony: They could sing like a gospel group but then do R&B like no one else. I love singers whom you can identify the first second they open their mouth, and Levi Stubbs is one of those; he's one of the greatest of all time. He has that distinctive voice, and his range is staggering. The combination of Levi, Obie Benson, Duke Fakir and Lawrence Payton was truly awesome.

When they came to Motown and teamed up with Holland-Dozier-Holland, there was no looking back. They performed some of the most dramatic records ever written: "Standing in the Shadows of Love," "Bernadette," "Reach Out I'll Be There," "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)" and "Baby I Need Your Loving." Later, when Holland-Dozier-Holland left, I co-wrote "Still Water (Love)" with Frank Wilson for the Four Tops.

They were always great singers and great guys. When the Four Tops first came to Motown, the Miracles and I were the mainstays of the label, and the Temptations had just gotten there. But all the guys were very, very close. You'd come back to town from a fifty-one-night tour, and the first thing you did was shower and head back to Hitsville. We'd be there playing cards and shooting pool together into the early hours.

Levi is sick and he can't perform right now, but the Four Tops are still great. Obie -- who co-wrote "What's Going On" for Marvin Gaye -- and Duke are still there, and you've got some great new guys with them. So if you see the Four Tops now, you are still going to be mightily entertained. The Four Tops will always be one of the biggest and the best groups ever. Their music is forever.

This article was written for Rolling Stone Magazine by Smokey Robinson in 2004

Norman Whitfield (1941 - 2008)

Norman Whitfield, one of the most prolific composer/arrangers of Motown Records has succumbed to diabetes. Whitfield produced songs for such top Motown acts as Gladys Knight & The Pips, Rare Earth, The Four Tops, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Marvin Gaye and The Supremes, but he had his greatest success with The Temptations, who had 38 top forty hits between 1964 and 1991, Whitfield produced 26 of the 38, which included gems like "Ain't Too Proud To Beg", "I Can't Get Next To You", "Just My Imagination", "Papa Was A Rolling Stone" "(I Know)I'm Losing You" and "I Wish It Would Rain". Whitfield earned the reputation of being a hard worker, driven to the point of perfection. This trait gave him quite a few enemies because of the hours spent in the studio recording artists. He was the type of person who would not take no for an answer if he felt he was right. Motown president Berry Gordy rejected the tune "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" by several artists. It appeared as if each time Gordy rejected it Whitfield would do it again with a different artist. Finally Gordy did accept a version by Gladys Knight & The Pips. This recording became the biggest Motown hit ever at that time. Seeing the success of the Gladys Knight & Pips version of the song Berry Gordy then approved the Marvin Gaye version, which even surpassed the one by Gladys Knight & The Pips to become Motown's all-time best seller.
When Whitfield left Motown he composed songs for movies like "Which Way Is Up?
the Richard Pryor film that had Stargard perform the Whitfield penned title song. He had even greater success with Rose Royce's "Car Wash" from the film of the same name. The song reached #1 on Billboard in 1977. Whitfield, like Ronald Isley and Dionne Warwick was a among a cadre of African-American artists who are constantly tormented by Internal Revenue Service. Whitfield left the music scene completely in
2000 primarily due to health concerns.

Pervis Jackson (1939 - 2008)

Pervis Jackson, one of the original Spinners has passed away, a victim of cancer. Jackson was best known for providing the deep voice on tunes like "(They Just Can't Help It)Games People Play" This is the third death of a prominent member of this legendary Detroit group. Pervis Jackson is preceeded in death by Philippe Wynne and Billy Henderson. With a roster of stars that included The Four Tops, The Supremes, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Gladys Knight & The Pips and Rick James, The Spinners felt that they had been neglected for too long and that it was time for a change, so the group left Motown for Atlantic where they achieved world wide success with unforgettable songs like "One Of A Kind" "Rubberband Man" and "Then Came You". Before leaving Motown Stevie Wonder gave them their second top forty hit "It's A Shame" Between 1961 and 1995 The Spinners had 18 top forty hits, the biggest of all were "Then Came You" recorded with Dionne Warwick, reaching #1 in 1974, "Working My Way Back To You" and "Rubberband Man" both reaching the #2 spot in 1976 and 1980.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Al Wilson (1939 - 2008)

In the year 2008 many R&B standouts have died, one of them was Meridan, Mississippi soul singer Al Wilson. From 1968 to 1976 Wilson had several top
40 hits which included "The Snake", "La La Peace Song", "Touch And Go" and
"I've Got A Feeling (We'll Be Seeing Each Other Again), but the biggest of
them all was the 1973 release "Show and Tell" which reached #1 on the Billboard
chart. Wilson along with The 5th Dimension were two of the first acts signed
by 60s rocker Johnny Rivers.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A reply to Anonymous

There have been several people who have replied to a posting on this blog using the name "Anonymous" , one in particular replied to my article "Republican Apparel Ad: A Surprise to " because I expressed my outrage at having a conservative ad on a progressive blog. That particular "anonymous" knows who he or she was and this is my reply.....
"Does it bother you that I know the truth? There is not ONE thing I wrote in the article that cannot be verified, and you know it. I love this country. My objective is to save it from avaricious, fear-mongering imbecilic a------- like you.
You seem to be lacking the courage to mention your name "anonymous". I am not surprised.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Hannity Exposed as Fraud

I have never seen Sean Hannity look more totally insignificant. Hannity has been extremely critical of Barack Obama because he associated with a radical bomber with regard to a charity. The more Hannity squealed about how he was not an anti-semite
Robert Gibbs pointed out that he gave an audience to a known anti-semite thereby exposing Hannity as a hypocrit. It's wrong when Obama casually communicates with Ayers, but it's ok for Hannity via his show give an audience to a bigot.




more about "Hannity Exposed as Fraud", posted with vodpod

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Obama Is Right: McCain Was Wrong

Final verdict: Obama 1, McCain 0




more about "Obama Is Right: McCain Was Wrong", posted with vodpod

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman 1925 - 2008

Paul Newman, who succumbed to lung cancer at the age of 83 will not only be remembered as a fine actor but also as a great humanitarian. The multi-Oscar award actor starred in an array of unforgettable films like "The Sting" "Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid" "Exodus" and "Cool Hand Luke" but also spent a great deal of time helping those who are less fortunate. Through his "Newman's Own" food brand he earned over 250,000 that was donated to charity. He also played an active role in raising funds for refugees all over the world through the International Rescue Committee. Mr. Newman lead an exemplary life making him a role model for all.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Olbermann spanks O'Reilly

Bill O'Reilly, like all of us makes mistakes, but when it has been proven that you have make a mistake the right thing to do is to admit to the mistake and apologize. Here we have a case where O'Reilly makes a horrendous mistake and not only does he not admit to it, he REPEATS and defends it. The FOX network through it all continues to defend O'Reilly by claiming that he said "Normandy" instead of "Malmedy" This event shows that O'Reilly and the FOX network are morally challenged.




more about "Olbermann spanks O'Reilly", posted with vodpod

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A New and Different China

I am to put it mildly surprised at the image the current Chinese government is portraying to the world. It seems to be a blatant contradiction that China was chosen to be the host of the Olympics, an activity designed to promote world peace through friendly sport competition. The racist action of denying blacks and Mongolians entry to bars and restaurants only scratches the surface. China is assisting the government of Sudan in its genocide of the people of Darfur. Chinese projects in Sudan could be could be stopped if the Chinese government would express its disdain for the outright murder of innocent people. The Chinese government says "nothing" because it apparently sees nothing wrong with genocide. There is also the issue of Tibet, which China continues to make a colony, denying its residents freedom of expression.
I remember a very different China. A nation whose leadership opposed racism and financially supported world-wide movements that were progressive in nature. During the apartheid era
China could be counted on to supply weapons to South African liberation movements. I remember a China that emphasized educating its young about the history of western capitalistic exploitation and the significance of the Opium wars and the Boxer Rebellion. Today China itself is acting like those dreaded imperialists of that era.
It is ironic that the Chinese themselves were victims of racism when the Spanish athletes made the outrageous gesture of slanting their eyes in a group photo. The outlandish riots that continue to happen at European soccer stadiums as a result of alcohol consumption must have escaped the attention of the Chinese government. These events involved whites.
Because of the incompetence of the Bush administration there is very little that the United States can tell China about its racism or its exploitation of Tibet because if China demanded all the money the US has borrowed it would devastate the US economy. The main explanation given for the blockade and continued policy of not having diplomatic relations with Cuba has been "We don't do business with Communist countries" It just so happens that China still considers itself a Communist country, but the US government is making an exception because greedy multinationals see the one billion plus population as customers for their products.
As a person of African descent when I first heard of Blacks being prohibited from Chinese bars and restaurants my first reaction was to hope that all those of African descent who were participating the Olympics leave China. This would really show the Chinese government a financial consequence of racism. But after seriously thinking about it, maybe this is a bit impractical when one considers the sacrifice athletes have made to participate in this event which is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Something that can be done is to confront every Chinese official that comes to the US with this issue. It should be made the main topic of conversation everywhere. This cannot be forgotten.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Why I support the MoveOn.org protect the vote movement

I get really upset when I hear pundits explain the reasons why Democrats lost the 2000 and 2004 elections. At the time the DLC was promoting a "benign neglect" policy that would attract more southern white male voters. (I wonder if they are still promoting that campaign now?). The so-called experts will give you a plethora of explanations ranging from the strength of the religious right (especially the evangelicals) to the need for tax relief. The truth of the matter and the issue that the majority of Republicans and DEMOCRATS refuse to admit is that the 2000 and 2004 elections were STOLEN. According to Greg Palast (British news anchor, journalist) the mechanisms to steal the 2008 elections are already in place. Black voters( and other minorities)were disenfranchised by defective voting machines and caging. We continue to be told that the Obama/McCain race is so close. That just makes it easier to steal. That's what we were told in the Bush/Kerry and Bush/Gore presidential elections: it was just soooooooooooooo close!
We need a paper trail! It is the only way that we can be assured of an honest election. This is why I support the MoveOn.org effort for an honest '08 election and you should too.

Voting Machines: Momentum for Paper RecordsMoveOn members wearing “Got Paper? Got Audits?” T-shirts packed a recent voting machines hearing in Congress, spurring many elected representatives to speak up for voter-verified paper records. Phone calls from MoveOn members nationwide are convincing more and more members of Congress to get behind the bill requiring paper records—bringing the total to over 200 co-sponsors! Sign the Petition » Election reform campaigns »

Monday, August 11, 2008

S-A-G-G-I-N ?????

Yesterday I received this message from my cousin in California, who suggested that I pass it on. Barack Obama as Bill Cosby before him received a lot of criticism from segments of the black community for making similar statements. There are many out there in the black community who feel that wearing baggy pants, showing your underwear and using foul language is part of
"our" culture and that they are just "keeping it real" At the same time there are those in the Black community who have a totally different perpective on this dysfunctional behavior, but their voices are seldom heard in print or in the media.

Letter from a college student – Sent by Carl Walker:

The other day, a friend of mine visited me in the lobby of my dorm just to chat while her laundry was drying. As we were chatting, two young freshmen came by. One of the boys wanted to 'talk' to my friend (as in date). She asked him how old they were, and both of the boys replied 18.
My friend and I both laughed hysterically because we are both 22 years old. After my friend left, the young men were still hanging around and one wanted to know how he could gain her interest. The first thing I told him to do was to pull up his pants! He asked why, and then said he liked saggin' his pants. I told him to come over to my computer and spell the word saggin'. Then I told him to write the word saggin ' backwards.
S-A-G-G-I-N
N-I-G- G-A-S
I told him the origin of that look was from centuries ago. It was the intent of slave owners to demoralize the field workers by forbidding them to wear a belt as they worked in the fields or at any other rigorous job. In addition, men in prison wore their pants low when they were 'spoken for'. The other reason their pants looked like that was they were not allowed to have belts because prisoners were likely to try to commit suicide. And, saggin' pants prevents you from running.
We as young Black people have to be the ones to effect change. We are dying. The media has made a mockery of the Black American. Even our brothers and sisters from Africa don't take us seriously. Something as simple as pulling up your pants and standing with your head held high could make the biggest difference in the world's perception of us. It is time to do right by ourselves. We need to love and embrace each other. No one is going to do that for us.
It all comes down to perception. What people perceive is what is reality to them. We have to change not only the media's perception of us, but we need to change our perception of ourselves. Remember all eyes are on you Black Man. All eyes are on you Black Woman. All eyes are on your Black Child. People point the finger at us and expect us to engage in negative and illegal activities, to manifest loud, boisterous behavior, to spend our hard earned money in their stores, buying goods we don't need, or really want. We have allowed not only the media, but also the government and the world to portray us as a 'sub-culture.' They have stripped our culture down to the point where the image of Black people is perpetuated as rappers, athletes, drug users, and consumers of junk food, expensive tennis shoes, expensive cars, expensive TVs, cell phones and not investing in homes for our families.
We are so much more!!!!!!!

Isaac Hayes (1942-2008)

It is with great sadness that this site acknowledges the passing of the versatile artist Isaac Hayes, who was an accomplished singer, composer, actor and radio personality. Hayes came from humble beginnings in Covington, Tennessee to stardom in Hollywood. Hayes, along with his partner David Porter played a vital role in the meteoric rise of Stax records in the early 60s. Hayes and Porter penned almost all of the Sam and Dave hits: "Soul Man", "I Thank You", "When Something Is Wrong With My Baby", "Hold On, I'm Coming", "You Don't Know Like I Know" This duo also gave The Emotions their first big hit "So I Can Love Him". Lou Rawls had one of his biggest hits "Your Good Thing (Is About To End)" due to the efforts of the Hayes-Porter duo.
In the 70's Hayes stepped up to the mike. His initial album wasn't a commercial success, but the second one(Hot Buttered Soul), which included a reworking of Jimmy Webb's immortal hit "By The Time I Get To Phoenix" went platinum. This was followed by even bigger success. Hayes composed the soundtrack for the motion picture Shaft. The Theme from Shaft earned Hayes Grammys and an Oscar. After a long hiatus in 1980 Hayes revived his career as a singer with his rendition of the Jesse Stone classic "Don't Let Go" Later Hayes became a huge success playing the role of Chef in Comedy Central's South Park. He left that show because it lampooned his religion (Scientology). Hayes then went to New York City, where he successfully entered the world of morning radio.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Race Card and Other Falsehoods - Part Two

I really want Mr. McCain's representative to read this article that appeared in the Pensito Review and then ask himself who is REALLY injecting race into the presidential race. It appears as if Mr. McCain was caught with his hand in the cookie jar and can't give any comprehensible explanation.

Black Reporter Removed by McCain Security in Florida; Whites Allowed to Stay
Trish Aug. 3, 2008
The McCain team swears that race was not an issue when a senior reporter from the Tallahassee Democrat was ejected from a campaign rally in Panama City but they can’t supply an alternate explanation.
Newspaper’s executive editor: “We’re deeply concerned and disturbed that our reporter — of all of those in that area — was asked to move. My understanding is that Stephen was the only reporter approached and asked to leave, and the only reporter in that area who is black
[Stephen] Price was among at least three other reporters, and the only black reporter, surrounding McCain’s campaign bus — Gov. Charlie Crist and his fiancee, Carole Rome, were already aboard — when a member of the Arizona senator’s security detail asked the reporter to identify himself. Price had shown his media credentials to enter the area.
Price showed his employee identification as well as his credentials for the Friday event.
“I explained I was with the state press, but the Secret Service man said that didn’t matter and that I would have to go,” Price said.
The big question is, what if anything had Price done to earn his removal?
Tallahassee Democrat Executive Editor Bob Gabordi said the incident was unwarranted.
“We’re deeply concerned and disturbed that our reporter — of all of those in that area — was asked to move,” Gabordi said. “My understanding is that Stephen was the only reporter approached and asked to leave the area, and the only reporter in that area who is black. Another reporter who stood up for Stephen was then asked to leave.”
The McCain team denies Price was removed because he is African-American.
“Access to the senator is tightly controlled,” [McCain advance man Jonathan] Block said. “I would first express regret that your reporter was moved, and I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that race had nothing to do with it.”
And that’s supposed to settle it?

Friday, August 01, 2008

The Race Card and other falsehoods

This "catchy" phrase, a favorite with conservatives is frequently used when one doesn't want to acknowledge the existence of racial inequality. They look at it as an "excuse". This tactic raised it's ugly head again yesterday when a Mr. Wise, a McCain operative accused Mr. Obama of injecting "race" into the campaign when he said that he didn't look like any of the presidents on dollar bills. The media had a field day with this one. It was the talk of the pundits and given ample print in almost every major US newspaper. The fact of the matter is that Obama, could have been mentioning his youth, or his attire, or even his hairstyle. A "whining" Mr. Wise came to the conclusion that it could ONLY mean race. With the serious issues that presidential candidates are confronted with in this campaign it seems incongruous that this is the "issue?" that gets all the coverage.
Once again the Republican/Swiftboat/Atwater-Rove school has injected itself in yet another political campaign. I am certain that John McCain has never said anything that could be considered racist, (even with that "gorilla" joke he made a while back, I am still willing to give him the benefit of the doubt), but he doesn't have to, his operatives are doing that for him. Rarely have I seen him refute these caustic statements. Obama has had a simple fist bump be reported as a terrorist ritual. He has had his wife characterized as a participant in a hate whitey rally. He has had reporters publicly say that they wished he were dead.He
been held responsible for statements made by his pastor and by the rapper Ludicris. McCain on the other hand is given a free pass when it comes to his connections to the religious bigot John Hagee and his connections to Bob Jones University (that has displayed numerous examples of intolerence). McCain is a man who has changed his positions on so many issues, yet the press doesn't pin that "flip-flop" tag on him the way they did John Kerry. McCain was against torture, now he is for it. McCain was in favor of a woman's right to choose, now he is against it. McCain was for affirmative action, now he is against it.
Obama brushed aside Mr. Wise's comments by just saying that McCain is taking the "low road". This is true but he has to realize that the U.S. public is greatly influenced by what they see on television and what they see in print. The so-called "low road" can play a vital role to the road to victory. Look at what happened to Harold Ford Jr. (an African-American) in Tennessee. All these ethically challenged Republican operatives had to do was have a beautiful young blond say that she wanted to see Ford again. Ford was leading before that promotion hit the TV screen. The late racist senator from North Carolina Jesse Helms used a similar tactic in his campaign against another African-American opponent. His tv spots claimed that qualified white people were losing their jobs because of minorities. Nothing could have been further from the truth. There were no statistics that could verify this statement, yet Helms won.
Obama is making a serious mistake if he just lets this one go. John Kerry, like John McCain is a decorated war hero. In fact, I believe his heroics were even more substantial because his actions saved the lives of U.S. soldiers. The swiftboaters said that he was not a hero and implied that some of his wounds may have been self-inflicted. George Bush never said this, but he didn't have to, he had the swiftboaters to say it for him. Every time a McCain operative makes an outrageous statement Obama should deal with him or her immediately. Obama had to apologize for the statements of Rev. Wright, but McCain didn't have to apologize for the statements of
Rev. Hagee. Obama had to retract statements make about the working class people of Pennsylvania and even after doing so he still lost the state in the primary. Obama is going to have to realize that the Republicans have a history of fighting dirty and if he wants to win besides confronting electoral skullduggery he is also going to have to take the gloves off because the press is solidy behind McCain.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Threat of Martial Law - Part Two

Greg Palast showed the world how the 2000 and 2004 elections were stolen, mainly due to the chicanery of "caging" against the African-American community. The media underreported or didn't report the activities Katherine Graham, Jeb Bush and J. Kenneth Blackwell. The majority of television viewers across the nation did not see any coverage, so as a result they sincerely believe it didn't happen. Greg Palast also warned that the 2008 presidential campaign will also be stolen, unless there is a landslide Democratic turnout at the polls. Palast states that for all intents and purposes the '08 elections are already stolen. The pundits, regardless of network affilation continue to say "Obama is leading McCain, but by a close margin, 46% to 44%, why is it so close?" More than likely Obama is leading by a wider margin, but network news want to make it close so that when the fix is in, they can always say "McCain won a close race" "We told you it was close all along."
It has always been my belief that this is the scenario for 2008 (See "The Threat of Martial Law" on this site.) As I have said on previous occasions I hope that I am wrong about this one, but I feel that if this rogue element can topple foreign governments, why can't they do it here? The "true" rulers of this country really don't care about what happens to the rest of us. In my view the ones who really rule are the heads of corporate America. They are the ones who buy senators and congresspersons to execute their policy. According to ABC News, the Internal Revenue was "unable' to collect 1.6 billion dollars in tax revenue from these major corporations. CEO's salaries are at an all time high. These people have no sense of true patriotism. They make their money and they send it to a tax shelter haven out of the United States.
So many people tell me that there could NEVER be a coup in the United States because the people would NEVER allow it, to which I respond "Do you really think the leaders of Corporate America give a damn about what people think? They already have their own private armies (I am not even mentioning Blackwater) and the capacity to incarcerate huge numbers of people. Prison construction in the US is also at an all time high and massive incarceration has become a very lucrative business. Under the reign of the infamous Bush administration the oil industry, big pharma and the insurance industry have taken the American people to the cleaners big time. They have a very strong ally..........the apathetic U.S. Citizen, the one who doesn't vote, the one who is willing to do whatever he or she is told by a pastor who has his or her own agenda (which really doesn't adhere to biblical principles), the one whose idea of "news" is invading the private lives of movie stars. These same people are losing their jobs in record numbers and they are losing their sons and daughters in a war that was built on a lie. The trillions that have been spent on the war have put our grandchildren and great grandchildren in debt. This debt is owed primarily to Saudi Arabia and China. Yes, there are some people who are waking up. George W. Bush's popularity is STILL under 30%, but the problem is ....it may be too late.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

An Open Letter to Fox News

I am angered by the recent remarks by Fox media pundits. It is one thing to firmly support a point of view, but its totally different to deliberately and vindictively distort the image of a political adversary with total disregard for the truth. As you probably know by now your "racist" comments against Michelle Obama have not gone unnoticed. Besides Ms. Hill's outrageous fist bump comment, Liz Trotter's declaration of wishing Barack Obama dead hasn't gone unnoticed either, nor has Michelle Malkin's racist "Baby Mama" comment. I want you to imagine a national boycott of your sponsors' products by African-Americans. Your sponsors make a significant amount of money from Black America. One major lesson that Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks taught us was that corporate America understands the bottom line. This is why apartheid died in South Africa and segregation on Montgomery busses ended. The Michael Savage show has lost major sponsors due to reaction to several outrageous statements he made. I know that you probably think that you are "immune" but I am sure that you can be shown that you are not. Sure, the political thought of African-Americans is not monolithic, but there are enough of us out there to make a difference. We are not going to be publicly humiliated by racially motivated innuendo. I think a REAL apology is in order.
-Claude Chaney

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Year in Review, 2007 Person of the Year: Barack Obama

Barack Obama is chosen as the "Person of The Year" for 2007 merely because he has come so far in such a relatively short period of time. He has proven himself to be a master organizer who has managed to raise more funds than any other presidential candidate in either party through the small donation of 20 or 30 dollars. The miracle of his campaign is that he has not made an issue of being the only serious African-American candidate. As a result he is appealing to all Democrats regardless of race , winning primaries in states like Idaho, Iowa and Nebraska that have relatively small communities of African-Americans if any. He has connected with the youth of the United States, promising them something "new" On various occasions I have heard his opponents (McCain, Bloomberg, Clinton) say you can't become President with so called "happy talk" but to this point he is proving them wrong. The same detractors point to his "lack of experience" but the public is well aware of the senators and congresspersons who have little passed legislation to go along with their "experience". It is apparent that the country wants to go in another direction and people are not going continue the failed policies of the seasoned politicians of both parties who continue to extract funds that should be going towards education, health care and protecting the environment instead to a senseless, unjustified and unwinnable war.

The Threat of Martial Law

The rising tide of suspicion over the events of 9/11 continue you to grow, yet you hear nothing about it mainstream media. The number of people who are aware of the PNAC (Project For A New American Century) also continues to grow and once again very little is mentioned about this revolutionary project that espouses the need for a catasthrophic event to rally the public behind the president in the same way that the people supported President Franklin Roosevelt after Pearl Harbor. Could the destruction the world trade center be just the kind of event the authors of the PNAC anticipated? Why did Tower #7 go down when it was never hit
by a plane? Why was twin tower custodian Willie Rodriguez prevented from giving testimony during the 9/11 hearings when he has been around the world telling interested parties that there were a series of explosions that took place prior to the plane hitting the enormous structure? Why was our sky security system (N.O.R.A.D) down and ineffective for the very first time? (VP Richard Cheney was the man in charge). Who was in charge of overall security of the World Trade Center on that fateful date 9/11, it was none other than President George Bush's younger brother. All the these facts have been ignored or at best underreported by the major news outlets. This could only lead to the conclusion of collusion. They would much rather bombard us with the trials and trivails of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears.
This all leads to the strong possibility of martial law if President Bush decides he just doesn't want to leave office. There are many influencial conservative minded individuals who have made a long term investment in Iraq and I believe they have little regard for the wishes of the people of The United States who oppose the war. If John McCain is "elected" president it will not cause this group of people concern because it is painfully obvious that McCain will follow the same policies of Bush. Why would anyone do this knowing that Bush's popularity ratings are in the toilet hovering at around 28%? If either Clinton or Obama is the new president this will cause great concern for this power elite that wholeheartedly supports this war. It is very likely that they will demand that a "State of Emergency" be invoked and the war will continue. There are those who continue to say "Oh no, that's ridiculous, this is the USA, something of that nature would never happen here" To those people I would say "You probably would have said the same thing years ago if you were told that the day would come when all of our telephone conversations would be monitored too" The vast majority of USA citizens in my opinion are uninformed and it seems as if they don't want to think for themselves. This is the reason why we have millions of God fearing people who are following false religious zealots. The lemmings will find their way to the polls every election day without ever realizing they are voting against their own self interests.
There was another 9/11, the one in 1973 when people in Chile also thought "It would NEVER happen here" Well it did happen there and thousands of people were herded into stadiums and murdered because they opposed the policies of the US installed dictator Augusto Pinochet. In order to prevent something like this from happening the people of the United States must be proactive and not reactive. If nothing is done by the next election day it will already be too late. Just look at what Pervez Musharef did in Pakistan, what is there to prevent the Bush/Cheney cabal from doing the same thing here? I hope that I am wrong about this very real threat of martial law in the United States, but I don't think so.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Republican New Hampshire Legislator Wants Bush and Cheney Impeached and Prosecuted by Dan Dewalt (http://afterdowningstreet.org/node/31214)

In a packed hearing room on Feb 19th, under a carved wooden sign reading "Live Free or Die", the New Hampshire House committee of State-Federal Relations and Veterans' Affairs heard testimony on Representative Betty Hall's HR 24, which calls on the U.S. Congress to begin impeachment hearings for George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.
What was most notable about the four straight hours of testimony was not that opponents of the resolution could only muster two people willing to testify against it, both Republican stalwarts using selected excerpts from Jefferson's parliamentary manual or from the bill itself, whose arguments were embarrassingly empty.
It was not that Kris Roberts, the committee chair, had taken this hearing seriously enough to have researched the law, history and nuances of the subject, and that he used this to inform the proceedings in a reasonably fair manner.
It was not the fact that after the hearing ended, several pro-impeachment witnesses were approached by committee members and thanked for their clarity and useful testimony.
It was not even the novelty of the interjections by one committee member that would periodically steer the conversation abruptly into Rockefeller/Trilateral Commission territory.
The most remarkable moment came late in the afternoon when Republican House member Steve Vaillancourt strode into the room to testify. After passing out copies of the second chapter of Patrick Buchanan's "Day of Reckoning" as supporting evidence, Vaillancourt opened his remarks quoting "fools rush in where wise men fear to tread", and it sounded like a set up to condemn a rush to impeach. But instead he said that Betty Hall is neither fool nor wise man, but is a model of courage and that her impeachment resolution should be supported.
And then the fun began.
Member Vaillancourt then gave a short history lesson, telling the committee that until Bush/Cheney, America had never engaged in an offensive war [sic.], and pointing out that the Truman, Eisenhower. Kennedy and Reagan "Doctrines" had all been based on defense and had not been offensive in nature. Warming to the subject, he delved into the ramifications of Bush/Cheney's actions, saying that their reckless foreign policy has been anti-American, unconstitutional, and ruinously costly to the nation.
He was fairly thundering by the time that he pronounced that not only should Bush and Cheney be impeached, but also they should be tried as war criminals in a Nuremburg style trial for crimes against humanity. He flatly stated that the war in Iraq has provided grounds for war crimes charges against the President and Vice President. And there was not one word of protest from a single committee member. They may or may not support this resolution to impeach, but there seems to be no one left with a credible argument to defend Bush/Cheney.
Vaillancourt said that he spoke not as a Republican, a New Hampshire citizen or an American, but as a member of humanity. His remarks made a common sense plea for an honest appraisal of our current political situation, for the acknowledgement that we have a duty to act as a decent and responsible people, and that principle be the governing factor of our government's actions. These are all values that should, and once did, cut across party lines. If the current political parties have forgotten this, and become so degraded as to allow the lawlessness and criminality of this administration to go unchecked, the people have not.
And at that hearing the people had their chance to speak. One member of the committee remarked that she had never before seen such a wide range of viewpoints as represented by the witnesses, to be so united on one issue.
After deliberation the next day, loyalty to party leadership proved a stronger pull than reasoned argument, for five committee members voted to recommend the bill, with eleven voting against. Now facing an uphill battle to get it passed in a full House vote in March, Betty Hall was still encouraged by the committee hearing and vote. She has received much more support for this resolution than she did with a similar effort last year, and is already working to get grass roots supporters out between now and the vote to get their legislators' attention.
If the grass roots continue to pour out as they did on Tuesday, and if there were a few more politicians like Steve Vaillancourt and Betty Hall, we might see things begin to change. It's instructive to remember that some politicians who are now leading the charge for impeachment did not want to talk about it only a few short months ago. The spotlight is now on the New Hampshire House, the third largest deliberative body on the planet, and arguably one of the more democratic representative systems anywhere as well. These representatives may listen to an outsider's viewpoint on what to do about the Constitution, but they will be influenced most by the neighbors whom they represent.
The question is, is New Hampshire angry enough and organized enough to convince the legislature to call for impeachment? For those outside of New Hampshire the question is, how can we raise the temperature everywhere else, making it all the more plausible that the Granite State will reach the boiling point.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Why No Child Left Behind Should Be Scrapped by Anthony Cody

America’s schools have fallen into a giant trap. This trap is epic in its dimensions, because the people capable of leading us out of it have been silenced, and the initiative that could help us is being systematically squashed.Policymakers and the public have been seduced by a simple formulation. No Child Left Behind posits that we have troubled schools because they have not been accountable. If we make teachers and schools pay a price for the failure of their students, they will bring those students up to speed.
But schools are NOT the only factor determining student success. Urban neighborhoods are plagued by poverty and violence and recent reports in The Chronicle show that as many as 30 percent of the children in these neighborhoods suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Fully 40 percent of our students are English learners, but these students must take the same tests as native English speakers. Moreover, a recent study provides strong evidence that family-based factors such as the quality of day care, the home vocabulary and the amount of time spent reading and watching television at home account for two-thirds of the difference in academic success for students. Nonetheless, NCLB holds only the schools accountable.
Teachers are realizing that this is a raw deal. We can’t single-handedly solve these problems, and we can’t bring 100 percent of our students to proficiency in the next six years, no matter how “accountable” the law makes us, and no matter the punishments it metes out. But if we speak up to point out the injustice and unreasonableness of the demands on our schools, we are shouted down, accused of making excuses for ourselves and not having high expectations for our students. Thus, teachers have been silenced, our expertise squandered.
The fatal flaw of NCLB was that it assumed that teachers were obstacles to change; that we had to be coerced to set higher standards for ourselves and our students. As a result we have state-mandated standards, standardized tests - even scripted curriculum to tell us what to say in class. All of this has demoralized teachers by making us into the problem, rather than a big part of the solution.
But educators have not been completely immobilized. We have been learning in spite of the hostile conditions, and have discovered that:
– Although student success is heavily influenced by other factors, an effective teacher can make a huge difference.
– Teachers who are able to skillfully assess student learning on a daily basis can promote rapid growth by giving timely feedback and tailoring instruction to meet students’ needs.
– Teachers who collaborate together to develop common assessments and share techniques can build powerful learning communities that allow them to push their students to make great gains.
– Teachers are capable of developing assessments that reflect the values and skills desired by their local communities - and this yields a much higher level of student and teacher engagement, as can be seen in Nebraska ( www.nde.state.ne.us/focusstars/ index.htm).
– Teachers must be deeply involved in educational policy decisions - without our insights and support, policies on paper will not translate into real-world solutions.
While the recent proposed revisions of NCLB contained some improvements, the law remains fundamentally flawed, and does not deserve to be reauthorized. We need to step back and create a new vision of accountability - from the classroom up. Teachers are willing to be accountable for making a difference - that is why we entered this profession. But we must have reasonable goals that reflect the realities we face. We need to be given a much bigger role in designing the measures by which our students and schools are judged, and we must have the conditions and resources in our schools that allow for the high quality collaboration we need to succeed.
When we are asked to lead, we will be ready to help show the way. We are still teachers, after all.
Anthony Cody, a member of the Teacher Leaders Network, is a National Board certified teacher who works as a science coach with the Oakland Unified School District.
This article originally appeared in the January 6, 2008 issue of THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

2007: The Year in Review (Census)

Billy Henderson (Spinners), Tom Poston, Joey Bishop,
Deborah Kerr, Ike Turner, Phil Rizzuto, Evel Kneivel, Lady Bird Johnson, Norman Mailer,
Luciano Pavarotti, Bill Pinckney (Drifters), Beverly Sills, Marcel Marceau, Kurt Vonnegut,
Dan Fogelberg, Eddie Robinson, Joe Hunter (Funk Brothers), Molly Ivins, Pookie Hudson
(Spaniels), Denny Doherty (Mamas & Papas), Anna Nicole Smith, Calver DeForest,
Wally Schirra, Sean Taylor, Charles Nelson Reilly, Dick Wilson (Mr. Whipple), Porter Wagoner,
Julia Carson, Jack Valenti, Sidney Sheldon, Brooke Astor, Art Buchwald, Robert Goulet,
Yvonne DeCarlo, Don Ho, Arthur Schlesinger, Tom Snyder, Jane Wyman, Thomas Eagleton.

2007: The Year In Review (Politics)

Because of a myriad of time consuming obligations, health concerns and unforseen circumstances this blog remained dormant for most of 2007. For the new year I will
try my best to resurrect it. Since December of 2004 I developed a small but vibrant
following that was lost due to a complete lack of production. Unlike the previous years
I will not be writing the "Year in Review" post. Robert Weissman and Medea Benjamin
have written two excellent "End of the year" summations for www.commondreams.org
which can be read below.

Victories in 2007 by Robert Weissman

It’s easy enough to recount what went wrong in 2007.
But it wasn’t all bad. Not only did grassroots movements and citizen campaigns — and sometimes governments responsive to public demands — defeat and resist countless corporate power grabs, they won some vitally important, affirmative victories.
Like every new year, 2008 offers renewed hope, and the chance for new beginnings. There really were some important gains in 2007 that suggest countervailing forces to concentrated corporate power are on the rise.
The following list of 10 victories from 2007 doesn’t claim to be all-inclusive. And almost all of the victories are partial and inchoate. Whether they blossom into fuller achievements will depend on what happens in 2008 and beyond. Have ideas for victories that should be added to this list? Send me a note (rob@essential.org) or post a comment on the blog.
1. Cultural Change on Global Warming
There were numerous small steps forward to meet the greatest challenge of our day, including in the biggest carbon polluting country, the United States. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a respectable energy bill; the ultimately adopted energy bill will modestly improve energy efficiency in the United States. Many U.S. states are doing much more, most importantly requiring electric utilities to source an increasing amount of their energy from renewable supplies. The Sierra Club and grassroots groups have combined to defeat dozens of coal-fired power plant proposals. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, held in Bali in December ended with a fizzle, thanks largely to U.S. intransigence, but even at Bali, there was agreement that climate change is a real threat.
This last point is probably the main achievement of 2007. There is now no serious argument about the reality of climate change and the need for action. Going forward, the challenge is to generate the political will for meaningful carbon emission cuts, immediately and for the long-term.
2. Bank of the South
Latin American countries joined together to launch the Bank of the South, an effort to create an alternative to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Latin American countries — not just Venezuela — are making contributions to the new institution, which will then make project loans, especially for initiatives to facilitate regional integration.
Says Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, “Politically, the new bank is another Declaration of Independence for South America, which as a result of epoch-making changes in the last few years is now more independent of the United States than Europe is.”
3. Treatment for People with HIV/AIDS
Somewhere between 2.5 million and 3 million people with HIV/AIDS in developing countries are now receiving life-saving antiretroviral treatment. This was only possible because of campaigns by people with HIV/AIDS in developing countries and their allies in rich countries. First, activist campaigns and speeded-up generic competition brought down the price for life-saving drugs from more than $10,000 a year per person to, in some cases, less than $100 per person. Then, campaigners successfully demanded aid money be made available to save lives.
Treatment coverage is only around a quarter to a third of need, and global need will grow dramatically in coming years. More international and developing country funding will be needed, and there will be ongoing disputes over patent and pharmaceutical issues. But significant progress is underway.
4. Thailand and Brazil Face Down Big Pharma
In January, Thailand issued compulsory licenses — an authorization for generic competition for products that remain on patent — for two medicines. This followed a prior compulsory license in December 2006. The resulting lowered prices on the medicines enabled Thailand to expand treatment significantly in its public health system — the cost of a heart disease drug fell by 98 percent, and just the initial price drop on an AIDS drug enabled the country to provide the medicine to an additional 20,000 people.
Brazil followed Thailand’s example in May, issuing its own compulsory license on an important AIDS medicine.
The compulsory licenses led drug companies to lower prices on key AIDS drugs around the world. Abbott Laboratories lowered its middle-income country price on a vital AIDS drug by 55 percent.
5. The Billionaire’s Tax Loophole Comes Under Scrutiny
2007 saw new attention focused on the incomes of super-rich private equity and hedge fund managers in the United States — and the stunning fact that they exploit a tax loophole to lower their tax rates to less than that of their secretaries.
The “carried interest” loophole lets private equity and hedge fund managers characterize a big portion of their management fees — their cut of the very high profits they make for investors — as capital gains income, instead of ordinary income. That means they can pay federal taxes at a 15 percent rate, instead of 35 percent.
The House of Representatives passed legislation to eliminate the loophole, but it failed in the Senate.
The issue won’t be going away, however. Says Damon Silvers of the AFL-CIO, “It’s finally dawned on people that the richest Americans aren’t paying any taxes.”
6. The U.S. Minimum Wage Goes Up
It’s still a long way from where it should be, but popular support for raising the minimum wage forced Senate Republicans to accede in May to a minimum wage rate hike.
The lowest paid workers in the United States (not counting farm workers and others exempted) will earn $7.25 in 2009. Roughly 13 million workers are expected to see their wages rise as a result.
7. McDonald’s Agrees to Pay Tomato Pickers More
McDonald’s in April agreed to pay a penny a pound more for the tomatoes it uses, with the extra money going directly to Florida farmworkers.
McDonald’s agreed to the arrangement in response to a farmworker campaign coordinated by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. The coalition had earlier won a similar victory against Taco Bell.
Farmworkers earn about $10,000 a year. If the entire industry went along with the penny-a-pound arrangement, farmworker wages would rise by about 75 percent.
Unfortunately, an intransigent Florida Tomato Growers Exchange is refusing to implement the McDonald’s accord, fatuously claiming that it would violate unnamed federal and state rules. McDonald’s is placing its extra payments in escrow.
Meanwhile, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers is now focusing on Burger King, which is largely owned by Goldman Sachs and other private equity operations. They continue to reject the penny-a-pound demand — which would cost Burger King as estimated $250,000 a year.
8. School Fees Phased Out
For decades, the World Bank and other international agencies instructed developing countries to impose educational and health user fees — charges to go to school, or get access to care. The result: poor children (especially girls) were locked out of school, and sick people from poor families were denied healthcare.
Healthcare fees remain widespread, but primary school fees are finally being phased out throughout many of the world’s poorest countries, in part due to 2000 U.S. legislation requiring the United States to oppose World Bank loans that include user fees.
Primary school enrollment increased by 36 percent in sub-Saharan Africa and 22 percent in South and West Asia between 1999 and 2005, according to UNESCO. “Much of this is due to the abolishment of primary school tuition fees in 14 countries,” says Global Action for Children. “This ground-breaking measure has leveled the playing field, allowing many of the world’s poorest children access to the school house door.”
9. White-Collar Drug Pushers Punished
In May, the maker of Oxycontin, a highly addictive painkiller, pled guilty to charges of misbranding its drug. Purdue Pharma will pay more than $600 million in connection with the guilty plea.
Oxycontin offers major benefits to cancer patients and others with chronic pain, but is prone to abuse. It is especially popular in Appalachia, where it is known as hillbilly heroin.
U.S. Attorney John Brownlee says that scores of people have died as a result of Oxycontin abuse. The federal case against Purdue charged its sales reps misled health providers — including non-specialists in pain management — about the addictive properties of Oxycontin.
Purdue, a privately held Connecticut-based company, launched a major effort to avoid prosecution, including employing Rudy Giuliani to meet with prosecutors and argue against filing of charges.
But Brownlee refused to back down, though he did make some concessions. He did agree not to charge company executives with felonies (three pled guilty to misdemeanors), and he agreed to accept a guilty plea from a Purdue subsidiary, leaving the parent free to continue selling the drug to Medicare and other federal programs. The government could have come down harder on “white-collar drug pushers,” says Dr. Sidney Wolfe of Public Citizen’s health Research Group.
10. The Bush Countdown Begins
Only 385 more days of the Bush regime.
Happy New Year!

Let's Toast to Ten Good Things About 2007 by Medea Benjamin

As we close this year on the low of Congress giving Bush more billions for war, and the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan, let’s remember some of the year’s gains that can revive our spirits for the New Year. Here are just ten.
1. With the exception of the White House, this has been a banner year for environmental consciousness and action. Al Gore and the scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change won the Nobel Peace Prize. Green building and renewable energy have exploded. Congress passed the Green Jobs Act of 2007, authorizing $125 million for green job training. Over 700 U.S. mayors, representing 25 percent of the U.S. population, have signed a pledge to reduce greenhouse gases by 2012. Illinois became the 26th state to require that some of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources and Kansas became the first state to refuse a permit for a new coal-fired power plant for health and environmental reasons. That’s progress!
2. On the global environmental scene, the Bush dinosaurs were tackled head on. When the US delegation at the UN climate change conference in Bali tried to sabotage the negotiations, the delegate from tiny Papua New Guinea threw diplomatic niceties to the wind and said that if the U.S. couldn’t lead, it should get out of the way. Embarrassed by international and domestic outrage, the U.S. delegation buckled, and the way was cleared for adopting the “Bali road map.” Although it is a weak mandate, it lays the groundwork for a stronger climate agreement post-2012 when the first phase of the Kyoto Protocols ends.
3. Imagine living in a waste-free urban society? Well, it’s no longer a utopian dream but a well-thought-out plan for India’s state of Kerala. The plan to be “waste-free” within five years includes waste prevention, intensive re-use and recycling, composting, replacing unsustainable materials with sustainable ones, training people to produce these materials, and providing funds for setting up sustainably run businesses. The ground-breaking plan, spearheaded by a local grassroots movement, demonstrates how citizen groups can advance pioneering policies to heal the planet.
4. While the war in Iraq rages on, a new war was stopped. The specter of war with Iran loomed large throughout the year, with Washington accusing Iran of killing U.S . soldiers in Iraq and being a nuclear threat. Then in December came the National Intelligence Estimate showing that the Bush administration knew all along that Iran had shelved its nuclear weapons program in 2003. It exposed the Administration claims of an Iranian threat as unjustifiably inflated, and the winds of war were suddenly subdued. Nothing is guaranteed, but a U.S. military attack on Iran is less likely now than it was earlier in the year.
5. This year also brought a decrease in tensions with North Korea. Hostilities flared after North Korea successfully conducted a nuclear test in 2006. But the Bush administration, bogged down in Iraq and pushed by international pressure, agreed to negotiate. Following a series of six-party talks involving North Korea, South Korea, China, Russia, Japan, and the U.S, on March 17, 2007, an historic agreement was reached. North Korea agreed to shut down its main nuclear facility and submit a list of its nuclear programs in exchange for fuel and normalization talks with the U.S. and Japan. During this age of raw aggression, it is a welcome example of putting diplomacy first.
6. The Iraqi people have little to celebrate, but there was one important victory for the people this year. Remember how the Bush administration and Congress were insisting that the Iraqi Parliament pass a new oil law? Touted as a way to “share oil revenue among all Iraqis”, the oil law was really designed to transform the country’s currently nationalized oil system to one open to foreign corporate control. But opposition was fierce inside Iraq, especially from the nation’s oil worker unions. In a rare sign of independence from Washington and concern for domestic opinion, the Iraqi Parliament withstood intense U.S. pressure and refused to pass the oil law.
7. In early 2007, few Americans had heard of the private security company Blackwater. By year’s end, Blackwater had become infamous for the killing of civilians in Iraq. The radical privatization of our military to corporations like Blackwater that are accountable to no one was exposed for all to see. This frightening process is still well under way, with more private contractors in Iraq than soldiers, but at least the issue has now entered the public dialogue. And Blackwater has received such a black eye that it’s unlikely to get a new Iraq contract when the present one expires in May.
8. One victory on both the war and environmental fronts came in Australia, where Labor Party’s Kevin Rudd beat conservative John Howard to become Prime Minister. Howard was an enthusiastic backer of George Bush’s disastrous war on terror, from defending the Guantánamo prison and extraordinary rendition to sending troops to Iraq and Afghanistan. Howard also joined Bush in refusing to ratify the Kyoto Agreement, arguing it would cost Australians jobs. After assuming office on December 3, Kevin Rudd immediately signed the Kyoto agreement and he has promised to remove Australia’s combat troops from Iraq by mid-2008.
9. Sometimes a loss is a win. Hugo Chavez had initiated a constitutional referendum that would have, among other changes, scrapped term limits. His immediate acceptance of a razor-thin margin of defeat before all the votes were even counted showed his democratic colors and made it a lot harder for Bush and the corporate media to label him a dictator. Despite the loss, Chavez remains extremely popular, especially among the poor and working class in Venezuela. And throughout Latin America, the historic transformation led by progressive leaders like Chavez continues to blossom.
10. Last but not least, this year saw the resignation of some of Bush’s closest allies in government - Donald Rumsfeld resigned as Secretary of Defense, Alberto Gonzalez as Attorney General, and Karl Rove as Deputy Chief of Staff. Best of all, we can give thanks that we only have ONE YEAR left of the criminal, war-mongering, constitution-shredding, rights-violating, torture-sanctioning Bush Administration! It’s just GOT to get better than this!