Denmark Vesey's Plantation

A place to discuss whatever comes to mind.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Dave Zirin on Gumbel's Comments

White Blindness: The Winter Olympics and Defending Bryant Gumbel
by Dave Zirin

The right-wing media hordes, in a mad dash to deflect attention from Dick Cheney's shooting spree, may have found their target of mass distraction: Bryant Gumbel. At the end of his HBO show "Real Sports," Gumbel unleashed a prolonged rant about the utter unwatchability of the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino. The Winter Games certainly are a worthy target. On ten-hour tape delay, NBC has been force-feeding us highlights of sports that seem concocted on Madison Avenue to sell Mountain Dew. As Gumbel took the Xtreme winter games to task, he said, "So try not to laugh when someone says these are the world's greatest athletes, despite a paucity of Blacks that makes the Winter Games look like a GOP convention." Immediately, and predictably, the bloviating bigots of the blogosphere started splattering Gumbel's statement all over the web.

This was to be expected. But more striking was the reaction to Gumbel on ESPN Radio's "The Dan Patrick Show." Normally, in the red meat world of sports radio, Dan Patrick seems happy to be veal: no gristle or fat, morally offensive to some, but generally just plain and easily digestible. But Dan blew a gasket on the air, going after Gumbel like he was president of the Willard Scott fan club. He called for Gumbel's job, saying that if Rush Limbaugh was fired from ESPN for making racially insensitive comments, - a firing Dan says he opposed - then Gumbel should suffer the same fate. Comparing Gumbel to Limbaugh is like comparing apples to an obese drug addict. Gumbel is an award-winning journalist who has had a foot in the world of hard sports commentary for three decades. Limbaugh is a gaseous hop-head who once asked, "Why do all composite criminal photos look like Jesse Jackson?" and telling an African-American caller to his show - who somehow got through the screeners -- to "Take the bone out of your nose." Gumbel hosts a critically lauded show. Limbaugh was a hired by ESPN as a gimmick by their ownership group, Disney, as part of their mission to make America stupider.

But when you actually compare their respective comments, the Dan Patrick argument not only collapses, but becomes intellectually dishonest. Limbaugh, of course, said on ESPN's NFL show that Pro-Bowl Philadelphia Eagle Donavan McNabb was "overrated" because of the "media's social concern" to see a successful Black quarterback. This was exactly the kind of ignorant garbage Disney hired him spew. What the rat shack didn't count on was thousands of phone calls and emails demanding the fat man's Sosa-sized head.

Let's look at Gumbel's comments again. "So try not to laugh when someone says these are the world's greatest athletes, despite a paucity of blacks that makes the winter games look like a GOP convention." Patrick told his listening audience that Gumbel was "playing the race card" by claiming whites couldn't be good athletes -- when in fact Gumbel was hardly saying anything so shocking, or even that new. The fact is -- and Sports Illustrated's Rick Reilly confirmed this -- that the athletes and the audience in Torino are almost entirely white. This isn't because Black people aren't comfortable in the cold, but because of access to the types of sports on display at the Winter Games. In fact, the Winter Olympics are such a Snow White affair, it became international news Saturday when Shani Davis became the first Black Olympian to win an individual gold, not only in the 2006 Olympics but the entire history of the Winter Games. Davis knew it himself, saying, "I'm one of a kind." For Davis, his special status was heightened by messages he received on his personal web site, revealing, "they hoped I would fall, break my leg, using the n-word." [Maybe Davis is "playing the race card," too?] In the history of athletics, anytime African-American athletes have had access and opportunity they have excelled. Sports that require thousands of dollars of equipment, country club memberships and trips to Vail will continue to be as segregated as New Orleans.

Gumbel's comments on winter sports are not different from what John McEnroe and Andre Agassi have argued about tennis. They have both said, with no backlash, that there are potentially incredible tennis players in the inner cities of the US that we will never see because of an absence of public tennis courts and basic infrastructure. It's not different from the lament of Negro League baseball players of the 1930s like Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, and Buck O'Neal who didn't understand how Joe Dimaggio and Dizzy Dean could be called "the best" baseball players when they didn't even have a chance to compete. Yet Gumbel is a target for stating the obvious. Dan Patrick wanted Rush to stay. Now he wants Gumbel to go.

The problem is not that Dan Patrick is a raving right-winger who likes to spend his weekends shooting 78 year old lawyers in the face. It's that he and ESPN are the anti-political guardians of sport. They are instinctually hostile to anyone who tries to challenge the athletic-industrial complex. ESPN Radio's "Mike and Mike In the Morning" even have a "Just Shut Up Award" for any athlete who dares step outside the box. One player said to me, "The fastest way to win the 'Just Shut Up Award' is to actually have something to say, particularly about race or [the war in] Iraq."

If we are going to have honest discussions about sport and society, we should look at the content of what Gumbel is saying. And if we are going to look racism in the face, then we can't let someone get canned for having the temerity to talk truth. Maybe if Gumbel had just shot someone in the face instead, Patrick and company would be more forgiving.

Dave Zirin's the author of "What's My Name Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States". Check out his revamped website You can receive his column Edge of Sports, every week by e-mailing Contact him at

Phil Taylor on Bryant Gumbel's Comments

It's possible that the only people who were pleased by Bryant Gumbel's rather startling rant against the Winter Olympics recently were Gumbel's old colleagues at NBC. With Michelle Kwan sitting at home, Bode Miller skiing as though he really did hit the sauce before he hit the slopes, and more television viewers choosing to watch the team from CSI rather than the one from the United States, the Games badly needed a little buzz to help the lackluster ratings.

Along came Gumbel to provide it, by taking a few minutes on his HBO show, Real Sports, to rip nearly everything about the Winter Games except Johnny Weir's outfits.

"Count me among those who don't like 'em and won't watch 'em," said Gumbel, a former co-host of NBC's Today show. He added that we should "try not to be incredulous when someone attempts to link these games to those of the ancient Greeks who never heard of skating or skiing," and "try not to laugh when someone says these are the world's greatest athletes, despite a paucity of blacks that makes the Winter Games look like a GOP convention."

He went on to take a shot at highly subjective competitions like figure skating that masquerade as true sports and to dismiss the Games as little more than a marketing plan to fill up time during an otherwise slow sports period, opinions that won't find any disagreement here.

But most folks apparently stopped listening after the "paucity of blacks" line, because that's the one that has some critics calling for Gumbel's firing, charging that if a white broadcaster had made a similar remark, complaining about the absence of whites from the NBA for example, he would be looking for a new job by now.

That might be true, if the white announcer's remark were as misunderstood and inaccurately characterized as Gumbel's has been. In the first place, Gumbel didn't imply that the Winter Olympics needed to be more inclusive, or that blacks were somehow being unfairly kept out of the Games, which is what some of his critics seem to think he was saying. He didn't say that he didn't like the Olympics because there were too many white athletes.

His point was that a relatively narrow portion of the world's population participate in the sports of the Winter Games, and that it's hard to take the Games seriously as a collection of the world's greatest athletes when blacks, who inarguably have a history of producing some of the world's best athletes, are so underrepresented. There is no racism in that premise, only logic.

But the claims of a double standard do have some merit. Black public figures do get more latitude in discussing racial matters than whites do. Charles Barkley can get away with (jokingly) saying, "I hate white people," while Fuzzy Zoeller gets roasted for (also jokingly) suggesting that fried chicken ought to be on the menu for Tiger Woods' victory meal.

Why is that? It's partly a matter of power. When a member of a minority or less powerful group makes negative comments or jokes about the majority, it's easier to dismiss them because we don't perceive any real threat behind the words. When someone from the more powerful majority makes similar comments, it feels somehow more dangerous because of the threat, however small, that they might turn those attitudes into action. It's why it seems amusing when women joke about how clueless men are, but similar comments from a man about women often sound offensive.

It also has to do with history. When a white broadcaster, athlete or team official makes a remark critical of blacks, it dredges up ugly images of past oppression. When the roles are reversed, it is somehow less upsetting to many people because it doesn't conjure up those same memories.

So it's true, Bryant Gumbel's remarks don't elicit the same kind of outrage as, say, Rush Limbaugh's. It may seem unfair, but don't blame Gumbel for that. Blame the history of race relations in America. Fairness has rarely had anything to do with it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Halliburton Detention Centers???

Halliburton Detention Centers

Now is the time for all good people to come to the aid of their country and
become unapologetically paranoid. Paranoia should now be the normal state of mind for thinking people. Sneers and dismissive remarks about "conspiracy theorists" must be ignored. We don't want to end up like the proverbial frog who boils to death because the heat was turned up slowly.

The Bush administration is becoming ever more brazen in its effort to snoop on the American people. The Attorney General is making the case that warrants aren't needed if the government wants to spy on us. Unlimited government power is predictably effective. Anyone not wire tapped, investigated or banned from airplanes will be too intimidated to speak up or even to "Google."

The Bushmen are too smart to only go after political opponents. Instead they are honing their tactics on everyone who does an internet search, a majority of people in the nation. Under the guise of investigating the extent of child pornography on the internet, the ironically named Justice Department demanded that the largest search engines in the country turn over the results of millions of internet searches in the country. Yahoo, MSN and AOL all gave up without a fight and handed big brother the results of your inquiries on any and every issue or topic. Only Google challenged the subpoena in court.

If internet snooping doesn't give one pause, then Halliburton can always be counted on to frighten anyone with half a brain. Vice President Dick Cheney's personal cash cow is the lucky beneficiary of yet another government contract. The Halliburton story of banana republic corruption is well known to anyone not living under a rock. Because their crimes have gone unpunished, news of Halliburton chicanery barely raises eyebrows anymore. Halliburton's latest contract strikes close to home, literally, and doesn't allow them to build barracks in Iraq or clean up after hurricane Katrina.

What ought to shock and terrify every American is that KBR, a Halliburton subsidiary, was awarded a $385 million contract to build "temporary detention facilities" in case of an "immigration emergency":

"The contract may also provide migrant detention support to other U.S. Government organizations in the event of an immigration emergency, as well as the development of a plan to react to a national emergency, such as a natural disaster. In the event of a natural disaster, the contractor could be tasked with providing housing for ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) personnel performing law enforcement functions in support of relief efforts."

Anyone paying a little bit of attention will ask, "What immigration emergency?" If there is an immigration emergency looming on the horizon it is a big secret. Of course immigrants will be the first ensnared in the net that big brother Bush has in mind, but the net won't stop with them.

What sort of national emergency requires detention centers? America has plenty of prisons. More of our population is behind bars than in any country on earth. There are detention centers for immigration in existence already. As for helping in case of a natural disaster, hurricane Katrina proved that saving American lives is not on the Bush agenda.

When the word detention comes up, hairs should rise on the back of every neck. Thanks to the Patriot Act and the creation of "enemy combatants" these detention centers can be used to lock up anyone for any reason for any length of time that Uncle Sam wishes.

In the best case scenario, this contract may be just the latest hand out to the welfare queen of corporate America. It is a sad day indeed when we must hope that good old fashioned greed, and nothing more, is at work with this latest theft from the United States treasury. Even if greed is the larger part of the equation, the threat of taking our rights and subjecting us to fear cannot be far from the minds of Dick Cheney and his ilk.

Bush has successfully used fear to stay in power and quiet the ineffectual opposition. When questions arose about the legality of warrantless wiretaps, suddenly Bush revealed a three year old plot to crash a plane into a Los Angeles skyscraper. This announcement was even news to the mayor of Los Angeles, leading the cynical among us, the smart people, to ask if such a threat ever existed in the first place.

What sort of national emergency will trigger the beginning of detentions? Probably not Mexicans heading for the border. If Democrats show uncharacteristic boldness and begin impeachment proceedings against Bush, we will begin to see Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib on U.S. soil.

The endless war on terror would no doubt be a pretext for detentions of immigrants or Americans. Just ask Jose Padilla, the American citizen accused of planning "dirty bomb" attacks. Actually you can't ask Padilla anything. He hasn't seen the outside of a jail in years. An entirely new category of criminals, enemy combatants, was created to justify endless incarceration. If our government is planning to create more Padillas, Halliburton definitely needs a new contract.

You can look it up, if you dare. Searching for the words "Halliburton" and "detention" may bring more than you bargained for.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Late Night Quotables about Dick Cheney

Craig Ferguson

"He is a lawyer and he got shot in the face. But he's a lawyer, he can use his other face. He'll be all right."

"You can understand why this lawyer fellow let his guard down, because if you're out hunting with a politician, you think, 'If I'm going to get it, it's going to be in the back."

"Apparently the reason they didn't release the information right away is they said we had to get the facts right. That's never stopped them in the past."

Jay Leno

"Cheney also admitted that he'd been drinking. He said he had one beer. Okay, it was a 40-ounce Colt .45, but just one."

"Here's my favorite part of this whole incident. After Cheney shot the guy, the police later showed up at the ranch where Cheney was staying and wanted to talk to him, but was told to come back the next morning. And that's what they did, they came back the next morning. Kev, that ever happen in the hood?"

"See, this is why Republicans have to commit white collar crimes to steal money. They're just not good with guns, they don't know how to handle them."

"They were in a car, they drive along, they get out of the car, he shoots his friend in the face, then they get back in the car and they go hide for 18 hours. That’s not hunting ... that's an episode of 'The Sopranos'"

"President Bush says he is standing behind the vice president. Way behind him."

"And you know what's really scary about all of this -- what if it turns out all this time Bush was the smart one?"

David Letterman

"Until Democrats approve Medicare reform, we have to make some tough choices for the elderly."

"Rumors are that the reason Dick Cheney didn't say anything about the hunting accident for about 24 hours was because he had been drinking. And I'm thinking, well jeez, he was probably drinking when we planned the invasion of Iraq."

"If this story gets any bigger, pretty soon they're going to have to tell the president."

Jimmy Kimmel

"But all kidding aside, and in fairness to Dick Cheney, every five years he has to shed innocent blood or he violates his deal with the devil."

"Cheney said he did have a beer during lunch. One beer, and the only reason he even drank it was to wash down the three hits of ecstasy."

"The man who was shot is named Harry Whittington. He's a high powered Republican lawyer, he was very lucky. They say the only reason that he wasn't killed is he was wearing the body armor that never got shipped to our troops."

Random but quotable

"He got faulty information on where the target was."

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Bryant Gumbel on The Winter Olympics

Because [the Winter Olympics] are so trying, maybe over the next three weeks we should all try too. Like try not to be incredulous when someone tries to link these games to those of the ancient Greeks who never heard of skating or skiing. So try not to laugh when someone says these are the world’s greatest athletes, despite a paucity of Blacks that makes the Winter Games look like a GOP convention. Try not to point out that something’s not really a sport if a pseudo-athlete waits in what’s called a “kiss and cry area” while some panel of subjective judges decides who won. And try to blot out all logic when announcers and sports writers pretend to care about the luge, the skeleton, the biathlon, and all those other events they don’t understand and totally ignore for all but three weeks every four years. Face it, these Olympics are little more than a marketing plan to fill space and sell time during the dreary days of February. So, if only to hasten the arrival of the day they’re done, and we can move on to March Madness, for God’s sake, let the Games begin.”

Friday, February 17, 2006

New Roots

Wealthy African-Americans are using DNA kits to trace their roots - all the way back to Africa. But, says Gary Younge the results may tell them things they don't want to hear

Friday February 17, 2006
The Guardian

Oprah is a Zulu. Never mind that she was born and raised in Mississippi and her great grandparents hailed from no further away than Georgia and North Carolina, Ms Winfrey, the queen of the televised confessional, is not just suggesting her lineage might stretch back thousands of years to a specific African tribe. She is asserting it as a definitive fact. "I always wondered what it would be like if it turned out I am a South African. I feel so at home here ... Do you know that I actually am one?" she told an audience of 3,200 in Johannesburg last year. "I went in search of my roots and had my DNA tested, and I am a Zulu."

This month in the US, Oprah has been joined by eight other African-American luminaries, including Quincy Jones and Whoopi Goldberg, in tracing their genealogy. Thirty years after Alex Haley famously traced the oral history passed down through his family back to Gambia to find his African ancestor, Kunta Kinte, who had been sold into slavery these celebrities will undertake a similar journey alongside Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr in a television series called African-American Lives. But unlike Haley's Roots, few have been able to turn to family historians in search of their genealogical narrative.

So when the stories stop and the paper trail of slaves bought and sold runs out, the participants have turned to genetic science to trace their kin. But while these journeys into the past are essentially personal, they raise broader issues about racial authenticity and the genetic basis for racial categorisations. Furthermore, it addresses the fundamental issue of whether any of us can, ultimately, really say where we come from - and what use it would do us even if we could.

Over the past few years laboratories have begun to amass a database of DNA samples from around the world, including parts of West Africa, the area from which most slaves were caught, sold and shipped to the Americas.

The technology aims either to trace a person's lineage through their genes or compile a statistical breakdown, by geographical region, of their genetic makeup. Alondra Nelson, an assistant professor of sociology and African-American studies at Yale, says results "could stretch from several thousand years to tens of thousands of years in a person's ancestry".

Mark Shriver, an assistant professor of anthropology and genetics at Penn State university, conducts geographical genetic tests on his students among others. He describes himself as white but his own tests reveal that his DNA is 86% white but also 11% west African and 3% indigenous American. "For most people it is consistent with what they thought," he says. "How the west African DNA got into my family line was never explained to me."

Another method of testing follows the genes back through gender lines. One, the patrilineal, follows the Y chromosome through your father, your father's father, your father's father's father and so on. The other, the mitochondrial, follows DNA through your maternal line - or your mother's mother, your mother's mother's mother and so on.

"It's basically a matchmaking game," Megan Smolenyak, an expert in family history research, told the New York Daily News. "I like to warn folks: be sure you can deal with the results ... Some people don't like what they find."

The science, now commercially available, has become something of a boom industry. Growing numbers of relatively wealthy African-Americans have been buying up test kits that can cost up to $350 (£200) a throw.

While other Americans could travel to towns in Ireland, Italy or Germany in search of genealogical sustenance, slavery deprived African-Americans of a clear and precise geographical bond with their own ancestry. As Gates puts it: "There is no Ellis Island for the descendants of the slave trade." Moreover, since slave-owners changed people's names, regularly split up families and banned reading and writing, the usual methods of keeping family histories have not been available to African-Americans until relatively recently.

This new science, then, seemed to offer a means of telling a story that had been denied and hidden. Even as DNA evidence was freeing many - mostly black - prisoners from death row it was also unlocking historical secrets. For example, historians had insisted for 150 years that America's third president, Thomas Jefferson, could not have fathered children by his slave mistress Sally Hemmings. Many African-Americans claimed otherwise, however, and in 1998 scientists followed the Y chromosome DNA in Jefferson's family line to establish a definitive link with the Hemmings family. Almost 200 years after Jefferson had cryptically parried accusations of the affair with the words "the man who fears no truth has nothing to fear from lies", science had exposed the facts that a mixture of prejudice and politics had kept hidden.

In reality, however, the truths this science reveals are no less selective than those you will hear from a politician. Two years ago I swabbed my cheek with something that felt like a cotton bud and sent it off to a Washington-based organisation called African Ancestry. Several weeks later it sent me a letter telling me that the "Y chromosome DNA sequence that we determined from your sample matches with the Hausa people in Nigeria ... This result means that you have inherited through your father a segment of DNA that was passed on consistently from father to son to you. This segment of DNA is presently found in Africa in Nigeria."

They also sent me a map showing me where Nigeria is and a "certificate of ancestry" declaring that I "share paternal genetic ancestry with the Hausa people in Nigeria". It went on,"You can display it with pride among other important family documents."

Elsewhere in the letter, however, came information that would seem to minimise the entire enterprise if not negate it altogether. "The Y chromosome may represent less than 1% of your entire genetic makeup" it said. That is to say that I had possibly been awarded an ancestry courtesy of a fraction of my DNA.

Herein lies one of the central problems with tracing ones roots through DNA. Science can only tell you so much. Stop the genealogical wheel at an inconvenient moment and some of the world's greatest black icons could be rendered not African, but European. Muhammad Ali's great grandfather was Irish; Bob Marley's father was British. According to Shriver, Gates - the most prominent black academic in the country - has DNA that is 50% European and 50% West African. Both his matrilineal and paternal lines came back to Europe.

"I've spoken with African Americans who have tried four or five different genetic genealogy companies because they weren't satisfied with the results," says Nelson. "They received different results each time and kept going until they got a result they were happy with."

"There are some people who are black who may have only 10% African ancestry," says Shriver. "It helps create an understanding that race is an illusion and that there isn't any real difference between races. They show that we're all mixes."

Critics of Shriver's work say he is actually achieving the opposite - elevating race from a social construct - a difference created to justify racism - into something that appears both real and even calculable. Paul Gilroy, the Anthony Giddens sociology professor at the London School of Economics, says: "To make all these claims is to realign science with the racial categorisations of the 18th century."

Shriver defends his work. "That is a potential problem," he admits. "The labels are arbitrary. It's a model. We have taken these four categories that mean something for New World people. But I don't respect people who don't want to explore this issue and see what happens. There's quite a lot of hubris out there when it comes to genomic work and ethics."

Neither the mixing nor the denial is exclusive to descendants of former slaves or issues of race. Everyone could claim African ancestry given that civilisation is deemed to have started there. Although Mediterranean Europeans define themselves as white, they share a long heritage with North Africans.

"Everybody is mixed, but not everybody counts as mixed," says Gilroy. "These things are interesting but the truth is that no one can say with any certainty where they come from."

Like Nelson, Gilroy does not deny the need for these tests. "Some people say knowing made them feel complete," she says. She tells of one African-American woman whose match took her to an area of Sierra Leone where many of the women were accomplished potters. This woman came from a family of skilled potters. "I don't know how you like those two facts," says Nelson. "But I know it was very meaningful for her."

Which brings us back to Oprah. Last week she gave author James Frey a dressing down on her couch for the memoir he wrote and she helped promote that turned out to owe far more to fiction than fact. Angry, and at times tearful, Oprah asked the author of A Million Little Pieces to explain why he felt "the need to lie". "It is difficult for me to talk to you because I really feel duped," she said. "But more importantly I feel that you betrayed millions of readers." Whatever Oprah's belief about her ancestry, her assertion that she is Zulu is no less misleading.

According to most historical accounts, the Zulu nation was consolidated only after the departure of slaves from West Africa to the Americas. Moreover, there is little in the way of genetic lineage that comes close to matching a particular linguistic group such as the Zulu nation. When Oprah had her DNA tested for the programme, the results suggested her most likely match was from the Kpelles tribe of Liberia. Indeed she was told that she could not have come from South Africa. None of this is likely to stop her claiming the Zulus as her kith and kin. "I'm crazy about the South African accent," she said. "I wish I had been born here."

Perhaps her new-found relations, and those of her fellow celebrities say less about the power of science than something both far more elusive and compelling - the desire for identity.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Deficit Lie

By Tim Dickinson

Vice President Dick Cheney was on a rare mission abroad, expressing his support for the millions left homeless by a massive earthquake in Pakistan, when he received a summons to return to Washington immediately. His vote was needed to break a tie on the Senate floor, where five Republicans had broken ranks to oppose the president's Deficit Reduction Act of 2005.

Racing halfway around the world on a trans-hemispheric red-eye, Cheney arrived on December 21st, just in time to cast the decisive vote. His "aye" gave Republicans a 51-50 victory on the budget cuts -- a measure that will saddle low-income college students with debt, cheat poor kids out of $8 billion in child support and deny medical care to as many as 100,000 people living in poverty.

In public, Republican budget hawks insisted that they made these "tough choices" to stem the "rising tide of red ink in Washington." But, in November, behind closed doors, House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas confided to a group of lobbyists that the GOP slashed social programs for the poor by $40 billion to help pay for $90 billion in new tax cuts -- almost half of which will go to wealthy Americans with incomes in excess of $1 million. The net result of the Deficit Reduction Act will be a $50 billion increase in the deficit. In the bizarro world of President Bush's doublespeak bills, the new spending measure takes its place alongside the Clear Skies Act, which sought to increase air pollution, and the Healthy Forests Initiative, which opened America's woodlands to more clear-cutting. "If this is deficit reduction," says Bob McIntyre, director of the nonpartisan advocacy group Citizens for Tax Justice, "then up is down, down is up and George Orwell is president."

It wasn't easy for Republicans to get the measure through Congress. The final bill was hammered out in a closed-door, GOP-only session. Then -- when the spending plan was finally released to Democrats and the media after midnight on Sunday, December 18th -- House Speaker Dennis Hastert invoked "martial law" in the chamber, forcing representatives to pull an all-nighter and vote on the 774-page act after only forty minutes of debate. "Here you have one of the most consequential pieces of domestic legislation in years, with profound effects on millions of low-income Americans, and members of Congress were required to vote on it without even having a chance to read it," says Robert Greenstein, executive director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

In the Senate, the measure seemed headed for defeat when a handful of moderate Republicans refused to support the cuts, which GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine blasted as "draconian." Majority Leader Bill Frist was forced to give Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota a $30 million subsidy for his state's sugar-beet industry, essentially bribing him to back the bill. "They have no shame," Minority Leader Harry Reid tells Rolling Stone. "These cuts are simply un-American."

Sen. Kent Conrad, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee, decried the dearth of public scrutiny for a bill "written behind closed doors, filed in the dead of night and voted on at the crack of dawn." But Rep. Dave Obey, ranking Democrat of the House Appropriations Committee, isn't angry with his Republican colleagues for operating in the dark. "I don't blame them," he says. "If I put together a bill like this, I'd do it with the lights out too."

The extent of the budget cuts caught even veteran Democrats off guard. "In all my time in the Senate," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, "I cannot remember a time when we have considered such drastic cuts to safety-net programs that threaten to devastate working families." Consider who will pay the price for the Republican budget crunch:

College Students Nearly a third of the cuts -- $12.7 billion -- affect student-loan programs. And a full seventy percent of those cuts, the largest in history, fall squarely on the backs of students and their parents. Rather than slashing aid directly, Congress simply raised the interest on student loans, replacing a lower variable rate with a higher fixed rate. As a result, students leaving college with $17,500 in loans will have to cough up an additional $5,800 to pay off their debt. The change will increase the cost of higher education for American families by $8 billion -- at a time when public universities have already raised their prices by forty percent.

"The Republican Congress is paying for tax cuts for the wealthy, making student loans more expensive for middle- and low-income families," says House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Adds Rep. Obey, "They think they can pretty much do whatever they want to students, because they think that students will march but they won't vote."

Single Moms The bill cuts nearly $5 billion in funding to state agencies responsible for tracking down deadbeat dads and collecting child-support payments. With fewer state and local officials available to enforce the law, an estimated $8 billion in payments will go uncollected -- money that single mothers rely on to feed and clothe their kids. "Congress should be fighting for the rights and well-being of children who depend on child-support payments, not against them," says Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe, a Republican who opposed the measure. "I couldn't, in good conscience, vote for any bill that would cut this funding."

The Sick Medicaid has traditionally provided health coverage to the nation's poorest citizens -- including some 28 million children -- for as little as three dollars. But the GOP bill hikes premiums and co-payments, forcing low-income patients to pay as much as $100 to visit a doctor or obtain an asthma inhaler. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the added costs will prevent many patients from seeking treatment or, in the case of new monthly premiums, even enrolling in Medicaid. That's just what Republicans are counting on: Eighty percent of the projected $16 billion savings in Medicaid will result from a decline in poor people seeking medical care.

Republicans insist that the co-payments are necessary to "reduce the rate of growth of government." But the GOP showed no interest in cutting federal subsidies to Big Pharma. Lawmakers eliminated provisions in the original Senate bill that would have required pharmaceutical companies to discount the drugs they sell through Medicaid and ended a slush fund for insurers that a nonpartisan advisory commission declared a complete waste of money. The two measures would have produced a combined savings of $20.5 billion -- making the cuts to Medicaid unnecessary. "The priorities of the majority party consistently lie with the powerful special interests and big drug companies," declared Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont. "The Republican leadership has had to choose between supporting the American people or wealthy corporate interests -- and they have sided with the corporate interests."

Foster Parents So much for family values -- the bill not only cuts $343 million from foster care, it specifically overturns a federal ruling that granted foster-care funds to low-income grandparents who take in their own grandchildren rather than sloughing them off on strangers. The cuts convinced Sen. Mike DeWine, a Republican from Ohio, to vote against the measure. "I felt that the bill hurt Ohioans who most need our assistance," he says, "whether it is poor children and seniors affected by cuts to Medicaid or families hurt by cuts in foster care."

The Working Poor Under tough new rules created by the bill, families on welfare will have to work longer hours to qualify for federal assistance. In two-parent families, both the mother and father must now find full-time jobs or job training. Meeting the requirement could cost states $8 billion -- but the bill provides no new funds, only fines as high as $100 million a year for states that fail to meet the new standard. To avoid the penalties, many states are expected to stop offering welfare to two-parent families -- providing a perverse incentive for working parents to split up to preserve their benefits. Even more troubling, the GOP budget slashes $11 billion in federal support for child care. By 2010, as many as 255,000 kids could be booted out of day care, forcing poor parents to choose between working or caring for their children.

As if this assault on the poor wasn't enough, Republicans also gutted another $3 billion from social programs in a separate bill on discretionary spending -- a measure that flew through Congress in such a pre-Christmas flurry as to make the Deficit Reduction Act seem well considered. The bill received so little public scrutiny that the Senate was even able to duck a traditional roll-call vote, leaving no record of which GOP senators voted to slash job training for the poor, cut funding for community colleges and kick as many as 25,000 kids out of Head Start.

Nor will the budget cuts do anything to reduce the deficit, which is projected to hit $365 billion. Thanks to tax cuts expected to be finalized early this year, most of the money will go directly into the pockets of the country's wealthiest citizens. Three-fourths of all Americans will not see a dime from the president's move to make permanent his cuts on dividend and capital-gains taxes -- while the nation's richest 1 percent will reap more than $25 billion. By 2010, thanks to Bush, America's millionaires will enjoy annual tax cuts of $130,000.

"I don't know of any religion practicing in America today that preaches from the pulpit that what one should do is take from the least among us to give to those who have the most," says Sen. Conrad. "But that's what this budget is about. It's so profoundly wrong."

Smothering The King Legacy

By Norman Solomon

Hours after Coretta Scott King died, President Bush led off the State of the Union address by praising her as "a beloved, graceful, courageous woman who called America to its founding ideals and carried on a noble dream." For good measure, at the end of his speech, Bush reverently invoked the name of her martyred husband, Martin Luther King Jr.

The president is one of countless politicians who zealously oppose most of what King struggled for – at the same time that they laud his name with syrupy words. It wouldn't be shrewd to openly acknowledge the basic disagreements. Instead, Bush and his allies offer up platitudes while pretending that King's work ended with the fight against racial segregation.

Now that Dr. King's widow is no longer alive, the smarmy process will be even easier: Just praise him as a beloved civil rights leader, as though the last few years of his life – filled with struggles for economic justice and peace – didn't exist. Ignore King's profound challenge to the kind of budget priorities and militarism holding sway today.

On Tuesday night, the president was eager to seem like a fervent admirer of Martin Luther King. But the next day, in the same House chamber where Bush spoke, his administration pushed through a vicious budget measure that will slash $39 billion in spending – mostly for student loans and Medicaid for the poor – over the next five years.

Nearly 38 years ago, Dr. King was killed in Memphis while leading the Poor People's Campaign for an economic bill of rights. He'd been accusing Congress of "hostility to the poor." The federal government, King pointed out, was appropriating "military funds with alacrity and generosity" – but "poverty funds with miserliness."

Today, a slick rhetorical formula enables current generations of such miserly politicians to keep praising the legacy of Martin Luther King while sticking knives into it.

Such duplicity is facilitated by a baseline of media coverage that automatically recycles the truncated versions of history promoted by the politicians who dominate Washington. At least dimly, those political hacks understand a key axiom described by George Orwell: "Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past."

Don't want to deal with calls for progressive change in the nation's economic power structures? Then don't mention Martin Luther King's statement, "True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring."

Don't want to acknowledge King's assessment of global class war? Then just keep referring to his 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech while carefully bypassing his later oratory about "capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries."

Want to keep King boxed as scarcely more than a Jim Crow foe? Then ignore his fierce opposition to the Vietnam War and his broader denunciations of what he called "the madness of militarism."

President Bush has no tactical interest in criticizing the positions that were central to Dr. King's final years. Instead, aided by media eagerness to sanitize King's political evolution, Bush and his right-wing compatriots pose as admirers of King while they desecrate his spirit every chance they get.

After Coretta Scott King died, the president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund said: "I'm concerned that people don't take her passing as an opportunity to further antique the causes that she and her husband and others stood for." Theodore Shaw added, "Anybody who thinks that work is over is either terribly ignorant or willfully blind."

Whatever his blend of ignorance and intentional evasion, President Bush is a leader of forces striving to roll back the King legacy of activism for social justice and peace. Sadly, the news media continue to be part of that retrograde political process – whitewashing instead of informing.

Abramoff's Evangelical Soldiers

by MAX BLUMENTHAL, the Nation magazine
[from the February 20, 2006 issue]

Gambling might not rank as high as homosexuality or abortion on the list of social evils monitored by Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, but its growth has provided many occasions for his jeremiads. The indictment of Indian casino lobbyist and influential GOP activist Jack Abramoff was one such occasion. In a January 6 press release issued three days after Abramoff's indictment, Dobson declared, "If the nation's politicians don't fix this national disaster, then the oceans of gambling money with which Jack Abramoff tried to buy influence on Capitol Hill will only be the beginning of the corruption we'll see." He concluded with a denunciation of vice: "Gambling--all types of gambling--is driven by greed and subsists on greed."

What Dobson neglected to mention--and has yet to discuss publicly--is his own pivotal role in one of Abramoff's schemes. In 2002 Dobson joined a coterie of Christian-right activists, including Tony Perkins, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, to spearhead Abramoff's campaigns against the establishment of several Louisiana casinos that infringed on the turf of Abramoff's tribal clients. Dobson and his allies recorded messages for phone banking, lobbied high-level Bush Administration officials and took to the airwaves. Whether they knew it or not, these Christian soldiers' crusade to protect families in the "Sportsmen's Paradise" from the side effects of chronic slot-pulling and dice-rolling was funded by the gambling industry and planned by the lobbyist known even to his friends as "Casino Jack."

The only Christian-right activist confirmed to be completely aware of Abramoff's rip-off was Ralph Reed. He and Abramoff have a long and storied history together. When Abramoff chaired the College Republican National Committee in the early 1980s, Reed served as the organization's executive director. They reunited in 1989, when Abramoff helped Reed organize the remains of Pat Robertson's failed 1988 presidential bid into the Christian Coalition. In 1997, with the Christian Coalition under IRS investigation and Reed facing accusations of cronyism from the group's chief financial officer, he left to start his own consulting firm, Century Strategies. Reed contacted Abramoff right away. "I need to start humping in corporate accounts," Reed told him in 1998. "I'm counting on you to help me with some contacts."

Though Abramoff apparently was not fond of Reed, he viewed him as useful. "I know you (we!) hate him [Reed], but it does give us good cover and patter to have him doing stuff," he wrote in a February 14, 2002, e-mail to his business partner, Michael Scanlon. "Let's give him a list of things we want...and give him some chump change to get it done." Reed thus became Abramoff and Scanlon's liaison to the Christian right, enlisting his evangelical allies into a web of shadowy casino hustles for "chump change."

Reed's first sleight of hand was enticing Perkins, Falwell and Robertson to try to block a 2001 bill in the Louisiana legislature loosening restrictions on riverboat casinos, which would have posed a competitive threat to Abramoff's clients, the Coushattas. At the time, Perkins was a right-wing State Representative hailed by Reed as the legislature's "anti-gambling leader."

As Perkins lobbied his colleagues against the riverboat bill, he pushed Reed to pour money into an aggressive phone-banking campaign to rally conservative Christian voters.

With a steady supply of gambling industry cash, Abramoff dumped a phone-bank budget of more than $60,000 into Reed's war chest for PR efforts against his clients' rivals, the Jena Choctaws (Reed had asked for $150,000)--supplementing the $10,000 in tribal gambling money he directed to Reed's 2001 campaign for chair of the Georgia GOP and the nearly $4 million he ultimately funneled into Reed's personal account. Reed then recruited Falwell to record a phone message against the bill. He also solicited the help of his former boss at the Christian Coalition, Pat Robertson, thanking him for his "leadership for our values." Like the answering of a prayer, tens of thousands of Louisiana Republicans suddenly were bombarded with the voice of God against vice, played by Robertson and Falwell.

On March 22, 2001, the bill was resoundingly defeated in the legislature. "You are the greatest!!!" an ecstatic Abramoff wrote to Reed.

Miracle accomplished, Abramoff tapped Reed's services again in January 2002, when his clients learned that then-Louisiana Governor Mike Foster had secretly approved a casino site for the Jena Choctaws. Following a battle plan devised by Scanlon (who inexplicably signed a memo outlining the plan, Mike "The Sausage King" Scanlon), Reed re-enlisted his evangelical allies to rev up grassroots pressure on Bush Interior Secretary Gail Norton, who had the final say on the Jena deal.

Reed first prompted Dobson to attack the Jenas' lobbyist, Washington super-lawyer, former RNC chair and current Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, during a Focus on the Family broadcast. (In his 2002 campaign for governor, Barbour described himself as "a five-point Calvinist" on American Family Radio.)

"Let me know when Dobson hits him," Abramoff wrote to Reed on February 6, 2002. "I want to savor it." That same day, he e-mailed Scanlon, "He [Dobson] is going to hit Haley by name! He is going to encourage people to call Norton and the WH [White House]. This is going to get fun."

Abramoff transferred more cash to Reed to blast Dobson's tirade against the Jena casino across Louisiana airwaves. Abramoff was confident his Bush Administration contacts would make sure all the right people heard Dobson's hit. "Dobson goes up on the radio next week!" he told Scanlon on February 20. "We'll play it in WH [the White House] and Interior." Abramoff's gamble paid off when word of the ad filtered through the tension-filled halls of the Interior Department. "[White House liaison] Doug [Domenech] came to me and said, 'Dobson's going to shut down our phone system,'" an unnamed former Interior official recounted to the Washington Post. " 'He's going to go on the air and tell everyone who listens to Focus on the Family to call Interior to oppose the Jena compact.' "

But Abramoff's fun didn't stop there. Reed urged a Who's Who of the Christian right to lobby Norton against the Jena compact with a stream of breathless letters. On February 19 Perkins warned Norton that gambling leads to "crime, divorce, child abuse." American Family Association chair Don Wildmon sent a lengthy missive to Norton filled with statistics on gambling's adverse social impact. The Eagle Forum's Phyllis Schlafly sent another. American Values president Gary Bauer declared in a letter to Norton that the compact ran "contrary to President Bush's pro-family vision." Focus on the Family vice president Tom Minnery wrote Norton and White House Chief of Staff Andy Card to demand they stop the deal. Dobson capped the mail blitz with his own missive against gambling expansion.

Despite the best efforts of Abramoff and the Christian soldiers Reed recruited, in December Norton approved the Jena compact. Soon after, Louisiana's new governor, Kathleen Blanco, reversed the deal on the basis of her opposition to casino growth. Abramoff's goal was achieved, but all his work was for naught. And his skulduggery was beginning to catch up with him. "I hate all the shit I'm into," he moaned to Scanlon in a February 2003 e-mail. "I need to be on the Caribbean with you!"

However, Abramoff's campaign against the Jena compact was a blessing for most of its Christian-right players. Perkins got to prove his mettle in a national campaign, prompting his appointment the following year by Dobson to president of the Family Research Council, the Washington-based lobbying powerhouse. Dobson, for his part, got to demonstrate his grassroots muscle to the Bush White House, raising his visibility to Karl Rove & Co. and helping him increase his influence over its social agenda as the presidential election approached.

Among Abramoff's evangelical surrogates, only Reed emerged from their relationship with visible baggage. But this was not apparent at the time. Now, as a result of extensive media coverage of his involvement with Abramoff, his campaign for lieutenant governor of Georgia, intended as a stepping stone to higher office, is lagging. He has gone from denying early in his campaign that he accepted gambling money to claiming most recently that Abramoff lied to him about the source of his fees. To generate a strong turnout for his January 21 appearance at a Georgia Christian Coalition meeting, Reed was reduced to enticing his dwindling band of "supporters" with cash and free hotel rooms.

It is still unknown whether Dobson and his allies knew that Reed was working for Abramoff during the anti-Jena campaign. Abramoff claimed in a February 2002 e-mail to his employee Todd Boulanger that he was "working FOR and WITH them [emphasis in original]," referring to Christian-right activists. Dobson, Perkins, Robertson and Falwell have remained silent. Whether or not evidence surfaces to support the claim Abramoff made in his e-mail, it is undeniable he was deeply embedded in the Christian right's infrastructure.

In July 2002, at the height of the anti-Jena campaign, Bauer and Rabbi Daniel Lapin, a fixture at Christian-right events, founded the American Alliance of Christians and Jews. On the group's board were Dobson, Robertson, Falwell and one Jack Abramoff. Lapin's organization, Toward Tradition, which administered the AACJ, received $25,000 from one of Abramoff's gambling industry clients in 2000; took $75,000 from Abramoff and his clients; and then, upon Abramoff's written instructions, hired the wife of Tony Rudy to the tune of $5,000 a month. Rudy, who was Tom DeLay's deputy chief of staff at the time, later a lobbyist, has been named in Abramoff's guilty plea.

While Abramoff cooperates with federal prosecutors, his former Christian-right surrogates have abstained from coming clean about their relationship with him. Acknowledging willing collusion with a disgraced casino lobbyist would be suicidal among their followers. But there are also risks in casting themselves as useful idiots in Abramoff's game. Such a tactic would reveal the "pro-family" movement as just another gear in a sordid Republican political operation. What did Dobson know and when did he know it? As the wheels of justice grind on, those who claim to speak with the authority of Scripture may soon find themselves under oath.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Excusive photo Of Dick Cheney....

moments before he attempted to wack that 78 year old lawyer....

Monday, February 13, 2006

10 Commandments were "borrowed"

Many people don't want to believe that the 10 Commandments are simply an abridged version of 42 principles that existed a few thousand years before Moses did, but let's keep it real...GW, might need to follow #17 (I wonder why they got rid of THAT one in the Bible?)

Maát is ethical principles collectively embracing the values of truth, justice, harmony, balance, cosmological order, reciprocity and propriety.

Personified as a goddess, Maát is depicted as a woman wearing an ostrich feather on her head, a symbol of the principles she represents. Controlling the movement of the stars and the seasonal flooding of the Nile River, Maát also had codes of tradition and customs. For all Egyptians to live in a happy, prosperous and peaceful environment, they had to live within the order established by Maát. The pharaoh, as absolute ruler, was the individual most responsible to manifest in life, through all his actions, the entire concept of Maát. Deviation from the tenets of Maát could prove disastrous for the pharaoh.

Maát was central to funerary practices in which if the deceased had been found to not have followed the concept of Maát during his life (if he had lied or cheated or killed or done anything against Maát) his heart was devoured by a demon (she was called Ammut -- Devouress of the Dead) and he died the final death. If the heart weighed the same as Maát, the deceased was allowed to go on to the afterlife. The heart of a person was considered the center of intellect and memory.

This symbolic weighing of the heart against the feather of truth (Maát) was performed to established the righteousness of the deceased. The scale of Maát was balanced after the recitation of the 42 Declarations of Innocence or Admonitions of Maát from the tomb of a Nubian. Book of the Dead of Maiherperi):

This is to said before the Forty-two gods on reaching the Hall of the Two Truths so as to purge (name) of any sins committed and to see the face of every god:

The Judgment of the Dead
The Declaration of Innocence

Hail to you, great God, Lord of the Two Truths!
I have come to you, my Lord,
I was brought to see your beauty.
I know you, I know the names of the forty-two gods,
Who are with you in the Hall of the Two Truths,
Who live by warding off evildoers,
Who drink of their blood,
On that day of judging characters before Wennofer.
Lo, your name is "He-of-Two-Daughters,"
(And) "He-of-Maat's-Two-Eyes."
Lo, I come before you,
Bringing Maat to you,
Having repelled evil for you.
and Cosmological Order
Symbol of Truth, Balance...
The Goddess Maát
1. I have not committed sin.
2. I have not committed robbery with violence.
3. I have not stolen.
4. I have not slain men and women.
5. I have not stolen grain.
6. I have not purloined offerings.
7. I have not stolen the property of God.
8. I have not uttered lies.
9. I have not carried away food.
10. I have not uttered curses.
11. I have not committed adultery, I have not lain with men.
12. I have made none to weep.
13. I have not eaten the heart.
14. I have not attacked any man.
15. I am not a man of deceit.
16. I have not stolen cultivated land.
17. I have not been an eavesdropper.
18. I have not slandered [no man].
19. I have not been angry without just cause.
20. I have not debauched the wife of any man.
21. I have not debauched the wife of [any] man.
22. I have not polluted myself.
23. I have terrorized none.
24. I have not transgressed [the law].
25. I have not been wroth.
26. I have not shut my ears to the words of truth.
27. I have not blasphemed.
28. I am not a man of violence.
29. I have not been a stirrer up of strife.
30. I have not acted with undue haste.
31. I have not pried into matters.
32. I have not multiplied my words in speaking.
33. I have wronged none, I have done no evil.
34. I have not worked witchcraft against the king.
35. I have never stopped [the flow of] water.
36. I have never raised my voice.
37. I have not cursed God.
38. I have not acted with arrogance.
39. I have not stolen the bread of the gods.
40. I have not carried away the khenfu cakes from the Spirits of the dead.
41. I have not snatched away the bread of the child, nor treated with contempt the god of my city.
42. I have not slain the cattle belonging to the god.

The Declaration to the Forty-two Gods

O Wide-of-stride who comes from On: I have not done evil.
O Flame-grasper who comes from Kheraha: I have not robbed.
O Long-nosed who comes from Khbmun: I have not coveted.
O Shadow-eater who comes from the cave: I have not stolen.
O Savage-faced who comes from Rostau: I have not killed people.
O Lion-Twins who come from heaven: I have not trimmed the measure.
O Flint-eyed who comes from Khem: I have not cheated.
O Fiery-one who comes backward: I have not stolen a god's property.
O Bone-smasher who comes from Hnes: I have not told lies.
O Flame-thrower who comes from Memphis: I have not seized food.
O Cave-dweller who comes from the west: I have not sulked.
O White-toothed who comes from Lakeland: I have not trespassed.
O Blood-eater who comes from slaughterplace: I have not slain sacred cattle.
O Entrall-eater who comes from the tribunal: I have not extorted.
O Lord of Maat who comes from Maaty: I have not stolen bread rations.
O Wanderer who comes from Bubastis: I have not spied.
O Pale-one who comes from On: I have not prattled.
O Villain who comes from Anjdty: I have contended only for my goods.
O Fiend who comes from slaughterhouse: I have not committed adultery.
O Examiner who comes from Min's temple: I have not defiled myself.
O Chief of the nobles who comes from Imu: I have not caused fear.
O Wrecker who comes from Huy: I have not trespassed.
O Disturber who comes from the sanctuary: I have not been violent.
O Child who comes from the nome of On: I have not been deaf to Maat.
O Foreteller who comes from Wensi: I have not quarreled.
O Bastet who comes from the shrine: I have not winked.
O Backward-faced who comes from the pit: I have not copulated with a boy.
O Flame-footed who comes from the dusk: I have not been false.
O Dark-one who comes from darkness: I have not reviled.
O Peace-bringer who comes from Sais: I have not been aggressive.
O Many-faced who comes from Djefet: I have not had a hasty heart.
O Accuser who comes from Utjen: I have not attacked and reviled a god.
O Horned-one who comes from Siut: I have not made many words.
O Nefertem who comes from Memphis: I have not sinned, I have not done wrong.
O Timeless-one who comes from Djedu: I have not made trouble.
O Willful-one who comes from Tjebu: I have not waded in water.
O Flowing-one who comes from Nun: I have not raised my voice.
O Commander of people who comes from his shrine: I have not cursed a god.
O Benefactor who comes from Huy: I have not been boastful.
O Nehebkau who comes from the city: I have not been haughty.
O High-of-head who comes from the cave: I have not wanted more than I had.
O Captor who comes from the graveyard: I have not cursed god in my town.


The students aim in ancient Kemet (Egypt) was for a person to become "One with God." The path to the development of god-like qualities was through the development of virtues. These virtues were sought by the Kemites (Egyptians) to become one with Maát (the cosmic order).

Control of thoughts;
Control of actions;
Devotion of purpose;
Have faith in the ability of your teacher to teach you the truth;
Have faith in yourself to assimilate the truth;
Have faith in yourself to wield the truth;
Be free from resentment under the experience of persecution;
Be free from resentment under the experience of wrong;
Cultivate the ability to distinguish between right and wrong; and
Cultivate the ability to distinguish between the real and the unreal

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The British behaving like animals.

World sees shocking images of British soldiers' brutality
By Dominic Kennedy
The assault on four Iraqi teenagers and the cameraman's mocking commentary have enraged people throughout the Middle East
A SHOCKING breakdown of military discipline is caught on video as eight burly British soldiers rain 42 kicks and blows on four puny young male Iraqi civilians, one of them a child.

The victims’ helpless cries for mercy and howls of pain and terror are ignored by groups of troops casually passing by. One man is heard to say: “In the f***ing head.”

The most senior soldier, thought to be a sergeant, does nothing to stop the brutality but instead delivers a vicious kick to one victim’s genitals.

The video’s soundtrack features a disturbing commentary from the cameraman, an excited sentry who laughs, sneers, encourages and mocks as the outrage unfolds before him.

Still images from the video, provided by a paid whistleblower and published in the News of the World, prove that the incident was far from being a unique atrocity perpetrated by the British forces in Iraq.

In another location an Iraqi civilian is seen being forced to kneel alone behind a brick wall by three soldiers who kick him hard in the chest.

A further episode sees a soldier display the corpse of a young Iraqi man, lift the victim’s head and display it to the camera. The cameraman defiles the body by twice kicking the dead face, a grievous insult to Arabs who regard shoes as dirty. A soldier laughs: “He’s been a bad motherf***er”.

But it is the casual savagery of the attack on the four young males, in effect prisoners of the British forces, which forms the most devastating two minutes of the video.

At first, groups of youths throw stones at the stronghold but they flee when lines of baton-wielding British soldiers emerge. A radio voice screeches targets for the troops: “Black top, blue bottoms — go on!”

Some of the Britons return, dragging their captives in headlocks. The moment they get inside the perimeter wall, out of sight of the civilian population, the violence begins.

The first victim, a boy no older than his early teens, is released from a headlock by a soldier still wearing his helmet who immediately head-butts him. The boy cries “No, please” and clings helplessly to the soldier’s baton. Another soldier grabs the boy’s neck and throws him to the ground. The first soldier brings his baton smashing down on to the child.

A second, slightly built youth is repeatedly dealt heavy blows with the baton until he crumples. A third victim is battered to the ground with a baton and kicked repeatedly like a football. In a distressing image the prisoner is last seen unconscious with a dark patch, resembling blood, around his head.

The cameraman shouts with delight when the captives are first brought into the compound. “Yes, yes, oh yes, you’re going to get it,” he says. “Yes, naughty little boys. Ha, ha, ha, ha. Phwoar. You little f***ers, you little f***ers. Die!” He mocks the captives’ pleas for mercy, adopting a high-pitched voice to say: “No, please don’t hurt me!”

The News of the World published extracts from the video on its website yesterday, allowing millions of people to download the images. The newspaper studied the video for several days, taking pains to confirm that it was genuine after hoax Iraqi abuse photographs cost Piers Morgan his job as Editor of the Daily Mirror. Stuart Kuttner, the News of the World’s managing editor, said: “We’ve made inquiries of the source, of people around the source, of military experts, of the Ministry of Defence and beyond.”

One of the key mysteries is how such a film could exist and be shown to military personnel for two years without the obvious crimes depicted being reported to the authorities.

"W" had to grin and bear it....

It says something about our “democracy” when Bush can only face criticism in public as a side effect of his attendance at a funeral. The civil-rights leader Rev. Joseph Lowery managed to take Bush to task for his war crimes and pathological lies (or the lies programmed in his alcohol and coke damaged head by the Straussian neocons) during the funeral of Coretta Scott King. “We know now there were no weapons of mass destruction over there,” Lowery said, reading a poem. “But Coretta knew and we knew that there are weapons of misdirection right down here.” In response, Lowrey received a two minute standing ovation.

As if to add insult to injury, former president Jimmy Carter lambasted the neocons for their authoritarian NSA snoop program, comparing it to the FBI’s surveillance of the civil rights leader. “It was difficult for them personally with the civil liberties of both husband and wife violated, and they became the targets of secret government wiretapping and other surveillance,” said Carter.

“Conservatives” (neocons) far and wide will take umbrage, outraged that somebody would dare criticize our ruler in public. I happened to catch a few seconds of Fox News on my way toward the computer. Michael Reagan, the neocon son of the dead president, expressed his anger in conversation with faux Fox “liberal” Alan Colmes. Reagan was upset over Carter’s comparison of the unconstitutional and illegal NSA snoop program to the surveillance carried out on King. Neocon cheerleaders such as Reagan, of course, want us to believe the NSA, at the behest of the Straussian neocons, are limiting the J. Edgar Hoover Memorial Vacuum Cleaner snoop program to “al-Qaeda” bad guys supposedly making phone calls when anybody with two or more brain cells to rub together realizes Bush and crew are using the criminal program to snoop thousands if not millions of Americans, especially those involved in activism against his Mafioso regime.

“No holds were barred,” William Sullivan, assistant director of the FBI’s Intelligence Division, testified before the Church Committee on the aggressive surveillance of King. “We have used [similar] techniques against Soviet agents. [The same methods were] brought home against any organization against which we were targeted. We did not differentiate. This is a rough, tough business.”

No doubt, as well, the Bush Straussians, utilizing the NSA and the FBI (and a grab bag of other federal agencies, including the Straussian infested Pentagon), believe subverting the Bill of Rights is “a rough, tough business.” In much the same way as the FBI surveilled and harassed King and his “Negro followers” (as Sullivan wrote Hoover in a memo dated January 8, 1964), the Straussian neocons are anxious to dig up as much dirt on their enemies as possible. “When the true facts concerning [King’s] activities are presented, such should be enough, if handled properly, to take him off his pedestal and to reduce him completely in influence,” Sullivan told his boss. “When this is done, and it can be and will be done, obviously much confusion will reign, particularly among the Negro people.” Of course, confusion did not “reign,” the civil rights movement grew in strength and intensity, and the government instead decided to have King assassinated.

The vicious Straussian neocons will likewise deal with their enemies as they mobilize against Phase Two (attack Iran) of the Master Plan to sow chaos and murder in the Muslim Middle East. Oliver North, working diligently from the basement of the Reagan White House, did not collaborate with FEMA to set up camps for illegal immigrants, but rather official enemies. And if you believe the CIA has established its flying torture circus of sadism strictly for Muslim goat herders and taxi drivers, you should think again. For the Straussians, there is no difference between Muslims and domestic opponents of the Bush administration.

Dick Cheney shoots lawyer

Damn...I see why Dick Cheney never served in the military...Keep guns away from him PLEASE!

(AP) WASHINGTON Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot and injured a man during a weekend quail hunting trip in Texas, his spokeswoman said Sunday.

Harry Whittington, 78, was "alert and doing fine" after Cheney sprayed him with shotgun pellets on Saturday while the two were hunting at the Armstrong Ranch in south Texas, said property owner Katharine Armstrong.

Armstrong said Whittington was mostly injured on his right side, with the pellets hitting his cheek, neck and chest, and was taken to the hospital by ambulance.

Whittington was in stable condition Sunday, said Yvonne Wheeler, spokeswoman for the Christus Spohn Health System.

Cheney's spokeswoman, Lea Anne McBride, said the vice president was with Whittington, a lawyer from Austin, Texas, and his wife at the hospital on Sunday afternoon.

Armstrong said she was watching from a car while Cheney, Whittington and another hunter got out of the vehicle to shot at a covey of quail late afternoon on Saturday.

Whittington shot a bird and went to look for it in the tall grass, while Cheney and the third hunter walked to another spot and found a second covey.

Whittington "came up from behind the vice president and the other hunter and didn't signal them or indicate to them or announce himself," Armstrong told the Associated Press in an interview.

"The vice president didn't see him," she continued. "The covey flushed and the vice president picked out a bird and was following it and shot. And by god, Harry was in the line of fire and got peppered pretty good."

The shooting was first reported by the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

She said Whittington was bleeding but not very seriously injured, and Cheney was very apologetic.

"It broke the skin," she said. "It knocked him silly. But he was fine. He was talking. His eyes were open. It didn't get in his eyes or anything like that."

She said emergency personnel traveling with Cheney tended to Whittington, holding his face and cleaning up the blood.

"Fortunately, the vice president has got a lot of medical people around him and so they were right there and probably more cautious than we would have been," she said. "The vice president has got an ambulance on call, so the ambulance came."

Armstrong said Cheney is a longtime friend who comes to the ranch to hunt about once a year. She said Whittington is a regular, too, but she thought it was the first time the two men hunted together.

"This is something that happens from time to time. You now, I've been peppered pretty well myself," said Armstrong.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Who Is Sly Stone?

You'd never know it from his "performance" at the Grammys on Wednesday night, but Sly Stone is one of the great musical innovators of the last 50 years.

During his all-too-brief creative peak — between the mid-1960s and early 1970s — he and his group, the Family Stone, fused soul, rock and funk into a dynamic sound that changed all three genres forever and played a profound role in the creation of hip-hop (his songs have been sampled and covered many, many times).

A young person today might know his songs only from oldies radio or the long-running Toyota commercial that used his 1969 anti-racist hit "Everyday People," but his influence is so vast, and his sound has been so incorporated into so many different styles, that it's simply part of today's musical language. His band's contribution to funk music is every bit as enduring as James Brown's, and Parliament-Funkadelic, Rick James, Prince, D'Angelo and Jermaine Dupri — not to mention every single funk band since the late '60s — all owe the essence of their sounds to him.

And before Sly's outlook turned dark — with 1971's haunting, paranoid There's a Riot Goin' On — his message was one of positivity, unity and self-empowerment, exemplified by just a handful of his song titles: "You Can Make It If You Try," "Everybody Is a Star," "I Want to Take You Higher" and "Stand!" With "Everyday People," he coined the term "different strokes for different folks." And as the electrifying 1969 performance captured in the concert film "Woodstock" shows, he and the band could hold tens of thousands of people in the palms of their hands.

Wednesday night's performance during the Grammy tribute to him — which found him attired bizarrely in a silver-and-purple robe, dark shades and a foot-high platinum Mohawk, pawing befuddledly at his keyboard, at times seemingly unaware of where he was — showed just how far he's fallen.

To understand how revolutionary Sly's music, image and message were, you have to consider the America in which the band was formed in 1966. It was still largely a segregated country, in terms of both race and gender. A controversial war in a far-off land, Vietnam, was dividing the country. And pop music was made mostly by single-race, single-gender groups who'd only just begun to let their hair down.

Sly was born in Dallas in 1944 but raised on the mean streets of Vallejo in the San Francisco Bay Area. A prodigious talent, he had his first hit single at the age of 16 and studied music at Vallejo Junior College. He honed his chops in the early '60s as a massively popular DJ on San Francisco's KSOL and KDIA, as a producer (helming a national hit for the Beau Brummels, "Laugh Laugh"), and with his group, the Stoners. He combined that band's trumpet player, Cynthia Robinson, with his guitarist brother Freddie, his keyboardist sister Rosemary and bassist Larry Graham (who pioneered the thumb-popping funk bass style that has since become a signature of the genre) to form the Family Stone. Their formation coincided neatly with the city's burgeoning psychedelic scene, and Sly seized the moment, fusing the sounds and attitudes of the era into something he called "psychedelic soul." The group signed with Epic Records in 1967 and released its first LP, A Whole New Thing, later that year.

While the title track of Dance to the Music brought the group its first hit, 1969's Stand! remains its definitive statement. The album contains many of the positive songs above, yet it also did not shy away from talking tough, via the confrontationally anti-racist "Don't Call Me N-----, Whitey" (the chorus of which replied, "Don't Call Me Whitey, N-----"). The album became the group's first gold disc, "Everyday People" was a #1 single, the group arguably stole the show at Woodstock — and just as the Family Stone were reaching the top, it all started to unravel.

The group began 1970 with a bang: the single "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)," indubitably one of the funkiest songs ever laid to wax. Yet Sly's increasing drug abuse led to erratic behavior, and the group missed 26 of 80 scheduled concerts, many of which found the entire band present and ready to play, with Sly simply refusing to go on. Stories of his drug-fueled antics are legend: He obsessed maniacally with There's a Riot Goin' On, missing many deadlines and recording and re-recording so many times that the album has a dull, hissy sound (the tapes simply began to wear out). The album also had a dark, claustrophobic, doomed vibe, although Sly's powers of social commentary were as strong as ever on "Family Affair," which held the #1 spot on the U.S. singles chart for five weeks. By the time the album was done, the group's brilliant drummer, Greg Errico, had left, and Graham was not far behind.

The hits continued for another couple of years — 1973's Fresh, containing the excellent single "If You Want Me to Stay," was a strong effort — but 1974's "Loose Booty" was the group's last charting single, and it dissolved the following year, with Stone filing for bankruptcy in 1976.

And that, sadly, is largely where the story ends. Sly made comeback attempts in the late 1970s and early '80s, releasing three mediocre albums. P-Funk's George Clinton brought him on tour with Funkadelic in 1981; he also appeared on former Time guitarist Jesse Johnson's 1987 single "Crazay" — the title of which is so Sly-influenced that it verges on parody. The drug problems continued, with Sly being arrested three times on cocaine charges and ending the '80s in prison on a 55-day charge for driving under the influence of the drug.

Apart from the occasional impromptu appearance — in 1993, he surprised his former bandmates by joining them onstage when the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — Sly has kept a very low profile in the years since; his royalties presumably bring in significant income. He signed a contract with Avenue Records in 1995, but no releases followed. In the late 1990s, the creator of a Sly fan site claimed to have met with Sly at the artist's behest. He reported that Sly was lucid and friendly, and said that he played new material that ranks with his best work. None of that material has yet emerged.

Last summer, Sly was reported seen in the crowd during a tribute concert in Los Angeles, wearing a motorcycle helmet throughout the performance. His behavior was no less unusual during rehearsals for Wednesday night's Grammy performance: According to the Los Angeles Times, on Monday he participated in just two of three run-throughs of the song while dressed in a hooded raincoat and camouflage pants.

The Grammy performance — Sly's first with the original Family Stone since 1971 — was a halting, confused affair and a complete disservice to his music. For a taste of his and the band's greatness, Stand! and The Essential Sly and the Family Stone collection are probably the most definitive testaments.

Indeed, his legend is such that some defended even Wednesday night's bizarre showing. Adam Levine of Maroon 5 — who took part in the all-star tribute that preceded Sly's appearance — said to The Washington Post, "Can you really argue with an unbelievable-looking Mohawk and a silver jacket?"

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Coretta Finally Joins Her Husband

After 38 years, Coretta Scott King Finally Joins her Husband
by George E. Curry
NNPA Editor-in-Chief
Originally posted 2/8/2006

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – With four U.S. presidents in attendance – two Democrats and two Republicans – the 6-hour funeral of Coretta Scott King on Tuesday started out as though it might be a star-studded exercise in political correctness, with speakers gingerly avoiding issues that have sharply divided them in the past.

President George W. Bush, an ardent opponent of affirmative action and other social programs favored by both Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta, was effusive in his praise of Mrs. King.

“I’ve come today to offer the sympathy of our entire nation at the passing of a woman who worked to make our nation whole,” he said. “… This kind and gentle woman became one of the most admired Americans of our time. She is rightly mourned, and she is deeply missed.”

Even Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), who frequently spars with President Bush on social issues, focused on his family’s long-time personal relationship with the King family.

Noting that Dr. King was given a four-month jail sentence during the early 1960s for a minor traffic violation, Kennedy said: “I remember my brother calling her and saying he would do whatever was necessary,” he recalled. “And [Attorney General] Robert called the judge, who fortunately saw the light, and Martin was released.”

Rev. Joseph Lowery, who co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) with Dr. King, made it clear that he would not bite his tongue simply because President Bush was in attendance.

“She extended Martin’s message against poverty, racism and war,” he said, referring to Coretta Scott King. “She deplored the terror inflicted by our smart bombs on missions way afar.”

With many already applauding wildly, Lowery turned up the heat.

“We know now there were no weapons of mass destruction over there. But Coretta knew and we knew that there are weapons of misdirection right down here,” Lowery said, receiving a standing ovation. “Millions without health insurance. Poverty abounds. For war billions more, but no more for the poor.”

Jimmy Carter, former governor of Georgia, credited the Kings with legitimizing him as a national candidate, thus making it possible for a White Southerner to be elected president in 1976.

In an indirect dig at President Bush’s fervent support or warrantless wiretapping, Carter reminded the mourners of what the Kings endured: “It was difficult for them personally with the civil liberties of both husband and wife violated, and they became the targets of secret government wiretapping and other surveillance.”

As evidence that the struggle for equal rights is not over, Carter said, “We only have to recall the color of those in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi.” After being interrupted by sustained applause, Carter continued, “Those who were most devastated by Katrina, to know there are not yet equal opportunities for all Americans.”

The funeral was one of the rare times that four present and past presidents –Bush, Carter, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton – have made a joint appearance.

The elder Bush, noted for his clumsiness, drew laughter when he said, “This may be your lucky day. I lost a page.”

If this had been a presidential sweepstakes, Bill Clinton would have been declared the clear winner. He received a prolonged standing ovation before he uttered a word. And when he did speak, it was with a passion he routinely uses to connect with predominantly Black audiences.

“I don’t want to forget that there’s a woman in there,” he said, pointing to a casket adorned with flowers. “Not a symbol. But a real woman who lived and breathed, and got angry and got hurt, and had dreams and disappointments. I don’t want us to forget that.”

Clinton continued, “We’re here to honor a person. Fifty-four years ago, her about-to-be husband said that he was looking for a woman with character, intelligence, personality, and beauty, and she sure fit the bill. And I have to say, when she was over 75, I thought she still fit the bill pretty good.”

The audience laughed in agreement.

The former president observed that instead of remaining in mourning, immediately following her husband’s assassination, Coretta Scott King was on a plane from Atlanta to Memphis to continue his work.

“What are we going to do with the rest of our lives?” Clinton asked. “Do you want to treat our friend Coretta like a model? Then model her behavior.”

He issued a pointed challenge to the city of Atlanta, where the Kings spent most of their lives.

“Atlanta, what is your responsibility for the future of the King Center?” Clinton asked, referring to a complex that had been beset in recent years by debt and controversy. “What are you going to do?”

Bernice King, who was 5 years old when her father died, eulogized her mother, who died Jan. 30 of respiratory problems associated with advanced ovarian cancer. She was 78 years old. The youngest child was with her mother when she died in Mexico.

“I’m just here to celebrate,” said the younger King, an associate pastor at the church. “I don’t have to say a word.” But she said many words in a wide-ranging eulogy that lasted about 38 minutes. Alluding to a controversy over the funeral being held at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, Bernice King said, ''I said, 'God, why here?' He said, 'It's time for the world to be born again.'''

She urged mourners to live in the present, not the past.

''God is not looking for a Martin Luther King or Coretta Scott King,'' she said. ''The old has passed away; there is a new order that is emerging.''

There was some unspoken tension between some who had worked with Dr. King and organizers of the funeral, which was held at the 10,000-seat mega-church in suburban Lithonia, 15 miles east of Atlanta. Jesse Jackson, a former King aide who was with him when the civil rights leader was killed in Memphis, was not allowed to be part of the funeral program. Jackson and other top aides had participated in a service the night before at Ebenezer Baptist Church in the historic Sweet Auburn section of downtown Atlanta.

Many of those speakers were already upset that the funeral service was being held at a suburban Black mega-church instead of Ebenezer, Dr. King’s old church. And few tried to hide their displeasure over Bush being allowed to take part in Coretta Scott King’s funeral after opposing most of what she fought for while she was alive.

“We can’t let them take her from us and reduce her to their trophy and not our freedom fighter,” Jackson said at the Monday night services.

Another top SCLC official, Rev. C. T. Vivian, said: “As we think of Coretta, if she were here right now, she would say the president of the United States is the direct opposite to Martin Luther King. It is in fact our public policy that makes people poor. Nonviolence is the root of the matter. If we forget that, we might as well forget the movement.”

Former UN Ambassador Andrew Young, another former King aide, said the contrasting services at Ebenezer and New Birth showed that Mrs. King had a foot in each world

“They are both real,” he explained to the Atlanta Constitution. “[Monday] was a movement service. It was like a mass movement. It unfortunately was too little about Coretta, but it was about carrying on the movement. Everything we have said about Coretta has been the truth, but she still made sure Nixon helped build the King Center, and she still got Reagan to sign the King holiday [bill]. She was always so humble and graceful, and her protest was so pure. That’s why she was so effective.”

After the funeral, Coretta Scott King’s body was driven to the King Center, arriving at 7:14 p.m. There, the family released seven doves, the symbol of peace. The coffin was placed in a temporary crypt, where it will remain until a permanent crypt is build next to her husband.

Between the tombs is an eternal flame. Inscribed on Mrs. King's crypt, below her name and years of birth and death, is a passage from First Corinthians 13:13, which reads: “And now abide Faith, Hope, Love, These Three; but the greatest of these is Love.”

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Diamonds Can Be Deadly

"Bling, Bling" - The Murder of Our People,

I've seen some pretty ignorant and bizarre things in music over the last few years, but of all the things I've witnessed today's "Bling-Bling" syndrome has to be the worst. Sometimes I wonder where the hell this absurd obsession with diamond jewelry came from. I mean flossin' and frontin' have always played a part in rap but this shit is ridiculous! You can't even blame a region because the obsession is everywhere, East, West, South, Midwest, and everywhere between. You've all heard it; the jewelry praises roll off forked tongues from Roc-A-Fella to the Hot-Boyz. Nowadays rappers make songs in tribute to Diamonds (�Diamonds are a Girls Best Friend" - Jay-Z), spend better than 50 thousand dollars on a single piece of jewelry, and then insult their fans (the people who paid for that jewelry) about being broke. Ain't that about a bitch!? The more I think about the more I think that these rappers just must not know any better.

�You know the wrist frost bit, minus two degrees/about as blue as the sea�

I can't help but wonder, what if Jay-Z knew that for more than a century the men controlling the diamond industry have been hardcore racists, some of whom were the founding fathers of Apartheid, and ruthlessly exploited black Africans as well as others. The Dutch, Germans, British, as well as other tribes of Europeans had come to Africa to pull, what today we would call a jack move. Many Europeans had convinced themselves that Africans and other non-whites were inferior people and many of the rest would do so later to justify their immoral actions. From this situation the racial segregation system of Apartheid was born, in South Africa, as well as similar social orders in other parts of Africa.

Cecil Rhodes, for whom Rhodesia (modern day Zimbabwe) was named essentially started the diamond industry back in the 1880's diamond rush when he "purchased" the farm of Dutch Boer farmers Deiderick Arnoldus & Johannes DeBeers. This farm would eventually turn into one of the largest mines in Africa at the time (DeBeers currently has a mine 3 times the size of New Jersey called the "Forbidden Zone�). Rhodes then went on to "buy" several other mines until he controlled 90% of the world's gemstones. Shortly after that Ernest Oppenheimer made a large discovery of diamonds in "German Southwest Africa�, that rivaled the Rhodes mines. Oppenheimer threatened to flood the market with diamonds and drive the price down if Rhodes did not make him chairman of DeBeers (which was Rhodes' Company at the time). Oppenheimer's company had financial investment from British investors and J.P. Morgan so it was called Anglo-American. Today, diamonds are a multi-billion dollar industry and most of them come from Southern African countries, yet black Africans from these countries remain some of the poorest people in the world.

�Every time I come around your city "Bling Bling" - Pinky ring worth about 50 "Bling Bling�

What if the Hot Boyz knew that from those early days up until now, the profits from the diamond industry were and continue to be one of the most important factors in upholding the region's racist policies and white minority rule? The best example is in South Africa. Once diamonds were discovered, the South African government instituted policies designed to force black Africans off their land and into the diamond mines to work in conditions similar to slavery. This was accomplished by the government creating new taxes on virtually everything from land to pets. In order to get money to pay the taxes black Africans had no choice but to work in the mines. For all their moral talk foreign investors, mainly in America and Europe, played a key role in upholding the South African government and economy, and similar ones throughout southern Africa.

During the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre, where South African police murdered 67 black anti-apartheid demonstrators in the township of Sharpeville, many foreign companies and investors pulled out their investments (not for moral reasons but out of fear of South African instability) and sold their shares of stock. Anglo-American bought up these shares to uphold the apartheid economy. Another example of foreign support occured in the Congo (formerly Zaire) in the 1950s. In 1959 Patrice Lumumba was elected as Prime Minister of the newly "independent" Congo, a country extremely rich in diamonds as well as other natural resources. Lumumba was very critical of the racist and unequal power and social relations in the Congo as well as the diamond industry's theft of African resources. The Belgian mining company, the American CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), and the Belgian government conspired to have him overthrown and murdered. He was then replaced by Mobutu Sese Seko, a figurehead dictator that these foreign powers found more acceptable. Dictator Mobutu was finally overthrown in 1997 and he died of natural causes later that year. Mobutu ruled the Congo for 32 years and it is estimated that through his theft he amassed a personal fortune estimated at 5 to 8 billion dollars (yes that is a supposed to be a 'B' and yes that is 5-8,000,000,000) in addition to the countless billions he misdirected or gave to his cronies.

�I don't like it if it don't gleam-gleam/ and the hell with the price tag cause money ain't a thing�

What if Jermaine Dupri knew about the conditions that miners past and present endured? Even today most people believe that since apartheid technically ended that somehow it's "all good�. Nothing could be further from the truth. Black Africans continue to work and live in conditions, that make Chicago's Cabrini Green Projects look like Disney World. For example, in DeBeers' Kimberly mines division in South Africa there are between 1,200 and 1,400 workers. About 1,100 of them are black and live in squatter's camps - tin shacks with no electricity or proper plumbing. Many of these black workers are paid as little as 28 American dollars a month. But white miners and managers live in comfortable homes - oftentimes with black servants! In addition, only white and part white employees with families are provided with family housing. Married black miners are forced to stay in separate facilities from their spouses. If a black, female worker gets pregnant she is required to leave her job for 3 months and return without her child if she wishes to keep her job. White workers are never subject to these policies. If a white miner has a family, they are immediately given family housing.

Just slightly higher up the food chain, in West India (not the West Indies), hundreds of thousands of diamond cutters, many of them children under 13, cut low quality diamonds for inexpensive catalogue jewelry. At times they are required to place more than 50 cuts, the size of pencil tip, on a diamond. They are paid 4 cents per stone and work 12 hour days, 6 days a week. I doubt that comes with any health benefits.

�I Rock Ice (lil daddy) every time I step/ I rock Ice (lil mamma) cause I love to rep�

What if Baby knew that diamonds are not naturally rare? Diamonds are made from carbon under high pressure, and on Earth we live in a carbon based environment. Most of the major diamond producing countries are in Southern Africa, but diamonds are also produced in Sierra Leone, Russia, Australia, and Canada. The diamond industry is more about controlling and restricting what comes out of the ground than the actual mining of diamonds. DeBeers controls approximately 75% of the world's rough (uncut) diamonds through its marketing arm, the Central Selling Organization (CSO). It mines 50% of the world's diamonds in South Africa, Namibia, and Botswana. The rest are vacuumed up through contracts made with other diamond producers, and by sending their buyers to clean up diamonds that leak onto the market from places like Congo and Angola. Since DeBeers is a foreign based company they are not subject to American monopoly laws, so they artificially keep the price of diamonds high by monopolizing supply. Trying to keep control of the diamond supply has forced DeBeers into business dealings with borderline terrorist organizations and other shady characters, though they deny having dealings with most of these groups.

The lie that diamonds are extremely rare and valuable has been built up since the 1930s. During the 1930s and 1940s DeBeers paid to have diamonds placed favorably in movies. In 1947 DeBeers invented their famous slogan "A Diamond is Forever" which sells 2 dreams: (1) that diamonds bring eternal love and romance, and (2) that diamonds never lose their value. DeBeers spends no less than 200 million a year on marketing diamonds in 34 countries. Today the United States accounts for more than 33% of the worlds diamond jewelry sales. It sells the dream to every new generation of gullible young men and women. They sponsor women's magazines, host celebrity auctions and design competitions, and work to have diamonds placed on TV shows and in movies. As if the 1st gaffle wasn't enough they reinvent the dream for those who have already bought it once. Now they have the "Eternity Ring" - a band of diamonds bought to celebrate the tenth wedding anniversary - being sold using the slogan "Show her you would marry her all over again".

These fantasies are aggressively sold oversees as well. In the 1960's, before DeBeers muscled in, barely 1 in 20 Japanese brides wore a diamond engagement ring. Today, diamond engagement rings are sported by 70% of Japanese brides.

The fact that America's love affair with diamonds is the result of a marketing campaign is pretty bizarre, but even more amazing is that diamonds can be made synthetically. Their manufacture requires some expensive equipment, but if a company has the resources, it can manufacture flawless diamonds in most sizes and colors, even the more expensive pink or yellow shades. In the 1980's General Electric was making these synthetic flawless diamonds though they weren't selling them commercially. When former, GE executive Edward Russell suggested that GE begin selling these diamonds to the public he was promptly fired. Apparently GE's higher ups and the DeBeers thugs had an understanding at the time, although GE claims Mr. Russell was fired due to job performance. I try not to wonder these things when I'm watching music videos or listening to songs on the radio, but I just can't thinking about it. WHAT IF THEY KNEW?! Sadly enough though, I don't think they would even care. And that is the truly scary part!

Courtesy of Eyecalone at

Part 2

�Bling!Bling!" Baby says, his "medallion iced up" and his "Rolex bezelled up!" Jay-Z says she's his baby, drives him crazy and is a girl's best friend. We talkin' diamonds ya'll. Helen, a 20-year-old mother raped and held captive by armed men knows about diamonds. Adamsay, 15, who uses her severed limbs to manipulate a cup knows about them too. They live in Sierra Leone, where real thugs keep the block locked down -- all in the name of ICE.

Sierra Leone went from slave port to a haven for Britain's newly emancipated. A colony until 1961, it looked forward to prosperity in those early years of independence. But as with too much of post-colonial Africa, those dreams were short lived.

Government mismanagement led to rebellion in 1991 by a group calling themselves the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), led by a former official named Foday Sankoh. Attempts to quell the rebellion caused numerous coups and shifts in government. With the war still raging in 1996, the people finally called for democratic elections. Lawyer Ahmad Tejan Kabbah was declared victor and a peace accord with the rebels was signed.

But the peace deal unraveled. And when disgruntled government soldiers staged a coup, the RUF eagerly supported them to topple Kabbah and form a rogue government the international community refused to recognize.

Visiting Nigeria, RUF leader Foday Sankoh was placed under arrest. And Nigeria, backed by the UN and ECOMOG, fought a punishing war to return Kabbah to power in 1998. Sankoh was given the death penalty, but the RUF carried on nevertheless.

If the RUF were fighting on behalf of the people of Sierra Leone, they certainly neglected to demonstrate it. As if mimicking Cambodia's murderous Khmer Rouge or the brutally oppressive Belgian Congo, the RUF waged a bloody campaign of terror. They raped, maimed and killed civilians, including children and the elderly, in the tens of thousands.

When the RUF attacked the capitol of Freetown in January of 1999, they initiated "Operation No Living Thing" - raping young girls and women, burning homes and villages, and viciously hacking off the hands of children. At least 10,000 people died in this rebel terror campaign. As one UN official put it, "The RUF have turned Sierra Leone into the worst country in the world to live in�.

So who are these RUF? An extremist faction like the Peruvian Shining Path, with some profound political agenda? Something akin to the fratricidal, Hutu Interahamwe of Rwanda bent on revenge upon ethnic rivals? Or like the Hezballah, do they wage a struggle based on fanatic religious ideologies? No.

The 45,000 member RUF are simply disillusioned young men, some no older than 10, spurred on by older leaders and drug-induced acts of bravado. They come from diverse ethnic groups, practice no particular religion, and espouse no set political agenda or platform.

All that can be said is that their goals are rooted in greed. For it is diamonds that have caused and fed this war of atrocity. The eastern part of Sierra Leone, a RUF stronghold, produces some of the finest gems in the world. Reports say the RUF sells the diamonds through Liberia, who's president Charles Taylor supports them for his own corrupt ends, and receives arms in return. The evidence of this illegal trade is in the numbers: Liberia's own average annual mining capacity is 150,000 carats. But between 1994 and 1998, Liberia exported more than 31 million carats, an average of six million per year.

The RUF was eventually routed by Nigerian troops into the countryside. But pressure from the US and other governments forced President Kabbah to sign a treaty with the RUF. Jesse Jackson himself helped broker the much applauded peace deal which not only gave the RUF blanket amnesty, but ensured their leaders high-ranking government posts. Foday Sankoh went from death row, to the Vice-Presidency.

However, it soon became apparent that this deal was a sham. Only about 4,000 of the RUF disarmed while at least 13,000 government troops did so. UN observers noted that the RUF continued murder, rape and mutilation in Sierra Leone as if the peace deal never happened. In fact only days following Nigeria's withdrawal, the RUF ambushed and took 500 UN peacekeepers hostage. Terrified of the rebels, who's infamous reputation preceded them, the UN force surrendered their weapons, armored personnel carriers and even their uniforms without so much as a fight.

Sierra Leone citizens in Freetown, finally taking matters into their own hands, marched on the home of Sankoh to demand he end hostilities. They were greeted with bodyguards who fired machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades into the crowd, killing scores. Weeks of humiliation later, the UN hostages were finally released. So what went wrong?

Jesse, the US and foreign nations underestimated the RUF and miserably failed to understand the conflict in Sierra Leone. The RUF may be experts in tactics of guerrilla warfare and terrorism, but they amount in the end to little more than mafia-like thugs. Giving Sankoh and his rebels places in the new government would be akin to the NAACP giving gang members a place on their board. The people of Sierra Leone were betrayed by an international community looking to make deals with the devil. As one Sierra Leonean dryly observed, "they didn't make deals with Milosovic in Bosnia---why here?"

But perhaps there is hope in Sierra Leone's future. The UN, following Nigeria's lead, has taken a tough stance on the RUF. And the peacekeeping mission sent there has restored some semblance of order to the nation. Foday Sankoh was captured and marched through the streets of Freetown to the jubilant cheers of its citizens. A tribunal has been set up to prosecute both Sankoh and the RUF for their reign of terror. And a government diamond certificate is now being put into to place to keep rebel gems from financing this brutal war. And word is the RUF rebels have begun to disarm en masse.

As Nigerian author Chinua Achebe might say, in Sierra Leone things "fell" apart. It will take untold generations to heal the wounds the civil war has caused. The very existence of the RUF illustrates some of Africa's most pressing post-colonial problems: corrupt leaders, the powerful exploiting the powerless, the break-down of traditional African societal values and mores, and a lack of basic order on many fronts. What should be a diamond-rich and prosperous country, is today on the verge of chaos. Modern Sierra Leone is part of the African legacy of colonialism and the seeming inability of western styles of government and post-independence leaders to speak to the needs of their respective countries. The implosion of Sierra Leone is what happens when all of these factors go untreated for too long. It will take a world community and, most of all, the commitment of the people of Sierra Leone to fix it once again.

As I listened to yet another ghetto lyrical fantasy of ICE play out on my radio, I could not help wonder if some artists are dumber than a box of rocks? When a recent high profile rapper was asked about what he thought of Sierra Leone as he bragged about his shiny wrist pieces, he answered dumbfounded -- "Sierra who?" It seems while the rest of the REAL world was concerned with world affairs, these thugz, ballaz and ThOw'd YuNg PlAyAz could have cared less. Yet now I watch em' tripping over each other to get some American patriotic media glory after September 11th. These simps (yeah, I called em' simps) should all be loaded up in a plane and dropped ground zero into Sierra Leone, with all their flashy ICE wrapped around them. Let's see how long they make it.

Courtesy of Morpheus at