When black politicians behave badly

As America is on the verge of electing Democratic nominee Barack Obama as the nation’s first black president, unfortunately, this week saw examples of how black politicians should not act.

Mr Obama, please take note.

Massachusetts state Senator Dianne Wilkerson said she won't step down from office despite a unanimous resolution in the state legislature yesterday asking her to resign after her arrest on bribery charges.

From Associated Press:

The state’s lone black senator who lost the Democratic primary last month was arrested by the FBI on Tuesday and charged with accepting $23,500 in bribes from undercover agents she believed were local businessmen.

State Sen. Dianne Wilkerson, 53, was charged with attempted extortion as a public official and theft of honest services as a state senator. She faces up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines on each count.

The Boston Democrat entered no plea during an initial appearance in federal court in Boston and was released on an unsecured $50,000 bond…

… According to a federal criminal complaint, Wilkerson was recorded by audio and videotape accepting bribes in exchange for helping a proposed nightclub in her district get a liquor license…

… An FBI affidavit filed in court includes a series of still photographs from video recordings allegedly showing Wilkerson accepting cash. In one photograph, taken in June 2007, Wilkerson appears to be stuffing a pile of cash under her sweater and inside her bra...

Meanwhile in Detroit…

From Associated Press:

Mr Obama, if you do, indeed, get elected on Tuesday, please represent the black race more honorably than the crooked people mentioned above. While it is no secret that politicians of all colors can be corrupt, black folks are always scrutinized more. The next four years will only be a struggle if you are not honest to the American people about what you do behind closed doors.

We are depending on you!!!

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At BU, AFRICOM leader talks security, controversy

By Talia Whyte
Originally published in Bay State Banner

Gen. William E. Ward, commander of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), discussed the newly operational command’s accomplishments and future work at Boston University last Wednesday.

During his keynote speech at the university’s African Presidential Archives and Research Center (APARC), Ward also addressed concerns raised by opponents who are suspicious of the motives for establishing the military command.

Based at the Kelley Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, AFRICOM is a military headquarters devoted solely to American military operations and security engagement with 53 African nations. The command was activated at an Oct. 1 ceremony held at the Pentagon. Prior to AFRICOM becoming fully operational, U.S. security matters in Africa were handled by military commands in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

Some have expressed fears that the U.S. government plans to use AFRICOM to extend the war on terror into the African continent, and as part of efforts to suppress growing economic competition from China.

Not so, said Ward.

“AFRICOM is designed to address new military demands on the continent,” Ward said. “The challenges will require more than military expertise.”

Aiding in the response to those challenges will be a number of agencies that will lend a hand to AFRICOM’s work on the continent, including the Departments of Homeland Security and Commerce, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Agency for International Development and several African nongovernmental organizations.

During his APARC speech, Ward stressed that building “partner capacity strategies” and working as a team will be critical in helping the organization to better support both African military personnel and civilians.

“AFRICOM is a listening and learning operation,” he said. “We will learn about the different cultures and change programs as appropriate. Our goal is to add value.”

Unlike other U.S. military commands around the world, AFRICOM will focus on preventing wars rather than fighting them, according to Ward. When asked about the possibility of U.S. military forces becoming involved in curbing the genocide in Darfur, Ward said that AFRICOM’s intent is not to make foreign policy decisions in Africa, as those decisions are made in Washington, but rather to make sure that AFRICOM’s duties “are in line with the United States and with our African partners.”

Just what those activities will be has become a matter of concern for some in the international community.

AFRICOM has come under scrutiny from activists for more than a year over the United States’ alleged attempts to militarize the continent in order to barricade it from extremists. Also, with China’s growing economic interests in Africa, opponents see AFRICOM as a means of protecting American trade interests, especially crude oil. Some recall Africa’s history as a target of European colonizers and a strategic bulwark during the Cold War, and are concerned that AFRICOM represents another form of imperialism being imposed by the West.

Opposition to the command has come from African government leaders in Mozambique, Botswana, Zambia, South Africa and Nigeria as well as U.S.-based civil society groups like the TransAfrica Forum and the Institute for Policy Studies. They argue that the U.S. government is not being transparent about its intentions for AFRICOM. Last year, Dr. Wafula Okuma, a research fellow at the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa, testified before Congress about the growing resistance and hostility toward AFRICOM on the continent.

“Many think the U.S. is very nervous of Chinese economic penetration into Africa,” Okuma testified. “America’s concern is that the Chinese are trying to control the continent’s natural resources and gain influence over it. The U.S. is also worried that radical Islamism is a dangerous idea that could germinate in poorly and badly governed states of Africa … AFRICOM is being sold as an answer to these threats.”

Some opponents have even suggested that African hostility toward the military command is the reason AFRICOM is based in Germany rather than on the continent.

A coalition of activists staged a protest against AFRICOM in Washington, D.C., on Monday during the conference of the International Peace Operations Association, where opponents believe contractors will discuss opportunities for making money off the Pentagon’s new military venture.

“The principles of imperialism on which AFRICOM stands are unmistakable,” said protest organizer Tsetsi Kgama in a recent e-mail message. “With a history marked by the traumas of slavery and colonialism, Africa deserves a foreign policy that respects self-determination and self-governance. Now is the time to dismantle AFRICOM and to condemn U.S. military presence in Africa.”

Responding to these concerns during last Wednesday’s speech, Ward said that “there is no hidden agenda” behind AFRICOM, reiterating that the command exists solely to assist the United States’ African military partners, and assured attendees that it is not being used to fend off Chinese advances.

As for AFRICOM’s home in Germany, Ward said African resistance is not the top reason for making a location decision and that while Liberia has offered to host the command, the command will be based in Germany for the “foreseeable future.” The Kelley Barracks site is near the United States Europe Command, also known as EURCOM, allowing staff from both commands to work together during the transition.

Ward said he has high hopes for AFRICOM’s prospects.

“We are making a difference,” he said. “We are improving security on the continent.”

Many audience members were still uncertain about AFRICOM’s prospects but were glad to see the general make himself available to address the concerns.

The Rev. Richard Clarke, a Liberian and pastoral resident at Roxbury’s Charles Street A.M.E. Church, said that while some Africans support the AFRICOM venture, the U.S. government will have to prove opponents wrong by working to reverse its negative image on the continent.

“If [AFRICOM] survives, it will have to be truthful in its nature,” Clarke said. “America shouldn’t enforce its views on Africa, but rather work with Africans.”

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Nigerian bloggers fight for free speech

Online citizen journalism has become the new frontier for activists to get the word out about government corruption, much to the dismay of some politicians. Nigerian-American blogger Jonathan Elendu was taken into custody upon arrival last week in the Nigerian capital of Abuja by the secret service. Elendu, a public relations executive and journalist based in Michigan, is the founder of Elendu Reports, a news blog known for publishing controversial material about Nigerian politicians and information about the economic woes in the Niger Delta. Some Nigerian bloggers believe Elendu was arrested for running a “guerilla news agency,” and are now speaking out on his behalf.

According to the blog, Nigerian Musings, “Elendu has been held by Nigeria's internal security agency, the SSS, for 5 days. He has had no contact with his family and is now being accused of money laundering and other trumped up offenses.” It is also believe that Elendu is on a hunger strike and his health is grave. This blog is also encouraging other bloggers who are concerned about his safety to blog about his plight and his timely release this Friday.

According to Black Looks, “The arrest of Jonathan Elendu is one in a long line of attacks against freedom of the press in Nigeria (arrests, harassments and murder of anyone critical of the government) and one which is particularly characteristic of military dictatorships the remnants of which continue to remain active in the country.”

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Crime and Punishment in Chicago

The devastating news about the murders of Academy-award-winning actress Jennifer Hudson's mother and brother only highlight another news story that broke yesterday.

From United Press International:

CHICAGO, Oct. 24 (UPI) -- Four-hundred, twenty-six homicides have been reported in Chicago so far in 2008, more than in either New York or Los Angeles.

Chicago could be record more than 500 homicides by the end of the year, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

New York, with a population of almost 8.3 million compared to Chicago's 2.8 million, has reported 417 homicides. Los Angeles, with 3.8 million people, has had 302.

The number of homicides in Chicago peaked at around 700 in 1998 before a dramatic decline. In recent years, the number has gone up again in many major cities, and faster in Chicago than in New York.

Police Superintendent Jody Weis, testifying before the city council Friday, promised to change assignments and beats, moving police to areas where they are most needed.

"They haven't been moved around since 1978. That's three decades of people making empty promises," Weis said. "Nothing against my predecessors, but at some time, you've got to look at a problem and say, 'I know I can't make every one of the 50 aldermen happy, but we have to make sure we have the right resources in the right locations.'"

But some community leaders are not holding their breath.

From Chicago Sun-Times:

For 20 years, police superintendents have been promising to re-draw the boundaries of Chicago's 281 police beats to accommodate shifting crime patterns and population changes.

It never happened.

Instead of touching off a political war between black and Hispanic aldermen who believe their high-crime wards have been shortchanged and white aldermen who won’t tolerate a reduction in police services, Mayor Daley chose the path of least resistance. He formed a Targeted Response Unit that temporarily redeployed officers to crime “hot spots.”

That’s apparently why aldermen reacted to Weis’ promise by saying they’re tired of waiting. They argued that beat realignment is more important than ever, now that Daley is planning to hire just 200 officers during all of 2009.

Chicago's crime reductions problems are not unique. Race and class plays a large role in how politicians deal with urban problems. However, with the economy downturn and the rise in unemployment, budget reductions in community policing and other social services in urban areas such as after school programs and summer jobs will only make crime rates go up even further.



Divisiveness and the Presidential Elections

I will be so glad when this election is over in two weeks. Oh wait - I totally forgot. Someone is going to want a recount, and this is going to the Supreme Court - again. When does Florida secede from the rest of the country again?

Anyway, one thing I will not miss about the election is the divisiveness the McCain/Palin camp has used in a desperate attempt to stay relevant in the presidential race. Between calling Obama an Arab (and even if he was Arab, is that a bad thing?) and Colin Powell being accused of race-baiting, I really hope the Republican ticket will go down because voters will see the bigotry they have thrown into the race. Luckily, as you can see in this video, even Republicans don't like these dirty tricks anymore.

Sigh...12 more days...

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Iraq veterans speak out online

The Iraq War has become a stinging issue among anti-war activists around the world. The Associated Press reported recently that nearly 4,200 members of the U.S. military have died since the war began in March 2003. An estimated 1 million Iraqis have also died as a result of the conflict, according to survey work conducted by London-based Opinion Research Business. The war’s financial costs to the U.S. also continue to rise, now standing at more than $560 billion. October 11 marked the sixth anniversary of Congress’ authorizing the invasion of Iraq, and anti-war activists see this as an opportunity to galvanize voters during the upcoming U.S. presidential election.

Iraq Veterans against the War (IVAW) was founded in 2004 to serve a growing number of active U.S. duty service people and veterans who are against this war, but are under various pressures to not speak out. IVAW uses its Facebook group to explain their top ten reasons why they are against the war, as well as post videos and share information about their efforts.

“Soldiers and veterans that oppose these wars run huge risks and neglect, and deserve all my admiration,” said Chilean Facebook member Pablo Lobo, “It takes real courage and strength to stand against such a beast! -- Your cause is a huge player in the many other causes for peace! Keep on and I hope more people will wake up and listen to you!”

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No he didn't just say that about Madonna!

As you all know, this blog is generally reserved for serious discourse on politics and social justice - you know - important topics. But, despite the crashing economy and race-baiting in the U.S. presidential race (which I will speak more on tomorrow) and other evidence that End of Days is nigh, I had to take a diversion to discuss another important issue that has come up in recent days - the pending divorce between Madonna and Guy Ritchie!

If you haven't noticed already, I am a big fan of Her Madgetsy. I have seen her in concert four times, most recently last week at the infamous Boston concert, where she indirectly called her estranged husband "emotionally retarded."

But wait, there is more to the story.

From NY Daily News:

Lawyers for the Material Girl will make a case that Ritchie was verbally abusive, sapping his wife of her legendary confidence, according to the Daily Mail online.

His alleged insults include a quip that the buff pop star "looked like a granny" next to her back-up dancers, and that she's "past it" now that she's 50.

He also said his wife, who has flirted with acting many times over her career, isn't up to that particular challenge.

Apparently the alleged bad-mouthing didn't exactly put either in the mood. The couple reportedly hadn't had sex in the 18 months leading up to their split, according to Britain's News of the World.

Lawyers for her Madgesty will say the comments damaged her self-esteem over the course of their 8-year marriage.

Ritchie's lawyers may have their own fodder for claims of controlling behavior bordering on abuse, based on his wife's alleged whims.

Madonna's personal habits include having a live-in trainer, and going to sleep slathered in $800 cream and wrapped in plastic, according to the Mail online.

She also enforced a strict dairy-free policy in their home, and Ritchie was rarely allowed to eat meat. When he did, his wife would leave the table in disgust.
Ritchie's friends were also not welcome in their home, and neither were any newspapers or television.

Verbal sparring between the soon-to-be former spouses is already underway, with Ritchie's dad chiming in as well.

The director's father blasted Madonna as "beastly" Friday after the Material Girl suggested in song that her estranged hubby was "emotionally retarded."

Madonna took the shot at a Boston concert, telling the audience, "This song is for the emotionally retarded. Maybe you know some people who fall into that category. I know I do."

It also drew the ire of John Ritchie, who spoke out for the first time about his son's upcoming divorce battle.

"She is being beastly. She is saying, 'Did you ever love me?' It goes back to a time when she fell off her horse, and she's blaming him for that. She's calling him an emotional retard. When he's being bashed by her, it's horrid," he said.

Friends agree the marriage first started turning sour three years ago when Madonna fell from her horse and broke eight bones, and felt that Ritchie showed "a complete lack of love and sympathy."

A legal showdown could pit Britain's two leading female divorce lawyers against each other.

Ritchie is said to be consulting with Lady Helen Ward, the lawyer who won Britain's biggest divorce payout - $120 million.

Madonna has hired Fiona Shackleton, who represented Paul McCartney in his $60 million divorce from Heather Mills.

Friends said Madonna was "incensed" when she went onstage in Boston because Ritchie supposedly reneged on a deal to keep their divorce under wraps until next year.

According to a drag queen, named appropriately "Diva," I was sitting next to at the concert, apparently Madonna was "scheduling" to get divorced next year, well after her tour ended. So, Miss Madge possibly was none to happy about the news breaking just hours before she got on stage. Ritchie can say what he will about her looks, but her stans still love her.

"The bitch looks good for fifty," Diva said. "She could crack Guy's head with those legs."

Well, she certainly will in divorce court.



Latino Health Access and Presidential Politics

Today, I had the opportunity to participate in a “blogger conference” hosted by the National Council for La Raza (NCLR). As we reported last week, this organization is using new media to reach out to the Latino community, the fastest growing ethnic group in the United States. The conference call was about health disparities among Latinos and what the two presidential candidates are proposing to close the health access gap.

“Quality health care has always been in the hearts and minds of Latinos,” said Jen Ng’andu, associate director for the NCLR’s Health Access Project. “One in three Latinos don’t have health insurance for preventive care.”

Ng’andu said that NCLR works with hundreds of organizations and coalitions on addressing health access in the Latino community. NCLR also works with Health Care for America Now (HCAN), a national grassroots campaign working to guarantee quality health care for all Americans.

Latinos faces specific problems when accessing health care, including cultural insensitivity and language barriers. It is not uncommon to see children translating for adult family members who only speak Spanish in the hospital. Also, despite high employment rates among Latinos, they also have the lowest rates of health insurance supported by employers.

“One important issue for Latinos is access, so it’s important to look at this issue.” said Esther Garcia of HCAN. “Our organization wants to make sure all Latinos are insured.”

Representatives from both campaigns were invited to participate in the conference; however, a McCain rep didn’t participate due to “work in the field,” and will answer questions from bloggers later.

Dr Dora Hughes, Obama’s senior health policy advisor, was on the call and said that her candidate is strongly dedicated to this issue.

“Sen. Obama is the only candidate who believes that health care is a fundamental right,” she said.

Many of her talking points can be seen on Obama’s website:

Make Health Insurance Work for People and Businesses - Not Just Insurance and Drug Companies.

Require insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions so all Americans regardless of their health status or history can get comprehensive benefits at fair and stable premiums.

Create a new Small Business Health Tax Credit to help small businesses provide affordable health insurance to their employees.

Lower costs for businesses by covering a portion of the catastrophic health costs they pay in return for lower premiums for employees.

Prevent insurers from overcharging doctors for their malpractice insurance and invest in proven strategies to reduce preventable medical errors.

Make employer contributions more fair by requiring large employers that do not offer coverage or make a meaningful contribution to the cost of quality health coverage for their employees to contribute a percentage of payroll toward the costs of their employees health care.

Establish a National Health Insurance Exchange with a range of private insurance options as well as a new public plan based on benefits available to members of Congress that will allow individuals and small businesses to buy affordable health coverage.

Ensure everyone who needs it will receive a tax credit for their premiums.

Reduce Costs and Save a Typical American Family up to $2,500 as reforms phase in:

Lower drug costs by allowing the importation of safe medicines from other developed countries, increasing the use of generic drugs in public programs and taking on drug companies that block cheaper generic medicines from the market

Require hospitals to collect and report health care cost and quality data
Reduce the costs of catastrophic illnesses for employers and their employees.

Reform the insurance market to increase competition by taking on anticompetitive activity that drives up prices without improving quality of care.

The Obama-Biden plan will promote public health. It will require coverage of preventive services, including cancer screenings, and increase state and local preparedness for terrorist attacks and natural disasters.

A Commitment to Fiscal Responsibility: Barack Obama will pay for his $50 - $65 billion health care reform effort by rolling back the Bush tax cuts for Americans earning more than $250,000 per year and retaining the estate tax at its 2009 level.

Regarding Latino health access, Hughes said an Obama administration would require quality health access measurements and provide support to community organizations addressing health disparities. She also said that cultural competency and workforce diversity needs to be strengthened.

Hughes also said that Obama, as well as Sens. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders introduced legislation in August to expand a successful and cost-effective community health center program, Access for All America Act.

Obama has promised that during his first year in office, he would sign legislation that would provide health care for all.

To be fair, John McCain’s health care proposal can be found here, and hopefully his rep can get back to the bloggers on his talking points.

To be continued….

P.S. – While looking at the McCain website, I was surprised to find a whole issues page on “Technology.” Considering that he once said that he doesn’t even know how to open email, I am happy someone in his organization finally told him to “smarten up” on his new media. We will take a more in depth look at his digital platform and write about it at a later date.

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Black Athletes and Social Activism

Football legend Jim Brown is real deep.

From Los Angeles Times:

The way Brown sees it, many of today’s athletes are simply in it for the money and celebrity, refusing to accept responsibility for having a huge impact on the culture around them. And he’s not afraid of naming names. “Athletes need to represent more than that just getting a big contract and lots of endorsements,” he says. “Take Michael Jordan. To me, he’s full of bull. He’s hiding his true self. All he cares about is getting ahead, being popular and enjoying the wealth of this country. Same with Kobe Bryant. For them, it’s all about making money and doing all the commercials.” Brown expects more from today’s athletes. After all, he walked the walk. When Muhammad Ali was stripped of his heavyweight title and threatened with jail time for refusing to register for the draft during the Vietnam War, it was Brown and Boston Celtics star Bill Russell who led a contingent of black athletes who offered Ali their support. “Sports is detrimental to the development of culture if all you’re willing to do is enjoy the fruits of this country,” he says. “You’ve got to reinvest in the culture, not just exploit it. Today people just want non-combative heroes, who smile and say all the right things. That’s fine, but that doesn’t mean you have to play the fool and shake your butt just because you caught a pass for a touchdown.”

Of course, I have been saying this for a while, but hearing it from a sports giant and activist really sets the tone.



Online activists champion hunger relief

The recent financial downturn has had an effect on people throughout the world. However, crashing stock markets in the industrialized world have had a particularly detrimental effect on those already suffering in the developing world. Tomorrow is Blog Action Day, where bloggers will raise awareness about poverty. One organization is using multiple digital tools to fight hunger among the world’s children.

Nearly one billion people around the world are faced with hunger and malnutrition, and soaring food prices have made the situation worse. The World Food Programme campaign, World Hunger Relief, uses Facebook, MySpace and YouTube to show videos, mobilize discussion and fundraise on behalf of hungry children worldwide.

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Interview with Mark Zuckerberg

For some reason, I woke up during the middle of the night last night, and couldn't get back to sleep. Usually, I turn on the radio to listen to the BBC overnight news broadcast to help fall back to sleep. But lucky I stayed up long enough to listen to a fascinating interview with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Zuckerberg is known for being a recluse and media shy. But this interview was quite thought-provoking, especially when Zuckerberg is asked about the financial health of the popular online social network.

Check it out here.



End of Days

Back to more important news...

From Washington Post:

Stock markets across Asia posted sharp losses in early trading Friday on the heels of a steep sell-off on Wall Street.

Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei 225 index lost 974.12 points, or 10.64 percent, to close the morning session at 8,183.37. At one point in the frantic morning trading, the index shed 11.4 percent.

"We are seeing a meltdown in the world stock market due to growing fears over a global recession," said Kazuhiro Takahashi, general manager at Daiwa Securities SMBC Co. Ltd.

The sell-off in Asian markets comes after the Dow Jones industrial average Thursday dropped a staggering 679 points, or 7.3 percent, to close below the 9,000-line for the first time in five years.

From CBC News:

At mid-morning London time, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was down 233.84, or 5.4 per cent, at 4,079.96, having fallen below the 4,000 mark earlier for the first time in five years.

Germany's DAX was 383.70, or 7.9 per cent, at 4,503.30, and France's CAC-40 was 209.67, or 6.1 per cent lower at 3,233.03.

In Vienna, the stock exchange has been suspended until midday after stocks tumbled 10 per cent at the opening bell.

From International Herald Tribune:

Iceland was on the verge of doing exactly that on Thursday as the government shut down the stock market and seized control of its last major independent bank. That brought trading in the country's currency to a halt, with foreign banks no longer willing to take Icelandic krona, even at fire-sale rates.

As the meltdown in the Icelandic financial system quickened, with the government seemingly powerless to do anything about it, analysts said there was probably only one realistic option left: for Iceland to be bailed out by the International Monetary Fund.

"Iceland is bankrupt," said Arsaell Valfells, a professor at the University of Iceland. "The Icelandic krona is history. The IMF has to come and rescue us."


Are you smarter than Sarah Palin?

Hey, since its the day before a long weekend, I thought I would lighten up for a minute.

Hmmm. If someone made a board game based on Sarah Palin's intelligence, or lack thereof, I think most of us would win everytime.

From: The Truth Burns Weblog:

Sarah Palin’s overnight emergence (literally) on the national scene has taught us all some valuable lessons in political maneuvering. A “game-changer” will hold the entire base in awe, but for only about a week – unless he/she can say something intelligent at that point. Also, a fresh-faced political outsider can shout out anything to a crowd of like-minded people and they will rave like mad dogs, even calling for blood (again, literally). However, Palin has affected us all in ways we may not have realized. She has made us all more intelligent.

Palin has blundered her way through some painful presentations that have made audiences cringe. Some of the most noticeable gaffes have been when she proudly said that she could see Russia from Alaska or when she couldn’t recall a single Supreme Court decision besides Roe v. Wade. She also couldn’t name a single printed news source. Then she frantically admitted to reading them all. She didn’t know the Bush Doctrine. She named the wrong U.S. military commander in Afghanistan. She certainly said some things that made all of us irritated that she’s honestly within a very-probable stroke away from the presidency. However it also filled us each with a quiet sense of pride. As we loudly screamed, “I can’t believe she is that stupid!” We quietly considered, “I’m not that stupid. Am I?” Then we secretly reassured ourselves, “No, I am definitely smarter than her.” Then we all covertly sought to ensure that we were indeed smarter than Sarah Palin.

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Economic Terrorism!


Why wasn’t I invited to the party?

From The Washington Post:

For some people at AIG, the insurance giant rescued last month with an $85 billion federal bailout, the good times keep rolling…

… And just last week, about 70 of the company's top performers were rewarded with a week-long stay at the luxury St. Regis Resort in Monarch Beach, Calif., where they ran up a tab of $440,000.

At a House committee hearing yesterday, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) showed a photograph of the resort, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean, and reported expenses for AIG personnel including $200,000 for rooms, $150,000 for meals and $23,000 for the spa.

"Less than a week after the taxpayers rescued AIG, company executives could be found wining and dining at one of the most exclusive resorts in the nation," Waxman said in kicking off an angry hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. "We will ask whether any of this makes sense."

"They were getting their manicures, their pedicures, massages, their facials while the American people were paying their bills," thundered Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.).

The gathering was planned before the bailout as a reward for life insurance agents, a company spokesman said, and fewer than 10 AIG executives were present…

Even if this “gathering” was planned before the bailout, no one thought about the inappropriateness of going ahead with it? No morals in corporate America or in Washington.

We live on a sinking ship and there is no one out to help us out.


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Hispanics organize online

The Hispanic community is the fastest growing population in the United States, which, according to the U.S. Census, is projected to nearly triple, from 46.7 million to 132.8 million during the 2008-2050 period. Because of the rapidly changing racial makeup in the American landscape, activists are using this opportunity to reach out to this demographic on key issues.

The National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the largest U.S. based civil rights nonprofit advocating on behalf of Hispanics, recently launched two campaigns online to organize its base, which are both featured in its Facebook group. “We Can Stop The Hate” is an initiative to bring attention for a more balanced discussion on the controversial issue of immigration. “Yo Votare ‘08” is another online campaign designed to mobilize the estimated 17 million Hispanics voters in the 2008 U.S. presidential election next month. Below you can watch their YouTube video.

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About last night's VP debate

Well, at least Sara Palin didn’t fall on her face last night.

I think we can all reasonably agree that no matter what political inclination you are, no one really wanted to see the Alaska governor embarrass herself on live television before an international audience. I almost didn’t watch it because I thought it was going to be a train wreck. But I did watch the whole debate and gave her a “P” for Passing and moved her up from “high functioning moron” to “superior functioning moron.”

With this said, did she prove that she could handle being the second in command? Hardly. It became very apparent early in the debate that she was reciting memorized talking points and didn’t really have much substance in her points, except when she was discussing energy and her record on reform.

The only things I learned about Palin last night was that she is a “maverick,” an energy expert and loves Israel. (BTW, wasn’t that whole Israel exchange betwne the two of them weird? Talk about pandering the Jewish/pro-Israel vote) And, oh, did I forget that she is a hockey mom.

Regarding Joe Biden, he did very well and he didn’t make any gaffes (hand wiping my forehead). He was very substantive on all his points and finally took on Palin’s maverick rhetoric. Biden also won points for reminding viewers about the Bush administration’s disastrous eight years, especially regarding foreign policy and specifically Iraq.

Final analysis: Biden is qualified to be both vice president and president. Palin, on the other hand, showed that maybe she isn’t as dumb as she comes off – so far.



Even black Alaskans don't like Palin

First of all, who knew there were even any black people in Alaska? Apparently, African Americans and Asians make up 10 percent of Alaska’s population, while Native Americans (Inuits) are the dominate ethnic minority at 20 percent.

It seems now like it is no surprise she couldn't name the famous Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education when she was asked to name famous Supreme Court decisions.

“She did not even publicly campaign in the black community,” [Montean] Jackson said of the candidate’s run for governor.

Gwen Alexander, founder and director of the Juneteenth celebration in Anchorage, posted a message on the Daily Kos, a progressive internet website, saying, “While meeting with black leaders concerning the absence of any African-Americans on her staff, Gov. Palin responded that she doesn’t have to hire any blacks and was not intending to hire any.”

Palin has denied making the statement, but it is repeated often by black Alaskans.

Alexander said many in the black community are also angry at Palin for snubbing the annual Juneteenth celebration, held in Anchorage and recognized since 2001 (Juneteenth is a celebration of the ending of slavery.). The co-directors of the celebration released a statement critical of Palin.

“As for Governor Sarah Palin’s involvement in the African-American community, the Governor’s office hasn’t participated in any of our Alaska Juneteenth Events,” the statement said. “All previous Alaskan governors have traditionally attended and participated in our annual Juneteenth Celebration. Gov. Palin was the first governor not to send out a congratulatory letter or assist us in any way with our Juneteenth activities.”

The Philadelphia Independent Media Center published a story on its Web site this week that also mentioned the Juneteenth snub and the meeting between Palin and blacks, where some say the infamous quote on hiring was made.
Bishop James Thomas, who has works on the annual celebration, told IMC that Palin has refused to attend or send a staff member.

“They could have sent a gardener as their representative, but they didn’t,” he said.

Rev. Dr. Alonzo B. Patterson, who’s worked closely with previous governors and other elected officials told IMC that Palin has “totally departed from the past practices” of previous Alaska governors.

“Past administrations have had black administrative assistants to the governor, state commissioners and department leaders,” he said.

Patterson heads the American Baptist Churches of Alaska and the Martin Luther King Jr. Foundation. He was at the long-sought meeting Palin had with black leaders.

“We gave her a list of concerns and have received no response,” Patterson, pastor of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Anchorage, told IMC.

Aleta Atkins, Gwen Alexander’s daughter, said Palin finally issued a proclamation on Juneteenth after she received the VP nomination, about “two or three months after the celebration."

“I understand a lot of people are thinking we are picking on Sarah, but people need to realize that before she was nominated by Mr. McCain, she was under investigation for abuse of power,” Atkins said.

“Most of the people in state offices are people she went to school with, good friends. She fired people who were qualified so she could put in her friends. I don’t think that’s a good sign whether you’re governor or vice president,” she said.

Jackson, who has been active in local, state and national political campaigns, believes Palin would never have been elected governor if people hadn’t been so unhappy with the previous administration, especially with how they wasted money.

“This is a highly Republican state,” she said. “She won by default. They liked her personality. She’s done some things that have garnered support ... but understanding the women of the state and their needs and having the support of black community, she has none of that.

“We have drug problems, high rates of suicide and sexual assaults. I believe there are just a lot of things that Sarah Palin is out of touch with.”

“I’m hoping Palin comes home after the election,” adds Aleta Atkins. “We want her to come home and face charges.”



Why is Palin in the race - again???

Palin says: "I've read most of them, again with a great appreciation for the press, for the media."

Couric: What, specifically?

Palin: "Um, all of them, any of them that have been in front of me all these years."

Couric: "Can you name a few?"

Palin: I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news, too. Alaska isn't a foreign country, where it's kind of suggested, 'wow, how could you keep in touch with what the rest of Washington, D.C., may be thinking when you live up there in Alaska?' Believe me, Alaska is like a microcosm of America."

From what I read about her on wikipedia, she was a journalism major in college and was a TV reporter briefly. With this said, wouldn't you think she could answer this question without even having to think about it?

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Facebook used to "Stop AFRICOM"

The headquarters for the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) became fully activated yesterday in Stuttgart, Germany. Under the command of the U.S. Department of Defense, AFRICOM serves the military arm for all of Africa except Egypt. However, AFRICOM has met with strong resistance from the worldwide African Diaspora who feel that the United States is not only exploiting the continent for its natural and human resources in a new form of colonialism, but it is also militarizing and forcing Africa in the War on Terror with the help of oil companies and military contractors. Activists are now planning protests around the world to showcase resistance to AFRICOM.

“STOP AFRICOM” is a loosely-formed international grassroots organization using Facebook to galvanize interest in a mass protest planned for October 27. On their Facebook page, users can also read the latest articles and commentary about AFRICOM, as well as purchase “STOP AFRICOM” T-shirts.

“The principles of imperialism on which AFRICOM stands are unmistakable,” said organizer Tsetsi Kgama in a recent Facebook message. “With a history marked by the traumas of slavery and colonialism, Africa deserves a foreign policy that respects self-determination and self-governance. Now is the time to dismantle AFRICOM and to condemn U.S. military presence in Africa.”

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