Tuesday, 26 August 2008

SALUTING THE FOUNDER OF THE NOTTING HILL CARNIVAL

Claudia Jones
IRR

Claudia Jones was born in Trinidad, then a British colony. Her family moved to Harlem, New York, where, from age 9 she lived in conditions of extreme poverty. When Claudia was 12 her mother, a garment worker, died of exhaustion and poverty. 'I couldn't attend graduation classes because I didn't have a dress. Our family was so poor. I cried for days.'

She worked as a sales girl and a factory worker. She saw that government measures directed against blacks also affected poor whites and so, when she was 18, she joined the American Communist Party. By 1941 she had become the National Director of the Young Communist League and devoted all her time to political work.

After the second world war came the McCarthyism period when the US government hounded, jailed and deported many blacks and communists for 'un-American activities', Claudia was imprisoned four times by the US government.

In prison she called on the United Nations to 'investigate the manner in which immigrants in the United States are being treated by the United States Government. If we can be denied all rights and incarcerated in concentration camps, then trade unionists are next; then the Negro people, the Jewish people, all foreign-born, and progressives who love peace and cherish freedom will face bestiality and torment of fascism. Our fate is the fate of American democracy. Our fight is the fight of all opponents of fascist barbarism, of all who abhor war and desire peace.'

There were campaigns and protests for her release but she was eventually deported in 1955. She came to Britain and lived in Notting Hill in west London where she was active in campaigns to defend the black community during the riots against them of 1958, also protesting against the racist killing of Kelso Cochrane. She was one of the founders of the West Indian Workers and Students Association. In 1958 she founded the black newspaper, the West Indian Gazette, a newspaper for the West Indian community in Britain which campaigned for an independent and united West Indies, justice for blacks in Britain and world peace. Claudia worked to create links between political campaigns and cutural actvities; she established the first ever West Indian Carnival in 1959, which continues to this day every year on the streets of Notting Hill.

MORE ABOUT CLAUDIA JONES HERE:
http://www.ukwatch.net/article/claudia_jones_and_the_039west_indian_gazette039

http://www.itzcaribbean.com/claudia_jones_carnival.php

http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=2868

[page 45:]
http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=uJBB57ywnDMC&pg=PA58&lpg=PA58&dq=claudia+jones+China&source=web&ots=2GlXmCc72O&sig=W0RYSLg9q_JDjxCPVSt1TRqWMeo&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=10&ct=result#PPA45,M1

http://www.guardian.co.tt/archives/2006-04-19/LeelaRamdeen.html

Sunday, 24 August 2008

AUSTRALIAN GROUP PROBLEMATISES SINOPHOBIA IN THE LEFT

Why White, Middle Class Soft-Lefts
Don't Like Red China


So we have discussed the stance of the present workers
leadership to the PRC but what about the workers themselves
and what about the middle class. Before answering that
question it is important to point out that people's
attitude to Red China varies according to where in the
world they live. In many Third World countries, especially
in Africa, there is quite some sympathy for the PRC. China
is looked up to as a country that has freed itself from the
subjugation by colonial powers that people in these
countries still suffer under. And the PRC is respected as a
state that has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of
terrible poverty. But in imperialist Australia, it is true
that public opinion can be quite anti-China. Such feelings
are of course not uniform. Many Australians, who are able
to afford to travel to China, find that despite all the
prejudices that they went with, the real China does not
quite match the negative picture painted by the mainstream
media. And local tertiary students who have friends that
are overseas Chinese students, find that their Chinese
friends do not at all act like they are ground down victims
of the supposedly bleak, totalitarian society that Falun
Gong would have you believe exists in the PRC. However,
attitudes to China in Australia are haunted by that big
evil spirit that hangs over this country: White Australia
fears of big Asian countries. Sometimes these fears are
openly racist. At other times they take on a "nice",
liberal-version of white supremacy, under which the
non-white Asian masses are to be loved … as long as they
are not organised in a powerful and successful country like
the PRC, in which case they are a threat to Australian
values. In this worldview, it is the mission of Australian
"democracy" (which is really only a democracy for the
capitalists) to save the Asian masses from the morally
inferior regimes in their own countries.

Workers in Australia are of course influenced by the
anti-PRC stance of the current pro-ALP leadership of the
workers movement. The strongest anti-PRC views in this
country however come from embittered descendants of
expatriate Chinese capitalists/landlords, from right-wing
conservatives and also from the left-liberal sections of
the middle class. It is worth examining in greater detail
here the latter category of people. Typically, they are
well educated, potentially upwardly mobile, of Anglo-Celtic
background and are Greens or Democrats voting. To
understand where these people are coming from in their
anti-China, anti-communist hostility, one needs to
understand the nature of the middle class in wealthy
imperialist Australia. The middle class or as Marxists
define it, the petit bourgeoisie, are a very broad layer
(including the self-employed and non-boss professionals)
who are neither exploiters of labour nor are they people
whose labour is directly exploited by capitalists. The
left-leaning layers of the middle class are people rightly
angered by the injustices and irrationality of capitalism.
But the problem with this section of the population is that
because they do not directly experience exploitation of
their labour by business owners in the way that workers do,
they tend to downplay the centrality of the question of
which class owns the means of production and the question
of which class rules. Instead they become obsessed with
questions of form; like questions of constitution, legal
rights and the issue of how democratic the organisation of
the state is. Those questions are of course important. But
they are subordinate to the question of which class the
laws and any "democracy" serves. That is lost on the middle
class. They see a big train whizzing close past and that
scares them. They keenly observe the shape of the
locomotive but forget to notice what the train was actually
carrying ... or which direction it was headed in. When the
liberal petit bourgeois looks at the PRC they see only the
suppression of "rights," unable to distinguish between
harmful bureaucratism on the one hand and the necessary
suppression of capitalist "free" holding of property
"rights." They are not able to understand that the PRC
state, in a rather deformed way to be sure, still defends
an ownership system that favours working class people.

The above explanation actually puts the best possible face
on Aussie middle class hostility to Red China. But there is
another very different side to it. Many in the Australian
middle class dream of making it into the upper class, if
not as direct capitalist owners, then as henchmen for the
capitalists, like managers and high-level bureaucrats. And
many a middle-class leftist who has not sufficiently gone
over to the side of the working class, quietly prepares a
Plan B course to becoming a ruling class high flier. While
at a leftist demonstration they sneak a quick peek at their
watch and wonder if they should have been spending all that
time they were at the rally instead pursuing their own
capitalist ambitions. At the same time, more affluent
middle class people sometimes have a relative or friend who
is part of the capitalist class. For all these reasons, the
liberal petit bourgeois don't like it when a workers state
(even a healthy one) takes measures to suppress the
capitalists' freedom to operate. In the case of China, they
scream with indignation for example at the PRC's attempts
to squeeze capitalist Taiwan, that base for
counterrevolution that was created when the former
exploiting class took over the island after being kicked
out of power in the rest of China in 1949.

Of course, middle class liberals like it when a government
helps the poor. However, stronger than this feeling is
their dislike of suppression of the attempts of
capitalists, and capitalists' allies, to gain political
power. But without such measures, especially in a world
dominated by powerful capitalists, it is cruel joke to talk
about building a power of the poor. The middle class
left-liberals hostility to the PRC can be compared to their
attitude to struggles at home. They are all for workers
demanding more from their greedy bosses. Except that when
striking workers start to take moves that can really win
them concessions, like setting up strong picket lines to
stop scabs, the middle class liberal bleats that "no harm
should come to anyone." No matter that failure to take such
decisive measures will see a lot of harm coming to workers!
Similarly, white middle class progressives are all for
Aboriginal rights. But when the black anti-racist struggle
becomes really powerful, like during the February 2004
Redfern resistance, the soft-left whines, that "there
should be no violence"!

The middle class liberal is also prejudiced against the PRC
because he or she is in general skeptical that communism is
possible. In part this is a wilful cynicism. Someone who
wants to become an exploiter likes to soothe their
conscience with the thought that there can be no other
system but capitalism. But sometimes middle class doubts
about communism are genuinely felt. Someone who has not
known anything but the cutthroat arena of small-business
competition and the back stabbing world of ladder-climbing
professionals is of course skeptical about a system that
seeks to unite people's labour in service for the common
good. But working-class people, especially those who are
part of a well-unionised workplace, have a different
experience. When workers sacrifice their own career
prospects to collectively defend from the boss a victimised
worker or when they risk the sack to go on strike for the
common good of workers they are in a way unwittingly
rehearsing for the future grand act of communism. To be
sure, workers today are themselves influenced by the
prejudices of the middle class and by the overall values of
capitalist society. But their own experiences make them
open to being eventually won to supporting the struggle for
a communist future. And of course, unlike the better-off
sections of the middle class in imperialist Australia,
workers ultimately have no choice but to fight for
socialism. That is why the main base in the fight for
communism and the main foundation of support in the West
for the Chinese and Cuban workers states must be built
within the working class. And when the working class acts
as a powerful pro-socialist force they will draw behind it
not only the other sections of the oppressed but a chunk of
the middle classes as well.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE FIRST DEMOCRAT PRESIDENT OF NEPAL: MAOIST LEADER PARCHANDA

Challenges ahead

CPNM's online bi-weekly Red Star editorial

Congratulations to the first Prime Minister of the Federal
Democratic Republic (FDR) of Nepal, Comrade Prachanda! The
CPN-Maoist, after more than decade long class struggle, has
now the opportunity to lead the government of the FDR of
Nepal. According to the mandate of the people, given
through the election of the CA, the Maoist has the right to
lead the government. The largest party in the CA is now
going to lead the new government formed according to the
mandate of the people. Before this, there was disharmony
between the concept of new Nepal and the leadership. A
federal republic had been declared, but the actual leader
of the new Nepal was out of power; the same old status quo
leadership was in the government.

The people of the country have seen a beautiful dream come
true with the declaration of republic. They are waiting for
their dream to be implemented. On the one hand, people are
waiting hopefully; on the other hand, the anti-people
elements and the reactionaries are trying to create
problems. The real fight for institutionalizing the Federal
Republic has begun. The CPN-Maoist has already declared its
immediate as well as strategic plans and programme in its
election manifesto as a commitment paper. Although the
CPN-Maoist has promised to institutionalize the FDR through
restructuring the entire state and socio-economic
transformation, this is a very difficult task to implement
in practice. Furthermore, the CPN-Maoist is in a minority
even though it has won a two-thirds majority,
arithmetically, in the election of Prime Minister. In this
situation, the CPN-Maoist will have to face challenges and
obstacles at every step in the implementation of the
minimum programme of ordinary social reforms.

For the Maoist government, it will be very difficult to
work together in alliance with the revisionist CPN-UML, and
the right opportunist Madheshi Janadhikar Forum. Moreover,
to transform the administrative mechanism of the old state
will be a big hurdle for the new government. It depends on
the efforts of the CPN-Maoist, its initiative to make the
people conscious, to consolidate its organizations, and
mobilize them in institutionalizing the FDR. The question
of the integration of the army is a very serious and
difficult issue. The Nepal Army (NA) has always been
against the people and progress. But, the People’s
Liberation Army (PLA) has successfully taken the people to
victory over the monarchy. We doubt whether the Nepal Army
will be ready to accept the integration of PLA so easily.
This will be a most risky task for the new government.

Historically, after the Sugauli Treaty of 1950, Nepalese
governments have refused to challenge Indian supremacy.
This will be very difficult for the Maoist government to
break. The mandate of the Nepalese people, through the CA
election, demands regulation and control of borders; an end
to Gorkha recruitment and the creation of alternative
employment; and a review all the unequal treaties-to make
new treaties based on the five principles. The Maoist
government should finish off all the old feudal structures,
the old culture and values, and establish a new Federal
Democratic norms and values to replace the old feudal norms
and values. The people are waiting for a historic change.
And, the biggest challenge facing Maoist is to take peace
process to its logical conclusion.

Friday, 22 August 2008

CHINA AND CUBA - BROTHERS GONNA WORK IT OUT

Ties Between Red Cuba and Red China Strengthen

http://www.trotskyistplatform.com/

Friendly relations between China and Cuba are now at a
historical height, said China’s top legislator Wu Bangguo
at a meeting last June with his Cuban counterpart Ricardo
Alarcon, president of the Cuban National Assembly of
People’s Power. Alarcon and the Cuban Communist Party were
visiting China at the invitation of the Communist Party of
China. Importantly, Wu who is chairman of the Standing
Committee of China’s National Peoples Congress promised
that China would back Cuba in safeguarding national
sovereignty and opposing external intervention (Xinhua, 4
June 2007). This is effectively a statement proclaiming
that the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) would defend Cuba
against an attack from U.S. imperialism.

Ever since capitalism was overthrown in Cuba and that
country was freed from neocolonial slavery, the U.S. ruling
class has sought to foment capitalist counterrevolution
there. Economic and military backing by the former USSR,
including a promise to stand by Cuba in case of imperialist
invasion, staved off a full scale American military assault
and allowed Cuba to build up its strength despite decades
of U.S. provocation and blockade. Cuba therefore has a
greater internal capacity to resist an imperialist assault
than it did four decades ago but the loss of Soviet support
was a terrible blow that makes the Cuban revolution much
more vulnerable. The strengthening of Cuba’s relations with
Red China heralds the emergence of a new deterrent to U.S.
attack.

The solidification of the alliance between the Cuban and
Chinese workers states has significance for the political
direction in those countries themselves. Like its former
Soviet counterparts from Stalin on, the Chinese Communist
Party leadership, distorted by nationalism and bureaucratic
egotism, has often subordinated the international struggle
for socialism to its own country’s perceived “national
interests.” In the late 1950s this short-sighted outlook
from both the Soviet and PRC leaders led to a split between
the two Red giants that scorched great damage to the
anti-capitalist cause. In the early 1970s things went
further downhill when the Chinese leadership signed a
treacherous deal with the U.S. against the Soviet Union.
This alliance would contribute to the eventual destruction
of the Soviet Union that has in turn magnified the
capitalist pressures bearing down upon the PRC. The
proclamation of the U.S.-China anti-Soviet alliance was not
long after followed by a rightward slide within China
itself under Deng Xiaoping and the PRC’s creep away from
any solidarity with pro-working class struggles outside its
lands. But today with Red China the main ultimate target
(notwithstanding the U.S.’s current pre-occupation with the
anti-Muslim “war on terror”) of imperialist hostility,
those PRC leaders who have even a half-hearted commitment
to communism cannot but understand that they must
strengthen China’s ties with the other remaining workers
states. Furthermore, the PRC has importantly started,
albeit in a very small way, to show solidarity with
pro-socialist campaigns in the capitalist world. In
November 2006, the Communist Party of China joined other
Marxist parties around the world in voting for a resolution
declaring full solidarity with the Communist Youth Union in
the Czech Republic in the face of that group’s dissolution
by the right-wing Czech government. Such laudable acts of
solidarity must be greatly deepened. In the long term,
workers states cannot be preserved neither in the biggest
country in the world nor in tiny Cuba without the
development (and eventual triumph) of the class struggle in
the rest of the world. The PRC policy traditions that must
be built on include China’s heroic defence of North Korea
from capitalism during the Korean War and the Peoples
Republic’s support for the Vietnamese revolutionary
struggle in its early days. Today, the PRC’s stated
commitment to defend embattled Cuba is a step in the
correct direction. Defend the Anti-Capitalist Revolutions
in Both Cuba And China! The socialist-leaning conquests
that have been made with great heroism in both Cuba and
China face similar kinds of threats. There is capitalist
military pressure. While Cuba has the U.S. breathing down
its neck, China is pointed at from many directions from
imperialist powers eager to remind her that not joining the
world capitalist order is certainly not the easiest thing
to do. The carrier-armed U.S. Seventh Fleet likes to hover
off the South China coast (just imagine what would happen
if the Chinese military made its way to cruise off the
waters of California) and the U.S. arms capitalist Taiwan
with sophisticated weapons. And while the reality that
China’s socialistic-type sector enterprises are propping up
Australia’s export economy may impel Canberra to maintain
cordial trade relations with Beijing, the Australian rulers
are part of a tripartite alliance with the U.S. and Japan
that deliberately targets China.

The non-capitalist social systems in Cuba and China are
both also the target of Western-funded anti-communist exile
political groups. The Cuban counterrevolutionaries are
based in Miami, the Chinese ones in different places around
the world and include the unrepentant offspring of the
overthrown former landlords, gangsters and capitalists.
Both sets of capitalist restorationists brandish religion
for their cause. The Cuban counterrevolutionaries often
stand on Catholicism while among the most prominent
anti-PRC forces is the Falun Gong, a pseudo-religious
outfit that espouses right-wing social and crackpot
homophobic values. Of course, all the anti-communist forces
march under the flag of “democratic rights” by which they
mean the right to establish a social system that will allow
the few to exploit the many.

The degree of imperialist political pressure on both Cuba
and China is intense. Washington has its own government
office promoting counterrevolution in Havana while it
attempts similar aims in China by backing “democratic”
movements amongst the upper middle class of Hong Kong. Then
there are the U.S. radio stations broadcasting
anti-communist propaganda: Radio/TV Marti beaming into Cuba
and Radio Free Asia into China, Vietnam, North Korea and
Laos. It is notable that both radio stations operate under
the same American agency, the Broadcasting Board of
Governors (BBG).

Rightly enough, there is considerable support for the Cuban
Revolution amongst leftists in the West. Unfortunately,
that same solidarity does not yet exist for the PRC. Why?
In part this is because particular policies of Beijing have
made the PRC seem a less attractive model to leftists
around the world. Firstly, there was the former
Beijing–Washington anti-Soviet alliance. Secondly, the
post-1978 “market reforms” that the PRC leadership has
embarked on has led to greater inequality in China as
compared to Cuba. However, there was a time when the
Chinese Revolution was inspirational for anti-capitalist
and anti-racist activists in the West. In this country, for
example, some Aboriginal activists in the 1970s took the
PRC’s renowned “barefoot doctors” schemes as a model for
the successful public health system they needed here.

One should not forget when trying to differentiate between
China and Cuba what an especially difficult task that the
Chinese Communists have faced in trying with great effort
to lift up a diverse, geographically harsh and historically
burdened country with 1300 million residents. Today, the
now accelerating moves to rebuild public housing, public
health care and public education in the PRC speak to the
enduring gains of China’s 1949 revolution despite the
dangerously corrosive effects that partial capitalist
economic penetration has caused. Speaking during his June
2007 meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Cuban
legislative leader Ricardo Alarcon stressed that China’s
achievements, including fast economic growth, improvements
of living standards and growing international prestige are
vivid indications of the vitality of the socialist system.
Strong ties between Cuban and Chinese Communist Party
governments. Cuban Vice President of the Council of State
Esteban Lazo Hernandez meets Chinese Communist Party
Politburo member Li Changchun in Beijing, July 2006. The
Cuban official praised China's achievements in socialist
construction.

The much lower level of solidarity given to the PRC by the
Western left as compared to that which is rightly given to
Cuba has probably more to do with the left in these
countries than with the problems in China itself. You see,
for socialists living in the imperialist countries there is
much more social pressure to stand up to if one defends the
Chinese “Communist giant” than when one supports embattled
Cuba. As it is by far the biggest workers state and one
with a successfully expanding economy to boot, it is the
Peoples Republic of China that is the subject of the
deepest anti-communist fears of the capitalist exploiters
and of the comfortable layers of the middle class in the
Western world.

The questions of Cuba and China also play out quite
differently in the U.S. than they do in Australia. Cuba is
the closest workers state to the U.S. and there is a big
right-wing Cuban exile community in the U.S. too. Therefore
the Cuban workers state like the Chinese one is the subject
of intense American ruling class hostility. But from the
vantage point of Australia Cuba is far away and there is
not much of an anti-communist Cuban exile layer here.
Instead, here it is the Asian workers states that are
geographically the closest and there are indeed significant
ethnic Chinese and Vietnamese anti-communist populations.
In Australia mainstream media propaganda and rightwing
talkback radio do not focus much on Cuba but mainly target
China and North Korea. In this white racist country
anti-communist hostility to Red China has also always mixed
in with “yellow peril” fears about big Asian countries or
its softer variant, paternalistic notions about the
superiority of “fair go Aussie values” over those of the
people in the near north. Accommodating to these
considerable social pressures, many of the Australian
Marxist groups that solidarise with Cuba march in the
opposite direction when it comes to the Peoples Republic of
China. However, if counterrevolution were to engulf China,
not only would it be catastrophic for the Chinese masses
but it would also make capitalist exploiters the world over
feel more pumped up and arrogant.

Just as workers must defend their trade union from the
capitalists no matter how much a particular union
leadership may cut rotten deals with greedy bosses, the
working class must defend the Cuban, Vietnamese, Chinese
and North Korean workers states against
counterrevolutionary forces, no matter how bad the policies
the states’ leaderships may sometimes implement. And just
as worker activists here would with extra vigour stand by a
union that is being particularly besieged by the
capitalists and is being especially slandered in the media,
they must with special energy devote themselves to
defending the targeted workers states here in Asia.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

CONGRATULATIONS TO JAMAICA AND BAD-BOY BOLT

NO TIME FOR YANKEE PATRONISATION
ONLY JAMAICAN PRIDE



Yet this man was Jamaican and dismissive of American lures, citing the racism he suffered there and the drugs his athletes took as reasons for staying home. All this while the debate raged about Jamaica's lack of an anti-doping federation.

"When I studied in the States, I thought, 'I don't need your condescending crap'," he said.

"Now they still think we don't know anything down in Jamaica."

From The Independent

Monday, 18 August 2008

WEST HAS NO MORAL HIGH GROUND

Olympics and Opium Wars

By Richard L King
Asia Times

In a few days, the XXIX Summer Olympiad will be held in
Beijing. The opening ceremony will begin precisely at 8:08
am on August 8, 2008 or 808.8.8.08. The number 8 is an
auspicious number in China , equivalent to lucky 7 in the
West - July 7, 2007, saw a rash of weddings all around the
US.

Hundreds of thousands of foreign visitors - not to mention
more than 20,000 journalists - will be descending on China.
They will marvel at the ultra-modern architectural wonders.
Most will arrive by air, landing in the new Terminal 3 of
Beijing International which was designed by British
architect Norman Forster.

In the city, visitors will be able to gaze at the "Bird's
Nest", the main stadium designed by the Swiss firm Herzog
and de Meuron. There are other outstanding buildings such
as the National Center for Performing Arts, nicked named
"The Egg". Its architect is Paul Andreu of France. There
are other outstanding buildings such as China Central TV (
CCTV)'s headquarters, designed by Dutch architect Rem
Koolhass, and the whimsical Beijing National Aquatics
Center nicked named "The Water Cube".

But there is another landmark sight that visitors should
see: the burned ruins of the former Summer Palace, or Yuan
Ming Yuan. It was a collection of palaces containing more
than 200 buildings that housed irreplaceable works of art
-paintings, sculptures, porcelains and manuscripts. It is
located only minutes away from the Olympic park.

But it's a world apart. In the 19th century, when Britain
forced opium on China, the Chinese government rightly
resisted and this precipitated two so-called "Opium Wars".
The Treaty of Nanking in 1842 gave Britain the right to
continue to sell opium to China, and China was forced to
open five treaty ports granting extraterritorial rights to
Britain, ceding Hong Kong to Britain in perpetuity. But
Britain still was not satisfied; it once again invaded
China, this time with France, in 1860.

On the order of Lord Thomas Elgin the Summer Palace was
burned down. The Hindi word "loot" entered the English
lexicon at that time when Anglo-French soldiers stripped
the palace of its treasures. China was forced to make
further concessions and to pay a huge indemnity to the
victors.

The clash between the two empires in the 19th Century was a
total mismatch. Britain was at the zenith of Pax Britannia,
and China was at the nadir of its long history. Britain had
advanced modern weapons, while China was still fighting
with bows and arrows. The resulting destruction and
slaughter of tens of thousands of Chinese will always be a
blot on Britain'’s history.

Some may say that these events took place more than a
century and half ago and that China should let bygones be
bygones. However, these injustices were righted only
recently, especially from the Chinese perspective of its
long history. When asked in 1972 what he thought about the
success of the French Revolution, the late Zhou En Lai's
response was: "Don't you think it's too soon to tell?" The
elimination of extra-territorial rights took place only in
1943, a century after being forced on China. And China did
not recover Hong Kong until 1997.

If anyone, especially those from the West, wishes to
criticize China about human rights, religious freedom and
corruption; they should be sensitive to China 's sense and
sensibility. Forcing opium on China enslaved a generation
of Chinese and caused corruption on a scale that dwarfs
anything in present-day China or even current chaos in
Mexico.

Quoting Travis Hanes and Frank Sanello's excellent book,
Opium Wars:

"Imagine this scenario: the Medellin cocaine cartel of
Columbia mounts a successful military offensive against the
United States, then forces the US to legalize cocaine and
allow the cartel to import the drug into five major
American cities ... plus the US has to pay war reparations
of $100 billion for the Columbians' cost of waging the war.
That scenario is of course preposterous. However, that was
exactly what Britain forced on China . Along with opium
came Christian missionaries whose zealous attempts to
convert "heathen" Chinese destroyed indigenous religions in
the process and served as a helping hand to the colonial
exploits of the West."

If the new buildings represent China 's renaissance, the
burned out Summer Palace remains a symbol reminding China
of its past weakness and humiliation. In the 1800s, China
paid Western imperialists' thirst with blood. Now in the
21st century, China is paying Western thirst for profits in
cash, and it can afford to. There is certain irony that two
of the main attractions are designed by Forster and Andreu
whose forbears were the ones who burned down the Summer
Palace .

The West, with this stain on its past, lost its moral high
ground a long time ago. It will have to earn that trust
from China with acts of constructive engagement, not
lectures, if we are to see a world that is truly global,
and not a continuing clash of civilizations.


Richard L King, PhD, has been in the investment industry
for more than 30 years. He received his PhD in nuclear
physics from New York University in 1970 and also attended
Stern Graduate School of Business at NYU. He is currently a
venture partner at GRP Venture Partners, a large
partnership based in Los Angeles which manages more than
$600 million. He is also an adviser to Next, the Finnish
venture partnership firm specializing in wireless
technologies with offices in Helsinki and in Silicon
Valley. Originally from Shanghai, Dr King is a grandson, on
both sides of his family, of two of the founders of the
Bank of China.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

RUSSIA'S RESPONSE TO NATO ENCIRCLEMENT


This is a tale of US expansion
not Russian aggression


War in the Caucasus is as much the product of an American imperial drive as local conflicts. It's likely to be a taste of things to come

Seumas Milne
The Guardian

The outcome of six grim days of bloodshed in the Caucasus has triggered an outpouring of the most nauseating hypocrisy from western politicians and their captive media. As talking heads thundered against Russian imperialism and brutal disproportionality, US vice-president Dick Cheney, faithfully echoed by Gordon Brown and David Miliband, declared that "Russian aggression must not go unanswered". George Bush denounced Russia for having "invaded a sovereign neighbouring state" and threatening "a democratic government". Such an action, he insisted, "is unacceptable in the 21st century".

Could these by any chance be the leaders of the same governments that in 2003 invaded and occupied - along with Georgia, as luck would have it - the sovereign state of Iraq on a false pretext at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives? Or even the two governments that blocked a ceasefire in the summer of 2006 as Israel pulverised Lebanon's infrastructure and killed more than a thousand civilians in retaliation for the capture or killing of five soldiers?

You'd be hard put to recall after all the fury over Russian aggression that it was actually Georgia that began the war last Thursday with an all-out attack on South Ossetia to "restore constitutional order" - in other words, rule over an area it has never controlled since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Nor, amid the outrage at Russian bombardments, have there been much more than the briefest references to the atrocities committed by Georgian forces against citizens it claims as its own in South Ossetia's capital Tskhinvali. Several hundred civilians were killed there by Georgian troops last week, along with Russian soldiers operating under a 1990s peace agreement: "I saw a Georgian soldier throw a grenade into a basement full of women and children," one Tskhinvali resident, Saramat Tskhovredov, told reporters on Tuesday.

Might it be because Georgia is what Jim Murphy, Britain's minister for Europe, called a "small beautiful democracy". Well it's certainly small and beautiful, but both the current president, Mikheil Saakashvili, and his predecessor came to power in western-backed coups, the most recent prettified as a "Rose revolution". Saakashvili was then initially rubber-stamped into office with 96% of the vote before establishing what the International Crisis Group recently described as an "increasingly authoritarian" government, violently cracking down on opposition dissent and independent media last November. "Democratic" simply seems to mean "pro-western" in these cases.

The long-running dispute over South Ossetia - as well as Abkhazia, the other contested region of Georgia - is the inevitable consequence of the breakup of the Soviet Union. As in the case of Yugoslavia, minorities who were happy enough to live on either side of an internal boundary that made little difference to their lives feel quite differently when they find themselves on the wrong side of an international state border.

Such problems would be hard enough to settle through negotiation in any circumstances. But add in the tireless US promotion of Georgia as a pro-western, anti-Russian forward base in the region, its efforts to bring Georgia into Nato, the routing of a key Caspian oil pipeline through its territory aimed at weakening Russia's control of energy supplies, and the US-sponsored recognition of the independence of Kosovo - whose status Russia had explicitly linked to that of South Ossetia and Abkhazia - and conflict was only a matter of time.

The CIA has in fact been closely involved in Georgia since the Soviet collapse. But under the Bush administration, Georgia has become a fully fledged US satellite. Georgia's forces are armed and trained by the US and Israel. It has the third-largest military contingent in Iraq - hence the US need to airlift 800 of them back to fight the Russians at the weekend. Saakashvili's links with the neoconservatives in Washington are particularly close: the lobbying firm headed by US Republican candidate John McCain's top foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, has been paid nearly $900,000 by the Georgian government since 2004.

But underlying the conflict of the past week has also been the Bush administration's wider, explicit determination to enforce US global hegemony and prevent any regional challenge, particularly from a resurgent Russia. That aim was first spelled out when Cheney was defence secretary under Bush's father, but its full impact has only been felt as Russia has begun to recover from the disintegration of the 1990s.

Over the past decade, Nato's relentless eastward expansion has brought the western military alliance hard up against Russia's borders and deep into former Soviet territory. American military bases have spread across eastern Europe and central Asia, as the US has helped install one anti-Russian client government after another through a series of colour-coded revolutions. Now the Bush administration is preparing to site a missile defence system in eastern Europe transparently targeted at Russia.

By any sensible reckoning, this is not a story of Russian aggression, but of US imperial expansion and ever tighter encirclement of Russia by a potentially hostile power. That a stronger Russia has now used the South Ossetian imbroglio to put a check on that expansion should hardly come as a surprise. What is harder to work out is why Saakashvili launched last week's attack and whether he was given any encouragement by his friends in Washington.

If so, it has spectacularly backfired, at savage human cost. And despite Bush's attempts to talk tough yesterday, the war has also exposed the limits of US power in the region. As long as Georgia proper's independence is respected - best protected by opting for neutrality - that should be no bad thing. Unipolar domination of the world has squeezed the space for genuine self-determination and the return of some counterweight has to be welcome. But the process of adjustment also brings huge dangers. If Georgia had been a member of Nato, this week's conflict would have risked a far sharper escalation. That would be even more obvious in the case of Ukraine - which yesterday gave a warning of the potential for future confrontation when its pro-western president threatened to restrict the movement of Russian ships in and out of their Crimean base in Sevastopol. As great power conflict returns, South Ossetia is likely to be only a taste of things to come.

s.milne@guardian.co.uk

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

ISAAC HAYES RIP



Isaac Hayes website

Prologue

In the spring 2003, one year after his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame and a celebrated move back home to Memphis, the public persona of Isaac Hayes is surging forward with a momentum usually associated with teen popstars and visiting royalty. In fact, Hayes is resident royalty for more than a decade, a coronated King of the Ada coastal district of Ghana in western Africa where he is a member of the Royal Family. Instead of a palace, he built an 8,000 square foot educational facility through his Isaac Hayes Foundation (IHF). He is most certainly the only King on earth with an Oscar, Grammy awards, #1 gold records, his voice on an animated tv series, a radio show, two restaurants, a best-selling cookbook, and top secret barbecue sauces.

In Memphis, his five-hour nightly radio shift on WRBO Soul Classics 103.5 FM is still the #1-rated show in town in its third year on the air. The city has taken to a new slogan: "Memphis: Home of the Blues, Birthplace Of Rock 'n Roll," underscored by the Smithsonian's Memphis Rock 'n Soul Museum just off Beale Street, the institution's first permanent exhibition outside Washington, DC, and New York. On May 2nd, Hayes presided over the opening day ceremonies of Soulsville, the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, a $20 million redevelopment project. It is located at a legendary address, 926 East McLemore Avenue, the revitalized original site of the record company where Hayes got his start in 1962. He has also been an integral fundraiser (and consciousness raiser) on behalf of the Stax Music Academy next door, a facility where he and others will develop and teach future Memphis musicians.

Back on 'RBO, you're likely to hear a number from one of the stars of Only The Strong Survive (Miramax), which premiered on May 9th, D.A. Pennebaker's documentary film tribute to Hayes and his contemporaries including Sam Moore (of Sam & Dave), Rufus & Carla Thomas, Jerry Butler, William Bell, Wilson Pickett, and others. Stay tuned and you might hear a track from Isaac Hayes At Wattstax (Stax/Fantasy), an hour-long CD of unreleased music from 1972's historic concert movie event. The new CD was issued in April in advance of the 30th anniversary restoration of the film which opened on June 6th, Wattstax - The Special Edition (Sony Pictures Repertory). It was just three years ago when the new Shaft movie soundtrack was released, featuring Hayes' "Shaft 2000" theme, on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the granddaddy of Blaxploitation films.

Not far away from the radio station, over in the Peabody Place Entertainment Center a block from Beale Street, Hayes holds forth on a regular basis in the centrally located 'Owners Booth' of his acclaimed restaurant, Isaac Hayes Music-Food-Passion (a partnership with Lifestyles of Memphis). He often performs with whoever's on the bandstand there, or at the sister restaurant of the same name up in Chicago, which is located on North Clark Street in the trendy River North section. The best in live music, real home style cooking (barbeque ribs shipped overnight anywhere in the country!), lots of Isaac Hayes memorabilia to catch the eye, and select drop-ins and performances by Hayes and many of his celebrity friends have made the restaurants wildly popular.

Doors away from both restaurants is a busy Isaac Hayes Cooks & Wares store, where you can pick up Ms. Pearlie Biles' latest sauce creations, or the double-boiler needed to prepare a batch of Chocolate Salty Balls at home, according to the recipe in Cooking With Heart & Soul: Making Music in the Kitchen with Family and Friends. The autobiographical cookbook, published by Penguin-Putnam and now in its third printing, is a treasury of personal memoirs and recipes, not just the author's favorites but also others from such friends as John Travolta (Hamburger Royale With Cheese), Lisa Marie Presley (Banana Pudding), Wesley Snipes (Rum-Glazed Cornish Hens With Apple-Sourdough Stuffing) - and Chef, the irrepressible ladies man, dispenser of wisdom, and voice of mischief and higher learning on South Park.

2003 is the seventh season on cable tv's Comedy Central that Chef is cooking up scheme after scheme on South Park. He is the perfect alter ego for Hayes and provided him with a solid #1 single in England back in '98, when "Chocolate Salty Balls (P.S. I Love You)" became the flagship hit for Chef Aid: The South Park Album (Columbia). Since then, Hayes has established himself as the familiar voice of Nickelodeon's "Nick At Nite" program block. At the same time, 2002 marked his sixth and final year on New York's KISS-FM in the morning, the city's top-rated Urban radio show since '96 - the same year Hayes contributed "Two Cool Guys" to the Beavis and Butt-Head Do America movie soundtrack. If anyone knows a thing or two about bridging both sides of the generation gap, it is Isaac Hayes.

Soulsville

Isaac Hayes was born in the rural poverty of a sharecropper's family on August 20, 1942, in Covington, Tennessee, about thirty miles south of Memphis. Orphaned in infancy, he and his sister Willette were raised up by their maternal grandparents, Willie and Rushia Addie-Mae Wade. They instilled love in Hayes for the simple pleasures of country life. "We raised our own foods," he says, "we raised most of our crops, we had cattle, we had pork. Our corn was ground at the grist mill and we had molasses at the sorghum mill. A sack of flour would last several months. My grandmother did a lot of canning, preparing food and putting it up in the winter. My grandfather would go hunting and bring in a bunch of rabbits, so we were good. When we came to the city of Memphis, we didn't have anything to compare it to."

Memphis was supposed to represent new opportunity, and it did for awhile, as the 7-year old saw his first supermarket and enjoyed his first Popsicle, and grandfather found work at a tomato factory. But soon his health failed, he became disabled, and when Hayes was 11, his grandfather died. "That's when we really fell on hard times," Hayes remembers, "when I started doing the agricultural work like picking cotton." Ironically, his stately home today in East Memphis looks out on those same fields where cotton grew for nearly two centuries. As a youngster he ran errands, cut lawns, delivered groceries and wood to homes for fuel, cleaned bricks for two cents apiece, and shined shoes on Beale Street.

Later on, working as a bus boy and dishwasher at a restaurant, "one day it was kinda slow and I told the cook, 'I been watching you, lemme do a hotdog.' And he said, 'ok, come on do it,' so I prepared an artful hot dog, stuck it up in the window, tapped the bell and stepped back, watched the waitress deliver it, the guy ate it, and it was cool. I started doing some catfish, some hamburger steak, and the guy loved it. I eventually began doing a little short order cook stuff."

To an adolescent, the poverty was stifling; combined with the self-consciousness brought on by puberty, believing he wasn't dressed sharp enough to attract the girls, Hayes secretly dropped out of Manassas High School. After six weeks, a delegation of teachers arrived at the house and told his grandmother the news. "God, I felt like I had gone through the floor, but they said, 'This young man has too much to offer, we cannot afford to lose him.'" The teachers gathered their hand-me-down clothes for Hayes, who resolved to stick it out and get his diploma. The experience left an indelible mark on him for life, and Hayes' dedication to literacy, education and teaching initiatives is an outgrowth of what those teachers did for him. Years later, when the State Of Tennessee honored him with a marker, Hayes chose to place it at Manassas High.

Hayes sang in church since age five, but stopped when his voice cracked in adolescence. Years later, "when I started back singing, my voice was in the basement." He was persuaded by his high school guidance counselor to enter a talent show, singing "Looking Back," Nat King Cole's 1958 hit. "When I finished, the house was on its feet, man, and I was a hit." Overnight the girls, even those a couple of grades ahead, were sending lunch invitations. "Career change! So I started pursuing music big time."

He joined the school band and learned to play saxophone from Lucian Coleman (brother of hard-bopper George Coleman). Hayes sang gospel with a group called the Morning Stars, doo-wop with Sir Isaac & the Doo-Dads, the Teen Tones, and the Ambassadors, even some jazz with the Ben Branch house band at Curry's Club Tropicana out in north Memphis. He started playing sax and singing blues with Calvin Valentine and The Swing Cats, and doing prom dates with The Missiles. He took a crash course learning piano by literally faking it for the first time on a New Year's Eve R&B job at the Southern Club with Jeb Stuart, "because I needed the money."

Stax

Hayes was finally graduated at age 21 from Manassas, Class of 1962. It was the year after the first releases began to trickle out of a new label called Stax Records, part of the Satellite Records company and Satellite Record Store that started back in '58, housed in the old Capitol Theatre on the corner of College & McLemore. Hayes had won seven college scholarships for vocal music that he chose not to pursue. Instead, he became adept enough at the piano to land a job with baritone saxophonist bandleader Floyd Newman at the Plantation Inn across the river in West Arkansas. Newman was also the staff baritone musician on Stax recording sessions and was up for a date himself with his own working group in late 1963: "Frog Stomp," the only solo single ever cut by Newman, was co-written by and features Hayes (on piano), the first major notch in his discography at Stax Records.

"During the time that I was there," Hayes recalls of the session, " Jim Stewart, the proprietor of Stax looked at me and said, 'Look, Booker T is off in Indiana U., from Booker T & the MG's, and I need a keyboard player so you want the job?' 'Yeaaa!' I jumped at it." His first paid sessions were with Otis Redding in early 1964, and Hayes was soon a ubiquitous presence at Stax. Not long after, co-writer and producer David Porter suggested to Hayes that they collaborate as songwriters. After a few modest starts for Porter ("Can't See You When I Want To"), Carla Thomas "How Do You Quit [Someone You Love]"), and Sam & Dave ("I Take What I Want"), "everything just blew up big time," Hayes says.

As writers (under the name 'Soul Children'), arrangers and producers, the Hayes-Porter duo became Stax's hottest commodity starting in 1966-67. Sam & Dave's "You Don't Know Like I Know," "Hold On! I'm Comin'," "Said I Wasn't Gonna Tell Nobody," "When Something Is Wrong With My Baby," "I Thank You," "Wrap It Up," and the R&B Grammy award-winning "Soul Man" were among some 200 Hayes-Porter compositions that became standards. For Carla Thomas there was "Let Me Be Good To You," "B-A-B-Y" and "Something Good (Is Going To Happen To You)." Johnnie Taylor scored with "I Had a Dream" and "I Got To Love Somebody's Baby." Mable John's one and only hit was Hayes-Porter's "Your Good Thing (Is About To End)." Presenting Isaac Hayes, his debut solo LP was recorded as a trio (with MG's bassist Duck Dunn and drummer Al Jackson) in the wee hours after an all-night Stax party. The intimate, sensual jazz-flavored jam session approach (including three 9-minute versions of standards) did not reach the charts, but served as a blueprint for future LPs.

Hayes' work with Sam & Dave, Otis Redding, Booker T & the MG's, the Mar-Keys, the Bar-Kays, Rufus & Carla Thomas, and virtually the entire Stax roster created what was known as the Memphis Sound. It transformed popular music, was absorbed by everyone from Elvis Presley and Ray Charles to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. History notes that, with the exception of Booker T & the MG's, Isaac Hayes worked on more Stax sessions and tracks than any other musician.

On April 4, 1968, as Stax Records was finalizing its sale to Gulf & Western Corporation, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was assassinated at the Lorraine Hotel in downtown Memphis. Hayes, who had marched for Civil Rights with King, was scheduled to meet with him that very day. "It affected me for a whole year," Hayes told Rob Bowman in Soulsville U.S.A.: The Story Of Stax Records. "I could not create properly. I was so bitter and so angry. I thought, What can I do? Well, I can't do a thing about it so let me become successful and powerful enough where I can have a voice to make a difference. So I went back to work and started writing again."

Enterprise

He emerged in the summer 1969 with the landmark Hot Buttered Soul, and the career of Isaac Hayes would never be the same again. The LP was uniquely composed of four lush, sensual arrangements, framed by the opening 12-minute version of "Walk On By" and the closing 18-minute take on "By the Time I Get To Phoenix." Both were edited into a double-A sided single, and both sides became top 40/R&B crossover hits. #1 on the Billboard R&B chart for 10 weeks, the LP stayed on the Pop chart for an amazing 81 weeks. It forced the music industry, for the first time, to conceive of Soul music as an album art form. In a new emerging age of Afro-centrism and Black Power, devoting the entire LP cover to Hayes' shaven head was a revolutionary statement.

Hot Buttered Soul was issued on the new Stax subsidiary label Enterprise (yes, named for the "Star Trek" spaceship) for whom Hayes would record for the next five years, and deliver a record-setting seven #1 R&B albums - more #1's than any artist of the period. In fact, Hayes charted a phenomenal 20 albums on the R&B and Pop charts between 1969 and '80 - not a week went by in the early '70s without two Isaac Hayes albums on the charts, and sometimes three. There can be no overstating his impact on popular music, reflected in his first ballot vote into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

A pair of albums in 1970 reprised the format of the tightly-arranged extended versions of original material and reworked standards - The Isaac Hayes Movement (7 weeks at #1, with "I Stand Accused") and ...To Be Continued (11 weeks at #1, with the original version of "Ike's Rap," a decade before Sugar Hill Gang's "Rapper's Delight"!) By now, the silky smooth romantic rap soliloquies had become a Hayes trademark.

The arrival of the Shaft movie, soundtrack double-LP, and theme-song single in the summer 1971 was a career-defining event - the image of Isaac Hayes loomed at least as large as the film's star Richard Roundtree or director Gordon Parks, and all three embodied a new era of Black empowerment. Shaft was the first album in history by a solo black artist to hit #1 on both the Pop and R&B chart (14 weeks, making it the #3 R&B album of the entire decade of the '70s). At the Academy Awards the following year, Hayes became the first African-American composer to win the Oscar for Best Musical Score. In addition to generating three Grammy awards, the music from Shaft won a Golden Globe award, the NAACP Image Award, and the prestigious Edison award, Europe's highest music honor.

Again, Hayes had set a high musical standard whose gritty, staccato voicings would echo in movie and television soundtracks for decades to come. He was quickly assigned to score the 1972 television series "The Men" (starring Robert Conrad), whose theme became a Pop/R&B hit. The summer 1974 would see the release of his next two movie soundtrack albums, Tough Guys (from the movie Three Tough Guys, Hayes' first co-starring movie role as a macho character), and Truck Turner (in which Hayes starred in the title role of a tough guy again). A third film role offered a comedy turn in 1975, It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time (with John Candy).

Meanwhile, Shaft's success (it charted for 16 months) earned Hayes a second double-LP in 1971: Black Moses (#1 for 7 weeks, with "Never Can Say Goodbye"), whose nickname reluctantly stuck with him for years afterward. A long spell of touring throughout Europe and the U.S. in 1972 (including the WattStax Festival in August) introduced many audiences to Hayes for the first time, an imposing figure in his shades and gold chains. It was Isaac Hayes who turned chains - once symbols of slavery and degradation - into ornaments, a decade before Mr. T. and decades before the arrival of bling-bling. The live show was captured on his third consecutive double-LP, which arrived in '73: Live At the Sahara Tahoe (#1 for 2 weeks).

Later that year came the album Joy; aside from its title tune, an R&B/Pop crossover hit, it included "I Love You That's All," which became a sampler's delight for everyone from TLC and Massive Attack, to Eric B. & Rakim and Big Daddy Kane. In the last decade or so, Hayes' work has gone on to be sampled nearly 200 times (officially, that is), on recordings by (among others) Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, DJ Quik, Ice Cube, Destiny's Child, Tricky, Mase. Portishead, Yo-To, and the late TuPac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G.

A New Era

By the time his two 1974 soundtracks LPs (Tough Guys and Truck Turner) were issued by Stax/Enterprise, relations with the label and business disagreements had deteriorated to the point where Hayes severed his ties. That same year, he made his TV debut in a recurring role on "The Rockford Files" as Gandolph Fitch, aka Rockfish. In 1975, Hayes launched his own new record label: HBS, or Hot Buttered Soul (via ABC Records). His first new album, Chocolate Chip (#1 for 7 weeks, with its title track R&B hit), showed him adapting to the disco era, but with his musical identity intact.

Hayes followed up with three new HBS albums in 1976, all top 20 R&B chart entries: Disco Connection (an instrumental LP showcasing the Isaac Hayes Movement), Groove-A-Thon (introducing his female backup singers, Hot Buttered Soul Unlimited), and Juicy Fruit (Disco Freak). His tour with Dionne Warwick was chronicled in early '77 on the final HBS release, the live double-LP A Man And a Woman, recorded at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta. (Hayes and Warwick backed it up with an appearance together on "The Rockford Files.") Business setbacks had taken their toll, however, and Hayes was forced to file for bankruptcy. It would be decades before he would see his solid gold Cadillac Eldorado again (a relic of the Stax prosperity), liquidated by the IRS in 1977, but finally found and restored for display in 2003 at the Soulsville Museum.

He emerged at the end of 1977 with a new record deal (Polydor), a new home base (Atlanta and its Master Sound Studios), and a new album, New Horizon. The next LP, 1978's For the Sake Of Love, brought a strong return to the charts with "Zeke The Freak." This followed through on the top 10 album Don't Let Go, whose title single was his first major R&B/Pop crossover hit in five years. His final album of the '70s was Royal Rappin's, the unforgettable collaboration with Millie Jackson that spun off the single, "Do You Wanna Make Love."

In addition to releasing new albums in 1980 and '81, And Once Again and A Lifetime Thing, respectively, Hayes produced albums at this time for Linda Clifford (I'm Yours), Donald Byrd, and the Masqueraders. After his 1981 film role as the bad guy in John Carpenter's Escape From New York, Hayes took a well-earned five year break to spend more time with his family. During this period, he began to turn more and more to acting, starting with roles on tv's "The A-Team" (1985), "Hunter" (1986), and "Miami Vice" (1987), then a made-for-TV movie, Jailbait: Betrayed By Innocence, and another pair of tough guy features films, Counterforce and Dead Aim (1987).

Since then, not a year has gone without Isaac Hayes undertaking a movie role or two. The three dozen or so feature films that he has done since 1990 would include Fire, Ice & Dynamite (with Roger Moore), Guilty As Charged (with Rod Steiger, 1991), Final Judgment (Brad Dourif, 1992), Posse (Mario Van Peebles, 1993), Mel Brooks' Robin Hood: Men In Tights (1993), It Could Happen To You (Nicolas Cage, 1994), Once Upon a Time... When we Were Colored (Richard Roundtree, 1995), Flipper (Paul Hogan, 1996), Six Ways To Sunday (Debbie Harry, 1997), Ninth Street (Martin Sheen, 1999, for which Hayes also scored the soundtrack), Reindeer Games (Ben Affleck, 2000), Shaft (Samuel L. Jackson, 2000), A Man Called Rage (Lance Henriksen, 2002), and the brand new made-for-tv movie Book Of Days (with Wil Wheaton).

At the same time, there have also been roles on a number of tv series, including "Tales From the Crypt," "The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air," "Sliders," "The Hughleys," "The Education of Max Bickford," "Fastlane," and as recently as May 2003, back-to-back appearances on UPN's "Girlfriends" starring Diana's daughter, Tracee Ellis Ross.

Meanwhile, in 1988, Hayes was part of an all-star cast in the Keenan Ivory Wayans comedy, I'm Gonna 'Git You, Sucka. By satirizing the very movies that Shaft had inspired over the past decade and a half, it turned those movies into classics and gave the genre a festival marquee name: Blaxploitation films. Directors such as Robert Townshend, Spike Lee, the Hughes Brothers, and John Singleton would lead a new generation of Black filmmakers who would acknowledge their debt to Shaft and the movies they grew up watching as teenagers in the '70s.

On the music side, Hayes had returned to the forefront in late 1986 with a new record deal (Columbia) and a new album, U-Turn, which boasted his first top 10 R&B single in some 13 years, an update of "Ike's Rap." The rap's strong anti-crack message resonated to the extent that its lyric, "Don't be a resident of crack city" was adopted as the slogan of a rehab center in Detroit. By the time his second Columbia album showed up in 1988, Love Attack, the crack epidemic had become so pervasive that Hayes agreed to become a lecturer at colleges and prisons, inspiring students and inmates to fulfill their lives' potentials without drugs.

Africa Calls

Hayes' role as a humanitarian began to take sharper focus in late 1991, when he and Barry White traveled to the Ivory Coast in Africa to shoot a video for "Dark & Lovely (you over there)," the single from White's comeback album Put Me In Your Mix. The following year, Hayes and Dionne Warwick accepted an invitation by the Cultural Minister of Ghana (Ivory Coast's eastern neighbor) to visit the Cape Coast and Elmina slave castles. Walking through the dungeons, listening to the horrifying stories told by the guide, Hayes was overwhelmed with emotion.

"It was almost like I heard the voices of my ancestors saying, 'We've come back home through you. The circle is complete. Now, you know what you must do'," he later told a journalist. When the weeping was done, Hayes realized it was not enough to help finance the renovation of the castles, there was bigger work to be done in Africa: He asked how much it would cost to build a school. Returning to America, Hayes took his energy on the road, speaking to African-American community groups and Black expos around the country. He encouraged everyone he met to visit Africa if they could, to interact with the people, or at the very least to support economic development.

One speaking engagement in Queens, New York, was attended by princess Naa Asie Ocansey of Ghana, who phoned a week later. "Mr. Hayes," she asked, "would you like to be a king?" She had told her father, Nene Kubi III, a 'king-maker,' of Hayes' commitment and he said, "We need to honor this man." The coronation rituals that usually took up to two weeks were condensed to two days in late December 1992. The spectacle was attended by Public Enemy who did concerts with Hayes at Cape Coast Castle and in Accra, Ghana's capital city.

Hayes was given a royal name: Nene Katey Ocansey I. "Nene means king in the Ga Dialect," he explains. "Katey means brave warrior who can calm the wild beast in the elements. Ocansey is a family name, the most powerful of the ten clans in my region, Ada, which means I do as I say!" He was appointed King For Development over the region and given land on which to build a palace. But the palace would wait: "You need education over here," he told them, "you need literacy."

Literacy

Literacy. There is little to match Hayes' devotion to spreading the message that literacy and education are the keys to freedom and prosperity in this world. In 1993, he stumbled into Scientology and the study technology process it teaches. That same year he was named the international spokesman for Applied Scholastics' World Literacy Crusade, which currently has over 20 literacy programs in five countries with more than 1,800 people participating.

Soon after, he started The Isaac Hayes Foundation (IHF, based on Wall Street), whose mission is to enable people around the world to become whole by promoting literacy, music education, nutritional education, and innovative programs that raise self-esteem among the underprivileged and teach young people how to study.

In 1995, newly signed to Virgin Records (via its Pointblank label), Hayes took a typically bold step by simultaneously issuing two new CDs: Raw And Refined, by the Isaac Hayes Movement, was a set of newly recorded and old instrumental tracks, some dating back a quarter-century to the Stax era; while Branded was a lavishly arranged set of newly recorded tracks, including one with David Porter. Among the highlights were the 7-minute take on the Lovin' Spoonful's "Summer In the City," and the Watoto de Afrika children's choir singing on the 6-minute version of Sting's "Fragile." Hayes finished out the year speaking at the historic Million Man March on Washington.

For 1998's Blue Brothers 2000 movie soundtrack, Hayes joined an all-star group dubbed the Louisiana Gator Boys, including B.B. King, Gary U.S. Bonds, Eric Clapton, Bo Diddley, Dr. John, Billy Preston, Lou Rawls, Koko Taylor, Jimmie Vaughan, Steve Winwood, Grover Washington, Jr., and about a dozen others - for jams on Bobby Blue Bland's "Turn On Your Love Light" and Bonds' "New Orleans."

True to his promise, and thanks to the hard work of the IHF, Hayes was able to return to Ghana in the summer 1998 and officiate at the groundbreaking ceremony for the school, as part of the Asafotufiami Cultural festival in Ada. The 8,000 square foot facility, called NekoTech, enjoyed its ribbon-cutting two years later. Today, it not only delivers literacy, education, computer technology and Internet access, and health education, but also houses a chapter of the World Literacy Crusade. Johnson & Johnson, a major donor, also shipped 400 bicycles over, which are used for races around the school to promote HIV awareness to children and adults.

"In Africa they got all the raw materials," Hayes says, "the richest resources in the world, but they are not being developed like they should be. If those countries get educated, they can develop manufacturing and production just like the Pacific Rim countries, and gain prosperity from that. Ghana is a democratic country and where you find democracy, you find very little, if any, terrorism. I want to be part of that movement toward democracy."

His concern with literacy at home is well known. In November 1998, he took part in groundbreaking ceremonies for the $60 million Central Library in Memphis. He and Lisa Marie Presley, a lifelong friend and fellow Scientologist, established a mission for the organization in their hometown of Memphis. The mission now houses a LEAP center (Learning Education Ability Program), "for kids after school to learn how to study, to learn how to read and write." The IHF continues to partner with other nonprofit organizations to support global causes that serve community needs, actively promoting celebrity benefit concerts (like the Jam For Literacy at the House Of Blues in Los Angeles), Literacy Links 2000 (a middle school program in Memphis), and the Crusaders, a volunteer team of exhibition basketball players from all over the country who put on benefit shows for various causes.

Epilogue

"We have the knowledge, technology, research, resources, and experience," he urges. "Let's turn crime, illiteracy, unhealthy, unproductive poverty lifestyles around from the ground up... One child, one community at a time - we can change the world! Let's give our children our best." Father of 11 children, ages 16 to 42, and grandfather of 16 - his ideas about what's best for our children are worth their weight in gold.

From the lessons he learned at his grandmother's side, to the wisdom that only a true king possesses, Isaac Hayes has earned his position as one of the most influential - and productive - figures in African-American culture today. His instincts as an astute businessman and unstinting philanthropist are tempered by the soul of an artist - an accomplished musician and published author, in-demand actor on-air radio personality, and one b-a-a-a-d cook in the kitchen.

Above all, he is a man of action and determination. He knows that, while it is important to have others who believe in you and can help you towards your goals, ultimately it is all up to what the individual himself or herself brings to the table. "At the end of the day," he told one journalist, "we are responsible for our own lives. If anything happens to us, don't blame somebody else. Backtrack and look at what you did to contribute to that. You also contribute to your successes. Once you learn that, you're on your way."

Monday, 11 August 2008

NATION OF ISLAM INTERVIEW WITH RAPPER NAS

Hip Hop Lives: FCN Interview with Nas
By FinalCall.com News

(FinalCall.com) - Though a young man (age 34) Nas has a long list of accomplishments. He is considered by most to be a legendary Hip Hop lyricist. Many of his lyrical appearances are considered some of the most memorable moments in Hip Hop and many of his albums are considered Hip Hop classics. Nas recently released his 9th album which debuted at No.1 on the charts. The Final Call’s Assistant Editor Ashahed M. Muhammad went One-on-One with the multi-platinum selling artist after his performance at the Rock the Bells Festival tour stop in Chicago.

The Final Call (FC) Let’s start with the song from your latest CD targeting Fox News called “Sly Fox.” What prompted you to make that song?

NAS: I kept hearing terrible things about FOX News. I never trust media outlets, so FOX News—when I heard bad things about them—I expected it to be real. But they didn’t really get on my radar until last year when I was supposed to do a concert for Virginia Tech University. Bill O’Reilly had three shows on me—he’s trying to do what he did to Ludacris and take away Ludacris’ Pepsi deal. So he had three shows on it. And, I said, “All right. I’m going to get him back,” you know? “I’ve got something to say too. I’ve got listeners the same way you got listeners”—except my listeners are more of a threat in today’s world. His listeners represent the Old Word, the old Republican, the old way of thinking about America. That is played out. And he doesn’t even know that most Whites don’t even think the way he thinks. But he has his ratings, right?

FC: Right.

NAS: So, I just said this is my way at getting back at him, [by] doing a song. It just so happens that the same time my album dropped, FOX News tries to be playful with “Obama’s Baby Mama” and all this. If I didn’t know who FOX was before, I really know who they are now and hopefully, some of my listeners can feel me.

FC: You have a voice, you have fans, you have people who listen to you and they’re influenced by what you say and you are using that to bring light to issues that you feel are important. That’s good, but some of rappers say, “Well, my music doesn’t have a message. I don’t necessarily have a social commentary. I’m not trying to tell anybody to do anything, you do what you want to do,” Why do you think it is important to use your voice in that way?

NAS: Hmm. Well, the ones that say they don’t have a message and all that, they’re gangsters, man. Let them be gangsters. Let them do them. I support them. Not everybody wants to have that responsibility. Not everyone is thinking like that. A lot of people’s lives are simple, you know what I’m saying? I tend to see things and I’ve always questioned things since I was young. I question things. And when I see things that are unjust, I react. I may be a little bit more extreme than a few of the other artists, that’s just me, it’s who I am. So all my music has something about me. I’m not a “specialist on race matters.” I just have an opinion, I just have an experience to talk about. So, if one album is about one thing, then that’s what I’m thinking about that year, and that’s what I’m thinking about musically. It may not be the best chart-topping album, but, as long as I can sleep at night knowing that’s what I really wanted to represent, cool. Then I’m good.

I’ve been sprinkling little pieces of my opinions on all my albums, but this one was just more dedicated to it. God has been good to me just allowing me to be here. I know a lot of people that couldn’t make it here. So today what I want to talk about is how I see things. I’m not coming down on a lot of people this year. That was “Hip Hop Is Dead.”

FC: Now, of course, the song that’s being talked about, the song “Louis Farrakhan.” Take us into your thinking when you laid down the lyrics to that.

NAS: Louis Farrakhan has made me cry. You know, what do you say about that, you know what I’m saying? When you see a man who put his life on the line for something—be he right or wrong—you admire him. But to me, Farrakhan is all the way right! I’m not sitting here going line for line, detail for detail, everything he says and all of that. It’s a whole body of work that he’s laid—he’s laid his life down for his people. No matter if you like it or not. Anybody like that I admire. And, you know, anybody in this position, they would kill off. He was smart enough to say “I have an army who believe in what I’m saying, that this is the Truth.” That “I would die for everyone, every soldier in that army.” They believe that and they know that’s true. So, you know, how could I not acknowledge that’s that; that’s what I acknowledge in my life, then, it’s going to bleed into the music. It’s not even on purpose. It just happened. It’s just my thoughts. “Some revolutionaries get old, although I’m told...” you know?

It’s like everybody’s scared to speak out about what’s in their heart, just because they’re scared of who is going to come down on them. They’re scared they’re going to get “blacklisted.” They’re going to get all their endorsements taken away from them. They’re scared that they can’t feed their families. I understand that, but I admire those people who know that, and still go and do what they have to do, you know what I mean? If I had enough money, I’d buy him a Rolls Royce tomorrow! You know what I’m saying? Like, that’s just how I feel about him!

He is a serious piece of history, you know, coming from Elijah Muhammad; coming from Malcolm X, coming from—that part of history is so special because it’s what America is scared to talk about. They’re scared to talk about that. And, if they would talk about it, it would help a lot of people. I know a lot of White cats that listen to Farrakhan! I went to a Coldplay concert, and his introduction was Farrakhan’s speech! So, I was blown away! I’m sitting next to Gwyneth Paltrow—we’re rocking to a Farrakhan speech! So, it made me go: “Damn! If he—why didn’t I use that in my music? I’ve been wanting to!” So I’m just trying to show the love back now.

FC: You sound like you have a little bit more control over the content of what goes into your songs. I’ve talked to a lot of different hip hop artists who say, “Well, the label made me make this song or, I wanted to make a song like this and they wouldn’t let me.” Did you feel any pressure? Do you have a little more control because of your longevity and your success in the business?

NAS: Yeah, yeah I did. But, because I was that guy from the beginning, people can respect that I’m that same guy now. When I played this song, a few people were scared. When I played my album, a few people around me were scared. None of my family—they’re riders, they know who I am, you know? But, a few friends were scared for me, and just scared in general. I had to let them know there’s nothing to be scared of. What can you do to me that you haven’t to me already? So, whatever’s going to happen to me, I don’t (care.) I mean, if you’re talking about “Can you put out records that you want to put out?”—that’s been my whole career. I always have issues with the record company. I’m also a business man, and I want to appeal to everyone sometimes. Sometimes I don’t care, but there are times when I want to appeal to everyone.

So, there’s conversations with record labels, rumors, they shake my hand and smile at me, then there’s rumors that they’re going to drop me because I’m doing what I’m doing. But, at the end of the day, everybody realizes I’m really just trying to not just come out as a crazy extremist or anything like that. I’m just having fun doing who I am. People tend to call it “controversial.” As far as a marketing plan, the marketing plan is the people!

FC: On your CD, there is a song called “Black President.”

NAS: Mmm-hmm.

FC: What are your thoughts?

NAS: I’m excited like everybody else. I think it’s cool. A cool brother. Who could front on him? I think a lot of the leaders from the Civil Rights Era feel like they didn’t want to leave this Earth acknowledging another Black man going to the next level. They wanted to be the “end all, be all” of it all and they can’t stand to see another—that’s why I said, you know it’s colored folks and Negroes hate to see one of our own succeeding, because they feel like their moment was their moment, you know what I mean? And, that we should only acknowledge their moment because they’ve been through the (thrown) bricks, and the name calling and segregation and all that.

So now that things have been smoother, things are different now, and they feel like this guy may have it easy. That has nothing to do with anything! The kids don’t relate to that. All the kids relate to is seeing him the same way they see Kobe Bryant and want to play basketball. The same way they see Tiger Woods and now want to play golf. It’s the same way—or even better that they can see Barack and they could see themselves becoming him.

So we don’t have time to hate each other. We don’t have time.

FC: Have you thought about what you want to do when or if you decide that you don’t want to keep on making records?

NAS: Yeah! Tons of times! That is not a reality. The reality is like B.B. King. The reality is that I was buying tickets to a James Brown concert a month before he died. You do this to the grave—whether you like it or not!

People say, “I don’t want to rap when I’m this age.” There is no exit! That does even make sense! We can sit here and lie and say “You know, I’m too old to be rapping.” It does not make sense. B.B. King works like 365 days a year. A Tribe Called Quest has been around 20 years, or something like that. So, maybe you don’t want to do it and somebody’s trying to offer you that check. Beyond the check, your love for what you do (makes) you want to get out there again and entertain or please people. It’s just, God gave you a gift, and you just use it.

FC: You can tell tonight at the show that you really enjoy performing. Thank you and I appreciate your time.

NAS: I appreciate you too.