Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Blues Talkin Commentary Moves to DistortedSoul.com

But the man say:
Ain't nothin' but the blues doin' the talkin', baby.
Conspiracy's all up inside your mind.
But I find it don't get better for my people.
It's just a theory, but conspiracy
Keeps f^ck!n' with me
all the time.
After many years maintaining a music website and a separate blog, I've decided to merge the political commentary from BluesTalkin.com into my music site at DistortedSoul.com.

When I first decided to build a website to publicize and distribute news about my musical endeavors, I knew there would have to be a section devoted to news and political commentary. Part of the function of art is to reflect the world around us. I wanted to have a place to share and discuss information that isn't readily available in the mainstream media.

The idea for Blues Talkin' has taken many forms over the years. First it was just me emailing found news items to my friends several times a day. Later there was an extensive forum with hundreds of posts with dozens of different categories. Finally, in 2005 I started the blog which I've updated regularly (more or less) ever since.

In addition to my musical projects, over the last three years I've been getting more work as a writer and journalist at publications like The Michigan Citizen, LastChocolateCity.com, Detroit Fashion Pages, and finally as a member of MTV's Street Team '08 covering election issues in Michigan. Most of those articles, reports and posts were also published at BluesTalkin.com along side my personal rants and raves about politics, culture and life. Along the way, Blues Talkin' was nominated for best political blog.

But it's become too time consuming to maintain all these schizophrenic sides of my personality. Since - as my wife, Akanke says - all the songs I write are either about women or politics (What else is there to write about?), it only makes since to merge the two sites. The Blues Talkin section has always been one of the most popular portion of the Distorted Soul Newsletter. It just makes sense to bring it all together.

In a few weeks, BluesTalkin.com will go away, but BluesTalkin will live on at DistortedSoul.com. The Blues Talkin' archives have already been moved, so feel free to stroll down memory lane with me. There is some interesting stuff over there. The newly renovated DistortedSoul.com becomes a more well rounded site with music, news, video, politics, sports, women... whatever interesting items we find to share that day.

If you're currently subscribing to the RSS feed at BluesTalkin.com, please click the headline animator below to subscribe to DistortedSoul.com. You can also CLICK HERE to receive DistortedSoul.com updates as an email message. We hope you'll join us there.

Nadir - DistortedSoul.com

As always we welcome your comments and input, but you'll have to register at DistortedSoul.com to comment. Registration is free, of course. Please let us know how you like these changes and what we can do to improve your total funk experience!

Thanks for hanging out with us!

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Nadir Covers RNC for MTV

Nadir's MTV Street Team '08 ProfileWhile the media's attention is focused on Denver this week and the Democratic National Convention, I'm packing my bags and gearing up for next week.

I will be covering the Republican National Convention for MTV/Knight's Street Team '08.

That's right. MTV is sending me to St. Paul to hang out with my good friends John McCain, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney and of course, GDub.

I will blog and Twitter all day every day, and I'll submit video at the end of each night. You will be able to catch my Twitter updates at DistortedSoul.com and on MTV's www.chooseorlose.com.

Look for video on my profile at Think.MTV.com/Nadir.

I'll also keep a close eye on the protests that will occur throughout the Twin Cities, and I've got plans to slip over to Ron Paul's Rally for the Republic on Tuesday.

It should be an exciting week! I'm looking forward to it!

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Monday, August 18, 2008

VIDEO: Young Black MI Voters on Race

Nadir's MTV Street Team '08 ProfileOriginally Published at Think.MTV.com

Race has been a big topic in the election this year, and the racial divisions in the US are center stage.

But are we really having an honest discussion?

Nadir spoke with several young African American voters in Michigan and with Green Party presidential nominee Cynthia McKinney about how race is affecting the election debate.

VIDEO: John Sinclair: 21st Century Man

Nadir's MTV Street Team '08 ProfileOriginally Published at Think.MTV.com

For young people in Michigan looking to engage their community and make a difference, there are some perfect home grown examples to follow.

Take John Sinclair for instance. As a young man in his twenties, John Sinclair changed the world as the state's most outspoken leader of the 60s counter culture movement.

Nadir spoke with Sinclair recently about activism in the 21st Century.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Politics vs. Public Service

Originally Published at Think.MTV.com

Why in the world would anyone want to run for public office? For some young Michiganders, the reason is simple: Someone has to do it. It might as well be a person who cares and has a sincere desire to serve the community.


It’s 10pm, and Rashida Tlaib (pronounced tah-LIB, as in Kweli) is just getting back to her campaign office after a long day of door knocking. Her voice rings with a tone of self satisfaction. The candidate for state representative in Michigan’s 12th district proudly proclaims that just today she finished visiting every street in her district for the second time. Tlaib has knocked on 7600 doors in the last ten weeks, introducing herself to residents, speaking with them about their concerns and asking for their votes.

“Every time I knocked a door, and I talked to a person,” says Tlaib, “I was completely reminded – and I know this sounds corny, but it’s so true – I was reminded every single time I talked to a resident, why I’m doing this.”

This is the first time Tlaib has run for office. The eldest of 14 children born to immigrant parents, Tlaib was raised to understand the importance of hard work, honesty and commitment to community.

After graduating from Wayne State University in 1998 with a degree in political science, the Detroit native began a career of public service in the non-profit sector providing social and advocacy services to families in the Southwest Detroit neighborhood where she grew up. Work in agencies like Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development (LASED) and the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS).

She earned her law degree on the weekends while working fulltime. This later led to a job in the office of Michigan State Representative Steve Tobocman. With Tobocman leaving office this year because of term limits, Tlaib decided to run for his seat.

“I’m more of a social worker than a career politician,” Tlaib explains. “I’m a person that is a true believer helping people through every day kinds of issues needs to go hand in hand with legislation or it doesn’t work at all.”

The corruption in U.S. government is noxious. Its stench hangs over the nation like a dark cloud rising from municipalities to state legislatures all the way to Congress and the White House. What young candidates like Tlaib seem to have in common is a sincere desire to help her community and to change the way government is run.

35 year-old Todd Lajoy is running for State Rep in Michigan’s 21st district just as he is completing his first term as a Trustee in Canton Township. Lajoy believes the skills that he has acquired connecting workers with employers in the staffing company that he and his brother founded will be useful to the state that leads the nation in unemployment.

“I really felt that my personal professional background and my community service and experience really could significantly help in one of the major critical areas in Michigan, which is jobs - job creation, retaining jobs, attracting jobs, growing businesses.”

Lajoy continues, “I’m running because the state is struggling, and I really believe that we have to have the right people in place to help turn the state around.”

The 21st district covers the communities of Canton, Canton Township, Belleville and Van Buren Township, a suburban and rural area nestled about 30 miles west of Detroit, and just east of Ann Arbor. As Lajoy knocks on doors in his district, the number one issue is the economy.

“We had one of the largest foreclosure rates in Wayne County, and it’s one of the highest in the nation also.” When Lajoy asks the residents why they are moving away he finds most often that it is work related.

In Detroit the high number of foreclosures creates other problems. The vacant homes in rich and poor neighborhoods alike have become a magnet for rodents and for rats of another kind – thieves. While jobs may be the top priority in Lajoy’s suburban district, in Detroit, public safety and problems with city services are the major concern.

“The neighborhoods have been decimated by the subprime lending scandal”, Lee Gaddies, a State Rep candidate in Michigan’s 7th District which encompasses several northern Detroit communities. “People are getting put out of their houses, crime is being left unchecked, the police are unresponsive, and people want their politicians to do something about it. They want to know that their cries have not gone unheard.”

Leslie Love, a first-time candidate for State Rep in the 8th District (West Detroit), has experienced these problems first hand. Her home was burglarized in February, and the thieves cleaned her out. Then on July 21st, burglars attempted to enter her home when she was there, but she scared them away.

“Now I have a big dog that I didn’t plan to have in my life at this time,” she laughs. “So I know it’s happening to me. I know it’s happening to my neighbors. There are a lot of foreclosed homes in my community, and people are going in taking copper, taking door knobs, taking chandeliers and fixtures. Their taking everything but the paint off the wall, so safety is very much an issue.”

This prompted Love to go to her Western District community/police relations meeting to discuss the issue with the commander there, and she reports that the police response has improved.

Public service at its core is about becoming involved in the community and helping your neighbors. The reason many young people shy away from politics is because of the corruption that abounds.

For Tlaib an older community activist inspired her to run when she said, “It’s people like us that never consider running for office, and that’s what’s wrong with [the state government in] Lansing. We don’t have enough people like us down there.”

“I’m gonna be painfully honest with you,” Gaddies confides. “Politics is dirty. That’s why we need regular, ordinary people to hold office. You don’t need a bunch of letters after your name to vote for what’s right for your people. You just need a little bit of common sense.”

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Partisan Politics Trump the Constitution?

I was just checking out Dave Lindorff's report from the House Judiciary hearing on impeachment. Two items stood out to me immediately.

As Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), chairman of the committee, made clear more than once during the six-hour session, this was “not an impeachment hearing, however much many in the audience might wish it to be” He might well have added that he himself was not the fierce defender of the Constitution and of the authority of Congress that he once was before gaining control of the Judiciary Committee, however much his constituents, his wife, and Americans across the country might wish him to be.
Yep. Conyers is bowing down to Pelosi's pressure on this one. He is more interested in keeping his job as judiciary chair than in defending the Constitution. Oh, how the mighty have fallen!


The basic point, made by Holtzman, by Fein and by many others, including this writer, is that worrying about the political opposition to impeachment, both in the House, and in the Senate, not to mention among the broader public, is completely wrongheaded. Even when impeachment articles were first filed against Nixon, the public and the bulk of the Congress were solidly against the idea (unlike Bush, who has a 19% approval rating, Nixon had just won an epic landslide re-election victory in 1972 against George McGovern). It was during the hearings that the tide turned, as evidence of malfeasance, criminality and abuse of power became evident through hearing testimony.

The same would certainly happen in the case of President Bush and/or Vice President Cheney. Most Americans don’t even know that the president made up evidence to justify the war against Iraq out of whole cloth. They don’t know what the Geneva Conventions are with regard to torture. They don’t know why Congress passed the FISA act, which Bush has been feloniously violating to spy on them (it was passed because Nixon was using the National Security Agency to spy on Americans without judicial warrants--exactly what Bush is now doing!). They don’t know that Bush has been refusing to enact laws passed by the Congress. Public hearings by an impeachment panel would make all these high crimes and misdemeanors clear on national TV to all sentient Americans.

Moreover, as Holtzman pointed out, the president would not be able to use the claim of “executive privilege” to withhold testimony from aides in an impeachment inquiry, the way he has done when they have been subpoenaed by other House and Senate committees. Impeachment would be about violations of the very executive actions he would be claiming privilege on. As well, an impeachment committee, unlike any other committee of the Congress, is specifically sanctioned and empowered in the Constitution, meaning that even strict “constructionist” Federalists on the bench would have a hard time backing presidential obstruction.

As Holtzman noted, “There is no executive privilege in impeachment, because refusing to testify is itself an impeachable offense.”

So what do the punk Democrats (including Barack Obama) have to fear from an impeachment hearing?

According to the Associated Press, "Barack Obama told House Democrats on Tuesday that as president he would order his attorney general to scour White House executive orders and expunge any that 'trample on liberty,' several lawmakers said."

Why wait? What are his Senate staffers doing while the Senator is off jet-setting around the world? Of course,

Obama did not mention executive orders when he addressed reporters who waited for him outside the closed-door meeting. He said only that he would be campaigning alongside members to win the presidency and help expand Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.

"I am looking forward to collaborating with everyone here to win the election, but more importantly to collaborate with everybody here and also some like-minded Republicans to actually govern and to deliver on behalf of the American people," Obama said.

Obama and Democrats are following the conventional wisdom that they need to play to conservatives in order to win the White House and maintain their slim majority in Congress. They are ignoring their base which is ready for the war to end and ready for Bush and Cheney to be held accountable for their crimes.

Since when do partisan politics trump the U.S. Constitution? Is this what our troops are fighting and dying for?

Click below to read Dave Lindorff's report:
ThisCantBeHappening.net - Friday's House Judiciary Hearing on Impeachment: A Victory and a Challenge

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Green Party's Hip Hop Power Move: An AUDIO Interview with Green Party Vice-Presidential Nominee Rosa Clemente

Part 1 - Nadir's Audio Interview with Rosa Clemente
(13 mins 25 secs; 12.3 MB)
Part 2 - Nadir's Audio Interview with Rosa Clemente
(15 mins 23secs; 14.1 MB)

Rosa Clemente is a community organizer, journalist and co-founder of the National Hip Hop Political Convention. In July 2008 she makes history again as the vice-presidential nominee for the Green Party of the United States. Clemente joins Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney to become the first US presidential ticket led by two women of color.

I am an independent voter who has been sympathetic to the Green Party since Ralph Nader's presidential run in 2000, but I've never become a member. Where the party has fallen short, in my estimation, has been in its inability to organize among young people, the working class and the people of color who might embrace the party's progressive agenda. By nominating McKinney and Clemente, the Greens seek to erase that perception, and to change the face of the organization from its current image of older white hippies and tree huggers to a young, vibrant multicultual political party with fresh ideas and hip hop swagger.

During our 30 minute interview Mrs. Clemente discusses the difficult obstacles that the Green Party faces in its campaign to secure 5 percent of the vote this November. The hip hop activist also confirms the Green Party's commitment to the progressive values that young people and the hip hop community list as their most important issues - eliminating police brutality, reforming the prison industrial complex and ending the corporate domination of the US political landscape.

Clemente balks at the notion that any political candidate can "transcend race" in America. She offers some frank criticism of Barack Obama for signing the FISA bill, for pushing to transfer troops from Iraq to Afghanistan and for "running his campaign to the right".

Click below to listen, save and share.

Part 1 - Nadir's Audio Interview with Rosa Clemente
(13 mins 25 secs; 12.3 MB)
Part 2 - Nadir's Audio Interview with Rosa Clemente
(15 mins 23secs; 14.1 MB)

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AUDIO: Another Seat at the Table

Originally Published at Think.MTV.com

The Green Party's presidential and vice-presidential nominees Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente are the first presidential ticket led by two women of color. But this is no symbolic or token campaign by a minor party.

The Democrats and Republicans have allowed corporate interests to dominate public policy making, and the interests of the people have been ignored.

The Green Party nominees say their bid to gain five percent of the vote this November isn't an alternative. It's imperative.

Click HERE to listen to the 4 min 5 second audio report

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VIDEO: McCain's Straight Talk Economics

Originally Published at Think.MTV.com

Nadir's Note: Yes, that's a photo of Barack Obama. Yes, this is a video about John McCain. However, this isn't an example of what McCain calls the media's "Obama Love Fest".

Like other video upload sites, Think.MTV.com's system automatically chooses the photo it will add to the story. The website's bots grab a random frame and drops it into the description. The photo of Obama challenging McCain on economic policy just happens to be the random frame that the program chose, and after much back and forth, Think's webmasters tell me they can't change it.

So this is not an example of McCain falling victim to liberal ObamaMania. Unless the Viacom automatons love Obama more than they love McCain...

John McCain is trying to pick up his game on the Economy.

It's tough enough that the Republican nominee is saddled with the failures of "Bushonomics". McCain has also been forced to distance himself from one of his own advisers, a man who says Americans are "whining" about the economy. But at a recent town hall meeting with small business owners in Belleville, Michigan, the Straight Talk Maverick was up for the challenge, telling voters he has a plan too "fix" the economy.

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Friday, July 04, 2008

America 2008: Red, Black and Blue

Originally published at Think.MTV.com

The Fourth of July is and has always been a holiday of confliction for me and for many African Americans. The very first “self-evident truth” of the Declaration of Independence – “That all men are created equal” – was a hypocritical mockery of my enslaved ancestors when that hallowed document was signed in 1776. Here we are 232 years later, and even with Barack Obama’s Democratic primary victory, Black people still wonder, “Are we really free?”

In deciding what I was going to write for my weekly Street Team ’08 report, Frederick Douglass’ immortal speech “The Meaning of July Fourth to the Negro”, delivered in 1852, immediately came to mind…

The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.

But, I hesitated. First of all, white folks get upset when Black people talk about race and discrimination in America. An uncomfortable silence fills the room, and many people just stop listening. We ignore the economic and social disparities that still exist between whites and Blacks because no one wants to talk about the obvious racial origins of these problems.

And I’ll admit, Black folks can get defensive when the discussion turns to the racism that we still feel here. The constant criticism is that Blacks sometimes “play the race card” when no discrimination exists. In the end, many of us are guilty of spending too much time fighting the ghosts of racism and not enough time taking advantage of the real opportunities that do present themselves in this nation.

But then I thought about it… There’s a Black guy running for president, and race has been a constant issue throughout the campaign. I’m also the only Black male working on MTV’s Street Team this year. Now is DEFINITELY the time for me to talk about racism in America!

The first African slaves were brought to these shores in the year 1619. The U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1787. Slavery ended in 1865. The fact that it’s 2008 and we are just now seeing an African American candidate with a serious shot at winning the White House shows both how much and how little progress America has made over the past 400 years.

There’s a lot of history that we could talk about here. Most of our high school and college history classes glossed over Reconstruction, the period between 1866 and 1877 when Blacks in America were freed from slavery, gained considerable political power and were then betrayed by the government and thrown back into the virtual bondage of the Jim Crow/segregation era.

But who wants to talk about history? Ours is the first generation to experience racial integration in the United States. We all went to school together. We grew up seeing Black artists’ and white artists’ videos on MTV. Most of us don’t know and don’t care about the legend that then CBS Records president Walter Yetnikoff threatened to boycott MTV if they didn’t play Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” video in 1983 at a time when the young network just didn’t air videos by Black artists. MTV founder Les Garland denies this story, but that’s beside the point.

The point is we’re living in a 21st century America where all citizens legally enjoy the same rights. In this environment we can have Oprah Winfrey AND Ellen Degeneres. We can have T.I. AND Justin Timberlake. We can have Barack Obama AND John McCain.

So why do the subjects of color, race, ethnicity and equality still cause such a stir? How can Bill Clinton go from being called “America’s first Black president” to being called a racist for his comments about Obama during the Democratic primary season? Why would a vendor at the Texas GOP convention sell buttons that say, “If Obama is president, will we still call it the White House?”

Because this is politics, baby, and race still divides America. Young people can claim that it’s just the old folks who have these issues, but a lot of white kids still wonder whether the Black person they hang out with is “a nigger” or “my nigga”. High school students in Jena, Louisiana still get into fights over the right to sit under a tree and the right to hang a noose from one of its branches.

Race is on the ballot in three states in 2008 as Arizona, Nebraska and Missouri vote on whether to ban affirmative action programs or not. Michigan voters banned affirmative action in the state in 2006 after two high profile Supreme Court rulings involving the University of Michigan. Michigan’s history, it should be noted, is that it had the highest membership of the Ku Klux Klan outside the South during the height of that organization. My town of Westland is the headquarters of the American Nazi Party.

Opponents of affirmative action point to Obama’s success as evidence that the initiatives are no longer needed. Obama and others are proof that all minorities are finally considered equal by all Americans.

But if this is the case, why are there disproportionately more Blacks in prison than whites based on percentage of population? Why are there so few Black CEOs of major corporations? Why are Black test scores so much lower than the scores for white students? Why is there so much inequality?

The answer to most of these questions lies in the history of racial discrimination in the country. After 232 years, African Americans are still working to unchain ourselves from the shackles of slavery and segregation. All of us, no matter the race, are still struggling to shed our own racial prejudices.

When it comes down to it, America has made a lot of progress, but we still haven’t overcome our history. On this conflicted Fourth of July I can honestly say that all men – and women – are created equal. When will we learn to treat each other that way?

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” – Dr. Martin Luther King