Thursday, December 28, 2006

Say it Loud! We LOVE James Brown!

Originally posted by Nadir at

The Godfather

With the passing this week of Michigan son Gerald Ford there was some concern that the transition of James Brown might be overshadowed by coverage of the former president. The media lovefest and selective amnesia that we all endured after the demise of Ronald Reagan has returned for Ford, but in death as in life, Soul Brother Number One will not be denied. No disrespect to Mr. Ford, but he was president for two years. James Brown will be The Godfather forever.

Yes, Brown endorsed Richard Nixon for re-election in 1972, so apparently he and Ford shared an admiration for Tricky Dick. Somehow we forgive our Godfather of this transgression as we forgive him of his mistreatment of women and his struggles with chemical demons and the US criminal justice system.

In many ways James Brown is the very embodiment of the 20th Century African-American man. Through the trials and tribulations he made us proud to be Black. His music, his dance, his style, his politics, his business sense changed the world forever.

James Brown is as much a founder of hip hop as DJ Kool Herc or any other member of the pantheon. Without James Brown there is no hip hop, no soul music, no funk, no house music, no drum and bass. There is no Michael Jackson, no Prince, no Sly Stone or George Clinton. No Red Hot Chili Peppers and no Jay-Z. Hell, without James Brown there is no Al Sharpton.

So Get on up! Give it up for The Godfather of Soul, the Founder of Funk, The Originator of Hip Hop, The Hardest Working Man in Show Business, Mr. Dynamite, The Man with the Crown, Soul Brother No. 1, The Original Brother Rapp, the Amazing Mr. Please Please Please Himself, JAAAAAAAMES BROWWWWWWWWNNNNN!

Say it Loud! We LOVE JAMES BROWN!!!!

Monday, December 25, 2006

RIP Godfather

"What you gon' do now?"

"Bobby, I don't know. But whasa never I do,

It's gots to be FUNKY!!!"

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas, Middle East! More US Troops Headed Your Way?

After weeks of expressing their skepticism at the idea of a troop surge, The New York Times reports that the head honchos on the ground in Iraq, Generals George Casey and Raymond Odierno, now are open to the idea of a troop surge there.

From the Times:
Until recently, the top ground commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., has argued that sending more American forces into Baghdad and Anbar Province, the two most violent regions of Iraq, would increase the Iraqi dependency on Washington, and in the words of one senior official, “make this feel more like an occupation.”

But General Casey and Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, who has day-to-day command of American forces in Iraq, indicated they were open to a troop increase when Mr. Gates met with them in Baghdad this week.

“They are open to the possibility of some increase in force,” a senior Defense Department official said. “They are supportive of taking steps to support the Iraqis in their plan, including the possible modest augmentation in U.S. combat forces.”

Why the sudden change of heart?

Could it be the recently announced "retirement" (read "firing") of their boss, General John Abizaid, who has resisted the idea of more troops? The Progressive Daily Beacon discusses this HERE.

With a proposed military buildup in the Persian Gulf poised to threaten Iran, and the White House bandying about the idea of an additional 20,000 troops in Iraq, it looks like Bush is about to pull a Lyndon Johnson on us.

Where are all these troops coming from?

The Selective Service has announced that there is "No Draft on the Horizon". This despite "a flurry of newspaper articles about Selective Service planning to conduct an exercise of its field structure." They are just dusting off the apparatus and kicking the tires to make sure the old jalopy works.

"Move along, folks. Nothing to see here."

The most immediate source of firepower will be non-combat troops from the US military's many bases around the world. Domestic recruiters have also lowered aptitude and mental health requirements and raised age limits in an attempt to meet their targets.

Perhaps the worsening US labor market and fresh layoffs will provide cannonfodder for the war machine...

At any rate, it looks like Peace on Earth will be another illusive dream in the new year.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

U.S. vs. Iran: Don’t Be Fooled, It’s About the $$$

Originally posted by Nadir at

Dollars and EurosRumor has it that the US Navy is considering a buildup of forces in the Persian Gulf in anticipation of a strike against Iran.

The AP reports it like this: “Speaking on condition of anonymity because the idea has not been approved, [a Defense Department] official said one proposal is to send a second aircraft carrier to the region amid increasing tensions with Iran, blamed for encouraging sectarian violence in neighboring Iraq as well as allegedly pursuing a nuclear weapons program.”

Yeah, right. Don’t be fooled. Iran’s nuclear program is not a threat to the United States. Iran says their uranium enrichment is for peaceful purposes. Even if they are lying, US intelligence agencies admit that Iran won’t be capable of making a bomb for another 5-10 years.

“Encouraging sectarian violence in Iraq”? According to Bush’s own Iraq study group the majority of the violence in Iraq is being caused by Iraqis, not by foreign fighters.

So what is the real deal? Check out this headline that is running in the foreign press, and a couple of US financial outlets, but is so far being ignored by America’s mainstream media:

Iran to replace dollar with euro: “The Iranian central bank is to convert the state’s foreign dollar assets into euros and use the euro for foreign transactions.”

Reports say the Iranians began converting their assets in 2003, a year after Bush’s “Axis of Evil” speech and after the US invasion of Iraq was in motion. Dollar assets have been increasingly difficult to obtain for Iranian banks because of US government pressure on financial institutions in the US and Europe. According to an Iranian spokesperson, US pressure is forcing their hand.

“The government has ordered the central bank to replace the dollar with the euro to limit the problems of the executive organs in commercial transactions,” Gholam Hossein Elham, a government spokesman, said on Monday.

“We will also employ this change for Iranian assets [in dollars] held abroad.”

But here is the real dagger:

Elham implied that the move to the euro would also apply to Iran’s oil revenues.

“Foreign income sources and oil revenues will be calculated in euros and we will receive them in euros in order to put an end to our dependence on the dollar,” Elham said.

The US dollar has been dropping like a rock on international currency markets for some time now. Despite reports by mainstream financial analysts that the US economic outlook is bright and rosy, the Internet and commodities markets have been abuzz with warnings about US government insolvency and the worthlessness of the dollar. A post titled “Last Warning! Three-Pronged Collapse… Stocks, Bonds, Real Estate” from UK site The Market Oracle is typical of the recent speculation.

Today I want to give you one final warning on the crisis I see coming. I’ve told you some of this before, but I feel it’s so important that it needs to be repeated one last time. Gold’s rally back over $600, and recently to more than $640 an ounce, is telling us — in no uncertain terms — that a financial crisis of major proportions is about to strike.

The dollar is telling us the same thing — that the “full faith and credit” of the U.S. Government is plunging … that all is not well. Just look at how the dollar has been falling against many of the world’s currencies …

The dollar used to be worth more than six British pounds; now, it’s worth about half of a pound. A greenback used to be worth three Swiss francs; today, the two are almost equal. The U.S. currency has already lost nearly 30% against the euro, which is barely six years old.

And the dollar is at a nine-year low against the Thai baht, a country that recently experienced a military coup!

Right now the only thing keeping the US dollar afloat is the fact that oil is purchased on international markets in dollars. Other countries have to hold some assets in dollars so they can buy oil. If oil markets switch to a different currency, there will be a sharp selloff of US greenbacks.

The US economy has already been weakened by a sagging real estate market, loss of manufacturing jobs, a spiraling trade deficit and tons of debt from the war in Iraq. An Iranian shift to the euro could start a chain reaction that would cause the US economy to tank.

Time for a quick history lesson from the February 16, 2003 edition of The UK’s Guardian newspaper:

A bizarre political statement by Saddam Hussein has earned Iraq a windfall of hundreds of million of euros. In October 2000 Iraq insisted on dumping the US dollar - ‘the currency of the enemy’ - for the more multilateral euro.

The changeover was announced on almost exactly the same day that the euro reached its lowest ebb, buying just $0.82, and the G7 Finance Ministers were forced to bail out the currency. On Friday the euro had reached $1.08, up 30 per cent from that time.

See the date? That article appeared just one month before the US invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. As of this post, the euro is at $1.32. If the US hadn’t invaded, Saddam would have profited another 30% by now.

Hugo Chavez has talked about only taking euros for his oil. The US has stepped up pressure on his administration by sponsoring a coup and a recall vote in attempts to get him out of office.

Iran has announced they are making the switch. They won’t get the profits that Iraq got because the dollar is barely worth the paper it is written on right now. But you can bet your bottom dollar the US will use every means - including its military might - to protect its national (financial) security.

What does this mean to brothers and sisters here in the Last Chocolate City?

Financial analysts are encouraging their clients to buy gold because it will gain in value as the dollar drops. So all those gold chains, gold rings and gold teeth we’ve been wasting our money on all these years will actually prove to be a great investment. Buy more bling… And stay out of the US military!!

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Color Me Funky European Tour 2006: Spreading the Gospel of The Funk - Part 1

The Color Me Funky European Tour featuring LMT Connection, Joel Parisien and Nadir was a non-stop rollercoaster ride with thrills, chills and even some spills. From October 24 to November 12, 2006, our troupe trapsed through Austria, Hungary, Germany and the Netherlands, spreading the gospel of The Funk to enthusiastic congregants at every stop.

As advertised, the musical pyrotechnics on stage were spectacular, but the real drama occured offstage - in the clubs, on the roads and in the mountains of the European Union.

The tour began well before October when Hubert Moser, the hardest working man in European show business, planned, booked and promoted the high wire act that was the Color Me Funky tour. When artists like Ivan Neville, Fishbone, The Ipanemas, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings and Azymuth travel to the Old World, they hire Moser as tour manager, chief navigator and head cheerleader. Moser's Miracle Dread Productions lives up to its billing as "the company for real music" by bringing the world's best musicians to European audiences. By the time we arrived at Munich airport, Wah-Wah Moser had everything tuned up and ready to hum like a well-oiled Mercedes Benz.

Everyone involved knew the tour would be something special, and the stage was set from the very first show. Opening night was a rocker in Mozart's hometown, beautiful Salzburg, Austria at Rockhouse, a unique concert venue built into the side of a mountain.

As the opening act I set the pace with 25-minutes of solo funk featuring burners like "Daddy's Cane", "Slave", "Guantanamo" and Funkadelic's "Good To Your Earhole". By the time I launched into the salacious groove of "Sanctified", the crowd was clapping, stomping, dancing and chanting, "So good it's sanctified!" Then it was time to call Canada's finest into action one at a time.

Joel Parisien is a bad man. The singer/songwriter plays keyboards, percussion, saxophone and a MEAN human beatbox. Ask "Soul Joel" what he doesn't do, and he claims that he is only an average guitar player, but I don't buy it. I bet he plays the hell out of a guitar.

His real gift is the voice. Joel's soulful phrasing and lyricism are uncomparable. Joel can "sang", children, like Sunday morning service right before the pastor preaches about Daniel in the lion's den. In later shows, Joel would join me on stage during my set to turn "Guantanamo" into a hymn of faith and redemption for guitar, voice and piano, and we'd really take it to church on "Sanctified" when Joel cranked up the organ. By then the crowd was hyped up and pre-warmed, ready for LMT Connection and...

...The Funky Bass. "Big Bad" John Irvine is a groove machine. The 4-string thumper from Ottawa is a master showman, and as a piano player and guitarist, John's grasp of composition and arrangement give him a truly creative approach to bottom first bass playing. John also uses various effects and chords to add different colors to LMT's funky flavors.

Next up to bat is the "Hard Hittin" Mark Rogers. The award-winning drummer/producer has been banging the skins since the age of eight, and has been recognized as one of Canada's best drummers for years.

Mark employs a pleathora of rhythms in LMT's sets moving from Motown to jazz, from latin to afrobeat, from rock to funk. Most drummers should pay attention to him if for nothing but the clinic he gives in how to create an interesting and entertaining drum solo.

Finally we call the legend to the stage. Detroit's own Leroy Emanuel has performed or recorded with Marvin Gaye, John Lee Hooker, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Bohannon, Stevie Wonder, Al Green, ZZ Hill and on various Motown sessions in the early 70's. He was a founder of the 70s Detroit funk outfit The Fabulous Counts who enjoy an underground cult following to this day.

Leroy is a funk guitar monster, a passionate singer and a great songwriter. He moved to Niagra Falls, Canada about 20 years ago and founded LMT Connection with Rogers and Irvine. The band has made a name for itself touring Canada and Europe for the last 17 years.

This was my second European tour with LMT, and both times were tremendous experiences - musically, educationally, spiritually. All of the shows were magical.

But when you're on the road, life offstage is the real adventure. From bus breakdowns in the Hungarian countryside to three-car pile-ups with the members of Fishbone in Austria... I'll discuss these tales and more in Part 2.

Photos courtesy of Rockhouse and Nadir. For more photos of the tour, please visit the photo gallery.

Rejuvenate American Agriculture: Legalize It

The legalization of marijuana and industrial grade hemp could rejuvenate the American agricultural industry and small farmers across the country. According to the LA Times article linked HERE:
A report released today by a marijuana public policy analyst contends that the market value of pot produced in the U.S. exceeds $35 billion — far more than the crop value of such heartland staples as corn, soybeans and hay, which are the top three legal cash crops.
The report estimates that marijuana production has increased tenfold in the past quarter century despite an exhaustive anti-drug effort by law enforcement.
The information report author Jon Gettman used to derive his data used conservative figures.
Using data on the number of pounds eradicated by police around the U.S., Gettman produced estimates of the likely size and value of the cannabis crop in each state. His methodology used what he described as a conservative value of about $1,600 a pound compared to the $2,000- to $4,000-a-pound street value often cited by law enforcement agencies after busts.

In California, the state's Campaign Against Marijuana Planting seized nearly 1.7 million plants this year — triple the haul in 2005 — with an estimated street value of more than $6.7 billion. Based on the seizure rate over the last three years, the study estimates that California grew more than 21 million marijuana plants in 2006 — with a production value nearly triple the next closest state, Tennessee, which had an estimated $4.7-billion cannabis harvest.
And California is one of nine states that produces more canabis than its residents consume demonstrating the export value of the crop.

But the feds refuse to accept the obvious. They make a lot of money from the War on Drugs and the increased prison popluation that America's medieval drug laws produce.
Tom Riley, a spokesman for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, cited examples of foreign countries that have struggled with big crops used to produce cocaine and heroin. "Coca is Colombia's largest cash crop and that hasn't worked out for them, and opium poppies are Afghanistan's largest crop, and that has worked out disastrously for them," Riley said. "I don't know why we would venture down that road."
Of course it hasn't worked out for them. US DEA and military planes and Columbian forces are burning and bombing the coca fields of poor farmers in Columbia. US anti-drug money provides nearly a quarter of Columbia's military budget. According to a recent documentary DVD release:
"Plan Colombia" is a $ 3 billion U.S. Government program intended to eradicate drugs in Colombia. With $ 110 million earmarked to protect Occidental Petroleum alone, did you know that most of this money will end up supporting U.S. oil interests in Colombia? What kind of "war-on-drugs" is that?
The "push into southern Colombia," a cornerstone of the US aid package, ignores the fact that an estimated 40% of the country's coca cultivation takes place under paramilitary control in northern Colombia. It cannot be an accident that the US aid package trains its sights on the south, a major coca-producing area to be sure, but one under the control of the FARC.
So fighting commies and protecting oil are the real priorities. Not eradicating coca.

In Afghanistan, opium production was all but eliminated under the Taleban, but with the neo-colonial US-led invasion, occupation and regime change now in its fifth year, opium production is at a record high (pun intended). The bad news for the US and its allies is that the Taleban now permits the growth of the crop, and uses the profits it reaps to fund the continuing insurgency against NATO. Had NATO forces accepted the opium crop's value to Afghan farmers, and given them the nod (pun intended) instead of (tacitly) condemning production, the farmers would be their allies, not the Taleban's.

In 2006 North Dakota became the first state to re-legalize the cultivation of industrial grade hemp in a move designed to take advantage of a cash crop our neighbors to the north have been growing since 1998. Industrial grade hemp has many potential uses from seeds to oil to being processed as a biofuel. Traditionally the chemical industry has been the biggest opponent of industrial hemp in the US, but because it has a very low THC level the plant is regulated as a drug.

But again, the DEA is an obstacle. Potential growers in North Dakota will have to obtain state licenses and federal approval, must submit to criminal background checks, their fields must be outfitted with GPS instruments and the hemp plants they produce must have a THC level of 0.03% - Canada allows ten times that amount at 0.3%.

Despite the potential profits, the war on drugs and the war on small farmers continues in America. Why are US interests so opposed to a crop that would be such an obvious stimulant (pun intended) to the economy?

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Latest Job Report: A glass half full, half empty or leaking?

Originally posted by Nadir at Reformed Leftist (and Friends)

This September at Camp Democracy in Washington DC, I heard a lecture by author Larry Beinhart, whose novel American Hero was turned into the film Wag the Dog. Beinhart asserted that the terms “liberal” and “conservative” are dead. What generally exists now are “realists,” those who examine the world as it really is, and “true believers,” those who follow a dogmatic ideology that they believe is true even though reality is often quite different.

The differing reactions to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' November Report offer an interesting case study on this concept. "Conservative" commentators or "the true believers" are thrilled with the numbers, while the "liberals" or "realists" believe they offer a grim harbinger of a bad economy headed south.

The Heritage Foundation says:
The Bureau of Labor Statistics's November employment report makes for some Christmas cheer. The report's good news is that the unemployment rate increased only slightly, to 4.5 percent, despite that nearly 400,000 people entered the job market. The number of payroll jobs increased by 132,000, slightly below the average monthly average of 149,000 for 2006. While these preliminary numbers are certain to change, they should diminish fears of a soft economy.
The job picture remains bright even as the construction industry softens along with the housing market. For the third month in a row, construction has shed jobs. But overall, employment in construction fell by just 2,000 jobs over the course of the year, alleviating concerns of a hard landing due to the housing market slump.
Heritage even takes a jab at left-wing pundits who have taken a "glass half empty" view of the bright economic numbers:
The employment report also challenges another myth about the economy. Liberal commentators complain that despite signs of outward strength, the economy is shortchanging workers. Specifically, they argue that workers' pay has not kept pace with increases in workers’ productivity, as it has historically. The economy is growing and businesses' profits are rising, liberals argue, but only the wealthiest Americans are seeing their incomes grow.
Heritage argues that differences between earnings and productivity are not uncommon, "and they are not evidence that workers are getting shortchanged." They cite the years following the 1991 recession as a time when productivity rose 9.7% while wages only rose 6.1%. But by the end of the 90's low unemployment numbers meant companies were competing for workers.

The implication, if one takes the Heritage Foundation at their word, is that good times are not only lurking around the corner, they are here!
The U.S. economy may be at that point now. Employees are enjoying substantial raises. Even as productivity growth has slowed, workers' wages have risen rapidly. Over the past 12 months, average hourly wages have increased by 4.1 percent. Earnings have not risen this quickly since February 2001, right before the collapse of the tech bubble.
Wait. Isn't that the same tech bubble that was the reason for the wage increase and the "low unemployment numbers" you were just talking about? Wasn't the bursting of said bubble (and the horrific economic and foreign policies of a certain president that will go nameless) the reason for the "economic slowdown" the nation has experienced over the last five years?

Heritage's outlook and other similar analyses are hogwash according to the liberal - scratch that - socialist commentators at the World Socialist Website linked here.
...the details of the report confirm several trends pointing to basic structural problems in the US economy, particularly the decline of the housing market and the continued deterioration of the manufacturing sector.

Construction employment declined by 29,000 jobs in November, due in large part to a sharp slowdown in new home building. According to the Labor Department report, “Since peaking in February of this year, employment in residential specialty trades was down by 109,000.”

The continued decline of the housing market will have a major impact on consumer spending, since many Americans have sustained spending by borrowing against their rising home prices. As the value of property begins to decline, homeowners will be faced with mortgages that exceed their underlying assets...
The socialists quote heretical employment consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas who blasphemously state, “There is no question that the economy is slowing. Weakness in the housing market is expected to continue and higher-paying jobs in manufacturing and construction continue to shrink.” They offer "76,773 announced layoffs in November, up 11 percent from October" as evidence.

Additionally the decline in manufacturing is having the greatest impact on Michigan's number one economic engine, the automotive industry, which we follow here because our livelyhoods depend on that sector.
The destruction of jobs in the auto industry is particularly pronounced. So far this year, the auto industry has announced planned job losses of 151,457, surpassing the previous record of 133,686 set in 2001.
Those high productivity numbers with low wage growth coupled with slides in the housing an manufacturing sectors look like bad news to a realist like me. Americans are working harder for fewer gains. We're watching high paying jobs go to India and not enough of them are being created here. Losses in the housing sector affect many aspects of the economy from construction to retail to food and agriculture to entertainment.

The Democrats want such a modest increase in the minimum wage that it could very well have a negative effect on low wage workers who will see prices increase beyond the means of the $2.00 per hour raise they will see. True believers in both parties will continue to fund a war that is hemorrhaging funds from the federal coffers.

This penchant for "true believers" to paint a rosy picture of the economy and spread it's news as "Christmas cheer" denies the "reality" as viewed by those who see and feel what's really happening on the ground. To paraphrase my buddy Ike's economic analysis, the writers at the Heritage Foundation have a "ve$ted intere$t" in you believing their half full analogies.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Cynthia McKinney Introduces Articles of Impeachment Against Bush Regime

On December 8, 2006, Cynthia McKinney did what no other member of Congress has had the guts to do. Here is what she said.
I come before this body today as a proud American and as a servant of the American people, sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States.

Throughout my tenure, I’ve always tried to speak the truth. It’s that commitment that brings me here today.

We have a President who has misgoverned and a Congress that has refused to hold him accountable. It is a grave situation and I believe the stakes for our country are high.

No American is above the law, and if we allow a President to violate, at the most basic and fundamental level, the trust of the people and then continue to govern, without a process for holding him accountable—what does that say about our commitment to the truth? To the Constitution? To our democracy?

The trust of the American people has been broken. And a process must be undertaken to repair this trust. This process must begin with honesty and accountability.

Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (D-Atlanta) has led the progressive vanguard of American politics and has out paced most of her colleagues in the US House of Representatives for a long time. She has been uncompromising in her determination to speak the truth despite vicious attacks from the right and even from her own party.

Cynthia McKinney is the living embodiment of the word "patriot" - not in the "my country right or wrong" sense, but in the original Patrick Henry "Give me liberty or give me death" sense.

According to a Newsweek poll 51% of Americans believe George W. Bush should be impeached. By drawing up Articles of Impeachment, McKinney is doing what no one else in the House of Representatives has the balls to do - stand up for the United States Constitution, stand up for the American people and stand up for the rule of law.

As John Nichols said in The Nation:

There will be many who dismiss McKinney's filing of articles of impeachment against the president and members of his administration as an act of little consequence. The congresswoman has been a controversial figure during six terms in the House, often placing herself well to the left of her own caucus, particularly on issues of presidential accountability. And her impending departure from the chamber means that her resolution will only be a factor in the next Congress if another member takes it up. With incoming-Speaker Nancy Pelosi telling fellow Democrats that they must keep impeachment "off the table," that may not happen in the short term.

But McKinney's move ought not be casually discounted. As a legislative veteran whose service at the state and federal levels goes back almost 20 years, she well understands that the coming investigations of administration wrongdoing could well put impeachment back on the table.

McKinney knows that speaks for a great many House Democrats who, while they may currently be honoring their leadership's calls for caution on the issue, fully recognize that the president and vice president need to be held to account for their disregard of the rule of law and their Constitutionally-defined responsibilities. Remember that McKinney, who lost a primary runoff earlier this year, was just one of 38 members of the House who cosponsored a resolution submitted last year by Congressman John Conyers, the Michigan Democrat who will take charge of the Judiciary Committee in January, to create "a select committee to investigate the Administration's intent to go to war before congressional authorization, manipulation of pre-war intelligence, encouraging and countenancing torture, retaliating against critics, and to make recommendations regarding grounds for possible impeachment."

McKinney has laid down the gauntlet. She is leaving Congress in a few short days. Will one of her honorable colleagues pick it up and carry the mantle into the next Congress, or will they allow the Constitution and the Republic to whither and die on the ground next to the rule of law that Bush, Cheney and Rice have desecrated?

As for Cynthia McKinney, her tenure in congress may be ending, but her career as an advocate for justice and for the American people is only beginning.

Read Cynthia McKinney's Articles of Impeachment HERE

Click HERE to read the full text of McKinney's Remarks in Congress