Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Music Reviews-Otis Redding, ZZ Top, The Velvetones

Otis Redding
That's how strong my love is
I generally reject the idea that anyone was the best at anything when it comes to art or music. For me, art is about communication and transcendence. If someone can draw you into their world and show you something that you like that's really all that matters. I don't have the interest or the talent to say anyone is the best. There are however some artists who do tempt me to say that they are the best and Otis Redding is one of them. If someone wrote that "Otis Redding is the best soul singer that ever existed" could anyone disagree with that? I mean if you're not Al Green, David Ruffin, Wilson Pickett or Marvin Gaye, could you?  And if you mention D'Angelo or Mayer Hawthorne I'm going to throw something heavy at your head. Seriously. You should duck.

Unfortunately Redding's life was tragically cut short in a 1967 airplane crash that also killed most of the Bar-Kays. So we never got to hear everything that he was capable of doing.  He was really just getting started. I don't listen to a lot of modern R&B. One reason I don't, besides a generalized distaste for pseudo-disco, excessive melisma, synths and drum machines, is that I just haven't heard many modern male singers that have the kind of power and control that was exemplified by classic soul singers and most particularly Otis Redding. He was nicknamed "The Big O". (He stood 6-4 though judging by how some women carried on at his concerts there may have been other reasons for that sobriquet)

Ex-Atty. Gen. Meese Declines to Comment on Operation Fast and Furious

By Allan Lengel

The poor Daily Caller.

The conservative news website, which is bent on bashing Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr., couldn’t get the former Attorney Gen. Ed Meese to do the same, despite attempts. The website tried to get Meese to trash Holder or others in the Justice Department in connection with the flawed ATF operation known as Fast and Furious that let guns walk into Mexico with the hopes of tracing them to the cartels.

“Well I have not commented on it because unless you’re actually there in the Department of Justice knowing everything that went on, it’s very hard to comment on it,” Meese told TheDC. “We all know that it was, that it came to ruin, if you will, that it didn’t work out as it had been anticipated certainly and that there were a lot of problems with it, very serious problems, tragic problems in one case. But, more than that, I don’t know other than what I read in the newspapers so I can’t really comment in detail on it.”

Apparently, the fact that a Republican attorney general wouldn’t trash Holder or others in the Justice Department without knowing all the facts must have come as a surprise to the Daily Caller.

Popularity of Synthetic Pot on the Rise

By Danny Fenster

New trends indicate an increase in the use of dangerous synthetic drugs not currently covered under federal drug laws, reports Business Wire. The new drugs come from the cannabinoid family, closely related to marijuana.

“Simply making the new drugs illegal is not likely to make them go away,” said Dr. Barry Logan, Director of NMS Labs Designer Drug Initiative. ”There is now an established market for these products alongside traditional recreational drugs.”

“The latest trend we are seeing is the appearance of completely new drugs. These new drugs are different in design from the current synthetic drugs and alter the brain’s chemistry by amplifying the effects of normal brain chemicals, producing the same marijuana-like effects,” said Logan.
To read more click here.

The Black Guerrilla Family Gang Aimed to Show a Way Out of the Criminal Lifestyle—Until its Criminal Activities Brought it Down

By Van Smith
Baltimore City Paper
BALTIMORE — “It’s hard to promote black nationalism when you have a black man in the White House,” Thomas Bailey said on Jan. 6, 2009, weeks before Barack Obama was sworn in as the first African-American President of the United States. Bailey, a Maryland inmate serving life for murder, couldn’t have known at the time how prophetic his words were, or that they would end up memorialized in court documents.

As Obama was movings into the White House, court documents show that federal investigators with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in Maryland—a unit dubbed the Special Investigations Group (DEA-SIG)—were kicking into gear a sprawling probe of the Black Guerrilla Family (BGF), the black-nationalist prison gang for which Bailey ran “the day-to-day operations” at North Branch Correctional Institution (NBCI), a maximum-security prison near Cumberland.

When Bailey uttered those prescient words, he was talking over a prison phone at NBCI with Eric Marcell Brown (“Eric Marcell Brown,” Mobtown beat, May 7, 2009), who was on a cell phone at the Maryland Transition Center (MTC), a correctional facility in Baltimore, where Brown was close to finishing a lengthy prison stint for a 1992 drug-dealing conviction. Brown, DEA-SIG investigators wrote in court documents, was “in command of day-to-day operations” in Maryland for the BGF, a national prison gang founded in California in the 1960s by inmate/radical George Jackson, a Black Panther Party member who espoused the black-nationalist view that African-Americans needed to build separate economic and social structures for themselves.

To read the full story click here.

Trial Date Set for Mobster “Whitey” Bulger

By Allan Lengel

And now for the moment all the followers of Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger have been waiting for.
Bloomberg news reports that the federal trial for Bulger,82, who was on the lam for 16 years, has been set for Nov. 5 in Boston. He is accused of killing at least 19 people.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler set the trial date over the objections of Bulger’s court-appointed attorney, J.W. Carney Jr., according to Bloomberg news.

Bloomberg reported that “prosecutors have inundated him with 580,000 pages of documents and 921 tapes of secret wiretaps related to the 48-count racketeering indictment.”

“We can’t possibly be ready,” Carney told the judge. His client didn’t attend today’s hearing.

Can the economy grow without debt?

By Bill Wilson

In high-brow business seminars as well as casual conversations and in every form of discourse in between, there is a strong sense of foreboding; a nagging sensation that something is fundamentally wrong.

There is, of course, no end to the partisan and ideological warriors claiming to know the answer and offering solutions. And, to some degree, this missive must fall into that category.

But I offer no solutions because I am not sure there are any. There is, however, a set of relationships that I believe explain our collective dread. Simply put, the economic, fiscal, and monetary system that has been in place since the end of World War II just doesn’t work anymore. What we expect is not happening. Let’s examine the numbers.

Total debt to GDP
This table is alarming for several reasons, but first we need to study the relationship between total outstanding credit nationwide and the economy to understand them.

Beginning in 1945, the growth in total debt — government, corporate and household — has had a direct relationship to the growth in the overall economy. For 25 years up to 1970, the relationship of total debt to GDP remained relatively constant. True, there were variations. But the relationship remained inside a narrow range of 140 percent to 160 percent.

There was another relationship that was pretty constant as well. For every additional unit of debt we incurred, we saw an equal or greater expansion of GDP — as debt grew the underlying economy grew at an equal or greater amount.

From 1945-1950, GDP grew at 31 percent versus a credit expansion of 20 percent. From 1950- 1955, the economy grew 42 percent and credit 37 percent. And from 1965-1970, GDP expanded 56 percent while credit at 44 percent. During those days, credit expansion was predicated on economic growth.

All’s good. Credit, otherwise known as debt, expanded at varying rates but always related to underlying value. Then, with the stroke of a pen, these basic relationships were changed.
Get full story here.

Conservative Action Project Memo: A Transportation Bill should not be used as an Opportunity to Increase Federal Spending

RE: The next transportation reauthorization is shaping up to be yet another big spending boondoggle. Despite four straight trillion dollar annual deficits, Congress refuses to accept the need to budget responsibly and prioritize transportation spending.

Instead, both the House (H.R.7) and Senate (S.1813) are working on bills that will almost certainly require yet another bailout of the Highway Trust Fund, costing taxpayers tens of billions of dollars. It is unacceptable to exceed Highway Trust Fund revenues by relying on budget gimmicks, fee diversions and unknown future revenues. Any transportation bill passed by Congress should focus on containing costs, reducing federal burdens and turning transportation policy, planning and funding back to the states.

ISSUE IN BRIEF: The 2005 highway bill – dubbed SAFETEA-LU – was larded with earmarks, dramatically increased spending and continued the centralization of control. It was rightly seen as a symbol of how Republicans in Washington had lost their way; and by 2006, many Americans saw no discernable difference between Washington Republicans and Washington Democrats. The current debate is an opportunity for Congress to demonstrate to the American people that they heard the message sent by the American people in 2010.

The facts on the Highway Trust Fund:

• According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), “The financial estimates associated with [the 2005 transportation bill] SAFETEA have proved to be overly optimistic. The highway account has already required three transfers from the general fund totaling $29.7 billion…” A general fund bailout results in an increased burden on taxpayers and an increase in our nation’s debt.

• The Highway Trust Fund (HTF) is funded through various taxes, most notably the federal gas tax, and is projected to take in an average of $38.6 billion per year over the next five years, or $193.2 billion. Any spending above that would require an additional revenue stream or a general fund bailout.

• The CRS also notes, “Using any of these, however, would weaken the claim that road users pay the cost of the federal highway program.” Breaking this link would weaken the ability of small-government conservatives to keep transportation spending in check.

• There is an estimated $15.6 billion of unspent funds the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) that House and Senate drafters rely on to close their funding gap. The use of those funds to offset massive spending should be viewed as typical “Washington bookkeeping.”
No earmarks, but….

Get full story here.

Police Brutally Beat Two High School Students, Then Threaten to “Make Stuff Up” [Video]

Two high school students who were headed to a sports bar for a fun evening out were beaten and arrested at gunpoint by police.

Parts of the arrest of Josh Lawson, 23, and Christopher Franklin, 22, on Nov. 16, 2010 is caught on tape by the officer’s dashboard camera. However, other key moments from the video are missing. The dash camera did not record the moments where the teens were brutally beaten by the police officers, beatings which left their faces bruised and swollen. Both teens maintain that they were kicked in the face and chest.

The dashboard recording shows the two students being helped from the ground and loaded into a police car after they were arrested for allegedly robbing a man a short while earlier.  The two suspects in the robbery were black men, and of course, the two teens were black. However, the clothes the teens were wearing did not match the description of the robbers given to police.

“The only thing they had to fit the description was black males,” said the pair’s attorney, Lizanne Padula. “This was like a meteor dropping down on them.”

One of the officer’s microphone also records him telling the teens, “Yeah, I’m going to make stuff up.”

“It felt like no one was going to believe us,” Franklin told “We were just going to be another statistic.”

The police officers said they were aggressive because they yelled, “‘Stop, Police, show me your hands and get on the ground” and the teens ran. However, the teens say that the officers did not identify themselves as police and they thought they were being robbed.

The two men want changes in the Seattle Police Department. They have also filed a complaint for damages.

NYPD Caught Spying on Al Sharpton, National Action Network

by Dr. Boyce Watkins – Your Black World

It has been reported that the National Action Network (NAN) is considering all legal options after evidence has surfaced that the New York Police Department has been spying on the organization and its leader, Rev. Al Sharpton.

According to the Huffington Post, the NYPD has placed spies outside the Harlem headquarters of the National Action Network and even gone as far as trying to discredit Sharpton by spreading the rumor that he is gay.   The post alleges that the NYPD placed a spy inside NAN meetings to find out how the group planned to protest the acquittal of officers responsible for the killing of Sean Bell, an unarmed black man, right before his wedding.

Paul J. Browne, the NYPD’s spokesman, has confirmed that the organization sought to gather intelligence inside NAN meetings.  He does claim, however, that they weren’t trying to dig up dirt.

“Neither the Rev. Sharpton nor the National Action Network, but a separate individual who was present was the subject of the NYPD Intelligence Division’s interest at the May 3, 2008 meeting in question,” Browne said.

Len Levitt, who wrote the article for the Huffington Post, says that Browne’s statement is inaccurate.
“Two undercover police officers who spied on black protest groups in the 1980s told this reporter in 1998 that the department was so intent on discrediting Sharpton that they were tasked by their superiors to spread rumors that he was homosexual.”

“The NYPD’s spying actions are an intolerable abuse by law enforcement, and remind us of the bad days when J. Edgar Hoover recklessly spied on Dr. King and other Civil Rights leaders in the 1960s,” said Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League.

NAACP President Ben Jealous said this: “If NYPD is spying on civil rights leaders, it is outrageous and must be stopped.”

Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr. said: “African American leaders have historically been the subject of unlawful spying by law enforcement officials seeking to discredit our leaders and our movement. The revelation about the New York Police Department spying on Rev. Al Sharpton and the National Action Network in 2008 are wrong — Police Commissioner Kelly, as he promised over a year ago, must issue a full fact finding report on the matter, fully disclose the spying activities of the police department and make restitution to Rev. Sharpton and NAN for this invasion of privacy.”

We all know that Al Sharpton is not perfect.  I have given honest critiques of the good and bad of Sharpton in the past.  Also, as the son of a 25-year police veteran, I’ve been able to obtain some understanding of that which is necessary to do proper police work.

But these allegations are, without question, disturbing.  There’s credibility to what Levitt is saying, in large part because our government has made an historic living by spying on high-profile African Americans.   Almost no one can bring a crowd together like Al Sharpton, and there is almost no bigger threat to the NYPD.

While it is not entirely clear whether NAN has grounds for a lawsuit against the NYPD, this should give us a moment of pause to understand the imagery we see when it comes to African Americans who are visible in the public eye.  Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are presented to us, in some cases, as clowns who are hungry for media attention.  Many of these images are manufactured by oppressive forces who become concerned about the idea of African Americans becoming empowered and fighting for their rights.   Both Jesse and Al are strong, intelligent men, and many of the media portrayals are highly inaccurate.

I recall being told by a high ranking police official that because speak openly about politics and black empowerment, I was probably in quite a few police files. This comes with the territory and we should never underestimate the degree of treachery with which the state will pursue its objectives.  Neither NAN, nor Al Sharpton, deserves to have their rights violated in this way, and this incident should open the door for a broader investigation.

Jesse Jackson has it right that there should be a full fact-finding mission on this issue.  I argue that there should be a federal investigation.  If the NYPD or any of its leadership went outside the law in any way, heads should start rolling immediately.