Monday, May 26, 2008

Fela Anikulapo Kuti: Army Arrangement

Fela was brilliant. Band leader, singer, lyricist, xylophone player, keyboard player, sax player, creator of his own political party and candidate for the presidency of Nigeria.

He lived a huge life--huge with artistic glory, and huge with mistakes. But in many ways he's a hero to me: part Duke Ellington, part Rick James, part Thomas Sankara.

Some say that James Brown influenced him, but experts and witnesses claim that Brown's drummer copied the work of Tony Allen (Allenko), co-creator of Afrobeat and Fela's drum/percussion leader.

Enjoy "Army Arrangement." Typical brilliant Fela.

Minister Faust performance poetry: "'Hug' is Not a Verse-itile Word"

I wrote this poem at the end of 2000 for a woman I wanted to date. The poem worked out in the short term (we dated) although things didn't work out between us in the long term (we were like TNT).

It wasn't the first time I'd gone through that poetry-date-relationship-breakup cycle, either. Anyway, it's all for the best as I later met the woman who would become my wife and then we got married and are raising a daughter and we're all happy although I write fewer poems.

Anyhoo... the poem. Yeah, I was asked by CBC's Christine Chomiak to perform it for the network's late night alt-culture show ZeD-TV, and I now present it to you all. And don't freakin' steal it to score with. Make your own freakin' moves (and movies).

UPDATE: Because of an intrepid reader pointing out to me a continuity error on this entry, I have just now corrected the above date. It now correctly reads "2000" instead of "2001," which would have meant an entirely different relationship ("Hug" was written for Sibongile, as I'd hope she recalls). The one from 2001 spawned an entirely different literary reaction inside a subsequent novel.

Minister Faust speaks against Top Ten war propaganda terms

In January 2003, I spoke at a rally in Edmonton, Alberta, against government and corporate propaganda terms being used to justify the then-impending illegal invasion of and war against (i.e., aggression) the people of Iraq.

Globalization's New Logic: The Rise of Developing-World Multinationals

2007 May 2008 - World Politics Review Exclusive

Simon Roughneen writes:

In March, India's Tata Group made headlines with its $2.3 billion acquisition of Jaguar and Land Rover (JLR) from Ford, the latest in a series of high-profile mergers and acquisitions in which well-known Western brands such as IBM, Barclays Bank, Tetley Tea and Corus steel have been bought, in part or entirely, by multinational corporations from developing economies.

Those with a longer historical view might recall that it was private business -- the British East India Company -- that imposed imperial control over the "brightest jewel in the empire," before crown rule was implemented in 1858. With Tata scooping up two high-prestige British brands, a reversal of historic proportions appears to be taking place. Meanwhile, during the recent worldwide credit crunch, sovereign wealth funds, state-run investment vehicles often controlled by resource-rich developing countries, have helped bail out cash-strapped Western financial powerhouses like Merrill Lynch, Barclays, UBS and Morgan Stanley.

In the past, globalization's critics have alleged that the opening up of economic borders is little more than a license for giant Western companies to colonize emerging economies. But recent trends suggest otherwise. In his "The Emerging Markets Century," Antoine Van Agtmael says that the combined size of today's emerging economies will be bigger than their Western counterparts by 2030, which he predicts will help more and more emerging-market companies overtake their rivals in industrialized countries. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), foreign direct investment outflows from developing countries grew from 5.2 percent of the world total in 1990, to 14.3 percent in 2006. Simultaneously, "over 1 billion people are being lifted out of poverty," Harold L. Sirkin, co-author of "Globality: Competing with Everyone from Everywhere for Everything," told World Politics Review.

At the same time, new marquee brands based in the developing world are emerging. Chinese computer maker Lenovo made waves in 2005 by buying IBM's $11 billion PC business. "Big Blue" is now a part of the world's fourth-largest computer manufacturer, whose largest shareholder is the Chinese government. Elsewhere, Indian software outfits Infosys and Wipro have revolutionized the $650 billion technology services industry. In 2006, a takeover of Arcelor, Europe's biggest steelmaker, by India-based Mittal Steel established the world's largest steel company. The newly constituted Arcelor-Mittal is the worlds first steel company with an output exceeding 100 million tons annually. Adding to his celebrity-entrepreneur status, company founder Lakshmi Mittal topped the U.K. Sunday Times' "Rich List," published March 20, for the fourth year running, with assets now valued at over $45 billion. (The Times' list profiles "Britain's richest 2000." Although Mittal retains his Indian passport, he and his family spend much of their time in London.)

These are but the most high-profile examples. Sirkin, who is a senior partner at Boston Consulting Group, said, "high profile M&As aside, there are hundreds of companies from India, China, Brazil and elsewhere that are challenging household-name competitors from the OECD countries, and this challenge is global and growing."

Of course, all this does not mean that Dell or General Motors or Siemens are dead in the water. Far from it. Sirkin's book, due for release June 12, describes a world where "everything, everywhere will be up for grabs, and competition will be just as widespread." In 2006, UNCTAD noted that foreign direct investment in developing economies still exceeds outflow by more than $200 billion.

The global gold rush could be undermined by worldwide recession, however, with the U.S. and EU slowing or already stagnant. Rising food and energy prices are feeding inflation and eating into disposable incomes among the world's rising middle classes. Although it's too early to tell, these trends could undermine some of the base upon which emerging-economy enterprises are building their global strategies.

But for now, emerging economy multinationals are on a roll. Causes vary, but to generalize, for one, economies of scale matter: India and China have very large and growing domestic markets to fuel growth globally. And they have a head start on Western competitors in their home markets. Low local costs coupled with the communications revolution mean companies can go global sooner and faster than was the case in the 1960s-1980s, when German, Japanese and then Asian Tiger businesses came to worldwide prominence.

But it is not all about colonialism-in-reverse. Many companies in the developing world are also expanding into other developing-world markets. On April 25, 2008, for example, a Financial Times story was subheadlined "Could India be about to shake up the global telecoms industry?" The report concerned Indian company Bharti Airtel's bid for Africa's largest wireless company, MTN. The report asserted that "the industry's winners and losers are being increasingly defined by exposure to emerging markets."

A significant and growing proportion of global trade and investment activity runs between developing economies, where massive new middle classes are emerging. An extra 1.8 billion people will join these ranks globally during the next 12 years, according to Foreign Policy editor Moises Naim. With huge and increasingly affluent markets emerging in the so-called BRIC countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China, and across Southeast Asia, companies in these countries are looking to other developing economies as viable markets.

Sino-Indian trade grew 38 percent during 2006, as the former overtook the United States to become the world's second-largest exporter, behind Germany. The World Bank Group estimates that south-south corporate investment more than tripled to $47 billion from 1995 to 2003. Currently it is probably closer to $60 billion. Speaking at the 2006 World Economic Forum, the chairman of India's Satyam Computer Services, B. Ramalinga Raju, told an audience that "culture can be as important to multinational success as capital." Companies used to operating in developing economies have an advantage where American or European companies can be daunted by political instability, corruption and a perception that consumers cannot afford to buy their products.

In addition, the developing world's emerging giants have had to beat not only local competition but Western multinationals as well. And that has meant making profits at prices that Europe and the U.S. would find unthinkable. Greater exposure to competition sets this wave apart from the success of Asian companies during the latter part of the 20th century, where protectionist models allowed Mitsubishi, Samsung and others to grow at home before becoming global players.

Even if developing-world companies do not mount major global challenges, many are having significant success against Western multinationals in serving middle-income consumers at home. Grupo Positivo in Brazil has 18 percent of the domestic computer market, larger than the combined share of Hewlett-Packard and Dell, its two closest competitors.

Tata's acquisition of JLR was preceded by the advent of its Nano, a $2,500 automobile aimed squarely at meeting growing Indian demand for cheap personal transportation. By going low, Tata has set the bar high for other auto manufacturers who are eyeing the 200 million-strong Indian middle class. Low-cost domestic strategies can also lead to success abroad: Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) dominates the Indian market with its small tractors. But a 2006 Businessweek survey showed that two-thirds of the tractors sold in the United States are 70 horsepower or less. Now, M&M is undercutting Deere and other established tractor makers in the U.S. Similarly, Brazilian aircraft maker Embraer utilized its national base to fly past Canada's Bombardier, becoming the world's No. 3 aircraft maker and winning midsize-jet orders that otherwise would have gone to Airbus and Boeing.

Expect current trends to continuing as developing-world companies continue to see the strategic benefits of going global: not only to grow in new markets, but also to acquire the intangible assets like branding and intellectual capital that give Western rivals a competitive advantage, for now. Thus, more combinations of developing-world and Western companies are likely. Sirkin believes developing world companies will continue to "outbid Western competitors" to buy access to new technologies and markets.

(Simon Roughneen is a freelance journalist who has reported from more than 20 countries.)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Watch ETHNIC NOTIONS, the brilliant decoder of race in North American popular culture

The late Br. Marlon Riggs was a brilliant documentarian. Here's his classic work Ethnic Notions, which should be required viewing for North Americans or anybody globally who consumes North American pop culture of any form.

The link to the remaining segments is here.

Thanks, Br. Marlon.

Minister Faust on religion, spirituality, politics, social justice and human rights

Below is a feature conversation recorded for Up Close, an interview progamme on Canada's Christian Television Service. The interviewer is sketch comic and independent filmmaker Neil Grahn. We met at CJSR and then reconvened at Sharifa's Sambusa House, a mainstay in the Somali community here, to discuss religion, spirituality, politics, social justice and human rights.







Thursday, May 15, 2008

Minister Faust speaks about Philip K. Dick

The Word This Week special hosted by Kim Clarke Champniss about visionary SF author Philip K. Dick.

Guests include your truly (a two-time PKD nominee), as well as Jonathan Lethem, Chris Miller, Mark Askwith, Winona Ryder, Michael Bishop, Richard Linklater and William Gibson.




Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Who funds Clibamacain?

Here's the man who SHOULD be the US president

TONIGHT ON THE TERRORDOME: Glen Ford on Barack Obama

6 PM Mountain Time

The candidacy of Barack Obama for the presidential nomination of the US Democratic Party has created a level of interest not seen in the US since, perhaps, that of Robert Kennedy.

Obama is intelligent, handsome, tall, occasionally eloquent, and at the centre of a super-powerful myth-making machine which has cast him as a saviour, a new breed of politician and a new species of post-racial humanity.

For some, the image of Obama says, “The future is finally here!” And for others, the image of Obama says, “The past is finally over.”

But the future is not here, and the past is never really past. And through tonight’s guest, we’ll find out just how true that is. Glen Ford is a journalist and editor, a co-founder of the online magazine The Black Commentator, and a founding editor of the online magazine The Black Agenda Report.

His career in news and broadcasting started early. Ford was only 11 years old when started reading newswire copy on air in Columbus, Georgia, and by 1970, was working as a broadcaster at a radio station owned by James Brown. He later created Black World Report, a syndicated half-hour weekly news magazine, and in 1974 worked for the 88-station Mutual Black Network for which he was the Capitol Hill, State Department and White House correspondent.

In 1977, he co-created, produced and hosted America’s Black Forum, commercial televisions’ first nationally syndicated African-American news interview program, generating international headlines and commanding the attention of White news services such as AP, UPI, Reuters, Agence France-Presse and Tass.

His many successes include the cultural broadcasting of his Black Agenda Reports, Rap It Up, the hip hop show he founded in 1987 which was the first nationally-syndicated show of its kind in the US, and three national hip hop conventions. He’s been an editor and report for three newspapers, the author of the book The Big Lie: An Analysis of U.S. Media Coverage of the Grenada Invasion, and a national political columnist. In 2006, Ford and his writing team left Black to found, an influential online political analysis magazine.

Glen Ford and Black Agenda Report have been at the forefront of analysing what Ford calls Obama-mania. Recognising the historical significance of the Obama candidacy, Ford has refused to be blinded by image and instead to engage substance. For his rigor, Obama’s boosters have vilified him.

Glen Ford spoke with me via telephone from his office in New Jersey on Friday, May 09. I began by asking him to discuss who Barack Obama was before he was elected to the Illinois legislature as a state senator.

Glen Ford addresses the similarities between Barack Obama and the other so-called “new Black politicians” such as Harold Ford, Jr. and Corey Booker—young African-American men masquerading as populists while serving the interests of corporate America.

I also asked Glen Ford to discuss Obama’s position on police brutality, including the 2006 case of Sean Bell, one of three unarmed African-Americans shot at 50 times by police. Bell died from the shooting which occurred on his wedding day. The police were all found not guilty.

ENDNOTE: I just came across this CNN story of a racist anti-Obama t-shirt for sale. Disgusting.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Robert Fisk explains his reasons for retirement

I feel deeply sad that Dr. Fisk has retired, and that it happened many months ago and I didn't even know. He's one of my favourite journalists in the world. His work is of enormous value. It's hard to imagine he'll really stay away from journalism. Who knows?

A fine report, by the way, from the journalists who created the piece.

Here's Fisk on Western corporate media distortion of Hezbollah:

Fisk on Turkey's holocaust against the Armenians... a genocide which Turkey still refuses to acknowledge:

Fisk reflects on the experiences of his career: