Category Archives: Economics

Same Old Soup

same old soupFor a brief moment try to imagine this. You are a poor Hispanic or African-American in any of the this nation’s high-crime, impoverished, predominately minority neighborhoods; Watts, South Central, 3rd Ward, Southside, Chicago, Brooklyn, New York. I’ll let you pick your own poison.

Now on top of being a poor racial minority let’s say you’re unemployed and like to hang around your neighborhood and maybe even smoke marijuana and drink alcohol to ease the pain of a constrained existence.

One day while hanging out at the local barbershop, corner store,  nightclub etc, a guy you kinda, sorta know-one of those friends of friend’s cousin’s baby-moma type of things. But this guy approaches you, it has been a while since you last saw this friend of a friend and by all appearances it looks like he’s doing well for himself. After shooting the breeze for a few, he asks you what you into, how you getting by. Since that’s all you doing is getting by, there really isn’t much to tell him. Before long he’s flashing his bankroll and telling you what he’s got going and asking if you’re interested. This is like asking a man lost in the middle of the Sahara desert in 115 degree temperatures if he would like some water. You think?

Still, this’ the streets so you got to keep your game face on. So you pretend to think about it for a while then say what the hell. Why not, you’re broke, unemployed with little future prospects – I mean what do you have to lose? And according to your new buddy from around the way he knows a guy who has a lick (robbery) set up. Supposedly there’s this cartel stash house with 20 to 30 kilos of cocaine plus a few hundred grand inside, but this friend of a friend’s friend needs some guys to do it. He can’t do it hisself because the people inside know him.

Wooed by the prospect of quick riches and a escape from the soul-killing poverty that has destroyed and is destroying nearly every person you know, you agree to go along. The only problem is you don’t have a gun, but your new friend waves you off, that’s no problem, and says he will hook you up with one, and since you don’t have a car he’ll even pick you up.

After a brief discussion a date and time is agreed upon and when the time comes, your new buddy who is going to help you get rich picks you up and drives you to the scene of the crime.

A few moments later you and your friend setting down the block from the alleged stash house supposedly casing it out. Eventually your friend reaches in the glove box and hands you a gun while asking you if you ready? You nod, never expecting that nod to cost you the next ten to twenty years of your life.

Before you can get out of the car large red-faced aggressive men in Dupont made Kevlar body armor welding American-made machine guns rush the car and snatch you out, “ATP”, they scream, while slamming you on the ground face first, “you’re under arrest.”

The scenario I just asked you to imagine might sound like a scene out of the latest Triple Crown urban novel, but it’s not. It’s a real life sting operation currently being conducted in these United States of America to unsuspecting potential criminals with the prospect of quick riches.

In these stings, the ATF who selects the alleged criminals to target begin the operation with a paid informant (the friend of friend flashing cash). This informer, paid snitch, legal criminal, introduces the target to an ATF agent who provides the transportation, weapons, along with the who, what, and where of the robbery. Nationwide more than 1,000 people have been duped by the federal government and subsequently incarcerated in these “stash-house” operations over the previous decade.

More likely than not this injustice would’ve continued to rob young minority men of their liberty and the general public would’ve been none the wiser, had US District judge Ruben Castillo not noticed a peculiar thing about all these cases. Of the 26 “stash-house” cases filed in the Chicago Federal courts, all of the defendants were either black or Hispanic.

Which is even more troubling when you consider how these cases begin. Unlike a normal criminal case that begins when a person breaks the law, with these cases the government selects the person, proposes the crime, and provides the means of carrying out the crime.

What they were doing was so blatant that it forces even a conservative Republican judge to conclude that the government was deliberately targeting blacks and Hispanics and to call for a full investigation.

So here it is once again in our supposedly best justice system in the world, in our post-racial no need for Affirmative Action, or voting laws society. Those entrusted with the power of life and death s well as liberty are caught red-anded breaking the laws they are sworn to uphold and targeting the most vulnerable among us .

“You tell me things have changed… and I say not enough.

You tell me justice for all… and I say all who can afford it.

But you tell me a Black man is President… and I say ride through the bedrocks of the ghetto and tell me what that has meant

No Justice…No Peace to me is evident

Upset you turn away…scream why can’t I see?

Oh but I do see that our ideals are myths

Myths propagated to make me behave…

and send me passively to my grave

Perhaps some would say even make me a slave”

While operation “stash-house” as reported in the USA Today, Friday August 2, 2013 edition might surprise some people. For most blacks and Hispanics living daily up under the heavy arm of the law, this story was nothing more than a mainstream expose of of their day to day reality.

Help Wanted/Position Open

Position Open


BETWEEN 8 and 5 PM

Is it just me or does this often seem like the job description of life when we are asked to do the impossible?

What IS Black?

Is being black an act?

Is it a walk, or talk or, better yet, an attitude?

Maybe it’s the way you dress, or the car you drive?

Does being black equate a life of stress?

Is Clarence Thomas Black? What about Republican J.C. Watts?

What does being black mean?

Does being black meaning standing on the corner smoking marijuana?

Why or Why not?

Does it mean embracing the fictional American Dream?

A dream that was only intended for a few

Does it mean getting a so called good education?

To prepare you for a good job

Or getting the Clock and ski mask to rob?

Does being black mean dying young, or being strung out on crack?

How about doing time in jail?

Does it mean black women raising kids alone,

Or leading the country in rates of HIV?

Will someone please explain this to me

Or just answer the question…

What is Black?


Reprinted from “A Windowless Room” by Kenneth West, Trafford Press

119,000,000 Dollars For That?

Call me unrefined, crude, even barbaric, if you will. I can take it, because I’ve no doubt been called worse. Whatever the case may be, I couldn’t help but shake my head and continue shaking it when I read that Norwegian artist Edvard Munch 1895 ‘The Scream’ went up for sale at high-end auction house Sotheby’s on May 2, and sold for a record 119,000,000 million dollars.

The picture or some version of it has been reproduced in one form or another by everyone from Macaulay Culkin, Homer Simpson, Andy Warhol to Wes Craven in his horror films of the same name. If for some reason you’ve missed it, please refer to the four original versions below.

Allright, now that you’ve seen it, can you or anyone else please tell me why anybody in their right mind would pay any millions for it, let alone 119 million? Because I am obviously missing something here.

For those of us who need a refresher of exactly how much money a 119,000,000 million dollars is, or what you can buy with it, here’s a primer.


$50, 000 for 4 years of college at a public university

$150, 000 for 4 years of college at a private university

You could pay for 2,380 degrees at a public university, or 714 at a private such as Harvard or Yale.

You could buy 6 Gulfstream 8 passenger jets for 20 mill a piece

119 3-bedroom loft apartments at 1 million a pop

238 5,500 square feet homes in Houston for $500,000 each


1 393-unit multi-family luxury apartment complex for 73 million

Or you could just buy Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”. Maybe being a product of the inner city where the closest most people get to any type of art is a cheap framed poster from Wal-Mart. I just don’t get it. But this seems like a no-brainer to me.

Other Outrageously Prices Art on The Market:

Author’s Note: For the record, if you’re reading this and you happen to be one of those rich tycoons with more money than you know what to do with and you decide to buy one of these pictures , excuse me, masterpieces. I feel it’s only fair that for making you aware of these ‘great works’, I receive a small commission off the sales price – how about 10 percent and we’ll call it even.

Sources: Wall Street Journal and Getty Images


Stand Up And Be Counted, or Just Shut Up

“We are not comparing the President to the Almighty. We are comparing him to the alternative.” Vice-President Joe Biden

Read the Vice-President’s comment again and then think about it. Because that’s the heart of what the 2012 presidential election between incumbent Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney is all about.

While President Obama has proved to be far less of a miracle-worker than most people initially thought he was, he has made some significant positive changes. Changes that have had a tremendous effect on everyday people instead of simply benefitting the rich and powerful as the bulk of Bush and other Republican policies normally do. Which, if you ask me, is really what most Republicans and wealthy Americans are really upset about, the leveling of the playing field. Just for a moment, forget that nonsense about humans being basically altruistic and the few working for the greater good of the whole because it just isn’t a reality.

Ask yourself this, if your team is already winning, why on earth would you be interested in rewriting the rules of the game to allow other teams to be better able to compete against you? If you’re honest the truth is you wouldn’t want any type of change, but would simply be happy with the status quo.

Malcolm X said, “If your enemy is for it, be extremely wary of it.”

The fact that nearly every Republican has been staunchly opposed to virtually every policy that President Obama has put forth, regardless of how many Americans the policy would benefit. Should show you exactly whose interest the Republican party is concerned with, those of the rich, upper-class, and well- connected. A group that’s overwhelmingly white.

J.P. Morgan, one of the original “Robber Barons”, once told a reporter, “the public be damned.”
For over half a century, the Republican party has been saying the exact same thing to the average American:
“Go straight to hell.”
You lost your job and can’t pay your bills?
“Go to hell.”
Your employer doesn’t offer health care?
“Go to hell.”
The CEO of your publicly traded company made more than the company?
“Go to hell.”

But if you care about being able to get adequate health care should you ever need it, the choice is clear.

If you care about billionaires paying less in Federal taxes then their middle class secretaries, the choice is clear.

If you care about you or any one of your loved ones being able to earn a college degree from a decent college, even if Momma and Daddy don’t have a extra hundred grand laying around, the choice is clear.

If you care about the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer and nobody giving a damn, the choice is clear.

If you care about having a president that represents the interest and concerns of everyday people and not just corporate Big Wigs like the former 200 million dollar net worth CEO of Bain Capital will do, the choice is clear.

If you care about what happens to you and your family, your community, city, state and nation then you will stand up and be counted-voteand let your voice be heard.


Because whether you participate in it or not, or even believe in it like Sam Cook sung, “A Change Is Gonna Come.”

It may not come in 4 years or even 8 for that matter, but a change is going to come, oh yes it is.

President Obama isn’t a perfect president but he has enough wisdom and humility to admit it, “I told you in 2008 that I wasn’t a perfect man, and I will never be a perfect president.” So even though he readily admits that he’s only human like the rest of us, I believed in President Obama. in 2008, and I still believe in him in 2012.


A Negative Export

If you remember high-school economics 101, one of the things that was repeatedly stressed was that America has a negative trade deficiency – which means, stripped of all the Adam Smith economic jargon, that Americans buy more of other people’s junk from around the world then they buy ours.

Still, there is one product, good or bad, that the United States excels in exporting and that’s Western culture. American movies, music, and clothing styles can be found in homes from South Korea to Ghana, Africa.

With the tendency of some foreign cultures to embrace all things American, I was disappointed when I read a Dallas Morning News article about Iraq’s youth tragic embrace of American gangster culture. Which is really a subculture birthed by those who were initially excluded from full participation in mainstream society and today is tolerated and sometimes promoted in certain niches of the country.

The article stated that 8 million Iraqis, or a quarter of the population, was born after the 2003 US invasion. These kids grew up seeing the perceived bad-ass American soldiers totting machine guns with ripping heavily tattooed biceps, talking trash, sprouting slang and seemingly kicking ass and taking names. What kid wouldn’t want to imitate that? Which would you want to be: the father or uncle who gets stopped, frisked and possibly slapped around, or the bad ass gun totting American soldiers? As a result an entire segment of the youthful population set out to be like these American soldiers.

It’s no different in American ghettos and inner city communities where the only people who appear to be making any type of tolerable existence are the ones involved in some type of illegal activity, with no doctors, lawyers, or entrepreneurs role models. Kids in this environment too often grow up wanting to be drug dealers, gangsters, pimps, and players all to their own detriment and the harm of the community.

Now sadly this cancer of— gangsterism — has been exported all the way to Iraq via the occupying American soldiers. In the article Iraq youth are going around calling themselves, “hustlers” and “gangsters”, listening to 50 Cent and Eminem and getting tattoos in record numbers. One Iraq teenager, Adnan, said, ”all young men in Sadr City wear the same clothes when we hang around. Nobody minds. And we’re invited to weddings and celebrations where we perform break dancing.”

As fascinated as Americans are with gangsters and crime, most Americans are average Joes and Jills who work regular 9 to 5 jobs and are content to live their gangster/mob fantasy from the comfort and safety of their living rooms via cable TV (think Sopranos).

But for men like myself who actually crawled up and out of the rat infested gutter of gangster culture, with its violent dog eat dog, do you before you do me-mentality. I’ll be the first to tell you that it’s far, far from the glitter and glamour that Hollywood and a handful of rappers portray it to be.

Last month one of my best friends was laid in the cold hard dirt as a result of this lifestyle, and he was but one of many. Others who like myself avoided an early grave are locked in prison cells serving sentences two and three times as long as they’ve been alive. Imagine being 25 with a 90 year sentence or 21 with a 55 years sentence, and you will understand what’s really happening with the gangster lifestyle. Nothing but death and destruction and wasted potential and human misery.

In certain circumstances and environments, being a gangster is an adaptive measure, a response to the inner city jungles that society has locked so many of its underclasses into. Places where some are forced to become predators and others prey. When giving the choice the majority who are able to chose to become predators as opposed to prey. Which is why you can find so many armed dangerous young men in every ghetto of the country. The mentality is that the accident of birth put me into this jungle and it’s up to me to survive this concrete jungle by any means necessary.

But outside of those extreme circumstances and environments, to willingly adopt a lifestyle with the primary destination being the graveyard and prison cell, is beyond illogical. As crazy as the billionaire we see going to jail for stealing money.

I am all for seeing America’s trade deficiency decrease, but not at the expense of the world’s youth. Like lead based paint and asbestos some things need to be completely taken out of circulation—gangsterism—is one of them.


Why I Gave $3 to Obama’s Campaign

As a disenfranchised African American, with a status not much different from my slave ancestor, I felt compelled to support President Obama in one of the few ways that I could, with a small campaign contribution from my meager finances.

100 hundred copper pennies — added up to $3 dollars.

Three dollars invested toward hope and change.

Three dollars toward all Americans being able to receive decent health care regardless of their net worth.

Three dollars toward a government that’s for the people, all the people. And not just the rich 1 percent.

Three dollars toward withdrawing American soldiers out of Iraq and ending a senseless war that destroyed a country, cost a catastrophic number of Iraqis their lives along with the lives of 4,500 hundred young Americans.

Three dollars toward my daughters being able to go to college and get a decent education.

Three dollars toward the world getting a up close and personal view of the new American black man, smart, intelligent, educated, well spoken, accomplished and comfortable in the halls of power with his attractive, equally educated and accomplished wife and children at his side.

I don’t know about you, but in my book that’s $3 well spent.

Why?— Occupy Wall Street

It may be naive or even idealistic, yet I can’t help from believing something is seriously wrong with a economic system that continues to put so much in the hands of so few at the expense of so many. And for too long that’s exactly what has taken place in America, one of the most economically stratified countries on the globe. A nation where 1/6 of the population controls 70 percent of all income and wealth.

Being that these facts on exactly how economically stratified the US is are widely known. Honestly, I’m surprised that it has taken this long for the average American to wake up and come to their senses and blow the whistle and say hold up, foul, no goal .

But that’s exactly what the OWS movement is an awakening by the average American who for too long has been kept divided with insignificant trivial issues. Divisions that have only served to divide the people and benefit the ruling class. By keeping us focused on racism, immigration, gay marriage, abortion and so forth.

We have been so consumed and filled with animosity toward one another over these issues and many others that we’ve been unable, and unwilling to get together with our fellow suffers to compare notes and identify exactly who and what is for us and -against us. Ask yourself, who has this division benefitted?

It has benefitted the 6 percent of Americans who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo by any and all means necessary.

However a funny thing has begun happening. Americans of all shapes and strips have become more and more tolerant, thus making it increasingly difficult for the puppet masters (ruling class) to pit blacks against whites, and whites against blacks, or to blame all of the countries woes on the Mexicans who are supposedly stealing all of the hard working Americans’ jobs(hush don’t mention all the jobs corporate America shipped off to India to save money and increase profits, just say it’s the Mexicans it sounds better), or blame the homosexuals for bringing down the wrath of God, or all the women who have abortions.

It has always been______________________ group that was the country’s main

problem. And the ever shifting story line has been that if we could

just get rid of, or at least deal with__________________________ group all of the

country’s trouble would miraculously disappear.

So although it has taken awhile, a little over four centuries most Americans appear to have finally gotten tired of hating one another.

Ever perceptive as only those with an unstable grip that they don’t want to lose can be. The powers that be were some of the first to recognize “fears of cultural shift” and that the old divide and conquer blame XYZ strategy wasn’t working as well as it once did.

What was their solution? They adopted what I like to call the Al Capone strategy. Ever wonder how Al Capone became one of the most successful and richest gangsters in history? He adopted a strategy that was to basically give everybody a cut from the shoeshine boy who just might overhear valuable information while polishing a client’s shoe to the governor in his mansion. Capone had them all on his payroll.

A variation of this strategy that America’s ruling class has propagated is what I like to call the myth of middle class prosperity.

Which is nothing more than the lie that said, “hey you’re American, you can have a piece of the pie too and basically be just like us. All it takes is a good job and some credit. Want a house? No problem we’ll give you a 30 year mortgage, for interest of course. Want a car, oh a Mercedes just like the ones we drive to show your friends and family that you have made it. That you are a success. No problem we’ll finance that for you tooo your credit not that good. That’s okay, we’ll lease it to you. After all this is America.”

Think about it what better way to neutralize a potential threat or enemy then to convince him to join your team even if it’s only symbolically.

The price for this financed middle class are a few checks from broke, I better not lose my job, I’m be up shit creek-prosperity. Was the ruling class saying okay now look, “you have a BMW and a condominium yourself. Even if you’re in debt up to your eyeballs. You’re prosperous and living the American dream. So just ignore my 100 million dollar compensation package, fifty million dollar Gulfstream II, 30 million dollar yacht, 3 mansions and 2 vacation homes, along with the 3 million I just spent on my daughter’s 15th birthday party. Me and you are just alike and if you work hard you can have everything I have. Really no kidding. Here let’s shake on it, we’re pals right?”

For the better part of 3 decades this twisted logic prevailed. Then the economy faltered, yet while the country’s rich continued to ride around in luxury autos, shop in Beverly Hills, and drink thousand dollar bottles of wine, their middle class pals spiraled to the brink of depression. In some neighborhoods entire streets became deserted as one home after another was foreclosed on, cars were repossessed, and Americans of all ages moved back in with their parents in record numbers. In all between 2007 and 2009 5.2 million American jobs disappeared, and 50 percent of American workers moved into a lower tax bracket earning less than $26,364 a year.

As the so-called middle class which was nothing more than a leveraged myth to begin with slowly begin to shrink. Suddenly the rhetoric of the social critics and gadflies among us began to make more and more sense to a lot of people who would’ve never previously entertained the notion that the deck was stacked, or dice loaded.

But the average Americans decided they too wanted to know: how was it that during the so-called worst depression in recent history while they were struggling to pay for astronomically high gasoline, oil companies like Exxon-Mobile were reporting record high profits? Or how was it that the ultra-rich whose average income was already a staggering 91.2 million saw that income jump a whopping 394 million to $518.8 million? All during the same period that the number of poor Americans increased to 6.7 percent the highest level in 35 years.

If you’ve ever been conned or taken advantage of then you know the sickening feeling that occurs when you finally realize what has happened. Once the people realized that they had been had. Their response came on November 17,at Zuccoti Park in Manhattan when the people got together, black, white, Mexican, Asian, straight, gay, educated, young and old and birthed the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. A movement by the 99 percent to take back our lives, and livelihoods from the 1 percent who have decided that it was their divine right to enslave the rest of us. But the words of an old negro spiritual say, “before I be a slave I’ll be buried in my grave.”

Since the movement begin mainstream media has been quick to ask, ”what is it that the OWS movement wants?” I’ll tell you, a complete renegotiation of the social contract with America. Nothing less will suffice.

Now it’s the people finally asking the right questions, making the right demands, and taking to the streets. And with the old blame some marginalized group, or Al Capone strategy no longer working efficiently. The ruling class has turned to their most faithful weapon in their arsenal; the police.

Who are the upholders of the status quo and who serve as the private army of the 1 percenters in any country. Thus the assaults, pepper sprayings, arrest and harassment. Ordered by those eager to get back to business as usual and their minions who their cash helped elect in the first place. All for a time such as this.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was fond of saying that, “though the arc of history may be long that it ultimately bends toward justice.” Knowing this I’m firmly convinced of the evitable success of the (OWS)movement. As Malcolm X said, “truth is always on the side of the oppressed.”

I firmly believe that just as the dictators who have been falling like dominos in the Middle East, if the financial dictators in this country believe that such inequity will continue to be tolerated. Then just like Saddam in Iraq, Gadhafi in Libya, Mubarak in Egypt, and Assad in Syria they are on the wrong side of history.

Big Ups To Mr. Buffett

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last year or so, most likely you’ve heard of mega-billionaire Warren Buffett’s proposal to raise taxes on America’s rich. An idea that no doubt carries weight coming from the country’s second richest man. Really his proposal is as simple as his investment strategy, which is to use common sense and avoid investments you don’t understand. Common sense dictates if you make more you should pay more, or at the very least your fair share. Something most rich Americans seem to be against as attest by their fondness of offshore accounts, and various other tax shelters.

However, for me personally, I’m content to let the big wigs in Washington squabble it out until they find a solution to the problems they created. Which again, if you think about it, is really just another common sense proposition. They broke it with unnecessary wars, outrageous defense budgets, deregulation, loop holes, tax cuts for million and billionaires and on and on. So let them fix it.

It’s another of Mr. Buffett’s pet P’s, beside taxing the rich that caught my attention. His support for a concept called “Purpose Built Communities”, a community redevelopment nonprofit organization begin by Tom Cousins in Atlanta, GA in the early nineties. That focuses on transforming struggling inner city areas (ghettos) into thriving safe prosperous areas. Because as Mr. Buffett said, “the world does not treat everybody equal at birth. We don’t have the same starting line for people in this country.” But ”when people are finding a way to realize their own potential, when they’re earning their own way,  when kids are getting a decent education, when they don’t have to worry about the area in which they live, I think that does wonders.”

What makes Purpose Built Communities concept of  inner city renewal, redevelopment unique is that   it focuses on all aspects of the community – not just bringing in new retail businesses, or nice clean   apartments without considering the people who have to inhabit them.

Something that I know doesn’t work. I grew up not far from a notorious large housing project in the 3rd Ward area of Houston that the government decided to renovate in the mid-nineties. After the last construction crew left, the once rat-infested, notorious drug havens looked totality different like upscale townhomes. But within a few short years the complex begin to take on its’ former gritty appearance. Why? Because the government fixed the buildings without liberating the people mentally who had to inhabit the new shiny buildings.

I don’t know Mr. Cousins are his background but this is something he seemed to understand. And the model to the communities he builds take a holistic approach that include new houses, apartments, charter schools, parks, community centers, health care facilities, recreational programs, and jobs for those in the community. Because what’s the use living in a brand new apartment full of amenities if you have to send your kids to under performing schools where kids in the 5th grade can barely read or write a complete sentence? Or what good is it to live by great schools that have your fifth grader reading War and Peace if don’t have a job and therefore the money to buy them a copy?

By focusing on all aspects of the individual and family as a whole Mr. Cousins has got it right. As evident by the Purpose Built Communities currently being built in Indianapolis, New Orleans,  Birmingham, Ala; Rome, GA; Galveston, TX, and Omaha.

The success of the redevelopments have prompted Mr. Buffett and the billions that come with him to get involved. “What better can you do with money than to help thousands of people change their lives in a very, very positive way?” said Mr. Buffett.

Finding myself in agreement with Mr. Buffett once again, I understood why he’s affectionately referred to as the ”Sage of Omaha.”