Category Archives: Useful quotes

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.

Where Failure Ends and Success Begins

Someone, who someone else felt was wise enough to quote, said ,”You only truly fail in life when you stop trying”. I mean that’s not rocket science, so I’ll go with that.

So much that throughout my sojourn in prison, as I continuously try to go against the grain and create a masterpiece out of dust, I’ve adopted this quote as one of my life’s mottos. I mean why not. Corporations have mission statements and mottos, think Google’s, “Do know evil.” And human beings need them to, at least I think so. I also like this quote because in my book inactivity is death. I mean dang, do something even if that something doesn’t work at least you tried.

With this in mind I recently had the chance recollect on some of things that I have tried to make happen over the years but didn’t succeed at. At the time I counted them as failures but today I’m not so sure .

What got me to thinking about this was that the prison where I

am recently had its annual shakedown. For those not in the know, all

prisons in Texas have periodic shakedowns where the COs search inmates personal property for contraband and other prohibited items. How it usually works is that we are confined to our cells from seven to fourteen days and required to pack all of our property in nylon commissary bags and then take it to a designated area where several officers search it, piece by piece. I am pretty sure it goes without saying that it’s a rather dehumanizing process to have all of your personal items, pictures, letters from family, friends, books etc. searched through by a stranger who then decides what you can and can’t have .

Unfortunately it’s one of the indignities that you learn to live with, as being in prison can often be described as the forced endurance of one series of degradations after another.

For me I use the days leading up to the shakedown when we are confined to our cells to go through all my things myself and see what I really need and what I can live without.

In the process of doing so I came across three projects I had worked on in the past that I wasn’t able to do with what I initially set out to. The first was a cell phone wrist watch that I designed and actually tried to write my own patent on. While still in the patent pending stage, I submitted my invention idea to a few companies including Motorola and LG communication and collected a folder full of fancy rejection letters written on 100% cotton paper. And not long after that, the US patent office hit me with my first office action which unfortunately I didn’t have the technical knowledge to overcome and ended up abandoning my application.

Yet now that the Thomas Edison bug has bit me I feel like I got a few more better mouse traps up my sleeve and I am just waiting on the right opportunity. Plus I learned three crucial things about inventions and patents in the process 1. You need to do a exhaustive prior art patent search before filing. 2. Make sure your patent application is airtight with adequate claims. 3. A working prototype works a hundred times better than a pretty picture.

Now don’t get me wrong, this was pretty expensive knowledge considering the filing fee and research time. But when I invent the next I-Phone, it will be well worth it.

Besides this particular incident with inventing there was the time back in 2002 when I was watching a Nike commercial and thought, “Dang, I can come up with something better than that.” That thought prompted me to write the “No Limit Commercial”, which I copyrighted and submitted to Nike’s co-founder and billionaire Phil Knight. Nike told me I had to get with their advertising agency who really didn’t like the ideal of little old me poaching on their turf by suggesting ideas to their number one client. But like they say, it’s haters everywhere in the corporate suites.

Not easily deterred, lightening struck a third time when I designed a pair of tennis that I felt would fit well with either Tommy Hilfiger or Phat Farms casual clothing lines. But the fish weren’t biting.

Still each failure left a small seed of success. Seeds that I’ve been able to replant and try again with. While the validation of having come up with a great product would’ve been nice, not to mention the monetary payoff cause you already know a brother gifted but broke.

Damn, don’t that sound like a T-shirt logo? But on the cool I feel like these still births are paving stones on the road to success. And that the ability to make love to your intellect and birth your ideas is a reward within itself.

No Limit Commercial

Tennis Nike

WatchWatch 2Phone

Criticism Filter

THINKIf you’re like most people, myself included, it’s easier for you to give out criticism to others then it is to receive it yourself.

In one sense I think we all wear blinders and rose-colored shades when it comes to our own shortcomings. I also think because most of us don’t consider a lot of the criticism we receive as good criticism (meaning factual and true), we out-right reject it. If you are hip you might use the universal ego booster via hip-hop lingo, “They just hating on me.” However, there is usually a trace of truth in even the most virulent criticism that we receive – truth that has the potential to help us grow and mature into our full potential

Yet since we are bound to dish it out – more than take it, I came across a acronym called THINK that I feel we would each be wise to use next time we get ready to tell someone off. THINK stands for, Is it: True, Helpful, Inspirational, Necessary, and Kind.

Just THINK about it when we find ourselves on the business end of someone’s sharp tongue-Most of us would prefer that their words be, True, Helpful, Inspirational, Necessary and Kind. As opposed to Harsh, Hurtful, Mean, Sarcastic and Unkind.

I   know   I   would!

So remember – is it

T True
H Helpful
I  Inspirational
N Necessary
K Kind

THINK before you address someone!

The Company We Keep

The other day somebody dropped this jewel in my lap and I wanted to share it with you:

“He who walks with wise men (or women) will be wise” — Proverbs 13:20

The company we keep

It is Better to Be Alone Than in the Wrong Company

Tell me who your best friends are, and I will tell you who you are. If you run with wolves, you will learn to howl. But, if you associate with eagles, you will learn how to soar to great heights. A mirror reflects a man’s face, but what he REALLY is like is shown by the kind of friends he chooses. The simple, but true fact of life, is that YOU become like those with whom you closely associate-for good or for bad.

The less you associate with some people, the MORE your life will improve!

Anytime you tolerate a compromising attitude in others, it increases your compromising attitude. An important attribute in successful people is their impatience with negative thinking and negative acting people. As you grow, your associates will change. Some of your friends will not WANT you to go on. They will want you to stay where THEY are. Friends that don’t help you climb…will want you to crawl. Your friends will stretch your vision,or choke your dreams. Never receive counsel from unproductive people. Never discuss your problems with someone incapable of contributing to the SOLUTION, because those who never succeed themselves… are always first to tell you how and why you can’t. NOT everyone has the right to speak into your life. You are certain to get the worst of the bargain when you exchange ideas with, the wrong person. Don’t follow anyone who’s not going anywhere. With some people we SPEND our time, with others we INVEST it. Be careful where you stop to inquire for directions along the road of life-Wise is the person who fortifies his life with right friendships.

Happy moments? Praise God

Difficult moments? Seek God

Quiet moments? Worship God

Painful moments? Trust God

Every moment? Thank God

— Author Unknown —

Harris County Justice

If you’ve read, “Railroaded In Harris County” by Dell Robinson, you already know a good deal about Harris County’s unique brand of Justice. Just as I do myself, being a casualty of this convict-at-all-cost, truth-be-damned conviction machine.

A December 9, Houston Chronicle article about LaDondrell Montgomery let me know just how widespread this problem is. And that, like it happened to me in 1998, it was still happening unabated today. Despite all the high-profile exonerations, million dollar lawsuits, innocent commissions, and public pronouncements by district attorney’s and elected officials, essentially nothing had changed – young, poor black men were still being railroaded in Harris County as a result of faulty eyewitness testimony, unethical detectives, overzealous prosecutors, and inadequate incompetent defense attorneys.

Thirty-six year old LaDondrell Montgomery was just the latest example in a long line. Arrested for a 2009 aggravated robbery and identified by eye-witnesses as the robber, he stood trial in front of a Harris County jury, was found guilty and subsequently sentenced to life in prison.

The district attorney, who had just added another notch to his stellar conviction record, shook the jurors’ hands and thanked them one by one for performing their sacred duty. While Mr. Montgomery, who had already had several previous run-ins with the law, was led away to begin serving a long lengthy prison sentence, one that wouldn’t allow him to even be considered for parole until he was 66 years old in 2040.

A silent hip hip-hooray could be heard from the small but resolute, “get tough:on crime” crowd, who were fond of saying “you do the crime, you do the time.”

Curiously, their manifesto never mentioned anything about when you don’t do the crime, yet still wind up with the time?

It turned out that was the case with Mr. Montgomery. While the ”eye witnesses” were on the stand testifying in painstaking detail about his actions on the night of the robbery, actions that took place while he was already in jail for another charge.

When judge Mark Kent Ellis learned about this ironclad alibi, he hit the roof, “it boggles the mind that neither side knew about this during the trial. Both sides in this case were spectacularly incompetent.”

Fortunately for Mr. Montgomery, this information was brought to light as it led to his conviction being overturned and dismissed.

But none of that changes the fact that he was accused. Tried, convicted and ultimately sentenced to life. L-I-F-E IN P-R-I-S-O-N

For this to happen exactly how many people had to fail in our “just”, unfaultable justice system. A system where we are taught that only the guilty are arrested, tried, and convicted.

First, the police officers and detectives failed in arresting the wrong man.

Next up was the prosecutor, who is supposed to be a advocate of justice.

Then the criminal defense attorney, who couldn’t even succeed in defending a innocent man.

The eye-witnesses who positively identified the wrong man even though they said they were 100 percent certain it was him while on the witness stand.

The twelve law abiding supposedly reasonable-minded, average citizens of Harris County who were chosen to hear the alleged “facts” of the case and to then render a decision.

Collectively they represent the criminal justice system and they all failed, each and every one of them. And as a result a innocent man was sentenced to life in prison.

While you think about that, ask yourself what would’ve been the outcome if Mr. Montgomery had been at home with his wife and 2 year old daughter on the night of the robbery, instead of the Harris County jail an alibi so air-tight that even a creative prosecutor couldn’t refute it?

Had he been at home with his family instead of in jail, the prosecutor would’ve convinced the jury with superior oratory skills coupled with righteous indignation that his wife was simply lying to protect her husband and the jury would’ve believed him.

And LaDondrell Montgomery would’ve been another innocent man in Texas prison with a life sentence for a crime he didn’t commit and nobody would’ve cared. After all he was indicted by a grand jury and tried by a jury of his peers. They had to have had some evidence or he never would’ve been indicted, or convicted at trial, right?

Wrong.

I’m a proof of it, as so is LaDondrell Montgomery.

Montesquieu said, “There is no crueler tyranny than that which is perpetrated under the shield of law and in the name of justice.”