Tag Archives: world

A Righteous Stand

Righteous standI stand unified with the MEN of Pelican Bay in support of the strong stand they have taken to secure what Thomas Jefferson called, “inalienable rights” by the holding of mass hunger strikes.

Beginning on July 8, 2013 over 3000 MEN currently held in the California Department of Corrections refused to eat for 9 consecutive days in a effort to receive improved conditions.

The focal point of this movement is the Pelican Bay Security housing unit where MEN are tortured psychologically 23 hours a da by being confined to their cells.

You see, as a incarcerated MAN myself, I know what the public don’t care to know. Which is that prisons are harsh, hostile places designed to completely crush the souls in their charge. Places where most men and women leave out worse than when they arrived. Someone once remarked that most people misunderstand the design and constructions of prisons; they think the fences and towers are strictly to keep inmates in, while never realizing they are equally there to keep the people out. Because much of what’s done couldn’t stand up under the harsh glare of public scrutiny.

This is the sad state of Corrections within America. It’s also noted even within the same state some prison are much, much worse others. Such is the case with Pelican Bay. The first time I ever heard of Pelican Bay was when the scandal broke involving several guards who were running a gladiator school at the prison by placing rival gang members in the same cells and forcing them to fight while the guards watched and took bets.

In a place with this type of history it didn’t surprise me that conditions at the facility are so deplorable that a group of MEN have declared, ”Give me liberty or death.” According to the United States Constitution the people have the right to petition the government for redress. But when these people happen to be incarcerated MEN, the powers that be have taken an adverse position that seeks to escalate rather than deescalate the situation simply by fixing the problems.

Bureaucracy being bureaucracy, they have refused to meet any of the inmates five reasonable demands:

*  Eliminate group punishments for individual rule violations.

*  Abolish the debriefing policy

*  Comply with the 2006 recommendations of the US Commission
on Safety and Abuse in Prisons

*  Provide Adequate food

*  Expand and provide constructive programs and privileges
for indefinite SHU inmates.

The California department of corrections response to these reasonable demands and calls for human rights has been to petition the Federal Courts for permission to force-feed the 70 remaining inmates still striking in a effort to keep them from starving themselves to death. Wow! And to think this is what’s going on while most people sit around the water cooler discussing the latest occurrence on hit TV Show Scandal or Under the Dome. Men are starving themselves to death to secure their human rights while politicians debate how to stop Bashir Assad in Syria from violating the human rights of his people. The old people use to say, that’s the pot calling the kettle black. How can we concern ourselves with human rights abuses around the world without concerning our­selves with the human rights abuses right here at home. The media will show you on every station several times a day what Bashir Assad is doing to his people but want show you what your tax dollars doing to your own people. But that’s what those fences and towers are for to keep you out.

When the supposed enemy combatants held at the military base in Cuba went on hunger strikes to protest their conditions, our governments response was to petition the courts to force-feed these men. Now the same thing that was done to supposedly enemy combatants is being done to United States citizens in California – and you don’t have a problem with that, but have one with what’s going on in Syria, Egypt or elsewhere in the world. Something’s severely wrong with that.

Russian writer Feodor Dostoevsky said, “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”

How civilized are we?

Who, Me, A Patriot?

When the Olympics began this year, as always I planned to watch a few key events. Most notably those centered around particular athletes that I admire and have been keeping up with in the papers: Gabby Douglas, Alison Felix, Clarissa Shields, Sonya Richardson to name a few.

This is because while I like sports in general, I am more of a personality person, and will normally watch a baseball, basketball, football etc. game because I like and admire a particular athlete.

A patriot

Nevertheless, as the Olympics got on the way I noticed a curious sentiment in myself. The sentiment of patriotism. I was shocked simply because I don’t applaud nor stand for the vast majority of what my country of birth stands for, applauds and agrees with – I don’t agree with the racism, classism, poverty and mass incarceration or the callous disregard for the poor and disadvantaged that’s as American as apple pie. Nor do I believe that a country where less than 1 percent of the population owns over 50 percent of the wealth and 80 percent of the annual income is the greatest country in the world. I’m sorry, but I’m not buying it.

Yet here I was, keeping up with the daily metal count and cheering every time America surpassed China in the number of Gold, Silver, or Bronze metals earned.

Intrigued by my sudden burst of patriotism I began to ask myself where did this intimate bent to chose sides come from? What I call the my side or team is better than your side or team syndrome. Was it nature or nurture?

Something we are born with and something that we learn from the daily doses of indoctrination that every child receives while growing up in a particular society. And more relevant is the question, is this something that we can never completely free ourselves of regardless of how conscious we become?

Now, I am not saying that a mild form of patriotism is itself a bad thing. But I am totally against the zealous, unthinking version that holds everything American as good, and everything and everyone else as bad. This is the foolish embodiment that allows our elected officials to force feed us all types of horse shit, like Iraq had nuclear weapons. While we smile, wave miniature American flags and completely ignore the consensus of the international community. I simply refuse to buy into the American way or the highway mentality that seems so prevalent in much of the country.

As the Olympics progressed, that didn’t stop my heart from racing and blood pressure from shooting through the roof every time an American athlete stepped to the bar.

If self-discovery is truly the greatest discovery of all, while watching the 2012 London Olympics, I learned something new about myself. I discovered that despite everything, I still had some patriotism in me. A surprise even to me.

The Breaking Point


When 23 year old Mohamed Merah went on his bloody Jihadist rampage in the French city of Toulouse that left seven people senselessly dead, three of them children, I wondered if this was how he felt? As if his legitimate grievances and the grievances of his people were continuing to go unheard. Before dying in a hail of gun fire at the hands of French special forces soldiers the young terrorist told a negotiator, ”you kill my brothers, now I’m killing you.”

While it’s probably impossible to pinpoint the exact motives for his attacks, righteous indignation, hatred of French society, or just youthful frustration – I can tell you exactly what is driving the protest that have erupted all across the country in the wake of the Trayvon Martin killing in Sanford, Florida by 28 year old George Zimmerman the trigger happy neighborhood watch captain.

Trayvon who was 17 years old and unarmed when he was gunned down insides of a gated community was killed for being black in a nice neighborhood which in the eyes of George Zimmerman automatically made him suspect.

In America we have DWB (Driving While Black).

Which will get you stopped and possibly ticketed on GP (General Principle).

WWB (Walking while Black).

Which will get you Id’ed and frisked.

And plain old BB (Being Black).

Which in Trayvon’s case got him a bullet in the chest.

Same thing with Emmet Till, Rodney King, Sean Bell.

But as the protest that have rocked this nation from one side to the other following Trayvon’s senseless killing attest.

Black people have reached a breaking point.

We are tired of being murdered by police.

Tired of being murdered by the George Zimmerman’s and Joe Horns of the world.

And tired of being gun down senselessly by each other. Enough is enough.

Like Mohamed Merah in France, the African-American community has reached a breaking point. A point were the pain of doing nothing is far greater than the pain associated with change, meaningful change.

The abolitionist and ex-slave Fredrick Douglass said, “Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of injustice and wrong that will be imposed on them.”

For too long that’s what the black community has been guilty of quietly submitting. Quietly submitting to our sisters and brothers being railroaded by the criminal justice system on trumped up charges, the same justice system that allowed George Zimmerman to walk away after killing a unarmed defenseless black teenager. We quietly submit to the constant assault and killing of black men young and old at the hand of the police. Quietly submit to one form of injustice after another.

Until now, finally the community has reached a breaking point. A point to where all 13.5 million of our voices young and old are saying a COLLECTIVE NO MORE.



Martin Luther King said, “an injustice against one is an injustice against all.”

Which makes us all Trayvon Martin.

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.


A Modicum of Justice

Back in the early stages of my appeals, one of my attorneys, Randy Schaffer, would send out a once a year holiday letter to all of his incarcerated clients. In this letter would be a list of what he termed, “a modicum of justice”. These were clients of his who had received some type of favorable ruling on their case in the courts throughout the year. It was a nice gesture, his way of providing a little holiday cheer to uplift the spirits of those whose situation often seemed bleak and hopeless, and I’m sure every year we all hoped and prayed that we would make the list, at least I know I did.

Political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, the celebrated Philadelphia author, former Black Panther, and anti-death penalty activist, who has been on death row since 1981 after being convicted of killing a white Philadelphia police officer, was charged with what was the ultimate crime at the time, a black man accused of killing a white police officer. Mumia-Abu-Jamal found himself a young urban black man with a anti-establishment political ideology facing a all white suburban pro-establishment jury that was anything but of his peers. Predictably he was railroaded into the tiny death row cell where he spent the next 3 decades fighting every effort of the state and federal government to extinguish his existence.

This three decade long fight for justice has led to Mr. Jamal’s name becoming synonymous with the anti-death penalty movement, not only in the United States but around the world, as the “Free Mumia” movement grew into a world-wide phenomenon.

In December of 2011, these efforts finally bore fruit and faced with very few options the state chose to commute his sentence to life in prison – rather than provide Mr. Jamal a new punishment phase as ordered by the Federal courts, out of fear that such a hearing would further expose the flaws and injustice of the state’s case.

By commuting his sentence, the state provided what Mr. Schaffer would call a “modicum of justice.” No doubt hoping that coming right on the heels of the State of Georgia’s killing of another innocent man, Troy Davis, and the righteous uproar that it provoked that this “modicum of justice” would serve as some type of peace-offering or pacifier that would effectively break the back of the movement.

If so, they’re sadly mistaken. No justice is served or has been served by locking up a innocent man for 3 decades where he was constantly faced with the mental torment of the executioner’s needle and then turning – around and commuting an unjust sentence to life in prison. Malcolm X once said if a man sticks a knife in your back 9 inches and then later has a change of heart and pulls it out 3 inches, should you thank him?

I don’t think so.

Justice will only be served when Mumia Abu-Jamal has not only been freed from his wrongful imprisonment, but completely exonerated and compensated.

Until that day the struggle continues…

…Free Mumia

…Free Mumia

…Free Mumia

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.

R.I.P. “NenaDLaredo”

Marcia Elizabeth Macias lost her young life in one of the most horrendous ways possible, all for her passion. A passion that put her in the crosshairs of Mexico’s powerful drug cartels.

As a blogger known on the internet as “NenaDLaredo” or  ”Girl from Laredo,” Ms. Macias was beheaded in early October, allegedly by military-trained cartel enforcers, known as Los Zetas. She made what proved to be the fatal decision to write about the doings of the cartel in her area, after much of Mexico’s traditional media has been scared into submission by the very real threat of death or bodily harm (6 Mexican journalists have been killed so far this year). Many ordinary Mexican citizens have been forced to become their own journalists and have turned to social media sites such as Facebook, Blogger, WordPress,  and Twitter to find out and discuss the drug war going on around them.

Most of these bloggers like Ms. Macias, who are Mexican citizens and have lived in the shadow of cartel violence the majority of their lives, know the danger of even uttering the word cartel in Mexico. Much less having the gall to actually report on cartel doings going on around them, but still, some choose to do so.

In one of her last online posts, Ms. Macias wrote, ”Hunting ratzzz, if you see where they run, denounce them.” In Mexico the Z in ratzzz is a common way to refer to the Zetas gang, the group ultimately believed responsible for her death.

While like most people, I only have an outsider view or perspective about what’s actually going on in Mexico with the drug cartels, what fascinates me is that Ms. Macias was so committed and passionate about what she was doing that she continued to do it regardless of the personal risk involved.

That takes courage. That takes big King Kong-sized balls, and it’s that type of commitment and courage that inspires and motivates me.

I’m mean, be honest how many of us would’ve stopped blogging immediately, and probably even canceled our internet subscription, then cut the lights off and hid under the bed once we got that first threatening e-mail signed with the letter Z?

If you’re honest, most of us would’ve. But not the Martin Luther King Jr’s, Medgar Evans’, Gandhi’s, or the Girls from Laredo of the world. Who was an average Mexican girl willing to risk the ire of billionaire drug barons that have proved to be more powerful than even the Mexican military. What is it that will make a man stand in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square in China and another to face an Israeli one in Gaza with only a slingshot?

Commitments such as these can only be fueled by an unshakable belief in the rightness of one’s cause, even in the face of certain death. How many of us have that type of commitment to anyone or anything in our lives? Remember the Christians thrust into the Roman Coliseum? Where the only choice was confess Christ and die, or denounce Him and live. How many of us would’ve confessed as so many did and went to our deaths at the hands of hungry lions?

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not looking to piss off a drug cartel any time soon. But I still wonder: if I had to make a decision between the rightness of a cause and my personal safety, which would I chose. Which would you chose?

I also wonder, even as I admire Ms. Macias’ dedication, if her blogging activities were worth it?

Jesus said that, “greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for his friends.” Maria Elizabeth Macias, the Girl from Laredo laid down her life for her friends and touched many in the process .


The highest honor any of us can aspire to.

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.”

American Exceptionism

The occurrence of Americans going abroad and acting like arrogant idiots, and flaunting the laws of foreign countries has seemed to reach an all time high. The mentality of these college educated-who should therefore know better-Americans seems to be that “I can do whatever I want, and if I do something really bad or stupid, the American media will paint me as a victim and old Uncle Sam will bail me out.”

A recent example is Shane Bauer, Sarah Shroud and their friend Josh. Three college-educated white Americans who were in Iraq on their own free will and accord, allegedly to teach English while sightseeing Iraq’s’ natural beauty. Evidently it was this desire for sightseeing that led them to go on a desert hike and “accidentally” cross the Iranian border. A country that America has been slowly and meticulously strangling for decades with crippling sanctions.

For the time being, let’s not even question the logic of going hiking in an active War Zone, where American soldiers were daily returning to their families in flag-draped coffins. Or even the Iranian assertion that the three Americans were spying — which they very well may have been. But forget all that for the time being.

Instead, let’s look at it from the perspective that three Americans illegally crossed into Iranian territory— a crime in Iran and just about every other country in the world. However, the American media immediately jumped on the bandwagon and portrayed them as victims of a repressive regime that was using them as pawns in a high stakes game of political brinkmanship against America.

I don’t think so. Do you know what happens when Mexican citizens cross the American border for any reason illegally? Be they sightseeing, hiking, fishing, or just plain lost? They get arrested and are held by U.S Immigration officials in jails and prisons for months and sometimes years.

So would somebody please tell me why it’s wrong when Iran chooses to enforce its laws and incarcerate Americans who illegally cross its borders? I don’t get it. Have you ever seen any New York Times pieces about the wrongfulness of arresting Mexican citizens who enter this country illegally? And if you think for a second that being in an Iranian prison is worse than being in a American one, then you have never actually witnessed what really goes on inside of the American Industrial Prison complex.

In every article I read, these three Americans were painted as poor suffering victims of a dangerous regime. A regime former President Bush labeled part of an “Axis of Evil”. I mean, come on, these were three educated, well-traveled middle- and upper-class Americans, who knew or should’ve known to respect another country’s laws. But perhaps they felt that being Americans those laws didn’t apply to them.

Exhibit B of Americans abroad behaving badly is Amanda Knox. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know if Amanda killed her roommate. Honestly, I hope she didn’t. But I do know that for a guest in a country she wasn’t a very good one. I have always been taught that when you are a guest be it at someone’s home, or anywhere else for that matter that you should be on your very best behavior. Something we all know Ms. Knox wasn’t during her stay in Italy. And while there are some crazy aspects of the case, what irked me was how the American media was so quick to demonize an entire countries criminal justice system when right here in America we have one of the worst, racist, corrupt and unequal justice systems on the face of the earth. A criminal justice system that has more people behind bars (2 million) than any other developed nation including Russia, China, and supposedly evil Iran put together.

I can tell you first hand that Amanda received more justice in a foreign land then she would’ve in her own, especially if she had been a minority and poor. There would’ve been no donations to her legal defense, Facebook support pages are regular news articles decrying her plight or the injustice of her case. She would’ve been another one of the nameless and faceless that nobody cares about who pack the prisons and jails of this nation and who are presumed guilty until proven innocent.

If you followed the Amanda Knox case and know anyone in the legal profession, or who has been through a criminal trial here in the United States, ask them to rate the quality of our own appeal system to that of Italy’s compared to our own poor quality pay-to-play system, Italy’s like a Rolls Royce to a Ford Pinto.

So while Ms. Knox should’ve been acting like a respectful guest during her stay in Italy instead of flaunting that country’s laws as if they didn’t apply to her, if she was guilty she had better thank whatever God she believes in that she was in Italy where she could count on the American State Department and media to instantly support her innocence claims and to make her a cause célèbre. Once again, it was the case of a poor middle class white American being miss-treated by an unjust government. But this time instead of those blasted American hating Arab Muslims, it was those damn Italians that were to blame. Get for real!

The most recent example of Americans going abroad acting like laws don’t apply to them is the case of Derrik Sweeney, 19; Gregory Porter, 19; and Luke Gates, 21. Three white American Exchange students who attended American University in Cairo, Egypt and were caught on the roof of a building in Tahir Square throwing firebombs at Egyptian security forces. After their arrest the American media propaganda-think-what-I-tell-you machine instantly kicked into high gear, and began decrying these three bright college students who each attended private prestigious universities, one of which had recently interned for U.S.Rep. Elaine Luetkemyer, R-MO, as suffering victims wrongfully arrested in a country in chaos.

Immediately following their arrest the U.S State Department intervened to have them released – a request that Egyptian officials who are dependent on American aid financial and otherwise quickly complied with. No investigation to see if the allegations were true. If these three Americans had really tried to burn Egyptian police officers to death with firebombs, no trial to determine the facts, just a simple “you’re American, you can go.”

Do you know what it’s called in this country when you try to kill a police officer? It’s called Attempted Capital Murder, and with few exceptions the person who commits it, or is accused of committing such a crime can expect a long prison sentence, coupled with public outrage that anyone had tried to harm a peace officer, the very people who protect and serve us and keep our communities safe from the evil among us. Obviously this sentiment only applies to American police officers, and not Egyptian ones.

Can you imagine what the fallout would’ve been if three Egyptian young men around the same age as the September 11 attackers stood on the top of a building during one of the recent Occupy Wall Street protest and threw firebombs at NYPD police officers? Not only would they be labeled as Muslim terrorist, even if they knew as much about the Koran as a backwoods fundamentalist preacher in Sweetwater, Texas, but the Attorney General, FBI, and Homeland Security agency along with every American media outlet beaming the threat of Muslim terrorist out to kill American police officers into living rooms around the country. On top of this it would become harder for foreigners to get student visas and the men would be facing life sentences without the possibility of parole.

Had they been Egyptians, U.S Rep Luetkemeyer would’ve been making statements like the one he did about Derrik Sweeney when he said that he was ”extremely pleased that he’s safe and coming home.”

Or the one made by Mr. Sweeney’s mother Joy, “I can’t wait to give him a huge hug and tell him how much I love him. He’s a writer; he will write about this experience. I’m sure that he’ll put a life-lesson learning experience into a positive story.”

Imagine that? Your son is arrested for trying to burn up a police officer with a firebomb/but sense it’s just a foreign police officer it’s a, ”life-lesson learning experience.”

After all he’s an exception, he’s American.

Go to a foreign country, get high, party and possibly have something to do with murdering your British roommate, it’s okay, she’s American.

Cross another countries border illegallyintentionally or otherwise. “Oh Gosh it’s no big deal is it? I mean if it is, I’m a American.”

So if you want to do something really stupid and get a-way with it, first get a passport, preferably a student visa, pick a point on the globe and get arrested for XYZ. Then quickly contact the U.S Embassy (Kudos if you happen to get arrested in a country without a U.S Embassy then you’re really a victim), who will immediately notify the media. Claim you’re a victim of anti-Americanism and you’ll likely be home for the holidays.