Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Fallacy of 40 Acres and a Mule

I find it appropriate to address this subject now, as it is near the end of Black history month. I don’t know how folk will take it, but I am without a doubt certain that Carter G. Woodson would approve and appreciate the thought processes engrained in what I am about to state.

At least twice this month (and I won’t go into the number of times over the years), I have heard several claims that Africans in America, or at least freed slaves were promised 40 acres and a mule upon emancipation. I have read references to such scantly; however, I have been unable and unsuccessful, even in light of my penchant for research and detail, to verify such.

What I can say accurately is that during the period of and after the civil war, the radical Republicans as they have been called throughout history really had only one interest, which was not slaves or black folk, but rather the goal of using the military might of the union (North) to destroy the plantation aristocracy of the south and bring in a new area of capitalist democracy by ensuring that blacks could both vote and own property. This is where the idea of forty acres and a mule originally started.  But Democrats, like then Editor of the New York Tribune like Horace Greeley were against this in mass. See, although they were upset with Southerners, they felt, to use Greeley’s words that: “because the wealthier class of southerners, being more enlightened and humane than the ignorant and vulgar are less inimicable to the blacks,” that former slaves should never be given land or property in any form especially from the confederate rich.

In fact when the republicans tried to force property confiscation in the initial acts of Reconstruction in 1867 (against the desires of moderate Republicans), when ThaddeusStevens brought the “40 acres” measure to the floor in the House, it receivedless than 40 votes.

Although history books tell us that folk in the north were on the side of slaves and against slavery, they fail to mention specifically how their views, votes and politics were never behind and would never tolerate giving black folk land – specifically the property of former confederate rich white folks. Even that democratic weekly THE NATION noted that by giving the land of rich men to poor ignorant Negroes would shock and destroy America’s entire political system and lead to the destruction of liberty for all Americans (In The Era of Reconstruction 1865-1877 by Kenneth Stampp, 120-130).

With this kind of NATIONAL sentiment, it is easy to see why 40 acres was never made law and really never promised to freed blacks.  Not to mention it should have been obvious seeing it is well know that the Emancipation Proclamation (January 1, 1863) excluded freeing slaves in Union states and those stats in the South behind union lines.

What this means is that without any land redistribution or confiscation, slaves would still remain slaves just under a new system and made it even worse.  Now they would be sharecroppers, which gave land owners control over them from giving them advances on supplies, even food from stores they owned, way above market price and charging the to live on land that they would never own or ever be able to accumulate wealth. By the time Rutherford B. Hays became President in 1876, this new system was firmly entrenched and Northern democrats and republicans turned their back on what they initially considered their cause to protect the poor, landless and oppressed black working class of former slaves.

This is why industrial capitalism grew so fast during this period of American history – they still had an endless supply of cheap and uneducated workers.  Although some misread history and often say the civil war was America’s second revolutionary war, it wasn’t. I mean from my perspective, during revolutionary wars, the oppressed take up arms and start the war. And any person who can read, or considers themselves educated can tell you that since then, the 14th amendment has done little if anything to protect black folk in America, and really only serves to protect corporations and advance industrial capitalism. Through the 14th amendment, property got the ultimate political protection from state governments, not freed slaves and the US currency was put on an invincible footing via the resumption of specie (money in the form of coins rather than notes) payment.

So when folk banter around that we as black folk were promised 40 acres and a mule, or that the 14th amendment was instituted to protect black folk, you should ignore them and accept their ignorance as an offering and reflection of what is wrong with we as black folk in America, which is 60% of the time we talking loud and ain’t saying nothing and 30% of the time we truly don’t know what we talking about.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Ten Hour Glorified Lunch

Today, the three leaders of North America: President Barack Obama, President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico and Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada, meet in Mexico to supposedly discuss issues of trade between the three nations.  This on the 20-year anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement, commonly known as (NAFTA), which was signed into law by Bill Clinton in January  of 1994.
Before the meeting, it could have easily been guessed that the agendas of each leader were similar yet different.  I am certain Obama wanted to discuss security and immigration, and that Mr. Harper wanted to discuss the Keystone pipeline to take Canadian oil to the Gulf of Mexico, and that President Enrique Peña Nieto wanted to discuss immigration. But I also suspect that all wanted to get down to the nitty gritty with respect to the on the proposed trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The concern the average thinking American should ask is why is the US involved in another far reaching, sovereignty reducing trade pact that will supersede constitutional parameters that benefit the people over large, and in many cases foreign corporations? Although some purport the divinity of NAFTA, what we do know is that it was responsible for more than a million jobs leaving America for Mexico by incentivizing U.S. manufacturers to move production to lower-cost Mexico and that through Chapter 11 of the agreement, allows corporations or individuals of foreign governments to be placed on the same footing as Americans. As a consequence, many of the manufacturing jobs that once used to be in states like Michigan left and consequently, allowed companies that did stay in America to suppress wages of workers. So regardless of all the good it was supposed to do, what America really got was massive unemployment  and a massive U.S. trade deficit especially in the manufacturing sector with respect to Mexico of about  $100 billion which is still growing.

What President Obama should have mentioned was the concern with the criminal justice system in Mexico and the problems of violence perpetrated by the numerous drug cartels in the region, but he didn’t?  He should have discussed openly, that he wants the Keystone pipeline, but it would be hypocritical for him to do such given the oil from the Canadian Tar Sands would produce more of what he calls “carbon pollutants” and because much of the oil will not be used in the U.S. but rather sold and shipped abroad.  And lord knows Obama didn’t want to go on the record saying he supported foreign corporations like Trans-Canada having the right to claim imminent domain in America.

After I read the releasedjoint statement, it was obvious that this was just a waste of time. It had nothing to do with real issues, but more about show and photo ops.  I should have known Obama would not go on the record about the TPP, an agreement he is keeping so hush-hush, that he won’t even share it with the American citizenry openly and no one yet knows the broad scope of its reach. An agreement so hidden that we wouldn’t even know about its breath if it wasn’t for Wikileaks. All we do know is that Wall Street and the big banks and all associated with it are racking up big bonuses and it aint even law yet.

But as, unusual, I actually expected a meeting to be productive, and that American leaders should (the conditional) work on the best interest of U.S. citizens. But I was wrong, all this was it seems was a ten hour glorified lunch meeting, I just wonder how much tax payers spent for this, seeing that it could have been conducted via Skype.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Detroit Is the Future

One thing for certain, is that in politics, ethics and morality is a sign of cowardice.  They are the dead weights of any autocratic disposition when it comes to profits and financial gain, in particular when buttressed on the backs and hard work of those whom anyone seeking and securing the highest office in these United States of America – the presidency, need to obtain power.

Thus it should come as no surprise, as was the case with presidents before him, that Barack Obama has learned this lesson well.  Since he has taken office, while implementing the same policies of Bush and Clinton before him, U.S. businesses have never had it so good. As we speak, the masses are working harder than ever before, that is if they have a job or if under employed.  The global banking houses and large multi-national corporations have more loot than they can ever use and continue to add more and more each day, whether we are speaking in terms of cash on balance sheets or in terms of their proportion of ownership of the U.S. economy.

I start with Clinton because it was in the 1990s when our service industry began to bloom and our manufacturing base declined, and it may have had its signature moment when he signed into law, with Republican approval, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act (welfare reform) in 1996. Yes, this was the start of the rapid growth of the so-called 1 percent, which Obama has increased more dramatically in economic prosperity in five years than the sixteen combined years of both Bush and Clinton.  It continued when Clinton ended Glass-Stegall, Signed GATT and NAFTA into law and implemented the Commodities Futures Modernization act which not only gave way to new fancy smancy accounting methods but also the mass proliferation of various complex papers based on selling debt.  And with a debt based economy come the obvious, less jobs, less employment, less value in the dollar, a decline in available jobs and an increase in overall poverty.

You see, it isn’t particle physics, but rather the natural result of Keynesian political/economic philosophy that results in what we see in places like Detroit. In simple terms, from this perspective, growth in corporate profits is directly correlated to people being paid less and less. This means that if profits continue to grow for the few, wages will continue to decline for the majority. And as wages continue to decline the US labor market will never ever be able to reach full employment – ever. Namely because companies make their profits by employing as few workers as possible and by transporting what jobs are available abroad to places like India and China.

This is not by accident. As I pen this, we are in a time in which working-age people now make up the majority in U.S. households that rely on food stamps. It used to be the elderly and children. All because government polices produced within the beltway are nothing more that state supported economic theft and terrorism. Policies that over leverage economic gain singularly toward the direction of corrupt plutocrats in the form of capital misallocation courtesy of the Federal Reserve Bank in the form this time of what is called Quantative Easing. In 2012 alone, more than 200 people became billionaires which when added to the more than 1400 billionaires in the US, gives them an estimated $5.4 trillion in combined net worth.

President Obama’s focus on deficit spending doesn’t and will never help the folk who may or may not have voted for him but it does help those whom he appoints to political positions and his other large campaign contributors. The people on Wall Street have access to funding, at a cheap price too given the Federal Reserve Bank’s penchant for hold down interest rates near zero while people who are the heart of America see their rent and food and gas cost steadily rise.  Many call this outcome “internal devaluation,” and is what we have seen abroad in Europe especially in nations like Italy, Greece, Spain  and more recently the Ukraine.

Now if you watch TV or even listened to the President’s State of The Union Address, you probably think it is all good, but that is only because of “newspeak” and selectively telling you what they want you to know.  For example, the only reason they can report that American competitiveness increased by over 10%, is because folks are getting paid less and due to all the benefits and wealth that is counted is what is on the books of big corporations.  They will tell you that  in December that that employment grew by 74,000 jobs and that as a consequence, the unemployment rate went from 7.0% to 6.7%.  But what they won’t say is that to keep up with the new folk entering the work force (which are not counted as unemployed) the nation needs 250,000 jobs just to maintain pace for this group of available workers alone. Or that the same month, the net number of folk with jobs (full-time and part-time) fell by 400,000 to a 35 year low. Then to add insult to injury, they will say that American economic productivity has grown in the area of about 7 percent since 2007, as if that is a good thing, but won’t say that during the same period in China it grew 90 percent.

 These are dire times in America and unfortunately, President Obama and his economic team are not making things any better for the majority of US citizens. What they are doing is developing the middle class in China at the expense of the middle class here for all the jobs that were once middle class (like in Detroit) are now in China. And this is their game, to artificially promote fake progress, while lowering the wages of Americans and growing unemployment, while the rich get richer, because they want a global market place with a global labor pool that they can pick and choose who to pay what.  By doing this, American job seekers will by default have to take lower wages, meaning the middle class is gone and that Detroit, is the future of America.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

South Sudan: Foreign Policy via Hollywood

Over the past several years I have written about the foreign policy modus operandi of the Obama Administration. I have examined it in general and in specific relations with Pakistan, Afghanistan, Libya, Iran, Iraq and China among others.  I have also proffered my examination on the United States policy as it pertains to the Sudan as well, both holistically and from the practices of past and the current executive administration.  However, given the recent developments of strife and in-fighting among the major ethnic and political leadership of the recently formed nation of South Sudan, I have been inspired to describe my perspective more clearly.

As we are aware, it was only three years ago this month when the South Sudanese people held a referendum and voted overwhelmingly to form an independent nation state free from the rest of Sudan. The United States helped negotiate this referendum, which ended more than 20 years of brutal conflict between north and south of Sudan. This in essence was the primary goal of the foreign policy objective of the Obama Administration pertaining to the Sudan – nothing more and nothing less.

Unfortunately, due to several factors including but not limited to the false and dichotomous narrative that the situation of South Sudan was singularly a function of people wanting freedom (good Christians) from the evils of Khartoum (bad Muslims) was all that was needed to be addressed. This limited and myopic perspective consequently was coupled with flawed political intelligence gathering and has resulted in the chaos and likelihood of an ethnic-political civil war developing in South Sudan. There was even little if any historical cloak of understanding as to how and why Africa's largest state and former British Colony, came to this dire predicament in the first place.  The question then is how this could happen with the resources and presupposed intellectual capital freely available to the United States State department and executive leadership?

First, the formulating of a good versus bad indices for evaluating political required action is problematic from the start.  It reduces the scope of vision to evaluate all parties equally. This is not uncommon when it pertains to the US and Africa because in most cases we place our own interest in front of all nations we assist in Africa that are of perceived geopolitical importance to our material needs. Most significantly the geopolitical advantages that a nation state will have supporting a nation that not only has the Nile River flowing through it, but also which is rich in Silver, Gold, Zinc, Copper, Chromium and last but not least, petroleum among others. South Sudan produced 85% of Sudanese oil output, with oil revenues comprising more than 98% of the government of the South Sudanese budget. These were our entry points on the one hand without applying equal consideration to other factors, namely that the economy of South Sudan is one of the weakest in the world, with one of the highest maternal mortality and female illiteracy rates around the globe where there is very limited infrastructure. In addition, there was understanding at all of the historical ethnic problems in the region between South Sudan's Dinka and Nuer tribes.

Second, and what may be more impactful, is that the charge for South Sudan’s Independence was not led by the leadership of Africa or Washington, DC, but rather by a limited coterie of famous and wealthy Obama campaign donating celebrities out of Hollywood. George Clooney and others have done more to create the nation of South Sudan than any figures in the United States Federal Government or the citizens of South Sudan.

The acting ability of the Hollywood elite was able to persuade politicians, in particular the current administration to look at the issue simply from the binders of more than twenty years of war that the inhabitants of the region had been engaged in against the predominantly Islamic North who was led by an “indicted war criminal” intent to do what it take including rape and genocide of the mainly Christian South to take back its lost oilfields. Thus, for America and the Obama administration, the issue of dealing with South Sudan was simply a matter of human rights as opposed to establishing and maintains security instruments or functioning non-sectarian instruments of executive political leadership required to sustain a democracy.

Since December, when the fighting began, over a 1,000 people have been as a consequence of the US limited understanding which facilitated a power struggle between the ethnic Dinka President SalvaKiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar, who is Nuer.

This is the typical US mantra when human rights are lifted above political and historical realities. Although Hollywood and the American Religious right yelled Christian versus Muslim and Arabs foe, the issue for the people on the frontlines of the battle field, mainly John Garang and the Sudan People'sLiberation Army (SPLA) desired and shed their blood for a unified, new and democratic Sudan – not two nations.  This like movies was created from thin air by Hollywood entities. Then, which may be more disturbing if the US State Department didn’t know, they were not even fighting against Sudanese military by rather other rival militia groups. In simple terms, it was not the people of the South who wanted an independent state, but rather Europe, the UN, the US and to some extent other regional players the likes of Ethiopia and Kenya.

Thus, either intentionally or unintentionally, the US as well as the Hollywood middle men that pushed for a separate South Sudan never acknowledged, admitted to, accepted or even worse, never knew or even lied when it concerned the existence of ethnic tensions and animosity in the South. The goal and objective was separation at any cost, in particularly given Susan Rice’s history with the Sudan while serving in the Clinton Administration.

And after the state was formed in 2011, we have ignored the reality on the ground. We have turned a blind out to political incompetence and government dysfunction and mismanagement and bribes and cronyism. The Obama administration and its Hollywood supports said nothing when the newly elected President Kiir openly claimed the governmental theft of billions in state money and foreign aid. Likewise when he began to serve the needs of the Dinka over the rival ethnic group the Nuer, again there was silence. All the while the likes of George Clooney were still raising money for “humanitarian” purposes.

Finally, President Kiir removed all of those he felt were a threat and wanted to take over the government ( vice-president, Riek Machar), that was the straw that broke the camel’s back and may result in what could prove to be worse than what we saw in the 1990s. Especially since the former vice President control the oil fields in the country.

America may need to step back a little and slow down when it comes to just implanting foreign policy for the sake of pleasing campaign donors, especially when the folk they aim to please are movie stars from Hollywood.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Working Hard and Living in the Shadows

It has been several days since the President gave his State of the Union Address.  Unlike many of my contemporaries, I like to wait a few days and re-read, and digest his remarks several times or otherwise like them, I would just pen worthless vitriolic dispositions either in praise or disdain for the Commander in chief. I mean truth be told I anticipate and expect that all politicians, regardless of party, sex and/or gender LIE.
I listened attentively to the #SOTU on the radio and afterwards, downloaded a copy of the text of the complete address.  There are several things that stood out which in reality are both true and false, depending on which side of the tracks you are located. First, he stated: “The lowest unemployment rate in over five years.  A rebounding housing market.”

This is basically what the President has been repeating for the last few years as if he believed just by saying it over and over again it will make it true. First and foremost, housing market is flat and uneven across the nation, let alone rebounding. Fact is that only an idiot would  believe the happy talk coming out of the White House, Federal Reserve and Treasury Dept. when it comes to the real unemployment rate and just how bad (and bad isn’t good in this case) major segments of the US population are doing from an economic purview. The true unemployment rate of those not working is almost 40 percent and not the 6.7% advertised by the Fed. By sheer tricknology alone, Obama Keynesian economists cite the rising US stock market as evidence the economy is picking up steam yet simultaneously act truly surprised by the lack of hiring across the nation. Their description of the unemployment rate only describes people who are currently working or looking for work which mean if you are unemployed and not seeking a job you may as well be employed by their math since unemployment in its truest definition refers to the portion of people who do not have any job, full or part-time. Not to mention that as a nation, we need to add at least 127,000 jobs each month just to keep up with our annual population increase. In December we saw only 74,000 jobs added, of which most were temporary and part-time for the holiday season and represented the lowest increase since Jan 2011.

The manner in which unemployment presently is calculated doesn’t even include folk who have just entered the labor force and haven't found a job. Which brings us to his last point and begs the query, why and how is the US stock market hitting theserecord highs while so many are unemployed? For one, 95 percent of the new income that has been generated since 2009 has mostly gone to the top 1 percent. This has mainly been the result of the Administrations “top down” economic policies which encourage companies to keep their profits strong by not hiring folk.  Moreover, there is Quantative Easing (QE) which promotes that every month, the Federal Reserve buy bonds so it can inject $85 billion into the money supply. So the folk with money in essence can make more money why all else feel this devaluation of the currency in our pockets since the result is inflation that only pushes all prices higher, including stocks.

Then there is Obamacare, which is really a throwback tariff that in essence enables big companies to get paid for each full-time worker they cover and provides strong incentives for small businesses to stay below 50 full-time workers. The reality is that longer unemployment benefits or subsidized government-run health care are the kind of policies that contribute to the systemic discouragement of production & employment. This maybe one factor contributing to the observation that for the first time ever in America, working-age people now make up the majority in U.S. households that rely on food stamps.

In simple terms, with a smaller proportion of Americans in the overall workforce, the policy of the present administration is plutocratic at best and corporatist at worse since government benefits are handouts that are approved as acceptable for the wealthy, but bad for Americans in general – whether employed, under employed or unemployed.

The only thing that we have to sale to the world if one wants to keep it real are fraudulent and toxic financial instruments and other complex papers and GMO foods that no one around the world even wants to purchase. We have money to spend too, however as of 2012, we have spent $682 billion on defense, while as a nation we have nearly 4 million U.S. workers laboring at or belowminimum wage, with the percentage of Hispanic and African-American children living in poverty, growing an now at 36% - numbers that show how Obama’s economic policy hits and hurts the younger and more economically disadvantaged members of society more severely.
The President also stated, “Today, women make up about half our workforce.  But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.  That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment. A woman deserves equal pay for equal work.” I find this comical albeit it true, but it reminds me that he goes out of his way to mention women, gays, and even the needs of foreign nation over his largest constituency – African Americans and the poor.  He never mentioned “poverty” or “the poor”” or “African Americans in his #SOTU address, and he never will. Don’t hold your breath to hear him say: “A black person deserves equal pay for equal work. “ Funny seeing that Barack Obamacaptured 93% of the black vote in 2012 and our reward remains to be what it was under prior presidents - Jobless, homeless and in poverty.

And even “by lifting the minimum wage to $10.10” this will not change, for if one works part-time, 29 hours a week for fifty-two weeks they will only make $15,080 annually, a figure still well below the poverty line in the U.S. for an individual. And the President saying openly that “I will direct the Treasury to create a new way for working Americans to start their own retirement savings: MyRA. It’s a new savings bond that encourages folks to build a nest egg.  MyRA guarantees a decent return with no risk of losing what you put in… “  Sounds more like a snake oil salesman that actually policy given no one can predict or guarantee a return on any investment without doing some crooked ole shyster shit. And even worse, the audacity for him to make us give our money to the fraudulent big investment banks that caused these current troubled fiscal times is anti-American. We saw what happened in Greece. If this is allowed, then one can be certain that the “my” will become the property of the government and the banking houses on Wall Street. It is not by accident that the majority of financial wealth controlled by the bottom 60 percent of all Americans is just 2.3 percent.

I don’t see any reality in the conditional’s in the forms of: if”, “can”, and could” mentioned by the President to help and serve the needs of the hardest hit and still suffering on Main street. Five years in to Obama’s presidency the number of African-Americans participating in the labor force is at its lowest point everand still dropping. Still in America, data continues to show that African Americans are still more likely to get denied a home lone than other ethnic groups.

Thus it is easy to see why the current rate for African American men in the labor force fell to 65.6 percent in December, the lowest on record. I mean in America we have more than 2.3 million incarcerated across the country, which by law obviates a convicted felons the right to vote, meaning that the 5.9 million former and current felons disenfranchised from voting are likely to remain in poverty, of which 37% of that 5.8 million are African Americans.

The #SOTU only reinforced what I understand about the present Administration, American politics and the economic policies of our nation spawned from the bowels of Wall Street. Both Bush & Obama policymakers destroyed the US economy for the sake of short-term corporate profits via jobs off-shoring & deregulation for the folk who already got it good. And no amount of fancy word play can change that for no matter who is in office, no matter their race or gender, the rest of us will have to keep on working hard and living in the shadows, that is if we have a job. And if you think Detriot is bad, in reality that is what the future of America holds, but I will specifically address that later.