Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Age of Phony Compassion and Fake Hash tag Celebrity Activism

Over the past few weeks, many have been in an uproar over the kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian school girls in Borno State Nigeria. They were taken from their school as the slept and huddled off in trucks to places in the Sambisa forest outside of Maiduguri and possibly beyond.  Albeit nearly three weeks after the actual crime occurred, the concern is needed and well deserved.  But somehow, I feel that the interest is fake and phony and I will tell you why.

When I was a child, growing up in Memphis in 1960’s, activism was real, tangible and hands on. This type of activism in the age of social media and remote control sedentary decadence is rare mainly because the modern western influenced psyche assumes that action is limited to what one can accomplish with a keystroke or the push of a button. It allows one to be reticent and hidden in their personal urgency to acknowledge and even confront evil in any form or manifestation it may engender.

The #bringbackourgirls is just the recent example of this artificially contrived concern for a criminal act that in all honesty, many did not care about either through ignorance and not being informed or because it did not gain traction until some famous person they idolized brought it to their attention. Consequently making it retro chic to be concerned and to care and thus promote the hash tag. Otherwise there would have been a concern for all the past ill and crimes committed by the Islamist organization Boko Haram. But the record and fact exhibits and documents such was not the case.

There was no #dontburnourboys hash tag when just this year in February, the same Islamist attacked a boarding school in Potiskum, Nigeria in the northeast of the nation that resulted in the killing 29 students and one teacher. All of which were burned alive. Likewise, there was no #stopkillingourchildren when Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau and his band of militants opened fire on students in their sleep at a secondary school in Nigeria's troubled northeastern Yobe state, or when they set fire to a locked dormitory in Damaturu, Nigeria and then shot and slit the throats of students who tried to escape through windows during a pre-dawn attack in which 58 students were killed. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the attack in June in the village of Mamudo which left 22 students dead. In all of the above attacks, all of the dead were teenage boys or young men between 10 and 18 years old.

Now again, the attention pertaining to the girls is deserved, but why was their no attention to the aforementioned attacks on students the same age?  Was it because they were males, was it because they were burned alive and had their throats slit which may be less appealing for attention than kidnapped children? I cannot answer any of the prior queries but I can assert that something is amiss. Either in the west we feel more attached to women in need more so than boys or men in need, or either we are stupid creatures of the moment caught up and motivated by celebrity trends of the day and actually do not really care what happens in faraway places like Nigeria, regardless of religious affiliation or gender.

Now before you say I am making excuses, missing the point or just “hating”, I must add that I lived in Nigeria for more than a year when I was doing my post doc. Moreover, although I lived in Owerri in Imo state and Lagos more than half of my time there, I have been to and worked outside in the LGAs around Maiduguri and the Sambisa Forrest where I did onchocerciasis eradication (river blindness). It was so thick we had to park our land cruisers and walk miles to our target LGAs. Not to mention I have worked and stayed in Calabar, Jos, Kano, Benin, Kaduna, Onitsha, Afkipo, Afikpo South, Port Harcourt, Ngor Opala and too many other places in Nigeria to name. So for me it is personal.  I know about Boko Haram and personally, they are just like Uganda's cult-like Lord's Resistance Army with the only difference that the latter is Christian. And while Boko Haram has repeatedly targeted Christian institutions such as churches, most people killed in attacks have been Muslims. I understand that Boko Haram was created in 2002 by a radical Islamist cleric in Maiduguri, Borno state, after he was expelled from two mosques in Maiduguri by Muslim clerics for propagating his radical views.

So to me, the attention is well deserved, but to be honest we must admit that it is fake and phony. If such were not the case, we would have hash tags for this week’s bombing that killed 130 people, or the bombing the following day that killed scores more – but we did not.  Just like we don’t care, don’t know, and don’t want to know about what is going on in the Central African Republic where Christians are chopping up and beheading and even eating Muslims left and right.

I won’t say that we don’t care (black people) because the victims are black, but I will say for most in the west, there may be some sort of shame and guilt over Rwanda’s genocide, or the exploitation of child soldiers in Uganda and the killings in Darfur, Sudan; for we know the record indicates conservatively speaking, since 1996, 6 million Congolese have been killed. And in all of these cases we know that our President, who looks like us black folk, has turned a blind eye to Africa. First when he waived the ban on sending military aid to nations that use children as soldiers in 2013, and specifically with respect to Nigeria, when the Obama Administration, after John Kerry took over as Secretary of State, the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Terence P. McCulley, accused the Nigerian government of “butchery during a confrontation with Boko Haram terrorists in Baga, on the shores of Lake Chad, and in May 2013 threatened to withdraw U.S. military aid from the West African nation.”

So the way II see it, I am glad of the attention, yet at the same time I know it is fake and phoney and comes with barely an iota of concern and compassion. But such is the standard in this new world of hash tag diplomacy and celebrity activism and a sad standard it is indeed.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: The Affordable Healthcare Act

I have openly stated for the record that if one desires to explore how the Federal Government operates in the function of health care administrator, just look at the Veterans Administration Hospital Services – where the average wait time to see a physician is five months. In all sincerity, this is how, based on observation and past history, I perceive Obamacare will be implemented and administered. However, I will say, regardless of political affiliation, one must wait and see if the Affordable Care Act actually accomplishes and does what it was indicated to do when initially proposed by and signed into law by the President.

It was first hard to understand why any legislature would vote for a bill that none had ever read, to have any comprehension of all the mandates, subsides and regulations entangled in large sums of paper that represented the law itself. However, it is possible to evaluate its eventual effectiveness – namely by determining if it actually meets its objectives of reducing health care cost, provide health care coverage for all and lastly, if you can actually do what the President stated: keep your physicians or policy if you like them.
The last is a given so I won’t spend too much effort on that. However, the first, reducing cost is the main concern. It should be clear that in order to reduce health care cost, one must know how much health care service are in dollar terms.  This is something that varies by hospital to hospital and specialty to specialty as research notes. For example, the Washington Post reported that the cost for a patient on a ventilator at one hospital was $115,000 and $53,000 at another and $30,000 at yet another. Procedures for lower limb replacement in the same article ranged from $117,000 to $25,600. One example showed that inpatient cost for joint replacement in Oklahoma was $5,300 but $223,000 in Monterey, California. In NYC, cost for treating asthma varied 321% between two hospitals approximately 60 blocks apart.  And I won’t even go into cost for aspirin, toilet paper and overnight stays in a hospital ward.
A social Marxist would say let us have one cost across the board, but such would not consider a surgeon with 20 years experiences and no clinical complications experienced by patients and a first year without any clinical experience (which would go against all the rules of rewarding expertise and competency).

The President often repeated that the ACA would reduce the cost of premiums by $2,500 for a family of four. However, using the same math the Administration employed, one scientist calculated it would increase premiums for a family of four by more than $7400 by 2222.  When I did the formula, I came out with a similar figure closer to $7,900 per family of four (my model assumed that both head of household were not employed). The Manhattan Institute, although they did not disclose their method completely, predicted and increase of 41% which in any case is way more than $2,500.  This was as of the end of last year and was an overall estimiate not giving any weighted effects for states like Georgia or Indiana where increases are estimated to be 198 and 72 percent accordingly.
New information shows that based on official filings by insurance companies in Virginia, that policy rate increases range between 3 to 17 percent for 2015, and are attributed to new cost associated with implementing the ACA as a function of being mandated to cover less healthy and previously folk that never had health insurance.

Although the President stated that this law would assist in providing coverage for folk who did not have health insurance. It is difficult for me how his administration came up with the number of people who did not have health care coverage since it fluctuates, similar too manner in knowing how many cares are owned by people versus the actually number that are drivable and on the road. Since this proposal was implemented during the start of our current and present recession, the Obama Administration goal of signing up 7 million really wasn’t too difficult since close to 40 million currently have no form of health coverage, inclusive of the botched roll out of the web site.  To be completely honest, as the federal government, it is difficult for me to believe then even have a clue of how many uninsured folk in America, regardless of being either democrat or republican.
Although many promulgate that the subsides will help deal with these projected increases, in reality they will not hide the pain that certain folk will have for paying extra for others who cannot afford to pay for their policy or being required to pay for service they do not need. My mother for example, is 72 and still wonders why she has to pay for maternity coverage (when she can’t have children or why she has to, by law have prostate cancer coverage when she doesn’t have a prostate).
In summary, anyone who will say that the ACA is a failure or a success is not being honest or objective. All will have to wait for small and large business, which the president gave waivers, to sign up and see what other laws go in place or changes made to the ACA to complete the final product to evaluate it appropriately. What can be said that it will have a major impact on the U.S. Economy, since the government has taken control of approximately 30% of the U.S. GDP with its control of health care insurance and health care delivery? What we can say is that the ACA will definitely change how many small and large business hire and provide insurance coverage.  What we can say is that the ACA will limit individual choice in healthcare and may even impact the growth of the health care delivery industry as a hole. Lastly, what we can say is that in time, all will feel the impact of ACA whether for the good, the bad or the ugly.


Saturday, May 10, 2014

14 years of the same ISH

Sometimes I feel as if I am in a bad dream, it is as if President Obama and President George W. Bush are one in the same, for the policies I was vehemently against while GWB was in office, I am still against and have been put in effect a lot more viscerally under Obama.  What I saw with Bush: the incessant wars, taxbreaks for the wealthy, the banks and Wall Street getting wealthier without any threat of prosecution for criminal wrong doing and war mongering, I see two times in President Obama.

Bush did not place U.S. domestic issues as being our main priority, and nor does Obama. Bush was preoccupied with Iraq, and Afghanistan and Mr. Obama, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, Syria, Libya, and now the Ukraine. Currently the latter is more like some dystopian Fourier reality, that for him is dynamic and fascinating, but for the majority of Americans, wasteful and unnecessary. It is as if the Ukraine and parcels of land 99 percent of Americans will never see or set foot upon, deserves more attention than the millions of Americans with major financial needs like the hungry, the homeless, or the millions who can’t pay their rent or mortgages or whom need jobs at living wages.

There is no valid reason to be occupied with the Ukraine when what we face at home is a true national security threat economically. Just this past week, Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen informed the Joint Economic Committee of Congress that under current policies the federal government’s deficits “will rise to unsustainable levels.” Unemployment, depressed wages and unadmitted inflation is killing us. We are over our head and drowning in deficit spending so all we left with is printing “mo money, mo money and mo money,” to use a phrase from “In Living Color.”
Why is the U.S. economy more of a national security issue than the Ukraine? First, at last count, about 5 trillion or approximately 47% of U.S. debt is owned by foreign investors, the largest being China and Japan at (plus $1.1 trillion each). Unlike us, the Russian government expects to have a budget surplus according to the IMF. Add to this, Russia also has a trade surplus which increased to $18.86 billion while the U.S. trade deficit continues to fall. If anything, maybe the U.S. wants a war so it can rev up its dire economic prospectus. For it is clear that what we observed when George W. Bush invaded Iraq in 2003, the same can be noted, applied and said for the Obama Administration – the economic and financial need ­of conflict with another energy rich nation.
Why else make a big fuss about nothing? Obama in his neoliberal caricature resembles Balzac’s master criminal Vautrin more than the leader of the free world as the U.S. has been coined. Big oil and Wall Street made a killing under Bush. The U.S. invasion of Iraq crushed that country, destroyed Iraq’s state-owned oil industry, and grew the price of   crude from $20 a barrel to $147 a barrel in 2008 (needless to state Exxon Mobil’s most profitable year ever). The point being whenever sanctions are placed on an energy rich nation, U.S. plutocrats get paid. Obama is just extending the Bush playbook and we saw such in 2011 when sanctions were placed on Iran and Sudan. And when they don’t work, we have good ole NATO, who implemented an undeclared war on Libya, not to forget the CIA efforts in Syria. Thus, it doesn’t take a high school graduate to foresee the impact or likely impact the disruption of the flow of Russian energy to Europe would mean for big U.S. oil companies.
Obama and Bush are in policy, one and the same person, the only differences are gang, I mean political affiliation and ethnicity. The U.S. I suspect see the Ukraine as a means to grow and escalate military spending across Europe, making the U.S. military industrial complex more loot on behalf of U.S. oil interest. See, what corporate U.S.A and Wall Street know is that war drives capital into the United States, which keep U.S. banks the main feature of the global economy by cutting the deficit and artificially propping up the dollar. This is the only conclusion that is both reasonable and logical for as German MP Alexander Neu noted, “Not a single NATO country is in any way threatened,” by the actions in the Ukraine. Plus, what would we expect, there are more than 6000 German companiesactive in Russia with more than $27 billion invested in the nation. Meaning just like Iraq was no threat, or Libya, or Syria, Obama economic and foreign policy is no different than his predecessor with the exception it is on steroids.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Fundamental Zealotry and other Nonsense

I have come to the realization that the lack of the ability of the majority of citizens of these United States, in particular we African Americans, t think critically is intentional and have taken a turn for the worse. It like clear that the main reason for this is that the power that be know and accept that a lot of money is made when folk do not have the ability to think critically.
Over the past two weeks, two specific events have drawn me to conclude of such, as that distractions seem to garnish more attention than events and occurrences that actual merit our focus the most: the Donald Sterling Saga and the skit on Saturday Night Live written and performed by Leslie Jones.

Seems that the only thing we black folk get up in arms about is our skin color, confederate flags and the n-word.  It as if we only have our antenna out to pick up what bigots say but can't see the forest for the trees.  The issues that are destroying our community go unattended and are pushed back in our collective unconscious, in particular for this generation in which they believe that just because a politician is black and a democrat you can’t say anything wrong about the person policies, not the man I mind you but policies. If we were in tune to other issues, we would likely in the case of Sterling attend to his message about institutional racism in America and abroad, specifically alluded to by what he stated pertaining to the real manner in which Israel treat blacks and Africans.  But no we do not.  If we had our ears to the ground, we would attempt to address and discuss the bigger issue of how and why owners get public support through stadium subsidies & even antitrust exemptions in cities where the urban areas are mainly African American and Latinos, whom tax monies build the large stadium complexes but is not poured in the despondent and deplorable public education systems the vast majority of us send our kids too.  No we don’t dare address such.

On the real, why are we concerned about multi-millionaires that play professional sports when the quality of life for most black men in America is mostly negative? It seems that the only place black men are over represented where they display a modicum of success are in the sport and entertainment industry, and frankly, I am frequently more offended by the lyrics of rappers like Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, 2 Chains, and Future than by what Donald Sterling said or Leslie Jones performed.
The truth is that all that is negative, pessimistic, gloomy and associated with failure is where we as black men are vastly and disproportionately over-represented. Nationwide we account for more than 50% us dropout rate and maintain  the lowest college enrollment than any other group by ethnicity and gender in the nation. In   Mississippi, Michigan, Louisiana, Indiana, Georgia,Florida, District of Columbia, California, Arkansas, Alabama and many other states 10% of less of black males in high school read above an eighth grade level.

Personally I think mass incarceration deserves more attention that a television comedy show or a NBA owner. Those who kill non-Latino whites are over three times more likely to be sentenced to die as those who kill African-Americans. The killer (no pun intended) is that for the same crimes, the odds of receiving a death sentence are nearly four times (3.9) higher if the defendant is black.
Then there is the lucid observation that we as African American men are more likely to be unemployed, under employed, trapped in low wage jobs, have higher rates of job instability, lower wages, and extremely longer bouts with unemployment; which may account for why nearly 49 percent of black men are arrested for non-traffic offenses by the time they turn twenty-three.

I can’t comprehend why a whole bunch of us black folk more concerned and vocal about millionaire slaves and racist owners, or a comedian when, most of us are living from paycheck to paycheck, have suffered huge financial setbacks and are still scared about the future. The cold, hard truth is that we have one microscopic group of folk who have resources, are making loot and continue to enhance their financial position and a president that has increased their wealth. But we do not dare address this, specifically that the economic conditions of African Americans has gotten worse over the last five years more than any time in modern history.

None of this gets us mad, just old outdated bigots that allow us to show our support for political correctness and other cultural Marxist beliefs. Even Ebony magazine chimed in on this by unleashing their racist watch dog extraordinaire Jamila Lemieux on a comedy skit, on the same weekend in Chicago (Ebony’s own backyard) in which 4 people were killed and 24 others are injured in shootings. The same weekend in which Donnell Flora, 25, who uses a wheelchair took a bus to deliver a gun to his niece to shoot a 14 yr. old girl over a Facebook post over a boy. Then there is the fact that in Chicago, 92 percent of African American men are unemployed. But none of this was exciting enough, no racism involved, therefore again pushed deep back in the recesses of the black mind. Maybe they need to talk about the issues that would make folk write books with titles like “Food Stamp Bitches,” or why maternal deaths are on the rise among African American women in the United States, but I doubt it. Even going back to look at Richard Pryor’s slave sketch he did on his show when I was a teen in the 1970s, seems would upset black folk today, which makes me think his comedy would be viewed as inappropriate currently. But these same folk yell free speech when it is Beyoncé, Lil Boosie or some other subject-verb challenged miscreant. 

As a community we rarely write about our deep issues and concerns like we once did, nor are we black writers interested in such, because to do so would mean looking at the mirror and accepting that a lot of our problems are not and cannot be singularly attributed to racism. How many of US would hold our kids to the standard of nothing less than a 95% being acceptable to bring home as a grade as Kwasi Enin parents did? Parents? How many of us will cut the TV off and sit with our kids and do homework and read to them instead of watching the Real Housewives of Atlanta? How many of us take our kids to the library weekly or even own library cards. Small things can and do make a difference.

Sometimes being distracted by thing we cannot change does our community more harm than good, by taking our attention from what we CAN address and deal with in our own backyard. Truth is, it was Abraham Lincoln who said and wrote: “Free them [black slaves] and make them politically and socially our equals?  My own feelings will not admit of this" (Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Vol. II, p. 256). A man clearly who doesn’t or couldn’t deserve the right to own a NBA team in today's, world of intolerance and impracticality.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Holder Says People Need to be Brainwashed

US China Japan Quandary

As I write this, President Obama has ended his Asian tour (sounds rockstaresque). Although he was met by major protest nearly everywhere he went, from the Philippines where protestors were sprayed with water hoses to Malaysia, his main worry continues to be how to deal with Japan, an ally but at the same time not offend one of America’s largest holder of U.S. debt – China.

In word, President Obama stated that the US Japan alliance was "stronger than ever" adding in so many words that America opposes any efforts (by China) to undermine Japan’s administration of the disputed and uninhabited Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea (note East China not East Japan).  By taking this position, The President basically questioned China's sovereignty and “legitimate interest," to use the words of foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang, in the Diaoyu Islands, which they feel have nothing to do the Japan-US security treaty. Also, there remains the effort of the U.S. to implement Obamas GATT and NAFTA, the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which excludes China.

Some may argue otherwise, but it should be remembered that since the fall of japan after WW 2, it was clear that a primary objective of the occupation of Japan would be U.S. military control in the region for decades to come albeit not originally outlined in the Potsdam Declaration as such. This was achieved when General Douglas MacArthur, along with a few staff WROTE the entire new constitution of Japan that has lasted ever since. Specifically via But the most unique and one of the most important provisions came in Article 9, which outlawed the creation of armed forces and the right to make war.

This is a difficult prospectus for the U.S. while mainstream media incessantly pounds that China is faltering economically, the question is compared to whom?  Not the U.S. for certain.   First, U.S. bureaucrats insist that the Chinese economy is in deep trouble, although the Chinese economy grewat 7.4% year-on-year for the first quarter of 2014. In particular when compared with the miniscule expanded 0.10 percent growth in the U.S. Gross DomesticProduct (GDP) observed in the first quarter of 2014 over the previous quarter.  And loot will continue to flow in to China given the global demand for copper, soybeans and multiple investments and trade arrangements between China and South America. China has a large hand and equal investment in Copper in both Chile and Peru and Iron in Brazil as well as sustainable energy development in Venezuela. Plus one must recognize the long standing relationship China and Trinidad have in the Caribbean. The reality is that South America now imports more from China than it does from the European Union, according to the U.N. economic agency for the region.

Then there is the issue with China and Russia , which appear to be making moves toward quitting using (diversifying) the US dollar or at least significantly cutting the dollar share in their forex reserves (a move that will most likely broaden the Yuan’s daily trading range). Add to this that from of January 2013 to the end of July, the Bank of Russia reduced its stockpile of US Treasury securities from USD 164.4 billion to USD 131.6 billion (a reduction of US Treasury obligations by USD 32.8 billion, or by 20 percent), there are some serious issues on the table for the administration to address and not just give window dressing.

Even more important is that the military containment of China for the U.S. is the main reason this administration has proffered unequivocal support for Japan, although they are well aware that such may have a dire impact and strain on the U.S. economy.  Specifically, speaking, if China desires to retaliate, in concert with Russia and other BRIC nations, the result could led to starting the demise of the dollar – meaning the American way of living will be severely impacted as a consequence with growing levels of inflation in the form of increases in the cost of food, clothing and gasoline and utilities.

It should be reminded, give the manner in which the U.S. has targeted Russia for what has occurred in the Ukraine, and leaving China out of the TPP talks, what we observe as closer interaction between Beijing and Moscow are really about protecting their domestic economies. But it is not farfetched to see that is they continue this close corporate, an outcome of bad and poorly thought-out U.S. foreign policy could be a direct challenge and attack on the dollar.

The U.S. concerns in China will prove to be challenging for the present administration. For one they are all over the place in policy and tend to reflect a moderately satirical ineptness to the goals and aims of their foreign policy efforts.  On the other, I am still waiting (as I suspect others) for  Mr. Obama to define what he means by “rebalancing” U.S. policy towards Asia, when his actions show opposite and even worse, the same old U.S. approach. By this I mean the neocolonial zeal reflected in President Obama’s desire to re-occupy the Philippines consequently continuing the United States historical imperialist agenda in Asia.

China has the second largest economy in the world and recently it has been project to pass the U.S, before the next year, with some economist suggesting that the size of the Chinese economy will become three times larger than the U.S. economy by the year 2040. The concern is that much of the U.S. dollar’s valuation stems from its lock on the oil industry and if China and Russia and the BRIC nations can accomplish this, next thing is the dollar is gone and  gold will rise. As I write and you read, Iran is already in the field trying out a non-dollar based international trade system.

It will be hard for Obama to both keep from upsetting China and at the same time appease Japan, as current news reports in the region have noted.  It is the administration desire to maintain U.S. military hegemony in both Malaysiaand Philippines, by making sure neither nation ever reach the strength militarily equal to Vietnam, as well as do all possible to prevent China from reaching parity with the U.S as a naval power that could eventually challenge American in the Indian Ocean and the Western Pacific. The obstacle is, has the Obama administration really thought about what their actions may result in, or are they just making it up as they go like they were in a game of pick-up and run?