Sunday, May 15, 2011

Racial Injustice Causes Real Pain in the Lives of Black Americans

I was on the radio this morning with Rev. Jesse Jackson.  Other guests on the show included Dr. Marc Lamont Hill of Columbia University, Ohio State University professor and criminal justice expert Michelle Alexander, Tavis Smiley, and Congressional Black Caucus Chair Emanuel Cleaver, among others.   The topic of conversation, at least for a while, was on what I called “The Great Black Disconnect” from President Obama that may occur in the 2012 elections if the administration is not careful.  The disconnect reflects upon how the stunning socioeconomic trauma being experienced by black Americans may renew a reign of hopelessness that keeps black voters from taking time off work to go to the polls next year.  Black people will never stop loving President Obama, but being mindful of their own suffering, they may not be inspired to vote for anyone.

During our Sunday morning conversation, my mind was teetering between the interview and another dark place within my psyche.  I thought about the graduation I’d attended the day before at Kentucky State University, celebrating the success of many promising young black students.  But I also thought about how, on the same day, I met a man who spent 12 years in prison, with five children who never graduated from high school.  I then thought about a conversation I had later that night with one of my mentees, who told me about a three-year old relative who was shot in the head after being caught by a stray bullet in a dispute that ended in gunfire.

My reflections that morning were on the persistent truth that when it comes to black life in America, neglecting our impetus for policy reform has a real consequence on the lives of real people.  I thought about the man whose children didn’t graduate from high school.  I wondered how their lives have been altered because their father was part of the wave of mass incarceration that has served to destroy the black family.  I wondered how many of his sons might end up in prison like their dad, and whether the father  himself might go back to prison after not being allowed to find a reasonable job or vote for the remainder of his years on this earth.

I thought about the three-year old boy who was shot in the head, who now lies in critical condition, with doctors giving him a grim prognosis for survival.  I wondered how his life might have been modified if we had different gun laws that might have kept another young man from spraying bullets directly into a house full of kids.   While these incidents don’t seem to happen much in non-black neighborhoods, a large percentage of black teens confront the homicide of an associate before the age of 18.

I thought about the young man who shot the three-year old in the head.  I thought about how he was probably never given a quality education, may not have had a father in the home and most likely didn’t have a job.  I don’t profess to know much about the man who did the shooting, but I am certain that he himself didn’t grow up in a life without pain.  The traumatic confusion which lies in the soul of the man who pulled the trigger now manifests itself in the swollen brain of the three year old lying in the hospital.  As author Terrie Williams says in her book, Black Pain, “Hurt people, hurt people.”  On this day, two young black men lost their lives, and I weep internally for the both of them.

Incidents such as these are being replicated across the country every single day of the year, in a nation that has pretended like these nightmares don’t exist.  We focus on silly issues like birth certificates and White House poetry readings, while children are dying in the street and the genocide on the futures of young black children continues to gain momentum.

If Attorney General Eric Holder has no desire to speak on such atrocities that call for reform of the criminal justice system, then I personally have little reason to care about his political success.  If we as a nation continue to sign death warrants on black youth all across America, we jeopardize decades of progress on civil rights and have almost no moral authority to judge human rights violations occurring all around the world.  How we treat black Americans is a cold reminder that we are not the country that we profess to be, and having a black president changes almost nothing.  That’s systematic American racism 101.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition.  To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

Professor Calls for a National Movement Against Mass Incarceration

To see Dr. Watkins’ appeal to support Professor Alexander’s call for a movement on Mass incarceration, click here.  Please join to participate.

by Michelle Alexander, The New York Times
THE legal scholar Derrick A. Bell foresaw that mass incarceration, like earlier systems of racial control, would continue to exist as long as it served the perceived interests of white elites.
Thirty years of civil rights litigation and advocacy have failed to slow the pace of a racially biased drug war or to prevent the emergence of a penal system of astonishing size. Yet a few short years of tight state budgets have inspired former “get tough” true believers to suddenly denounce the costs of imprisonment. “We’re wasting tax dollars on prisons,” they say. “It’s time to shift course.”

Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, shocked many earlier this year when he co-wrote an essay for The Washington Post calling on “conservative legislators to lead the way in addressing an issue often considered off-limits to reform: prisons.”

Republican governors had already been sounding the same note. As California was careering toward bankruptcy last year, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger lamented that more money was being spent on prisons than on education. Priorities “have become out of whack over the years,” he said. “What does it say about any state that focuses more on prison uniforms than on caps and gowns?” Another Republican governor, John R. Kasich of Ohio, recently announced support for reducing penalties for nonviolent drug offenders as part of an effort to slash the size of the state’s prison population.

click to read

Liberal teacher in Orange Massachusetts goes PC on a student's drawing of the American Flag.

I'm sure if Frankie Girard would have drawn a picture of the Muslim crescent moon and star or a picture of Obama in a positive manner, the teacher would have been more then happy to have hung the picture. If I was the father of Frankie. I would have bought an American flag shirt for him to wear to class just to see what that teacher would say about it. I smell something fishy with what the Superintendent said. He said that Franky was drawing an American flag, when he should have been doing something else in class. Since the kid was in art class, isn't drawing the American flag something a student would do in "art class"?

Dick Bove Cuts Goldman To Sell, Lowers Price Target From $163 To $120

From a note: The rating on Goldman Sachs stock is being lowered to Sell from Neutral. The price target is being cut to $120 per share from $163 per share. It now appears that the pressure on the Justice Department to bring a criminal lawsuit against Goldman is building to a high pitch. The new Matt Taibbi article in Rolling Stone Magazine is another all-out attack on the company. However, this time the attack is backed by a 650 page Senate report signed by both a Democrat and a Republican.
Then again, this is Dick Bove: the man who went to Buy on Lehman a few days before it filed.

Correctly Forecasting the Price of Oil

In a recent column, I expressed how, as a futurist, I often feel like I live in a déjà vu world. I am called upon to deliver forecasts about the future. I spend much time researching and thinking about trends as well as economic, social and technological dynamics so that when I make the forecast, I have “lived” its reality. That may sound odd, but it is often the way it seems to me.

Since 2006, I have been extremely accurate in my forecasting of the price of oil. I don’t know the natural gas, shale or coal markets at all, just oil. In 2006, I forecast that the price of oil would reach $125 a barrel in 2008. As it turns out, the price overshot my prediction by $22.

When I was on a nationally syndicated business TV program in early 2007, I said that oil would come close to but not cross $100 a barrel by the end of the year. The reporter, who is no longer with the program, smugly said that having heard from a futurist, it was then time to hear from a respected energy analyst who would give us a more “realistic” forecast. The analyst delivered his forecast that oil would trade between $50 and $70 a barrel for the next few years (it was at $55 at the time). In today’s society, analysts seem to be granted automatic authority; futurists, not so much. Ah, sweet victory!

In January 2009, with oil around $50 a barrel after the price collapse in the fourth quarter of 2008 – along with just about everything else – I forecast that oil would, over the course of all the trading days of 2009, trade within the range of $50-70 which was essentially correct.

In January of this year, I forecast in my Shift Age Trend Report that oil would largely trade within the $90 to $120 a barrel range and could very well cross over $100 in the first quarter. That was before the upheavals in the Middle East. Again, correct.

Okay, enough chest-thumping. Why have I been so consistently accurate?  First and foremost is my firm belief that we are moving into the decade of Peak Oil. I have written columns on this in years past. A good explanation of Peak Oil can be found in Wikipedia.

It has taken 150 years for humanity to burn through half of all the oil the earth has produced. Now that some 5 billion people use oil directly or indirectly every day, how long will it take to be largely depleted? Scientists who are much smarter than me suggest it will take between 30 and 60 years.  Technically, we will never fully exhaust all petroleum resources, but we will, in perhaps 20 years, reach the point when the amount extracted can no longer keep up with demand. In addition, the easy oil has been found. The oil that is harder to extract often comes with much higher environmental risks. So, Peak Oil is the overarching long-term reality.

Second, are the shorter-term realities of the marketplace of supply and demand. The growing demand for oil in developing countries far outstrips the conservation efforts in the developed countries, and that will continue to be the case for at least the next five years. As such, the demand curve favors prices staying high.
Third, oil specifically and commodities in general have become an integral part of most large investment portfolios. Interest rates are low, real estate is in general a sideways market, and the result is the elevation of oil futures as an acceptable speculative investment, with most activity on the long side.

Fourth, with the ongoing revolutions in many oil-producing Middle Eastern countries, the ruling elite now need to fund economic upgrades and opportunities for their populations – and they need to do so quickly. Billions and billions of additional revenue from oil is now needed to placate restless populations who demand opportunity. Saudi Arabia in particular has changed its tune. It once offered $70 a barrel as a fair price, but now it wants $90 to $100 a barrel. The ruling family simply needs additional revenue to spur economic investments that will create a larger middle class.

So, what will the price of oil be over the next few years? It will be at or above $100 a barrel in the vast majority of trading days for the next three years. There will be dips and spikes due to geopolitical events, but I think the reality is that the $100+ barrel is here to stay.

The good news in all of this is that people react to economic pain. In the United States, for the second time in three years, gasoline going over $4 a gallon has caused people to drive less, set up van pools, and buy smaller cars. In addition, investment funds are flowing into alternative energy companies as the economic playing field is being leveled. OPEC’s short-term gain will benefit all of us in the long term.

By David Houle

A trail of stalled or abandoned HUD projects

The Washington Post reports:
The federal government’s largest housing construction program for the poor has squandered hundreds of millions of dollars on stalled or abandoned projects and routinely failed to crack down on derelict developers or the local housing agencies that funded them.

Nationwide, nearly 700 projects awarded $400 million have been idling for years, a Washington Post investigation found. Some have languished for a decade or longer even as much of the country struggles with record-high foreclosures and a dramatic loss of affordable housing.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees the nation’s housing fund, has largely looked the other way: It does not track the pace of construction and often fails to spot defunct deals, instead trusting local agencies to police projects.
Yet, ObamaCare supporters are worried about the "efficiency" of the private sector. This long Washington Post investigation is well worth your time.

Here we go again: Cassidy Arrested for murder and attempted murder

Cassidy has some real issues he’s facing this morning. The troubled rapper was arrested by Hackensack (New Jersey) Police Department on Saturday morning on the instructions of the Philadelphia Police. The warrant against Cassidy, real name Barry Reese was for violating probation but Reese is also said to a suspect in a murder and two attempted murders in Philadelphia.

Officers from the Hackensack Police Emergency Response Team and the police department’s juvenile bureau watched Reese’s home Saturday on Reilly Court. Reese left his house about 1:30 p.m. and was followed by police to a local convenience store. An undercover ERT officer went in the store and positively identified Reese. When Reese came out of the store, “the ERT units moved in and conducted a felony motor vehicle stop”. source

Huckabee NOT running for President in 2012. Shocked, that's what I am, shocked!

From the Huffington Post:

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said Saturday he will not run for the Republican presidential nomination, a significant development that removes one of the potential front-runners from contention and brings the slow-moving GOP primary process into sharper focus.

“All the factors say go, but my heart says no and that’s the decision I have made,” Huckabee said at the end of his hour-long weekly television program on Fox News.

No surprise there, pretty much everybody knew that Huckabee was not interested in leaving his cushy job at Fox News to mount a doomed campaign against Presidenet Obama, now the only question remaining is how long can Palin play the tease before she ultimately has to admit that she has no intention, and no hope, of ever taking on the man who makes the GOP look like a bunch of squalling ill-mannered toddlers.

Dominique Straus-Kahn, managing director of the International Monetary Fund and potential President of France, arrested for attempted rape, criminal sexual act and unlawful imprisonment.

The NYT reports:
[Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne, the department’s chief spokesman] said that it was about 1 p.m. on Saturday when the maid, a 32-year-old woman, entered Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s suite — Room 2806 — believing it was unoccupied. Mr. Browne said that the suite, which cost $3,000 a night, had a foyer, a conference room, a living room and a bedroom, and that Mr. Strauss-Khan had checked in on Friday.

As she was in the foyer, “he came out of the bathroom, fully naked, and attempted to sexually assault her,” Mr. Browne said, adding, “He grabs her, according to her account, and pulls her into the bedroom and onto the bed.” He locked the door to the suite, Mr. Browne said.

“She fights him off, and he then drags her down the hallway to the bathroom, where he sexually assaults her a second time,” Mr. Browne added.
Let's assume that the maid's story is true. When things like this happen, I suspect that this is a man who has had sexual encounters like this before, many times. He's gotten more cursory and abrupt over time, because he's been successful in the past. Here is an illustrious man, staying in an extremely expensive hotel room — a room with many amenities.  Seems you can get whatever you want. A woman appears. Is she beautiful? He imagines that the woman is another thing the hotel subtly offers to men who pay $3,000 a night for the hotel.

Repairing the Adulterated IMF Post-Strauss-Kahn

I wonder what our colleagues at the Bretton Woods Project would make of this. Before going to sleep last night, I caught news that IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn was held in New York en route to France on attempted rape charges [1, 2]. Having written about the big kahuna's peccadilloes before, this latest episode will probably surprise Americans more than those of us in Europe who've become accustomed to these sorts of allegations against DSK. Yet, alike with the Monica Lewinsky allegations, the magnitude of these claims invites initial disbelief. This news story has even topped Yahoo! News. When the IMF only receives popular coverage when an event like this happens, you know that it has a problem in getting the public to understand what it does as well as what kind of attention it receives. Pick your news outlet of choice: it may be a slow weekend, but DSK is front-page on nearly every one.

Much comment has already been made about the incident. While innocent until proven guilty is the operating principle, you can certainly argue that this accusation has damaged DSK's credibility mortally. There are of course many implications here:
  1. His chances of being the Socialist Party standard-bearer for next year's French election against the UMP's Nicolas Sarkozy are now nugatory. Though he probably did not foresee the extent of it, offering DSK as IMF managing-director was a Sarkozy masterstroke in neutralizing a potential rival on the domestic political scene. Segolene Royal deux, mon ami
  1. In his place, American First Managing Director John Lispky--formerly of JP Morgan and a securitization cheerleader in his earlier days [1, 2]--takes control. This certainly isn't the outcome most of us wishing for more diversity in IMF leadership want. However, this is mitigated by Lipsky indicating that he will step down at the end of August. Fancy that: a guy most clearly associated with promoting securitization prior to the crisis now has to deal with the fallout from their abuse and misuse.
  2. On the bright side, the unlikely return of DSK and the stopgap term of Lipsky will put to test IMF indications of reform (including from DSK himself) to make it reflect the world's changing centre of economic activity. Your truly will certainly hold it to account in choosing its next chief from a developing country. Given the buildup in previous years, I can certainly assure you that developing countries will cause a ruckus if it doesn't happen this time around.
  3. A non-European head would still come too late to limit IMF "mission creep." I have essayed on why the IMF should not bail out Greece, Ireland and Portugal since the causes of their crises were not balance-of-payments difficulties the IMF was designed for but fiscal ones. Hopefully, an LDC chief would resist calls from rich Western countries to misallocate funds meant for aforementioned BOP crises--especially contributions from LDC members.
  4. DSK was already becoming antsy about Greece's similarly socialist leaders not living up to their end of the bargain. With this rapport now ended, the IMF's already limited powers of persuasion in keeping Greece in line will probably take another knock. Ironically, Sarkozy's efforts to keep EU bailouts a European affair will likely suffer a blow from successfully discrediting his erstwhile major rival. The IMF/EU/ECB troika with the possible exception of the ECB has taken its lumps. but is not terminally damaged to the point of not being able to work alongside each other.
Personal factors aside, IMF prescriptions will likely not change under whatever new leadership it will have in a couple of months. It may have eased somewhat on high neoliberal orthodoxy during his time in charge--especially when friends in high places rather than low places got in trouble--but conditionalities are still there that are quite harsh for the rest. Ask Greece. Still, one hopes that an LDC chief can signal a more truly cosmopolitan outlook for the organization in composition while returning the organization to its core mission of handling BOP crises.

As for DSK, some people just want to party all the time. DSK is a socialist in the way Super Mario is a communist, and his hankering for the good life looks to have terminally ended his future political prospects. But hey, loving the limelight, he can always become an Eliot Spitzer-esque talking head.