Thanks to the “mancession”, metrosexuals have become “manfluencers™”

Originally posted on Quartz:

They called it the “Great Mancession.” As the post-2008 economic decline put more men out of work than women in the US, marketers began to notice a trend: Men in opposite-sex couples were taking over what had traditionally been women’s roles. In focus group after focus group, Julie Murphy, an account planner at Midan Marketing, heard from under- and unemployed men who were buying and preparing most of the food in their households. Robbed of their economic potency, men were transforming themselves from chest-waxing metrosexuals into helpmates.

Smelling a trend, Midan conducted a survey that revealed that 47% of men in the US are buying most of of the groceries and doing most of the cooking in their homes. Murphy decided to call this group “Manfluencers™” in order to highlight their newfound power over purchasing decisions. (Yes, the term is trademarked.) Contrary to decades of dogma in…

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The Lone Lemming.

Norway lemming

Norway lemming (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Somewhere, in the midst of a frenzied and furry stampede, is one very contrary creature. For the smallest fraction of a second he can manage, a lemming twitches his neck opposite the direction in which he is running and thinks, “Wait, this is all wrong.” In the next instant, he wonders why is he doing this. Why am I alone in realizing this…? Who in the Hell benefits from this run? He is totally unable to reverse course against this tide of his brothers and cousins and nieces—the sheer force of this rush prevents reversal and escape. Just as suddenly as he twitched, the firmament tilts and the stampede disperses in four dimensions. His extended family, his tribe, is in suspended animation, seemingly locked in place at points in the air.

He is in irreversible flight. To pulverize his body on the rocks below.

I feel like this lemming.

I admit to watching to a lot of Vlad TV videos on YouTube lately, and I’m staving off my internet addiction from graduating to a steady diet of Worldstarhiphop in the process. In the middle of this video, early this morning a good friend of mine asked me through an Instant Messenger, “Everything you said would happen with the government is occurring. How does it feel to be right?”

I replied, “I get no joy from it. None at all.”

For me, living with a Cassandra Syndrome next to all the other far less abstract anxieties I deal with on an intermittent basis isn’t fun. Especially since, I study the historical precedents in the Weimar Republic and Robespierre’s France and the Roman Empire to see where the United States is progressing toward.

Nearly a decade ago, I forced myself to become a student of the American and the global financial and economic systems as a result of a girlfriend asking me to hunt down a home in Brooklyn for the both of us to live in. I had an intuitive sense of roughly how much money my friends and associates earned versus the amount necessary to secure a decent mortgage. Still, it baffled me where did so many of my contemporaries get the money to buy a home in New York City and what were the empirical parameters that determined housing prices against whatever the real estate agents thought the local market could bear. In the midst of parabolically rising housing prices,  the picture coalesced for me that the entire financial system was a house of cards built on debt and it stood to be collapsed virtually anytime. My close friends can tell you I’ve been that canary in the mine since at least 2006, to no avail.  2008’s financial crisis came and past and I estimated that yet still a deeper collapse was coming. Subsequently, I left the United States several years ago to avoid being in the middle of the potential dilemma we are experiencing now.

This crisis has several names: “the debt ceiling”, “the fiscal cliff”, “the sequester”, “the debt limit” and several others. The drama of these crises often mimic the escalation of tension of a Hollywood movie bomb, with the LEDs of the detonator leading dangerously to “00:00”.  All those names point towards the same central dilemma. This country is technically broke and has been for very long time. In 2010, I calculated that every man, woman, and child in the US (regardless of infirmity or no) would have to work a full-time job for a full year while living in the wilderness to zero out the total debt owed by our government, with much of it to the very private bank we’ve entrusted to control our currency. Now in 2013, that estimate is closer to a year and four months.

I find most people’s passions on Obamacare (especially the slavish notion that it will save us all) as utterly absurd. We also have to understand that notion that the shutdown was caused by one party’s intransigence over the issue is a smokescreen. How many of us have actually read the law, much less know what the official name for the legislation is? Most of us do not even know what is in the language of the current bill. Besides gun control, abortion, and gay rights, no other issue—not even the fact we have US troops on the ground in Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, and other places—inflames more passions than a law that most across the political spectrum, have never taken the time to read. So ostensibly, this issue warrants pushing the entire planet to the brink of an indescribable pandemic financial collapse. This is  a dangerous absurdity.

Vonnegut would be dismayed that Reality is aping his books.

There is a permanent miasma of “hyperreality”, as described by Jean Baudrillard, in which we Americans exist. We can consciously deduce from the empirical facts that we’re in deep shit. For some of us, we can intuit that we’re in deep shit. We know from our major media outlets by now, that if we’re not in deep shit yet, we shall be by latest 2030. However, we have a collective inability to reconcile the logical progression of events against the reality that is quietly being tailored for each of us. Our sense of what is real is continually subverted and flipped to the next channel by a universal remote control by things like TMZ and whichever housewife show is on at the moment, we aren’t able to lease enough personal mental real estate to consider the ramifications of what these facts will mean.

I’ve often said that the Occupy Movement was the greatest collection of talent toward a single cause since the Manhattan Project. Paradoxically, it was also the greatest misallocation of intellectual resources ever since the Project. It seems to this writer, that Occupy was perhaps a positive microcosm of the society that made its birth possible. I write this, because we need to pool our intellectual resources along the lines of Occupy to brainstorm with our collective creativity, to source a viable alternative to the current paradigm where we all depend on a central government to be unwaveringly judicious in our best interests. This crisis, even if averted for now, should be pushing this fact into the collective forebrain that Power ultimately looks out for itself above all.

Here are our alternatives that I can personally think of. Firstly, we can raise the debt limit, a.k.a. “let’s kick the can down the road—and make our children pay for it, at interest”, thus worsening the mathematical certainty of a future default. Secondly, we can fall victim to this dance of dunces called Congress*, and not pass any kind of spending (or debt creation bill) at all in spite of the unreported hardships faced by those employed or otherwise supported by the government. The result is immediate default. At present, if we allow them to continue on their present trajectory, we will likely default; our currency will be almost totally devalued, hyperinflation ensues and the end result will be a worldwide impenetrable and an in-disentangleable and unpayble nettle of debts—not to mention, martial law and. Adding insult to injury, this club of millionaires decided to keep paying themselves for this horrendous farce of debate all the while the American public is too inebriated to consider there might be a need for a Marie Antoinette moment for them all.

OR… we can consider a solution equal to the order of magnitude of the consequences of inaction: A universal debt jubilee.

We must and we have the collective capacity to explore the possibility and the feasibility of a total System Reset.

* When I think about how stupid and venal the American Congress is, I always watch this clip. It is inspiring for its total rhetorical demolition of our legislature.

Very Suddenly, This Got Personal: Thoughts on Trayvon Martin

Begin.

This song below is what I heard in my mind while I was writing this, I hope you give it a listening to, while you read the following…

For my generation it seems that for the short amount of time we’ve been in existence, we’ve had more than our lion’s share per capita et per annum of pivotal moments in American history. I still remember being in third grade watching the Space Shuttle Challenger blow up with a fourth grade teacher onboard and not immediately realizing my class just watched seven people die on live television. I remember being on the steps of my high school when Magic Johnson announced he contracted HIV. I remember where I was when the impossible had happened, that Barack Obama stole the thunder that Jesse Jackson tried to seize in 1984 and became President of the United States. I wonder if Black people are likely to recall exactly where they were and what they were doing at the moment the verdict was broadcast.

For me, the verdict was announced during a sweltering night in the South Bronx, it wasn’t three minutes old when I heard the staccato chop of helicopter blades overheard. I did not bother to take a hard look outside but from the little bit I could gather I could hear there were at least two birds overhead. I saw no searchlights. Absent was the reverberations from these objects increasing or decreasing distance relative to my position. The helicopters were stationary, chopping…waiting.

The NYPD anticipated a riot.

There was none to be found, not even in the South Bronx. After about 15-20 minutes, they left the sky. We black people been grandly dissed before, we could take it.

They call it “Flori-duh” for a reason…

A sleazy photographer associate of mine from years ago once told me over lunch of all the models he managed to put his dick into because he had an expensive camera, the models from Florida were uniformly the dumbest—I’ve known nightclub managers and owners to say the same thing.

In the last decade and a half, Florida has run unopposed for the contest of the Dumbest State of the United States of America. This is still the same State that couldn’t expeditiously resolve the whole Elian Gonzalez episode without having to brandish locked arms (given the peculiarities about South Florida culture, was totally justified) and snatch the kid home. Moreover, on the subject, was the controversy on the Casey Anthony trial. Recently, the state legislature rammed through a law that theoretically bans the use of all electrical devices including cellular phones and iPads and the like. It is also the same state of the “hanging chads”, that brouhaha that suspended the boundaries of the surreal and the Presidential transition of power.

Florida provides plenty fodder for ironic black humor being a place of such gratuitous natural beauty whilst mocking you for daring to appreciate it. Also, it has a pronounced streak of racism that permeates the state, Florida law, and its law enforcement. My first hometown, Miami Beach, as recently as the late Seventies, had a city ordinance restricting the movement of non-white residents after 5pm. There were even signs in Miami Beach that were posted prominently: “Gentiles Only”, due to its almost totally Jewish population at the time.

My father has this peculiar trait (a là Mike Tyson) of being unintentionally hilarious while being dead serious and to hear some of the things come from him in his voice, makes it grimly funnier than if it came from anyone else. He once told me, “If you live in Florida long enough, you’re going to go to jail”.

Not long after he said that, that entrenched racism nearly led to a shooting in my family.

One evening just after sunset, there were scores of oddly dressed white and Hispanic guys running after some unseen somethings in the streets in residential South Beach. We didn’t know they were plainclothes officers scouring the neighborhood.  I can’t recall with whom they started but by evening time, my father was among those being hauled off for detention leaving me and my little brother the remaining occupants of our home in South Beach. Innocently and somewhat stupidly, we decided to follow them running at half speed for a little bit to see who they might rope off next. A group of them turned left into an alley dense with foliage and we followed suit. As soon as I turned that corner, a man leveled his gun at me.

He blasted these words at me: “Get the fuck on the ground!!!”

Not taking any chances, quickly I dropped to the ground. Then my brother turned the same corner.

“Get the fuck away from here!!!” said the man as he aimed his gun at my brother. My brother, at the time was very little, was frightened. I shot at him, “Leave!” and he very quickly darted away from the arrest scene. The suddenness of the officer’s order didn’t leave room for either of us to guess whether he’d fire or not.

Before the officer lodged his foot on my neck and planted the nose of the gun on my head, and before I notified the officer that I was a veteran from the Navy and still had my military ID on my person, I noticed something unusual: his firearm. He held a nickel-plated Sig Sauer pistol. Not like I have that level of familiarity with his weapon (except training with one at a firing range some years before) but I wasn’t able to make the caliber of it since it went from first being aimed at me then my brother and then lodged into my right temple. That made an impression on me, this is how far they’re willing to go.

The Sig Sauer certainly was not police issue. Any killshot of the suspect would not be traced to the police.

That evening was the evening after one of the great untold stories of South Beach: what happened the night following the murder of fashion designer and mogul, Gianni Versace in 1997. Before it became public knowledge that Andrew Cunannan was the assailant, the first assumption the Miami Beach Police Department made that the killer had to be black.  Those scores of awkwardly-dressed men scoured the neighborhood in plainclothes rounding up “suspicious” black males in Miami Beach. They nearly succeeded in detaining them all.  Hours after that, the local news released a sketch of Cunannan which got all of maybe the remaining five unarrested black men left in Miami Beach off the hook.

For me, it isn’t difficult for me to see how the State of Florida managed to find six (mostly) white mothers who assented to the murder of a black minor.

Precedents.

Throughout my life , I’ve been confronted with so many stories of black males being killed in cold blood, through the cowardice of uniformed officials that it barely registers memory or impact anymore. I’ve grown accustomed to being an endangered species, it is part and parcel of being a black man. There were so many cases where black men endured injustice at the hands of law enforcement they progressively lost meaning. In my memory, the one case that comes the closest to galling the public as did the Zimmerman verdict happened when I was a kid.

The Eighties in New York City was another world, one almost diametrically opposed to the New York City that passes for community pussy now. Adjectives exhaust themselves to describe how chaotic was the entirety of the city. Even as a latch-key kid in Brooklyn, the little bit that was surrendered for me to see was crazy. Not far from my conscious in the present day are the impressions created by neighborhoods like Bensonhurst and Howard Beach as being the boogeyplaces that black people literally got fucked up and caught dead in. It is impossible to recount the Eighties in New York, shootings and race without discussing Bernard Goetz. Goetz shot four black teenagers on the subway (paralyzing one boy for life), fled the scene of the crime, turned himself in and walked away from the following criminal proceedings for the most part, scot free.

As a boy who sat in front of that wood-veneer color television watching those newscasts, I did not yet understand the demarcation between Murder and Manslaughter and Assault and Battery. In my innocent kid’s knowledge, I knew enough to know Charles Bronson’s character wasn’t real and Goetz should have done time.

Even Goetz’s erstwhile ally, Curtis Sliwa of the Guardian angels had to concede where the comparisons between Trayvon Martin’s killing and the Bernard Goetz shooting overlapped and did not:

“Bernie Goetz is Charles Bronson in Death Wish [in that] he had enough …George Zimmerman is Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver. He’s a nut. He’s a complete nut job who thinks he’s on a ‘mission,’ and this young black man ended up on his radar screen, and then dead. Because I deal with the wannabes who want to join the Guardian Angels, I see right away what this guy Zimmerman is: a self-appointed guardian.”

It was later discovered, that the young men that Goetz shot were not choirboys at all. One, held the gun to the head of a pregnant victim while his accomplice raped and robbed her. The gunman, James Ramseur, died of a suicide several years ago. Goetz, was no innocent either, as many attested that he crossed the line from self-defense to wanton offense and reshot one of the men he wounded with an Eastwoodian line:

“You don’t look so bad. Here, take another.”

I site Hurricane Katrina in 2005 here because at the time of the happening, I shared the same outrage at the blatant disrespect to the mostly black and poor residents of New Orleans and passive criminality on the part of the government to the point I thought aloud to others, “this couldn’t happen if this was our country”.  Whether you blame incompetence on the part of the municipal, state, and federal authorities; or the recalcitrance of the lower-class residents to leave their Wards (as if they had a choice or the means to resettle temporarily);  Occam’s Razor demands the consideration that negligence and a sluggish response on the part of the federal government resembled more of a stealth lebensraum than a relief effort.

My thought was that at least I had a nationality and a state to fall back upon as an Jamaican. I wasn’t like the African-Americans being rousted from their own cities and neighborhoods where their roots lay sometimes for hundreds of years. I was born the States and my parents had good reasons to leave Jamaica but I couldn’t imagine “justice” in Jamaica being more egregious than the Zimmerman verdict. I felt at the time that Katrina was the reminder to African-Americans that the US positively wasn’t their country. The verbiage of the newscasts from eight years ago buttressed my feelings, when the internally displaced persons of New Orleans were typically termed as “refugees” by the mainstream media. The term “refugee” has never to my knowledge, ever been applied to persons in extraordinarily dire straits within the United States before or since. The word is strongly subliminally suggestive that those African-Americans are not Americans, but foreigners and scheduled to be returned to their point of origin once their emergency was deemed manageable.

The repsonse by FEMA and the other authorities responsible collapse whatever flagging faith I had in the system. Katrina convinced me beyond the shadow of doubt that for the most part, when push came the shove, we black people can be “triaged” and in large degree, expect to be on our own.

Above it All…

My connection to this incident and the surrounding controversy didn’t begin in sync with the population of the United States. I was abroad, living in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Sparing the smattering of Dominicans and Haitians and trinket hawkers from a passel of West African countries there was nary a black person in sight when I was first notified about the case. I had my own issues with race in South America as some preconceptions literally nearly earned me an unmarked grave more than once while traveling over there. The severity of those encounters vice those I endured in the United States had no comparison.  As a result, what brought me to Buenos Aires was the result of a successful “escape” from the  Policia Militar and Policia Federal of Brazil and my temporary life as a clandestino. 

Consequently at first, I did not assign much mental real estate to the case mostly because it was another reminder why I left the United States to begin with: the inability of the society to be honest with itself and acknowledge that it was itself, and the not the not rest of the world that had its moral and intellectual matrix rotting to the core. In my mind, Trayvon was another casualty of a hyper-competitive and often trivializing media cycle. It was the latest iteration of the same family sitcom format given a new cast. I paid little mind to the incident.

I remember my roommate in Rio de Janeiro, Carlos Humberto once handed me an academic study that stated the number of black men killed by the police in São Paulo exceeded the number of men killed in Israel’s Occupied Territories. Having that datum and my experiences fresh in my mind in Buenos Aires, pushed the import of Trayvon’s murder even further to my mental periphery.

Predictably came the marches with the usual suspects…Reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, the forever ad hoc and self-appointed leaders of all the civil rights’ causes from back home were at their familiar ramparts I still didn’t take much notice. From my perspective, it was a red herring, one black boy’s death was a distraction. The United States was still causing all manner of mischief in Libya, the bankers who caused the near global collapse of the world economy were still running around unincarcerated, Barack Obama was still lying through his teeth about everything. I persisted looking at everything concerning the United States’ deteriorating social conditions at near total dispassion.

That was the case for a long time until some of my friends there started asking me about (In their Hispanic promounciation) “Try-von Martin”.

As if Lewis Carroll or Dr. Seuss wrote the premise for my story, I found myself in the psychedelically absurd position of explaining American racism as a black man to the nominally white residents citizens of a country hitherto known for its unfriendliness towards blacks that was Argentina about my home country’s unfriendliness towards me. I found myself explaining to the innocent what it meant to be hunted by police and militia alike.

Eventually, the conversation about Trayvon became unavoidable for me. There was no way I could connect to my friends at home and not discuss him. They spoke of him like he lived in their neighborhood. Sadder still, Trayvon did live in everyone’s neighborhood. Most black people above a certain age can give first and last name to the Trayvons of their city, their neighborhoods. When I returned to the States, Trayvon seemed to me almost a fad, a personification of the injustices felt everyday as a black person in the United States. He was on tee shirts, on Facebook memes, and what seemed to be a dozen other avenues.

But it still didn’t become personal to me. yet Primarily because I did not apprise myself about the salient facts of the case. I did not know that the police for a change, were not the enemy. The police actually told Zimmerman to back off and Zimmerman, being the rabbit-lipped coward and wanna-be hero he was, disregarded the orders of the professionals and proceeded to engage the suspect on his own anyway.

The Purple Nerve of Hurt.

The most poignant expression on social media I found so far came from one Dwyane Wade, a father of two:

Sadly simply, Mr. Wade, you have to tell them the truth, before some hurtful point in their lives they discover it for themselves. Mr. Wade, you will have to explain to them that many men consider them big game, no matter how much money they stand to inherit.

People are really hurt not so much that they expected justice because the victim in the case was already six feet in the ground, but we were victimized by the truth, the shattering of the hope that for once, we’d see the correct result. I don’t know what it is to tell a parent they have to bury their boy because an older and bigger man couldn’t take an ass-whupping he instigated.

That nerve, hammered so many times before found itself irretrievably smashed in Trayvon Martin’s death. Galling me even further, was this was no police shooting of the type we are gradually becoming desensitized toward—this was the result of some quasi-deputized individual playing at cops, one who was ordered by officers of the law to stand down.

There are millions of people who are thunderstruck and hurt, some desiring revenge. And yet we told to maintain, to keep a level head, to dispel perfectly normal thoughts of revenge and wait for the legal gods to rectify where they fucked up in the first place. There is a movement in society via the media to corral “dangerous talk”. That “incendiary talk” is real and much of it doesn’t take place behind closed doors. There is something dishonest when people who have been symbolically wronged on the moral sphere to tell them or otherwise coerce them to squelch their anger. New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz tweeted: “Thoroughly confused. Zimmerman doesn’t last a year before the hood catches up to him,” Revenge is real whether it is poetic, karmic, or actual; voicing it is real and it happens. We’re not so distanced in our history that men like George Zimmerman would have been tarred and feathered.  For instance, people forget that the majority of Jeffrey Dahmer’s victims were black men—and that Dahmer didn’t last very long in incarceration as well.

People need to say these things. In the modern world, as proven by the Zimmerman verdict, we are hamstrung by interpretations of The Law that renders Justice incapable of faith.

My White Friends, Wherefore Art Thou?

I think there is a large segment of white people that are simply tired, but are careful not to voice it.

In preparation for my travels abroad, I wanted to get a better idea of the prevailing attitudes towards blacks and I wanted to know how racism operated overseas and what nuances to be aware of. I watched films such as Brazil, An Inconvenient History and others . Somewhere, I read an article about Gilberto Freyre and his concept of the “racial democracy” and how it helped to change the individual perceptions of race in Brazil. I was coming from the United States which had done what widely considered to be impossible and elect a black President and thus born the term, “post-racial America”. I want to point out how dangerously irresponsible writers Shelby Steele and Gilberto Freyre were in coining their terms “post-racial” and “racial democracy” respectively . These cousin canards have the effect of denying the existence of racism and thereby allowing it to happen unchallenged since the logic demands that it doesn’t exist…because it is collectively and officially denied.

This is not to say that condemnation for the acquittal was totally absent on the part of the Caucasian community. Much of it came from overseas, the abrogation of logic and decency displayed at home dismayed many more that whatever was rent by the event or even what internal decay in the United States. What was telling was the relative vacuum of any opinion of an event of this import on social media. It was business as usual. It was all selfies and pictures of food. Not to cast any apersions but despite the shout-out Sinead O’Connor gives to Dave Chappelle in her list of erotic fantasies, whose impassioned beseeching of the white race for culpability in Martin’s murder last year that went viral—her screed is now noticeably absent from the redesign of her website.

I read opinion from a wide variety of sources ranging from The Drudge Report of Matt Drudge to The Black Agenda Report of Glen Ford. It is difficult not to notice a tenor in the popular discourse prevalent for at least four years in this country—the sense that white people are frankly quite tired of accepting living on the defensive when it comes to issues of race. I cannot count how many times I’ve known people from the Bay Area to harbor a resentment towards Asians and their success in that region. Having lived in Texas, I cannot number the times I’ve heard whites express their irritation with the large Chicano population there as well. I often think about the black comedians in our time and the huge debt they owe to Richard Pryor and Dick Gregory who were the first and most prominent comedians who made white culture such an object of criticism that black comedians have taken the baton and ran with it long after Pryor died and Gregory faded from the limelight he once enjoyed. The negative result, I think, is that after certain point even well-meaning white people can tire of being the perpetual butt of the joke.

I think there was a real sense of “sympathy fatigue” on the part of well-meaning white people, add to that the sense that they have ceded their cultural sovereignty in favor of the minorities with whom they share this country with. Further feeding into these unspoken white fears of encroachment by The Other are articles stating for the first time in American history, the number of white people born is exceeded by the birth of everybody else.

Perhaps, collectively, they simply have little concept or empathy of what it is to be black. There is some evidence that might be the case: that they inherently lack the equal amount of empathy for any other racial group but their own.

The thing I suspect many of my white associates are hesitant but desirous to invoke the specter of OJ Simpson. There was a relative silence on the social media channels I was able to observe. Some whites actually lost some sympathy for blacks because of that court trial and the miscarriage of justice it represented to them.  Follow enough comment sections and message about Trayvon, and the name of OJ Simpson is occasionally brought up as if to mean that the eye was finally taken for the eye; for one grave injustice for another.

What It Isn’t About:

Let us establish this now: this isn’t about gun control. We should not use this as a watershed event to facilitate the disarming of the population. I believe in the ostensible thrust and equal application of legislation such as the brace of “Stand Your Ground” laws. However, the evidence that it is equally applied is demonstrably false.

What must be kept in mind is that there are slew of similar cases to the Trayvon Martin incidents that have occurred virtually at the same time and the mainstream media is currently giving them all short shrift in viewing time. What makes this story different, might have been a failed opportunity to get the largest sections of the underclass (African- Americans and Hispanics) to be at odds with one another but it isn’t. It is still seen in the normal paradigm of white versus black despite Zimmerman’s heritage.

History amply demonstrates that that faith is often misplaced.

For example:

Perhaps We’re Being Played for Fools…

We have to consider a recent Tweet from the rapper Lupe Fiasco. For a person of his celebrity, he made quite possibly the most cogent (and brave) observation pertaining to the controversy surrounding the trial.

Lupe Fiasco, has a strong, if wildly unpopular point. He has since locked his Twitter account in response to the vitriol that expectedly came his way. However, the point remains very strong. There is much going in the United States that bears hiding in plain sight. We have to keep in mind, most of you who might read this never knew Trayvon, this author included. However, the NSA, Google, Facebook now knows you all both through your consent and by stealth. Of the two issues, the latter is not as emotionally incendiary as the former but has far-reaching ramifications for all of our lives. In terms of importance, that story should take near total precdence.

There is a grand lottery of sorts and one with far-reaching consequences beyond the winnings; its magic number is 2016 but its winning number is 29. 2016 is the next Presidential election, 29 are the number of electoral votes awarded to Florida, equal to the number of electors for New York and tied for third-most in the Union. A horribly cynical but entirely plausible thought occurred to me during a discussion with a Chinese man about the trial several weeks before the completion of this article came to me: what if the Trayvon Martin case was being used as a gambit in a much larger political chess game? Imagine the repercussions to the Democratic party had Zimmerman been indicted for any of the counts levied against him?

You must remember this given in this political proof; although Florida is a Republican controlled state, it is not solidly Republican enough to be considered a fait accompli like Texas is to the GOP and New York and California is to the Democratic Party; Florida has shown that it can be swung to either party. It isn’t the just any battleground state, it is THE swing state.

As a South Floridian, I know in my heart that if the electoral process wasn’t as deeply rigged as it was in 2000, we were likely to have eight years of Albert Gore for President had it not been for the Miami Cubans who took their political revenge for Clinton’s handling of the Elian Gonzalez affair a few months before. The blowback from Janet Reno’s special extraction team in Hialeah was they came out with the fervor of a jostled hill of red ants.

This layman’s observation isn’t lost on the professional observers either. MattTx of The Daily Kos wrote:

For example, if it were not for overwhelming support from Cuban-American voters for George W. Bush, Al Gore would have easily carried Florida by a large margin in 2000, and would thus have been the 43rd president.

Those same riled-up ants would further antagonize any administration seen to have ceded any political real estate to Castro. Though I am not certain how many of those Miami Cubans are gun owners what I can show is, they vote as a supremely monolithic Republican voting bloc. On the macro level, any motion to eliminate or otherwise threaten the “Stand Your Ground” law would jeopardize the taking of Florida for any Democratic challenger in the Presidential election in 2016. The Democratic Party learned too well from the Elian Gonzalez episode the importance of not seeming to antagonize the conservative vote for fear of an increased turnout and the loss of those precious 29 electors.

It was the Chinese man who informed me about the rather curious jury selection and that the presiding judge was changed mid-trial. I have a hard time believing the State found six individuals who could truthfully testify under oath that they knew nothing about the case prior to jury selection.

It is plausible to me that Trayvon could have been martyred in the effort not to lose Florida’s precious electors in 2016.

The System.

I hear a lot of talk about The System. More precisely, I had to endure a lot of talk about The System, the legal system.

“The System failed.”

“We have to believe in the System, we can’t always expect it to give us the results we want.”

“This is some bullshit.”

There are cooler heads looking at everything that has transpired making the point that Zimmerman was tried under the law, and that the result is something we should all respect, that we should all resign ourselves to result, learn from it, and move on with our lives. The problem with that talk is that it supplants any truly honest discussion about The Law and the spirit of The Law or if the edifice should be razed for a new configuration. Clearly, the spirit of The Law failed, but we masochistically adhere to it without accepting the personal responsibility in redefining it.

To those who preach of prudence of Law and Order above all, Trayvon Martin does inevitably beg this question: is the preservation of The System worth the loss of a boy’s life?

Moreover, is the preservation of the system worth withstanding the precedent that one can kill with relative impunity? Or are we misidentifying what this case might be—an opportunity to do away with the status quo, to transcend closed loops in thought about a needing “a system” or the chance to rethink and reengineer a system that closer fits the reality of today?

What Now?

From what I understand there is a boycott movement underway, spearheaded by Stevie Wonder.As far as I recall, there is still ostensibly, a boycott on Snapple juices for claims of racism on the part of its makers and sponsors, but it has never failed to be stocked in the hood since it went into effect in the Nineties.  Can the black populace maintain its boycott with the same determination as the Miami Cubans wish to continue inflicting upon their own island? Will we boycott the Winter Music Conference, Disneyworld? Miami Heat games? Will we go so far as to (here’s the real test of ideological and moral commitment) boycott Memorial Day in South Beach?

 

I Hope You’ve Enjoyed Your Holiday…Now the Bad News

I hope everyone has enjoyed their July the Fourth. I sincerely do. I hope everyone enjoyed their barbecue and their vegetarian/vegan options.

Yep, we did celebrate Independence Day. But I think it is better celebrated as an aspiration, not as an actuality. Let me explain:

Some of you may have noticed I’ve chilled out on the “Conspiracy Theory” posts in recent years. I used to be real heavy with all of that. Then I decided to scale it down to the point of trying to be cuddly, or as cuddly I can manage. Others have done the same. I’d like to believe that the reality we all share has put a lot of us “conspiracy theorists” out of business, really.

But consider what has been revealed and well-documented in the last year:

Imagine if all of the major banks in the world colluded with each other for years and manipulated the base interest rate by which all interest rates–and thereby all forms of debt–especially student loans–with the end result that an entire generation will never leave debt serfdom and will work to service that debt till it dies; Greece being the most visceral example? Imagine for a minute, that it cannot be properly ascertained even with the best actuaries, just how much money and energy was actually robbed from THE ENTIRE PLANET.

Robbed. Every man, woman, and child.

Imagine if some of those same banks in turn, own the bank that prints our money at interest and that responsibility does not belong to any one person you managed to stand in line (or go online) and subsequently ELECT. Worse, the same group of banks who own our central bank has been printing money in such limitless desperation that IF WE HINT that we do the right thing and stop printing this Monopoly money, buyers will stop buying our government debt and our entire financial system goes into default–with an inevitable systemic default sure to come anyway.

Imagine that that same government that absconded from its responsibility in managing our currency as per a contract called the Constitution (because that is what that document actually is) admitted IN COURT that it was they, not some lone racist that conspired and executed the assassination of Martin Luther King?

Imagine that the same government that killed Martin Luther King also forced Verizon to turn over the messages it carried onto its network from its customers for data collection on not only its enemies, but also on ordinary citizens.

Imagine that that same government did not stop there, and created a computer apparatus so pervasive and so powerful that it has been secretly collecting all the data that we freely submit online to entities like Facebook, Google, Yahoo et al. (for no pay!!!) to better form a mosaic of who you are with the explicit purpose of being able to predict your future behavior and in turn, your thoughts.

Imagine that that same government got pissed off that one of their own supposedly dropped dime on them because he thought it wasn’t cool that they felt they reserved the right to spy on the whole world. Imagine that same government was so pissed off that it essentially threatened to kill a head of state (Evo Morales of Bolivia) who has no real beef with them on the suspicion that the man that dropped dime on them MIGHT be on a plane with him?

So the concept of us being free is more of an open question than ever. If a government can allow that to happen, then it lends serious credence to the following quote from famed German poet and philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:

“None are so helplessly as those who falsely believe they are free”.

You don’t have to think about it too much, but you owe those crazies, those “conspiracy theorists” an apology–or at least an fucking drink.

Is South Florida anti-intellectual? Why?

The answer is manifold:

The Real Estate Market:
Recently, I had a lunch in the vicinity of a wealthy Brazilian who dreamily spoke about buying his condominium in Miami Beach, like so many of the nouveau riche of Brazil in recent years having done the same. The problem with buying property in South Florida is that the buyers have no intention of ever moving to South Florida, they simply want their cheap pied-a-terre in the sun. One plausible reason, for instance, is that they have no intention relocating their families because what few private schools that give their children a chance in the wider world are not immediately available to them. There is no driver to improve on these services. So their properties languishes most of the year, empty, with no one adding to the local economy except that initial hit of the sale with the oncoming payments going to a bank elsewhere.

Industries That Add Little to No Intellectual Capital to the Surrounding Region:

Here, this is where I’m going to have to piggyback off of Dustin Thaler. Tourism is main “industry” in South Florida and tourism is a form of economic crack. Tourism is not production. When your economy is predicated by money methadone doses of disposable income via IV drip, you leave little room and incentive to develop any other means of production and innovation–except to create more production and innovation for tourism.

Lack of Prestigious Institutions of Higher Education:

The University of Miami. It ends there. Where else would a serious academic find work in that area? Where? The majority of major and metropolitan cities have multiple academic institutions of note in their vicinity.One can look at cities like New York City (Columbia, NYU, Hunter and Baruch Colleges), or Boston (Harvard, MIT, Berklee) or San Francisco (Stanford, University of California-Berkeley) and see the direct opportunities and their attendant satellite institutions to able to develop and reside in these cities on a permanent basis. Outside of CENTCOM, where else does Miami sport a concentration of thinking beings that could be called a think-tank?

Disincentive for Retaining Those in the Arts & Sciences:

I have said for many years that South Florida experiences a problem usually indigenous to the developing world–that many of its best and brightest leave South Florida and never return because the intellectual infrastructure does not support their development, or (most importantly) the salaries commensurate to their education and experience level. This “brain drain” continues unabated even to the time of this writing. Ashley Miller hit upon an observation that made me leave home for good and made me come up with a sort of corollary to it: that there were more tattoo parlors than there were bookstores when some fifteen years prior, the inverse was true.

Outside of the American Meteorological Society, what else is there for the scientist?

The City of Miami designated a section of the city to be its Design District. Ostensibly, it is a high-minded concept but the trouble is, Art is never designated, Art isn’t neatly corralled into quandrangular zones. Art isn’t fixed, it isn’t Cartesian, it’s organic. The city planners in their hubris, totally obviated this from their thought. Even their attempt to create a bantustan for artists has essentially transformed into a large-scale attempt to sell high-end furniture. Artists flee the city in response, not necessarily to the attempt but the lack of foresight on the part of the city planners to set something aside to allow them to CREATE, and attract art lovers and attract still more intellectual and artistic capital.

The “Wild West” Atmosphere Fostered By the Narcotics Trade of the 70’s & 80’s:

It goes back to a phrase many of us from South Florida take a perverse pride in: “South Florida, a sunny place for shady people”. I remember running around with my dad at age four and seeing 18-wheelers jammed to the ceiling and to the gates with black 30-gallon garbage bags filled with Marijuana. Weed, folks. Weed. That is more several human beings could probably smoke in a lifetime, I would think. And this was a common sight. Miami was such a lightly defended drugs transshipment point for such a long time–of course it would be an El Dorado for all the scumbags who came forth! Scarface and Miami Vice didn’t help things either. Old-timers in South Florida still speak of the 80’s with dew in their eyes.

Not to say the shady aren’t thinking people, more often than not, they are. When  an environment attracts a mass of individuals who live by their wits and fiat of brute force, there is little play for intellectual development. Money has to be hustled and made, thoughts and art take a backseat. But so much of the infrastructure is more blatantly tilted towards those who cheat, not create; those who hustle, not build. After several decades of an influx of miscreants–how could any intellectualism survive?

The Local Media:

The emphasis on the tacky, the sensational, the superficial pervades everything there. I am happy to leave this point undefended and leave myself at risk of nausea. All one needs to do is tune into Channel 7 news.

As we can clearly note, no Fulbright scholars here on the green screen.

Feelings on Sandy Hook & Its Causation

I am totally dismayed with my own total state of expectation at the events of the mass shooting in Connecticut today. I should be shocked. I should be totally slackjawed. I should wince. But I don’t. I am not surprised. This is (on the low end) the SIXTH mass-shooting (including four during this summer) I’ve read about in the US in the PAST YEAR–and I am certain that I am overlooking quite a few that escaped my purview.

This man may have committed the ultimate brace of crimes: he killed his mother, he killed children, he killed innocents, he killed himself. There is no reprisal possible. So it is time we reflect on the underlying problems.

The problem isn’t the guns. Gun control isn’t the answer; the human race has an infinite creativity to kill, to destroy. Guns are simply a singular vehicle to accomplish such a twisted goal. Banning them just the sugars the creativity to use other means to carry out such mass homicide.

I believe the problem is that there is something terribly rotten in American society, in its accepted norms, that its people can react in horror at such a massacre one moment and be totally invested in another television show or some YouTube video less than 24 hours later. There is something totally dangerously perverse and viciously intertwined in its society that its people can actually become blasé–like myself in approximately four hours–to these incidents. Because we will. I can bet the house on this. There is something evil infiltrating our thoughts, our souls that in a country that is currently not under occupation, not warring on its own soil, that such violence occurs there.

Why in the supposed “land of plenty”, in the supposed “most powerful country” in the world, is such carnage becoming increasingly commonplace? Why?

One Year in South America

As of today, a major milestone in my life has been crossed. Today, is the one-year anniversary of my flight out of New York City, out of the United States, to leave “home” for good.

There was no innocent beginning for this journey.

There was an omnibus of reasons why I decided to leave. When pressed to count the reasons, it feels like something in the ballpark of a baker’s dozen of reasons why I left.  I was still reeling from a failed relationship from years ago…I had gotten fired from a very glamorous-sounding (and stressful) job in Tribeca, New York City and I was burned out for close to six months from the experience. It took months to unspool my mind from routinely discussing mildly obscene but galactic figures and machinations that wouldn’t have made me any richer in the near term. More, NYC bored the hell out of me, there was no mystery left for me there. I looked at what I had: not a whole lot. I looked at what I didn’t: a car note, a house note, kids, wife/girlfriend/”honored” jumpoff…I was logistically light enough to leave. Lastly, and most importantly to me, I saw the direction the United States was taking as far back as 2003. I watched the kudzu infiltration of a hybrid Orwellian-Huxleyian state. I wanted no part of it. At least not the sweetly noxious American variety. Here, I will spare you my explanations for the encroachment of a neo-feudalist order, I don’t think this space is appropriate for that now.

But in the end, I felt like I had to, simply.

The original plan was to be to go to Bali, find a hut, get a motorcycle (although I’ve never ridden one, but what the hell?), and WRITE. I was supposed to be the black hermit who came out every few days to surf and head back into his hut to write some madness that I felt, might change the world. And then I would proceed to Germany, swing eastward into Asia Minor onwards to Afghanistan (how I’d learn Pashtun despite a complete non-mastery of Spanish, I don’t know—but what the hell?) and swing into the Phiilppines, and then after that, only God was supposed to know. I decided to take a small detour to see Carnaval in Brasil (how long was I going to be single? So…what the hell?). Upon landing at Magalhaes Airport in Salvador, Brasil, all my plans were immediately destroyed the second I tried to switch on my BlackBerry. Whenceforth, the story began. While my itinerary has undergone some major modifications (no Bali yet and no Berlin, either.Yet) it has not suffered a similar dearth of events.

I think about my walk from my rented condo on Ladeira da Barra in Salvador in the Ondina bairro to the Pelourinho during Carnaval, to a bloco where pretty much only the hardiest foreigners went. I think about how fucking scared I was and yet I couldn’t make myself NOT GO into the true heart of the true Brazilian Carnaval, alone.  I would repeat these walks throughout my time here in South America even to go deep in the favelas of Zona Norte, São Paulo–by accident (more on that later). Because of the first favela incursion, subsequently I was hesitant to go to another. This time, it was Mangueiras in Rio de Janeiro where I schemed to get a haircut (of which was subesquently invaded by the majority of Brasil’s armed forces the following day).

And then there’s being temporarily detained by the Policia Federal of Brasil on the Uruguay/Brasil border. Or even losing my passport in Joinville for 24 hours during said escape from Brasil. And a winter in Argentina, where I lived in Avellaneda for awhile. I think about the journey from a placid winter beach in Mar del Plata all the way to the Hamptonesque toniness of another beach, recently that of Punta del Este, Uruguay .

I learned foremost about sharing. On my accidental trip into the favelas of Sao Paulo, the family I stayed the night with tried to share their breakfast. I watched the movie Cidade de Deus (City of God), with the scene where the character “Shaggy” was introduced to his love, Berenice. At the threshold of the flat, her mother hustled the young criminal into her home with little questioning.  I was brought into a favela in a more furtive and discreet fashion, but also with NO QUESTIONS. I thought to myself, “Oh shit, I’m Shaggy!”. In that favela deep in the Zona Norte of Sao Paulo I spent a night with a family where no one save the eldest of five children spoke my language, where the family bathed by a weakly tumescent garden hose.  In the morning, they tried to share their meager portions of presunta and pão with me. They couldn’t have had much more than that in the entire house and still they attempted to share that with me. The clothes I wore on my back were worth more than what the family must have paid in rent for the shack. That experience I doubt I would see in the United States. It unsettled me. I was supposed to see this.

As deeply enriching this experience is, it is also exhaustive to psychological reserves I didn’t know I had. Additionally, I didn’t know they required a long replenishment cycle. When I started, I felt really young, exuberant. I stood at the edge of a high precipice. I felt like I could breathe in tingly crystals of excitement and have a glorious run of MY BACKYARD, the planet Earth. After a fashion, a man just wants to stop. More often than not in this experiment/Hegira, it’s been the mundanities, the tedious items in life that often don’t make the travelogues. Whether it was the tense queues of the Receita Federal in Rio de Janeiro or the waiting in rodoviariasferroviarias, airports (including the ghastly Miami International Airport ) –there is a psychological toll I surmise that is greater on me after spending some 30 years in the same country as opposed to the individuals who spent 25, 22, and in some cases 19 years in their home countries. It is exhausting having to deal with changing locales, changing cartographies, changing accents and languages–and never hearing your own. And when you do, it is often in the guise of someone who as well received the identical compartmentalized mission orders: to ceaselessly seek all iterations of the other–not your own. It is depleting meeting and bonding with people over and over again, knowing you may never see them again in this life. It is also exhausting changing yourself, because you declared to yourself the Old You died when you boarded that flight when in reality, the Old You too, has a survival instinct; and like Rasputin, must be killed over and over again with no 100% certainty it is dead at all.

Even now, I am still fielding this question: “When are you going coming back to the United States?”. My answer has been nearly unequivocal, but mostly: “Never”. I can’t tell anyone with any certainty what my next trick will be, but whatever it is, it will have to be a good one.

On the other hand, I strongly don’t encourage ANYONE to do what I do. I’m posting my disclaimer HERE: you DO NOT have any licence to go to any favelas, morgues, police stations, and (as they say in Brasil) night clubs. DON’T DO IT. Taxi drivers are the enemy. Learn “Castellano”. House money says you’ll crap out before I do. Stay home. Stay safe. Turn on the Travel Channel. Tell your significant other you were just playing around and it wasn’t meant to be serious and you love them. House money says you’ll get hurt, destitute, or worse.

But… If you decide otherwise…  ;-)

What Price is the Attention to What’s Important?

It has come to my attention that people in general have a rough time PAYING attention at all. I send these emails to keep up with everybody and to relay other information that sometimes I feel is important. And people still call me while I’m at work or when I should be reasonably asleep, wanting to know things they could just as easily emailed or texted me about.

Why am I railing about this now? Why I am choosing a little bullshit email as a sounding board for my complaints of some of my friends and in turn, society? Because this man is really concerned past his customary irritation. My criticism is not about a perceived casual disregard for my simple wish It is about our collective failure to pay attention to important details because our brains are currently assigned to running tasks that do not conceivably improve its programming.

Monday, the talk around my workplace wasn’t about the war in Central Asia or the coming Depression that’s about to drown the United States. What I thought was a fait accompli of a headlining political story with a United States senator propositioning a undercover agent for a blowjob (for once he wanted to give back to the common man, I suppose) wasn’t.

The main story wasn’t even about Turkey attacking Northern Iraq with a hundred thousand men to harry some more Kurds occupying land the Turks didn’t want anyway while rating the United States its number one threat to its security.

It was about something undoubtedly more important. It was the main story on CNN on Monday.

It was about the disaster that was Britney Spears’ performance at the MTV Video Music Awards. Just to show you how weak the reportage was it didn’t bother to cover the failure on the part of everyone involved.

Please allow me to take a momentary digression. Sometimes I feel like I closed my eyes for five minutes sometime in the Nineties and before I opened my eyes and began to shudder in distress, all of a sudden this smelly-footed virago was all that tens of millions of Americans could care about. And this woman along with an even less talented and racist blonde, Paris Hilton, dominates our reality.

It is as if God decided it would be more cost-effective to outsource the day-to-day responsibilties of scripting Reality to Joe Eszterhas.

We are all–me included– complicit in filling our minds with this bullshit which is why we cannot recall simple key sentences for vital correspondences. We are losing valuable RAM space for want of the trivial. I plead with you to be more conscious of the everyday jetsam that fills our minds everyday. Watch a little less YouTube. Make a conscious effort to focus on something not so superficial such as the goings-on of the marginally talented.

Goodbye New York

Let’s set the mood here:

How do I begin?

It has taken me several months to write this email. I don’t really know where to begin and much less what exactly to say that would sound appropriate. Presently, I type on and feel so maudlin reflecting on the entirety of my five years here. Some of you I haven’t talked to in months and sometimes years. But believe or not, if you’ve gotten this message, you are always in my thoughts.

The story of my five years here in New York has been one of pain, sometimes Pyrrhic sacrifice, loss, and betrayal. It is also a mini-saga of how misunderstandings can lead to anguish and isolation in this enormous city. Conversely, it has been also the story of strangers clinging onto the life preserver of and in the constant hustle, becoming friends, sometimes lovers, and even family.

I want to make this move while I am healthy, still unburdened, and still young and resilient enough to take risks and recover from my mistakes. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, proud of the things I had the guts to try to take, and proud at what I’ve lost (which meant that at one time, I at least, had it). In the various the stages in which I’ve met all of you,you all of touched my life, all of you helped me learn or added new mysteries to my life for me to contemplate further. All of you have had a hand helping me become something I was not when I first came here. I am now tougher, wiser, more patient. Like it or not, all of you helped me become a man, fully capable, and indomitable like those I aspire to become more like.

But it is time I go home.

This departure is the real deal. Sometimes my plans simply evaporate into stale talk but it’s very real this time. I’ve already squared away my apartment in Miami Beach. My mail is already being forwarded home starting yesterday and I’m transferring within the company I work for to work back home. Funny, my landlady is actually a bit distraught that I’m leaving at the end of February (for some of y’all who’ve had to hear my trials with the various landpeople I’ve dealt with over the years, I’m certain that at least raised an eyebrow). Several months ago, I asked myself a question, if the whole point of me coming to New York was to create something that would make me happy, what if I failed to do it or changed tack and did something else; could I just bypass the whole “trying to be happy thing” and simply went someplace where I’ve always been happy? Wasn’t it the the whole point?

I realize now that no matter what, I am happiest at home. If I lose everything I own in a fire, be relentlessly pursued by killer watermelons, or be beset by wild dogs; if were at home somehow I’d find a way to be happy. I cannot explain it to you very well except I know Miami Beach is kind of my spiritual home. I want to stop complaining about and how much New York City sucks and just do something about it.

So I’m gone. I’ll be in New York a lot after I leave, mostly for business and shopping (I think I’ve turned into a chick), but I’m done and tired and I’ve proven everything that I needed to myself in relation to this city. I’m just too old for the struggle, I rather chill at home and climb my mango and grapefruit trees in the backyard when they’re bearing fruit and eat my Argentine steak sandwiches in the evening.

Thank you all for the experience.

Kamal.

 

NOW It’s Personal, This is WAR

Image representing RIAA, Recording Industry As...

Image via CrunchBase

On Saturday afternoon, my mail came like it did every day. I received yet another reminder that my creditors were dearly concerned for my welfare and they needed large allotments (almost amounting to a reparation payment) to maintain the link to my person lest I just do what I’ve always planned as an exit strategy for life in the United States and just…disappear. I received my Cablevision correspondence, which I never bothered to open because I thought I was ahead of the American hoi polloi and paid all my bills online.  But this envelope was thicker than most, so I was afraid that somehow they didn’t receive my payment and they sent a heftier reminder for me to make haste and promptly reinforce our relationship.  I opened it and it said:

We are writing as a courtesy to let you know that we received notification from one of more owners of copyrights claiming that their work has been transmitted over the Internet from the your account without their permission…We consider you a valued customer, so we wanted to let you know that if the copyright holder pursue this claim, or if there are additional claims, it could lead to legal action against you.  We may be required by law to release private information about you and to suspend, or even terminate, your service.

Today on Wall Street, in the middle of one of the most state-of-the-art Burger Kings, I ever visited (where the burgers came to me before I thought about which one I really wanted) on the giant flat screen opposite my seat–behind the guy who was still yammering ad infinitum and ad nauseam about what was today’s mathematics– was a caption of a Reuters report on CNN saying the following:

The music industry has launched a fresh wave of 8,000 lawsuits against alleged file-sharers around the world, escalating its drive to stamp out online piracy and encourage the use of legal download services.

I’m trying to think, with the exception of that one Destiny’s Child song I downloaded, I can scarcely imagine they’re going to come after me for some Ayro or 4Hero shit. I’m probably getting banged out for getting “Stepping Out” by Joe Jackson or “Stepping Out” by Kool and the Gang or get singled out for some old Goldie jungle I’ve been feeling lately.

Serendipity in writing this; the same night I read this month’s copy of WIRED Magazine (which also came in the mail that Saturday afternoon) and there was a article dealing with my same issue of my cable provider acting as an adjunct to the RIAA and consequently, the IFPI. In a related instance, WIRED magazine reported,

HBO, for one has been monitoring file-sharing sites for copyright infringers and reporting them to their ISPs.

Without expanding the argument and reportage to include media companies in general, I start to ask myself a series of questions: So why do they want to come after little-ass me? A lone DJ and writer looking for some music so I can drown out the other voices in my head?  Did they intend to push me closer to the “omnipresent corporate media conspiracy” fringe? Too late, I was already there. What did they hope to accomplish by fining and suing me?  How can the cost-effectiveness of such a stunt be quantified or justified in suing me–fuck, man–how can they find a decent vig in pillorying a man who has very little to offer them materially? What really was going to happen if they won–which they would since I’m busy paying off student loans like every other resident of the United States roughly my age– what are they going to do but put me further in debt? Will they parade my rent carcass around the walls like Achilles did Hector while lashed onto some bloody chariot for all to see? Couldn’t they see all they were going to do was further aggravate my own deep personal rancor against “The Industry”?

I want you to take an extra moment and I’m going to share with y’all of you one my many many quiet subversive thoughts: I want the major record labels and their distribution networks DESTROYED.

I have brilliant and luridescent reveries of their offices being scorched. Women and men shrieking and frantically and furtively grabbing at what are soon to be mementos of a decadent and irretrievable time past. Flames I see lasciviously licking everything and deexisting all and scaling the walls they touch.  I want them to see my vision of watching their towers of dollar bills crack like hot bricks only to watch the walls they formed sheer away into some acrid smoking infernal Abyss. Kind of like how Voltron used to regularly eviscerate those Ro-Beasts; or more like how General Sherman immolated the entirety of Atlanta in the Civil War.  Before you permanently write me and this missive off as “crazy”, I meant what I said figuratively. I want their financial demise through piracy and other forms of guerrilla economic warfare. I want them to lose lots and lots of money.

I do.  Not because so many in the industry are whores, liars, and thieves. That is the accepted lay of the land and I’ve personally accepted it.  No, I ordinarily don’t have a problem with them. My problem is when they frame their argument as to why they resort to these tactics ostensibly in the voice of the artist is when I feel insulted and indignant.  Unless you are smart, connected, rich, or lucky; the way how the average record contract is structured…most of the money reaches everybody else’s pocket before it reaches the artist. I am resigned to that fact as an artist. I would say it’s disingenuous but really, it is hypocrisy when you think about it–the average artist doesn’t really get to see most of the fruit of their efforts (the money), while execs go to Saint Tropez on what is really, in the end, the artist’s dime. In short, when you force me to pay for pussy that you get to blaze but I’m not likely to fuck, we have a major problem.

If you have trouble reconciling my above war metaphor, then peep they way how they are prosecuting the action.  They are expanding the engagement on opening a new front like the one they are pursuing in Brazil, like how a general would expand–you guessed it–a war. You don’t “launch a fresh wave” of any kind of action and not connote you are conducting–you guessed again– a war. Below there some evidence of a coordinated effort on the part of some media companies to bully the average consumer into buying what is usually their shitty product. Here’s more from the same Reuters article on 17 October 2006.

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), which represents the world’s music companies, said on Tuesday the new cases were brought in 17 countries, including the first ones ever in Brazil, Mexico and Poland…The trade group said more than 1 billion music tracks were illegally downloaded last year in Brazil, the largest market in Latin America. Record company revenue has nearly halved in Brazil since 2000, IFPI said…The industry has now filed about 18,000 lawsuits in the United States, the largest market for music sales, and 13,000 in the rest of the world… The IFPI said many of those targeted for legal action were parents whose children had been illegally file-sharing. Others facing law suits included a laboratory assistant in Finland and a German parson.

Above in this text is more evidence of a coordinated effort on the part of some media companies to bully the average consumer into buying what are usually their shitty products. Remember the public relations Dresden the RIAA inflicted onto themselves some years back when they threatened litigation against a twelve-year old girl? That’s right; the strategy has been modernized by suing the clergy and the parents of offending children.

Basically they’re trying to sue people who don’t have big money to set an example to the rest. This current salvo of massive litigation and Internet service termination is a desperate act. An act of a hungry behemoth in its death throes besieged and overcome by the prey it liked to drolly consider chattel.

My problem is that we are being punished for the major record labels’ lack of foresight.  Or better still, their intransigence to adjust to a newer business model.  What the Reuters report won’t tell you is that they’ve limited their options on how to maintain long-term profitability because they cannot adjust from the Album being the primary unit of revenue.  Their sales are declining and they’ve been downsizing their personnel for a number of years.  No, the record industry is not being outsourced; it is simply collapsing under weight of its massive infrastructure and overhead.  Given everything it takes to push a major record release, there’s no wonder they’re fighting so hard to protect what has to be such a thin profit margin. Moreover, they cannot find or envision some other way to make money, so they sue to keep us, the consumer, wholly dependent on them to get our music.

They’re also not telling the public that they really cannot stop it from happening.  For every Napster or Kazaa co-opted or nullified, there are more decentralized peer-to-peer networks being constructed in their stead like your BitTorrents.  Like I began to state above, there are quite a number of reasons why they’re losing. The one reason they cannot see is that quite frankly, they’ll have to murder Apple and the iPod, and somehow turn out better music; music worthy of being physically owned instead in the form of a compressed and truncated signal.

People have copied intellectual property since time immemorial and will continue to do so.  The goal they should see it, is not to eliminate or punish piracy; but to make it as per avenue (or in their parlance, per configuration), impossible.

The record industry simply has to find a new way to become the intermediary between the consumer and the musician; adapt or die.

So will this pussy-ass letter stop me? They might as well sue me. Really. I want them to.

Kamal.

The Transit Strike, Explained

English: New York Mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg.

English: New York Mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For some of y’all who know little of the background concerning what is going on in New York City.

Christmas time, 2002. Under the threat of an impending a major snowstorm coming to NYC, continued the struggle of our dramatis personae: Peter Kalikow and Roger Toussaint, the Trinidadian leader of the Workers Union, Local 100. The antagonist and protagonist headed into late evening closed door negotiating sessions while the residents of NYC were glued to their televisons awaiting news of the decision of whether there will be a system-wide transit strike thereby shutting down all the trains and buses in the city. That night, some people found themselves potentially trapped in foreign boroughs as they raced to beat the deadline. The clock ticked into early morning past its intended midnight deadline as the city unheld its collective breath as a three-year deal was worked out. The TWU flinched in this detrimental game of Chicken and took a deal that was seen as defeat for many in the union. Regardless, the civics lesson was manifest. A deal was made, civil order maintained.

The epilogue to this thriller helped to set the stage for the mega-scale drama we have now. The MTA were later found to be keeping two separate financial records. In Alan Hevesi’s, the New York State comptroller’s report, he writes, “The MTA claims to be the most open agency in government, but that claim is a fraud. The MTA secretly moved resources to slash the reported 2002 surplus and create a deficit in 2003, apparently to justify a fare increase.” No one did any real time for fraud and embezzlement. No one went to OZ.

I ask, “What kind of legitimate organization keeps two separate set of books?”. Actually, none do but I can still name one: La Cosa Nostra.

The position from which MTA argues from is even weaker than it was 2002. In 2002, they cried poverty. They said they were running a deficit and they subsequently enacted a fare hike across the board to find the monies to hedge against it. It worked. It worked a little too well. Somehow, in 2005, they magically found a billion dollars. The crux of their argument is essentially,

“This is our rightfully stolen money and we triple-dog dare you to take it, and we’re gonna need this loot because we might not steal as much in the future. Oh yeah, don’t even THINK about getting a piece of it ’cause this shit is housed and we’ll vic New York City’s ass AGAIN. Word is bond.”

Last I heard, no one just finds a billion dollars. Billionaires themselves don’t just suddenly find a billion dollars. It has to be gained and meticulously squirreled away to prevent too much of it being caught in the progressive sieves of taxes and assorted penalties and lawsuits. Over years. The MTA like they, cannot just find a billion dollars, but they did, and they refuse to give a fraction of it over to the people who do the real work.

What amazes me is the stunning amount of selfishness on the part of so-called New Yorkers. I was perversely desirous of the New Yorkers I knew who made life tough for me and tough for everybody else when I was growing up in Flatbush and Crown Heights. I was left wanting of those who created the reputation and lived by an unwritten credo: “whateva, I’ma keep it movin'”. What the fuck happened to them? Because the 2005 version of these people is pussy.

Riding the LIRR, I was pressed flat against scores of occasionally shoving people who complained about how unfair it was to strike, how woefully inconvenienced they were, how they should have accepted the MTA’s “final offer”. Many people were advocating that the transit workers should take one for the team and just publicly bend over forward and bite the sock. “Yo, they make as much money as cops!” “They should have just took the deal the MTA gave them” “Some of them don’t even work!” “I’m so mad, it took me x-number of hours to get to work! They should do this instead!” We have a term for this in the black community; it’s called playa hating.

I ask, “why do they hate on them for having a job so it can do what a JOB is supposed to do? Isn’t it supposed to provide one with the means to raise kids, own a home, live a decent non-work life, and hopefully die and be planted at a reasonable depth in the dirt?” I might have had it twisted, but I thought that was the deal.

If these people were so gully for the bread in the first place—why didn’t THEY take the exam for Transit or any other civil service exam so they can make that transit worker money? It’s advertised in full view of couple million people every day for years. But nobody wants to start off sweeping and scrubbing the stations in full view of other people with suits. Nobody wants to commingle with sewer rats during their work shift.

Scarcely anyone is that gully.

It sounds nice and somewhat egalitarian, this whole sacrificing your principles and cash for the greater good of everyone else thing. Except for one bit, the phrase “taking one for the team” refers to an entirely different game. New York City, the MTA, Mayor Bloomberg, and the TWU are not playing baseball but Cutthroat Spades. Mike Bloomberg threw in his Two of Clubs (funny, he can outspend the MTA by his damn self) and called the transit workers thugs. New York City wanted to pass and could not and limply tossed in a Six of Diamonds, the MTA was sitting on the Ace of Spades and the Big Joker and threw down the first card The TWU only had one card to play that meant anything to the MTA. Out came the Little Joker as the Strike.

I wish these people studied harder in high school. As a couple of my friends have said independently of each other in the last couple of days, the-powers-that-be are trying to roll working conditions back to those of the Industrial Revolution. If they succeed in crushing the strike they will create the necessary legal momentum to destroy the unions and in turn, worker’s rights for all. So, I prayed and still pray that Roger Toussaint holds the line despite immense pressure to capitulate. Because if he fails, the strength of the unions across the country will be compromised.

So, what does this mean for you? Everything. Some of y’all (like me, someday) are going to insert and/or accept private parts from other people and make kids, and they cost a lot, even before they’re born. You’re going to want some kind medical plan to take care of Lindsay or Tyrone on their coming-out party or to at least offset the cost. But you don’t have one. And you can’t refund Lindsay or Tyrone in sperm and ovum. Just because you thought it was foul that somebody else was getting slightly more than you were getting, despite the fact you didn’t do what was necessary to get his bread. And you hated, and got other people to hate on it, and soon your bosses (who hated it all along), used your collective hate and colluded with other bosses in other organizations (most of whom, hate you, sorry) and pooled their personal and legal resources to permanently dismantle the way to effectively take care of a simple and prohibitively expensive act such as bringing innocent future taxpayers into the world. Damn, if only Lindsay or Tyrone was born in Canada or France!

The whole issue is not wholly about benefits–which tend to be a sort of talisman in your late twenties to early thirties–or the lack thereof. It’s not only a right but also the commonly accepted standard for the American worker. This is something under the MTA proposed final contract, will be placed into some jeopardy.

It’s also about respect. I invite you to read this New York Times article about the workers of Local 100.

The towering arrogance radiated by the MTA is embodied by MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow and his “final offer” and his “take it or leave it” style of “diplomacy” is something to behold. You have to watch New York City newscasts to see it. His demeanor begs the question, “if that is the countenance he chooses to project, what the hell must his negotiating mien must be like behind closed doors?!”

Personally… if you’re into talking that shit like those people I talked about above, I have one piece of advice for you: don’t get sick. Ever in this life. We may not have enough room to fit both your feeding tube and your chutzpah in the same place.

Peace.
Kamal.

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