Archive for economy

New Article: Supporters Want Occupy Movement to Address Racial Issues

Posted in Journalism, News Wire with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 4, 2011 by brucepoinsette

Check out the new article.

Supporters Want Occupy Movement to Address Racial Issues.

New Article: Focus East Portland: City Pushes Neighborhood-Sized Projects

Posted in Journalism, News Wire with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 29, 2011 by brucepoinsette

Check out my new piece on Richard Heinberg’s speech as a part of the East Portland Area Project.

Focus East Portland: City Pushes Neighborhood-Sized Projects.

The 66 Percent

Posted in Music for Thought, Musings with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 18, 2011 by brucepoinsette

Protesters in the Occupy movement have chanted they are the “99%” but it’s hard to ignore the fact that the majority of protesters are white. Many wonder why more people of color aren’t showing up to the protests, considering the disproportionate effect the financial crisis has had on them.

In the case of Portland, look no further than gentrification and an understanding of history.

Bankers looking on Occupy Portland should consider themselves lucky. The supposed “99%” occupying downtown aren’t doing it nearly as forcefully as a certain 66 percent  have done in Northeast Portland.

Thanks to overzealous police and predatory lenders, many of the same people you might see at Occupy Portland have taken advantage of black people getting pushed out of their homes.

People go to war over their property in other countries. In Portland, people are reluctant to even acknowledge gentrification is happening, much less that there’s something wrong with it.

The businesses that have replaced the black owned establishments stand as monuments to this passive aggression colonization.

For example, what was once a black owned barbecue restaurant, Doris’s, has been replaced by Russell Street Barbecue. Doris’s was one of the many black businesses that couldn’t get a full business loan and had to survive under capital. Not surprisingly, it didn’t last.

Russell Street Barbecue stepped in and gave Doris’s a white, yuppy makeover, complete with cheap, thrift store furniture and drastically smaller portions of all the same food. However, it didn’t even have the decency to pick a logo different from Doris’s. (At least the people that replaced Yam Yams, another black soul spot, had the decency to change it into a Mongolian Grill).

When I went there for the first (and last) time I couldn’t help but feel I was toasting to the white takeover of historically black Portland neighborhoods.

Russell Street Barbecue is just one of many establishments that have taken advantage of racist lending practices and shamelessly appropriated black culture to make more profit than their doomed black predecessors.

This is not to say that they were malicious in their intent. White privilege doesn’t require malice. It’s simply the ability to take advantage of opportunities denied to people of color.

This is what evokes suspicions about Occupy Portland, as well as the Occupy movement as a whole.

Do the people that are participating really care about the welfare of people of color? Where were all these people when it was time to protest ridiculous immigration laws or the prison industrial complex?

What’s stopping them from leaving the people of color they co-opted for their movement hanging out to dry when all is said and done? After all, this has been the motif of history.

Whether it was the Revolutionary War (and every one since) or the 60s counterculture, majority white movements have had a predictable penchant for using people of color to push their agendas without any real commitment to their concerns.

Terms like the “99%” sound nice but to many they sound a lot like “post-racial America”, meaning they take unity for granted without addressing wounds that have yet to be healed.

Being a progressive doesn’t exempt anyone from the legacy of colonization.

The one percent may have cleared people of color out of their communities, but that doesn’t excuse the 66 percent from settling there and appropriating black culture for profit.

Until we can have honest discussions about gentrification, don’t get upset when you don’t see faces like mine at Occupy Portland.

Currency as Religion

Posted in Musings with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 8, 2011 by brucepoinsette

One image that stuck with me from Occupy Portland was a man burning a dollar bill. There couldn’t be a more apt protest technique than destroying the tool which allows bankers to control the people.

It says “In God We Trust” on the dollar (The phrase has been on coins since 1864 and paper money since 1957), which is appropriate since the people who control our currency try to play God.

They use pieces of paper with no real value to dictate our lives. We have no choice but to worship this money because it has given wealthy bankers a monopoly on trade. These people can pick and choose what they want to fund, usually for their own benefit, and tell the majority of people how they should act because they control how our money is spent.

Our monetary system works like a religion in many ways. Both are based on faith. In the case of religion, a person’s acts can be exchanged for faith that he/she will receive God’s grace. This faith based currency has been used to justify everything from charity to war.

Likewise, US currency is based on faith. Once upon a time we used to use the gold standard, which backed our money with something tangible in the form of gold. Now we print money out of thin air. We continue to borrow from countries like China with the understanding that we can be trusted to pay our bills. Although this causes inflation in the global market and makes the dollar virtually worthless in other countries, Americans depend on it.

Our deficit pays for schools, health care and social services. It also pays for our wars and subsidizes things like oil and farms.

As a result, we must continue to believe in the dollar.

Even if you strive to be self made you need sponsorships to fund your business. However, you can only get sponsorships if sponsors approve of your business.

Likewise, if you want to start a community based program you’ll need a grant. The only way you can get a grant is by competing with other programs, resulting in many important initiatives not getting the funding they need.

In a perfect world, our government would use it’s ability to print money out of thin air to fund all the programs that could empower communities, but like most religions, there is a hierarchy that manipulates the image of God to their advantage.

Our currency is controlled by the Federal Reserve, whose largest shareholders are private banks.

They have made a killing during the current economic crisis. When the economy collapsed, they bailed themselves out with taxpayer dollars. Since, they’ve done nothing to alleviate the pain of the people they victimized with schemes like subprime lending.

Judging by history, they have no reason to. The same thing happened during the Great Depression.

Uncertainty is good for stock traders, which is good for bankers. It’s also good for big business because it allows the wealthiest to buy struggling companies for pennies on the dollar.

Thus, the deficit has taken on prominence during the Obama Presidency even though we barely heard about it while Bush was in office. The same self appointed gods who gambled away our money are asking us to practice austerity.

Bankers and big business are using their control of the wealth to push for decreased funding for social services when people need them most.

Just like religion, they use the threat of a judgement day. We are threatened with the idea that countries like China will demand us to pay them back in full even though lending countries depend on our debt just as much as we depend on being able to borrow from them.

The politicians who bankers and big business use to push this message are well aware that a little research can dispel their myths. Thus, they use their money to broadcast their message through the media at a frequency that makes your common sense a victim of blunt force trauma.

We’re taught to acquire wealth so we have the power to fight against these forces on a more level playing field. However, as long as we trade in the bankers’ currency they’ve got us. No matter how much money we attain, the bankers will always have more and most likely we’ll depend on them to build our fortune in the first place.

There’s no way one percent should control the majority of the wealth and resources of the other 99 percent but control of currency allows just that to happen.

The solution is unclear because trading in different currency is not an option for most people. Most can’t go back to a time where we literally worked for food and shelter, rather than money to buy food and shelter.

However, if people were to unify and protest by trading in an alternative, tangible currency it would not just shake Wall Street, it would negate its only advantage over the masses.

In the meantime, we must educate people by destroying the illusion that causes so many to buy into this system.

This is what happened when one protester at Occupy Portland burned a false god for all to see.

Let Them Eat Each Other

Posted in Musings with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 6, 2011 by brucepoinsette

How do you sell products to a generation that doesn’t buy anything? As the Internet generation transitions into the workforce, we’re faced with the consequences of a rebellion many of us didn’t realize we were fighting.

We grew up being able to get music, movies, news and other media for free, whenever we wanted. Despite efforts by the music industry and others to push back, we’ve been able to successfully disrupt the system. Media executives have been virtually powerless to stop the creative, yet frugal youth.

In a sense, we are in a similar position to the freed slaves of the Haitian Revolution. We’ve used economic protest to take some power from the wealthy gatekeepers. However, these wealthy forces have found ways to retaliate and punish us for our newly found control.

In the case of Haitians, imperial powers like the French and U.S. imposed sanctions and/or refused to recognize them.

Our generation is facing massive unemployment and outsourcing of jobs.

One result has been an embrace of the arts, not just for fun but to help pay the bills and establish a career.

We are finding creativity and following our passions because we don’t have a stable alternative.

Whether you’re a writer, comic, poet, musician, etc., getting paid is a struggle. Most of us don’t have the mass marketing or distribution to reach all the people who might truly appreciate our product.

Not to mention, we’re a part of a piracy generation.

When I was at the University of Oregon, there were plenty of students with means who practiced urban scavenging, or freeganism, which is a yuppy word for dumpster diving.

How do we expect our peers to buy our art when they don’t even buy food?

It will only get worse when we become the establishment.

The next generation is only going to be crazier. Their schools are losing art and music programs due to budget cuts while the kids are being exposed to new technology without a context for creativity.

Our generation’s embrace of the arts will mean nothing if we’re marketing to youth consumers who couldn’t care less.

So how do we stave off this downward spiral?

We have to adapt our products to the needs of our communities and expand programs to teach youth the value of smart consumerism.

Young people are dying to express themselves in creative ways. We need more community art and recording studios as well as writing spaces. Perhaps if more of us get immersed in the media we consume then more people will understand the value of supporting it.

Also, people like to see benefits of their consumption. If we tie our businesses into our communities then it will motivate people to spend. There’s much more incentive to spend an extra dollar on a sandwich if the money is kicked back to your son or daughter’s school rather than some executive’s pocket in Chicago.

Reinvesting more money in the community also gives local businesses a better opportunity to hire residents. There’s a market for youth expression but people need money to support it in the first place.

Most importantly, young people need to be involved in decision making. We weren’t involved in the media decision making process and we responded by taking whatever we wanted. Once we become the establishment we will see the same happen to us if we don’t show the youth their proper respect.

Our generation revolutionized the media industry but if we’re not careful we’ll kill ourselves before we get the chance to reap the benefits.

The Bailout or the Bullet

Posted in Musings with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 2, 2011 by brucepoinsette

I’ve figured out how black people can get some stimulus money. No red tape. No job training. Just pick up an AK-47, make a “Death to America” video and join your nearest international extremist organization.

Scoff all you want but our military has given $360 million to the Taliban.

That pales in comparison to the $550 million we spent on military operations (doesn’t include humanitarian aid and other logistics) in Libya as of July. Never mind that one of the rebel leaders was an associate of Osama bin Laden and spent six years in Guantanamo Bay.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has already said the cost of war in Libya will well exceed the predicted amount of $750 million. Consider that there were 35,000-40,000 volunteers, but only 1,000 trained men by March 23.

In comparison, Portland Public Schools, which serves 47,000 students, approved a budget of $681,185,950 for the coming school year.

The black unemployment rate is still almost 16 percent. It’s nearly 40 percent for young blacks. More and more black banks are going into the red for choosing not to push subprime loans on their people.

Meanwhile, an Obama insider maintains that criticism from black leaders is “bullshit”.

Maybe Obama is trying to tell us something? All signs are pointing to a war on black people, or at least the ones not on his payroll/voluntary gag order (What’s up Al Sharpton).

Obama’s buddies in the media, Tom Joyner and Steve Harvey, have spared no expense labeling black men with a platform who speak out “Uncle Toms”. Meanwhile Obama gives support and jobs to the people that screwed our communities the most during the financial crisis.

It only gets worse when we consider where we’re throwing our money overseas.

The Libyan rebels have been persecuting blacks and justifying it by calling them the newest codeword for nigger, “(Muammar) Gaddafi supporters”.  They’ve done their best to replicate the Sudan, all with the US media’s blessing.

Despite all of Gaddafi’s faults, and their are plenty of quite horrible ones, he has expressed black appreciation. Even this was dragged through the mud when the rebels allegedly stumbled upon a Condoleeza Rice photo album in his compound (Ever notice that whenever the CIA raids a house, whether it be Allende’s, Noriega’s, or bin Laden’s, they always seem to find drugs and porn? What are the chances that their anti-black interns would find a creepy photo album of Condi?).

A recent survey, reported in Slate, says black Muslims are more likely to be terrorists. Hasn’t the FBI done enough to recruit (entrap) blacks for terrorism already?

How many more not-so-subtle hints are we going to get that the US is trying to steer us away?

The hood robbers on Capitol Hill have taken money from schools and affordable jobs programs and spent it on invading Africa. We’re told to shut up and suffer every day on the news while our government gives more support to our enemies than the black people living within its borders.

It’s only fitting they would get a black President to break the news we’re being let go.

Like any firing, we’ve been given the option of a severance package. This one includes weapons training, ducking lessons and most importantly, a one way trip back to Africa or wherever we’d feel comfortable having our children bombed.

Punk Police

Posted in Musings with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 31, 2011 by brucepoinsette

Just for fun, I Twitter searched “portland police” yesterday afternoon. People were buzzing over the police surrounding a man locked in a bathroom who allegedly had a gun. Mayor Sam Adams was even praising the Portland Police Department for their great service.

When I looked up the story later in the night, it turned out the man had dropped a pellet gun and didn’t say anything, much less make a threat, during the incident. Typical.

With budget cuts hitting the Portland PD, there’s been no shortage of officers trying to make names for themselves. Whether it’s highway robbery, tagging people’s records and reputations, or shootings, times are getting desperate for the department.

Just like with any other gang, the tense times have hurt the people in the community the most.

The highways are filled with officers hiding behind bushes, trying not to lose their jobs to traffic light cameras. These “Jason Units” will pounce on anyone to bring in revenue.

It’s gotten to the point where I feel safer standing on any corner in New Columbia with a red jumpsuit on after 2 a.m. than I do when I see a car with sirens behind me.

That I’m black doesn’t help my case.

According to the Portland Mercury, blacks account for 14.6 percent of traffic stops while making up only six percent of the Portland population.

However, that’s just the police being nice.

You can catch officers practicing feces graffiti through the press every week. I used to find it strange that every incidence of violence involving black people was “possibly gang related”. Then I noticed that sometime around the fourth printing of a “possibly gang related” story there would be a correction saying gangs actually had nothing to do with it.

After all, how much damage can you do by claiming someone is a gang banger on every news channel and paper for a few straight days?

Not as much as you can with gun.

Portland police shooting black people is nothing new but the murder of Aaron Campbell, an unarmed black man, accentuated a new trend in targets: people with mental illnesses.

According to The Oregonian, The U.S. Justice Department had to launch an investigation into the Portland PD in June because the rise in police shootings over the past 18 months involved a majority of people with mental illness.

It’s as if the people chosen to protect and serve us are nothing more than high school bullies with guns. This is evidenced by their sometimes breathtaking incompetence.

In June, the police accidentally shot a man with live ammo. Not accidentally shot him as in the officer had a happy trigger finger. Actually the officer loaded the wrong (real) bullets into his beanbag shotgun and fired.

We already have police cameras on every traffic light post in places like Beaverton. With cops like these it might be safer to start patrolling the streets with drones.

I’m not saying all Portland police officers are evil, vindictive people. In fact, I’m sure most cops have their hearts in the right place.

There are plenty of nice people that burglarize homes and rob banks too. That’s usually why you see their neighbors on the news saying, “I never would’ve expected him to do something like that.”

Whether it was Prohibition, McCarthyism or the War on Drugs, police weren’t exactly making the public feel comfortable even during their best economic times.

Whenever a group of people with guns and little accountability are desperate for money, watch out.