Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

The Lost Children

Appleseed-report-2011-Children-at-border-300x206At the end of harrowing journeys the children arrive at border stations. Forever marked by their exile from homelands and the travails of crossing; parched tongues nudge blistered lips to form fractured words from cotton lined mouths, “Yo tengo sed.”

INS border guards oblige the request with a plastic milkjug half filled with water and a welcomed sanctuary of incarceration. Other citizens meet the refugees with cocked Bushmasters and dogeared bibles righteously proclaiming the sanctity of property rights, taxation risk and exclusionary platitudes affirming legalisms of citizenship.

The Latin American children seeking refuge in the United States is the emblematic problem of our time. Images of frightened, emaciated children crammed like cattle into detention camps transcends the metaphorical symbolism of this lost generation. The children amassing at the borders are the disenfranchised victims of globalization. Severed from family, exiled from homelands these stateless souls roam existential netherworld’s in search of humane sanctuaries; only to find at journeys end the embrace of resent and acrimonious shelters optimized to efficiently consign distressed commodities to the discount bins of humanity.

Their arrival and the political response of our present day Know Nothings mocks notions of morality and how a civilized nation marks civility. Escaping the mean estates of a predatory economic system, suffering the chattel like abuse from rapacious coyotes and the burning hardships of the water less Sierra Madre crowned deserts; the world’s debilitated children have come home to roost. Arriving on the doorstep of the world’s neocolonialist powers begging for meager portions of subsistence gobbled up by the cool facility of imperial gluttony.

In our flat world, complaining about taxes being consumed by immigrants is a disingenuous cover for the social instability global resource capture has wrought on the developing world. Taxes are being consumed by corporate welfare (generous tax credits), crony capitalism (See Chris Christie) , wasteful war expenditures (Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya) and tax avoidance by the money class. All enablers of a predatory economic system.

The large corporations routinely leverage the “free social capital” of the developed world. Deployed to lesser developed countries (LDC) it extracts huge amounts of surplus value from LDC.

These massive capital infusions transforms subsistence economies, radically altering local industries and agrarian based institutions. The windfall profits however, never seem to make it back to its homeland except in the form of a soaring stock price on home based exchanges. Profits leave LDC like a royal progeny and find luxurious sanctuary in tax friendly offshore banks.

Today huge swaths of the world population are refugees. All capital seeks optimal return. Human’s are no different as they move across artificial political borders in search of subsistence. Wealth inequality and ruthless exploitation of economic and human capital has created this problem.

It poses an ironic conundrum for self serving libertarians. They welcome the bounty of freewheeling global capital and the risk free handsome returns it provides for the wealth of a nation. They are in full league with the march of multinational capital. They dislike the burden taxation has placed on their wealth and seek relief and investment opportunities in the privatization of government services. Prison Inc., Charter Schools LLC, healthcare, lotteries, social services, roads, parks anything save police and military functions are privatization targets. Privatization displaces workers and further rationalize government services to the primary benefit of shareholders much like the impact of global capital on the LDC economies. Already one can see its impact in the broadening wealth gap and the disappearance of the middle class in the United States.

The lost children wander the roadways in every country. They cast off on unseaworthy crafts hoping to make landing on a friendly shore that will recognize their humanity. The stateless children pilgrim across dangerous borders leaving footprints on pious souls asking them to offer more than an admonition to take comfort in Old Timey Biblical instruction that drove Hagar and her unholy progeny Ishmael back into the desert to hie with the wild asses.

Dear global citizens, we are all lost children. Refusing to recognize the desperate condition of our distressed children is a finely honed disease of our common troubled condition. No doubt true believers thumping the gospels of the finest MBA institutions enunciate high church managerial speak when we alight the human condition to the impaired value of human capital. It should not come as any surprise to witness the obstinate refusal to act on gun control because gun manufacturers profits are more important than the slaughter of innocents. Cutting food stamps to the children in poverty is critical to shave a few points off the capital gains tax. This gives license to Palin and Boehner in Unholy alliance with Faux News Philistines and Teabagging Falangists to paralyze the government over their insistence that healthcare should not be extended to the marginalized and poor in service to Obama’s socialist agenda.

Partisan blindness is a poor excuse for ignorance; and I’m sure Palin can see the wandering lost children from the back window of her plush new Arizona digs; seeking passages across the dangerous borders that exclude them entry and deny their humanity.

We cannot brand them “others”, unworthy of sanctuary. They are the victims, refugees from imperialist war, their livelihoods crushed by the march of predatory capitalism, their farms expropriated by GMO slinging multinational agribusinesses, their drinking water polluted by the flowing slush of strip miners looting the mineral wealth of communities; tribal lands and verdant rain forests clear cut for loggers as offshore drilling destroys aquaculture industries forcing boat people to cast off on unseaworthy rafts drowning in seas of indifference. We must throw them a life raft because someday soon we’ll be asking the same of them.

The problems of the world are human problems. Ignorance does not excuse blindness. As the world watched The World Cup in Rio de Janeiro, FIFA cleverly gleaned over the fact that it came at the expense of many thousands of Brazilian’s being displaced from their homes.

Tonight as you watch the news video from Gaza, don’t look away from watching a father furiously digging through the rubble, his hands and knees bloodied and shredded by glass and spiked rebar, his nostrils filling with concrete dust, he’s choking. Yet he still furiously digs for his trapped daughter. We hope he can extract her. The world rejoices in one less lost child.

Henson Cargill – Skip A Rope

Risk: morality, humanity, civility, compassion

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July 23, 2014 Posted by | Civil Rights, homelessness, immigation, social justice, sustainability, Tea Party | Leave a comment

Two Americas

Bill Maher recently did a bit on the Eco-friendly packaging of Sun Chips. In its desire to get down with the Go Green marketing trend, Frito-Lay developed a biodegradable bag. It was hoped the new package would alleviate some of the toxic burden traditional polyethylene packaging places on landfills. It was a great idea and a small sign of forward progress in developing environmentally friendly waste management solutions for our conspicuously consumer centric throw away society. Seemed like a good idea until Frito-Lay started to get negative feedback from its customers on its packaging.  The crescendo of noise the crackling bags made was too much for the sensitive ears of Sun Chips consumers. In deference to their clients wishes Frito-Lay scrapped the Eco-friendly packaging and returned to the old polyethylene bags.

Its amazing how a small inconvenience compels us to to cede the pursuit of the better path.  The paths that affirms our better nature and sustains life is abandoned because it is burdensome or makes too much noise.  It pesters our ears, it hectors our comforts.  We prefer to down our cholesterol in the silence of compliant bags rather then suffer the annoyance of a deafening crinkle to protect the environment and save the planet. We take the easier path that confirms the adage “have it your way”.  In America the personal “my way” is the only way.  After all this is America and that is what freedom is all about.  My way or the highway.  Can I get an Amen?

During the holiday season the big stink was about the Transportation Security Authority (TSA).  The news was flush with reports of travelers outraged by how TSA personal were overly intrusive and overstepped the bounds of decency and deportment as they screened exasperated airline passengers trying to board planes. Travelers became angry and ornery complaining about the violation of their person and screamed violent threats at TSA personnel if they “touched their junk”.

I find it a bit curious that the response to this egregious violation of personal liberty fails to call for the repeal of laws that codify the erosion of  our freedoms.  In its stead we learn states are busy passing privilege and immunity laws that confer special rights to certain classes of citizens. The Arizona Immigration law that was enacted earlier in the year burdens Latinos with proving they belong  to be living amongst us.  Its a pathway to a softer kinder Apartheid that codifies a bifurcation of citizenship and the value and validity of a persons humanness.  In its wake the value of liberty and our humanity both plummet.

The notion of Two Americas is not new.  Its just that the glaring injustice  threatening our society is becoming too stark to ignore.  This pernicious sedition is the gravest threat undermining our democracy.  It is a greater threat then any attack Al Qaeda could ever mount on America. In 1962 Michael Harrington wrote “The Other America”.  It was instrumental in publicizing the pervasive poverty that existed in America.  In response to the growing  threat poverty and the cultural and economic fissure it created between the of “haves and have nots,”  the Johnson Administration initiated a war on poverty.  The Great Society legislation was enacted to insure that all citizens are enfranchised with the vote and that a social safety net would catch any citizen from being swallowed by the great divide.  Today such notions are condemned as socialistic and unAmerican.

While the richest 1% of American’s continue to amass great fortunes for themselves gobbling up a disproportionate amount of income the much greater proportion of our countrymen sees its standard of living erode as the Two Americas  drift further apart.  The well off cash their fat dividend checks from a roaring stock market that has less to do with the economic development of America then the self enrichment of capitalist speculators.  The greatest irony is that as they sit atop their piles of cash they remain convinced that their riches confirm the greatness of America and that their wealth is why America remains great.

When President Obama took office the country was in a terrible state.  Two wars were raging, unemployment was spiraling upward, foreclosures were throwing millions of Americans out of their homes and an epidemic of small business bankruptcies was a plague ravishing Main Street USA.   During times like these you would think patriotic minded citizens would come together to aid the country in its dire hour of need; but the GOP led a virulent opposition whose single goal was Obama’s failure.  Their obstructionism added distance to the divide and America suffers for it.  The ugliness of the debates concerning Health Care Reform spurred the creation of a political dialog that delegitimatized governing institutions.  It  made the ability to reach consensus impossible and prompted threats that Second Amendment solutions would be considered to remedy ill considered legislation.

In the aftermath of the Tucson Massacre, we dusted off the old debate about gun control and wheeled it on to center stage again.  Many believe that the mentally ill murderer should have not been allowed to purchase a semi-automatic Glock and the 30 round clip that served to enlarge the scope of Jared Loughner’s terrible carnage.

All are thankful for Gabrielle Gifford’s miraculous recovery from her head wound.  All hope for a speedy and full recovery of the thirteen wounded and offer condolences to the six citizens whose lives were senselessly ended.  But all don’t believe the availability of guns should be restricted.  In fact many believe that had more citizens been armed the death toll of innocents would not have been as great because it would have included Jared Loughner before he could finish his grim work.  I’m not so sure.  I believe it more likely that a widely armed citizenry encourages wanton barbarity then the well considered promotion of dispassionate civic discourse.

Differences of opinion are critical to a healthy society.  The ability to have dialog and assimilate differences in a shared consensus in service to country is what makes democracies the best form of government.

If we are a people who prize freedom we cannot be complicit accomplishes in ceding our liberties.   We must be vigilant missionaries seeking to enlarge the pallet of liberty for all  people.  Martin Luther King Jr. said it best, “All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality” Affirming a respect for our shared humanity, equal rights of citizenship and sense of duty to one another in service to our country and democratic way of life is how we breech the walls that divide us and bridge the fissures that separate.  These are the characteristics of  a great nation and protecting them serves to maintain the greatness of its people.  It is how out of many becomes one.  It may require that you put up with the annoying noise of a loud obnoxious windbag but the savory delight of the bread of freedom is well worth it.

You Tube Music Video:  Max Roach, Abby Lincoln, Freedom Now Suite, We Insist

Risk: democracy, civil liberties, culture, consensus

January 17, 2011 Posted by | Civil Rights, community, democracy, homelessness, MLK, Obama, poverty, recession, social justice | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Fall of Prince Charles

Charlie Rangel you stayed one term too long.  Twenty terms in office has taken its toll on you.  You have courageously fought for the marginalized in our society and have brilliantly served your constituency and country.  But like Brett Favre you didn’t know when to call it quits.  You could have gone out on top like a champion of the people you so ably represented during your four decades in public office.  Now your left to tramp through the morass of pedestrian politics to defend your reputation and salvage a bit of your integrity.

I didn’t think it was wise decision to run for reelection during the last midterms.  I thought it was motivated by a selfish ego.  Your alleged indiscretions and misdemeanors have made you the poster child for all overreaching politicians and their supercharged sense of entitlement.  As Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee your oversight to pay taxes on Dominican rental properties, improper use of mail privileges and your expansive portfolio of rent controlled apartments showed you to be a master exploiter of the numerous ways politician lose touch with the mission of service and the means by which they shamelessly serve themselves by using the power of their office.

Mr. Rangel you did your party and your president a disservice by running for reelection.  This country needs new fresh ideas, youthful energy and representatives unsullied by the  graft and excess privilege taking endemic to political careerists. Yesterday, a panel of your peers on the House Ethics Committee convicted you of numerous policy offenses and conduct unbecoming a congressmen.  They did you and the country a huge favor.  The swift dispatch of justice helps our country avoid the political theater of a  national trauma that a Republican controlled and Tea Party inspired Committee hearing would orchestrate for the American people.

During your last campaign I recall some Eyewitness News video of you strolling down 125th Street followed by a courtier of staffers and hangers-on.  As you waded through your adoring constituents they obligingly parted as if to make way for a royal prince.  As you passed by you pointed with extended arm to individuals as if to say to each “‘I see you and you are mine, you are mine and you are mine.”

Clearly the  good Bonnie Prince Charlie is beloved in his principality.  Mr. Rangel has faithfully served the people of the 15th District of New York and brought home some major bacon.   He has fought hard for the marginalized and working people to codify social justice as a law of the land.  But as he pointed to exuberant constituents anointing them with a royal recognition I could not chase the thought of you holding leases on four rent controlled apartments.  Given the national nightmare of home foreclosures and rising homelessness I couldn’t help but think of the families displaced from affordable housing by Mr. Rangel’s gluttonous pursuit of a radical entitlement.  All the good work Mr. Rangel accomplished does not excuse a mindset that  allows one  to rationalize behavior that shuts out needy families from affordable housing.  It’s an example of how power and privilege corrupts the best men and a symbol of all that is wrong with America and the leaders we chose that brought us to where we are today.

Thank you for your service Mr. Rangel.

You Tube Video: Bobby Womack, Across 110th Street

Risk: democracy, corruption, politicians

November 18, 2010 Posted by | corruption, democracy, democrats, ethics, homelessness, politics, republicans, social justice, Tea Party | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Evacuate to Where?

Tomas,  a dangerous tropical storm is bearing down on Haiti.  No doubt, Tomas carries with it the potential to drop perilous amounts of rain as it makes its way across the distressed Caribbean nation.   The millions of refugees living in tent cities in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake are now menaced again by potential flooding and landslides caused by the threat of torrential rains.

In response to the threat, government officials have issued a Code Red warning and advise the people living in the tent cities to evacuate.

The distressed situation of the Haitian people approaches biblical proportions.  It would seem that Moses himself has raised his rod against them to deliver pestilence, plague and destruction on this vulnerable island nation.  As Tomas approaches the defenseless people of Haiti, it threatens to wash them away in torrential rains forever swallowing them in an avalanche of mud.  Let us pray that the entombment of  tent city refugees in the good earth of Haiti is not  the final solution to this humanitarian nightmare.

A call to evacuate?  Evacuate to where?

You Tube Music Video: Charles Mingus, Haitian Fight Song

Risk: environment, refugees, natural disaster

November 4, 2010 Posted by | disaster planning, ecological, environment, geography, government, homelessness, poverty | , , | Leave a comment

Homeless Shelter

bitter winds bite a desperate heart
early darkness unsheathes a slivering moon

the perfect celestial sickle
threatens to thresh exposed digits

wayward trundlers heaving bulky sacks of woe
scutter down the city’s darkest side streets

making haste to the only lighted room
that still welcomes them

cots boast lumpy clots
of errant springs and jagged hooks

grappling the lodger atop a mattress
in bumpy knots of institutional green

coughs and snores, cusses and laughter,
sighs and tears all ceaseless prayers,
some mumbled, some shouted, some thought,
some farted, some sang, some roared

Speaking mutely of the weighty day
resenting new hard memories
hoping for a dreamless sleep

jbm
NYC
12/31/08

You Tube Video:

Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers: Moanin

Risk: moral clarity

December 31, 2008 Posted by | homelessness, poetry | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Weedpatch

Yesterday’s post on the theme on the New American Diaspora neglected to mention the impact of mortgage foreclosures.

Diaspora is a Greek word that means “to scatter.” Yesterday we speculated on how high energy prices and climate change may impact the changing demographics and population shifts in the urban centers and rural areas of America. Today we offer a brief comment on mortgage foreclosure and its potential impact on the New American Diaspora.

Due to the excesses of the credit marketing orgy and the implosion of sub-prime lending market, it is estimated that during 2007 1.5 million mortgages were in foreclosure. The Department of Treasury estimates that during 2008 approximately 2.5 million mortgages will enter foreclosure and subsequent quarters will experience 800,000 home foreclosure run rate. That’s a staggering amount of potentially displaced people.

It is heartening to see that our governmental institutions are moving to address this growing problem. The financial and political impact on state and local governments and the economies of local communities can be severe.  Over 4 million mortgage foreclosures have been or are forecast to occur. If we surmise that each mortgage is tied to a house that shelters 3 people we are speaking about 12 million people who are being put out of their homes. This does not translate into 12 million newly homeless people. Many former homeowners will return to renting their dwellings. But the pressure that this will put on affordable housing markets ability to absorb this dramatic spike in demand will drive affordable  housing prices up and will contribute to a rise in homelessness.

State and local governments rely heavily on property tax receipts. As defaults grow the level of tax receipts will recede forcing state governments to raise taxes and cut back on critical services. State governments are moving to address this problem. The Federal government is also trying to develop market solutions to keep people in their homes. If market solutions fail the government may have to dust off some New Deal Programs to address this mass dislocation.

The California town of Weedpatch was created by the Farm Security Administration in 1935 as a settlement community for the displaced Dust Bowl dirt farmers. Lets work to create a solution to this problem so we don’t have to build these camps.

Lets listen to this Woody Guthrie Dust Bowl classic, I’m Going Down the Road Feeling Bad.

Risk: homelessness, local government, tax ratables, social programs, market solutions

July 10, 2008 Posted by | Bush, credit crisis, homelessness, recession, social unrest | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A New American Diaspora

Ever since our ancient ancestors first walked out of the Great Rift Valley to populate other regions of the globe our species has been on the move. Critical turning points in world history have always been marked with dramatic shifts in population and settlement of people. The Phonetians, Greeks, Polynesians, Vikings, Crusaders, Mongols, Hebrews and the Pre-Columbian Asians who crossed the Baring Strait land bridge are storied migrations, explorations and conquests that shaped civilization and continue to inform our understanding of world history.

American history is full of examples of dramatic population shifts. The arrival of European settlers, the introduction of African’s through the slave trade, the westward expansion of America, the Trail of Tears of Native American resettlements onto reservations, the arrival of Chinese laborers in San Francisco, the second wave of Ellis Island European immigrants, the migration of African Americans to northern cities at the beginning of the 20th century, the Dust Bowl migrations of Midwest farmers and the most recent immigration of Hispanics, Caribbean, Middle and Far Eastern people are dramatic examples from our country’s short history of major population shifts.

Global climate change and the economic impact of high energy prices are causing dramatic shifts and migrations of people throughout the world. The United States will not be immune from its affects. Hurricane Katrina depopulated the City of New Orleans and is altering our propensity to build houses on barrier islands. The floods along the Mississippi River Valley, drought in the Southwestern states and the devastating wildfires in California and other western states are climate influenced events that are forcing populations to resettle to more eco-friendly locations. History may be rereading and we may be witnessing a reenactment of John Steinbeck’s great historical fiction masterwork, The Grapes of Wrath .

The permanent rise in energy prices will reverse the urban exodus of the middle class to suburbia. As the car culture took hold of post war America, cheap gas, and vast highway systems encouraged the development of suburbs. Now that gas prices are skyrocketing and mass transit infrastructure continues to be neglected the middle class will migrate back to the city to live in close proximity to resources, jobs and services. Urban exclusivity will be protected by congestion pricing programs, the absence of affordable housing and high cost of services. This will create a dramatic demographic shift in the America as lower income people are forced out of the city creating a growing population of rural poor. Social service reservations may need to be created to assure subsistence for the rural poor.

The stated intention of airlines to restrict and eliminate service to second tier cities will tend to isolate these communities and create high concentrations of the economically disadvantaged. This will create tremendous strain on local city and state government’s ability to provide basic services to the new classes of disenfranchised people. High energy prices and the changing American topology due to climate change pose a multitude of risks to the fiscal viability of local governments.

Let’s close with Bruce Springsteen’s Ghost of Tom Joad.

Risk: demographic, tax base, urban, rural, climate change, population,

July 9, 2008 Posted by | bankruptsy, credit crisis, environment, folk, homelessness, social unrest | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Eco and Econ Hardship of the Iowa Floods

Just when the price of corn was hitting $7 a bushel, Iowa’s farmers were counting on making a killing this year. The rise in the price of agricultural products due to increased global demand was one of this years few favorable economic developments that farmers were looking to capitalize on. Unfortunately Mother Nature threw them an awful curve ball and wiped out many farms that abutted the angry rivers of the Midwest. The loss of 10% of the states corn yields, has also hurt soybeans and other crops. Though it will certainly drive prices even higher, for the farmers whose fields are underwater , this year will bring financial hardship not abundance as some have thought only a week or two ago.

Longer term the floods destruction may also significantly damage soil and water quality due to the spread of toxins, hazardous waste, dead farm animals and other industrial pollutants rippling through the farmlands as the flood spreads. If 10% of the areas farmland is affected this will command a premium on agricultural futures for years to come.

Eventually, the flood waters will drain off from the once rich arable soil, carrying with it all the fertilizers, petroleum by products and other effluents into the Mississippi River. As it passes New Orleans it won’t be far from its final destination where it can cause considerable damage to the waters of The Gulf of Mexico and its struggling aquaculture and fishing industries.

The Army Corps of Engineers has issued 13 million sandbags. Those sandbags will have to be hand filled. The amount of labor, energy and resources expended to fill those bags in a valiant struggle to buttress failing levee systems is a testament to the American spirit to endure.

As we tally the awful cost of this catastrophic event lets be mindful that investment in our infrastructure is a critical issue that is central to our national defense. I can’t help but think what a wise decision a $2 billion investment in levees would have returned to this country in saved expense and opportunity cost. The old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is sure sage advice that unfortunately we always seem to dismiss as a meaningless cliche.

We’ll close this post with a favorite from the old Granges of the Midwest.

Let’s listen to Woody Guthrie sing “This land is Your Land.”

Risk: infrastructure, agriculture, aquaculture, water, Mississippi River, Gulf of Mexico, inflation, arable land, crop yields

June 18, 2008 Posted by | environment, folk, homelessness, infrastructure, risk management | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment