Saturday, February 28, 2015

Erykah Badu - Bag Lady

How Bitcoin could help the world's poor

(From Foreign Affairs Magazine)
Roughly 2.5 billion adults in the world don’t have access to banks, which means somewhere in the order of 5 billion people belong to households that are cut off from a financial system that the rest of us take for granted. They can’t start savings accounts. They don’t have checking accounts. They can’t get credit cards. They live in places where banks don’t want to go, and because of this, they remain effectively walled off from the global economy. They are called the unbanked. But they are not unreachable, not by a long shot, and one of the biggest and most exciting prospects bitcoiners talk about is using their cryptocurrency to bring these billions of people roaring into the twenty-first century.

The Caribbean is an area of the emerging-market world where a strong case can be made for locals to use bitcoin to get around a restric­tive financial system. 

Book Review: The E-Myth Revisited - By Michael E. Gerber

In short, The E Myth Revisited explains why most small businesses fail, and then illustrates an easy-to-follow roadmap for owners and leaders to get out of trouble and drive toward success.

The sobering fact is that an overwhelming majority of businesses fail in the first five years of operation, and these failures tend to follow a pattern. Gerber illustrates that successful businesses excel not by happenstance but by following a particular model that has proven to work—franchises, with overwhelmingly high success rates at five years, are given as a prime example.The E Myth Revisited explains, in often broad and sometimes specific terms, the approach that is required for a business to not only persevere, but to prosper.

The Coulibaly Chronicles

The rappers and ex-cons in the terrorist’s inner circle were none too bright.
Amedy Coulibaly in an undated photo

 (From The City Journal )

While there was nothing even slightly amusing about the recent attacks in Paris on the journalists of Charlie Hebdo and the customers of a kosher supermarket, there was an element of dark humor in an article that appeared in Le Monde on February 16 about Amedy Coulibaly, the young man of Malian descent who shot a policewoman dead and then killed four hostages he had taken. Coulibaly was an armed robber and racketeer who found Islamic extremism much to his liking. Just before Christmas last year, preparing for his attack, he insisted that a former rapper who owed him 30,000 Euros ($36,000), presumably for the performance of some illegal service, should repay the money because, he said, he needed it urgently. “I naively thought it was for the holidays,” the former rapper told the police. I’d have liked to see their faces when he said that.

Read complete article here

Quote of the Day

"An ignorant man, who is not fool enough to meddle with his clock, is however sufficiently confident to think he can safely take to pieces, and put together at his pleasure, a moral machine of another guise, importance, and complexity, composed of far other wheels, and springs, and balances, and counteracting and co-operating powers.... Their delusive good intention is no excuse for their presumption."  Edmund Burke

G.K. Chesterton — In the matter of "reforming things"

"In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it."  — The Thing: Why I am a Catholic by - G.K. Chesterton 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

John Legend’s Oscar statement about prisons and slavery

Lonnie Lynn aka Common and John Stephens aka John Legend accept the Best Original Song Award for "Glory" from "Selma" onstage during the 87th Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on February 22, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

(From The Washington Post)

It's true. There are some, as Politifact has written, 1.7 million black men under some form of correctional control, including probation and parole, excluding those held in local jails on any given day. That is about twice the 870,000 or so black men at least 15 years old who were enslaved in 1850, according to the Census (warning: big file).
In some ways, of course, the comparison is misleading. Although there are more blacks under correctional control now than there were slaves before the Civil War, the population has a whole has grown tremendously in that time. The Census that year found that roughly nine in 10 of the nation's 3.6 million blacks were enslaved. By contrast, one in 11 blacks is under correctional supervision today, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts.

What Clarence Thomas Learned from Malcolm X

 (From Reason Magazine)

Thomas certainly does reject many of the government solutions now in vogue for dealing with racial problems. But the source of that rejection is frequently misunderstood—especially by Thomas' liberal critics, who seem to think that he disfavors certain forms of affirmative government action because he believes racism to be dead and gone. New York Times columnist Charles Blow, for example, gave voice to that critique last year when he faulted Thomas for "being unable to acknowledge and articulate the basic fact that race was—and remains—a concern."
In point of fact, Thomas clearly believes that racism is a concern just as he clearly believes that the long shadows of slavery and Jim Crow continue to harm black Americans. Where Thomas differs from most liberals is in his pronounced lack of faith in the ability of ostensibly benevolent government officials to do the right thing.

Kenya’s Unemployed Face Terror’s Lure | The New York Times

As international terror warnings deflate Kenya’s coastal tourism industry, growing unemployment leaves many vulnerable to recruitment by Islamic extremist groups like the Shabab.


Monday, February 23, 2015

(Randian) Dr. Anne Wortham: Afro-Centrism, Euorpean Individualism and African Collectivity

Randian means pertaining to the writer Ayn Rand, who created objectivism, a philosophy that asserted that “the proper moral purpose of one’s life is the pursuit of one’s own happiness (or rational self-interest),” among other tenets.

Andrew M. Mwenda — What can YOU do for YOUR country?

Andrew Mwenda, a Ugandan libertarian  journalist and founder of The Independent, argues in his latest piece that "we should stop complaining about what our country has failed to do and ask what we can do".

Why we should stop complaining about what our country has failed to do and ask what we can do - See more at:
Andrew Mwenda is a Ugandan journalist, founder and owner of The Independent, a current affairs newsmagazine. He was previously the political editor of The Daily Monitor, a Ugandan daily newspaper and was the presenter of Andrew Mwenda Live on the KFM Radio in Kampala, Uganda's capital.

It is very hard to get things done, even at the smallest level. But it is very easy to sit and complain about things. Reading social media, one gets the sense that we have increasingly become a complaining nation, not a doing nation. Everywhere complaints abound of our failing healthcare and education system, of corruption and abuse of office. But one hardly reads a story of what those complaining are doing to change the situation. Are we waiting for intervention from God?

Two caveats: First, complaining is okay if you are doing something about the problem. As Kwame Nkrumah said, “organise, don’t agonise”. Second, accusing our elites of turning Uganda into a complaining nation may be an unfair indictment of our people since social media may not represent the majority of our citizens. It is possible that those who keep complaining on social media are idle (which is another way of saying they are doing nothing). So they have a lot of time at their hands to complain. By implication this means that people who are busy doing things don’t have time to quarrel, heckle, complain, and insult others on social media.

So it was with great inspiration that I read an article in Daily Monitor of January 28, 2015 by Silver Mwesigwa, the speaker of Isingiro district council. Mwesigwa, a holder of a masters’ degree was working with an international NGO and earning good money. He is widely travelled across Africa and the world. But each time he went to his home village, he was saddened at how bad public services were. In 2011 the district had produced only two students in First Grade; most pupils were failing PLE, if they had not dropped out of school. The local health center had little or no drugs while medical personnel were reporting for work late, if at all. There was no clean water.

Like most Ugandans, Mwesigwa could have taken to social and other media to complain about the sorry state of his home district. He would have denounced President Yoweri Museveni and his NRM for their corruption and incompetence. And at one point he did. But none of this would have solved the problems of his community. So he asked himself: what can I do about it? He decided to enter politics and use it as a vehicle for progress. He joined FDC and hit the villages to mobilise people for change.

- See more at:

John Burnett — How Do You Regulate Bitcoin? Very Carefully

John Burnett, the black, moderate-conservative writer for U.S. News & World Report opines about the future of virtual currency.

John Burnett is a financial services executive with over 20 years of experience in risk management, operations, governance and compliance at some of the world’s top financial services and business information companies, such as Citi, McGraw-Hill Financial, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley. Follow him on Twitter: @IamJohnBurnett.

For all the extraordinary promise that virtual currency offers, there are many significant questions hanging over this nascent industry that should give consumers and investors pause, particularly as policymakers struggle to keep pace with this new technology.

Consider the fact that virtual currency, also known as bitcoin, is largely unregulated, with a Tokyo-based exchange known as Mt. Gox collapsing last year after it lost 850,000 Bitcoins valued at about a half billion dollars in a security breach. More than that, though, the value of an actual bitcoin has fallen sharply. In 2013, the value of bitcoin peaked at more than $1,200. Now, a bitcoin’s worth is down to $240 – a decline that has not, however, dampened overall enthusiasm for cybercash. Finally, and perhaps most important, policymakers and regulators seem unsure about how to deal with this emerging market, potentially exposing consumers and investors to a level of risk that might be avoidable with the proper regulatory precautions.

My concerns over the freewheeling nature of this industry were heightened last week when troubling questions surfaced over the launch of Coinbase Inc., a company that opened a Bitcoin trading system that reportedly has slightly more than $100 million in backing from significant investors, including the New York Stock Exchange. Just days after Coinbase opened for business, a top financial regulator in New York challenged what appeared to be the company's unfounded claim that it was under regulatory oversight in the state. A spokesman for the New York State Department of Finance issued a statement saying that the company did not have the licenses necessary to operate as a virtual currency exchange in the state.

Read complete article here

Donny Hathaway - Little Ghetto Boy

Thomas Sowell — Damaging Admissions

 Opponents of charter schools have claimed that these schools are "cherry-picking" the students they admit, and that this explains why many charter schools get better educational results with less money than public schools do.

Many controversies about how students should be admitted to educational institutions, especially those supported by the taxpayers, betray a fundamental confusion about what these institutions are there for. This applies to both schools and colleges.

Admitting students strictly on the basis of their academic qualifications, which might seem to be common sense, is rejected by many college admissions committees.

Read complete article here

Chidike Okeem — Dr. Carter G. Woodson and Black History Month

Carter Godwin Woodson (December 19, 1875 – April 3, 1950) was an African-American historian, author, journalist and the founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. Woodson was one of the first scholars to study African-American history. A founder of The Journal of Negro History in 1915, Woodson has been cited as the father of black history. In February 1926 he announced the celebration of "Negro History Week", considered the precursor of Black History Month


If Black History Month is to stay true to Woodson’s vision, then promotion of black achievement needs to be the focus. Rather, as it exists today, Black History Month predominantly focuses on Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954, the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955-1956, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and other breakthroughs from oppression that occurred during that period. It is crucial to note that Woodson died in 1950—before the monumental events and milestones of the modern civil rights movement began. 

Given that Woodson was not alive for the bulk of the civil rights gains of the 1950s and 1960s, the modern civil rights movement could not have been part of his vision for the recognition of black achievement. Woodson astutely believed that asserting the importance of black people to world civilization was an inextricable component of reducing the prevalence of anti-blackness and racism in the Western world. Spotlighting freedom from oppression was not the primary goal of Negro History Week, inasmuch as Woodson knew there was more to black achievement and black culture. Woodson understood that the history of black Americans does not begin with slavery; rather, it begins with grand, ancient civilizations in Africa.

Read complete article here

Can Reforming Culture Save Black Youths?

In a new book, Harvard sociology professor Orlando Patterson explores the way in which culture can be used to understand and improve the lives of young African Americans.

 (From The

Considering recent tragedies and protests involving black youths, the police and the legal system—along with the centuries of devastation wrought by racial bias—a work exploring the impact of culture is both timely and welcome. Though we are far from achieving a post-racial society, what Ralph Ellison called conscious culture can point a way.

Culture—“that which separates the behavior of Homo sapiens from other species”—is so fundamental, Patterson proclaims, that “the question, then, is not whether culture matters but how.” He begins the 688-page anthology with an account of the concept, which he explains as two processes that dance. The first is shared “ideas, narratives, metaphors, and beliefs, formal and informal rules or norms, and specific as well as ultimate values.” The second is how these apply in social interactions with others, where individuality and creativity can be exercised “within limits set by practical rules of engagement that take account of status, power, and context.”

Read complete article here

Leah Wright Rigueur — The Forgotten History of Black Republicans

Leah Wright Rigueur is an Assistant Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. Her book, The Loneliness of the Black Republican: Pragmatic Politics and the Pursuit of Power (Princeton University Press, 2015) covers more than four decades of American political and social history, and examines the ideas and actions of black Republican activists, officials, and politicians.

 (From The Daily Beast)

Our assumptions about blacks in the Republican Party are teleological and ahistorical, informed by the Republican Party as it exists in the present; thus our views are often flat, lacking historical depth. Surely this understanding denies us the messiness that is at the heart of our beliefs and at the core of our personal politics: the ongoing debate that each one of us has with ourselves and with others about which politicians and policies we should support and about what ideologies we should embrace.

Our implicit views of black Republicans—either as strange alien creatures or as noble exceptions among their duped Democratic brethren—reject the notion of political choice; too often we assume that blacks in America are Democrats by default; though not intentional, that assumption denies agency to an entire group of citizens. In this scenario, black Republicans are simultaneously invisible and hypervisible: isolated political misfits who provoke extreme reactions. These views, whether voiced by liberals or conservatives, of any race, are troublesome, muting reality and history and ignoring the complex ways that race and politics inter- sect in the United States. Simply put: our views obscure the fascinating diversity that exists within this “strange” group known as black Republicans, obscuring their historical significance over the past three-quarters of a century; this, in turn, conceals a richer understanding not only of black politics but of American politics more generally.

Exploring black politics over nearly half a century, disrupts many of our perceptions about African Americans who support the GOP; at times we find not a peculiar group of blacks, desperate for white acceptance or out of touch with American realities but rather a movement of African Americans working for an alternative economic and civil rights movement. At other moments, we see a cadre of figures who make cynical concessions in order to maintain a modicum of power.

Read complete article here

Dr. Stephen L. Carter — What Will Obama Give You for Your Privacy?

Stephen L. Carter, a Bloomberg View columnist, is a professor of law at Yale University, where he teaches courses on contracts, professional responsibility, ethics in literature, intellectual property, and the law and ethics of war.

Suppose that the government were to ask each of us to wear an unremovable bracelet that allowed our location to be determined in an emergency. The responsible agencies would promise never to use this authority in the absence of a court order. True, there would be a potential threat to privacy, but supporters would contend that the trade-off was worthwhile: Terrorists and child kidnappers would be easier to catch.

I’m not sure how much you would like this suggestion. I for one would fight it tooth and nail.

Although we’re certainly nowhere near that point, there is a bit of the same flavor in the government’s pressure on smartphone makers not to use encryption so strong that law enforcement agencies can’t break it when they have to.

Read complete article here

When Fascists Tried to Remake Ethiopia

Picture of Benito Mussolini and Fascist Blackshirt youth in 1935 in Rome.

via The American Conservative:

When Mussolini’s army invaded and ultimately occupied Ethiopia, the Italian fascists did more than expand Italy’s African empire; in their eyes, they obtained an opportunity to build a capital from scratch.

As Rixt Woudstra details at Failed Architecture,
The idea of Ethiopia as a tabula rasa—a blank slate—was omnipresent in the writings of architects and urban planners occupied with the designs of the colonial capital between 1936 and 1939, who considered the country devoid of any structures of architectural significance. Contrary to the fascination of Libyan whitewashed courtyard house – their simplicity, colours and volumes perfectly in tune with modern taste – the round houses of the Ethiopians were regarded by Italian architects as irrational and unhygienic.
Modernist architecture’s obsession with rationality and supreme planning looked askance at a city even as relatively new as Addis Ababa for not proceeding out of the geometries and ideals en vogue in Europe. Within months of the Ethiopian capital’s conquest, no less an architect than Le Corbusier, one of the icons and pioneers of modernism, composed a sketch to accompany a letter he sent to Mussolini instructing “how a city for the modern times is born,” and offering his services as a midwife.

 Read complete article here

Quote of the Day

"Tradition is the democracy of the dead. It means giving a vote to the most obscure of all classes: our ancestors." ― G.K. Chesterton