About Alton Drew

I graduated from the Florida State University with a Bachelor of Science in economics and political science (1984); a Master of Public Administration (1993); and a Juris Doctor (1999). You can follow me on Twitter @altondrew.

For the sake of a less balkanized open internet, it is time to reinterpret the Tenth Amendment

A number of states have taken it upon themselves to either implement their own net neutrality rules or issue executive orders requiring that broadband access providers servicing their states follow practices that prohibit throttling of data from unaffiliated content providers; prohibit the blocking of access to content of a consumer’s choosing; prohibits content providers from gaining priority for their traffic over other content providers where they compensate the broadband access provider for the privilege; and requires broadband access providers make transparent the terms and conditions of service as part of transparent network management.

This is the type of behavior that would be expected from a sovereign state where they exercise complete jurisdiction over communications platforms within their geographical or legal physical boundaries. But where at issue is the transmission of data over a global network of interconnected computers, where traffic is sent and received from almost any point in the world, can approximately 21 separate states tell broadband access providers how best to manage this traffic contrary to what the nation’s lead agency responsible for regulating the communications network has required by rule?

What we now call States are the spawns of 13 original British colonies, organized territories, and unorganized territories. While the reasons for individual settlement ranged from the ability to practice certain religions freely to establishing trade and making returns on capital investment to pulling an individual out of poverty, sovereigns granted charters to colonies in return for global political and economic gains. Sovereigns expected colonial governors to manage a colonies human and natural resources in order to produce taxable goods and services. Taxes collected increased the wealth of the monarchy.

Lost in the transition from rule under a monarch to rule under a federal government is that only the nature and construct of the sovereign has changed. America abandoned rule by a single monarch to rule by a central national government with the very powers that the monarch possesses: the power to tax, borrow on future tax receipts, and regulate foreign and domestic trade and commerce. Much to the chagrin of states’ rights proponents and desperate advocates of net neutrality, America’s 50 states today occupy the same status of no sovereignty as possessed by the original 13 colonies. States are nothing but suped-up territories on steroids and have no jurisdiction to regulate an international communications network.

States’ rights advocates often direct their argument to the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which reserves certain powers to the States. Specifically, the powers not delegated to the national government or prohibited by the Constitution to the States are reserved to the States. These powers are restricted by Article I, Section 10 of the Constitution which says the following:

“No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.
No State shall, without the Consent of the Congress, lay any Imposts or Duties on Imports or Exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing it’s inspection Laws: and the net Produce of all Duties and Imposts, laid by any State on Imports or Exports, shall be for the Use of the Treasury of the United States; and all such Laws shall be subject to the Revision and Controul of the Congress.

No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.”

The plain reading of Article I, Section 10 leads me to conclude that States have no jurisdiction other than that granted to them by the national government and its agencies. If States had sovereignty, the Constitution would have been written in reverse, where the States granted limited responsibilities and specified limited powers to the central government. Unfortunately for net neutrality advocates, this is not the case.

Net neutrality is a data market issue. Specifically, the requirements of net neutrality place barriers to entry into data markets defined either by national and state borders or by the geographic areas served by a broadband access provider’s local network. While net neutrality advocates may argue that their goal is the non-discriminatory free flow of data over broadband networks, implementing state rules on how this flow is to be regulated is unconstitutional because this is a space, the regulation of commerce, that is occupied solely by Congress.

Progressives must recognize the irony, that the political argument of states’ rights, usually the narrative espoused by conservatives, is the very platform upon which progressives are launching their state attack on the Federal Communications Commission.

Congress could take the opportunity to reassert itself as the branch of government responsible for the regulation of commerce. Congress could via statute define net neutrality and clarify how traffic transported via broadband networks is to be regulated.

Unfortunately, partisanship is tainting the debate where Progressives in the U.S. Senate are more concerned about keeping net neutrality in play as an election issue in hopes that the Federal Communications Commission’s recent repeal of the 2015 open internet order can be a basis for attacking Republicans as a party not concerned with democracy on the internet.

Will net neutrality keep the FCC politicized and will investors pay for it?

Yesterday, Federal Communications Chairman Ajit Pai issued a statement regarding an investigation by the agency’s inspector general into last year’s claims that the Commission’s website was attacked during the comment period on the Commission’s net neutrality rules. Mr. Pai asserted that he was told by the Commission’s former chief information officer that external parties attempted to overload the Commission’s electronic comment portal with high traffic. It appears that the disruption to the comment system was not the result of third-party bad actors but the result of the system not being able to accommodate a high number of respondents attempting to comment at the same time. Mr. Pai went as far to say that allegations that he was aware that the former CIO’s comments were false or hid the true reasons for political reasons were incorrect.

Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel was more pointed in her statement, stating that the inspector general’s findings were not a surprise; that the meltdown in the system was a reflection of how serious millions of citizens took the issue of net neutrality.

Commissioner Rosenworcel’s response, short and biting, was not surprising given the political polarization I have observed on the Commission going back to the beginning of the Tom Wheeler era. The debate over net neutrality has been the focal point for political rift, a debate that I find at odds with the Commission’s core mission which is to ensure the maintenance and availability of a universal communications network.

The debate has come down to two schools of thought. On the one hand is the comedian John Oliver view, where net neutrality rules are needed to ensure that the internet is “democratized”; that all voices can be heard and that consumers have access to the content that they choose without fear that their internet service provider is favoring its content over another provider’s content.

On the other hand, there is the original “internetwork” view of Professor Tim Wu who in his 2002 proposal for net neutrality focused on the negative externalities that could impact all networks if a broadband access provider where to extend otherwise legitimate local network management into the shared areas of the internet by discriminating against traffic coming from certain internet protocol addresses, TCP ports, or domain names.

Democracy as a narrative can lend itself to justifying invasiveness as is the case of the John Oliver model. This argument creates overreach by asserting that a broadband access provider must be transparent regarding how it manages its network. Professor Wu made clear in his proposal that a broadband access provider is expected to manage its local network in a manner that keeps it operational and efficient. It is at the internetwork level (Level 3 through Level 7 in open system interconnection parlance) that could get a broadband provider in trouble where the provider can program its network to block applications, IP addresses, or domain names.

Proponents of the Oliver School haven’t made the argument why broadband access providers could not make certain economic discrimination rules regarding bandwidth within a provider’s local network. They appear willing to avoid the initial slipping on the slope and appear willing to dive right in by allegedly protecting consumers by promoting rules that may require regulating internal aspects of local network management.

For the investor, the Oliver School can be expensive as a broadband provider, especially a smaller provider, faces the risk of having to litigate an increased number of consumer complaints about the amount of bandwidth they believe that are not receiving as a result of a perceived net neutrality slight.

For the local and state governments that are tasked with investigating consumer complaints, there cost of regulation will rise in order to address complaints regarding local network management when resources should be reserved for complaints regarding violations “on the edge.”

Investors should not expect the net neutrality debate to fade away anytime soon. The politics at he Commission may intensify once another Democratic commissioner is appointed to fill the seat left vacant by Mignon Clyburn. Should the Democratic Party win the U.S. House this fall, I expect the Progressive caucus to add to the “Democracy Under Attack” narrative the failure of the Commission to implement strong net neutrality rules thereby protecting freedom of expression and a “democratized” open internet.

Can the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta play development bank in West End Atlanta?

Mohamed El-Erian in his book, The Only Game in Town, shared this observation about the average person’s awareness of the importance of their country’s central bank.
“Most people spend little of any time thinking about how central banks impact them — not only in their daily lives but also in influencing (and even defining) the opportunities that their kids will have. Indeed, despite the substantial reach of these powerful institutions and the critical role they have played, there is still little societal recognition as to how much citizens have riding on their judgment, wisdom, and success — from protecting and enhancing their financial savings to securing credit and finding well-paying jobs.”

Staff at The Economist published an article describing the history of the world’s central banks, institutions that were first started to help raise funds for wars waged by monarchs and then taking on the additional tasks of helping to grow economies by stabilizing the prices of goods and currencies.

“Governments have asked central banks to pursue several goals at once: stabilizing currencies; fighting inflation; safeguarding the financial system; coordinating policy with other countries; and reviving economies.” — The Economist

But development bank, specifically development bank for poor communities within cities, is not listed as one of those goals. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta has taken on a role of “information clearing house” for initiatives that emphasize development of low income communities. The Federal Reserve is not a development bank like the World Bank or the Inter-Development Bank, where these organizations provide direct investment into national projects aimed at economic or social development. Given the Federal Reserve’s stodgy and wonky characteristics, the central bank’s interest in issues that border on the social as well as economic is interesting. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s president, Raphael Bostic, has acknowledged that economists are considering the more behavioral aspects of consumers in assessing the health of the economy.

That approach could play well in understanding areas like the West End section of Atlanta, an area that given current gentrification still has a significant low-income population. The area’s household median income is half of that of Atlanta’s with home prices ranging between $45,000 and $580,000. Although the population experienced a 13% drop since 2000, people have been moving back into the neighborhood as evidenced by a 5% increase in population since 2010. But the Federal Reserve’s acknowledgment of an income and employment problem may be offset by its recent policy of rate hikes.

Rate increases approved by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve are good for bankers (Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase believes interest rates should be at 5%.), but higher rates if not timed properly could dampen economic growth as borrowing becomes more expensive. Even if employment training initiatives championed by the Federal Reserve have any positive effects, could those effects be diluted by a higher cost of living?

Also, poorly timed rate increases could take a little air out of asset bubbles. Seeing a house priced at $580,000 literally two doors down from an apartment building where rents average $645 a month gives me the impression that little asset bubbles are forming given the gap in wealth on this street. Worse yet, as property taxes rise with home values, landlords may be forced to raise rents placing an additional burden on low-income residents of West End.

Instead of contributing to an initiative that empowers low-income residents, the Federal Reserve may be adding to the wealth gap by widening the physical gap between well-off and not so well-off. No need for electronics in order to build a virtual gated community.

If Twitter doesn’t want to be an echo chamber, then it should eliminate the retweet

The democratization of the internet was supposed to open up avenues of expression for the American electorate. According to progressives, the commercial faction doing the most damage to freedom of expression on the internet was the broadband internet access provider. These firms, which include AT&T, Comcast, Cox, and Verizon, posed a threat to democratic expression because they could potentially block access to a consumer’s preferred website, manipulate the speeds at which a content provider could transmit data to a consumer, or put their content ahead of content provided by another website.

Proponents of the concept of net neutrality, where broadband access providers would be prohibited from favoring their content over those preferred by their subscribers, throttling the speeds by which content providers transmitted data, or blocking access to websites, had only in their gunsights the broadband access provider. The masses of net neutrality followers were never fully informed by their leading strategists that if commercial activity was looked at in its entirety then edge providers such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google, would have to be placed under their scopes as well.

The net neutrality faction seemed to be advancing politically and legally. After taking what appeared to be marching orders from President Barack Obama in late 2014 on implementing net neutrality rules, former Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler delivered by issuing in 2015 a set of net neutrality rules based on the Communications Act of 1934. The following year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia would seemingly affirm net neutrality after denying a court challenge of the rules by Verizon.

Unfortunately, all honeymoons end and proponents of democracy on the internet would find out over the next two years what the real challenge to democracy over the internet is: contentiousness.

For those of us who advocate in cyberspace, we know that social media can be unforgiving. Trolls hiding behind goofy looking avatars hurling one-liners and expletives make the notion of free expression a joke. Bad manners and narcissism go viral with a hashtag, the digital banner around which many, unfortunately uninformed, tend to rally. Politics is fun to watch at times, but in the end, it is low-frequency chimp shit where most of its participants vibrate at highly emotional levels.

Emotions around net neutrality were expertly manipulated by strategists to distract consumer and policymaker alike from the other side of the freedom of expression debate: a business model driven by algorithms and advertising fees.

The cynic will argue that for the edge provider, “open internet”, a term used interchangeably with net neutrality, means a business model opened to advertisement by foreign agents and the ease of infiltrating a democratic system. Dig a little deeper and the cynicism goes away because democracy is an open system that, in theory at least, allows for wide participation. Combine democracy with an open market driven by digitization and you actually lessen the argument that democracy as a political system can be attacked. Rather, democracy is increasingly susceptible to crude, direct manipulation as the alleged Russian interference with the 2016 elections demonstrates.

Russia was able to play on the contentiousness of the American political system, a system where debate is highly polarized; where communities can be quickly established around a Twitter hashtag and discussions, debates, and pronouncements made to go viral with a retweet and nary any deeper research to verify the tweet.

Maybe something for proponents of openness on the internet to consider, that while keeping their eyes and rants on the broadband access provider as gatekeeper, the focus should also be on the retweet as the Trojan Horse. To an online democracy, is one worse than the other?

What resources did the public administrator charter social media to manage?

Western government has followed a basic pattern for centuries. Enter a geographic area and settle it by managing its resources. The activities surrounding the extraction, processing, and distribution of resources are regulated and taxed by government with proceeds going toward the maintenance of government operations and institutions and the promotion of the social fabric. Government administers the control of resources via private hands by issuing “trading companies” a license to carry out the economic and financial activity necessary for resource management including the sale of finished products and services to consumers.

As a side note, you will find going forward that I will refer to private sector actors as “traders” or “trading companies.” Sometimes I will refer to private actors as merchants as well. The practice of trade and its importance in the activities of national government will be addressed more in future blogs but for now when I discuss the private sector I am describing the exchange of goods and services in markets where one asset, i.e. cash, is exchanged for another asset, i.e. goods, services, and the public administrator is regulating those exchanges on some level.

You will also find going forward that I will use public administrator and government interchangeably. Most Americans include the legislative and judicial in their perception of government. While the legislature and judicial branches set the legal parameters within which public administration occurs, government is about action hence the term executive when describing the branch that takes actual action in carrying out policy. Thus, arises another reason for using public administrator when describing action taken by government.

I can at a firm like US Steel and argue that they were chartered to create a taxable event in the mining of metals used to create steel. Archer Daniel Midland was likely chartered to create a taxable event in food production. Delta Airlines, chartered to create a taxable event in transportation. And Facebook? What resources has Facebook been chartered to manage and organize?

Given its mission to connect the world, Facebook’s charter appears to have been granted for the extraction and management of personal information in order to build an audience to which traders can advertise their goods and services. The taxable events public administrators are hoping for include the purchase of advertisement from Facebook which leads to taxable corporate income, and sales taxes generated from the sale of a trader’s goods and services with taxes going to state and local governments.

I am calling out Facebook because they are currently king of social media, but this analysis of public administration and social media could apply to any other social media firm including Twitter or LinkedIn. I guess a significant number of academics would not take to the argument that the government (and by government I am referring to the entire federal-state-local structure) issued a charter to mine the data of American consumers but that is the resource that Facebook and other social media sites extract, organize, and distribute for the purpose of making a profit, a taxable event.

Facebook’s business model for garnering consumer information and converting it into profit has been on Congress’ radar for months now especially given Facebook’s poor stewardship over personal data released to third parties. Implementing modifications to how it manages privacy may have a negative impact on net income, reducing the amount available for taxation. Last week, Facebook stock took a one-day hit falling 20% in value as concerns circulated about how its implementation of new privacy initiatives might impact its costs of doing business. I doubt if this price fall included any potential Trump administration action on privacy, but if not, any additional action on the part of the Trump administration or independent “Fourth Branch” agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission may contribute additional headache for the company and its shareholders.

Stacey Abrams, the New American Majority, and the Politics of Becky

This political season white women are probably feeling under attack and undervalued. Other than a not guilty plea entered by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein in a sexual assault charge, the #MeToo movement, driven mostly by white female feminists and entertainment celebrities, appears on hiatus from major media coverage.

White women couldn’t even get a break in Alabama’s special election to fill the U.S. senate seat vacated by current U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions when the media and Democrats gave Alabama’s black female electorate credit for the victory of Democrat Doug Jones over Republican Roy Moore, a former Alabama supreme court jurist who was accused of lewd sexual misconduct involving teenage girls over 30 years ago. While this victory should have been chalked up to the #MeToo movement, white female voters in Alabama decided to ignore the #MeToo bandwagon. According to USA Today, 31% of voters in that special election were white women. Of that amount, 34% voted for Jones while 63% voted for Judge Moore. While 17% of voters were black women, 98% of those voters gave Doug Jones the nod.

Meanwhile in the neighboring state of Georgia, the question is will white women allow black voters, especially black women voters, take credit for another potentially huge victory for Democrats in the deep South? Early polls cited in Heavy.com show that women overall are favoring Democrat Stacey Abrams over Republican Brian Kemp. In a WXIA/Survey USA poll, Mr. Kemp has a two-point lead over Ms. Abrams, but in a Mason-Dixon poll taken last February, Ms. Abrams had a three-point lead over Mr. Kemp. Liberals nation-wide are hoping that the election will be the death knell for the white working class vote and signal the emergence of a “New American Majority.” The following quote may shed some light on what Ms. Abrams run really represents:

“If Abrams can win the general election and become the first black woman governor in U.S. History, in a Southern state that sits in the heart of the old Confederacy, it will be a powerful symbol of the capacity of black women to be the face — and not just the backbone or helpmate — of American politics. This might prove the most crucial outcome of an Abrams’ victory. Since 2016, the Democratic Party has had an ongoing debate about whether to try to win over white working-class voters or focus on the base of the New American Majority. A definitive Abrams win in the general election could settle that dispute for the 2020 cycle.” Heavy.com

The above quote comes as no surprise to me. I have suspected this campaign as an initiative by advocacy groups such as Democracy in Color, based on the west coast, which is lending support to Ms. Abrams campaign, as an attempt to provide further political empowerment to ethnic minorities. Like a significant number of members of the African Diaspora living in America, I have grown suspect of groups that lump a group of mostly unempowered black people with other groups that share neither lineage or policy goals with blacks. As usual, blacks are being shoved to the front of the political line in order to garner traction for a movement that more than likely will garner benefits for women, Hispanics, and Asians first with blacks, as usual, picking up the crumbs.

Blacks will fall in formation behind the black political and cultural elite and likely give Ms. Abrams the 90-plus percentage vote that their peers gave to Doug Jones in Alabama. I don’t suspect the current #WalkAway movement will have much impact in dissuading black voters to not fall in line with the Democrats this election cycle. If anything, movements like Atlanta’s “Black Slate” will do their best to urge blacks to deliver a historic one-two political punch by adding an Abrams victory to that earned by Keisha Lance-Bottoms in Atlanta’s mayoral race last fall.

If blacks vote near unanimously for Ms. Abrams, I expect white women to hold the key to a Brian Kemp victory. Unlike the Alabama U.S. senate race, I suspect the “peculiarities” of southern culture to raise their heads, the most prominent being race, specifically the undocumented competition between white and black women. As the race draws closer, I believe the pettiness of “white woman-black woman” competition will play a factor. How significant, I can’t tell right now. Polling won’t pick up this competition, but for those of us either having been born in the south, or like me, having lived here for decades, we expect that this competition will insert itself into the decision matrix of some voters.

If Ms. Abrams allows herself to recognize this, she will implore her west coast help to target conservative or moderate white women; selling them on the benefits of a progressive platform and the need to be on what liberals consider to be the right side of history in the selection of a America’s first black woman governor. Ms. Abrams will also have to quell the fears of working class whites who do not take kindly to the perception that minorities, particularly black people, have been enjoying economic gains at the expense of white people. That may be a tough sell. Ms. Abrams does not strike the optics, i.e. well educated, black, natural hairstyle, of someone that relate to white working-class Georgia.

With just over twelve weeks to go, Ms. Abrams has her work cut out for her.

Too much focus on being number one in 5G

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation today held a hearing on the deployment of 5G mobile wireless technology. 5G is a standard for the delivery of wireless broadband communications services which is increasingly dependent on small cell technology and promises to provide the speed and capacity considered necessary for delivering faster mobile services, transporting more data, and supporting the connectivity for the “internet of things.” Discussions about the technology and the services that could be rolled out on the platform have been occurring for the better part of the last decade and according to one witness during today’s hearing the technology is due to be deployed later this year in the United States.

All throughout today’s hearing there was the constant reference to being number one in the deployment of the infrastructure and in the design and production of devices that would use 5G. It was becoming nauseating primarily because none of the senators expressing the boom rah, rah of 5G superiority could explain why being number one was important or define what being number one meant. Only one senator, Shelley Moore-Capito, Republican of West Virginia, felt important to ask the panel of witnesses to put 5G’s role in economic growth in proper perspective. I am not one for giving politicians kudos, but Senator Moore-Capito came pretty close today.

In a nutshell, 5G is about devices and transmission facilities using radio frequencies more efficiently to send more data and send that data further. It is questionable whether 5G will significantly out do the current 4G standard. Personally, I have enough speed for my research and communications needs while understanding that there are other consumers who believe that more speed and data capacity is necessary or desirable for their needs. I get that. What I am inquiring into is the underlying philosophy that drives the need for being number one in this area.

I acknowledge the return to capital aspect. Think back to the mid-1980s when call waiting and call forwarding came into being. These services boiled down to engineers tinkering around with the electronic switches that provided voice services back in the day and saying, voila, we can do something extra here at the margin, and it will help bring in globs of revenue because at the margin the cost for providing these new services is near zero and we can set a price that brings in hundreds if not thousands of percent in contribution. Think of the origination of Post-Its where a bunch of engineers working another project decided to take paper waste and come up with a cool, simple creation.

While I honestly think Post-Its are cool, I can’t get excited about a country wanting to be number one in making new devices. Yes, markets will be happy about any additional revenues and profits these devices and facilities can generate for shareholders but in the end are we really getting innovation or just a shell game where nothing new, nothing above baseline noise is being created? Or is new information even appreciated or sought out anymore?

A top down Virgin Islands economy cannot survive further into the 21st century

An area populated by roughly 105,000 people should not run its economy based on a model designed to hoard capital while generating returns to that capital in as many markets as possible. Given the reliance on government and tourism as its economy’s drivers, can the Virgin Islands of the United States afford to have a fraction of its community limit the distribution of capital and the opportunities that are spawned from capital deployment? In other words, where a small number of farmers control most of the seed, should they be allowed to only spread seed on a small portion of the land while most of the plot lays fallow? The answer is no.

I can understand the marginalization that a significant number of Virgin Islanders feel. My father moved from St. Kitts to the Virgin Islands in the early 1960s. He married my mother in St. Kitts in 1962 and I, their first born, came along the following year. He worked in the hotel industry which was booming at that period in large part to Fidel Castro taking Cuba offline as a tourist stop resulting in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico emerging as alternative vacation destinations. A large number of “down islanders” moved to the Virgin Islands during that period and while we added to the vibrancy of the economy, particularly in the tourist industry, we were always outsiders, having not being born in the territory.

That outsider status as immigrants of course spilled over into the other industry: government. Being non-citizens, my parents could only watch from the sidelines and cheer for a candidate that they thought represented their values. During the early 1960s through the late 1970s that candidate was Cyril E. King. So enamored with the late governor was my mother that she thought it a good idea that I share Governor King’s middle name. Quite a few parents shared that sentiment during that time as well.

But not only was there marginalization in terms of origin or employment by or representation in government, there was marginalization in terms of ownership in the private sector. Yes, locals owned small retail outlets, trade shops, small bars, and restaurants, but larger institutions such as the banks, hotels, and jewelry stores remained in the hands of American and European corporations. Corporations and banks represent not only non-ownership on the part of locals, but a flow of capital and income out of the territory. A community with a high level of poverty needs to see capital and income recycled through the local population, searching out and funding the opportunities that have laid dormant or unseen because current hoarders of capital are biased against local people, preferring to keep us marginalized.

What type of opportunities should re-cycled capital and income search out? They should seek out opportunities that create the ability for each household to have productive capacity within their own hands. Capital and income need to stay within the territory and provide households the ability to practice “decentralized home economics”; where a household can produce their own energy, network their own communications needs; and access alternative modes of logistics that not only transport citizens quickly to any destination, but brings goods, services, and information from distant points to the household. Instead of enjoying fewer economic benefits because they have been forced to live on the edge, households can maximize returns on their resources i.e. income and capital, by making the most from living on the edge.

Marginalization no longer has to be equated with poverty. It can now be, through the use of technology, be equated with wealth.

While statutes say Virgin Islanders are U.S. citizens, aren’t they being treated more like U.S. nationals?

A significant number of citizens of the U.S. Virgin Islands enjoy the Fourth of July. Just pay your Facebook timeline a visit and you will see a number of Virgin Islanders sharing “Happy Fourth of July” greetings or giving military veterans a special shout-out for their service in America’s armed forces. With a population that is well over 70% of African descent and a considerable number of those individuals hailing from independent Caribbean nations or the Caribbean overseas territories of other European powers, it is sometimes amusing and downright disturbing to see an African Diaspora population relish in a revolution by American colonists who did not resemble most Virgin Islanders.

Today’s Virgin Islanders do resemble America’s founding citizens in one respect: Virgin Islanders are residents of a colony although I would not go as far as saying that they are true colonists. Although since 1927 American law has granted people born in the Virgin Islands full citizenship status, I would argue that Virgin Islanders more resemble American nationals than they do full American citizens.

While a U.S. citizen is also a U.S. national, a U.S. national is not necessarily a U.S. citizen. A national is someone born in an unincorporated territory and enjoys limited but not full citizenship rights like universal access to the right to vote for national leaders. To enjoy full citizenship rights, a Virgin Islander would have to move to the U.S. mainland and receive what I call “instant naturalization.” This means that once she takes up residence in the States she could vote and receive other benefits typically reserved for citizens living on the U.S. mainland.

As for the deficiency in colonial status that I alluded to earlier, the major components of the USVI’s tourist-driven economy, i.e., most hotels, restaurants, clubs, jewelry stores, etc., are not owned by “locals.” Outside interests and investors own the tourist industry. If you are not benefiting in terns of equity for the extraction and sale of tourist product, you really cannot call yourself a colonist.

But treated like a colonist you are if living in the Virgin Islands. As I shared with you in a post yesterday, who the Virgin Islands trades with externally is dictated by American law. Virtually all items you need for survival are imported. According to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, the USVI has a considerable trade deficit, exporting $1.81 billion in goods and services in 2016 while importing $2.49 billion in goods and services, also in 2016. Federal and territorial government spending accounted for 27% of gross domestic product, according to the Central Intelligence Agency. Together, government spending and exports comprised 74% of the USVI’s gross domestic product.

The Virgin Islands has been treated like an outlying territory in the Badlands for decades. I still remember the feeling of being ignored by the U.S. federal government during the post event travails of hurricanes David and Frederick in 1979. The memories of being a step-child in a catastrophe came back to me last year as the media, who ironically has spearheaded the “ignore the USVI” approach, started reporting on how the USVI was being ignored as Puerto Rico got the spotlight after hurricanes Irma and Maria severely damaged both territories.

Not only do residents of the USVI not have full citizenship. They get less than guidance or attention on their poor economy.

The question is, whether status as a territory and effective status as a U.S. national in an unincorporated territory provides the USVI with the opportunities to succeed?  Maybe it is time for Virgin Islanders to start agitating like fed up colonists.

America’s Silly Politics and Pundit Clown Show Continues ….

Conservative pundits losing their minds not realizing that Mr Trump’s “poor performance” was a play on them. Idiots. Mr Trump is conducting a not very smooth triangulation. By saying that any alleged attack on the 2016 elections was the fault of both sides he throws the establishment wings of both parties off kilter.

Right now he has a “strong” economy (I say that lightly. While the metrics look good, America’s economy is on a downward spiral) and he has his base’s support, a base that giveth not two shits about the establishment on either side of the spectrum. He can piss off Lindsey Graham and Paul Ryan knowing that after all the criticism, their stock is tied to his. He can piss off Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi in part because he enjoys bitch slapping them both.

Trump’s Helsinki summit was never designed to get anything of substance from Vlad the Impaler. The U.S. is 14 weeks from midterms and Mr Trump is more concerned about the optics of riding the middle between both sets of the political elite while keeping the base in play for 2020. Attacking the American electoral system is a non-issue for the Deplorables. Besides, if it was that important, Pelosi would have persuaded Mr Obama to push for some quasi wartime resolution against Russia versus issuing a bunch of meaningless pardons.

What Hillary Clinton realized but was too afraid and incompetent to put in her messaging was the economic threat to U.S. energy interests posed by Russia. America became a net exporter of oil during The Man from Kenya’s administration.

Unfortunately for the Democrats they had a candidate and a bunch of Democratic congressional members too inept to craft a winning message around what should have been a positive for the American if not global economy.

Everything burns and the circus, with Democratic and Republican clowns, continues.