Libra coin and broadband provide a template for increased economic empowerment

The eye catcher: Maxine Waters’ reaction to Facebook’s Libra …

Facebook’s announcement that it is getting closer to releasing a cryptocurrency has regulators in the United States in a wee bit of a tizzy.  For example, U.S. Representative Maxine Waters, chairman of the House Committee on Financial Services, asked that Facebook put a moratorium on activity to release the crypto-coin, known as Libra, in 2020.

“Given the company’s troubled past, I am requesting that Facebook agree to a moratorium on any movement forward on developing a cryptocurrency until Congress and regulators have the opportunity to examine these issues and take action,” Mrs. Waters said.

Facebook’s issues with adequately protecting the behavioral data of its platform’s users is a continued topic of discussion among the consumer protection folks.  As a protector of the American payment system, Mrs. Waters concerns are expected.  A platform that is used by 2 billion people across the globe with a digital payment system overlay should raise concerns for any nation as that new payment systems entrant poses a competitive alternative for people using currency to seek out and purchase goods and services of value to them.  Reducing the transaction fees assessed on currency movement and purchases provide a benefit to consumers and to holders of capital seeking to increase returns.

Privacy. Disposing the non-issue …

I will dispose of the data privacy issue side note before moving on to the more important issue of black political economy empowerment.  If Mrs. Waters is that concerned with saving Americans from the privacy bogeyman, she would bring members across the aisle in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Senate Committee on Science, Commerce and Transportation and offer a comprehensive bill on privacy that encompasses data collection behavior on the part of core providers, such as AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon, and edge providers, such as Facebook and Google.

Democrats have shown no balance on the issue of internet regulation and acting as if Facebook’s cryptocurrency is a surprise only signals to the internet industry that Congress lacks vision and intends to remain hopelessly behind the technology curve.  The privacy issue should not be used to slow down Facebook’s crypto initiative.

Facebook’s Libra is an outline for the African Diaspora’s Next Step ….

What Mrs. Waters and the rest of the black American political elite may not appreciate is the schematic a digital coin tethered to other currencies or securities provides for the African Diaspora community.  For example, a digital payment system provides a conduit between the African Diaspora in the United States and the African continent.  Currency is an information transmitter and if digitized it means that the information currency transmits about wealth and opportunity can be sent without the friction introduced by unneeded intermediaries.

The block chain technology that such a platform would be built on provides transparency in the form of a digital ledger linked by cryptography.  By design, data transmitted in the block chain is resistant to modification.

Reduced friction in transactions facilitates digital data flows.  It means reduced costs for the cross border flow of capital.  Broadband technology would not only enhance the search and confirmation of investment opportunities in Africa, it makes greater use of block chain technology possible.

And while Facebook’s mission is to “connect the world”, Facebook’s priority is not economic empowerment of blacks.  This opens an opportunity for engineers, scientists, technologists, and economists in the African Diaspora to build their own digital platform linking the western and eastern hemispheres with a digital currency designed to run over this platform.  The resulting creation of capital on both continents can be used to build food processing plants that are desperately needed in Ghana and increasing the size, production efficiencies, and marketing efforts of black-owned farms in the United States.

Conclusion: Keep the eyes on empowerment and digital future …

Rather than slowing down Libra, Mrs. Waters and the rest of the black political elite should be asking, “How can we use this platform or the idea of this platform to our benefit?”

 

 

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Biden’s remarks about civility won’t impact electability much

Joe Biden took a hit in the political prediction markets today as the media reported on comments he made regarding his ability to work with two segregationist senators, the late Herman Talmadge and the late James Eastland.  Two Democratic candidates, U.S. Senator Cory Booker and New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, took issue with Mr. Biden’s use as an example of civility episodes of working with the late senators, citing the negative impact segregation and racism have had on black people in general and their families in particular.

With the Democratic debates just seven days away, Mr. Biden will have this weekend’s Sunday talk shows through which his political strategists can turn the negative reaction into a positive.  I expect Mr. Biden to make a clearer and more forceful argument that the experience of having to work with segregationists within his own party has prepared him for working with conservatives across the aisle.

Ironically, the only candidates getting any type of bump in the prediction markets have been Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, and Andrew Yang.  None of these Democratic candidates were vocally critical of Mr. Biden’s comments.  Messrs Booker and de Blasio saw no changes in their paths to the White House.

The philosophy of ADOS

ADOS. A growing movement …

There is a steadily growing movement within the Black American branch of the African Diaspora referred to as ADOS; American Descendants of Slavery.  The movement was started by Yvette Carnell, editor and creator of the internet site, Breaking Brown; and Antonio Moore, an attorney and creator of the online site, ToneTalks.  The movement’s primary goal is to obtain reparations for the descendants of slaves brought to what is now called the United States and for the federal government to streamline existing economic and civil rights policies as well as implement new policy aimed specifically at Americans who can claim a lineage from slavery.

The specific philosophy …

ADOS was established to make a public policy case for reparations.  As Attorney Moore points out, from a legal perspective, reparations requires a victim and the victim in this case would be the descendants of slaves brought to present day United States.  Blacks brought to present day America from Africa as slaves built the United States economy, argue Ms. Carnell and Mr. Moore, and for this reason, ADOS excludes from its narrative blacks from the Caribbean, Latin America, and Africa.

Ms. Carnell and Mr. Moore are purposefully narrow in their view of America’s relationship with Black America. They see other ethnic groups benefiting from public policy that, in their opinion, was designed for the benefit of Black Americans, i.e. civil rights legislation, affirmative action programs, etc., where blacks are pushed down lower and lower on the benefits ladder while other groups, i.e. women, immigrants, the LGBTQ community garner more attention and resources.  “ADOS is about having a specific conversation about ourselves”, says Mr. Moore.

The first hurdle to establishing ADOS’ philosophy as policy: black people …

Blacks are still learning about ADOS and the ones that have gained some familiarity with the initials if not the founders or the underlying concept of reparations are taking offense to the notion that blacks should view their lineage as having started in slavery.  A number of my friends have expressed this sentiment, disturbed that ADOS does not appear to take into account the history of blacks in Africa prior to being brought to the western hemisphere as slaves.

But how this position regarding the term “American Descendants of Slavery” impacts the endgame of reparations is not clear.  For the last three decades my take on reparations was mostly that of a pipe dream driven primarily by emotions and no foundation in law.  Chattel slavery was legal as far as colonizing European nations were concerned and I didn’t see how moral arguments or emotional outcries regarding the treatment of our African ancestors would gain traction in the late 20th century with people of European descent who either benefited from the capital slavery helped their ancestors generate or whose ancestors arrived after slavery was abolished.

Blacks who occupy the conservative end of the political spectrum may argue that the push for reparations only gives whites an empowered status they do not deserve while relegating blacks to a lower “seeking a handout” status.  Rather, they may argue, blacks should follow the example of enterprising blacks and carve out their own niche via hard work, using the resources currently made available by America. In short, forget reparations.

I expect a significant number of white Americans will be opposed to reparations and that they will likely parrot the conservative argument mentioned above. As they comprise a majority of the electorate, I surmise that their position will weigh the heaviest on any decision made by Congress to pass legislation on reparations.  Congress may not be able to come up with a social policy rationale strong enough to survive the legal scrutiny that is likely to occur should some type of reparations legislation gets passed.

But it’s too early to say reparations won’t happen …

The likelihood of reparations legislation passing in the Congress is near non-existent at this point in time and the most that can be said right now is that black descendants of African slaves advocate for reparations through a lens carved out of the inequity of building a plantation economy without compensation; pain and suffering from rapes, beatings, and lynchings; and 150 years of discrimination and civil rights violations.

What is being seen through this lens, this philosophy of reparations, must be inserted into a clear narrative or policy-based argument.  Right now, without further research, I don’t see an analogical or rules-based argument being used either in support of legislation or in crafting a rule in court that would protect reparations from being challenged.

 

Blacks need a new political law game

The political battle between the Executive and the Congress has been intense to say the least over the last twenty-seven months since Donald Trump took office.  With post-Mueller report hearings ramping up next week, the saga only promises to continue way into campaign season.

My friends and family have expressed varying degrees of interest, with a significant number of opinions fueled more by emotion and less by critical thinking.  For example, the constant reference to “collusion”, a term that has no legal meaning, is disconcerting because it provides an example of how people are ignoring the particulars (even when readily available for examination) and rolling with the globs of misinformation thrown onto the plate most times by the mainstream media.

Black congressional leadership wasting political power …

What should also be disturbing is how two of the highest ranking blacks in the Congress, Maxine Waters and Elijah Cummings, are spearheading the charge in the impeachment debate.  Their distaste for the sitting president is evident, but what is less evident is how the use of a potent political law instrument as impeachment is supposed to translate into any increase in political power, wealth, or capital for black people.

If anything, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has expressed caution about pursuing impeachment, appreciating the argument from some inside her party that pursuing impeachment could have a negative impact on the Democrats’ ability to oust Donald Trump from the Oval Office in November 2020.  Mrs. Pelosi’s hesitancy on impeachment should have provided Ms. Waters and Mr. Cummings an opening to show leadership and go against the impeachment grain, not because it would be in line with Speaker Pelosi’s sentiment, but as a signal that the energy expenditure behind impeachment does nothing for their prime constituency: black people.

When you are marginalized, you agitate …

With at least 51 voting members in the U.S. House, blacks in the Congress are in a position to be the pivotal swing vote on a number of issues including impeachment. Numerically, black members of the House, where articles of impeachment would originate, could clog the wheel by holding back approximately 20% of the Democratic vote.  With this leverage, black congressmen could attempt concessions from either the House leadership or from President Trump, though it is less likely that the black caucus would try to negotiate with the President for fear of becoming a pariah in the Democratic Party.

Therein lies a telling dilemma. If the premier block of black congressmen cannot leverage numerical strength without fear of reprisal, what good is their strength?  Another irony is that for a group of congressman that represent a marginalized group, their fear of marginalization within Congress does not put them in a position to do more for their black constituents.

Maybe the answer is to stay outside the box …

On the other hand, maybe blacks, particularly those who embrace their status as marginalized, need an approach to political law that allows them to carve out their own independent niche; one that unapologetically finds the seams or openings in the political economy in order to access capital or create substantive platforms for constructing true communities. Current black leadership is too afraid to do that.