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December 2002

“Legal” and “moral,” corrupt and racist, and “principles” to follow Why The Minneapolis Story Is The Story Of Every American City


Think of the 2002 Presidential race in Florida. Here they were playing God. There is no question that more votes were cast for Al Gore in Florida. There is also no question that the majority of valid votes cast were for George Bush, after subtracting the invalid votes. As much as I disagree with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, I hold it would never have come to that had it not been for the actions of the Florida Supreme Court to attempt to play by different rules than those in effect on Election Day, thus causing the Supreme Court to incorrectly feel it had no other choice. But Democrats are equally to blame. Indeed, some of their education policy chickens came home to roost in Florida. Had the Black vote cast in Florida been counted, Gore would have won. But many of their votes were invalid and were not counted. Why? Because over half of the Blacks involved in the “drag-and-drop” campaign of rounding them up and driving them to the polls were illiterate and thus couldn’t read the instructions. Their Democratic handlers instructed them to punch every page, which they did, which invalidated their votes. Why? Because the Democratic butterfly ballot meant not punching both national candidates’ pages, just one. Instructed to punch all and not being able to read, they wound up, if I can mix my metaphors, unintentionally punching the Democrats in the mouth for their centuries-long policy of not educating Blacks. Were Blacks stopped and intimidating from voting? Of course. But their number was far less than those who cast ballots they couldn’t read. So the Republicans kept out the smaller number of Blacks who could read and the Democrats lost because the larger number of their inner-city Blacks could not read.

Any judiciary, as with the Florida Supreme Court in this case, whether leaning toward or standing way over on the Left or Right (they lean way Left), that makes up its own rules is a danger to democracy in general and to individual citizens in particular. Legislators and judges can declare things legal but that doesn’t make them just or fair. I want them to base their decisions on not only what is legal, but what is fair and just, and that, to me, is equal access and equal opportunity in education, housing, jobs, political participation, economic development, etc. As we discussed these topics in the chapters in this book, Judge Sheryl Ramstad Hvass will haunt our thinking, for we will see much that has taken place that I consider not right and not fair, although legal. When legal is not just and fair, it scares me.

So, legal and moral. Legal and not moral. Legal and just and fair. Legal and not just and not fair. Is there a third way to judge? I believe there is. And throughout The Minneapolis Story, I have used three principles. I didn’t originate them. They have been around for as long as recorded history. In my view, they are universals. Certainly no one who prefers democracy can disagree.

The first principle is a seemingly simple one: There is a large common ground on which we can all stand (Chapter 5). There is also a smaller, uncommon ground that we also prefer that does not include everyone else. If we start with the common ground, we can resolve any issues, solve any problems, because common ground automatically defines all else as negotiable for the common good. It leaves everything on the table. I include in that common ground education, housing, and economic and political participation.

Second, we need to look at the results of public policy and evaluate it on the basis of its stated goals and the universals with which we all agree. For instance, education should result in everyone being able to read and write and calculate. But every student can’t. Therefore, rather than lay the blame on students or parents or both, we need to look at the reality of what is needed to overcome any shortcomings offered by students or parents so students of all grades can learn to read and write and calculate. The same is true in housing and economic opportunities.

Third, we return to the notion of equal access and equal opportunity, of fairness and justice. This suggests more than just freedom. It suggests liberty, which carries both rights and responsibilities. Some proclaim with Patrick Henry, “Give Me Liberty or Give me Death.” However we phrase it, I am suggesting limits for all as well, meaning that to ensure the safety of the common ground we have to curtail our ambitions where the common ground is threatened.

Where the conflict comes in is over two questions: First, do we really “have to” involve everyone, which minimally means going by elections and what the elected representatives pass in Congress? My answer is yes. And secondly, why can’t we use the people’s money for doing good things for the people (whether executives in government or corporations or not-for-profit foundations and organizations)? Again I say the answer is that we can. If we have the will. The problem, in my view, is that we have too many in charge who are seriously challenged in terms of ethics.

One way to evaluate freedom is to ask who has to submit to whom, and in the common ground of obeying common laws and rules, do we feel we are above the law as it relates to the common ground or not? Who is made to obey and who is not? As we look at the statistics and see public policy resulting in negatives we don’t want, how will we respond, especially if we see that the policy(ies) is/are bringing high pain (physical or existential) and low meaning. Will we say that the negatives are part of the process, that you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs? Or will we attempt to make it “sunny-side up” for everyone?

And if we don’t like something, and yet it appears to be providing for the common good on the common ground, yielding high meaning and low pain in physical and existential terms, will we be willing to admit our error and stand behind what is obviously a good, even if it was suggested by a different political party? And won’t we be able to tell simply by whether the policy or law or whatever fosters prosperity through equal access and equal opportunity, regardless of race, gender, or creed?

Finally, I’m going to review a series of comments and headlines taken from today’s news media, regarding what is and isn’t legal. Think Enron, WorldCom, Adelphia, and others for whom shredding became a way of life, not to mention unfairness and injustice. Think of a Minneapolis City Council President who is defeated and then removes most of her files to cover up the deals that have been cut with developers, agencies, and the sell-out Black leadership. But let’s not lose our focus. This is not a Democratic Party or Republican Party issue. It is a national issue regarding all leaders with access to big cash registers of campaign contribution money. Cynics sometimes call these troughs where they feed, the cash registers of the business or the government. Both are cash cows. Both are feeding pens. Both give the pigs of both corporations and government an opportunity to pig out at the expense of all of us. How will we respond?

An example is Halliburton, the holding company that Republican Vice President Dick Cheney was CEO for. But guess what? Halliburton played the same role for Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson, when his wife was a major stockholder of Halliburton. When LBJ became President, he was worth about a million dollars. When he left the White House he was worth $25 million (back then, a million was a lot of money). Lady Bird Johnson’s Halliburton controlled the large construction firm Brown and Root, which built the billion dollar bases in Vietnam during the Vietnam War, such as the one at Tan Son Nhut Air Base. This is not to knock LBJ. He was a great President and history will eventually be kind to him, including pointing out that LBJ did more for Blacks than any other President since Lincoln.

But let us be clear: Brown and Root virtually underwrote LBJ’s political career. Now it underwrites Bush and Cheney. So let’s be even handed here. The point is a simple one: not only do both parties do it, but often with the same company. Both parties have figured out how to make it all legal. By definition, when they make it legal they can’t be breaking any laws. But my making sure only Whites benefit, they deny equal access and equal opportunity to Blacks. My other point is that this is what Minneapolis has figured out how to do, legally, to deny inner city Blacks their chances, as you saw in the various chapters.

I remember how we used to condemn the Asians for their “crony capitalism” back in the 80s and 90s. And here we are, in the first decade of the 21st century, as in the final decade of the 20th century, guilty of the same. Crony capitalism means deals for friends only, which is unfair and unjust and which denies equal access, equal opportunity. The ousted City Council President was obviously involved in deals with cronies. Using public funds for public interest activities and treating them as private affairs among friends, is stepping way over the line and is obviously not just, not fair. This is what has happened over and over again in Minneapolis, Houston, and throughout too many parts of the country.

We keep hearing how the companies have cooked their books. But governments do too. As we saw in Chapter 8, Minneapolis spent nearly 1 billion dollars to net 52 housing units. Where did all that money go? The first place I’d check are those files taken by Jackie Cherryhomes. The same is true of the $90 million jail project (Chapter 9).

Now here is a good question: why is all the chicanery that is going on now being branded wrong and why are jail sentences now being touted as the solution? I don’t believe it is because their greed went beyond what is normally exhibited. Human nature has not changed. I don’t think they want to name the real culprit. If human nature hasn’t changed, then the rules have. Remember the Gold Rules of Chapter 5? What has changed? Over the past 20 years, it has not been so much deregulation as it has been re-regulation, where government regulations wereset up to favor big companies and big campaign contributors, especially in the areas that went bubble burst, telecommunications and energy. Now, combined with the Senate-House year-end “Christmas Tree” legislation that also favors cronies and big donors, including union contributors, and you see even more corruption made legal. But to expose this would expose their golden goose. They don’t want to cook the goose. Just the books. So they have come up with a few scapegoats. It will be like the days of “Merry Old England,” when picking pockets was a capital offense punished by hanging. As those caught swung from the trees while families picnicked on the ground around, uncaught pick pockets roamed he crowds picking pockets.

Now don’t forget, it is not that we are lawless. Laws already exist. Think of my case. The judge in Chapter 3 just didn’t follow them. Ditto companies that used the debt system to invest and not follow the rules so they could loot the till. No matter how much people think they can control market forces, the market always catches up with them. The real question is when will we stop letting it happen. As long as legislators rely on the kick-backs from this (which is what more and more political contributions are becoming), our Congressional worthies will continue to look the other way, further weakening democracy. So rather than fix the system that allows this they are very cleverly setting up penalties for a few individuals so they can continue their looting. That way, little will be done to the system, the few who get caught will pay, and the rest will just get more clever and be given more loopholes by their buddies in Congress that they reward so nicely with their campaign contributions. How? As they make the laws they can make it legal hence lawful, by passing laws that say it is, which is what automatically makes it legal. Not right, not just, not fair, just legal. And it will continue as long as corporate senior-officer compensation is not based on company performance but rather the performance of accountants. Until we turn them all out of office, it will continue.

Please understand this is not a rant on corporations or capitalism. It is a rant on wealth-taking by the pirates that do it. Government does it too. Indeed, no one cooks the books better than government, for unlike corporations, who can be deserted by investors tired of their poor performance, legislators just pass more tax laws. Notice this: There are no laws or penalties for Federal bookkeepers. If program budgets get busted, they raise taxes instead of busting the heads of the programs. And when Congress outspends itself and needs more, it just passes a law to raise the debt ceiling and then just keeps on spending, disguising their new spending levels as “for the people” when they are, in fact, for their buddies and campaign contributors. And can you remember the last time a government admitted a mistake and cancelled a program? Neither can I, which is why I supply the information I do in this book.

And please, dear reader, do not interpret this as a slam against the government either. Bureaucracies primarily do what legislators tell them to do. Our problem is not of democracy, nor its institutions, but rather how some are misusing them. We have strong capitalism. We must make sure we also have strong democracy (see these books by Benjamin Barber: Strong Democxracy: Participatory Politics for a New Age; A Place for Us: How to Make Society Civil and Democracy Strong; An Aristocracy for Everyone: The Politics of Education and the Future of America). We can have both strong democracy and strong capitalism. Each needs its own set of checks and balances. But it is individuals and political parties that set up how it is to be done. Look not at government, an idea, but at parties and who is running them, the human actors. Humans will always be susceptible to temptation. And as we have the strongest economy in the world, we have strong capitalism we also have strong temptations.

So why the problems? Because the worthies we have elected at national, state, and local levels have inherited a system paid for by over 200 years of effort, that they treat as a private candy store. They did not create it. They are like 2nd and 3rd generation rich: raised in affluence, they think it is them when in reality it is the system they inherited. But to admit they are only stewards, they would have to admit they are not great leaders, just great pirates. You can’t have corporate corruption and theft of billions without the weakening of the instruments of democracy by the legislature, federal and state. The theme seems to have become “get governments off our backs” so we can loot the public till. They have legitimized corporate crime. And to get in on it, states and cities aid and abet it by offering “incentives” given to corporations to either come to a city or state or stay in the city or state in the form of abatements, tax cuts, etc. The same people who prefer state’s rights that enable them to steal from Blacks also favor corporate rights that enable them to then steal from everyone else. Teddy Roosevelt, the so-called “trust buster,” knew that capitalism worked best when it served the democracy. And it can only serve democracy when it adheres to the checks and balances built into the system by the Founders. They say Franklin Roosevelt saved capitalism from itself. Whatever, it is clear today that deregulation has passed beyond creating more effective markets to creating a tyranny of the market through favorable re-regulation, where those who manage the companies in the marketplace now rule over the citizen and the stockholder. We Blacks have felt it for all of our existence. Now the Whites are experiencing what it is like to live under this tyranny as well (by both Republicans and Democrats). Welcome to our world.

During the 1960s, much of what I did as a community advocate was illegal. Let’s not forget that in 1960, it was illegal for Blacks to sit at White lunch counters. And so Martin Luther King, Jr., and others, who were involved in the first sit-ins, were arrested. King was sentenced to four years of hard labor. That was the law. So it was legal. The Kennedys got him released. But he was famous. How about all those mistreated who were not famous or did not have friends in high places? How many others were instead treated to lynchings, burnings, beatings, as noted in the Interludes, all because these actions were “legal” or justifiable on racism grounds?

I remember Time magazine’s “Man of the Year,” 1973, Judge John J. Sirica, because he demanded equal justice under the law. But today I don’t know whose law they mean. The law was understood as being the just and fair basis of the American system. But what about today? Why don’t we hear it talked of in this fashion anymore? We now know that the law is more and more the law for the contributors to campaigns of Congressmen who can reward those contributors with tax benefits, investment loopholes, and other legislative legerdemain that benefit those cloakroom players but few others—”legally.”

The accounting scammers will get off and new scams will occur. Why will they get off? Because much of what they did was legal. It fit various regulatory and accounting laws. Don’t forget: “fiduciary responsibility” is not a law. If the Cain of capitalism slays the Abel of democracy, then we are all doomed. And when millionaires get to cut corners or take advantage of their positions to make more and can’t see how that destroys us over the long term, then Lenin’s prophecy wins: They will sell us the rope with which we hang them. So now we sell the rope to our enemies that want to hang us, whether the enemy be Lenin’s socialism or radical Islam’s fatwahs. And remember both these systems are systems of tyranny, of the ancient of days when ruthless rulers controlled all and ruled all. We need to make sure that all of our actions serve the Lincoln trio: of the people, by the people, for the people.

Whether stealing lives, votes, districts, money, property, etc., it’s all the same: there are laws that make it legal or the penalties laid down by the law are so soft that perpetrators don’t mind the penalty for taking what belongs to others.

There is also what I call the theft of the future. Nationwide, during the 90s, we had a boom period. What did the federal government as well as the state and city governments do? Did they put aside extra money from higher taxes for a rainy day? Did they use it to give it back to the taxpayer? Or did they give more money away to their campaign contributors and to organizations that supported their agendas? They increased their budgets so they could spend it. Now with the inevitable economic downturn, their expense are too high combined with too little income, and so now they will steal again: Raise taxes more. This will bail out the governments. But it will undermind investment, slow the creation of jobs, and contribute to another recession.

In the movie Hook, Peter Pan is all grown-up, a corporate lawyer, involved in mergers and acquisitions. Wendy, now the grandmother to Peter’s wife, says to him, “Why Peter, you’ve become a pirate!” And so have many others, as they plunder and loot either the companies they inherited from others, bought from others, or merged with others, or they do the same with government programs or retirement funds. Legally. Worse, they have no sense of honor or shame. If they did, the CEOs would contribute many of their millions to their former employees’ pension funds. They would at least apologize for what happened on their watch. They can’t even do that. Pirates know no morality or principle other than “it’s mine,” leaving no room for apologies.

Where does all that fraudulent bookkeeping come from? It comes from government laws, tax laws, loophole laws, riders attached to other laws for special interests, etc. The government has institutionalized misleading bookkeeping. Take retirement. First look at us so-called “little people.” We get Social Security. If we die before we reach retirement age, we lose all that we put into it. If we die after starting Social Security, we still lose all that would be ours if we had lived longer. And none can be left to our children. The average person on Social Security gets around $1,000/month, give or take a couple of hundred. If the money had been invested during the person’s life time, through boom and bust years, through bull and bear markets, the Congress has admitted that each person would earn over $6,000/month, each couple over $12,000 a month. But we don’t. Every research shows the same: since 1926, the stock market has averaged 10% returns per year.

In retirement Congress persons will receive over $100,000/year, while the average worker for a company will only collect $9,180 per year, not to mention the best medical coverage. With cost-of -living adjustments, some of these “public servants” will receive and collect over $3 million in retirement, more money in retirement than when working: Congressional pensions are so exorbitant that it would violate federal IRS tax laws if they were offered by a U.S. company to its top executives. But politicians get away with it because they surreptitiously exempted themselves from this law. They made it legal, clear and simple. They are doing what the executives of Enron, WorldCom, etc., have been doing, and legally, but far more so.

OK, that’s us little guys. What about the “big” guys, in their eyes, the Senators and Representatives? What do they get? Their taxpayer-supported pensions amount to an average of $3 million each in retirement. Paid by taxpayers. When Al Gore’s father retired as a Senator, the Congressional Pension Fund, set up with generous cost-of-living allowances and inflation adjustments, enabled him to make in retirement twice what he earned his last year as a Senator. When our own Minnesota Senator David Durrenberger was driven out of the Senate by scandal, his retirement was still his; thus, we Minnesota taxpayers are helping him collect what is estimated at $2 million in retirement. Now check this out, as it shows how the law can be twisted to be anything the legislators want it to be. Congressional pensions are so exorbitant that they would violate Federal IRS tax laws if they were offered by a U.S. company to its top executives. How does Congress get away with it? They pass the laws. And what law did they pass? One that exempts them from this law, thus making it legal for them to steal. They also made themselves eligible for Social Security. So they get a sweetheart pension at taxpayers’ expense plus their Social Security.

Rememember, all of this is done with the stroke of a pen, giving new meaning to the saying that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword. And now, all of them, Democrats and Republicans, are using this same power of the pen to award themselves millions in retirement at the expense of those who elected them to office in the same place. No wonder more and more Whites are beginning to feel as betrayed as Blacks. Welcome to our world.

How about the rest of us? And what about the public employee retirement systems that government workers, including teachers, have? Many now retire with more than they made while working. Oregon is a good example: it is the law in Oregon that if PERS (Public Employees Retirement System) doesn’t generate 8% interest each year, the taxpayer has to make it up. And it is law in Oregon that if the stock market does better, say 15%, the law says the taxpayer has to make up the difference between what the fund did and that 15%, as it is “unfair” that they didn’t make that too. So where is the incentive for the fund managers to pay attention when the taxpayers pay for their mistakes? If you are from another state, compare yours: in Oregon, some of the small communities have had to lay off police and fire fighters in order to pay the retirement fund. And while the state struggles with an on-the-books shortfall of nearly $1 billion, that number is actually very misleading, because when the pension shortfall is added to the general fund that the cities and counties have to pay, the shortfall is over $9 billion. And just like with the favorite phrase of corporate creative accounting, this is “off-the-books” money. The State just don’t count it. But it certainly counts in the communities having to lay off firemen and policemen and others because of it. The State will count it later when they subtract it from the earnings of the citizens through higher taxes, taxes not for services but to support for the retirement of the government pirates. Add them together and the state of Oregon is, clear and simple, bankrupt. And it is set up so those making decisions are PERS recipients. In other words, they put the foxes in charge of the hen house. And so Oregon’s PERS recipients can also lustily sing the Disney Pirates of the Caribbean song, “its the life of a pirate for me.”

It gets even better in New Jersey, which is on the hook for $22 billion, due to their creative accounting, the equivalent of one year of budget. Business Week, in July 2002, ran an article showing the corporate pension plan obligations, again due to creative accounting, could be worth the equivalent of 50 WorldComs, and all that will have to be made up. The cool thing for all of these “creative” accounting strategies is that the bills come due on someone else’s watch after the managers who actually did them have gotten out with their loot. And so they too lustily sing the Disney Pirates of the Caribbean song, “it’s the life of a pirate for me.”

And so far, they are all getting away with it. Why? Because it is all legal. Think of it this way: If they will crush the retirement funds of their grandmothers, why would they care about any of the rest of us, Black or White? This is why I sometimes say to Whites who complain about this, “Welcome to our world.” These pirates have the money to pay legislators to pass laws to make it legal. This will continue until the Golden Rule trumps the Gold Rules (see Chapter 5), and we vote in legislators won’t be pirates nor pass laws for pirates.

In my 40 years of community advocacy work, I’ve learned that any law that doesn’t promote better relations is a bad law. Would you agree? To me, too many in corporations and governments and non-profits, have become, as Wendy would say, pirates.

In the Soviet Union, the elite created for themselves what some have called vast “loot chains,” plundering the country’s wealth while most had little (someone once referred to this as a “kleptocracy”). It’s like making the country or state or county or city, depending on where you are as an official, into a giant piggy bank or a cash register from which you have an “understanding” with other officials, that everyone who is part of the “loot chain” can withdraw cash. Wouldn’t it be nice to be elected and then let the “ka-ching” ring in your ears and fill your pockets? But wait, that was a trick question. If you said yes then you are for the unfair, the unjust, and the unequal. And think of the many riffs like a jazz band that the outgoing Minneapolis City Council President’s files stolen from City Hall would sound like, in terms of the deals and piracy they reveal. And even though both Democrats and Republicans do it, they are falling all over themselves to make themselves look innocent and blame others. As long as they can blame individuals, they can leave the system in place where those who have not been caught can continue to legally loot it.

In Minneapolis, we have idolized the billionaires and millionaires and given them what they wanted and and/or demanded. We did the same thing in City Hall. The de facto leader and hander out of plunder was not the Mayor but the City Council President, the proof of which she took with her when she took 99% of the files. I say “proof” because why else would she take them?

But this happens in other than accounting. If you read your local newspaper for a month without missing an issue, you’d come up with your own lists.

I can’t leave this topic without returning to the courts. In my view, much of our problem is that the Supreme Courts’ bias towards states rights is allowing the re-emergence of Jim Crow laws, giving states immunity from the Federal rules as understood by the rest of us. Rather than allow elected representatives determine to what is appropriate, the Supreme Court is more and more claiming that prerogative. To have nine people deciding is a dangerous precedent indeed. I thoroughly doubt the Court would have taken onto itself the decision of the last presidential election had it not already glommed onto itself powers previously held by Congress and the people. I find it difficult to see a difference between the “rule of judges” claimed by conservatives against liberal judges than what the conservative judges are doing themselves in weakening Federal democracy by strengthening states over the Federal government. To me, this is just another way to expand the looting of the treasuries as well as taking away the freedoms and liberties of minorities. Just as companies and governments are being permitted to act unjustly, hiding behind laws passed to allow them to do so, the states are being permitted to act unjustly, hiding behind so-called “sovereign immunity.” As my book has outlined, Minneapolis has become a master of this.

Now let’s take this closer to home in terms of my thesis of the racism that denies Blacks the equal access and equal opportunity given to Whites. Let’s look at the re-emergence of Jim Crow laws and racism, by looking at Tulia, Texas (see the New York Times articles of August 5 and 8, 2000).

The real story of this small, rural town is how to get rid of Blacks without having to resort to the no longer acceptable acts of burning towns to the ground and murdering their residents as reported in the interludes. This is now what jails are for (Chapter 9).

The white community of Tulia, Texas, used a troubled man as an undercover agent to finger poor Blacks and Whites who associated with them. As the article stated, this so-called “undercover” agent, Tom Coleman, had “an atrocious employment history and a penchant for making criminal allegations against innocent people.” His unproved allegations were used to decimate the Black communty. All the evidence in court was his word. Period. There were no drugs, money or weapons found in any of the raids. All that was left was Coleman’s uncorroborated, unsubstantiated word. Sentences ranged from 14 to 90 years for most of the Blacks. But they saved what the article called a “special measure of Tulia’s venom” for the White man who was father to a child of one of the Black women. To set an example, he was “sentenced to more than 300 years in prison.”

The bottom line is that a White man with a reputation for being troubled and for having his own difficulties with the law was used to thin the ranks of poor Blacks, despite the evidence that many were innocent. When it is open season on poor Blacks, just one man’s lies can be used to ruin many lives if the liar is White and those lied about are Black.

I pick this example because it is in the home state of the President. I want to know how this story shows the following of Jesus that he claims. There was a time when a President, in this case John F. Kennedy, intervened against such tactics (when Martin Luther King, Jr., was jailed in Birmingham). But the conversative Supreme court now allows this legal return to legalized racism. As I said before, this is not about strong capitalism. It is about weak democracy.

So what is missing? Not law. We have plenty. It’s all “legal.” What’s missing is a definition of “legal” that includes such terms as “integrity,” “justice,” and “fairness.” Without her blindfold, and without her scales, Lady Justice is just another cold statue without a heart. To empower people to live and design their own lives, we have to show them they can. We need to provide continuous improvement training as it relates to us personally, not as it relates just to corporations and government. We need to build bridges of integrity to business and education and prepare people for managing change, not fighting it.

Finally, we need to return to the great insight of our country’s founders: checks and balances. This country was founded on one principle: Human beings are not perfect. They are corruptible, and, worse, they can be corrupted without realizing it or being able to admit it. The solution: checks and balances. Throw out the checks and balances and you have our situation today, with people saying “We haven’t done anything illegal.” Much that has been done was legal. Don’t forget, as I won’t let you, slavery was once legal. So too was Prohibition. The Congressional tax loopholes for contributors are legal too. Because they are legal doesn’t make them right, or just, or fair.

As Benjamin Barber put it in his delightful phrase (July 29, 2002, “A Failure of Democracy, Not Capitalism”), it is “not that [we] may have been complicit in the vices of capitalism, but that [we] are today insufficiently complicit in the virtues of democracy.”

Lord Acton said it best, and it still stands: Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. When Boards of Directors become rubber stamps, there are no checks and balances. Most don’t understand the word “corrupt” as a verb. The dictionary’s first definition is “to change from good to bad in morals, manners, or actions.” But corruption in my view is the dictionary’s next definition: corrupt is “to degrade with unsound principles or moral values.” I also like the word “dilute.” It means “to alter from the original or correct form or version.” Hence, the CEOs wanting more, the auditing company winking as they prefer the higher-profit activity of their consulting activity, the banks also winking in order to get in on the gravy deals, getting the laws and loopholes passed by Congress and state legislatures, so that all of them can generate so much money that the elected officials and their appointees wink in order to keep those campaign contributions coming. The rest of us suffer. And then they say we are not ambitious enough to work to make it. They want us to stand at the plate without a bat, while they start at third base.

So The Minneapolis Story Through My Eyes is also about how the system is rigged, legally. “Rigged,” “fixes,” call it what you will (as Shakespeare said, “A rose by any other name is still a rose”). These are done legally, by laws passed by legislators and by judges who interpret them as they will. It has happened to me. The headlines tell us it has happened to others. How many lives have been hurt or ruined by falling through the trap doors that rigged against minorities?

Ron hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm. Formerly head of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission and the Urban League, he continues his “watchdog” role for Minneapolis. Order his book, hear his voice, read his solution papers, and read his between columns “web log” at

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