CRACKING THE SYSTEM: How does being “accidentally” shot by cops put into perspective how growth for many multi-national corporations is just a matter of greed?

written by Anthony Moore
© 2013

Question: How does being “accidentally” shot by cops put into perspective how growth for many multi-national corporations is just a matter of greed?

Excerpt from Cracking the System: Oddly enough, the dope game model of growing bigger by (and in order to continue) crushing smaller competitors is also the name of the game when it comes to lots of legal business enterprises, especially when it comes to major multi-national corporations.  Unlike with the dope game, it doesn’t necessarily have to be this way.  As I pointed out before, getting dominated in the dope game often means being killed.  In the legal world, getting dominated doesn’t usually equate to being killed. In the dope game, and criminal world in general, you’re often dealing with killers (since crime is usually the field to be in if you don’t mind killing other human beings—well that, and being a soldier in any given country’s army).  So, in the criminal world, a lot of times it’s not enough just to dominate people and take over their business operations.  A lot of times if people in the criminal world don’t kill their opposition, they’ll be killed by the people whose lives they’ve spared (especially if you’re talking about people who are killers by nature).  Most hardworking people in the legal world aren’t killers by nature (although some get screwed so much that they’re driven to kill—ever heard the saying “going postal”—contrary to how it sounds, it doesn’t refer to using the U.S. postal service to deliver your mail).

As I’ve already pointed out, in the legit business world, getting bigger usually isn’t a matter of life and death.  It might be necessary for a business to get bigger to stay viable, but even if a business doesn’t stay viable, it usually doesn’t mean you will literally get killed as a result.  In the worse case scenario, you might get killed in the business sense, but you usually won’t get killed in the “get shot by the cops more than fifty times by accident” sense. In other words, you won’t get killed in the “Sean Bell shooting incident” sense. By the way, if firing fifty unanswered gunshots is a police force’s idea of an “accidental” death, I’d hate to see their idea of killing somebody on purpose. When I think of accidental deaths, I think of car collisions and plane crashes. I mean, once the bullet count goes behind four or five bullets, I would think it goes beyond the accident phase. That’s like somebody punching someone else in the head twenty times and then saying, “My fist hit your face by accident…again and again and again.” I’ve heard of being accident prone, but that’s just ridiculous. Anyway, I digress.

HOW THE PRECEDING BOOK EXCERPT CONTRIBUTES TO “CRACKING” THE SYSTEM: The excerpt above is from the chapter entitled It’s All Related (One Thing Leads to Another). It comes from a section entitled When Publicly Traded Companies Follow the “Dope Game” Model of Growth, It’s Usually Artificial Growth. This section of the book takes the novel approach of using the illegal drug trade—particularly in terms of the business model that typically applies to distributing drugs like crack cocaine and heroin—to reflect upon the practices of major multi-national corporations, including those whose stocks and bonds are publicly traded on the world’s largest stock exchanges (such as the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ). It addresses how such corporations follow the “dope game” business model of relentlessly growing bigger even when it’s ill-advised and has negative consequences for many people. Also examined is the pressure from institutional (and other major) investors that often cause corporations to undergo what I denote as “artificial” growth. Wal-Mart is examined as a major corporation that does so.

CRACKING THE SYSTEM: How has Pastor Joel Osteen’s “prosperity gospel” contributed to suicidal tendencies?

written by Anthony Moore
© 2013

Question: How has Pastor Joel Osteen’s “prosperity gospel” contributed to suicidal tendencies?

Excerpt from Cracking the System: I’ve never seriously considered killing myself, but I came pretty close that one time when Pastor Joel Osteen happened to come on TV and I was unable to change the channel.

I read an interview Osteen did a while back, in which he said out of all the letters and phone calls he receives, 99.9% of them are positive. Considering that at the time he said 7 million people watch the show a week, I figure Osteen’s motivational techniques must not be working, since they haven’t motivated people enough to call in and complain about his television show. I imagine a great deal of the people who have contacted him have been potheads who called in to ask “where did he get the good weed he appeared to be high on when he was doing his televised sermon.” Maybe it’s just me, but I got the impression that he was high when I saw him preaching. Like I said, maybe that’s just me, especially considering that I had just finished watching the movies Half-Baked and Friday before I saw his televised sermon.  Even so, my viewpoint was supported by the fact that Osteen has a book he was promoting called How to Make Everyday a Friday. Really? I imagine potheads who are fans of the movie Friday were probably disappointed after they read the book and found out it didn’t have any tips on scoring good weed. By the way, for those who might be offended because they think I’m making light of suicide, that’s not my intention. I understand that suicide is a serious problem that impacts many people and is often preventable. However, looking at Joel Osteen’s weekly televised sermon is also a serious problem that impacts many people and is often preventable. It’s not so much that I’m against the “prosperity gospel” that he’s known for, but I do have an issue with religions that stress the prosperity gospel without stressing helping the less fortunate along with fighting social, economic and other systematic injustices, especially since there’s a guy they tend to frequently reference for whom fighting poverty and injustice were pretty big things—I believe his name was Jesus Christ.

 HOW THE PRECEDING BOOK EXCERPT CONTRIBUTES TO “CRACKING” THE SYSTEM: The excerpt above is from the chapter entitled The Business of College. It comes from a section within the chapter entitled Since We’re on the Subject of Suicide, Let’s Talk About Joel Osteen. This chapter breaks down how college is a business. It puts this into perspective by showing the broader context of business on the billion dollar level. This includes business in the context of distribution channels, the internet, leveraged buyouts, capitalism, capital, college financing, and other factors. In the context of breaking down business on the billion dollar level, it profiles billionaire Ron Burkle. Key to his billion dollar fortune have been private equity and leveraged buyouts, which are finance-driven business practices that have impacted the first and largest student loan company, Sallie Mae. These factors have contributed to Sallie Mae, which started out as a government sponsored-entity founded to help students pay for college, being transforming into a primarily profit-driven company traded on public markets (that was a highly coveted acquisition target by private equity firms and other large companies). This not only epitomizes the reality that college is a business, but also reflects how the finance-driven ideology that has co-opted capitalism in the U.S. for the past several decades and led to the emergence of practices such as leveraged buyouts has been key in transforming college in the U.S. from primarily being a means to educate U.S. citizens to primarily being about making money off of U.S. citizens. A strong argument can be made that Joel Osteen’s “prosperity gospel” is also a byproduct of this perversion of capitalism in the U.S., where the practice of earning money from providing value to consumers has been co-opted into draining as much money as possible from consumers (whether they get commensurate value for their money or not). The chapter breaks down these realities in ways that provide readers with strategies for success and show how to avoid falling victim to practices that financially exploit college students. It does so through sections such as Ron Burkle Shows How “Playing the Game” Can Trump a College Degree and Since College is a Business, Doesn’t It Make Sense To Treat It Like One?

 

CRACKING THE SYSTEM: How does the ridiculousness of a fast food restaurant serving gourmet food relate to the political version of prostitution?

written by Anthony Moore
© 2013

Question: How does the ridiculousness of a fast food restaurant serving gourmet food relate to the political version of prostitution?

Excerpt from Cracking the System: I’ve just seen a commercial that says Taco Bell now has a “gourmet” menu. Really? Going to Taco Bell for gourmet food is like going to a whorehouse to find people who think that paying for sex is immoral. Another way to put it is that going to Taco Bell for gourmet food is like going to K Street to find people who feel like paying for political favors is immoral (by the way, when I compare whorehouses to companies on K street, I mean no offense to whorehouses). For those people who’re offended by the term “whorehouse,” let me provide a comparison that is more Rated PG as opposed to Rated R (by the way, as it relates to the example provided, the “R” could also stand for Rated “Real”—because although some might find it politically incorrect, it’s not like whorehouses don’t exist; nor is it not like many men who publicly denounce whoring don’t secretly finance lots of whoring that they greatly benefit from—just consider any ultra-religious wealthy person who makes anonymous financial contributions to Super PACs). Anyway, back to what I was getting at: the Rated PG version of what I said about Taco Bell’s gourmet food is that going to Taco Bell for gourmet food is like going to an NFL locker room to find people who think you shouldn’t ever hit people hard enough to make them forget what planet they live on.

Speaking of conservative rich guys and Super PACs, it’s ironic that Joe Ricketts, who made a billion dollar personal fortune from founding what is now TD Ameritrade, started a Super PAC as an outgrowth of his efforts to end political earmarks. That’s like if you feel that hardcore drugs are ruining your community, and so you fund a group of meth dealers to help you get rid of the people next door who are selling heroin.

HOW THE PRECEDING BOOK EXCERPT CONTRIBUTES TO “CRACKING” THE SYSTEM: The excerpt above is from the chapter entitled Politics. Within this chapter there are sections such as The College Game Shows the Reality of Politics in America. Among other things, this section shows how when we don’t understand and pay attention to political policies that affect us, we often suffer as a result. It also gets into how government can be very beneficial to citizens in ways that private business can’t (and won’t) be, but this is dependent on citizens being aware, educated, and participatory when it comes to the democratic process (in an “active” versus a “passive” way). The creation of the student loan market in the U.S. shows how government can do things that encourage and assist businesses in benefiting the public and the country as a whole. The evolution of the student loan market in the U.S. also shows how government policies (however well intentioned) can be hurtful instead of helpful when hijacked by self-serving and often short-sighted business and/or political interests. Other topics covered in this chapter include how when everyday people effectively organize and educate themselves, they can overcome powerful entrenched interests that have more money and political capital. In addition to things that frequently undermine U.S. democracy, such as earmarks and lobbyists, also discussed is another factor that also frequently undermines the U.S. political system, which is the Super PAC.

Campaign-finance law in the U.S. has been greatly and fundamentally upended by the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United case and the subsequent ruling of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in the Speech Now case. The “Super” PACs that consequently emerged represent a clear threat to U.S. democracy. A threat that in practice—regardless of the intention of the Supreme Court decision regarding the matter—subverts the best interests of the people in favor of clandestine, well-financed, and self-serving interests.

As long as they don’t explicitly contribute to candidates or political parties, Super PACs can engage in limitless political spending and raise unlimited funds from corporations, unions or other groups, as well as from individuals. Donors are also able to anonymously give to Super PACs that establish a 501(c)4 nonprofit entity (as long as it satisfies the very flexible classification of being a “social welfare” organization).

CRACKING THE SYSTEM: If Chris Brown came up with his own fashion design institute, what type of person might attend it?

written by Anthony Moore
© 2013

Question: If Chris Brown came up with his own fashion design institute, what type of person might attend it?

Excerpt from Cracking the System: Lots of companies look at their employees as products. To put it another way, many companies see their employees as just another cog in the wheel. Just like any other supply (whether it be paper, pens, staples, or whatever) employees are often considered just another supply in the supply chain; just another resource necessary to make money. At least if you have this understanding you can act accordingly. A fundamental aspect of providing value is knowing how people value (or don’t value) you. To put it another way, it’s about being aware of how valuable you are to the operation you’re working with.

Think about this. One of the most effective ways to oppress a person is to make them believe they are not being oppressed. For instance, if a guy hits a female because he wants to give her a black eye to match the black dress she’s wearing, don’t associate his desire to make sure she’s wearing matching colors with him looking out for her. While it normally might be a good thing to have someone that makes sure you’re matching from head to toe, this is clearly an exception to the rule. Besides, anybody that associates assault and battery with fashion coordination is probably coo coo for cocoa puffs in a major way—either that, or they attended the “Chris Brown School of Fashion Design.”

HOW THE PRECEDING BOOK EXCERPT CONTRIBUTES TO “CRACKING” THE SYSTEM: The excerpt above is from the chapter entitled Play Your Position. It comes from a section within the chapter entitled Peep This So You Don’t Get Dismissed, which points out how important it is for people to understand how many employers, and people in general, will view them in terms of the financial value they represent. In other words, in the modern corporate and business environment, companies and other types of organizations determine people’s value explicitly in terms of what they contribute to the bottom line. Understanding this increasingly obvious reality is key to not getting played by the system. It is important that people realize this so that they are aware they will be discarded if it is determined that it is in the best interests of those who employ them to do so (regardless of the praise and other types of sentiments that are used to induce loyalty).

The book ties these points into how important it is for current and future college students to see themselves the way prospective employers will see them, which is as a “product.” This enables them to correspondingly consider where they fit in as a product in the distribution chain (in other words, where they fit in terms of how professions and industries they are considering entering, or have already entered, are organized). The book provides techniques for doing so and shows how to take the aforementioned factors into consideration when choosing a college, selecting a field of study, and pursuing scholarships for college.

CRACKING THE SYSTEM: What makes it clear that what works in Hollywood movies usually doesn’t work in inner city Black communities? (HINT: It has something to do with gay marriage.)

written by Anthony Moore
© 2012

Question: What makes it clear that what works in Hollywood movies usually doesn’t work in inner city Black communities? (Hint: It has something to do with gay marriage.)

Excerpt from Cracking the System: When it comes to the neighborhood I grew up in, I was told by my parents…by the way, that’s parents with an “s”—as in more than one parent, but still less than three. You never know nowadays, so I guess I also need to clarify that one of my parents was a man and the other was a woman. I’m not trying to offend anybody who’s engaged in “non-traditional” parenting, but growing up in a crack infested Black community while living in a household with two Dads wouldn’t get you far…maybe having two mommies would (at least with people who are into that sort of thing). But two Dads? It’s already hard enough to get respect in a drug infested neighborhood no matter what, so you’d really have your work cut out for you with two Dads and no Mommies. It may have been a good idea for a TV show, but not a good idea for living in an inner city drug invested Black neighborhood—at least not if you don’t want to get beat up everyday. Of course this speaks to the insecurities and ill will of the ones beating people up as opposed to there being anything wrong with people doing non-traditional parenting. Nevertheless, the “two Dads” thing is just another example of how what works in Hollywood doesn’t necessarily work in inner city Black America. For instance, if you try to outsmart some burglars like the little White kid in the movie Home Alone, I’m sure it wouldn’t go as well as it did for the kid in the movie; not unless you enjoy getting tied up and beat up on top of getting robbed. Although there are people who enjoy getting tied up when they engage in certain types of activities, I imagine that getting tied up while being robbed isn’t one of them. Speaking of “non-traditional” parents, I’d rather have two “non-traditional” good parents as opposed to two “traditionally” bad ones—but maybe that’s just me.

By the way, since we’re already on the subject, as a heterosexual myself, I really don’t understand what some heterosexuals have against gay marriage. Are they really worried that homosexuals might destroy the sanctity of marriage? In a country where we have a 50 percent divorce rate, I think it’s safe to say that heterosexuals have already taken care of that. For someone who’s straight to say that gay people will destroy the sanctity of marriage is like the Koch brothers saying that crack dealers are going to poison a community that the Koch brothers already have a chemical plant in.

Speaking of people who think gay people will destroy the sanctity of marriage, there is a group called the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), which was established to work against legalizing same-sex marriage in the U.S. It seems to me that if you call your organization the “national organization for marriage,” the organization should be for any and all types of marriage, whether it’s gay marriage, straight marriage, as well as any other type of marriage—I would think they would even be into things like dog marriage (for those people who take the concept of loving your pets to a very unhealthy extreme). It’s not like lots of people in the U.S. are trying to stop consenting adults from getting married (well, except for the types of people who join organizations like NOM). Think about it, the only people who are against marriage are usually people who’re against gay marriage—it’s not like there are many people who feel so strongly against straight marriage that they’re organizing to protest against it. It would be more truthful if NOM was called NO ORGASM (National Organization Opposing Rights for Gay Adoption & Same-sex Marriage). Not only would the name describe what the organization is actually about, but I’m sure many men and women in “traditional” marriages would join because the name describes what there lives have been like due to being married.

Since we’ve already referenced the child actor from Home Alone, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that things don’t always turn out well for child actors (if you want examples of this, research the child actors who starred on the sitcom Different Strokes, which is probably number one on the list of television sitcom names most likely to be mistaken for being a porn movie title). One child actor who things didn’t turn out the best for when he got older was the Growing Pains star Kirk Cameron. When it comes to religion, many people would say he puts the “fan” in fanatic. He has strong anti-gay and abortion stances that are heavily steeped in religious dogma. So, it’s not a surprise that he was chosen to do a video where he was highlighted as a “Champion on Marriage” for the Marriage Anti-Defamation Alliance, which is an initiative started by…guess who, the one and only NOM, or as I like to call them, NO ORGASM. Is it just me, or does the Marriage Anti-Defamation Alliance sound like the name of a group of superheroes who all hate being married? Maybe it’s just me. One of the things that bugs me the most about Kirk Cameron is that despite being a man who wants to stamp out things that are “ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization” (his words, not mine), he starred in a movie called Left Behind that wasn’t even about the poor and middle class in America (which seems a little dishonest, because if there’s anybody who’s been “left behind” in America, it’s them).

HOW THE PRECEDING BOOK EXCERPT CONTRIBUTES TO “CRACKING” THE SYSTEM: The excerpt above is from the chapter entitled It’s All Related (One Thing Leads to Another). It comes from a section entitled If Someone Uses Brute Force, Do You Really Have a Choice? This section gets into what I’ve labeled as “the major game that’s often run on the American people (and others) by the powers that be in order to exploit and control them.” It gets into how some of the “smart” guys who greatly impact the global economy have manipulated it in ways that play to their strengths and allow them to control things in ways that are best for them but not necessarily the general public. It also gets into examples of “smart” guys who have manipulated the rules of the game so that their skills and talents are what the game favors—even in instances where this is clearly not what’s best for the system and the majority of the people impacted by it.

CRACKING THE SYSTEM: How did Mitt Romney and other key figures at Bain Capital profit from a toy story that didn’t have a happy ending for most people?

written by Anthony Moore

© 2012

Question: How did Mitt Romney and other key figures at Bain Capital profit from a “toy story” that didn’t have a “happy ending” for most people?

Excerpt from Cracking the System: I have yet to see any of the Toy Story movies, but I don’t need to see any of them to know that they all have happy endings. After all, they’re Pixar movies, and Pixar only does happy endings—and not the kind of happy endings you get from massage parlors. I would be the first to agree that those kind of happy endings would be inappropriate for a children’s movie. Even so, the animated Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs movie released by Disney a long time ago gives me the impression that there may have been some of those kind of happy endings going on behind the scenes. Particularly when you consider she was a fair young maiden living with seven dwarfs who were all adult males who had no other women around and seemed to had never before even seen a woman let alone lived with one. Speaking of which, the previews of the newer big budget version of Snow White (Snow White and the Huntsman) give me the impression that the movie would have had some of those “adult happy endings” if it wasn’t for the fact that its distributors wanted to maintain its PG-13 rating. Especially with a name like “snow white,” which sounds like it could very well be the name of a powerful brand of cocaine. So, we can all agree that in some instances experiencing a “happy ending” when it comes to “snow white” isn’t exactly family friendly. Anyway, I digress.

The point I’m getting at is that when Bain Capital invested in KB Toys it didn’t result in a happy ending for the toy store—so it’s one toy story that didn’t have a happy ending; at least not for the toy store itself, although Bain Capital and senior level executives at KB Toys experienced happy endings at the expense of a whole bunch of other people. It’s the kind of perverted happy ending where the happiness of a few is obtained from the misery of the many—you know, just like when people force others to watch performances by their untalented kids so that they can feel like good parents (this is an injustice that’s often committed by powerful people in Hollywood).

In less than a year and a half, Bain Capital transformed $18 million into $85 million via a leveraged buyout of KB Toys. In December 2000, Bain invested $18 million of its own money and used $237 million in debt to acquire the toy store chain. In April of 2002, under the ownership of Bain, KB Toys obtained $66 million in additional debt. After that, the company used the cash it had on hand to pay out a “special” dividend. It was very special—so special that they profited by draining resources from the company and leading it down what turned out to be a path of destruction. The “special” dividend was a cash payout of $121 million, of which $85 million went to Bain and $36 million went to senior executives who signed off on the dividends.[1] I guess the $36 million the senior executives gave to themselves was a reward for giving Bain all that money. There’s nothing like a hard day’s work of giving out money irresponsibly. To make a long story short, in less than two years, KB Toys lost $109 million and filed for bankruptcy in 2004.[2] It closed half of its 1,200 stores and laid off more than half of its 16,000 employees. The bankruptcy filing caused the company who sold the toy store to Bain to lose $45 million of debt owed to it. Unsecured creditors got 8 cents on the dollar for the money they were owed. Bain blamed Wal-Mart for the problems KB Toys experienced.[3] I have no problem blaming Wal-Mart for its atrocities (as I do in this book), but just maybe the destruction of KB Toys had just a little something to do with the questionable “money management” decisions that took place. It’s probably more appropriate to call them “money-giving” decisions (since managing something implies handling it responsibly).

I did not point out Bain Capital’s handling of KB Toys to discredit Bain. I’m not saying that Bain hasn’t had a fair share of success stories. Nor am I saying that in every single one of its buyout did Bain discard employees at a faster rate than monogamy gets discarded at a swingers’ party. However, the reality is that in more than a few instances of its buyouts, Bain did discard employees at a faster rate than the rate at which the ability to act gets discarded in a Cinemax After Dark movie (that’s a very fast rate, by the way). If you’ve never seen a Cinemax After Dark movie, trust me when I say the acting leaves something to be desired. Of course, nobody in his right mind looks at these movies for any of the actresses ability to act—that would be the equivalent of picking up a copy of Playboy magazine just to make sure that the girls inside have nice personalities.

HOW THE PRECEDING BOOK EXCERPT CONTRIBUTES TO “CRACKING” THE SYSTEM: The excerpt above is from the chapter entitled The Game Has Changed, or Has It? Within this chapter there are sections such as Student Loans – Less About Educating and More About Money-Making. This section provides a broader context for the current state of college financing in the U.S. and the corresponding role of college within it. This is done by breaking down how and why the game has changed. It is explained how many of the failings of the U.S. economy and other ills perpetrated by the financial industry are actually the continuation and realization of a larger on-going trend. Also examined is the importance of understanding certain aspects of financial markets even if you’re not working in a finance-related industry, being that these aspects have a far-reaching, often unobvious, and (some would say) excessive impact on the U.S. as well as the world as a whole—student loans becoming more exploitive and burdensome is a byproduct of this reality. Also examined are the origins of this trend—a trend that has led to private equity fueled predatory practices such as the ones Bain Capital has engaged in as well as the practices that have resulted in Sallie Mae going from being an organization founded by the U.S. government (to help students pay for college) to being just another profit-driven company that was a highly coveted acquisition target by private equity firms and other large companies. Sallie Mae is currently a publicly traded strictly for-profit enterprise. The essence of this trend is the U.S. economy (driven by the finance industry) making a clearly noticeable shift toward the business practice of making money from the acquisition and selling of businesses while shifting away from a focus on more organic business success driven primarily by business expansion and development that spurs job-creation, infrastructure investment, as well as market growth.

This chapter also has a section entitled William E. Simon – Economic Pioneer or Plain Ol’ Pimp? It addresses Wesray Capital Corporation, a company that was a pioneer in the sometimes predatory practice of leveraged buyouts. The company’s founding is an example of the inter-connected relationships and revolving doors between government and business (especially as it relates to the finance industry). This is clearly demonstrated by one of the founders of Wesray, William Simon, who was Secretary of the U.S. Treasury before becoming one of the richest men in the U.S. due to his subsequent exploits as a financier. This pattern has been perpetuated in numerous instances, including in the case of the founding of the Blackstone Group, which is one of today’s largest financial services company and has been one of the biggest practitioners of leveraged buyouts in the most recent decade.