Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.

NetRoots Nation Confrontation Wasn't About #BlackLivesMatter At All

A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

The first thing to know about the #BlackLivesMatter confrontation with Democratic presidential candidates Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders is that it didn't happen on the street or some neutral setting, it didn't happen at some random campaign appearance. It happened at the annual NetRootsNation gathering, this year in Phoenix.

NetRoots bills itself as “the largest gathering of the progressive movement” in this country. Unless you think the Democratic party IS the progressive movement, or that all “progressives” are Democrats, this is nonsense. I know, I've been to NetRoots.

What it actually is, is the largest gathering of paid and wannabe paid Democratic party activists, Democratic candidates and Democratic campaign managers, of consultants and vendors to Democratic campaigns, and folks of all kinds who are part of the far-flung partisan and ostensibly “non-partisan” machinery that gears up every even numbered year to elect Democrats to local, state and national office. Some of them want to change the Democratic party from within, some of them want to take it as it is, but they're all committed to staying inside the Democratic tent, and to keeping you there as well.

If you're a black Democratic party activist like I was for 25 years, even if like me, you never called yourself that, you go to NetRoots to connect with other Democratic party activists, and hopefully, with the people who will be handing out grassroots money, among other things, to get out the Big Black Vote in November, without which Democrats on every level have no hope of winning.

High ranking Democrats who hand out money, whether through partisan campaigns or to ostensibly nonpartisan and/or nonprofit organizations are always on the lookout for new activist blood with catchy new hooks, for activists who'll say the things they will not say in the effort to turn out the black masses for that Big Black Vote. So if you're a black activist at NetRoots you really NEED to stand out, to get noticed by the people who can give you fellowships, grants, jobs, funding of all kinds, and a career.

Since Hillary is the all but inevitable Democratic nominee, confronting two minor white male candidates, demanding they “say her name” and come up with solutions that address white supremacy, structural racism and the runaway police state is pretty much a foolproof strategy to get noticed, and as Hillary did not attend NetRoots, they got to do it without antagonizing the Clinton camp. Hillary wisely covered her own ass by releasing a tweet that unequivocally said “black lives DO matter.”

But all in all, the NetRootsNation confrontation wasn't the stirring of black women activists “taking their rightful place at the front of the progressive movement,” as one breathless tweet called it. It didn't tell us anything we didn't know about O'Malley or Sanders, or about hypocritical Hillary.

It was about flying the #BlackLivesMatter flag to jockey for positions inside the machinery that is the Democratic party and its affiliates.

For Black Agenda Radio I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com, where you can subscribe to our free weekly email newsletter.

 

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a member of the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. Contact him via email at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.

Direct download: 20150723_bd-netroots-nation-confrontation.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:11 PM

Obama’s Takes His Prison Reform Con Game on the Road

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

Don’t expect anything other than cynical theatricality and double-dealing from this president.”

President Obama last week took his criminal justice con game into the U.S. prison system, home to one out of eight incarcerated persons in the world. On any given day, about 80,000 inmates are held in solitary confinement, some of them for decades. Obama proclaimed that’s not a “smart” thing to do, and ordered his Justice Department to conduct a study of how to cut down on solitary confinement. If that means Obama’s going to pursue a “smart” criminal justice policy, in the same way that he wages “smart” wars, then not much will change in U.S. prisons.

The president waited until the second half of his second term in office – and the rise of an incipient mass protest movement – before experiencing his epiphany on mass incarceration. So-called prison reform is now a thoroughly bipartisan affair. Republicans have harbored a strain of prison reformism ever since many of Richard Nixon’s men found themselves behind bars in the aftermath of Watergate, and even the rabidly reactionary Koch brothers are funding prison reform. The legislatures of at least 15 states have either passed, or are debating, ways to limit solitary confinement. And Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, a crucial swing vote on the high court, has all but invited prison reform groups to challenge solitary confinement on Constitutional grounds. So, although Obama is the first serving president to actually set foot in a prison, he is moving in politically safe territory.

However, don’t expect anything other than cynical theatricality and double-dealing from this president. When it comes to the criminal justice system, Obama is a consummate trickster. This month, with great fanfare, he commuted the sentences of 46 nonviolent drug offenders. Eight of them had been convicted for crack cocaine. But, two years ago, Obama’s Justice Department successfully argued against retroactive release of prisoners convicted under the infamous 100-to-1 crack cocaine penalties. Because of Obama, 5,000 people, most of them Black, were left to languish in prison – yet he is praised for letting just eight of them out, under presidential commutation, two years later. Now, that is champion con man.

The Curtain’s About to Close

If Obama had launched his reviews of solitary confinement and other U.S. criminal justice atrocities during his first term in office, then, theoretically, tens of thousands of inmates might have been spared millions of collective days and nights of isolation and psychological torture. But, Obama will have less than a year left in office when his new study is completed.

Five percent of all federal prison inmates are currently in solitary confinement. Federal prisons are 35 to 40 percent overcrowded. High security federal prisons, where solitary confinement is most widely practiced, are 55 percent overcrowded. Obama last week told the NAACP that solitary confinement has “no place in any civilized country.” But he has overseen such practices for six and a half years. The NAACP roared its approval, anyway – willing participants in Obama’s criminal justice con game.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
Direct download: 20150722_gf_ObamaPrisonCon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:24 PM

A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Six and a half years into his presidency, Barack Obama has discovered black mass incarceration. He's shocked, visits a federal prison and frees a token handful of prisoners. Fifteen years out of office, Bill Clinton half-apologies for his 1990s crime bills which nearly doubled the US prison population. What's got into these guys? It's election season. Hillary is running for the White House and she needs the black vote.

Why Bill Clinton's Apology and Barack Obama's Prison Drive-By, Token Clemencies Are Cynical Election Year Posturing

A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Ten whole years ago, back in July 2005 when the Black Agenda Report crew was still at Black Commentator, I wrote that

With under 5 percent of the world’s people, the US accounts for 25 percent of the planet’s prisoners.  More than half its 2.2 million prisoners come from the one eighth of its population which is black.  Today, an astounding 3 percent of all African Americans languish in prisons and jails, and nearly as many more are on probation, parole, bail, house arrest or court supervision... Right now, the shadow of prison squats at the corners of, and often at the center of nearly every black family’s life in this nation.”

Yesterday President Obama repeated some of these same figures, and they are pretty much the same. Total US prisoners are still 2.2 or 2.3 million, and a slight drop in the black incarceration rate makes us now a little less instead of a little more than half, but the overall picture is unchanged in a decade. The president then announced the release of forty-some nonviolent federal drug offenders out of a total of about 70,000, and stopped in at a federal prison Thursday. The same day, ex-president Bill Clinton offered a half-hearted “apology” for his 1990s crime bills, which he admitted “set the stage” for state and federal governments to nearly double the US prison population.

Why? Why did President Obama wait six and a half years into his presidency to say the basic damning numbers and free a token handful of drug war prisoners? And how come Bill Clinton, fifteen years out of office chose this week to publicly admit that black mass incarceration was maybe not the best public policy?

The short answer is that Hillary Clinton is running for president, and she needs that big black vote. Barack and Bill are working hard to position Hillary as the lesser evil, so that a large black vote, an essential component of what Democratic party consultants call their “base vote” can be mobilized for her.

We shouldn't forget however that despite the posturing of former presidents, that mass black incarceration has been the joint and bipartisan policy of both Republicans and Democrats.

The federal prison budget rose every year but one in the Clinton years, the Bush years, and so far the Obama years look about the same. The First Black President approved new federal supermax solitary prisons in places like Illinois, where citizen action closed the infamous Tamms penitentiary, and his Justice Department went to court to keep thousands who should have been freed when Congress relaxed the crack to powder sentence disparity from 100 to on to 17 to 1 behind the walls to this day.

Why? Why is black mass incarceration the bipartisan policy of America's rulers?

It's not about a continuation of slavery or to get free prison labor, that's silly. Nine out of ten prisoners do no work at all. And it's not because prisons are especially profitable. Apart from immigration prisons under Obama, privatization has never been big enough to drive the engine of mass incarceration at any time in the last 3 or 4 decades.

The America prison state came into fullest flower at the same time as and as the flip side of Bill and Hillary Clinton's so-called “welfare reform.” Whether Republicans or Democrats are in office black mass incarceration serves the vital purpose of morally justifying America's viciously unequal and racist economic and social order. The prison state does this by creating mostly black and brown class of permanently stigmatized and “unworthy” poor who can be portrayed as not deserving decent housing, real educations, affordable health care, dignity or jobs at living wages and whose precarious lives and devastated communities can be blamed on anything except the failure of neoliberal capitalism to provide bread, education, housing dignity or justice.

The more unjust and unequal capitalist America becomes, the more it needs prisons, and that stigmatized class defined by them. Their precarious lives are also a standing lesson to millions more with falling wages and rising debts to shut up and suck it up or this could be you.

We at Black Agenda Report have been talking about black mass incarceration for ten years now, longer than Michelle Alexander, and before anybody heard of the New Jim Crow. We're glad that presidents Bill and Barack have rediscovered it, even if only just in time to get another Democrat elected, which for them is about all that matters.

For Black Agenda Radio I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and serves on the state committee of the GA Green Party. Reach him at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.

Direct download: 20150715_bd_bill_n_barack_on_mass_incarceration.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:37 PM

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Piecemeal and wholesale privatization of public schools has been the bipartisan agenda of Republicans and Democrats. Now top school districts are outsourcing teacher hiring to be sure they get the Wal-Mart style disposable temps to man the positions once held by experienced teachers connected with their students and communities.

Where Obama's Race To The Top Leads: Chicago, Philly, Miami Public Schools Privatize Teacher Hiring

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Are you credentialed? Degreed? Qualified? Are you applying for a public school teaching job in Chicago, Miami, Philadelphia or a number of other cities? If you are you probably know already that for many public school systems nowadays the teacher personnel office is NOT in the city where your schools are. In keeping with President Obama's Race To The Top program which makes piecemeal and wholesale run-the-school-like-a-business, unaccountable charter schools and other privatization schemes requirements for federal education dollars, Chicago and Philly, and perhaps MiamiDade are among the first to outsource and privatize teacher hiring.

They've handed the function, and a big chunk of public money with it, to a shadowy firm called TeacherMatch.Org, headed by a former Chicago Public Schools (and Chicago Police Department) chief and private equity speculator Ron Huberman.

Like charter schools that take public money but offer no public accountability, TeacherMatch's web site contains no information about who its financial backers are, no mention of who its clients are, except for Miami. But the site is full of the usual corporate reform jargon about “innovation” and such.

Privatization is just about always grand theft. It's perfectly legal under US law to bribe a politician or a gaggle of them to hand you a public asset you can profitably squeeze.

Whether it's maintaining vehicle fleets, delivering water, payroll, the post office or teacher hiring, privatization offers rock-solid profit gurantees for the privatizer with less accountability than when the asset was in public hands. Fleet maintenance companies, for example have successfully kept the public from knowing how often, with whose parts and at what expense they fix vehicles because the information might be used by competitors.

You can be certain that TeacherMatch will never willingly share its teacher hiring criteria that it will not share with the public. But you can also be certain that in keeping with the drive to corporate school reform under begun with No Child Left Behind, intensified by Obama's Race to the Top, and nailed into permanent place with NCLB's successor bill now in the senate, TeacherMatch is being used to replace experienced, competent, well-paid teachers with Wal-Mart style temps, and Teach For America scabs with 5 weeks of training. Back in the 1980s the media year for teacher experience was 8. Now that median year is less than two.

The public, especially the black community has never supported the privatization of public education. But since the day Barack Obama appointed Arne Duncan secretary of education, and they jointly announced the administration's initial goal of closing 5,000 public schools, ten or twenty percent of the nation's total, the Obama administration and Democrats down to the black and Latino mayors of big and small cities, have been all about privatization.

They just dare not call it by its real name. But make no mistake, the savage decimation of public schools, handed over to charter chains and other private operators like TeacherMatch, and the firing of tens of thousands of qualified black educators will be one of the lasting legacies of Barack Obama's presidency.

We'll be living with it for some time to come.

For Black Agenda Radio I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com, and be sure to subscribe to our free weekly email newsletter at www.blackagendareport.com/subscribe. That's www.blackagendareport.com/subscribe.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black AGenda Report, and a member of the state committee of the GA Green Party, which unequivocally opposes school privatization.  Reach him at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.

 

Direct download: 20150715_bd_privatizing-teacher-hiring.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:21 PM

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

The consequences of the Great Recession “and the Obama administration’s response to it” have fallen most heavily on Black children, who have been plunged into poverty at the highest levels ever recorded. Poverty rates have gone down for all children except Blacks – an example of actual American “exceptionalism.”

Obama’s Legacy: Black Child Poverty at Record High

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

The raw numbers of poor Black kids now exceeds whites in absolute terms.”

A new study by the Pew Research Center shows that Black children have been reduced to record levels of poverty over the last several years. Black kids are four times as likely to be poor as white children, with Black child poverty now cresting at 38.3 percent. Only 10.7 percent of white children live in poverty. Asian children are the least poor of all, at only 10.1 percent. Hispanic kids are about three times more likely than whites to live in poverty-stricken households, at 30.4 percent.

The trend is even more disturbing. Overall, child poverty fell by 20 percent between the years 2010 and 2013, according to U.S. Census data. The decline was registered for every major racial group – except Black kids, whose poverty level remained stuck at record highs.

And, it gets worse. For the first time since the federal government began gathering statistics on poverty, the raw numbers of poor Black kids now exceeds whites in absolute terms. Remember back when Jesse Jackson used to point out that there were more poor white Americans than poor Blacks. Today, when it comes to children, that is no longer the case. And yet, the federal poverty program that serves poor families with children is stingier than it has ever been.

Whose fault?

The analysts at the Pew Research Center offered no rationale for why Black kids are faring so badly in the current economy. But, several factors are obvious. During the Great Recession, Black household wealth fell to one-twentieth that of median white households. After debts were subtracted from assets, the median white household was worth a little over $113,000, while Black households could lay claim to only $5,600 in assets. Half of Black households were worse off than that, and about half of those had virtually no family worth at all. That means the children of such households began life economically naked to the world.

The closely related culprit is Black unemployment, which has been stuck at roughly twice that of whites for more than two generations, then hit record levels during the Great Recession, and stayed there for longer than any other group.

The consequences of the economic crash and the Obama administration’s response to it, are now borne by Black children, who start off life in an historically worse condition than any other major group, and more vulnerable than the Black kids of previous generations. This is President Obama’s legacy, as the chief executive who began his first term with a blanket refusal to target federal programs to Black people, who had suffered the worst from the deliberate policies of his friends on Wall Street. Obama has since claimed to have lifted every boat – except those of the children of the people he claims as his own.

Now, let the choir sing “Amazing Grace.”

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

 

 

Direct download: 20150715_gf_BlackChildPoverty.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:19 PM

Cynical Democratic Party Leaders Will Say Anything You Wanna Hear For Your Votes Or Your Cash

A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Last month, Talking Points Memo noted that the Democratic National Committee or DNC, the recipients of tens of millions of dollars in legal bribes (campaign contributions, they're called under US law) from Big Oil, Big Ag, Big Pharma, Wall Street, the military contractors and more every year, the DNC was featuring Bernie Sanders on the mass fundraising mailings it sent to thousands of likely Democrat donors.

At first glance this does seem quite strange. While Bernie Sanders does talk and vote like many other pro-war liberal Democrats, while official Democrats across the country think he's Democrat enough to run in Democratic primaries and caucuses, and while Bernie's even pledged to support the eventual Democratic party nominee, pointing out to George Stephanopoulos that he does that every election anyhow, Bernie Sanders describes himself as a socialist, and talks about what he calls “a political revolution.”

So what's happening here? There's no question that the Democratic National Committee is the subservient tool of its ruling class donors, and of their candidate Hillary Clinton. TPM's Josh Marshall explains that although Hillary remains the official candidate of the DNC and its donors, they need an official opposition to make the year-long run up to the Democratic nominating convention a year from now look less like a coronation.

Bernie's presence, and his half-hearted pro-war brand of socialism, as Paul Street also explained in Black Agenda Report a few weeks ago doesn't further any “political revolution” at all. What it does is make Hillary's absolutely certain Democratic party nomination look almost legit, as though she emerged from some kind of process where the Democrats' base voters actually get to have their say. It makes sense, if only a profoundly dishonest kind of sense.

But the cynicism of corporate Democrats runs much deeper than this. Immediately after President Obama muscled fast track legislation needed to pass his so-called trade bills though Congress without the bother of legislators being able to amend them, or even see what's in them, the California Democratic party was emailing thousands of likely small and medium sized donors with the promise that it would “continue the fight” against “unfair trade agreements” like the TPP.

The California Democratic Party being effectively the local branch of the DNC chose not to remind prospective donors that their Democratic president forced TPP's fast-track provision through Congress, that their Democratic president is hounding, harassing convening secret grand juries and jailing on espionage and terrorism charges Wikileaks and other persons for revealing parts of the so-called trade agreements, which are really corporate power grabs.

The California Democratic Party isn't about to fight the Democrat in the White House over TPP, the privatization of schools, cutting the military budget, rolling back the prison state or anything else. Their feeble and hypocritical pretense of opposing TPP is aimed at the most deluded and gullible among their donor base, in the same spirit that the DNC uses Bernie Sanders to supplement fundraising. It's a measure of how uninformed and stupid Democratic party leaders on the state and national level imagine Democratic donors and voters to be, another marker of the boundless contempt that Democratic party leaders have for ordinary Democrats, and ordinary people.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com, and be sure to sign up for our free weekly email newsletter at www.blackagendareport.com/subscribe.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report. He lives and works near Marietta GA, where he is a partner in a technology firm and serves on the state committee of the GA Green Party. Contact him at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.

Direct download: 20150708_bd_cynical_dems.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:28 PM

Why Charleston Shooter Dylan Roof Isn't a “Terrorist” But Maybe Some of Us Are

A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

The terms “terrorist” and “terrorism” have never been our words, they've always been deployed by the oppressor against us... ”

There's a lot of noise asking why government officials from the Charleston police chief to the head of the FBI to President Obama refuse to call Charleston shooter Dylan Roof a “terrorist.” Listening closely to their official should make us wonder if that's really a good idea.

As the FBI director explained, the term “terrorist” has a very specific legal meaning in the US. Legally, a terrorist is somebody aiming to influence or change government or corporate (it's hard to tell them apart) policies by breaking the law. By that definition, Dylan Roof, who simply wanted to kill as many black people as he could is NOT a terrorist because the willingness to kill a lot of black people is NOT a change in corporate or governmental policy. Killing lots of black folks has been business as usual ever since Europeans landed in the New World half a thousand years ago.

The Charleston shooter is a deranged kook though, because unlike the Koch Brothers, or R.J. Reynolds, or Aetna Insurance or Bank of America, United Fruit, US Steel or the Massachusetts Bay Company, all of whom filled cemeteries and raked in billions, Dylan Roof did his handful of bodies for free.

On the other hand, if you take a picture of or write a description for publication about what goes on in a food, agricultural or animal processing facility, or you've been protesting the leaky oil pipelines and bomb trains that wind through thousands of communities, the FBI and federally funded fusion centers have no trouble designating you an actual or potential “terrorist,” or what they call an “eco-terrorist.” The #BlackLivesMatter folks who break the law blocking traffic fit the FBI director's definition of terrorism quite neatly, and right now Chelsea Manning is doing 35 years in federal prison for espionage, “aiding and abetting terrorism” by releasing video of US soldiers murdering Iraqi civilians, and handing over cable traffic showing everything from US State Department intervention to keep Haitian wages low to secret US bombing campaigns to US torture and mercenary companies trafficking in children and more to Wikleaks which distributed them to news outlets around the world.

The terms “terrorist” and “terrorism” have never been our words, they've always been deployed by the oppressor against us. The first time I recall hearing about “terrorists” and “terrorism” were was back in the 1970s, when the white colonial regimes of Angola, Mozambique and Rhodesia called the black Africans who took up arms against them and fought for their people's freedom terrorists, and declared they were on the front lines of a global war on terror. Charleston shooter Dylan Roof wore their flag, a Rhodesian flag on his jacket.

The poor and oppressed have never had the privilege of deciding who was and was not a terrorist, because the terrorist has always been a handy construction of the rich and powerful, a construction that justifies Homeland Security Departments, militarized policing and a country with 5% of the world's population spending half the world's military budget on its so-called “global war on terror.” Our government needs terrorism and terrorists to justify itself so badly that FBI and other police agencies constantly manufacture “terrorist plots” in which they ensnare the ignorant and unwary.

So let's get real about this. If breaking the law to change government or corporate policy makes you a terrorist, Martin Luther King, Chelsea Manning, Wikileaks' Julian Asange, anti-pipeline activists and “#BlackLivesMatter protestors blocking roads and streets, and even Boondocks cartoon character and self-confessed domestic terrorist Huey Freeman all pass the test.

Dylan Roof, who wants things pretty much the way they already are only more so, does not.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Bruce Dixon.  Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com, and subscribe to our free weekly email.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report.  He's a member of the state committee of the GA Green party and lives and works near Marietta GA.  Contact him at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.
Direct download: 20150617_bd_whos-a-terrorist.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:34 PM

Obama Rams Through TPP With Little Democratic Support, Even from Black Caucus

 

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

 

Obama delivered a crushing defeat to his own party, and to the health and welfare of all humanity.”

 

In the weeks before Barack Obama began his first term in office, we at Black Agenda Report described him as a center-right politician, based on the cast of characters he chose for his cabinet and his announcement that Social Security and all entitlement programs would be put on the chopping block under his presidency. Six and a half years later, Obama stands at the far right wing of his own Democratic Party, and – on issues of corporate domination – to the right of many Republicans. Obama’s Trans Pacific Partnership treaty, the 21st century blueprint for global corporate rule, garnered only 28 Democratic votes in a showdown on Capitol Hill, last week. But, backed by 190 Republicans, and all the assets that Wall Street can muster, Obama delivered a crushing defeat to his own party, and to the health and welfare of all humanity. So rotten is the stench of TPP – a treaty so toxic it is a state secret – that only three members of the Congressional Black Caucus were willing to side with the First Black President.

 

The “Black TPP Three” are: Gregory Meeks, the corporate servant from Queens, New York; Terri Sewell, the sell-out who misrepresents Alabama’s Black Belt; and Eddie Bernice Johnson, the congresswoman from Texas who occupies a special place of shame, since she also voted in favor of the disastrous NAFTA treaty, 22 years ago.

 

Eddie Bernice Johnson, Recidivist

 

Back in 1993, Obama’s political mentor, Bill Clinton, crossed over the aisle to lead Republicans to victory over his fellow Democrats in the fight to pass NAFTA, the treaty with Canada and Mexico. Clinton got a much larger share of Democrats to go along with his jobs-killing bill, but most of the party still opposed the deal; 102 Democrats voted Yes, versus 156 that said No to NAFTA. Six members of the Congressional Black Caucus sided with Bill Clinton: Carrie Meek, of Florida; Mel Reynolds, from Chicago, who two years later was forced to resign after a conviction for statutory rape; William “Dollar Bill” Jefferson, the money-man from New Orleans who hid cash in his refrigerator; Floyd Flake, whose New York seat is now held by the thoroughly corrupted Gregory Meeks; Harold Ford, who went on to become George Bush’s favorite Black congressman; and Eddie Bernice Johnson, the only one of the six still in a position to betray more 700,000 of her constituents, in Dallas, Texas.

 

In the generation since passage of NAFTA, the Black economy has collapsed, largely due to the flight of manufacturing jobs to low wage foreign shores. On Barack Obama’s watch, Black wealth fell to one-twentieth of median white household wealth, making it statistically impossible for African Americans to ever hope to reach parity with whites, short of a revolution. TPP will hasten the pace of social and economic decline in the United States – the real legacy of Barack Hussein Obama.

 

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

 

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

 

 

 

Direct download: 20150624_gf_CBC-TPP.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:16 PM

New York City's Roosevelt Island and Rikers Island are on the same planet, but different worlds. For Hillary Clinton, the suicide of Kalief Browder, a New York city teen imprisoned for 3 years, two in solitary at Rikers who hanged himself on the eve of her inaugural New York City rally, was not important enough to mention before a friendly white audience. Apparently those are discussions reserved for black audiences only, or surrogates.

From Roosevelt Island to Rikers Island – Hillary Clinton Can't See Black Mass Incarceration

A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

In the first week of June 2015, young Kalief Browder committed suicide. Browder was arrested at the age of sixteen for the alleged theft of a backpack. Without being tried or even formally charged, Browder spent 3 years down at New York City's notorious Rikers Island complex, two of them in solitary confinement.

Lacking competent legal representation and isolated in part because he was not a member of any street organization, Browder was relentlessly beaten and abused by both staff and inmates during his incarceration. On the outside, in the hopeful estimation of his family and friends, Browder's condition seemed to be improving. Browder had made several prior suicide attempts during and after his time at Rikers, but at the time of his death was attending city college classes, his grades were going up and his panic attacks and other PTSD symptoms seemed to be retreating, until his mother found him hanging from an open window one morning.

Less than a week later, on the same planet, the same city, but in another world just six miles downstream from Rikers, Hillary Clinton kicked off her campaign with a Roosevelt Island campaign rally, eagerly covered by Melissa Harris-Perry and MSNBC. Being an island, Roosevelt Island is not a gated community, it's a moated community, inhabited in large part by UN employees and such, many quite well to do.

Hillary Rodham Clinton is no dummy, and she employs some of the cleverest marketers around to craft her every photo opportunity, appearance and most of the words that come from her mouth. Not much escapes their notice, except of course those matters they deem just not worth noticing. You can bet people on Hillary's team knew who Kalief Browder was. They knew Rikers was just 6 miles upstream, and they knew it wouldn't embarrass the mayor because deBlasio had already acknowledged it. They knew the crowd was Hillary's no matter what she did or did not say.

For Team Hillary, the life and death of Kalief Browder, and hundreds or thousands like him just didn't make the cut. Other points, other matters were too pressing, too urgent.

Since becoming a presidential candidate again in the last few weeks, Hillary has learned to make her lips say the words “mass incarceration.” She's said it more often in the last couple months than Bernie Sanders has in twenty years, but it seems to be one of those things she'll only come out with in front of black and other receptive audiences, as though black mass incarceration and the prison state were the exclusive creations or problems of black and brown Americans instead of something she and her husband expanded dramatically during their last terms in the White House.

As the entire black political class maneuvers to deliver the black vote to Hillary (sometimes through Bernie Sanders in the primary season) it's instructive to note that when their candidate has a free hand and a friendly white audience before which to speak, the prison state and mass incarceration which virtually define the black experience of government are simply not worth mentioning.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com, where you can also subscribe to our free weekly email alerts.

 

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report. He lives and works near Marietta GA, where he is a partner in an IT firm and serves on the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. Contact him at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.

Direct download: 20150617_bd_roosevelt-island-2-rikers-island.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:36 PM

Data Show Cops Growing More Aggressive Against Blacks In Missouri

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

The cops’ mission is to project police power against Black people as a group.”

New statistics from Missouri show that the racial disparity in police stops, searches and arrests of drivers was higher, last year, than at any time since the year 2000, when Missouri started keeping records. Black drivers in 2014 were 75 percent more likely than whites to be stopped by police, and 73 percent more likely to be searched. In 2013, the year before a Ferguson, Missouri, cop killed Michael Brown, setting off the Black Lives Matter movement, Missouri was stopping Blacks 66 percent more often than they stopped whites. So, in Missouri, at least, the statistics tend to confirm the general impression among Black people that the police are becoming measurably more aggressive in their dealings with African Americans.

Missouri is not widely viewed as one of the more enlightened states, but it is one of only about a half dozen states that keep track of how citizens who are Driving While Black are treated on the states’ streets and highways. Missouri provides the kind of information that civil liberties lawyers in New York City had to spend years in court to force police to provide. The Missouri data show an increase in the already familiar pattern, in which Black people who are stopped are also more likely to be searched than whites who get pulled over, but that whites are almost 50 percent more likely to turn out to be carrying some kind of contraband, usually drugs. Nevertheless, at the end of the stop, Blacks were about twice as likely to be arrested as whites.

Race is the guiding principle of the U.S. criminal justice system.”

The New York Times article on the new Missouri statistics included comments from a professor of criminology at the University of Missouri at Kansas City. Prof. Kenneth Novak was reluctant to draw firm racial conclusions about what the data means, because police tend to concentrate their attention in areas where there are higher proportions of Blacks. Therefore, he finds the numbers “perplexing.” But, Prof. Novak has already answered his own question. Yes, the cops do concentrate their energies in Black areas, and they also place Blacks traveling in white areas under greater surveillance. Their mission is to project police power against Black people as a group, wherever they are. The cops do not work under a similar mission in the white community – and that’s why the whites that do wind up getting stopped are more likely than Blacks to be carrying unlawful goods and substances. Generally speaking, you have to be a relatively wild-looking or badly behaving white person to get stopped in the first place. But Black folks are all fair game, because race is the guiding principle of the U.S. criminal justice system.

White supremacy is the reason that one out of every eight prison inmates in the world is an African American; it’s why there are more people of color in U.S. prisons than in the entire prison system of China, a country with a population four and a half times that of the United States. The Black American Gulag has been built stop-by-stop, frisk-by-frisk, sweep-by-sweep, and through constant racialized surveillance of Black people wherever they go in this country.

There’s nothing “perplexing” about it. Mass Black Incarceration is foundational government policy everywhere in the United States.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

 

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20150603_gf_MODrivingWhileBlack.mp3
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