Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from an African American point of view.

By BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Does President Obama really want us to “make him do it,” to organize and agitate and create the conditions that will let him end the wars, cut the military budget, create jobs and address the hyper-incarceration of black and brown youth? Or is the “make me do it” president an urban legend who lives only inside our heads? A recent presidential encounter with Harry Belafonte tells more than some of us may want to know.

Harry Belafonte Explodes the Presidential “Make Me Do It” Myth

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

There is a popular myth which explains President Barack Obama's reluctance to stand up to Pentagon militarists, Wall Street banksters and corporate greedheads. This myth excuses the president for ignoring massive black unemployment and not providing his promised path to citizenship for the undocumented, for not using presidential authority to halt the foreclosure epidemic, or curbing the hyper-incarceration of black and brown youth. The myth of course, is that President Barack Obama really does want to do all these things and more, but if they haven't happened it's because we the people have abandoned our responsibility to somehow “make him do it.”

The myth stems from the apocryphal story of a meeting between African American labor leader A. Philip Randolph and President Franklin Roosevelt back in the 1940s. Randolph laid out black America's list of demands for economic and social justice. In response, Roosevelt said he wanted to do all of it, but that Randolph and the movement of that time would still have to “make him” do these things.

Applied to the Obama presidency however, “make me do it” is a popular myth. It's popular because the president and his lackeys repeat it endlessly. It's a myth because it's not true. Longtime activist Harry Belafonte, who played a key role in the Freedom Movement of the fifties and sixties, exploded the myth in a Democracy Now interview broadcast on May 16.

Belafonte was asked by host Amy Goodman whether he'd used his occasional access to directly share his many critical and valuable public policy insights with the White House. Belafonte replied that his only access to the president has been for a few seconds at a time, not long enough for any substantive discussion. But, he said, at one such event President Obama approached him to inquire when Belafonte and Cornel West were going “to cut me some slack.”

What makes you think we haven't?” Belafonte replied to the president? At this point the brief encounter was over.

Let's pause to think about that. When President Obama cusses out Cornel West and personally demands that historic stalwarts of the movement for peace and justice “cut him some slack” on black unemployment, on foreclosures and the prison state, on torture and the military budget, on unjust wars and corporate welfare, on fulfilling the just demands of those who elected him, our first black president is revealing his real self. Far from saying “make me do it,” President Obama is saying how dare you pressure me to do what you elected me to do.

Harry Belafonte has done a great public service in helping us distinguish the imaginary Barack Obama of “make me do it” from the real Barack Obama, who demands our support, but expects us to “cut him some slack.” Rather than agitating and organizing in our communities to “make him do it” all the real President Obama wants of movement activists is for us to sit down and shut up, until it's time to chase each other out to vote for him in 2012.

By then, there will be fewer chasers, and somewhat less chasing than in 2008. But this will be something that he made us do. 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 is based in Marietta GA, where he is on the state committee of the Georgia Green Party.

Direct download: 20110518_bd_make_me_do_it.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:53 AM

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

With insurance companies flush with cash and their shareholders pocketing impressive dividends, rising insurance rates and punitive co-payments have terrorized much of the public into putting off visits to the doctor and postponing important tests.” Such is the “insanity of private health care,” in which insurers are allowed to charge high rates and co-payments “that prevent their own customers from obtaining needed health care.”

 

Study Shows Insured Americans Risk Health to Avoid High Co-Payments

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Self-rationing of medical care under economic duress will certainly result in unnecessary future deaths and a further erosion of overall health in the United States.”

Americans fortunate enough to have health insurance are cutting back on their own medical care, while private insurance corporations are reaping windfall profits. Rising insurance rates and punitive co-payments have terrorized much of the public into putting off visits to the doctor and postponing important tests like colonoscopies and mammograms, because the cash upfront is more than they can afford. This self-rationing of medical care under economic duress, confirmed by the commercial insurance industry, will certainly result in unnecessary future deaths and a further erosion of overall health in the United States, which already ranks 37th in the world. Meanwhile, insurance industry shareholders are clocking big dividends and companies are piling up huge reserves of cash.

The insurance racketeers justify their rate increases, claiming they need to hoard big stashes of cash in anticipation that, when the economy improves, people will start going back to the doctor again. This is the insanity of private health care, a corporate con game in which insurance companies are allowed to rake in fantastic profits charging astronomical rates that prevent even their own customers from obtaining needed health care during economic hard times. The rationale is that the companies will need the extra money when good times roll around and their customers finally have enough cash to visit the doctor and take necessary tests.

We know that preventable illness and death will increase when people are discouraged from utilizing medical services.”

The United States does not have a national health care policy; it has a national insurance corporation profits policy, as well as a national pharmaceutical industry profits policy. But the population at-large, much of whose health care is already rationed by managed-care corporations, is now reduced to rationing its own health care by postponing medical attention. The bizarre, inhuman, totally non-medical logic of the corporate boardroom then demands that insurance rates rise in order to pay for the pent-up health care demands that must inevitably be dealt with at some later date. The insurance companies project that doctor visits will pick up when people’s spending power increases. Of course, there is absolutely no reason to believe that most people’s disposal incomes will increase in the foreseeable future. That’s why people are holding off going to the doctor. But, we do know that preventable illness and death will increase when people are discouraged from utilizing medical services. In other words, the U.S. health-profits system is methodically killing Americans – and rewarding corporations for their role in the carnage.

These are the fruits of the backroom sweetheart deals that President Obama cut with private insurance corporations back in 2009. They have allowed big insurance companies to exceed expected earnings by 30 percent, while undetected tumors fester in the bodies of their customers, who can't afford the co-pay.

The logic of private health care and its Obamacare version, is death. A national single-payer plan, such as was possible in 2009 had Obama not chosen to preserve corporate profits, is the only answer.

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

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

Direct download: 20110518_gf_InsuranceProfits.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:54 AM

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR editor and columnist Jared Ball

The monopoly corporations that reap billions through their control over the flow of music through the cultural “marketplace” also accrue the power to define who-is-who and what-is-what in the public mind. This is a kind of piracy on the high political/cultural seas. “If these corporations can define popularity it assures that today’s Belafontes, Robesons or Miriam Makebas cannot.”

 

Who You Callin’ A Pirate?!?!

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR editor and columnist Jared Ball

It’s an absolute inversion of reality for the industry’s lobbyists to describe others a ‘pirates.’”

As a kind of follow up to last week’s commentary on shifting ownership in the music industry there is another recent development worthy of our attention. The last “mainstream U.S.-based” company “accused of employing music piracy as a business strategy,” the company now also described as “the last of its kind,” Lime Wire, has reached a settlementwith music industry’s watchdog the Recording Industry Association of America, the infamous RIAA. This settlement, of more than $100 million, is said to be largely about putting Lime Wire’s owner Mark Gorton into “huge debt” so as to make his a “powerful cautionary tale,” a warning to others who might think of getting rich by making corporate property available to the world for free.

The settlement is seen as a victory for the RIAA who “can now boast that they’ve driven file-sharing services underground and overseas.” It is the musical version of killing off the numbers game to develop state-run lotteries or the suppression of one drug trade in favor of a more harmful and deadly one managed by the pharmaceutical industry. In this case the danger of free exchange, or the threat that corporations may lose their stranglehold over managing popularity and the financial benefit that often follows, is the very “racket” to be controlled. So as one reporter notes, it’s “hard to tell” where any settlement money will go. “In the past” Greg Sandoval explains, “the RIAA has split up big awards with the four member labels.” And as a spokesperson for the RIAA said, “recouped” funds are usually “re-invested” into their “ongoing education and anti-piracy programs.”

It doesn’t take long to notice that nowhere in any discussion of settlements and compensation do artists get mentioned. And why should they? Their art is not their property and these trials have nothing to do with them. They and their art are highly coveted commodities owned by the subsidiaries of the world’s corporate elite. And this is also why it’s an absolute inversion of reality for the industry’s lobbyists to describe others a “pirates.” It is the industry that preys upon the colonized, takes advantage of their talent and desperation to achieve a life most of us have been propagandized to believe possible or necessary. It is the industry that needs this cultural extraction to occur in order to protect their already solidified positions atop the world’s social hierarchy. They too learned the lesson Harry Belafontesays was passed to him from Paul Robeson. “Get them to sing your song,” Belafonte recounts, “and they’ll want to know who you are.” This is about the power of definition. And if these corporations can define popularity it assures that today’s Belafontes, Robesons or Miriam Makebas cannot.

The RIAA who can now boast that they’ve driven file-sharing services underground and overseas.”

Gorton’s lawyer pointed out the hypocrisy apparent in industry claims that the online free exchange of music has cost them dearly. While crying broke these corporations have developed other revenue-generating operations like Internet radio, video game royalties and “ad dollars from YouTube.” It was also mentioned in court how, even amidst all this “theft,” the top three Warner Music executives somehow made more than $100 million in bonuses since 2004. Even this week it was reported that though Universal Music Group’s first quarter is down a whopping .09% since last year its parent company Vivendi’s first quarter is up, due in part to those “other revenue streams,” to $1.36 billion. That’s not bad for a first quarter net income especially when it would likely take the life-time earnings of all the families in the history of all the families of all who hear this commentary to maybe come within a tenth of that number.

So the legalized, institutionalized theft of our cultural expression by the “lords of capital” has now again made illicit the use of new technology to subvert their ability to determine who among us gets to be popular and to what extent artists may benefit from the commercial sale of their art. We’d all be better off bootlegging industry product and sending the artists $5 directly. We all would pay less for the music we want and our favorite artists would make more per sale than they do now. It sounds like a win-win situation to me.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Jared Ball. Online visit us at www.BlackAgendaReport.com.

Dr. Jared A. Ball is the author of I Mix What I Like! A Mixtape Manifesto (AK Press) and can be reached via:IMixWhatILike.com

Direct download: 20110518_jb_Pirates.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:51 AM

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Americans are taking note of a recent study on massive rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but most fail to connect the horror with U.S. policy in Africa. Mass rape is one aspect of a genocide that has taken six million lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo. American proxies carried out Washington's aims of creating chaos for the benefit of multinational corporations.

 

U.S. Policy Led to 2 Million Rapes, 6 Million Deaths in Congo

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

It is U.S. policy that has unleashed bands of armed men and child soldiers to inflict unspeakable horrors on women and girls.”

What should be the human response to a new study that estimates two million women have been raped in the Democratic Republic of Congo? The natural reaction is horror, anger, and to demand that somebody do something. But of course, one cannot do anything effectively, unless one has some understanding of why this atrocity against womankind occurs at such horrific levels in this particular country.

The study has gotten a fair amount of media coverage since the American Journal of Public Health announced the findings, last week. I suspect that much of the American public reaction has been: Oh, those Africans are incapable of behaving like civilized human beings. It would not occur to these Americans that their own country is the principal perpetrator in the crimes that have made parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo such a hellish place for women and girls. The United States is mainly responsible for the even larger crime of which mass rape is just one aspect: the death of six million people, the largest loss of life in any conflict since World War Two, and the second genocide of Congolese in the space of a century.

The first Congolese genocide came under the Belgians, beginning in 1885. King Leopold brought about the death of fully half the population – some estimate as many as 20 million people. Then it was the Americans’ turn. In 1961, the United States plotted with the outgoing Belgian colonizers to murder Congo’s first elected prime minister, Patrice Lumumba. The Americans then installed Joseph Mobutu as strongman to safeguard multinational mining interests and to act as an American base of operations to subvert independence movements all over Africa.

The United States is mainly responsible for the even larger crime of which mass rape is just one aspect: the death of six million people.”

Mobutu served the Americans well, and helped himself to possibly $4 billion of the Congolese people’s money. When Mobutu left the scene in 1997, Washington switched to what has always been its Plan B for Africa: wherever it cannot rule through its chosen strongman, the U.S. creates chaos.

In 1998, Uganda and Rwanda, America's client states in Africa, invaded the eastern Congo, plunging the country into the chaos of the second Congolese genocide. The United States, through its proxies and its deliberate policy of creating chaos for the benefit of multinational corporations, is complicit in every single one of those six million deaths. It is U.S. policy – not just past, but present policy – that has unleashed bands of armed men and child soldiers to inflict unspeakable horrors on women and girls.

What can Americans do to help the women and girls of Congo? They can demand that Washington call off its surrogates in Rwanda and Uganda who continue to loot the country on behalf of minerals corporations. They can tell the U.S. to stop interfering in Congo's affairs, so that a democratically elected central government could tax the corporations and use the revenue to build a state that can protect its people. And Americans that recoil at the rape of the Democratic Republic of Congo – its women, its resources and its sovereignty – should demand the U.S. pay reparations, not aid, for all it has stolen from that country.

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

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

Direct download: 20110518_gf_CongoRape.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:47 AM