Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.
The Rule of Law in the Obama Era

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford 

"Other countries now justify their own crimes by citing American anti-terror practices."

The unraveling of capitalism, now rapidly accelerating, has been accompanied by mind boggling excesses of corruption. The collapse of moral inhibitions at the highest levels of American institutions has the effect of a billboard flashing, "Steal as much as you can, as quickly as you can, before the other guy beats you to it." On the heels of revelations of Bernard Madoff's $50 billion Ponzi scheme, we learn that even larger sums may have been looted from U.S. reconstruction aid intended for Iraq - most of it by American military and civilians. It appears that the thieves looted Iraqi money under the control of Americans, as well. Barack Obama claims he wants to be careful to get out of Iraq in a "responsible" manner. With billions being looted, the most responsible thing President Obama could do is get his thieving Americans out of Iraq while there's still something left for the natives.

Obama is quite unenthusiastic about punishing George Bush's gang for vandalizing the U.S. Constitution. While making weak noises about "nobody" being "above the law," Obama goes on to say that "generally speaking, I'm more interested in looking forward than I am in looking backwards." In other words, unless he's forced to take action, Obama would just as soon allow Bush's wholesale violations of the rule of law to go unpunished. Apparently, some Harvard lawyers don't place much value on the Constitution.

"Obama would just as soon allow Bush's wholesale violations of the rule of law to go unpunished."

When the president signals that enforcing the law is no big thing, the president's fans act accordingly. The nation's largest anti-war coalition, United for Peace and Justice, has decided not to push for prosecution of Bush, Dick Cheney and their merry band of war criminals and other assorted crooks. United for Peace and Justice is more concerned about keeping Obama happy than with uniting behind peace or justice. Meanwhile, two out of three Americans are in favor of investigating whether the Bush crowd violated the law in pursuing their so-called "war on terror."

Not so long ago, the Americans were well-known for telling anyone who would listen that the United States is a beacon of justice for humanity. That was never true, of course, but nowadays it's a bad joke. According to Mary Robinson, who used to be United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the U.S. now sets a bad example for the planet. Other countries now justify their own crimes by citing American anti-terror practices. The best thing the U.S. can do to help repair the damage its done to the morals of the planet, says Ms. Robinson, is to abandon its "war paradigm."

If Barack Obama thinks he can simply walk away from a host of war crimes and violations of U.S. and international law, he is mistaken, and on the way to making himself, and the nation, even more culpable. Legally speaking, Obama has an obligation to prosecute violations of international law and U.S. treaty. If he does not, then he invites other countries to hold their own trials of Americans, and impose their own punishments.

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.This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it Ford@BlackAgendaReport.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Direct download: 20090218_gf_rule_of_law.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:57am EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

"The more Washington pushes, the more the world pushes back."

The Obama administration's director of national intelligence has recognized that the United States' economic problems are the country's "primary near-term security concern." This conclusion by intelligence czar Dennis Blair surprised members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who are used to the executive branch spreading alarms about the so-called "terrorist threat" and the dangers posed by "rogue" nations. The testimony is evidence that Mr. Blair's boss, Barack Obama, can see at least as far as the nose on his face. It is also an admission that the U.S. superpower isn't what it used to be, in terms of controlling events in the world.

Blair said, "The longer it takes for the recovery to begin, the greater the likelihood of serious damage to U.S. strategic interests." Which makes sense - as far as it goes. What the rulers in Washington, including Barack Obama, will never understand is that the United States is responsible for accelerating the process of its own decline, through relentless threats to the security and sovereignty of everyone else on the planet. The more Washington pushes, the more the world pushes back. Since September, every inhabitant of Earth blames the U.S. for infecting the globe with "the American disease" - the worldwide economic meltdown. Nobody has any sympathy for the great vector of economic illness, and most think the Americans deserve whatever they get, having bragged on themselves all these decades while sneering down their fat red noses at the rest of humanity and its problems.

"How much more unstable has the United States become, since the economic crash of its own making?"

Any U.S. intelligence official worthy of the description knows that the global schoolyard longs to see the bully get what's coming to him. This has especially been the case since George Bush told the world to kiss his butt, with the illegal invasion of Iraq. The invasion was a declaration that the United States was at war with the very concept of international law. Literally no one was safe.

Although the Americans failed to achieve their objective, which was to dominate the energy producing regions of the Middle East and Central Asia, George Bush kept threatening to make another try. His successor, Barack Obama, behaves in a more civilized manner, which is welcomed by the international community. But Obama still claims his superpower rights, and continues to spend more money on weapons than the rest of the world, combined. No matter how you slice it, that's a threat.

The Americans used to be fond of saying that everybody else on the planet secretly preferred that Washington take charge of things - that it gave them comfort. Nobody's saying that anymore, not since the meltdown. The United States, having lost all claim to moral leadership in the world, is now the international pariah, the source of the spreading plague of economic insecurity.

Obama's intelligence director, Dennis Blair, suggests that about one-quarter of the world's governments have experienced "low-level instability" due to the meltdown. A better question for Mr. Blair might be: how much more unstable has the United States become, since the economic crash of its own making? Blair might do better to study that problem, than worrying about former client states that no longer want to hear what Washington has to say.

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.This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it Ford@BlackAgendaReport.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Direct download: 20090217_gf_old_superpower.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:49am EDT

Private Prisons, Human Trafficking and the American Way of Punishment

"The crimes of the two judges are informed by the logic of a political culture born in institutional theft, murder and kidnapping for profit."

The case of the two Pennsylvania judges who conspired to funnel juveniles into for-profit detention centers in return for kickbacks, is an example of whole flocks of American chickens coming home to roost. The Pennsylvania abomination's roots are as ancient as the bounties placed on Native American scalps and on the living bodies of persons who might, or might not have been, escaped slaves. The crimes of the two judges are informed by the logic of a political culture born in institutional theft, murder and kidnapping for profit. It is a political culture whose essential moral depravity survives - and thrives - in an ever-expanding, nationwide system of privatized prisons whose very existence is an indictment of American society.

At its core, a criminal justice system that provides financial incentives to capture, incarcerate, humiliate and stigmatize other human beings, is an incubator of the most evil potentialities of the species. Bounty-hunting and for-profit prisons share the same underlying morality as cannibalism. No one should be surprised when such a state-sanctioned perversion of morality results in the system devouring its young, as occurred in Pennsylvania.

The two judges are alleged to have taken $2.6 million in kickbacks for maintaining a steady flow of juvenile prisoners to fatten the coffers of two private youth detention centers. One judge used his influence to secure contracts for the private jailers; the other kept the bodies coming, sentencing five thousand young people during the five-year course of the conspiracy. For this crime of mass kidnapping of children, the judges have been allowed to plead guilty to the relatively minor charges of wire fraud and income tax fraud, for which they will serve a little over seven years in federal prison. And there are no plans to prosecute executives of the two private youth detention centers that reaped tens of millions of dollars from the crimes of the two judges.

"The overlapping crimes against potentially thousands of young victims, creates a huge mosaic of pain stretching into the far distances of the century."

Federal prosecutors defend their leniency with the judges, claiming the case is so "complex" it would take years to litigate. Well, of course it is complex. The overlapping crimes against potentially thousands of young victims, the consequences of which will touch additional tens of thousands over the course of lifetimes, creates a huge mosaic of pain stretching into the far distances of the century. The "complexity" that prosecutors worry about involves the precedent that would be set if the judges and the private prison owners they worked for were charged with offenses suited to their real crimes: kidnapping and human trafficking for profit. Kidnapping is a federal offense punishable by life behind bars. Human trafficking can get you 30 years in a federal prison.

With the expansion of private prisons all across the country, the "incentive" to harvest a bounty of captured human beings is as powerful today as it was when the Fugitive Slave Act was the law of the land. When the profit motive infests the criminal justice system, justice doesn't stand a chance.

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.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .
Direct download: 20090217_gf_human_trafficking.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:27am EDT