Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.
Vet Health Care Snafu Reveals Corporate Obama A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
The Obama White House alienated and offended a key constituent group in the health care debate by proposing that veterans be forced to use private insurance to pay for treatment of combat-related injuries. "That the White House would put forward such a notion at all just as the debate on Obama's health care plan is heating up, reveals an astounding level of political insensitivity - even incompetence - at the highest level." That's no way to build popular support for a health care overhaul.
Vet Health Care Snafu Reveals Corporate Obama
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
“This president succeeded in scaring the hell out of mass-based veterans groups.”
BarackObama’s recent confrontation with veterans organizations provides yet more evidence of the profoundly corporate character of his world view.  The episode alsoprovidesanswers to the question of whothe Obama White House feels it is answerable to, and who it can rebuff and ignore.
The veterans groups were upset with Obama’s proposal that would have forced veterans to use private insurance to pay for treatment of combat-related injuries. That the White House would put forward such a notion at all just as the debate on Obama’s health care plan is heating up, reveals an astounding level of political insensitivity – even incompetence – at the highest level. Only two months into his presidency, Obama managed to alienate the relatively conservative American Legion and ten other veterans groups that are natural constituents in creating a health care system with even a semblance of a claim to universality.
It doesn’t take a political strategy genius to understand that you don’t mess with combat veterans’ medical benefits if you’re trying to build a solid block of popular support for any overhaul of health care. But that’s precisely what the Obama crew did, in attempting to save a measly half billion dollars a year. When the veterans organizations went to the White House to express their concerns, BarackObama himself rebuffed them, saying he would move forward anyway. That prompted the veterans to fire off a letter expressing their “outrage” that the administration would push for such an “unreasonable” plan that would treat combat duty like a pre-existing medical condition. The vets worried that the proposal could make insurance more expensive and possibly crowding veterans’ family members out of coverage. All for the sake of 500 million dollars, at a time when trillions have been committed to bailing out the banking class. What was Obama thinking?
“The White House backed off under the lampooning of Jon Stewart’s Daily show and others.”
This president, who goes to great pains to assure the corporate health care industry that they and their profits will remain protected under his health care plan, succeeded in scaring the hell out of mass-based veterans groups whose natural inclination is to support the deepest and broadest government role in providing health care.
Remember that Bill and Hillary Clinton destroyed the possibility of creating a modest national health care system in the early Nineties, by putting forward a complicated mess of a plan that few understood and nobody could wholeheartedly embrace. BarackObama appears determined to go down the same path. You don’t build a national health care constituency by pissing off the veterans, who for generations have had access to the closest thing to what the Republicans call “socialized medicine” that the United States has been stingy enough to provide.
After initially dismissing the veterans’ concerns, the White House backed off under the lampooning of Jon Stewart’s Daily show and others – which speaks volumes about the Obama administration’s political priorities.  But the damage has already been done. The question has been implanted in the public mind: Who is Obama’s health care plan designed to protect?
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: 20090325_gf_obamavetcare.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:20am EST

Obama Buys Allies Where the U.S. Has No Friends A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
"The U.S. plans to double the Afghan army and police, to 400,000 men, through the sheer magnetic pull of money. But, as the old song goes, money can't buy you love." At root, the Obama/ Petraeus plan for Afghanistan is bribery on a massive scale, a "surge" of billions of dollars to convert the desperately unemployed into U.S.-allied fighters. The plan only looks halfway intelligent in comparison to the early Rumsfeld Iraq plan, which was based on the assumption t

Obama Buys Allies Where the U.S. Has No Friends
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
“As the old song goes, money can’t buy you love.”
The Obama plan for Afghanistan, like General David Petraeus’s plan for Iraq, boils down to using massive bribery – ten or twenty billion dollars, or more – to create a political and military ally in a country that doesn’t want the U.S. to be there. There’s really nothing mysterious or out of the ordinary about the strategy. The Obama/Patraeus plan for Afghanistan was also the George Bush plan for Iraq in the last two years of the Republican administration, and only appears to be some kind of stroke of brilliance when compared to the Donald Rumsfeld plan to subdue and colonize Iraq in the early years of the Iraq war.
Rumsfeld’s plan was defeated because it was based on thoroughly racist assumptions. The first assumption was that Iraqis would be universally overjoyed to be occupied by the Great (White) American Father – that they would gladly surrender their national sovereignty and put up no long-term resistance. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney and all the Bush minions had not a shred of a doubt that the Iraqis desired nothing more than to become a colony of the United States. When Baghdad was burning, consumed in flames set by the Iraqis themselves after American forces captured the city, Secretary Rumsfeld announced, and truly believed, that the Iraqis were “celebrating” having been conquered by the U.S.A. He assured the American people that only a few of Saddam Hussein’s most fanatically loyal “dead-enders” would put up further resistance to the American occupation. That essentially racist belief – that colored people desire to be ruled by white people – convinced the Bush administration that it could keep U.S. troop levels in Iraq low – that the vast majority of Iraqis wanted to be occupied by foreigners.
Rumsfeld stuck with his assumption until the American occupation was transformed into a siege of the Americans. Finally, Rumsfeld lost his job. In counter-insurgency terms, the war had been lost.
“General Petraeus’s so-called troop “surge” was only possible because Sunni fighters were getting paychecks from the United States occupation force.”
But America’s war was not the Iraqi’s war. Shia Muslim political parties had their own agenda, and waged a savage war of ethnic cleansing and sectarian annihilation. The Americans didn’t want Iraqis of any religious persuasion running their own country, but they were unable to control events. What happened next was not part of an American plan. Shia Muslim forces had captured 75 percent of Baghdad and Sunni Muslims were on the ropes. At least one hundred thousand former Sunni resistance fighters – virtually the entire force that had earlier brought low the American war machine – agreed to join the U.S. payroll. They made peace with the Americans to escape the wrath of the Shia – and to feed their families. General Petraeus’s so-called troop “surge” was only possible because there were few Sunni fighters to surge against. They were getting paychecks from the United States occupation force.
President Obama hopes to buy off various groups of fighters in Afghanistan in the same way. The U.S. plans to double the Afghan army and police, to 400,000 men, through the sheer magnetic pull of money. But, as the old song goes, money can’t buy you love – in Afghanistan or Iraq – especially when it competes with people’s natural desire to run their own countries. Only racists believe otherwise.
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: 20090325_gf_escalating_afghan_war.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:11am EST

Obama Fronts for White Supremacy with Boycott of Durban II A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
The injustices of the current world order are derived from those of the old order - which was based on white supremacy. The language of Euro-American hegemony has become more refined but, with the advent of the Barack Obama presidency, it has taken only two months to demonstrate that white supremacy - and its peculiar Zionist offshoot - has no difficulty exercising its power and privilege through the agency of a Black executive." The Durban II conference on racism has been eviscerated by the Black man at the helm of the racist superpower.
Obama Fronts for White Supremacy with Boycott of Durban II
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
“It has taken only two months to demonstrate that white supremacy – and its peculiar Zionist offshoot – has no difficulty exercising its power and privilege through the agency of a Black executive.”
For many on the Left, it was an article of faith that the election of Barack Obama would change the paradigm of United States and international politics – that the conversation would be fundamentally altered when a Black man became leader of the sole superpower on Earth. How anyone could believe that one man’s melanin could undo or even significantly alter an imperial edifice erected over centuries at the cost of hundreds of millions of lives and the extinction of whole peoples – is beyond me. But wishful thinking and silly assumptions are washed away by events and the passing of time. In Barack Obama’s case, it has taken only two months to demonstrate that white supremacy – and its peculiar Zionist offshoot – has no difficulty exercising its power and privilege through the agency of a Black executive.
President Obama has shown us – and very early in his term – that he is just as determined as his white predecessors in the Oval Office to maintain the global order created by the conquistadors, colonizers, and genocidal maniacs of Europe and North America. Obama threatens that the U.S. will boycott the second international gathering on racism since the turn of the millennium, scheduled for late April in Switzerland. The conference is informally called “Durban II” in reference to the first such gathering on racism, in Durban, South Africa, in 200l. George Bush pulled the U.S. out of Durban I, claiming the deck was stacked against Israel, a state whose purpose is to maintain Jewish supremacy through an apartheid-like system in Palestine.
In the interim, Israel has escalated its savage aggressions against Arabs within its borders, in the occupied territories, and among its neighbors. Thus, the question of whether Zionism is a form of racism is as relevant today, as ever.
“The European and North American imperialists are busy re-writing the agenda for Durban II.”
Since 2001, the United States has been engaged in its own, self-proclaimed war against Arabs and Muslims everywhere on the planet, and has intensified anti-Arab and anti-Muslim discrimination, here at home. The racial order in the United States has, since 2001, developed even deeper layers of hatred and discrimination directly related to American imperial policy in the world – and, of course, its connections to Israel and Zionist racism. It’s past time for Durban II, but Obama doesn’t want to go – any more than George Bush did. And for the same reasons. Imperialism is incomprehensible without an understanding of its white supremacist underpinnings.
The European and North American imperialists are busy re-writing the agenda for Durban II, so that whether they attend or not, the event will result in no indictment of white supremacy as a fundamental evil at work in the world, today. Language related to reparations to Africans for the white worldwide savagery and people-stealing that created the Black Diaspora, is gone, written out – as if the cascade of holocausts against Africa and Africans never happened.
For centuries, North American and European power and privilege has been built on the degradation of people of color. Now a Black man has been elevated to a singular status. He uses it to reinforce the system of white supremacy, and to write other Black and brown and red and yellow people out of history. His name is Barack Obama. Why should anyone be proud.
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: 03_25_09_gf_obama_durban.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:46am EST

The President's public display of anger at AIG is a cover for well-deserved political embarrassment. He and his bankster advisors have dedicated trillions to rescuing the criminal corporations of Wall Street from the consequences of their actions. He acts disappointed that they're still gangsters. "The logic of bankster capitalist enterprise, which AIG was created to protect and serve, is take the money and run - every chance you get."

Obama is Finally Pissed Off. So What?
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
 
"Did Obama think these guys became financial gangsters as a public service?"
 
President Obama wants everybody to know that he's angry, really angry, at the zombie insurance giant AIG. Obama gave the impression that AIG pulled a fast one when it awarded its employees $165 million in bonuses for consummating derivative deals that have wrecked the global financial system. The President theatrically pounded the podium in righteous indignation. "How do they justify this outrage to the taxpayers who are keeping the company afloat?" said the usually super-cool chief executive.
 
Obama's question is misdirected. He should instead be asking himself and his own economic advisors how he and they allowed the racketeers at AIG to divvy up the people's bailout money among themselves. By the time Obama staged his big public blowout over the bonuses, most of the money was already gone, paid out to the foot soldiers of the AIG financial mafia. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner didn't stop the checks from going out. Neither did Larry Summers, head of the National Economic Council at the White House. Robert Rubin, who is guru to Summers and Geithner and to Obama himself, didn't alert his protégés to the likelihood that AIG would reserve a big cut of the bailout for distribution among its own gang. Did Obama think these guys became financial gangsters as a public service?
 
And why shouldn't they get a cut? The logic of bankster capitalist enterprise, which AIG was created to protect and serve, is take the money and run - every chance you get. AIG covered hundreds of billions - maybe trillions - of dollars in bets placed by the Wall Street mafia in the derivatives casino. But that was a scam, since AIG didn't really have the cash. If AIG went down, then many of the gamblers on Wall Street would go down with it. Therefore, in a bipartisan, help out your favorite gangster agreement, Bush Republicans and Obama Democrats gave AIG $170 billion dollars of the people's money to rescue AIG's clients, the gambling banksters of Wall Street. And why shouldn't the guys who covered the bets in the first place get a piece of the public bailout, themselves? The logic of criminal financial enterprise dictates that they are no more morally reprehensible than their clients.
 
"It is the public that should be angry with Obama."
 
The biggest client was none other than Goldman Sachs. AIG's bailout included cash to cover at least $12.9 billion in Goldman Sach's casino bets. As it turns out, the two Godfathers of the Wall Street bailout are Robert Rubin, Obama's personal economics guru, and Henry Paulson, George Bush's Treasury Secretary - both former CEOs of Goldman Sachs. Goldman Sachs had a consigliere in both administrations, ensuring that the logic of bankster capitalism prevailed across party lines.
 
Barack Obama has no right to be angry at AIG's diversion of bailout money. It is the public that should be angry with Obama, for keeping the zombies of AIG and Goldman Sachs alive, so they can steal again. As of last month, according to the New York Times, Washington has committed around $9 trillion to the bankster bailout. Obama pretends to be angry about a measly $165 million ripoff by AIG's employees. Actually, he's politically embarrassed. That's what happens when you run with gangsters.
 
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: 20090317_gf_theprez_is_mad.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:51pm EST

Who's the Man - Steele or Limbaugh? While Democrats stirred the pot "like kids egging on a schoolyard fight," premier right-wing radio propagandist Rush Limbaugh and Michael Steele, the Black chairman of the Republican Party, duked it out over who was the "real" voice of the GOP. If having to say you're sorry means surrender, Steele lost. Among Steele's defenders: Chip Saltsman, the guy who crafted the campaign parody song "Barack the Magic Negro."

Who's the Man - Steele or Limbaugh?
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
 
"After Limbaugh flexed his muscles, Steele punked out."
 
Michael Steele is giving the Republican Party heartburn. One reason is that, deep in its bones, the GOP remains The White Man's Party - big business's tool to sucker white racists into voting against their own economic interests. Black folks that pop off at the mouth whenever they feel like it are culturally repugnant to the party of white nationalism. Michael Steele, the former Lt. Governor of Maryland and nominal Republican Party chairman, apparently believes his position entitles him to hold forth on public policy without first having to check in with Rush Limbaugh, the party's reigning reactionary and uber-racist.
 
The tussle between Steele and Limbaugh revolves around the issue, Who's the man? That is, who is the real head of the GOP: Steele, the career politician and duly chosen chairman, or Limbaugh, the leader of the talk radio lynch mob? After Limbaugh flexed his muscles, Steele punked out, apologizing for calling the prince of rightwing flatulence a mere "entertainer" and for characterizing his broadcast cross-burnings as "incendiary." Steele also used the word "ugly" regarding Limbaugh, in an interview with the Black comedian, D.L. Hughley. Apparently, Steele got too deeply into the "brother-to-brother" ambiance of Hughley's show, and forgot his place.
 
The Democrats were having great fun tormenting Steele, shouting that Limbaugh is The Man, the Real Man at the GOP, like kids egging on a schoolyard fight. Poor Michael Steele. He's putty in the hands of a signifyin' comedian and a pack of juveniles from the other party. Somehow, it's hard to picture Colin Powell losing his cool like that. But then, Powell allowed George Bush to talk him into lying in front of the entire planet about Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction. So, who is the biggest punk, Steele or Powell?
 
"Steele is putty in the hands of a signifyin' comedian and a pack of juveniles from the other party."
 
No sooner had the hoots died down about Steele getting punked by Limbaugh, than Steele alienated the homophobic wing of the Republican Party - which means, most of it - by seeming to say that gayness is a product of nature, not personal choice. Steele said being gay was like being Black - you can't change it. And he confided to the men's magazine GQ that he planned to redecorate his office, because [quote] "it's way too male for me."
 
Now, in reasonably decent, intelligent company, there's nothing at all wrong with these remarks. Steele is showing a sense of humor, a capacity for self-deprecation, and relatively mainstream political outlook. But those traits don't play well among his people, that is, the Republican base.
Michael Steele does have defenders in his party. Chip Saltsman, who competed with Steele for the top GOP job, says he thinks Steele will do just fine if he puts together a good team. Saltsman's opinion carries weight in the GOP. He's the one who crafted the song, "Barack the Magic Negro."
 
Michael Steele's greatest sin was when he blurted out the heresy that women should have the right to abortion, if they choose. Which makes me think that maybe Steele is actually trying to get kicked out of the Republican Party - in which case, I like his style. Becoming the first Black Republican Party chairman just so he could make the party look bad when they kick him out. If that's true, then Michael Steele is The Man.
 
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: 20090317_gf_steele_or_rush.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:19pm EST

Undo Suburbia: The Imminent Transportation Catastrophe Last year's "brief but terrifying" experience with $4-a-gallon gasoline "proved beyond doubt that the suburban and exurban model of development based on automobiles is broken beyond repair." When the era of high-priced gasoline returns for good - which it will, and soon - it will bring on a "transportation crisis so excruciating it will make the whole society scream." A multi-trillion dollar national makeover is desperately needed, to undo suburbia and the car culture.

Undo Suburbia: The Imminent Transportation Catastrophe
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
 
"The cost of rectifying this huge historical mistake - the car culture - will be in the many trillions of dollars."
 
In the decades after World War Two, the corporate rulers of the United States embarked on the biggest, most sustained infrastructure makeover in the history of capitalism. Suburbia was invented, a monumental, coast-to-coast makeover fueled in large part by fears that the Great Depression might return unless national energies were directed toward some unifying, transformational project. It was a new model of living - a uniquely "American way of life" - with the private automobile as its organizing principle and mechanism. African Americans were, of course, deliberately left out of this motorized "civilization" - a model that projected itself deep into the future in TV cartoons like The Jetsons, in which every family owned at least one flying car and the suburbs had expanded into - space!
 
Fifty years later, $4-a-gallon gasoline proved beyond doubt that the suburban and exurban model of development based on automobiles is broken beyond repair. If $4 gasoline returns - and it will - the American infrastructure erected after World War Two will break and shatter under the stress, as will the social and economic structures that are so totally dependent on this catastrophically mistaken model. The suburban model that President Dwight Eisenhower and subsequent administrations built faces inevitable and imminent extinction, on a timeline that is measured in years - maybe months - not decades. An Israeli or U.S. attack on Iran - tomorrow - could bring the whole house down. But even without an apocalyptic crisis, the House of Cars is doomed.
 
"The suburban and exurban model of development based on automobiles is broken beyond repair."
 
According to a new report by the American Public Transportation Association, ridership on public transit has increased 38 percent since 1995, with the biggest jump last year, spurred by the brief but terrifying explosion in oil prices. Ridership finally equaled the number of trips made in 1956, although proportionally still a lot less than a half century ago, since there are now so many more Americans. But these incremental increases in mass transit usage don't even come close to preventing a societal breakdown when $4-plus gasoline prices return for good - and they will, and soon.
 
The recent economic stimulus package includes $8.4 billion for mass transit, but that's just a drop in the bucket, most of which cannot be used to offset current and planned hikes in mass transit fares and draconian cutbacks in local service. The cities of Houston and Cincinnati put the squeeze on public transportation users last year, and consequently lost riders.
 
What's desperately needed is a national mass transit plan - far bigger and more basic than a couple of inter-city bullet trains - that will undo the suburban, automobile-based model with all the deliberate speed that the national treasure can provide. Even then, it will be impossible to avert a transportation crisis so excruciating it will make the whole society scream. The cost of rectifying this huge historical mistake - the car culture - will be in the many trillions of dollars, just as the equivalent of many trillions was spent in creating the suburban monstrosity. At this late stage in the energy game, only a national transformation will avert a cataclysmic collapse. 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: 20090317_gf_masstransit.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:15pm EST

The Economic N-Word: What it Means, and Doesn't

Corporatists of all kinds are now mouthing the dreaded N-Word - "nationalization" of banks. But they're only talking about a temporary situation, "designed to bring the banking class back from the dead - to temporarily dismember some zombie banks so that most of their body parts can be resurrected, to rule the Earth, once again."

The Economic N-Word: What it Means, and Doesn't

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

"The idea is to give the banking class, what's left of it, a chance to reestablish itself as the ruling institution in the U.S. economy and society."

By now even some of the most right-wing members of Congress are talking about nationalizing banks that have become bottomless pits for federal bailout dollars. That's one more sign that the capitalist financial system is so thoroughly dysfunctional, even its most loyal servants, like South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, feel the need to use the economic N-word. The public isn't afraid of the word, either. A Newsweek poll shows 56 percent of respondents favor bank nationalization, as defined by Newsweek magazine. Newsweek, Sen. Graham and most other establishment politicians and economists share similar definitions of the meaning of bank nationalization. When the word trips from their lips, "nationalization" amounts to nothing more than another attempt to save the bankers, as a class.

Newsweek defined bank nationalization as a "temporary" arrangement, whereby "the government takes over a failing bank, cleans its balance sheets, and then quickly sells it off." In most of the scenarios under discussion in the corporate media, the bank's shareholders would be wiped out, but the government would take possession of the toxic assets, which would ultimately cost the taxpayers a bundle. And then other banks would get to buy up what remains, almost certainly at bargain basement prices. The idea is to give the banking class, what's left of it, a chance to reestablish itself as the ruling institution in the U.S. economy and society. In other words, Newsweek's and Lindsey Graham's brand of bank nationalization is designed to bring the banking class back from the dead - to temporarily dismember some zombie banks so that most of their body parts can be resurrected, to rule the Earth, once again. It's a kind of tough-love bailout of the banking class. At the end of the process, the public gets the bill, and most of the bankers get a new lease on life.

Three questions come to mind: Can bank salvation through temporary nationalization work? Is it desirable to resuscitate the banking class? And, what's the alternative?

"The pathology begins with the financial capitalist class itself, which produces nothing and has no choice but to create false values."

The disease that has brought down the bankers, worldwide, is fatal to the capitalist system as presently configured - and eventually to human life on Earth. The pathology begins with the financial capitalist class itself, which produces nothing and has no choice but to create false values through bubbles, exotic arrangements like derivatives that are actually huge financial crimes, and parasitical privatization of every conceivable resource on the planet. Saving the banking class is the equivalent of trying to cure a patient of cancer by giving the cancer growth hormones. Yet that is what the various forms of banker bailouts attempt to do.

The alternative is to use the people's money to rebuild an economy that serves the people's needs, rather than the bankster parasites and their war industry cousins. That's called democratic development, carried out through state-owned banks and state-owned development agencies answerable to the public. The people are already paying the cost. They should also have outright ownership and control. It's time to put the zombies in the ground once and for all, and cover them over.

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: 20090311_gf_bank_nationalization.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:05pm EST

Single Payer Advocates Nearly Shut Out of Obama Health Forum

Were it not for a concerted drive by labor and other health care champions, President Obama's White House Health Forum would not have included even one supporter of single payer health care - the health delivery system most favored by the American public. Obama makes a habit of shutting real progressives out of the debate.

Single Payer Advocates Nearly Shut Out of Obama Health Forum

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

"Obama is making sure that any health plan that emerges will be palatable to the profiteers."

 Barack Obama is doing to the health care debate what he did to the anti-war debate: first he co-opts the "left" and then excludes them from the conversation. At the end of the process, the only people at the table are Obama and his good friends on the Right.

In the case of health care, the "left" represents a majority of the people of the United States, who according to the polls, have long favored single payer, universal health care. But, until the very day before last week's Forum on Health Reform, the White House refused to invite even one advocate of single payer health care. It took tremendous pressure by groups speaking for the American majority before Obama's people relented and invited in just two single payer supporters: John Conyers, the House Judiciary Committee Chairman and author of the only genuine single payer legislation, HR 676, and Dr. Oliver Fine, head of Physicians for a National Health Plan.

It's not clear exactly what Barack Obama wants, but it's certainly not the Conyers bill. By packing the forum with folks of his own or more right-wing persuasion, Obama created the impression that HE anchored the progressive side of the American health care conversation - an effect he achieves only by shutting out single payer advocates.

As New Jersey labor leader Ray Stever said, "If anyone should be excluded from this summit, it should be the representatives of the health insurance industry."

"At the end of the process, the only people at the table are Obama and his good friends on the Right."

Just as Obama likes to surround himself with aggressive generals and Bush holdovers so that he appears to be relatively peace-loving by comparison, he loaded up his Health Forum with corporatists and Republicans who have no intention of taking big business's obscene profits out of health care. Conyers and Dr. Fine amounted to last-minute tokens who, after initial rejection, could be expected to be grateful for being allowed in the room at all. Obama is making sure that any health plan that emerges will be palatable to the profiteers - just as his gradual Iraq slim-down is palatable to even bloodthirsty war mongers like John McCain. The "left" - which on health care means most of the public - will be relegated to the sidelines, happy with the little they eventually get.

Dr. Fine, of the single payer physicians group, reminds us that Bill and Hillary Clinton also "excluded the voices of those who support a single payer system." In the end, the Clintons wound up producing nothing. But the pressures to do something have now become so great, we can expect some type of "reform" at the end of the Obama game. However, he has set the bar so low, and weighted the conversation so heavily in favor of the health profiteers, the fundamental system will remain - and with it, the highest health costs and most unevenly distributed health delivery system in the developed world. Unfortunately, we will likely be stuck with the results for at least the next ten years. Just like we'll be stuck with Obama's wars - unless we finally get wise to his game.

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: 20090310_gf_healthcare_reform.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:45pm EST

Obama's Africa Policy the Same As George Bush's President Obama has officially made George Bush's sanctions against Zimbabwe, his own. "The White House justifies this economic aggression by claiming that Mugabe and his associates pose ‘an unusual and extraordinary threat' to American ‘foreign policy' - a "blatant, naked attempt at regime change."

Obama Continues Bush Policies in Africa
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

 
"Obama carries on George Bush's legacy as the main destabilizer of Africa."
 
By extending for another year U.S. sanctions against Zimbabwe, Barack Obama has removed all doubt that his Africa policy is essentially the same as George Bush's: regime change and the deliberate creation of so-called "failed states." It is the same story in Somalia, Sudan and the Congo, where Obama's Democrats pursue identical objectives to Bush Republicans: to undermine and overthrow any African government that does not bow to Washington's will, and to encourage the effective dismantling of inconvenient African nation-states. This is imperialism in the raw.
 
George Bush's economic war against Zimbabwe is now Barack Obama's war, predicated on the same imperial logic. Like Bush's sanctions, imposed in 2003 and then expanded in 2005 and 2008, Obama's sanctions are directed against President Robert Mugabe and individuals and companies associated with his political party. The White House justifies this economic aggression by claiming that Mugabe and his associates pose "an unusual and extraordinary threat" to American "foreign policy." Not even a threat to American "interests," mind you, but to U.S. "foreign policy." This is a blatant, naked attempt at regime change. Obama is saying in no uncertain terms that the U.S. has the right to seek the ouster of any government whose policies diverge from those of Washington - imperialism by definition.
 
"President Obama sabotages the quest for self-determination for the African continent as a whole."
 
Obama has placed the United States in opposition to the will of the African Union and Zimbabwe's southern African neighbors, who support the current power sharing agreement between Mugabe and the opposition party. In thwarting the will of the African Union and Zimbabwe's neighbors, President Obama sabotages the quest for self-determination for the African continent as a whole. He carries on George Bush's legacy as the main destabilizer of Africa.
 
Also against the wishes of the African Union, the U.S., Britain and France are the main movers behind the indictment of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, by the International Criminal Court, on charges of committing crimes against humanity in Darfur. The U.S. position is morally bankrupt, since the United States refuses to place itself under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, fearing retribution against the far larger crimes against humanity committed by the U.S. in multiple countries around the planet - crimes for which Barack Obama is now directly responsible.
 
Nothing could be clearer than that the U.S. would like to break up Sudan, Africa's largest country, into smaller pieces, the better to control and exploit its natural resources. The dismemberment of Somalia, in the Horn of Africa, was further consolidated by the U.S.-backed invasion by Ethiopia. In central Africa, the United States continues to foment chaos through the militaries of its client states, Uganda and Rwanda, with genocidal results in the Congo. There is only one demand that people of good will should make of Barack Obama's White House: U.S. Out of Africa! Now!
 
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: 20090309_gf_obama_africa_policy.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:02am EST

Priced Out of Shelter: The Decline in Affordable Housing A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

“The United States has never achieved national goals in creation of affordable housing.”
 
One of the great engines of the current economic disaster was the relentless push by finance capital to inflate the price of real estate – and therefore, housing – to levels far in excess of what the average family could reasonably afford to pay. The United States has never achieved national goals in creation of affordable housing – not in a single year since the federal government began setting goals. The real estate industry has always seen to that. However, under the Bush administration, housing prices zoomed into the stratosphere, based on an unsustainable bubble of debt that has now burst catastrophically. Those who were barely able to find shelter for their families in the pre-Bush era found themselves in a truly desperate situation, even before the crash, as detailed in a new study issued by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
 
Although most public policy attention has been directed at the plight of home owners, one-third of all Americans pay rent, including about half of low income households. Their options shrank dramatically during the years that George Bush was in office. The study shows that, by 2007, eight million rental households were paying more than half their income to the landlord and for utilities. Federal guidelines say that households should pay only 30 percent of income to keep a roof over their heads. And we’re not talking about families that foolishly splurge on housing. Two-thirds of those that pay more than half their income for rent are living at or below the federal poverty line. Because of the lack of affordable housing, these households have no other choice.
The current housing crisis may cause rents to come down in some areas. But wages will also go down, and unemployment is rapidly rising, putting increased pressures on the poor and the soon-to-be poor.

“Wholesale destruction of public housing stock continues under local  administrations of both parties.”
 
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities calls affordable housing “the neglected step-child of federal housing policy,” constantly squeezed out of the Washington budget by competing demands for subsidies for home owners.
 
Public housing is worse off than a step-child. The Bush administration’s hostility to public housing was manifested dramatically in New Orleans, where the feds used Katrina as an excuse to demolish every public housing unit they could aim a bulldozer at. But disdain for public housing is a bipartisan affair. Since 1995, 165,000 units of public housing have been lost and not replaced, nationwide. This wholesale destruction of public housing stock continues under local  administrations of both parties, including in cities with Black majorities and Black mayors.
Section 8 rental assistance was supposed to take up the slack for public housing. But each year, 10,000 to 15,000 units of Section 8 housing disappear and are not replaced. Only one out of every four households that are eligible for federal housing assistance, gets it. The need is well documented, but the funds are consistently withheld.
 
The new stimulus package provides a one-time cash infusion, but there still exists no long term commitment or national plan for affordable housing in the United States.
 
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: 20090304_gf_affordable_housing.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:33am EST