Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.
Big Oil on Trial For 1995 Nigerian Executions

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The multinational oil corporation Royal Dutch Shell faces civil charges of complicity in Nigerian government crimes against its citizens, most notably the execution of writer/activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and others in 1995. Shell will no doubt present itself as a victim. "It is a false dichotomy to separate the corruption of Nigeria's governments - military or civilian - from the predatory presence of Big Oil. The two are locked in the deepest embrace." Both the paymasters and the thugs are equally guilty of the crime.

Big Oil on Trial For 1995 Nigerian Executions

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Shell can be compared to a businessman who hires a hit man to kill a union organizer.”

The Royal Dutch Shell oil corporation is on trial, in New York, charged in a civil suit with complicity in the death of Nigerian writer and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight comrades in 1995. Saro-Wiwa’s execution drew world attention to the environmental catastrophe that oil production has brought to the delta region of the Niger River, home to the Ogoni people. Saro-Wiwa and his co-defendants were tried by a military government, but Shell oil is charged with collaboration in the hangings, and in the torture of many other Ogonis – all to facilitate multi-billion dollar profits. Multinational corporations everywhere are following the case, fearing they too may called to account for their symbiotic relationships with murderous regimes in the resource-rich regions of the world.

Nigeria’s environmental degradation is a by-product of the moral and political rot that flows from neocolonialism. It is the physical manifestation of the total surrender of national sovereignty to foreigners – like Shell oil – by those native classes that rule the land for the benefit of foreigners. To put one’s country’s resources at the disposal of foreigners is the ultimate corruption – which leads to every other conceivable crime.

It is a false dichotomy to separate the corruption of Nigeria’s governments – military or civilian – from the predatory presence of Big Oil. The two are locked in the deepest embrace. The foreign corporations pay the regime to maintain peace – and the regime reciprocates by imposing on the people a “peace of the dead.” There are other sources of corruption in the developing world, other contradictions between people and their governments, but the dominance of economic resources by foreigners exacerbates every other division in society. The competition to get into the foreigners’ money flow becomes the Great Game of national political life. The bigger the money flow, the greater the imperative to keep the people in check. The police and army serve as paid thugs for the foreigners’ protection. The national debasement is total. Nigeria’s most important city, Lagos, is also one of the most expensive in the world – yet 70 percent of Nigerians subsist on a dollar or less a day. There is no greater corruption imaginable.

To put one’s country’s resources at the disposal of foreigners is the ultimate corruption.”

In court, Shell oil will seek to present itself as an innocent party – even a victim of African brutality and corruption. Shell is more properly compared to a businessman who hires a hit man to kill a union organizer. The businessman and the hit man are both guilty of capital murder. The greater onus is on the businessman, whose money made the crime possible.

In the Niger Delta, Ogoni rebels have cut Nigeria’s oil production in half, putting the squeeze on U.S.-based Chevron Oil (where, incidentally, Condoleezza Rice used to work). According to Amnesty International, hundreds of civilians have been killed in the fighting. The Nigerian government has declared the entire delta a military zone. No doubt, great crimes are being committed, at the behest of Big Oil. Before he was put to death, Ken Saro-Wiwa predicted it would come to this.

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: 20090527_gf_ken-saor-wiwa.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:33am EDT

Obama Out-Bushes Bush on Preventive Detention

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Constitutionality aside, Barack Obama's preventive detention proposal is "damn near criminally irresponsible" and "like lighting a match in a room full of gasoline." The United States was founded on the principle that "lesser" or "dangerous" peoples should be "detained" for the good of the nation - on reservations or in slavery. Were it not for "rampant race hatred directed against Arabs and spilling over to all Muslims...there would be no serious discussion of preventive detention in the United States, today." The nation's first Black president is provoking a racial whirlwind.

Obama Out-Bushes Bush on Preventive Detention

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Calling for preventive detention in the United States is like lighting a match in a room full of gasoline.”

If George Bush had had the gall to propose changing the laws of the United States to allow people to be detained for long periods without even the intention of putting them on trial, progressives across the nation would be howling that the fascist hordes were at the gates. And they would be right. Even the do-nothing, scared-of-nearly-everything Congressional Black Caucus would be up in arms. George Bush and Dick Cheney empowered to imprison people without trial? Progressives everywhere would be justified in crying out against the threat to civilization as we know it. But when Barack Obama last week proposed the very same thing, preventive detention without trial, there was relative silence. People pretended it was just another Wednesday.

The best thing that can be said about President Obama’s preventive detention remarks is that they are damn near criminally irresponsible. Calling for preventive detention in the United States is like lighting a match in a room full of gasoline. No nation in the industrial world has a history more entwined with detention of whole classes of people, than the U.S. More Americans are incarcerated than any other inhabitants of the planet – in raw numbers, and as a percentage of population. African Americans alone make up one out of every eight prisoners on Earth, as a direct result of decades of deliberate public policy. Japanese Americans were detained for no crime but their ethnicity. Native Americans – those that were not killed outright – were forcibly “detained” on reservations that were in fact open-air prisons. Slavery was the greatest detention of all – a lifetime of house or field arrest, at hard labor, with no prospect of escape for oneself or one’s children – detention without trial for centuries.

Slavery was the greatest detention of all.”

It was the deeply ingrained belief among whites in the necessity of lifetime Black detention under slavery that conditioned Americans to tolerating – or demanding – the harshest criminal justice system in the developed world. Race saturates the American criminal justice conversation – so much so, that one’s race has more impact than one’s crime on whether or not one is ultimately detained in a U.S. prison. Were it not for rampant race hatred directed against Arabs and spilling over to all Muslims, and to those who are mistaken for Muslims, there would be no serious discussion of preventive detention in the United States, today. We would not have witnessed the spectacle of almost the entire U.S. Senate figuratively jumping on top of tables, screaming in terror at the prospect of a few Guantanamo Bay inmates being transferred to maximum security prisons in their states. These senators were exhibiting a kind of primal fear that is both irrational and racist in nature – and a lot scarier than any combination of detainees pacing in a cell. This is America, land of everlasting detention, and preventive execution – where evidence has never been necessary.

Is President Obama aware of the racial whirlwind that he is unleashing with his talk of preventive detention? Or does he care? On thing is certain: on this issue, Obama has proven himself to be worse than George Bush.

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: 20090527_gf_detention.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:29am EDT

Racist Symbolism Posing as Memorial Day Tradition

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The so-called "tradition" of U.S. presidents honoring the Confederate war dead began with the Dixiecrat Woodrow Wilson, in 1914. Wilson, born in Virginia, brought segregation to Washington's federal bureaucracy, and praised the Ku Klux Klan-celebrating movie, Birth of a Nation. The Confederate Memorial at Arlington was designed to honor those who fought to "save Anglo-Saxon civilization" - meaning, white rule. President Obama carries on the tradition.

Racist Symbolism Posing as Memorial Day Tradition

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Obama cannot possibly harbor genuine respect for Black Union dead if he conveys the same honors on Confederates.”

Most of what presidents do is about wielding power, but a great deal of being president is symbolic. Barack Obama is as attuned to symbolism as any of his predecessors – maybe more. When President Obama delivered a wreath to the Confederate Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, on Memorial Day, he knew was playing a very cynical game of incompatible symbols. One cannot pay sincere tribute to the memory of the Black soldiers that fought for the Union in the Civil War, while giving equal honors – or any honors at all – to the soldiers of the Confederacy. But Obama tried to do both. Obama thinks he can finesse anything – which is an indication that he truly respects nothing. He cannot possibly harbor genuine respect for Black Union dead if he conveys the same honors – in the form of a wreath – on Confederates.

Obama is also disrespecting those of us who possess an awareness of history.

The Confederate Memorial was paid for by the Daughters of the Confederacy, and presented as a gift to the federal government in 1914. Woodrow Wilson was president – the most demonstrably racist resident of the White House of the 20th century. The Jim-Crowing of the South was by then all but complete. Wilson was a Democrat – or rather, a Dixiecrat, born in Virginia – and he lost no time imposing segregation on the federal bureaucracy in Washington, DC, where it had not previously existed. Wilson put up walls and partitions to keep Black and white office workers apart, and instituted separate bathrooms. When D.W. Griffith screened his white supremacist epic, Birth of a Nation – a celebration of the Ku Klux Klan – at the White House, President Wilson gave the film its best review. "It's like writing history with lightning,” said Wilson. “And my only regret,” he continued, “is that it is all terribly true."

President Wilson was embracing a national reconciliation with the Confederate cause – at Black people’s expense.”

In short, President Wilson was a low-down, Ku Klux Klan loving, racist dog. It was, therefore, totally in character for Wilson to become the first president to lay a wreath at the Confederate Memorial. The practice began as a political act, celebrating the new consensus among whites, North and South, that the race problem – the “Negro problem” – would no longer divide them. Instead, the South, and Woodrow Wilson’s Washington DC, would be allowed to divide Black people from whites at every level of society – and to lynch those that objected. That’s the spirit behind Woodrow Wilson’s embrace of the Confederate Memorial. He was also embracing a national reconciliation with the Confederate cause – at Black people’s expense.

Barack Obama now continues the symbolic practice, which celebrates the definitive triumph of white supremacy over all vestiges of Black Reconstruction, at the highest level of the U.S. government. African Americans are supposed to accept that the first Black president sends a wreath to honor Confederates, because he also sent a wreath to the Black Unionists’ memorial. Obama doesn’t think we’ll notice that that puts the Black Civil War dead on an equal basis with the people who were trying to put them back into slavery. He pretends not to recognize that that’s an insult to every decent American. 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: 20090527_gf_confederate_memorial.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:24am EDT

New York Cops Stop Record Numbers of Blacks and Latinos – for Nothing

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

If you're Black and walking the streets of New York City, be careful not to make any "furtive" moves, and make sure not to wear clothing that is "inappropriate for the season" or clothes "commonly used in a crime." The cops consider such behavior "reasonable suspicion" to stop and frisk pedestrians, 90 percent of whom happen to be non-white. This year, the police are on their way to stopping 628,000 persons - joining the two million that have been stopped and frisked since 2004.

New York Cops Stop Record Numbers of Blacks and Latinos – for Nothing

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Making a ‘furtive’ move or wearing a jacket the cops think is out of season is good reason to stop a person on the streets of New York.”

Even as civil libertarians push their suit to halt arbitrary stop-and-frisks, New York City cops are on the way to breaking all records for sweeping Blacks and Latinos from the streets. According to the police department’s own data, at the pace they are going, cops will have stopped, questioned and frisked almost 628,000 persons by the end of the year – more than the whole population of Boston. Last year, stop-and-frisks numbered 531,000 – more than the population of Atlanta. In the years 2004 through 2008, the NYPD stopped almost two million people on the streets. This may be the largest and longest sustained dragnet in urban history, including under conditions of martial law.

Despite all that police activity – and the seething anger it generates in targeted neighborhoods – only one out of ten stops results in an arrest or even a summons. But it’s not as if the police aren’t trying to arrest as many non-whites as possible. Blacks consistently number around half of those stopped by police – although making up only about a quarter of the population. Whites hover around 10 percent of those stopped on the street, while comprising 45 percent of all New Yorkers.

About one hundred thousand more people are stopped and frisked than are arrested the old fashioned way, based on probable cause. The street stops are supposedly based on the lower standard of “reasonable suspicion” – but it’s a reasoning only understandable to police and racists. In order to make the practice appear reasonable, the cops give out cards that explain the kind of behavior that supposedly leads to a stop-and-frisk. It includes:

carrying what appears to be a weapon”;

creating “sights or sounds suggestive of criminal activity” such as ringing an alarm, or running from a crime scene;

making “furtive movements”; and

wearing clothes “inappropriate for the season” or clothes “commonly used in a crime”

In the years 2004 through 2008, the NYPD stopped almost two million people on the streets.”

So, making a “furtive” move or wearing a jacket the cops think is out of season is good reason to stop a person on the streets of New York. In fact, any excuse will do, if you’re Black.

It is this type of institutionalized police behavior that leads inevitably to mass Black incarceration. The process begins with hyper-surveillance of Blacks and browns. Arbitrary stops lead to arbitrary arrests of the unlucky ten percent; to arbitrarily severe charges, followed by higher Black conviction rates and longer sentences under harsher circumstances. The end result is total community devastation. But it all starts with the cops on the block.

Crime has been way down in New York for a very long time. But that doesn’t matter to the police, who justify their racially selective behavior no matter what the crime rate is. If crime is up, that means more stops are needed. If crime is down, the cops say that’s because of the street stops. The only consistent factor is race – the defining element of American life.

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: 20090520_gf_nypd.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:24am EDT

Hypocritical Obama “Two-Step” on Human Rights and Racism

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

One step backward: last month, the Obama administration sabotaged the Durban II anti-racism conference, by first watering down the event's language and then refusing to participate. The first Black president of the United States created a coalition of European and white settler regimes - the same powers that inflicted centuries of racist terror on the planet - in defense of the racist Israeli regime. One step forward: Obama expects to steal a public relations coup by joining the UN's Human Rights Council - where he will doubtless pursue the same status quo policies..

Hypocritical Obama “Two-Step” on Human Rights and Racism

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The president thinks he can wash away the shame of his sabotaging of one United Nations anti-racism conference, at Durban.”

Last month, President Obama insulted people of color at home and abroad by boycotting an international conference on racism, known as Durban II. The shameful U.S. action opened the door for Washington’s allies to also pull out of the event, creating a spectacle in which the European and white settler regimes that were responsible for unleashing African slavery and the color-line on the world in the first place, sabotaged a conference to combat the legacies of their crimes. The Durban II affair was doubly bizarre, in that it was orchestrated by the first Black president of the United States. The common perception was that the primary beneficiary of the U.S. boycott, was Israel. But in fact, President Obama betrayed all the victims and the descendants of victims of the racist terror that ravaged every corner of the planet for centuries before Israel was ever founded – not the least of which are the African American descendants of slave trade.

Obama’s main operative in sabotaging the Durban II conference was Samantha Power, who sits on his National Security Council. Power and United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice are the administration’s principal advocates of so-called “humanitarian” military intervention, primarily in Africa. Both women have very selective definitions of the term “genocide,” effectively absolving the U.S. of genocide or crimes against humanity while endlessly lobbying for military action against Sudan and other nations in Africa.

In both foreign and domestic policy, Barack Obama’s doctrine is, Let bygones be bygones.”

Last month, as Samantha Power assured American Zionists that the U.S. would protect Israel from condemnation at the Durban conference, she said her boss would find another venue to explain to the world his “commitments to combating racism and discrimination.” That venue is almost certainly the Human Rights Council of the United Nations – which the United States recently joined after snubbing the Council for years under the Bush regime. President Obama assured United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that he would work through the Human Rights Council on issues of racial discrimination – after he boycotted Durban II.

So, this is what Obama is up to. The president thinks he can wash away the shame of his sabotaging of one United Nations anti-racism conference, at Durban, by joining another organ of the United Nations – the Human Rights Council. Sometime soon, the White House public relations machine will pour on the hype, announcing that Obama has ushered in a “brand new day” in U.S. human rights policy by joining the Human Rights Council. And as sure as the sun rises, the same organizations that lamented Obama’s behavior surrounding Durban II, will issue press releases full of praise for the administration. It is also just as certain that the United States will use its new seat on the Human Rights Council to protect Israel from righteous condemnation for its racist treatment of Palestinians, and to block any calls for reparations to African nations and African descended peoples for the monstrous crimes of slavery and colonialism. In both foreign and domestic policy, Barack Obama’s doctrine is, Let bygones be bygones. Effectively, that puts him on the side of those who profit from racism, past, present and future.

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: 20090520_gf_humanrights.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:21am EDT

Torture lawyers Ought To Be Disbarred

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

President Obama considers U.S. use of torture as an instrument of national policy is best relegated to the past, unpunished - even though a web of international treaties and laws, and U.S. statutes, obligate the executive branch to prosecute the guilty. It has been left to a coalition of activist groups to pursue some small measure of punishment for the 12 Bush lawyers that conspired to make torture, legal. The coalition has filed complaints with state bar associations to pull the torture lawyers' licenses.

Torture lawyers Ought To Be Disbarred

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Former Attorneys General John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales and Michael Mukasey might lose their license.”

Barack Obama is a Constitutional lawyer, but he certainly doesn’t behave like one. In fact, no citizen that believed in the rule of law would say that the U.S. government should, in effect “move on” rather than “dwell on the past” when serious crimes have been committed. Yet that is the president’s effective position regarding torture. The problem is, Obama doesn’t have the legal option to take that position, any more than a district attorney can refuse to prosecute a clear case of homicide simply because doing so might cause some people to get upset.

In the case of use of torture as an instrument of U.S. policy, the United States is obligated by a web of treaties, international law, U.S. criminal law and American military law to prosecute war crimes – one of which is torture. The obligation to prosecute falls to the executive branch of government. That means the buck stops with the president – and he can’t pass on it for domestic political convenience. To do so amounts to violation of myriad laws and treaties. That is, the president himself becomes a criminal when he fails to carry out his duty to enforce the laws.

Unfortunately, the United States thinks it is above the law – a kind of law-free zone. In a sense, the United States is like one big Dodge City, making up the law as it goes along. Its presidents enforce or break the law, as suits them. This applies as much to Barack Obama, as to George Bush, as is shown by Obama’s unilateral forgiveness of torture crimes.

One would think that a Constitutional lawyer – of all professions – would be most anxious to protect that document from being stepped on, especially by fellow attorneys. But, Barack Obama considers the misdeeds of other lawyers in justifying torture and other war crimes to be so much clutter that he’d prefer to be rid of.

Barack Obama doesn’t seem to grasp the monstrousness of the offense.”

So, the citizens are left to their own devices in the case of the torture lawyers – the 12 men who mangled and mutilated the law to make that which was illegal, legal, on behalf of their boss, George Bush. A coalition of organizations with more than one million members has filed ethics complaints with state bar associations seeking to have Bush’s lawyers’ licenses taken away. Three of the twelve are former U.S. Attorneys General: John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales and Michael Mukasey

The coalition calls itself the Velvet Revolution, and includes various anti-war and progressive groups. Their lawyer, Kevin Zeese, provides this legal analogy: “Just as the bar would suspend an attorney who advised a police officer to torture and brutalize a detained immigrant or criminal defendant, the bar must suspend these attorneys for advocating and causing the torture of war detainees.” If Bush’s lawyers wind up being disbarred, they would be getting off easy. A report by human rights researchers says dozens of detainees died during or after interrogation sessions. At least eight were tortured to death. That’s a direct link to capital war crimes. Barack Obama doesn’t seem to grasp the monstrousness of the offense. To him, its just politics. He has abdicated his legal responsibilities in the matter, and lost all moral standing.

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: 20090520_gf_DisbarTorturers.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:02am EDT

Obama Shows His True Katrina Colors

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

The line between Bush and Obama has not simply blurred in New Orleans: it has disappeared." President Obama has adopted, in whole, the Bush approach to rebuilding the city - minus the Black Diaspora that was scattered to the winds in 2005. Notices of eviction have been served on the mostly elderly and Black inhabitants of 3,000 FEMA trailers. The Obama Department of Housing and Urban Development is putting the finishing touches on public housing demolition in the city. Not a single "Katrina Cottage" has been made ready for occupancy. Obama no more favors the "right to return" to - or remain in - New Orleans, than Bush did.

Obama Shows His True Katrina Colors

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The President delegated to his minions the task of evicting Katrina survivors from 3,000 FEMA trailers.”

If response to the crimes of Katrina is the litmus test for 21st Century Black politics – and it should be – then the Obama administration has failed to distinguish itself from its predecessor under George W. Bush. The Bush imperative was to take gruesome advantage of the hurricane’s destruction to accomplish a national goal: to drive poor Blacks from the central cities. Every governmental crime of omission and commission in the wake of Katrina was coldly calculated to permanently exile several hundred thousand African Americans from New Orleans. The city was deliberately rendered unlivable for a huge portion of its previous residents, while corporate vultures from across the nation and even Australia schemed to create a new urban “model” – minus African Americans.

From the beginning, candidate Obama denied that racism played a role in Katrina’s aftermath. The prevailing “incompetence,” he said, was “colorblind” – proving either that he, Obama, was the blind one or that the man who would be president is as hostile to the inner city poor as George Bush.

Obama waited until his first 100 days in office had passed to delegate to his minions the task of evicting Katrina survivors from 3,000 FEMA trailers. Most of the trailer inhabitants are elderly. Two-thirds of them own homes that they have been trying to make habitable, with or without help from the government. Their evictions from the trailers will make it that much harder to renew their lives as permanent residents of New Orleans – which is the whole point of the evictions.

Obama has effectively adopted the Bush policy on New Orleans, in whole.”

FEMA claims that it has always offered to allow people to buy the trailers for as little as $300. But the trailer residents overwhelmingly dispute that story. According to the New York Times, “virtually all of the residents interviewed said they had offered” to buy their trailers, but were “told they could not.” Who are you going to believe, the people or FEMA?

And who is to blame? Not George Bush, not anymore. President Obama has effectively adopted the Bush policy on New Orleans, in whole. Not a single one of 500 planned “Katrina cottages” has been made ready for occupancy. Elderly people squat in abandoned buildings. There are no credible plans to repair or create an infrastructure that could accommodate the poor who still remain, much less the New Orleans diaspora, scattered to the four winds three and a half years ago.

President Obama’s economic stimulus plan, of which he is so proud, revealed his administration’s general attitude regarding Katrina. Rather than putting people to work rebuilding New Orleans for the benefit of its original population, the administration and Congress allocated the city less money than any other congressional district. And it was under Obama that the latest federal actions to demolish public housing in the city have occurred.

The line between Bush and Obama has not simply blurred in New Orleans: it has disappeared. The ominous ramifications reverberate far beyond the Gulf Coast. If post-Katrina New Orleans is the “urban model” for the future, then Black America has a great deal to fear from the Obama White House.

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: 20090513_gf_katrina_evictions.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:48am EDT

U.S. Economy: The Cancer is Still There

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

"In the cold assessment of history, Barack Obama will be remembered more for his massive transfers of national wealth to the finance capitalist class, than as the first Black president of the United States." Mostly under his administration, $12.8 trillion dollars has been committed to prop up the Wall Street oligarchy. Yet the five banks that are the biggest recipients of federal largess continue to hold $195 trillion in fatally toxic derivatives - a notional value more than three times the planetary domestic product! "There is nothing rational to do but to wipe the obligations, and their holders, off the face of the Earth, in order to save the real economy."

U.S. Economy: The Cancer is Still There

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Obama will be remembered more for his massive transfers of national wealth to the finance capitalist class, than as the first Black president of the United States.”

How does one restore the Lords of Capital to their former positions as dictators of the U.S. and global economies, while keeping their seats warm as de facto political rulers of the American state? Saving the finance capital oligarchy has emerged as President Obama’s central mission – the guiding focus of his young administration. Obama has found new and myriad ways to go where no American president has ever gone before, in funneling somewhere around $13 trillion of national treasure to the parasitical class that goes by the shorthand, Wall Street.

By March of this year, the federal government and the Federal Reserve had “spent, lent or committed” $12.8 trillion to the banksters, according to the Bloomberg financial news service. That amounts to 90 percent of the Gross Domestic Product of the entire United States economy for last year. Let us put it another way: Mostly under the auspices of Barack Obama’s administration, the value of nearly every good and service produced in the United States in 2008 has been, in one way or another, put at the disposal of a tiny financial oligarchy.

This is the kind of overarching reality that defines, not just presidencies, but eras. In the cold assessment of history, Barack Obama will be remembered more for his massive transfers of national wealth to the finance capitalist class, than as the first Black president of the United States.

President Obama has chosen to use the limited resources of the current and future United States – $13 trillion so far – to prop up a criminal class.

The primary beneficiaries of this history-shaking generosity are the same banksters that brought about the economic meltdown through their monstrous invention, the derivative. This fictitious capital – derivatives – created to facilitate gambling on a scale that far exceeds the productive capacity of the entire planet Earth, is a cancer that Barack Obama has chosen to feed, rather than cut out. As F. William Engdahl points out in a recent article, five U.S. banks are the biggest repositories of toxic derivatives: JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Citibank, Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo-Wachovia Bank. Together, these five Banksters of the Apocalypse hold derivatives with the notional value of $193 trillion. That is more than three times the value of the real economy of the whole world – which is about $60 trillion.

These deadly derivatives continue to sit there, immovable, in these five fatally stricken institutions. There are not enough trillions existent in the national or world economies to absorb these fatal instruments. There is nothing rational to do but to wipe the obligations, and their holders, off the face of the Earth, in order to save the real economy. Instead of feeding the cancer, a rational government would use the people’s wealth to create public institutions to dispense credit and guide economic development. The bankster gamblers would be consigned to the dustbin of history – and good riddance. But President Obama has chosen to use the limited resources of the current and future United States – $13 trillion so far – to prop up a criminal class. All the manufactured hoopla about stock market rallies and phony stress tests is intended to mask the central truth of our time: the derivatives cancer will eat away at the real economy until the class that spawned it is cut away, and flushed out of existence.

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: 20090513_gf_economy.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:55am EDT

Obama Cuts Funds For Black Higher Education President Obama's economic stimulus was very kind to the general category of education. But Black higher education got the butt end of his budget, with a net of $73 million in cuts, while traditionally Hispanic schools got an increase in funding. "It would be difficult to find anyplace in the federal budget where $73 million has a more concentrated impact on the fortunes of a particular ethnic group." Even southern Republican lawmakers are wondering aloud about Obama's priorities.

Obama Cuts Funds for Black Higher Education

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Obama should be given a brief refresher course in the history that makes direct aid to Black schools necessary.”

Barack Obama encourages people to believe that he deserves to be remembered as the “Education President.” However, Obama will definitely not go down as a friend of historically Black higher education. Historically Black colleges and universities – HBCUs – take a $73 million hit in Obama’s educational budget. The cuts are even more disturbing, since education as a general category is a big winner in the president’s economic stimulus plan.

Obama’s people claim that an increase in maximum Pell Grant monies for low-income students will help all educational institutions, including historically Black ones. But that’s not quite true. Even if every one of the 132,000 Pell Grant students that attend HBCUs collected the maximum $200 extra dollars in Obama’s budget, that would only make up for one-third of the administration’s cuts to the Black schools. In other words, Obama’s slightly rising tide of Pell Grants will not sufficiently lift historically Black higher education boats.

The $73 million loss would have an outsized impact on the 105 Black institutions, many of which are on perennially shaky financial ground, and all of which have been hit hard by the current economic crisis. Although Black schools make up only three percent of total U.S. college enrollment, they account for one out of every five undergraduate degrees awarded to African Americans. It would be difficult to find anyplace in the federal budget where $73 million has a more concentrated impact on the fortunes of a particular ethnic group.

The Obama budget actually increased direct federal aid to heavily Hispanic schools, from $93 million to $98 million.”

A direct comparison might be made with colleges that traditionally serve large numbers of Hispanic students. However, the Obama budget actually increased direct federal aid to these schools, from $93 million to $98 million. Native American higher education, on the other hand, gets the “Black” treatment: a decrease in federal funding to Indian schools.

The Obama administration’s callous disregard for Black colleges is even more curious, considering the president’s constant quest for areas of bipartisan consensus. Support for Black higher education is one of the rare issues around which southern white Republicans and members of the Congressional Black Caucus often find common ground. North Carolina is home to 11 HBCUs. The state’s Republican Senator, Richard Burr, wonders how Obama managed to find $9 million to fund a museum on the history of the whaling industry, but makes devastating cuts in Black higher education.

The timing couldn’t be worse. Many Black colleges were the products of philanthropy, and depend on it, still. But philanthropy is way down, which has pushed many Black institutions even closer to the edge.

President Obama should also be given a brief refresher course in the history that makes direct aid to Black schools necessary. Blacks were deliberately shut out of most higher education for almost the entirety of United States history. For that reason, Black institutions operate under specific disadvantages, while shouldering oversized responsibilities. There is nothing “race-neutral” about it. Past and present racial realities require that Obama give up the money.

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: 20090513_gf_hbcu.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:46am EDT

Last Days of “Cracked-Up-Black-Buck-Runs-Amok” Law

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Back in 1986, the U.S. Congress crafted legislation to put as many Black crack cocaine users in prison as possible, while sparing white users of powdered cocaine. Hundreds of thousands of arrests and more than a million of year in prison later, the U.S. Justice Department went on record favoring equalization of penalties on both kinds of cocaine. “Any civilized court would treat such blatantly race-based mass punishment as a crime against humanity – possibly an element in a broader charge of genocide.”

Last Days of “Cracked-Up-Black-Buck-Runs-Amok” Law

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The 23-year-long crack dragnet affected every social structure in Black America.”

It appears the racially-motivated sentencing laws that treat possession of crack cocaine as 100 times more worthy of punishment than powder cocaine, will soon pass into history. It’s been 23 years since the Congress was stampeded into passing legislation that mandated ten years in prison for possession of a mere 50 grams of crack, a cheap and favored high in Black communities. Powdered cocaine had long been too expensive for ghetto tastes. To earn ten years in jail, the predominantly white users of powdered cocaine would have to get caught with 5,000 grams of the stuff – 100 times the weight for ten years worth of crack.

Although the legislation was racist from the moment of its conception, more than half the Congressional Black Caucus voted for it back in 1986. The Black lawmakers bought into the hysteria that claimed crack cocaine made previously normal people deadly violent. There’s no question that crack was associated with horrific violence, most of it between drug dealers engaged in wars to control the millions in profits generated by crack. But the cases of 94 percent of the crack offenders in prison today have nothing to do with violence.

The crack laws were designed to put massive numbers of Blacks behind bars. They were successful in condemning hundreds of thousands of young Black men and women to millions of collective years in prison. Eighty-two percent of those convicted for crack cocaine in federal court, are Black; only 9 percent are white. Clearly, the crack cocaine laws are models of efficiency in the mass destruction of Black lives under color of law. Any civilized court would treat such blatantly race-based mass punishment as a crime against humanity – possibly an element in a broader charge of genocide. The 23-year-long crack dragnet affected every social structure in Black America, leaving utter devastation in its wake. The effects of this unrelenting campaign of mass Black incarceration – of which crack cocaine was a key component – were so pervasive, the system finally seemed to run out of new Black bodies to arrest. This is one of the likely reasons that, in recent years, drug arrest rates for Blacks have gone down, while white arrest rates have shot up dramatically.

Any civilized court would treat such blatantly race-based mass punishment as a crime against humanity.”

The biggest change came last week, when for the first time a high-ranking member of the U.S. Justice Department testified in favor of Black Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee’s bill that would equalize the penalties for crack and powdered cocaine possession. President Obama supported such a change when he was a candidate.

But who is to say that Congress or the states will not tomorrow enact another racially-tailored “Black Buck Runs Amok” law? What should be required, are Racial Impact Statements that would measure any disparities in the ethnic outcomes of the law’s enforcement. If impact statements are useful in deterring harm to the environment, then surely Black folks and other human beings need protection from racist laws – and from hate-filled, racist lawmakers. 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: 20090505_gf_crack.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:44pm EDT