Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.
Send In the Clowns: 3 Stooges, Gingrich, Sharpton & Duncan Hit the Road For Corporate “School Reform”

Quite separately from each other, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Rev. Al Sharpton and Newt Gingrich have long ago forfeited whatever credibility they may once have had. Taken together, they are simply a bad joke: three gown men publicly eye-poking and slap fighting each other while they all come together to sell us high-stakes testing, charter schools, educational privatization and the whole package of corporate “school reform.”

Send In the Clowns: 3 Stooges, Gingrich, Sharpton & Duncan Hit the Road For Corporate “School Reform”

by BAR managing editor Bruce Dixon

Back in the late 19th and early 20th century heydays of vaudeville, when the singers bombed, when the jokes fell flat and audience attention started wandering, management knew what to do. They would send in the clowns. Some things haven't changed.

Despite a decade of hard sell by right wing think tanks, foundations, and big media, the American people have not bought the corporate version of school reform. Most people just don't believe public schools should be privatized or militarized, or operated by business people like businesses instead of by educators, parents and communities in the interests of children, parents and communities, like the best schools always have been run. And most educators doubt that high stakes testing improves educational outcomes in any meaningful way.

Since the public debates on charter schools and privatizing education are ones that our elite cannot win, they have decreed there will be no debate. Instead of an honest public examination of the disastrous impact of No Child Left Behind, and its attendant decade of creeping educational privatization, corporate media, the Obama administration and its bipartisan allies are sending in the clowns with a 21st century three stooges remake starring the Rev. Al Sharpton, along with Republican former Speaker Newt Gingrich and Obama Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, elbowing and slapping at each other, yukking it up about their supposed political differences while they all come together around the corporate elite's version of “school reform.”

Stooge number one is Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, a former basketball player and friend of the president who, without a single hour of teaching experience was named by Chicago's Mayor Daley to head the nation's third largest school system. Duncan now pledges to extend the Chicago model of high stakes testing and massive school closings to create opportunities for what he calls “innovative” charter schools. Thanks to Duncan, Chicago's public schools are now being sued by black teachers for racial discrimination in the wholesale dismissal of hundreds of qualified, dedicated black teachers and their replacement with younger, cheaper, less experienced and mostly whiter ones. Even now, the Obama administration is withholding federal education funds from states and school districts to force nationwide implementation of these so-called “reforms.”

Stooge number two is the Rev. Al Sharpton, whose presence allows the stooges to claim they are a “civil rights” act. Rev. Sharpton jumped aboard the corporate education reform bandwagon with both feet after receiving a half million dollar bribe last year, for his National Action Network reportedly brokered by New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein through a right wing not for profit agency that promotes charter schools.

Stooge number three is the same Newt Gingrich who, who once advocated removal of underachieving children from their parents homes to boarding schools and military academies, and whose 1994 Contract For America, demanded the dissolution of the US Department of Education.

Mass media ought to be where the studies, the facts, the experience and the voices of parents, educators, students and communities across the country wrestling with the problems of education are held up for all to examine and understand. But that would be too much like public service for our America's privatized media. What we'll get instead is entertainment. They're sending in the clowns. And here they come!

Privatization Pictures presents a No Child Left Behind Production starring the New Three Stooges, Arne Duncan, Al Sharpton and Newt Gingrich in Corporate School Reform directed by Barack Obama and produced by the Bradley, Heritage and Walton Family Foundations, featuring fake statistics, dubious studies, crackpot merit pay schemes, charter schools including military charter schools, cronyism, patronage, corruption, worse educational outcomes, thousands of school closings, mass firings of qualified teachers, community destabilization, loss of public and community control, and the privatization of education.

For Black Agenda Report, I'm Bruce Dixon apologizing to the ghosts of the original three stooges. They'd understand. On the web, we are at

Direct download: 20090818_3stooges_2.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:24am EDT

iraqi electionA Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
On January 16 of next year, Iraqis will vote in national elections and a referendum on whether to send the Americans home by the end of 2010 – a year earlier than the U.S. expected. “There is no doubt – none whatsoever – that overwhelming majorities of Iraqis will vote to evict the American occupiers.” But the U.S. anti-war movement can take little of the credit.
Iraqis to Vote on Early U.S. Exit
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
Will Washington just give up the occupation and slither away?”
The American occupation of Iraq may be ending much sooner than Washington anticipated – but little thanks to the U.S. anti-war movement, which has in recent years made itself largely irrelevant to issues of war and peace. The Shi'ite-dominated government in Baghdad is asking Iraq's parliament to hold a popular referendum this coming January that will almost certainly demand the withdrawal of U.S. forces by the end of 2010, a year before the Obama administration's fuzzy target date of December, 2011. That means all U.S. military, not just so-called “combat” forces – the semantic farce deployed by the Obama administration to disguise a huge U.S. military and mercenary presence deep into the misty future.
There is no doubt – none whatsoever – that overwhelming majorities of Iraqis will vote to evict the American occupiers, whose flimsy and coerced United Nations “mandate” to remain in Iraq expired last December. That means there is no longer even a veneer of legal basis for the U.S. presence, once the Iraqis say it's time to go.
Despite what you have heard and seen and read in the U.S. corporate media, the great mass of Iraqis have always wanted the Americans out. Nobody on the planet except Americans ever believed the U.S. was in Iraq to protect anything other than American ambitions to dominate the land and resources of other peoples. The current regime in Baghdad promised the Iraqi people it would hold a referendum on the American presence this summer, but delayed the plebiscite to buy more time to consolidate their position, politically and militarily. The January 16 referendum will coincide with Iraq's national elections. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's faction could not hope to win those elections unless it allowed a vote on ridding the country of the U.S. Occupation.
There is no doubt that overwhelming majorities of Iraqis will vote to evict the American occupiers.”
The Obama administration is no more in favor of Iraqis expressing their political will through the voting process than was the Bush administration, which only agreed to popular elections back in 2005 after Ayatolla al-Sistani threatened to bring a million Shi'ites into the streets of Baghdad. President Obama and his generals have applied every conceivable pressure to avoid a referendum on the occupation. Now it appears the clock is ticking – not in the Obama White House, where it could always be turned back on some pretext, but in Baghdad, where al-Maliki's government must show it is on the side of the people, and not the occupier.
None of the Iraq developments of the last two years were due to the U.S. anti-war movement, much of which effectively collapsed into the Obama campaign and then disintegrated.
When the Iraqi people declare at the polls in January that the Americans must pick up their marbles and leave, will Washington just give up the occupation and slither away? That's not in the nature of the imperial beast. But the U.S. will find it much more difficult to claim it is protecting the people whose house it broke into and plundered in March of 2003. 
For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford. On the web, go to

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Direct download: 20090819_gf_IraqiReferendum.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:51pm EDT

BARACK HEALTH CAREA Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
It's all over but the funeral.” In abandoning the “public option,” President Obama has relinquished all claim as champion of health care reform, the content of which he first diluted and ultimately bargained away entirely. The forces of reaction, which were disorganized and on the defensive when Obama entered office, have been vastly strengthened by the president's “duplicitous backroom deals and back-stabbing of his most loyal supporters.”
Obama Piddles Away the Public's Options
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
Obama seems to believe he can salvage a bill – any bill – and scribble the word “reform” on it.”
It became crystal clear that the insurance companies had prevailed in President Obama's health care fiasco the moment the White House coined the term “public option.” Plainly, a public alternative to private health insurance was always merely an option – just another bargaining chip in Obama's private and oh-so-friendly negotiations with the rich and ruthless. Now it's all over but the funeral.
The death of Obama's health care project was both ignominious and foreordained. This is what comes from duplicitous backroom deals and back-stabbing of one's most loyal supporters. What remains of the legislative mish-mash birthed by Obama and his congressional co-conspirators, are corporate bills. That's why the drug barons are spending $150 million to advertise for Obama's fraudulent brand of health care reform. And, although the insurance industry continues to publicly oppose the hollow shell that Obama's project has become, at this stage in the game they win whichever way the wind blows. If Obama's hot air balloon fully deflates, the health insurance companies will continue to enjoy the status quo they have so carefully engineered over the years. But if a bill emerges with provisions that force everyone to buy private insurance, the health care racketeers will add millions of new, subsidized customers.
Obama gave everything away before the negotiations even began.”
Obama signaled that he is willing to engage in further compromise with his corporate friends, the guys whose company and confidence he so highly prized at White House health care forums, venues where single-payer advocates were not welcome. The problem is, Obama gave everything away before the negotiations even began. Now he has nothing left to trade, and not enough forces to rearrange the battlefield, having demobilized and dismissed the Left in favor of corporate Democrats like himself. Still, Obama seems to believe he can salvage a bill – any bill – and scribble the word “reform” on it.
He has been reduced to the politics of semantics. He invites his election day supporters to leap into the river with him as he grasps at “slivers” and straws and calls them “reform.” Obama will describe passage of any legislation with the word reform attached to it, a victory. But his paper victory will represent a lasting defeat for real health care reform, which will have been discredited in the eyes of the public – for how long, no one can say.
But the damage is even more horrific. Obama has succeeded in wounding Medicare – and Medicaid and veterans health care and Social Security – more grievously than the Republicans could have dreamed of on their own. He entered office spreading hysteria about the cost of Medicare and other so-called “entitlements.” Now his little boat is sinking, but the Republicans have been reinforced in their age-old battle to privatize what's left of the public sphere. In the short space of 7 months, Obama has piddled and bargained away huge regions of the public's “options.”
For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford. On the web, go to
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at
Direct download: 20090819_gf_ObamaCareSinking.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:46pm EDT