Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.
Civil Rights Division To Clean Up After 8 Years of Bush

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

President Bush's minions behaved like vandals in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, trashing the very concept of equal protection under the law. But the white backlash did not begin with Bush. Civil rights has been “in a state of arrested development for over 40 years.”

 

Civil Rights Division To Clean Up After 8 Years of Bush

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

“Bush packed the Civil Rights Division with right-wing lawyers and administrators determined to erase even the most elementary gains made by minorities.”

The Obama administration has accomplished one solid achievement that may go down in the history books as at least a partial reversal of fortune for racial minorities in the United States. For eight long years, the Bush administration waged vicious political warfare against the very concept of civil rights, as we had come to understand it in America. Equal protection under the law became a dead letter in the U.S. Justice Department, whose Civil Rights Division was transformed into a bulwark of white male supremacy and petty reaction. George Bush’s racist appointees not only refused to enforce the Voting Rights Act and laws against race and sex discrimination in employment, they packed the Civil Rights Division with right-wing lawyers and administrators determined to erase even the most elementary gains made by minorities. Sincere civil rights lawyers were virtually barred from employment, vilified and scorned as “communists” who carried around copies of Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book. George Bush fought to allow the Religious Right to use federal money to discriminate. He cut the number of voting and employment rights lawsuits in half, and transformed the Civil Rights Division into a nexus of civil wrongs.

Eric Holder, President Obama’s choice as the first Black U.S. Attorney General, promised he would put the Justice Department back in the business of civil rights. In September, he announced plans to hire an additional 50 civil rights lawyers. And at congressional hearings last week, Holder’s department agreed to take measures to ensure that civil rights complaints are systematically addressed.

“Equal protection under the law became a dead letter in the U.S. Justice Department.”

All this is very good news, but it needs to be put in historical perspective. The rollback in civil rights did not begin with George Bush. The white backlash against the gains of the Sixties erupted before the ink was dry on civil rights legislation and court rulings. The backlash was in full fury when Ronald Reagan chose to announce his 1980 presidential candidacy in Neshoba County, Mississippi, site of the murder of three civil rights workers, only 16 years before. Republicans, and lots of Democrats, have been trying to make civil rights a dirty word, ever since. They have certainly succeeded in narrowing the scope of what we mean when we say civil rights.

Long before George Bush entered the White House, the non-stop white backlash had prevented full enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was designed to prevent the use of federal funds in ways that discriminate. A Justice Department Civil Rights Division that was true to the spirit of Title VI would act against discrimination everywhere it involves federal funding: environmental racism, health care disparities, the entire range of institutionally racist realties that plague Black and brown lives while aided and abetted with tax dollars. Such a civil rights agenda would move most urgently against mass Black incarceration, which literally steals Black lives and liberties by the millions.

Civil rights, as a political issue, has been in a state of arrested development for over 40 years. Its reawakening will require another mass movement, not just a changing of the guard at the U.S. Justice Department.

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: 20091209_gf_JusticeDept.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 5:20am EDT

Fed Fight Could Build a Movement Against Bailout, Banksters

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

“Nothing on the calendar of Congress, and no campaign from the grassroots, has anything approaching the potential of the Federal Reserve Transparency Act to focus public anger on Wall Street and its allies in the White House and on Capitol Hill.” If the public only knew the dimensions of the largest transfer of wealth in human history, they would turn on the banksters with tooth and claw.

 

Fed Fight Could Build a Movement Against Bailout, Banksters

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

“Now, like in 2008, Obama and the bankers, including the Federal Reserve, are joined at the hip.”

The looming battle over the powers of the Federal Reserve and the future of its chairman is the most promising opportunity yet to grow a “movement” to prevent Wall Street from swallowing up what’s left of the U.S. state. A bill to require a detailed audit of the Federal Reserve has garnered over 300 co-sponsors in the U.S. House and 30 supporters in the Senate. The legislation draws on the same diverse constituencies that almost defeated the bankers' bailout in the autumn of 2008: Wall Street's traditional enemies on both the Left and the Right. So beholden has the Democratic Party become to the finance capitalist classes, the Obama administration is the staunchest defender of the Federal Reserve and its chairman, Ben Bernanke. That should be no surprise. Barack Obama was the banksters' indispensable ally in the original $700 billion bailout, and in moving the $23 trillion ocean of money that was subsequently made available to Wall Street, much of it by the Federal Reserve. Now, like in 2008, Obama and the bankers, including the Federal Reserve, are joined at the hip – or the hip pocket.

Libertarian Republican Ron Paul is the guiding personality in the House for the bill to audit the Fed. On paper at least, a majority of House members support the legislation, including progressive stalwarts like Dennis Kucinich and John Conyers and other prominent members of the the Congressional Black and Progressive Caucuses. The bill easily passed the House Financial Services Committee, last week. The measure will have a much rougher time in the Senate, where Independent Bernie Sanders is the point man. Sanders caucuses with the Democrats but calls himself a democratic socialist. The Senate rules make it difficult to pass legislation without bipartisan support, but relatively easy for even an individual senator to block legislation and nominations. Senator Sanders has vowed to block Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke's bid for another term until the audit bill is allowed to come to a vote.

“The legislation draws on the same diverse constituencies that almost defeated the bankers' bailout in the autumn of 2008.”

Nothing on the calendar of Congress, and no campaign from the grassroots, has anything approaching the potential of the Federal Reserve Transparency Act to focus public anger on Wall Street and its allies in the White House and on Capitol Hill. More than the prospects for actual passage, the debate that is likely to be generated by the bill would force the corporate media to report on the real facts of the much larger, multi-trillion of dollar bailout engineered by the Federal Reserve and the Obama administration – information about which the public is almost totally ignorant.

Popular opposition to the bailout – and therefore, to the rule of Wall Street – can only grow in intensity as debate over the Federal Reserve Transparency Act heats up, and as the facts of the largest transfer of wealth in the history of the world become known. The banking class is deservedly hated, and anyone that stands between them and an enflamed public is going to get burned. That means Barack Obama and his chosen economic advisors and operatives Larry Summers, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner – and, of course, Ben Bernanke, Obama's buddy at the Federal Reserve.

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: 20091209_gf_FedBillBernanke.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 5:18am EDT

Black Caucus Finally Gets the Message: Obama’s Not ‘The One’

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The Congressional Black Caucus agonizes as the accumulated miseries of their constituents force Black lawmakers to put distance between themselves and Wall Street's ally in the White House, Barack Obama. Ten members of the Caucus boycotted a vote on an Obama bill, to show their displeasure. But until they muster the nerve to vote against their president and his bankster friends, they are just shuckin' and jivin'. 

 

Black Caucus Finally Gets the Message: Obama’s Not ‘The One’

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

“The Black and Progressive Caucuses will become worthy of respect when they begin voting against Obama’s Wall Street-inspired legislation.”

One can only hide from reality so long, before it catches up and bites you on the butt. The Congressional Black Caucus has been pretending that Barack Obama is the best thing to hit Washington for Black folks since the Emancipation Proclamation. It was, of course, deliriously wishful thinking, grounded in no reality whatsoever  – a self-induced illusion initially shared by most African Americans and by legions of Kool-Aid drinkers on the white Left, as well.

Obama has lied about many things. But, to be fair, he never told Black people that he had any intention of tackling the kind of institutional racism that for the last 40 years has made Blacks twice as likely to be unemployed as whites. So, when the president says, as he told reporters last weekend, that he won’t lift a finger to ease Depression-level Black unemployment because “it’s a mistake to start thinking in terms of particular ethnic segments of the United States,” then no one should be surprised. This is the same guy that declared, 100 days into his presidency, that a “rising tide lifts all boats,” and Black folks should just quiet down and wait for the tide.

Unfortunately, Black lawmakers’ constituents have been swamped by the tides of joblessness and home foreclosure. They want their representatives to do something about it – to at least holler when they hurt. Last week, ten members of the Black Caucus staged a demonstration boycott of a committee vote on Obama’s pitifully weak financial regulations bill, which passed anyway.

"Since last September,” said Los Angeles Congresswoman Maxine Waters, “we have continuously voted for bailouts and reform for the very institutions that created this devastation, without properly protecting the African-American community or small business. That stops today." The Black Caucus, said Waters, “can no longer afford for our public policy to be defined by the worldview of Wall Street.”

“Obama won’t lift a finger to ease Depression-level Black unemployment.”

The statement makes great sense, although it comes rather late. The Black and Progressive Caucuses will only become worthy of respect when they begin voting against Obama’s Wall Street-inspired legislation, rather than staging boycotts when it doesn’t much matter. It will be easier to believe that the Black Caucus has wised up to Obama when they vote against funding his wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and against his horrific private insurance bailout bill that masquerades as health care reform.

Detroit Congressman John Conyers, Dean of the Black Caucus, has said the president bows down to “nutty right-wing proposals” on health care, and that he's tired of “saving Obama's can.” Several weeks ago, Conyers got a telephone call from the White House in which the president asked why Conyers was “demeaning” him in public. “Let's talk about it,” said Obama. Conyers says he's in no mood to “chat” with the president, and will put his complaints In writing.

Which is just as well. Obama has shown he is ideologically wedded to “the worldview of Wall Street,” as Congresswoman Waters put it. What the Black Caucus and all progressives will have to learn, is that if you want to fight Wall Street, you're going to have to do battle with Obama. It's way past time to put down the Kool-Aid, and start swinging.

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: 20091209_gf_CaucusObama.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 5:17am EDT