Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.

There are more than 40 federal offenses for which the death penalty can be applied to human beings, most of them connected to homicide of one kind or another. But countless homicides committed by the artificial persons we call corporations go unpunished every day. Apparently “personal responsibility” applies only to humans who are not operating behind the legal shield of corporate personhood.

Time For A Corporate Death Penalty 

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Over the last hundred or so years, corporations have gained many of the rights previously accorded only to human beings.  Corporations have the right to buy and sell anything or anyone that can be bought or sold.  Corporations have claimed the right to lie in their advertising and PR as "free speech,"  along with the right to help us mere humans choose our judges and elected officials with unlimited amounts of cash, including anonymous cash.  Corporations have been awarded the right to patent genetic sequences of diseases and to monopolize their cures, as well as patent rights to living plants and animals not of their invention.  A whole type of new anti-pollution regulation called "cap and trade" actually enshrines a corporate right to pollute and establishes exchanges upon which speculators can bid, trade and capture rents for those alleged rights.  And unlike a working person, who has no right to next month's let alone next year's wages, legal scholars working for corporations have devised and popularized something they call the "regulatory takings" doctrine, under which corporations may claim and recover from the government rights to profits they might have made in years to come.  And let's not even talk about trillions in corporate welfare for banks, military contractors, Wal-Mart and others.\

While many argue that corporations have too many rights as it is, this might be a good time to extend them at least one more right we humans have kept for ourselves until now; the right to be put to death for serious crimes.  Right now federal statutes alone offer individuals more than 40 different ways to earn the death penalty, including kidnapping, treason, aircraft hijacking, espionage and many varieties of murder, conspiracy, threatening murder and some drug crimes.  Individual states offer the death penalty for a host of similar offenses.

Putting bad corporate actors down the way we do rabid dogs and serial killers is not a new or even a radical idea.  Corporations are created by the charters of individual states, so states DO have the power to revoke them.  Early in this country's history, corporate charters used to limit a company's existence to a set number of years, to confine their operations to manufacturing a certain item, building a specific road or canal and prohibit them from changing ownership, dumping or concealing their assets or engaging in other kinds of business.  These are legal powers that our governments have not used in a long, long time, but which it's high time to reclaim.

Homicidal profit-seeking on the part of corporations has become an everyday fact of modern life.  Whether it's employers cutting health and safety corners, marketers pushing unsafe drugs, food and products of all kinds, or the deadly industrial fouling of the planet's air, soil, oceans and climate we are living in the midst of a corporate crime wave of murderous and epic proportions.  If we value human life, it only makes sense to treat corporate serial killers like, well, corporate serial killers, to confiscate their ill-gotten assets, to revoke their corporate charters and sentence the artificial personae of corporate malefactors to death.  If corporations are legal persons, it's time to enforce some personal responsibility upon them with a corporate death penalty.

After we accomplish that, it will be time to think about extending a little of that personal responsibility to the actual humans who operate behind the legal shield of the corporations.  But right now, as the saying goes, a corporation can't even get arrested in this country, which, come to think of it is still another right we humans ought to bestow upon them.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Bruce Dixon.  Find us on the web at

Direct download: 20100609_bd_corporate_death_penalty.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 5:47am EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Terrified of offending the Israel lobby, Black congresspersons routinely vote for anti-Palestinian resolutions as “if they represented some Arab-hating constituency in Utah.” Two Black Representatives – Barbara Lee (CA) and Keith Ellison (MN) – last week dared to ask President Obama to support lifting Israel's blockade of Gaza and an investigation into last week's savage attack on the aid flotilla – but were careful to note they did not speak for the Congressional Black Caucus as a body.

Two Black Caucus Members Ask Gaza Murder Probe, the Rest are Silent

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The relentless pressures of the Israel lobby have succeeded in causing most Black elected officials to cower in fear of being labeled anti-Israel.”

Every objective observer of Black American grassroots political sentiment recognizes that African Americans are the most inclined of any major demographic group to empathize with the plight of Palestinians. It is an historic and contemporary fact that is consistent with Black America’s special identification with the downtrodden and dispossessed of the world. This relative pro-Palestinian bent in the Black American worldview flows from obvious and formative facts of the Black experience in the United States, which has led Black people to put the highest premium on social justice. That’s why Blacks can sing about Moses and the Promised Land all day long on Sunday, and still feel that the people currently in charge in Israel are on the wrong side of justice.

Since at least the mid-Sixties, many Jewish organizations have treated Black sympathies for the Palestinian people as rank anti-Semitism of the kind Jews experienced at the hands of whites. In some Jewish circles it is accepted as a truism that that Blacks are anti-Semitic. We see such perceptions, today, in the willingness of some to believe that even Barack Obama is somehow out to get Israel, despite his groveling support of the Israeli regime’s barbaric behavior since his election.

Over the years, the relentless pressures of the Israel lobby have succeeded in causing most Black elected officials to cower in fear of being labeled anti-Israel. Black officeholders now typically embark on periodic, pitiful pilgrimages to the Jewish state, bowing symbolically to Jerusalem, so as not to be marked as sympathetic to Palestinians. And on the floor of the U.S. Congress, the Black Caucus shames itself and misrepresents its constituents by endorsing every fawning resolution promulgated by Israel’s operatives in the United States.

Even this exceedingly mild letter is apparently too risky for the rest of the 42-member Black Caucus to sign.”

Two Black congresspersons – Barbara Lee, of California, the Caucus chair, and Minnesota’s Keith Ellison, one of two Muslim members of the House – recently wrote a letter to President Obama, saying they were “deeply troubled by the military action aboard the aid flotilla en route to Gaza...resulting in the death of nine civilians, including one American.” Representatives Lee and Ellison requested that Obama “support a thorough investigation” and that he “call for a lifting of the blockade on Gaza.”

Yet even this exceedingly mild letter is apparently too risky for the rest of the 42-member Black Caucus to sign.

Back in January of 2009, as Israel was massacring more than 1,300 Palestinian men, women and children, and President-elect Obama stood shamefully silent, only two Black Caucus members – Maxine Waters of California and Gwen Moore of Wisconsin – had the courage to vote against a House resolution vilifying the Palestinian victims. Barbara Lee and Keith Ellison were among the seven members that sought “neutral” ground by simply voting “present,” while the bulk of the Black Caucus behaved as if they represented some Arab-hating constituency in Utah. Clearly, the Black Caucus is collectively terrified of the Israel lobby. The bigger the Black Caucus gets, the less representative it becomes of Black America and its desire for global social justice. But that's alright – Tel Aviv is pleased. For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford. On the web, go to

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Direct download: 20100609_gf_CBCGaza.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:34am EDT

by Jared A. Ball, Ph.D.

Washington, DC, like other majority-Black metropolises, squeezes African Americans out of its borders through gentrification, while trapping growing proportions of those who remain in a rapacious criminal justice system. Activists charge that DC’s policy of hiring more white officers from surrounding states amounts to “coon hunting” in the nation’s capital.

South Africa On the Potomac: Washington, D.C. and Black Incarceration

by BAR columnist Jared A. Ball, Ph.D.

DC is losing 2500 or so Black residents a year as gentrification pushes them out of the city proper.”

During a speech aired on Memorial Day this year Noam Chomsky said, “The drug war is used as a pretext to drive the superfluous population, mostly black, back to the prisons, also providing a new supply of prison labor in state and private prisons, much of it in violation of international labor conventions. In fact, for many African Americans, since they were exported to the colonies, life has scarcely escaped the bonds of slavery, or sometimes worse.” This week I had a chance to sit down with Mr. Kwasi Seitu, a veteran activist with decades-long experience in organizing Black resistance to police brutality and what is often a malicious judicial system. Mr. Seitu has for many years now suffered first-hand and worked against the violently rapacious nature of the system described by Chomsky as “sometimes worse” than slavery. From Mississippi to where he now resides in Washington, D.C., Seitu has been on the front lines of this on-going tyrannical relationship between the Black community and the nation’s institutions.

In Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital, also referred to as the “last colony,” or a “a piece of South Africa on the Potomac,” Mr. Seitu describes the horrific procession of “hundreds of Black people” who “pass through the dungeons of D.C. Superior Court every single day.” Most of these women and men are there for non-violent drug offenses which Seitu argues is also part of a police “quota system” which rewards officers for higher numbers of arrests. The quality or just nature of those arrests is not the issue, just the numbers of Black bodies who will pass through the city’s jails. Part of the political economy of this streets-to-jail pipeline is, as Seitu says, the justification of the publicly-funded policing and incarceration budget which puts hundreds of millions of dollars at stake. But it is also, as Chomsky alluded to, an issue of “superfluous” labor, or an issue of what to do with those you cannot or will not employ. As recently as 2006 the employment rate for Black adults in Washington, D.C. was only 51% making their unemployment rate the highest in the world.

It is an issue of what to do with those you cannot or will not employ.”

Washington, D.C. is now 52% Black and losing 2500 or so Black residents a year as gentrification pushes them out of the city proper. However, according to Seitu, this has not changed the complexion of those being targeted by the various police agencies in the city. DC police chief Cathy Lanier has had her attempts at instituting community check points ruled unconstitutional and her “All Hands on Deck” policy determined to be a violation of police union workloads. But despite the setbacks Lanier’s policies of hyper-policing remain largely intact which means more of the same. Seitu argues that these tactics, coupled with Lanier’s hiring of more white officers from surrounding states, amounts to the tradition of “coon hunting” and will likely result in more Black women and men being unnecessarily incarcerated or worse still killed by police.

Of course, many of these issues have their roots in the ignoble beginnings of this nation’s relationship with African people. Others point more recently to this as an issue of DC’s lack of statehood which means, in this case, that DC Superior Court, despite the name, is a federal court with judges and prosecutors appointed rather than elected by city residents. In either case the issues against which Seitu and others struggle is the tip of a racist economic order that suffers a kind of inattention in this country that is simply inexcusable. All those who prefer the sexier issues of Israel and Palestine or Afghanistan and Pakistan will see no improvement in those issues while similar orders are in place and in practice right here at home.

For Black Agenda Radio I’m Jared Ball. Online go to

Jared Ball can be contacted via email at:

Direct download: 20100609_jb_SAonPotomas.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 5:22am EDT