Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.
by BAR columnist Jared A. Ball, Ph.D.

There was both déjà vu and surprise at the U.S. Social Forum. Déjà vu, in the feeling of being caught up in a stultifying search for meaningless “consensus politics” with “no clear goals and no clear steps to reach them.” But there was also the excitement of “ideas, criticism, flyers, books, all forms of media in fact, all being passed back and forth, with a hurried fervor.”

Consensus Politics Are No Politics: A US Social Forum Diary

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

It was the concern voiced by several with whom I spoke that a vague desire at the forum for ‘consensus politics’ meant in the end ‘no politics.’”

I was only at this week’s U.S. Social Forum for two full days. It was electric, exciting, full of motion, color and exchange. Ideas, criticism, flyers, books, all forms of media in fact, all being passed back and forth, with a hurried fervor. It is always nice to see well-intentioned people trying to connect and have their concerns heard by others who are likely to at least be sympathetic. But there is also a struggle to find how we go from these events to something more. In the end these gatherings take on a feeling of a real life activist Facebook experience: massive righteous self-promotion nearly to the point of stagnation.

And for some this sense of stagnation is more serious. Going from excited interaction to the assumption of power seems to be our version of “the bridge to nowhere.” Especially when it seems as though every issue raised at this forum is old, even worsening, and the same as those raised at the first US Social Forum in 2007 and those earlier at World Social Forums or the World Conferences Against Racism in 2001 and 2009. It was the concern voiced by several with whom I spoke that a vague desire at the forum for “consensus politics” meant in the end “no politics.” No clear goals and no clear steps to reach them.

There is a struggle to find how we go from these events to something more.”

But there we were in Detroit or “Destroyed” as Herb Boyd called it. And during a brief ride with my hosts Ollie Johnson and Lori Robinson who took Roberto Lovato and me around parts of the city we saw Boyd’s description in full effect. The emptiness of the city, the abandoned buildings and the poverty were all put in some context when Roberto told us that he had met folks at the forum from Juarez Mexico who were shocked at how similar a major U.S. city looked to their own. But out of that necessarily horrible comparison comes the potential linkages around which we can build.

I also did some work with Free Speech TV which covered a bulk of the forum. By conducting a few interviews for them I was able to hear about some interesting groups and efforts. There were anti-Zionist Israelis, pro-Arab Arabs, and good people working with the Youth Justice Coalition on youth incarceration in Los Angeles. And by simply being social at the “social forum” I got to meet Lynne Stewart’s partner Ralph Poynter and to see Claude Marks of the Freedom Archives who was there screening their recently completed film on the Counter Intelligence Program narrated by Cynthia McKinney. And speaking of my presidential candidate I also got to see again her running mate Rosa Clemente whose tremendous keynote speech on the legacy of hip-hop politics was given at the adjacent gathering of the Hip-Hop Congress national convention. With her and our colleagues in the Green Party Head-Roc, Anita Rios and David Cobb we discussed the future of the party which Cobb strongly suggests becomes the electoral outlet of those gathered at these kinds of events. As it stands now they obviously can no loner consider the Democratic Party as an option.

Cobb’s point was echoed albeit differently by my more nationalist comrades who each in their own way raised the question of building a political mechanism that currently does not exist. But that also leads to the equally powerful question of “how?”

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Jared Ball. Online go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.

Dr. Jared Ball can be reached at jared.ball@morgan.edu.


Direct download: 20100630_jb_USSF.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:34pm EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

In the endgame of casino capitalism, every “crisis” is an excuse to turn the screws tighter. The only solutions our leaders can propose are deeper cuts to social services, savage slashes in the government services ordinary people use, along with privatizations of public assets that benefit only a few of the best connected cronies.

All Power to the Casinos & Let the Devil Take the Hindmost! Who Needs A Social Safety Net?

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Your smiling TV business reporter has doubtless assured you that the Great Recession is over, whether it feels that way to you or not, and that what looks like the destruction of life as the average American once knew it is really just a large bump in the road to prosperity. However, he adds, there will be some belt-tightening. But that belt is a noose, and President Obama and most of his Democrats and all of the Republicans have joined a lynching party led by the Wall Street gang. They are hell bent on finishing off what’s left of the fragile social safety net in the United States.

The banksters are currently savaging Europe, tearing away at social democracy in a struggle to reverse two hundred years of civilization. They are bound and determined to kill off the very idea that society should be constructed for the purpose of taking care of people’s needs. The entire edifice of the European welfare state is to be disassembled on orders of international finance capital, leaving the citizens naked to the machinations of the moneyed classes.

We in the United States have never had much protection against the predations of the Lords of Capital, but the few we managed to win over the last four generations have been marked for destruction. This is the real “change” Barack Obama brings. On the eve of his inauguration, Obama promised his banker friends that every social and entitlement program would be “on the table” – the chopping block – during his administration. Now he is about to fulfill that promise.

Although Obama has not kept faith with any of the popular constituencies that elected him to office, he has rewarded his corporate backers with benefits thousands of times more valuable than their campaign contributions. He has given them the keys to the American state, from whose Federal Reserve they have extracted tens of trillions of dollars. They have invested virtually none of this money in productive pursuits, but simply fattened their own portfolios and funneled the rest of the cash into Wall Street’s gambling houses. In their great counter-revolution, the banksters rallying cry is, “All power to the Casinos! Death to the Social Safety Net!”

As progressive economist Michael Hudson puts it, Wall Street’s goal is “nothing less than to roll back Social Security and pensions for labor, health care, education and other public spending, to dismantle the social welfare state, the Progressive Era and even classical liberalism.” Obama made good on his promise to the banks at his State of the Union Address, vowing to freeze spending on discretionary items – but not, of course, the military – for three years, starting next year. He has failed to bring to bear the full powers of his presidency on behalf of the unemployed whose benefits have run out. But he will not break his promises to Wall Street. As economist Dean Baker reports, “President Obama’s deficit commission is moving forward with Social Security and Medicare explicitly in their sights…everything is on the table, except reforms that would hurt powerful industry lobbies.”

More and more, Barack Obama is showing his corporate teeth and running hard with the global banking wolf pack. Finance capital is busily robbing Europe of its social democratic legacy. Americans have only had the New Deal and the Great Society, and the last vestiges of that are on Obama’s chopping block. 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: 20100630_gf_PowerToCasinos.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:25pm EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

If war with Iran is insane, why is Obama acting crazy? “Stepping to the brink of war with Iran only makes a kind of macabre sense if the Obama administration feels in desperate need of a diversion.” The bigger the better, since the diversion must call attention from the goo in the Gulf and the air in people’s wallets.


Obama’s Iran Diversion: Forget About Jobs, Forget About The Gulf!

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Washington seeks to create an artificial confrontation with Iran in order to draw attention from the real, profound and multiplying crises that threaten, not just the Obama presidency, but global rule of finance capital.”

If there is a consensus among the sober inhabitants of the planet, it is that an armed assault on the Islamic Republic of Iran would immediately plunge the world into economic crisis and threaten a global firestorm. Yet all signs indicate that the United States and its Israeli partner are prepared to plunge into that terrifying unknown. Israel, of course, is an inherently unstable state, that feeds on crisis. But why would the United States consider diving into the Iranian abyss at this point in time, when America’s humiliation at the hands of a determined Sunni minority in Iraq is still a fresh memory? Stepping to the brink of war with Iran only makes a kind of macabre sense if the Obama administration feels in desperate need of a diversion. Washington seeks to create an artificial confrontation with Iran in order to draw attention from the real, profound and multiplying crises that threaten, not just the Obama presidency, but global rule of finance capital.

So, what does Obama do to divert attention from the gushing catastrophe in the Gulf – a disaster that starkly illuminates the subordinate role that the U.S. government plays to the Big Oil. Every barrel of toxic goo excreted into the Gulf of Mexico is testimony to the Obama administration’s subservience to Big Oil, both in the lead-up to the blowout and the aftermath. The whole nation is a witness that BP is still in charge.

How can Obama direct the public’s attention away from the jobless “recovery” from the Great Recession, which followed the jobless “recovery” from the 2002 Bush recession – the double-whammy of which erased the brief employment gains of the Nineties for whites and Blacks and left African Americans four times further behind whites in wealth accumulation than they were 20 years ago?

Obama needs to appear to be bashing some very unpopular people: the Iranian mullahs.”

What’s an Obama to do to hide the fact that, after passage of his sham financial reform legislation, he must resume the business as usual of pleasing Wall Street by freezing discretionary non-military spending starting next year and putting the fate of Social Security in the hands of an appointed commission dominated by wealthy interests.

How can Obama mask the reality that the U.S. has no intention of leaving Afghanistan or Pakistan or Iraq, or of vacating any of its close to 800 military bases in nearly 60 countries – ever! – unless militarily defeated or otherwise forced out? The U.S. has never in modern times voluntarily relinquished its bases, and continues to add more at every opportunity. Iraq and Afghanistan are no different, and shuffling generals around will not provide enough of a facsimile of movement for long. Obama needs a unifying cause to rally the American public, to justify the oceans of money spent on weapons of war. And for that, Obama needs to appear to be bashing some very unpopular people: the Iranian mullahs.

And so, the U.S. and Israel now dance at the edge of the precipice, amassing forces to further encircle Iran, including the recent passage of U.S. and Israeli warships through the Suez Canal enroute to the Persian Gulf. American preparations for war against Iran are well advanced. Obama may not even know if he is bluffing or not, but he does know he needs a diversion from all the current and looming crises that have nothing to do with any Ayatollah.

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: 20100630_gf_IranDiversion.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 9:14pm EDT