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

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Far from harboring a desperate desire to rid himself of the Birther plague, Barack Obama needs them to divert attention from an economy that is “as bad as most people living have ever experienced.” Obama will have great difficulty running on his economic record, and does not fundamentally differ on economically from Republicans. But, “when compared to the Birthers and other assorted racists in the GOP, Obama appears to be the only civilized person in the room.”

 

Why Obama Needs the Birthers

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Charles Blow is mistaken in believing that Obama really wants the Birthers to get off his case.”

Charles Blow, the Black columnist for the New York Times, is a case study in the kind of liberal the administration is counting on to send Barack Obama back for another term in 2012. Blow is frustrated that the president has been so accommodating to the so-called Birthers – the huge chunk of the Republican Party that have convinced themselves that Obama is not, by birth, qualified to be president. Blow thinks that Obama has “buckled” to the Birthers, and is mistakenly allowing this racist mob to divert attention from the disastrous economic policies Republicans are pushing.

Blow is, of course, correct that the GOP and its Tea Party annex is the political home of white supremacy – although he doesn’t go as far as we at Black Agenda Report to say the GOP is the White Man’s Party. And Blow is right, that rich white people in America have always used race to distract other whites from fighting for their true economic interests. Where Blow goes wrong is in assuming that Barack Obama wants to wage his re-election campaign on the economic front. He is mistaken in believing that Obama really wants the Birthers to get off his case.

The fact is, Obama needs the Birthers, which explains why he has been so conciliatory and seemingly patient with their antics over the past two years. Obama, as much as the racists aligned on the other half of the political party duopoly, needs distractions – dead Osama Bin Ladens and ridiculous Birthers – precisely to avoid public concentration on the economy.

Obama is unprepared to wage economic battle with the GOP because he is in fundamental agreement with them.”

There are two, closely related reasons why this is so. One, this is a very bad economy, as bad as most people living have ever experienced, and the excuse that Obama inherited it from George Bush no longer plays with anyone but his most hardcore apologists. As University of Massachusetts political scientist Thomas Ferguson says, after two years, Obama “owns” this economy – and that is some very heavy re-election baggage.

Reason number two that Obama is unprepared to wage economic battle with the GOP, is that he is in fundamental agreement with them. Even before being sworn into office, Obama eagerly placed “entitlements,” including Social Security, on the chopping block. With both Houses of Congress controlled by Democrats, it was Obama who got the austerity ball rolling on his own initiative by appointing a deficit reduction commission hand-crafted to call for draconian cuts. Obama is in principled agreement with his Republican counterparts that government spending – not unemployment – is the nation's most serious problem. He differs from the Republicans only in the details and, as we are discovering, not that much. In short, Obama is neither inclined to nor prepared for an economic throw-down with Republicans, with whom he shares an ideology.

So: on the economy, Obama does not look good. But when compared to the Birthers and other assorted racists in the GOP, Obama appears to be the only civilized person in the room.

That's the way Obama wants to run his campaign, with the Birthers and the rest of the lynch mob yapping at his heals. In that scenario, people like Charles Blow will proudly stand with Obama against the racist rabble, despite the fact that the First Black President's economic alliance with Wall Street is destroying life as we know it for the vast majority of Americans. 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: 20110504_gf_Birthers.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:01am EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The U.S. anti-war movement was always a lot less than it appeared to be. At its height, activists claimed that the sheer weight of visible public opinion would shake power relationships to the very foundation. But it turned out that many of the anti-war legions were actually comprised of partisan Democrats who only opposed Republican wars. “For the phony anti-warrior, imperialism with a Democratic face, is just fine.”

 

The Phony Anti-War Movement

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Once Obama was safely in the White House, the anti-war movement was all but dismantled, having served its partisan political purpose.”

Two university researchers have proven, by the numbers, what the real anti-war movement has known for years: that many of the folks that turned out in such large numbers to demonstrate against America’s wars when George Bush was president, were really only opposed to Republican wars. Thus, when Barack Obama captured the White House, the so-called anti-war movement largely collapsed.

The new study was put together by Michael Heaney, of the University of Michigan, and Fabio Rojas, of Indiana University. It shows, essentially, that many Democrats were motivated to pick up peace placards and shout anti-war slogans more by their dislike of George Bush and the Republicans, than for genuine opposition to America’s multiple wars around the globe – wars that Obama expanded upon, while adding his own, new theaters of war. Professor Heaney puts it this way. “The antiwar movement should have been furious at Obama's 'betrayal' and reinvigorated its protest activity. Instead,” says Heaney, “attendance at antiwar rallies declined precipitously and financial resources available to the movement have dissipated.” The professor concluded that, “The election of Obama appeared to be a demobilizing force on the antiwar movement, even in the face of his pro-war decisions."

In other words, much of the anti-war movement was phony, a cynical gathering of partisan Democrats who were really never all that concerned for the victims of U.S. imperial warfare, or for the huge dislocations that the national security state places on the U.S. economy. No, they just wanted their guy, the Democrat, to winOnce Obama was safely in the White House, the anti-war movement was all but dismantled, having served its partisan political purpose. For the phony anti-warrior, imperialism with a Democratic face, is just fine.

Much of the anti-war movement was a cynical gathering of partisan Democrats who were really never all that concerned for the victims of U.S. imperial warfare.”

Heaney and Rojas came to their conclusions by surveying 5,400 participants in 27 anti-war demonstrations in Washington, DC, New York, Chicago, San Francisco and other cities from January 2007 to December 2009. The researchers carefully constructed the respondents' political and activist histories and affiliations. A clear pattern emerged: once Obama was elected, Democratic activists dropped out of anti-war politics. People affiliated with third parties remained, and became more central to the now smaller, but more radical, movement.

It really didn't require a university degree to understand that United for Peace and Justice, UFPJ, the anti-war umbrella group during the height of protest, was behaving more as an arm of the Democratic Party than as principled peace activists. The shallowness of these phony anti-warriors was so obvious, UFPJ was widely derided as United for Peanut Butter and Jelly.

A much smaller anti-war movement survives under the leader of UNAC, the United National Anti-war Committee.

The people that like the Democratic Party more than peace, are gone – and are not likely to return until the Republicans recapture the White House – at which point these phony peace advocates will pretend that they never left.

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: 20110504_gf_AntiWarStudy.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:59am EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR editor and columnist Jared Ball

What kind of nation finds “renewal” in targeted assassination, reaffirmation of its destiny in the ritualized killing of the ultimate “Other”? Must the U.S. national mission consist of paying $2 billion a week to blow up the poorest people in the world? How about simply changing the country’s public policy so as to make sure that Obama is actually responsible for less death and destruction than the so-called leading terrorist now recently and apparently deceased.

 

Osama bin Laden, Marshall “Eddie” Conway and the National Identity

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR editor and columnist Jared Ball

Killing bid Laden and incarcerating Conway all work to reaffirm our freedom and national identity.”

One sure way to not be moved by such anti-climatic events as the assassination of Osama bin Laden is to first speak with one of the dozens upon dozens of political prisoners held in this country. Talking with them is the surest barometer for measuring the absence of change. This week we spoke with Marshall “Eddie” Conway, former head of the Baltimore chapter of the Black Panther Party, who has recently co-authored a new book about his life and the more than 40 years he has spent behind bars for having dared to organize his community out of the mess in which it still remains. Conway and his co-author Dominque Stevenson discussed with us their new book Marshall Law: The Life and Times of a Baltimore Black Panther only a few short hours before the presidential announcement that our national reunion and healing could now recommence after the targeted, and therefore illegal, assassination.

The announcement sparked the latest of what is certainly a national pastime, the making of media spectacle. That spectacle and our conversation with Conway reminded me of the work of Orlando Patterson, who once described freedom and slavery as more on a “continuum” than mutually exclusive. One is based on the other. So as I heard Obama proclaim a collective reformation that is inevitable and “ours” I immediately returned to this idea; Patterson was right. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson could only achieve a sense of freedom and humanity by denying it to the enslaved. And while this may have been an embarrassment it would not demand repentance and certainly no change. Killing bid Laden and incarcerating Conway all work to reaffirm our freedom and national identity. Enslavement and colonization are as required today as ever.

To now claim to have struck a blow for freedom by killing bin-Laden, not to mention the countless thousands of others in the process, is only understood, is only given meaning, by the now invisible enslavement of women and men like Conway. It is an American freedom itself only understood by and interpretable in relationship to the enslavement of the tens of millions of Africans historically and the more than 2 million held today in the bondage of the nation’s penal system. This is how a freedom that the rest of us are conditioned to accept and appreciate is established and how the president can say in addressing the country about the killing of bin-Laden, “Today’s achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people.”

Today we don’t call mass incarceration and political imprisonment ‘peculiar,’ we just ignore it.”

This, as I understand it, is Patterson’s point made long-ago; the “achievement” of this national “greatness” and the extension of freedom to the world brought by the killing of terrorist number one is a concept born out of its distinction from the enslavement of others, and in this case of Conway. Certainly Conway and Stevenson make this point. Each describe the nature of our penal system and its origins in slavery. Each describe the relative conditions of enslavement, the look of the prison as a “slave ship” carrying the modern-day descended cargo of the cargo previously delivered. And it is as Patterson pointed out that the need to obscure what is happening here provided the impetus to initially refer to slavery as a “peculiar institution,” when as he points out, there was nothing at all peculiar about slavery in the world or its application here. Today we don’t call mass incarceration and political imprisonment “peculiar,” we just ignore it. And just as then we can now today believe Obama when he refers to the 10 year-later killing of bin-Laden as proof “that America can do whatever it is we set our mind to. That is the story of our history.”

Sure, we can do whatever we “set our mind to” which is precisely why the most powerful system of propaganda was developed to make sure that our minds are never collectively set to, for instance, freeing all political prisoners and ending the exploitative conditions that caused them to struggle in the first place. Instead of spending $2 billion a week fighting overseas, how about redistributing those funds here so as to make the world’s shining light of freedom and equality somewhat less than twice the average of the so-called First World in income inequality. Or how about simply changing the country’s public policy so as to make sure that Obama is actually responsible for less death and destruction than the so-called leading terrorist now recently and apparently deceased.

Obama was clear that bin Laden’s death will do nothing to stop the forward march of American imperialism. But one reason many of us were not moved by the killing is that we knew this to be true by simply looking here at home and specifically right at those still imprisoned despite an absence of proof but due to an abundance of a will to be free. What’s the call? Free’em all. Then maybe we can wave a flag.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Jared Ball. On the web visit us at BlackAgendaReport.com.

Dr. Jared A. Ball is author of I Mix What I Like: A Mixtape Manifesto and can be found atIMixWhatILike.com.

Direct download: 20110504_jb_USIdentity.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:54am EDT