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

There is no “new” Obama. He’s the same guy who put Social Security on the chopping block before even taking the oath of office, and “gave away the social programs store” in an attempt for forge a “grand bargain” with the GOP. “He will accept anything that can remotely be construed as a tax hike on some wealthy people as sufficient cause to return to his previous passion for savaging Medicaid and Medicare.” This isn’t about tax fairness; it’s about preserving what’s left of the New Deal and the Great Society.

 

Obama’s Phony “Pivot” on the Budget: The Trickster is At It, Again

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The president has not altered one iota his intention to sacrifice the legacy of the New Deal and the Great Society on the alter of deficit reduction.”

President Obama remains as eager as ever to slash away at Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and every other social program despised by his corporate backers – his new tone of voice and body language notwithstanding. There has been no substantive “pivot” in his debt reduction policies, only a cynical, cosmetic change of posture.

Obama’s own words betray him, if only people would actually listen. A straightforward reading of his remarks on Tuesday shows the president has not altered one iota his intention to sacrifice the legacy of the New Deal and the Great Society on the alter of deficit reduction. He simply asks that the Republicans make him look good doing it, by allowing some undetermined – and almost certainly token – taxes on the rich.

This supposedly “new Obama” –which he hopes resembles the much older Obama of his supporters’ imaginations – claims he will resist future reductions in Medicaid and Medicare – that is, unless the Republicans allow additional taxes on corporations and the wealthy. But he is perfectly willing to chop away if the Republicans budge from their position. Knowing Obama as we do after two and a half years, he will accept anything that can remotely be construed as a tax hike on some wealthy people as sufficient cause to return to his previous passion for savaging Medicaid and Medicare. All the president now insists upon is that the cuts not be one-sided.

All he wants is Republican cover to carry out his own deficit reduction massacre.”

Obama claims he is removing Social Security from the chopping block, if only temporarily. But he is the one who put Social Security there in the first place before he was even sworn into office, and has kept it in jeopardy ever since. Administration officials are telling reporters that Obama is not ruling out resurrecting the draconian cuts he proposed back in July – if only the Republicans would put a little grease on the wheels on the corporate tax side.

So, let us be clear about what has happened. The Republicans have consistently balked at any tax increases for the wealthy. Obama, who caved to Republicans on the Bush tax cuts for the rich late last year, and who had been perfectly willing to give away the whole social programs store this summer, now primps and postures as if he is defending those same social programs. But he’s not. All he wants is Republican cover to carry out his own deficit reduction massacre.

The whole conversation is out of whack. Progressives should not tolerate the bargaining away of programs that are vital to the health and welfare of the people, in return for taxes on the rich that will only go to reducing the deficit. Higher taxes on Exxon or Wal-Mart, even if they can be extracted from the Republicans, cannot make up for Social Security benefits or health care programs for those in need. The rich can spare some of their money. Medicaid beneficiaries cannot spare life-sustaining services. Obama is making this into an argument about notions of tax fairness, when the real struggle at hand is to maintain the meager social services that the United States still provides to its citizens.

The truth is, Obama is presenting the people with a losing proposition. If he somehow wins tax increases on the rich, then he will reciprocate, eagerly, with massive cuts to people's programs, and then call it victory. Under those circumstances, the best we can hope for is gridlock. Any Obama deal, is a bad deal.

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: 20110921_gf_ObamaDebtScheme.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:28am EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by editor and columnist Jared Ball

Kevin “Rashid” Johnson’s book has some calling him “this generation’s George Jackson,” the Black Panther and “Soledad Brother” assassinated in prison in 1971. Johnson, like Jackson, became a revolutionary behind bars, where he has spent over a decade in solitary confinement. Johnson presents “a powerful commentary on the failure of that which poses as political leadership in our world today” and of “revolutionary transformation while inside” the tomb of incarceration.

 

Defying the Tomb, Defying Illogic

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by editor and columnist Jared Ball

Johnson’s is a powerful commentary on the failure of that which poses as political leadership in our world today.”

Earlier this year when we received word of an attempt by Maryland prison officials to ban the recently published book by former Black Panther Party leader and current political prisoner Marshall “Eddie” Conway, we were reminded of the immediacy of the threat ideas can represent to established order. It was a reminder that only specific forms of incarceration and the impact of that incarceration are acceptable for mass consumption. Prison rape, assassination, criminal organization and all kinds of violence waged by and against guards is somewhat acceptable. Even escapes. Everyone routed for Clint Eastwood in Escape from Alcatraz just as we all did for Tim Robbins in ShawshankRedemption. But one aspect of incarceration we are certainly discouraged from truly considering and engaging is revolutionary shifts in consciousness that, through implementation, threaten not only the order imposed on prisoners but that imposed on all of us.

Defying the Tomb, last year’s published book of essays and letters from Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, is another example of the kinds of revolutionary change some undergo while locked up in this country’s prisons, or what Lawrence Bobo calls “internal colonies.” Unlike Conway’s once-banned book, Johnson’s is not the tale of one previously politicized and incarcerated for that political development and action. Johnson’s is one of revolutionary transformation while inside. It describes the particular response some have to imprisonment – both in and out of jail. It describes one man’s – actually, several men’s – grappling with revolutionary concepts, the very ones so many of us who are nominally free consider immature, passé. But in what world do we live where ideas of revolutionary nationalism, historical and dialectical and materialism, anti-colonialism, socialism, communism and violence have no relevance? What utopia have we achieved with the more acceptable and safe discussions of democracy, free-market, pluralism, or indeed, post-racialism?

In what world do we live where ideas of revolutionary nationalism, historical and dialectical and materialism, anti-colonialism, socialism, communism and violence have no relevance?”

In fact, as Johnson describes, the truly oppressive nature of this society creates a tendency to rebel against insufficient change. And this tendency took hold of him – as it does with many of us – long before becoming consciously revolutionary. The endless cavalcade of euphemisms used to deny the on-the-ground reality did little to prevent Johnson from almost immediately rebelling against the disorganized nature of anti-police sentiment, or as he says, “I’ve always been in something of a running battle with the establishment.” But the threat Johnson represents, a threat that has led so many familiar with him to call him this generation’s George Jackson, is the threat of organizing around an ever-increasingly radical and well-studied analysis of this society. The threat Johnson represents, one that has had him held in solitary confinement for well over a decade, is his unyielding willingness to continue, as he writes, “… studying, refining my views, and testing them in practice.”

Johnson represents a necessary resurgence of deep study, deep commitment to the people and the depth of radical ideas. His is a powerful commentary on the failure of that which poses as political leadership in our world today and the value of the suppressed ideas that, while unpopular, are still correct. After all, it is not simply the similarity in analysis or the fact that the book contains letters written between brothers, comrades striving to improve their ideas and organize around them that begs the comparison to George Jackson; it is the continuity of conditions or the permanency of the relationship held by Black people to the state and the state’s relationship to the world. Johnson’s book, its argumentation, its conclusions, even his artwork are further reminders of the incomplete revolution and the failure of our most popular “leadership” to advance what, as Tom Big Warrior writes in the book’s foreword, is the coming “revolutionary situation… not because of the actions of the Left [but] in spite of the Left’s inaction and decline.”

Defying the Tomb defies more than the incarceration of one man. It defies popular illogic concerning the conditions of the people and what they must do about them. It is a programmatic ideological blueprint for us all.

For Black Agenda Radio I’m Jared Ball. On the web go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

Dr. Jared A. Ball is an associate professor of communication studies at Morgan State University in Baltimore and is the author of I Mix What I Like! A Mixtape Manifesto (AK Press). He can be found online at: IMIXWHATILIKE.COM.

Direct download: 20110921_jb_Defying_the_Tomb.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:19am EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

After giving California prison officials weeks to demonstrate they were serious about negotiating five core demands, inmates at Pelican Bay state prison are preparing to go on hunger strike, again. The state seems intent on expanding its regime of torture and arbitrary solitary confinement. “Prison official Scott Kernan said the system planned to expand its solitary confinement regime to include allinmates categorized as being part of any ‘disruptive group.’”

 

California Prisons Hunger Strikes to Renew

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Many of the Pelican Bay inmates are in a weakened state of health.”

Inmates at the infamous Security Housing Unit of California’s Pelican Bay state prison say they will go back on hunger strike on September 26, convinced that prison officials have no intention of making a meaningful response to their fivecore demands. Pelican Bay was the nexus of 21 days of protest in July that, at one point, involved 6,500 inmates at 13 prisons. The protest draw national attention to the routine practice of torture behind prison walls in California and throughout the vast American Prison Gulag.

On July 20, inmate representatives voted to temporarily suspend their strike in order to give prison officials “a couple of weeks” to make good on their promise to give serious attention to the inmates five “core demands,” including clean, adequate and wholesome food, an end to group punishment, and a chance to get out of long-term isolation from human contact, in which inmates are held in solitary for 23 hours a day. But the weeks went by, and inmates finally concluded that prison officials were not about to meet any of the core demands. On September 1, Pelican Bay inmate representative Mutope Duguma told the San Francisco Bay View newspaper that the hunger strike would resume. There are indications that inmates at Calipatria State Prison will also be involved.

Supporters on the outside caution that this round of protest will be different than the first, both because many of the Pelican Bay inmates are in a weakened state of health, and because California authorities are anxious to keep the lid on the protest and avoid embarrassment for the state. On some levels, the authorities have gone on the offensive, claiming their practices are not torture, but meet constitutional standards, and that it is necessary to use the harshest methods to control what they claim are 3,000 gang “generals” – not captains or majors, but “generals” – who would otherwise kill guards and other prisoners on sight.

Prison officials claim it is necessary to use the harshest methods to control what they claim are 3,000 gang ‘generals.’”

Rather than subjecting their policies to an honest review, prison officials seem prepared to turn up the heat. In a meeting of the California State Assembly’s Public Safety Committee, prison official Scott Kernan said the system planned to expand its solitary confinement regime to include all inmates categorized as being part of any “disruptive group.” That’s a code word for gangs, but in reality can mean anything the authorities want it to mean, including politically-inspired inmates or any of the tens of thousands of prisoners who are arbitrarily labeled as gang-affiliated.

Faced with such state intransigence, the inmates at Pelican Bay see no alternative but to resist. Prison officials justify their torture regime, describing the Securing Housing Unit, or SHU, inmates as the “worst of the worst.” These officials preside over a system that is in the business of dehumanizing men, on an industrial, military scale.

Pelican Bay and the other torture chambers of the American Prison Gulag are among the theaters of war waged against Black and brown people in the U.S., a war that has plunged millions into captivity – including lots of whites as collateral damage. Those confined to the SHU are the treated as the equivalent of enemy combatants, with no rights, and no protection. Human dignity cannot survive in a nation that tolerates the existence of Pelican Bay.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go towww.BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com

Direct download: 20110921_gf_PelicanBay.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:56am EDT