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

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

When the Gulf Disaster happened, President Obama had solid majorities in Congress and a free hand. Instead of using it to protect the public, he grabbed for the favor of oil companies and protected their homicidal, ecocidal practices. Can there be any doubt who Barack really is?

2 Years on, BP Gulf Disaster Proves Obama Just As Oil-Soaked A Political Stooge as Cheney or Bush

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

When you knock your cup of coffee over, that's a spill. When a giant oil company orders employees worldwide to evade safety protocols, and incinerates eleven people and discharges anywhere between 300 million and one billion gallons of toxic oil crude and carcinogenic “dispersants” into the air, water, fish, wildlife and people of the Gulf region, it's not a spill. It's a calculated act of murderous, ecocidal vandalism. It's a criminal conspiracy.

When you take pro-active steps to conceal the extent and effects of a murderous criminal conspiracy, steps like lying to the public about the amount of toxins discharged, or using the Coast Guard, the US Navy, federal and local law enforcement to prevent reporters or the public from flying over open waters, wetlands or beaches to gauge the extent of the disaster, you're a participant in the murderous criminal conspiracy.

When you're running for president, and you know giant oil companies have long histories of disregarding public safety, and you make campaign promises to restrict their reckless practices and you shed the promises like old lizard skins once in office in return for big wads of campaign cash you are every bit as much an oil-soaked partner in crime as Dick Cheney and George Bush were when they were in power.

When you restrict the damages recoverable from BP's holdings on five or six continents to just what can be paid for out of its Gulf revenues, you're protecting your cronies, not the public, and ensuring that BP's reckless operations in the gulf of Mexico will continue till more fish, wildlife and livelihoods are destroyed and until more people die in the next preventable disaster. And when you further protect the oil-soaked corporate criminals from liability by appointing the same clown to manage claims against BP that managed claims at the World Trade Center on 9-11, you can't be taken seriously as anything but another oil-soaked corporate stooge yourself.

When the Gulf disaster started and for seven months afterward, President Obama had whopping majorities in both houses of Congress, along with a mandate in the polls to rein in offshore drilling and a host of other homicidal and ecocidal practices of the energy industry. But this president does not use his political capital for the people or the environment or the noble but vague promises he makes on this or that issue from time to time. For another seven months, House Republicans couldn't even call a meeting without Democratic permission, and Senate Republicans could have been steamrolled with minimal effort. But Barack Obama and his Democrats passed no new laws, promulgated no new executive decisions to regulate Big Oil.

Two years after the Gulf Disaster, instead of seeking a corporate death penalty against BP, Haliburton and its co-conspirators, the Obama Justice Department has indicted a single mid-level BP engineer for erasing emails. Can there be any doubt now that our First Black President is nothing but a cynical and relentless liar, a corporate stooge in blackface who expects black and progressive Americans to have his back, while he stabs repeatedly us in ours?

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find Black Agenda Report on the web atwww.blackagendareport.com.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report. He lives and works in Marietta GA, and is a state committee member of the Georgia Green Party. Contact him at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.

Direct download: 20120425_bd_oil-soaked_barack_obama.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:51am EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The United States cannot follow the Finnish model to emerge from second class world educational status, because the Finnish system is based on social equality and esteem for the teaching profession. Here, “teachers are relentless hounded and degraded, made the scapegoats of society’s inequalities by sharing low scores with their students, whose families and communities are cut off from America’s wealth.” To compete, America must be radically transformed.

 

Why the U.S. Can’t Compete Educationally

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The United States, with the most striking social inequalities among the rich countries of the world, is simply not equipped to benefit from the Finnish model.”

President Obama this week told a White House audience honoring teachers of the year that elected leaders have “a particular responsibility…instead of bashing teachers, to support them.” By his side stood Education Secretary Arne Duncan who, as chief of Chicago’s schools waged holy corporate war on public school teachers, and now, with the enthusiastic backing of his boss, seeks to crush them as union members and as educational professionals, nationwide.

Obama is constantly holding forth about the need for America to achieve educational excellence – like Finland, which is top-ranked in the world. But a recent article in the Washington Post by Finnish educational leader Pasi Sahlberg makes clear that his country’s success is rooted in a comprehensive national system that strives for equity – for equality of access to resources for all Finland's people. The United States, with the most striking social inequalities among the rich countries of the world, is simply not equipped to benefit from the Finnish model, and will never be until the U.S. is transformed as a society.

Even the baby steps towards equity that Mr. Sahlberg says the U.S. must take to advance educationally, are anathema to the corporate powers-that-be. Finland guarantees equal allocation of educational resources to all communities, rich or poor; requires, by law, that all kids have “access to child care, comprehensive health care, and pre-school”; and it provides free education from pre-school through university. These are prerequisites for general, quality education – and are non-existent in the United States.

Finnish teachers are the “sole authority in monitoring the progress of students. There are no standardized tests in Finland.”

Teachers in Finland are respected professionals, with the prestige of doctors and lawyers, and a masters degree as a minimum. It is because they are so esteemed by society that Finnish teachers are the “sole authority in monitoring the progress of students.” There are no standardized tests in Finland.

Yet, here in the United States teachers are relentless hounded and degraded, made the scapegoats of society’s inequalities by sharing low scores with their students, whose families and communities are cut off from America’s wealth. Obama’s corporate privatization campaign relentlessly seeks to de-professionalize teachers, to replace them with young, essentially temporary employees who have no intention of making teaching their life’s work. With that kind of self-destruct mechanism, the U.S. will be lucky to remain in the global second tier of education also-rans.

Mr. Sahlberg keeps returning to the principle of social equity as an educational necessity. You can’t just keep shouting “Excel! Excel!” when the resources and support systems that would allow all children to reach their potential are hoarded by the rich and largely segregated by race.

The Finnish educator did not mention Finland’s ethnic homogeneity – that its population is 93 percent Finnish and the next largest group is Swedes. Sahlberg is a kind of diplomat as well as a teacher. But, here is the truth: the lack of a social compact in the United States has crippled the society in myriad ways, including its inability to take even the first steps towards educational equity. That absence of a social compact is rooted in white supremacy. Racism is why Deshawn can’t read and why Chip isn’t doing very well on a world scale, either.

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

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

Direct download: 20120425_gf_FinlandEd.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:54am EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Crime has been going down for nearly a generation, and the states have finally put the brakes on prison growth in response to the fiscal crunch. But Wall Street prison profiteers see the crisis as an opportunity. The Corrections Corporation of America has offered to buy nearly all the nation’s state prisons. “To ensure their profitability, the corporation insists that it be guaranteed that the prisons be kept at least 90 percent full.”

 

Private Prison Corporations Are Slave Traders

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The Corrections Corporation of America believes the economic crisis has created an historic opportunity to become the landlord, as well as the manager, of a big chunk of the American prison gulag.”

The nation’s largest private prison company, the Corrections Corporation of America, is on a buying spree. With a war chest of $250 million, the corporation, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, this month sent letters to 48 states, offering to buy their prisons outright. To ensure their profitability, the corporation insists that it be guaranteed that the prisons be kept at least 90 percent full. Plus, the corporate jailers demand a 20-year management contract, on top of the profits they expect to extract by spending less money per prisoner.

For the last two years, the number of inmates held in state prisons has declined slightly, largely because the states are short on money. Crime, of course, has declined dramatically in the last 20 years, but that has never dampened the states’ appetites for warehousing ever more Black and brown bodies, and the federal prison system is still growing. However, the Corrections Corporation of America believes the economic crisis has created an historic opportunity to become the landlord, as well as the manager, of a big chunk of the American prison gulag.

The attempted prison grab is also defensive in nature. If private companies can gain both ownership and management of enough prisons, they can set the prices without open-bid competition for prison services, creating a guaranteed cost-plus monopoly like that which exists between the Pentagon and the military-industrial complex.

If private companies are allowed to own the deeds to prisons, they are a big step closer to owning the people inside them.”

But, for a better analogy, we must go back to the American slave system, a thoroughly capitalist enterprise that reduced human beings to units of labor and sale. The Corrections Corporation of America’s filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission read very much like the documents of a slave-trader. Investors are warned that profits would go down if the demand for prisoners declines. That is, if the world’s largest police state shrinks, so does the corporate bottom line. Dangers to profitability include “relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws." The corporation spells it out: “any changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them." At the Corrections Corporation of America, human freedom is a dirty word.

But, there is something even more horrifying than the moral turpitude of the prison capitalists. If private companies are allowed to own the deeds to prisons, they are a big step closer to owning the people inside them. Many of the same politicians that created the system of mass Black incarceration over the past 40 years, would gladly hand over to private parties all responsibility for the human rights of inmates. The question of inmates' rights is hardly raised in the debate over prison privatization. This is a dialogue steeped in slavery and racial oppression. Just as the old slave markets were abolished, so must the Black American Gulag be dismantled – with no compensation to those who traffic in human beings.

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

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

Direct download: 20120425_gf_SellPrisons.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:49am EDT