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

Giving Thanks For Whistleblowers, Leakers, Old and New Maroons

A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

There are selfless and courageous people, and representing precious historical traditions for which we ought to pause and be thankful. In early 21st century North America, these brave souls are whistleblowers and leakers, the spiritual and sometimes the literal descendants of maroons.

Maroons were the scourge of slaveholding societies in the New World from Brazil and Surinam to Colombia, Cuba and all the West Indies. Maroons were slaves who resisted by escaping, remaining at large and wherever possible, forming communities to actively resist their recapture. In Brazil, one community of maroons called Palmares remained independent for nearly a century, repelling dozens of raids and incursions by Dutch and Portuguese slavemasters. Black Brazilians still celebrate the life of Zumbi, the last leader of Palmares every November. There were armed maroon uprisings and sustained maroon wars throughout the Caribbean. In Haiti it was maroon uprisings, in conjunction with competitions between colonial powers which ultimately led to the world's first republic established by former slaves. There were maroons in the United States as well, though roads and railroads and free back country whites, things that existed nowhere else in the slaveholding Americas, made sustainable maroon communities immensely more difficult, but not impossible.

Today's whistleblowers and leakers, like the resisting slaves of two and three centuries ago, are the bravest and most selfless among us. Like the maroons of two centuries ago, they risk their careers, their and what personal freedom they do have to tell the truth about corporate and government wrongdoing, for which they often pay heavy prices. Our own Marsha Coleman-Abedayo is one of these courageous souls.

No US administration has been more vicious in its efforts to pre-emptively clamp down on government employees and contractors than that of our First Black President. Unaccountable private corporations are every bit as savage in the pursuit of employees and journalists who expose their practices. Corporations like Amazon and many Big Ag firms have bribed state and federal officials to enact a wide range of gag laws forbidding former employees to write or speak about working conditions and practices in warehouses, factories, farms, pharmaceutical plants and laboratories to name just a few places under pain of years in state or federal prison. Corporations have used their influence in government to label some of these truth tellers as “terrorists”, exposing them to a galaxy of extra punitive measures.

The fates of Private Chelsea Manning, of fugitive Edward Snowden, and dozens or hundreds of well-known recent political prisoners are also eloquent testimony that the tradition of individual modern maroons is alive and well. And though WikiLeaks, an international newsgathering collaborative, analogous to a global maroon community has been severely weakened by illegal financial maneuvers endorsed by hostile governments, it still releases important new information like recent details of the secret negotiations of the so-called Trans Pacific Trade Partnership.

You won't find the tradition of the maroons in the black church today, or in black businesses, or among blacks in public office. You'll find it among those who stand up for the poor against corporate and government abuse – among our whislteblowers, our leakers, our maroons. For this, we should pause and give thanks.

For Black Agenda Report, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a member of the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. He can be reached via this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.

Direct download: 20131125_bd_giving_thanks.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:16pm EDT

A More Perfect Union”: Historian Henry Louis Gates Mangles, Obscures Black History

A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

The final installment of Dr. Henry Louis Gates' latest PBS series, “Many Rivers To Cross” was nothing to write home about.

It was a lazy and dishonestly drawn picture purporting to do what black scholars whoring for the establishment in the age of Obama are always trying to do, namely paint the rise of the black misleadership class and its first black president, Barack Obama as the logical and the inevitable outcomes Sof the black Freedom Movement of the fifties and sixties, and of what they misleadingly the Black Power movement of the sixties and seventies.

I call it “lazy” because instead of illuminating the contexts, the causes and the consequences of social and historical forces like real historians are supposed to do, Gates spins up a series of images and vignettes connected only by superficial commentary and narration.

He begins with the assassination of King, the rebellions in dozens of US cities, and five or six minutes on the Black Panther Party, emphasizing armed self-defense and coolness, while entirely omitting its socialist politics and how its opposition to the horrifically bloody war in Vietnam in which 2 or 3 million Asians died won it lots of allies in white America and around the world. The Black Panther Party was not a Black Power movement, it was a movement of black people against capitalist and racist empire.

In place of real analysis, Gates slides in a couple chummy minutes with Ron Karenga, nowadays a fellow professor whose US organization, as part of the FBI's COINTELPRO back in the day, murdered several Panthers in cold blood. Gates and Karenga share a chuckle about how FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover really didn't mean what he said about the Panther Party being the “greatest threat to the internal security of the United States.” What Hoover really feared, the guy who shot Panthers offered helpfully, was “...a united black front.”

From there, Gates slips in quick succession back to the Panthers, to “black is beautiful” and Don Cornelius's Soul Train, to affirmative action and the birth of the current corporate-oriented black elite, including his own experience at Yale. He solemnly reflects upon the Cosby's and how the image of upwardly mobile black life spoke to his own experience. Gates doesn't forget to remind us that most of black America is relatively poor, over-policed, ill-housed and generally ill-served, and even uses the term “mass incarceration” a good two dozen times. At 36 minutes he mentions Katrina, but the only analysis offered is Kanye West on how “George Bush don't like black people.” From there Gates segues to Barack Obama's visit to Katrina evacuees at the Houston Astrodome, and the tears many shed at his inauguration.

A real historian noting the real status of black political power might have pointed out that Democrats, including the numerous and powerful Congressional Black Caucus refused to convene hearings on Katrina for fear of being labeled the black folks' party going into the 2006 elections. But Gates is not laboring under that burden.

Skip Gates doesn't want to teach us 52 minutes of history. That's not his job. His job is to justify the glittering careers of people like himself and his class, and the First Black President who are somehow supposed to represent the oppressed, even as they remain oppressed. His job is proclaim that he and his like are the pinnacles of black achievement, the fruits of our people's long struggle, the aim of and the end of the long march of black history, or something very like it.

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

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, a state committee member of the Georgia Green Party, and forty some years ago was a rank and file member of the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party. Contact him via this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.

'

Direct download: 20131125_bd_skipgates_vs_blkhistory.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:36pm EDT

Obama’s Ludicrous Afghanistan Declarations

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

Since when has the U.S. voluntarily left anyplace it has forcibly occupied?”

The most ridiculous actor in the fictitious U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is not President Hamid Karzai, the hustler the U.S. installed as its puppet after the American invasion in 2001. The real clowns in this charade are those Americans that pretend to believe President Obama when he says the U.S. war in Afghanistan will end on the last day of next year. Obama is, of course, lying through his teeth. The United States and its NATO allies plan to keep 10,000 to 16,000 troops in the country, occupying nine bases, some of them set aside for exclusive American use – and would remain there at least ten years, through 2024. Shamelessly, Obama claims these troops – including thousands from the Special Operations killer elite – will have no “combat” role. It’s the same lie President Kennedy told in 1963, when he called the 16,000 U.S. troops then stationed in Vietnam “advisors,” and the same bald-faced deception that Obama, himself, tried to pull off, unsuccessfully, in Iraq – until the Iraqis kicked the Americans out.

Barack Obama has arrogated to himself the right to redefine the very meaning of war, having two years ago declared that the 7-month U.S. bombing campaign against Libya was not really a war because no Americans were killed. In Afghanistan, Obama waves his semantic magic wand

to transform the past 12 years of war into 10 more years of not-war, simply by changing the nomenclature. This is hucksterism from Hell.

There is zero chance of a zero option.”

If there was a Devil, he would be laughing his butt off at Susan Rice, Obama’s National Security Advisor and raving Banshee of War, whose assignment is to pretend that the U.S. might choose the so-called “Zero Option” if President Karzai doesn’t immediately sign away his country to the Americans for the next ten years. By “Zero Option,” Washington means it might just pick up its killer soldiers and weapons and leave Afghanistan. But that’s an empty bluff. Since when has the U.S. voluntarily left anyplace it has forcibly occupied? There is zero chance of a zero option. But, I am reminded of the events in 1963 Vietnam, when the Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother were overthrown and executed in a U.S.-backed coup. Sending the homicidal Susan Rice to get in President Karzai’s face is definitely some kind of threat.

Far from ending U.S. imperial wars, Barack Obama has expanded the theaters of armed conflict. He tried to keep U.S. troops in Iraq, but the Iraqis insisted on the withdrawal terms and timetable they had negotiated with President George Bush. Iraq is now paying a heavy price, as the U.S. and its allies arm Iraqi Al Qaida and other jihadist elements fighting to overthrow the government of neighboring Syria. These U.S.-backed jihadists – the same ones the Americans fought against in Iraq for eight years – now wage war against Shiites on both sides of the border.

If there is any hope for an eventual peace in the region, it is that Washington might finally begin to understand that it can no longer control events through brute force, or by using jihadists as surrogates in the Middle East and South Asia. Maybe that’s why the Americans have tried to strike a deal with Iran. Maybe President Karzai thinks the winds of change will be sweeping through his neighborhood, soon, and he doesn’t want to go out like the puppet he came in.

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

Executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20131127_gf_ObamaStan.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:30pm EDT

Just Like Bush: US Under Obama, Thumbs Its Nose at the World on Climate Change

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Is there really any place where electing Democrats to the White House really makes a difference? Sometimes, people who call themselves progressives get it twisted, and imagine that environmental affairs are one of those places. But are they, really?

The world was shocked when the oil-soaked administration of George W. Bush openly thumbed its nose at the Kyoto Protocol, claimed there was no such thing as man-made climate change and refused even to send representatives to global climate change summits. The current Democrat in the White House ran with vague promises, amplified by his “progressive” surrogates, to rein in the oil companies. But now all that looks like empty campaign rhetoric, the cultural fluff that temporarily distinguishes the two parties from each other when they campaign, but vanishes when they govern.

Barack Obama was president, with a thumping Democratic majority in both houses of Congress when the DeepWater Horizon exploded and thousands of square miles of the world's most productive fishing grounds were poisoned. The Obama administration lied to the public about the extent of the leak, used the Coast Guard and US Navy to keep reporters and experts from flying over or visiting into the affected areas, made sure the token settlement didn't much affect the assets of the guilty parties, and passed no law or regulations to make sure it couldn't happen again.

This week, internal memos of the US Secretary of State's office demonstrated continued US determination to thumb its nose at the future of humanity in the face of climate change, refusing even to discuss reparations to the poorer countries whose growing deserts, raging storms, rising sea levels and collapsing agriculture are direct results of massive overconsumption of fossil fuels by the wealthier parts of the world. So China joined 133 countries – basically the entire developing world, in walking out of this year's UN Summit on Climate Change.

There was, they concluded, nothing left to talk about with the representatives of wealthy countries like the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia and Britain, who have already burned enough coal and petroleum to make deserts in African and Asia larger, begin to melt large sections of the polar ice cover, decisively changing the world billions of poor people have to live in, while preaching to them about their solemn duty to conserve, and adapt. The developed countries will not “adapt” themselves, will pay no reparations for global damages already inflicted and to come, and led by the world's greatest environmental scofflaw, the United States of America, refuse to agree to any binding reduction in the rates and amounts of poison they dump into the planet's oceans and air.

Democrats or Republicans, environmental promises or none, the corporate elite of the developed world are rogues and outlaws. Suck it up, they tell the poorer countries. Adapt. We'll give you a loan (at ruinous interest) to do that. Conserve. We'll audit you. But nobody, the rich countries say, regulates or audits us.

No wonder the Chinese, and most of the world decided there was nothing more to talk about.

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

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and a state committee member of the Georgia Green Party. Contact him via this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.

Direct download: 20131120_bd_climate.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:33pm EDT

Obamacare is Doomed by Its Internal Logic

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

Private insurers make money by betting against the health interests of their customers.”

Obamacare is unraveling, not because the administration is particularly incompetent or unlucky, and certainly not as a result of the Republicans’ unrelenting hostility to the Obama health insurance plan. Indeed, ever since the bill’s passage in early 2010, the GOP’s holy war against Obamacare has served to solidify reflexive Democratic support for what has always been a Republican-inspired bill.

The truth is, the Affordable Health Care Act is coming undone because of its own, tortured internal logic. At root, it is a fraud on the public: a scheme to subsidize and more deeply embed a private insurance system that can only make profits by denying sick and vulnerable people health care, and playing different demographics of Americans against each other. As every other industrialized country in the world has already learned, it is impossible to build a genuine, universal healthcare system on a cut-throat capitalist foundation. Private insurers make money by betting against the health interests of their customers. Obama served his corporate masters by conspiring to make tens of millions more Americans into customers of private insurers. He tried to dress up one of the greatest corporate subsidies in history as if it were a solemn national mission, a rebirth of the social compact between the American people. But of course, Obamacare is no such thing; it is a racket to prop up private insurers with public money, while allowing the profiteers to continue to run the show.

It is a fraud on the public.”

You can’t hide a truth that big. The Obamacare website has suffered from terminal complexity because white collar crime is usually quite complex. The web site attempts to reconcile the profit margins and various products of a universe of private insurance corporations, while at the same time pretending to serve the health needs of the people at an affordable cost. Obamacare claims to be in the business of serving both the public and corporate stockholders. But that’s mission impossible. If Obamacare is based on making profits for private corporations – if that is what keeps the system going – then the public’s health care needs will always be an afterthought. And, that will be obvious in the way that the website is organized as a sales platform that matches federal subsidies with corporate products, rather than matching people with the medical resources they need to survive and thrive.

Website complexity and failures aside, Obamacare can never become part of a national social compact, something of which all Americans can be proud. That’s because, by definition, corporate insurance schemes divide people into “winners” and “losers” – although, of course, the big winner is always the corporation. Young, healthy people know they are the fatted calves of the insurance business, and they are avoiding Obamacare like the plague. If this were really a national health care program, like Medicare for All, then most young people would join in the national health care mission. But this is just Obama working a scam for the insurance companies, and young folks know it. Anybody who manages to get access to the web site knows it.

The fatal flaw in Obamacare can’t be fixed. The best thing that could happen would be a quick and total collapse. Large majorities of Americans still support Medicare for All, but Obamacare stands in the way of a real national health plan – just as the Republican right-wingers that invented Obamacare back in 1989 intended.

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: 20131120_gf_Obamacare.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:11pm EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

You know Black folks are in trouble when a Saturday Night Live skit provides more insight into African American politics than all the Black so-called political “analysts” at MSNBC. “Most African Americans are wholly unconcerned about Obama’s actual legislative and executive agenda.” The people are left defenseless, for the sake of an icon in the White House.

The Tragi-Comedy of Black Politics in the Age of Obama

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

Was there anything that Obama could do that would cause him to lose these Black folks’ support?”

Since the beginnings of Obamamania, we at Black Agenda Report have traced the appalling disintegration of Black politics at its most fundamental level: the evaporation of critical thinking when it comes to the actual policies of The First Black President. In speeches and in articles, I have often noted that much of Black America has ceased expressing their own political convictions on issues of war and peace and social justice, in favor of upholding whatever position Barack Obama seems to be taking. It is not that Blacks have embraced Obama’s aggressive militarism, his intimate relationship with Wall Street, or his relentless assaults on the social safety net. Rather, most African Americans are willfully oblivious of the nuts and bolts of what this president has wrought, or in the details of his plans for the future. They are wholly unconcerned about Obama’s actual legislative and executive agenda. The subject hardly comes up. As we wrote just two months ago, “The topic of Black conversation is usually not ‘What is Obama doing,” but, rather, “How is he doing?’”

So, it was somewhat disconcerting to see NBC’s Saturday Night Live’s recent five-minute skit about a fictitious Black public affairs program called, “How’s He Doing,” which the host described as “the show where the Black voter takes a frank and honest look at President Obama and asks, How’s he doing?”

In the sketch, Obama could do no wrong. Actors playing a writer for Ebony Magazine and a political science professor from Spelman College came up with comical rationalizations for the NSA spying revelations and the shaky start of Obamacare. They could not imagine breaking with Obama, whether he chose to become a Muslim, a Jew, a Scientologist or even an atheist. Was there anything that Obama could do that would cause him to lose these Black folks’ support? Apparently not.

They could not imagine breaking with Obama.”

It was a well done skit – and funny, in the moment. And then, at commercial break, deeply sad – not because it reflected the truth, but because the truth is much worse than a comedy sketch. It is not just that Obamacare’s web site is a disaster, but that his healthcare plan is a Republican scheme that will condemn additional millions of Americans to an early death, especially Black and poor people. The NSA spying revelations are more than an embarrassment; they reveal plans for a police state such as the world has never seen – and we know what American police states do to Black people. Those who are caught up in Obama’s spy web will have no recourse to the courts, under his preventive detention without trial regime. Obama maintains a “Kill List” and is as eager as any Republican to massacre tens of thousands in aggressive wars. He has already gone public with his plans to cut Social Security, on which Blacks disproportionately depend.

None of this is fiction, and it’s not a bit funny. At the end of the Saturday Night Live skit, the actors have a huge laugh at the very idea that things might have been better under Mitt Romney. But Black people and most of Saturday Night Lives white audience would have resisted Mitt Romney if he had sought preventive detention and more U.S. foreign wars and cuts in Social Security. But, they let Barack Obama get away with it – which is why he is the more effective evil, and why Wall Street and the Pentagon have the last laugh.

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: 20131113_gf_ObamaSNL.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:25pm EDT

Rwandan War Criminals Defeated in Congo, But AFRICOM Riding High

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

The U.S. has no intention of allowing anything approximating justice to break out in central Africa.”

After 17 years and the death of six million Congolese, the United States has finally shifted gears in its efforts to dominate central Africa. Earlier this year, Washington cut off military aid to Rwanda, which, along with Uganda, another U.S. ally, has been looting and terrorizing the mineral-rich eastern Congo since 1996. All those years, U.S. Democratic and Republican administrations have lavished arms and money on the two client states, and protected them from sanction by international forums and courts. The genocide in the Congo was central to U.S. policy in the region. While 8 percent of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s population was dying, Rwanda and Ugandan soldiers and thugs got rich acting as middlemen, funneling Congo’s precious minerals to multinational corporations. Meanwhile, both Rwanda and Uganda supplied soldiers to every U.S.-approved military mission on the continent, acting as America’s mercenaries in Africa.

So, why did the U.S. alter its policy? First, international pressure finally made it untenable for Washington to continue deploying its Black henchmen to destabilize central Africa. President Obama appointed former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, a liberal by American standards, as his emissary to the Great Lakes region of Africa, and halted delivery of weapons to Rwanda. The Americans allowed the United Nations to form a special, 3,000-man intervention brigade empowered to use force against the so-called rebel group M23, which is actually led by the Tutsi-dominated government of Rwanda. This week, UN intervention forces backed up the Congolese army defeated the M23, sending its remnants fleeing across the Rwandan and Ugandan borders. The “rebels” announced they would end their insurgency.

Rwandan dictator Paul Kagame cannot be expected to turn on his own men.”

However, Rwanda has pulled these tricks before, and has never acknowledged that M23 is its own creation, or that many of the fighters’ top officers are, in fact, members of the Rwandan armed forces. According to Friends of Congo, the Washington-based advocacy group, there is only one way to ensure that M23 will not resurface by some other name, and that is to bring these genocidal criminals to trial. However, this would require that Rwanda turn them over to the Democratic Republic of Congo or some international authority. Rwandan dictator Paul Kagame cannot be expected to turn on his own men, and the United States would not relish a series of trials in which its own role in the slaughter of millions would be revealed in embarrassing detail.

Therefore, although Washington has put distance between itself and Rwanda, the U.S. has no intention of allowing anything approximating justice to break out in central Africa. The U.S. military command, AFRICOM, has grown by leaps and bounds under President Obama – who has permanently stationed a brigade of U.S. troops in Africa – and the reinforced United Nations military presence in the region does exactly what the United States tells it to. And finally, at the end of the day, the Rwandan and Ugandan regimes understand that they are only cogs in the imperial machine, and must do as they are told. The U.S. empire is alive and growing in central Africa.

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: 20131106_gf_CONGO.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:43pm EDT