Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.
Gridlock (Once Again) Rescues Social Security from Obama and the GOP

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

 

 

 

Gridlock (Once Again) Rescues Social Security from Obama and the GOP

 

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

 

What saved Social Security – for the moment, at least – was the Republicans continued refusal to join the First Black President in a Grand Bargain.”

 

President Obama now says that he won’t include cuts in Social Security as part of his upcoming budget request to Congress. His apologists on the left, like MoveOn.org, quickly “thanked” Obama for the gesture, grateful that they wouldn’t have to eat another Satan’s Sandwich from the White House kitchen. But the Democratic loyalists should not be allowed to take credit for changing their hero’s mind about Social Security. Obama hasn’t paid them a bit of attention in the past five years, knowing that, every time an election rolls around, they will return to the Democratic Party fold like hungry puppies, or wayward children.

 

What saved Social Security – for the moment, at least – was the Republicans continued refusal to join the First Black President in a Grand Bargain in which the two business parties would work hand in hand, in the spirit of bipartisanship, to dismantle what’s left of the social safety net. Barack Obama fervently hoped that he would go down in history as the man who finally unraveled Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, through a consensus of the two major parties. He repeatedly stuck out his hand to his corporate colleagues on the other side of the aisle. Luckily for the rest of us, however, the Republicans always slapped his hand away, preferring gridlock to a shared victory.

 

And so begins Year Six of the Obama presidency, with another White House assault on entitlements frustrated, not so much by progressives, but by the intransigent, racist Right. Gridlock, once again, to the rescue.

 

Barack Obama fervently hoped that he would go down in history as the man who finally unraveled Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society.”

 

We at Black Agenda Report take some pleasure in saying, We told you so. Specifically, back in November of 2010, when the Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives, we concluded that, given the relationship of forces, gridlock was the best we could hope for. “Let us pray for gridlock,” I wrote, “because all else is disaster.”

 

Obama had already handpicked a deficit cutting commission whose job was to create an austerity model that the Republicans and the right wing of the Democrats could agree upon. The more liberal Democrats would be cast into the dustbin of history, along with their favorite social programs. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said those Democrats who balked at Obama’s steady rightward course were “crazy” and “ought to be drug-tested.” The liberals’ feelings were hurt, but of course, they kept coming home like little puppies. They suffered through 2011, when Obama put all entitlement programs on the grand bargaining table – only for the Republicans to ultimately reject the collaboration in favor of overreach and games of chicken.

 

Essentially, gridlock – and its associated drama – has prevailed on Capitol Hill ever since, preventing Obama and the Republicans from coordinating their strategies on behalf of the One Percent. Race plays a definite role in this – and, for once, it has worked in the people’s favor, by keeping natural corporate allies, who share very similar agendas, at each other’s throats much of the time.

 

But, this gridlock on the Right will end sooner rather than later. The people’s domestic programs, international peace, and the viability of the planet, must ultimately be saved by a people movement, or it will not be saved, at all.

 

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: 20140226_gf_ObamaSocSec.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:48am EST

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

The electoral scenery must be quite depressing to those who think change must come through the ballot. The system disgorges “a multiracial cast of scoundrels from both major parties coiled up incestuously under the same corporate tent.” However, something different may be afoot in at least three points on the map.

 

A Tale of Three Cities: Newark, Jackson, Seattle

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

The vote is hardly worth casting, these days.”

Electoral politics, the arena that half of Black America was barred from entering until only about 50 years ago, has become a vast wasteland, hopelessly polluted by corporate dollars. Black electoral politics is no exception. It’s been only a little over a decade since corporate America got serious about creating a new class of right-wing Black Democrats. Corporate money made Cory Booker a U.S. senator and a household name; elevated the Memphis idiot Harold Ford to national prominence; and totally neutralized the Congressional Black Caucus as a force for progressive…anything. Black mayors are, for the most part, nothing more than vassals of corporate boardrooms – just like most of their white and Latino counterparts. The vote is hardly worth casting, these days, with a multiracial cast of scoundrels from both major parties coiled up so incestuously under the same corporate tent.

That’s why what’s unfolding in Newark, New Jersey, Jackson, Mississippi, and Seattle, Washington, is so rare – and important.

In Seattle, there’s a group of folks who don’t mind working hard and building alliances, all the while telling the world that socialism is the only alternative to barbarism. Kshama Sawant, the newly minted city councilperson, and her Socialist Alternative comrades have forced corporate Democrats to pretend that they really would like to see the city’s minimum wage raised to $15 an hour. Socialist Alternative also demands that the rich pay for an overhaul of public education and transportation – a platform that most people would support, if they thought it had a chance of passing. Kshama Suwant and her comrades believe that people will vote in their own interests if the candidates have proven they are trustworthy.

In Jackson, Mississippi, 66 year-old Mayor Chokwe Lumumba has proven his selfless dedication to social transformation over many decades; as an activist with the Republic of New Africa; in his capacity as a people’s lawyer; and as one of the founders of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. He has now gathered members of that movement for an experiment in radical governance of the biggest city in the belly of the Mississippi beast. Mayor Lumumba and his comrades want to encourage a cooperative economy to build “wealth equity, economic democracy and self-determination in Jackson,” the South, and the nation. So far, there’s already been an unsuccessful attempt to impose a state takeover of local Jackson government, like in Detroit.

In Newark, New Jersey, which Cory Booker made into a playground for corporate educational experimentation, city councilman and high school principal Ras Baraka is running for mayor. He’s the son of the late poet/activist Amiri Baraka, and if even a fraction of the crowd that showed up for his father’s funeral actually works for his campaign, he’ll win. Ras Baraka opposes recent school closings and promises to bring economic development to the neighborhoods. But, when you are the son of Amiri Baraka, the subtext will always be self-determination – and what exactly does that mean when you’re running and governing as Democrat, as are both Baraka and Chokwe Lumumba? The theory seems to be that, since the Democrats don’t really stand for anything, then maybe they can be forced to tolerate some degree of radical Black politics. We shall see how that works out in practice.

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: 20140219_gf_TaleOf3Cities.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:26pm EST

Online DEA Manuals Show How Feds Use NSA Spy Data, Train Local Cops to Construct False Chains of Evidence

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

One of the least remarked upon chunks of Edward Snowden's voluminous revelations about government spying on civilians has been the fact that the Drug Enforcement Administration, the federal police agency created to fight the war on drugs, has funneled illegal NSA surveillance to local police agencies around the country.

New disclosures now allow us to see online the DEA training manuals with which Drug Enforcement Administration agents are taught to coach local police departments across the country how to lie about their chains of evidence and sources, how to willfully violate the law and cover their tracks in thousands or tens of thousands of cases every year in order to fill the cells of the US prison state with drug defendants.

This is not hype. This is not exaggeration. It's the literal truth. You can read the DEA's own manuals online at Muckrock.Org spelled M U C K R O C K dot org. MuckRock.org is a project funded by the Sunlight Foundation to assist journalists and citizens make and disseminate the results of Freedom of Information Act requests from federal, state and local. Thanks to one such recent request, you can now go to the MuckRock.Org site and view copies of the DEA's own training materials. These materials depict an amoral, out of control police regime respecting no Constitution and no laws. DEA agents are told the evidence is unconstitutionally obtained, and that this has to be concealed from prosecutors, judges and above all from the public, some of which is still under the quaint notion that there are laws even cops and prosecutors must obey. The manuals cynically spell out how DEA agents should coach local police departments to use what they know is illegally obtained information in order to construct false chains of evidence.

This is a literal smoking gun that depicts how the intelligence apparatus seamlessly blends with federal and local cops to prosecute the 40 years failed war on drugs, the greedy front end of the US prison state.

There have been plenty of African American voices who have pooh-poohed the significance of Edward Snowden and his revelations. TV talking heads Joi Ann Reid and Melissa Harris-Perry have called him a traitor and said he ought to be locked up. Congressional buffoons like Rep. Jim Clyburn say he only did it to embarrass the black president, and others insist that his whistleblowing has nothing to do with black life as we live it.

But chronic overpolicing only happens to black and brown people, and chiefly the poorest of those. Blacks and brown people are the majority of drug defendants, charged with stiffer offenses and given longer sentences than white drug defendants. Illegal surveillance, turned into illegal evidence, backed up by an officially condoned web of lies about how that evidence was obtained, have long been a crucial element in the unfolding of the prison state to enclose poor black and brown communities.

If Edward Snowden hadn't told us the NSA was gathering this evidence, and the DEA was using it, we'd never have known. So if Snowden is indeed a traitor he betrayed the cops not us. If he's a spy, he's spying for the people, not for the prison state, which is a problem for some of our black misleadership class.

For Black Agenda Radio I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com, and view the DEA manuals or make your own Freedom of Information Act requests through Muckrock.org at muckrock.org.

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

Direct download: 20140205_bd_nsa_dea_manuals_online.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:35pm EST

Another Black Face on MSNBC: Good News For Joy Ann Reid, Not So Much For The Rest of Us

A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by BAR Managing Editor Bruce A. Dixon

“A lot has changed in fifty years, and a lot hasn't, a few things have gotten better and many others have gotten worse.”

Back in 1962, when I was twelve years old growing up on the south side of Chicago, and a black face showed up on TV, I remember my mother going to one of the windows of our apartment and shouting to the neighbors whose windows faced us less than 20 feet away. "Quick, there's one of us on channel 2!" To be fair, sometimes she used the phone for this too, and recall receiving these calls as well as seeing them made.

That's really how it was back in the day half a century ago. We knew we were black, we knew we were here, we knew we mattered somehow, but in the world of corporate-owned television, we had been rendered all but invisible, made to pretty much disappear.

There really were not a lot of black faces on the tube at all, so seeing one was a kind of affirmation, a tangible proof, in a strange way, almost as if the world brought to us by corporate owned broadcasting was more real than our own lives, that we really did exist, that we really did matter somehow in the scheme of things. We were looking for our own faces, our own stories, our own voices in corporate media and public life, and since we'd never even been able to pretend to have these things before they assumed an enormous importance for us that is hard to understand in today's world.

A lot has changed in fifty years, and a lot hasn't, a few things have gotten better and many others have gotten worse. Black unemployment is still double white unemployment, and black wealth remains a tiny fraction of white wealth. Gentrification is still the only model of urban economic development on offer, and the number of black faces in prisons and jails has grown enormously since 1963, the last year whites were a majority in US prisons and jails.

But black voter registration has never been higher, there have never been more black elected and appointed officials on every level from mayors to sheriffs to legislators and generals and even a president. So things are indeed getting better, at least for some of us. Things are certainly looking up for the family and friends of Joy Ann Reid, who's getting her own slot in the MSNBC TV daily lineup, alongside Al Sharpton, Rachel Maddow, weekender Melissa Harris-Perry and the rest of that crew.

Just as Fox News is the propaganda arm of the Republican party, the White House and corporate Democrats, as if any other kind really matter, have MSNBC on lockdown. You don't earn a daily slot on either side of corporate media if you're not a consistent and effective shill for corporate interests – for the privatization of public education, for US imperial interventions and war crimes in Africa, South Asia and the Americas, for fracking, for unfettered police spying, and for only attacking the bad things the other party does. That's Joy Ann Reid to a T, and that's how you earn those slots at Fox or MSNBC and that's how you keep them.

The last real journalist with a daily MSNBC slot was Phil Donahue, who was fired for giving air time to lefty criticisms of the invasion of Iraq. The big boys at Comcast, which owns MSNBC must have a lot of confidence in Joy Ann Reid to use her black face to effectively represent their interests.

A half century ago we imagined that if there were more black faces in more high places, they'd represent our interests. Silly us. We really didn't see this coming.

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. He lives and works in Marietta GA and can be reached via this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.

Direct download: 20140205_bd_joi_an_reid.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:04pm EST

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

As the Smarter Sentencing Act moves through Congress, President Obama's apologists, fabricators and fans are concocting and spreading a false narrative of him and Eric Holder as a “prison reformers.” In reality, the administration “has placed legal roadblocks in the way of release for thousands” and “has no intention of limiting the scope and powers of the prison state.”

The “Smarter Sentencing Act ”and White House Fakery: Obama Poses as Prison Reformer

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

Obama’s legacy to the nation is the shrunken husk of a Constitution.”

President Obama’s spin doctors have been working overtime revising his administration’s historical record on criminal justice issues. On the most fundamental level, the Obama team can fairly be described as the most anti-civil liberties U.S. regime in modern times, having substantially destroyed the principle of due process of law through its preventive detention legislation and unprecedented abuse of World War One-era espionage laws. The Obama Justice Department takes the fascist-inspired position that Americans have no inherent Constitutional right to access to the courts. Due process, in their minds, consists of whatever process the government finds convenient. Obama’s legacy to the nation is the shrunken husk of a Constitution.

However, in the wake of widespread Black outrage at the Trayvon Martin verdict, the administration found it politically advantageous to dress up as criminal justice reformers. Obama and his attorney general mouthed words of sympathy for at least some of the millions locked away in the mostly Black and brown gulag, especially non-violent drug offenders. In truth, the Obama White House is behind the curve on criminal justice issues. Significant numbers of Republicans and lots of corporate think tanks have for some time favored scaling back the U.S. prison system, if only because it is so expensive. But, the Obama team has no intention of limiting the scope and powers of the Incarceration State. How could anyone believe that an administration that spies on virtually all of its citizens, would ever consider seriously scaling back its institutional capacity to imprison an unlimited number of people. Therefore, Obama puts forward only cosmetic and provisional proposals such as selective clemencies and commutations for a small number of inmates – but nothing that strikes at the institutional heart of the system. It is all sham and smoke, cynicism and hypocrisy.

Obama puts forward only cosmetic and provisional proposals.”

As both Margaret Kimberley and Bruce Dixon have reported in these pages, the Obama administration has fought in the courts to keep in prison about five thousand inmates convicted under the old, 100-to-1 crack versus powder cocaine laws. Attorney General Eric Holder’s lawyers argued against making the new 18-to-1 law retroactive, thus revealing the administration’s hard core mass incarceration mentality. While thousands of mostly Black inmates languished unnecessarily in prison, a bipartisan group of lawmakers pressed forward with the Smarter Sentencing Act of 2014, which has just passed major hurdles in the Senate. In addition to making reduced crack cocaine sentences retroactive, the bill would get rid of some mandatory minimum sentences – although the devil is in the details. The legislation has very broad support – just as did the crack cocaine penalties rollback bill – and is part of a growing consensus among U.S. ruling circles that the prison system is too large. Even the right-wing Heritage Foundation has offered a qualified endorsement. The truth is, the Obama administration has exerted no real leadership in this regard, but instead has placed legal roadblocks in the way of release for thousands.

The president didn’t even bother to mention U.S. prisons or the Smarter Sentencing Act in his State of the Union address. Yet, a number of publications, such as the New York Law Journal, erroneously credit Obama as a prison reformer – which is an absolute fiction.

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: 20140205_gf_SmarterSentencing.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:04am EST