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

Insane U.S. Oil Glut Wars

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

“The destruction of energy exporting economies will only intensify the global recession that has already begun.”

The people that rule the United States have determined that, the only way for the U.S. to maintain its hegemony in the world is to engineer the economic collapse of its rivals. The likelihood that such economic warfare will wind up dragging the entire planet into chaos and catastrophe does not seems to phase the Lords of Capital, who are so rich they can only be made poor at the point of a firing squad. Having surpassed Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world’s biggest producer of oil and natural gas, the Americans are now flooding the planet with fuel that no one needs in order to keep prices so low that Russia, Iran and Venezuela will suffer regime change. Washington is also eager to deploy its military and dirty tricks of all kinds to break its rivals’ will to resist U.S. empire.

The problem is, it’s very difficult to aim an oil and gas weapon. The effects tend to be general, rather than targeted. It’s kind of like poison gas; the wind blows death into everybody’s face, including the guy who popped the canister. The Americans have soaked the entire world with gasoline, and now they’re running around with matches between their fingers, laughing like maniacs, thinking they have the ultimate power because they can burn the whole place down. Yes, it is conceivable that the regimes in Russia, Iran and Venezuela could be brought low, broken, through years of depressed prices – but oil and gas prices can only be kept low if the world economy is also depressed, locked in stagnation. The destruction of energy exporting economies will only intensify the global recession that has already begun. Chaos, instability, unintended – and even unimaginable – consequences will surely characterize the next, purposely created crisis: a deliberate economic crime against humanity.

“Oil and gas prices can only be kept low if the world economy is also depressed, locked in stagnation.”

It has already become clear to the nations of the Caribbean and Central America that the disruptions imposed by the oil glut go beyond the drilling platforms of Venezuela. The 17 members of Petrocaribe have for years enjoyed access to Venezuelan fuel at cut-rate prices, with the best of credit terms, as part of the socialist country’s policy of solidarity with its neighbors. Venezuela even accepted payment in commodities, a kind of barter system. The Petrocaribe program was losing Venezuela about $2.3 billion a year, and with the collapse in world prices, Venezuela may have to scale back its generosity. Meanwhile, the U.S. is licking its chops, hoping to make the whole region dependent on American liquefied natural gas. But, we all know what dependence on the United States means in the Caribbean and Central America. It means the end of sovereignty, the end of dignity, and the certainty of continued misery for the masses of the people.

The artificial oil glut, on top of global economic stagnation, will also cause insane things to happen to a U.S. economy whose only bright spot – besides the Wall Street casinos – is an energy industry that keeps on churning out oil and gas that a stagnant world can’t use, just to spite other countries that have oil. How crazy is that? And how long can that go on?

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com, and sign up for email notifications of our new issues, each Wednesday.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
Direct download: 20150128_gf_OilGlutWar.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:15am EST

Not Charlie Hebdo: Why Anti Muslim “Jokes” Are Often War Propaganda

Not Charlie Hebdo: Why Anti Muslim “Jokes” Are Often War Propaganda

A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by Bruce A. Dixon

When you want to understand how the big wide world works you don't look back at yourself and try to make it rhyme with what you already think you know.

That means you don't ask smug, Eurocentric, self-congratulatory Bill Maher questions like “Why are they so touchy? How come those backward Muslims separate their religion from politics?” If you actually want to understand why some fraction of Muslims saw gratuitous insult instead of satire when the French magazine Charlie Hebdo depicted the prophet Muhammad doing things you wouldn't want your own small children to see, or pregnant Muslims as “Boko Haram sex slaves” howling for welfare checks, all you've got to do is look at is two bits of history. Philospher Karen Armstrong, in her latest book Religion and the History of Political Violence, goes a long way to break it down.

The first bit of history Armstrong explains, is that the notion of religion as a set of practices and beliefs about the diety you can perform on Sundays separate from how you put together political and economic life is an exclusively Western concept that nobody on earth before 17th and 18th century Europeans would recognize at all. The Sanskrit, Jewish, Arabic and other old terms for “religion” all mean something that recognizes no separation between politics, economics and morality and moral life.

It took more than a century of warfare in the 1600s and 1700s at a cost of hundreds of thousands of lives to establish a kind of religion in Europe which could be separated from politics and economics. That way Europeans could have slavery and capitalism. European ruling elites could exterminate tens of millions in history's greatest genocide colonizing the New World and still call themselves Christians. Non-European Muslims are being allowed only a generation or two and fortunately a lot less bloodshed to make that kind of transition, which brings us to Armstrong's second bit of relevant history.

She reminds us that the 20th century's so-called modernizers in the Muslim world mostly didn't do it with friendly and democratic persuasion. Under the approving eyes of the West, they did it forcibly, with secret police, torture, discriminatory laws, kangaroo courts and especially in Iran sponsored by Britain and the US, with bullets fired into crowds of often nonviolent protestors. In addition to needed reforms like curtailing shariah law, Turkey's Mufasta Kemal Atatürk, the Pahlevis in Iran and Egypt's Gamel Adbul Nasser each locked up thousands of religious opponents, and purged them from the civil service and political life.

This ain't exactly how you train people to engage in a friendly, respectful and civil discussion of religious and political differences. It IS how you make lasting enemies, every suspicious and vengeful, alert for the next slight or insult. But this is the real and relevant history Americans have trained themselves not to know.

Add to this the wave of armed US and European interventions in Muslim lands, our puppet governments, our occupations, torture campaigns and drone strikes, and factor in that even while cruise missile liberals like Bill Maher and US presidents say we just don't DO religious war, US military personnel “at the tip of the spear” call their enemies “hajis” and police departments in the US and Europe surveil Muslim communities wholesale and incarcerate Muslims disproportionately.

In this context, unlike jokes exposing the foibles of the powerful, which are real satire, Charlie Hebdo, which is now subsidized by the French government is engaged in something much like war propaganda. And Bill Maher is just another cruise missile liberal, a bully.

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

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a member of the state committee of the GA Green Party. Contact him via this site's contact page or via email at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.
Direct download: 20150121_bd_on_provoking_muslims.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:12pm EST

Selma: Black History According to Opra

Selma: Black History According to Oprah

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

“Oprah insults Black SNCC civil rights heroes, but she protects the white, rich Kennedys.”

Like all historical dramatic films, Selma is a political work, reflecting the political views of the producers. Oprah Winfrey is one of those producers, in addition to playing one of the characters in this version of the Selma story. Her handwriting – that is, her conservative Black political worldview – is all over the film, which demands and deserves a political response.

For the purposes of this brief radio commentary, I’m only going to register three complaints.

Number One: the film is a crude insult to SNCC, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee workers who, along with a small minority of Black preachers like Dr. Martin Luther King, comprised the infrastructure of the civil rights movement in the Deep South. These hundreds of heroic young people, who had been organizing communities in Mississippi and Georgia and, yes, Lowndes County, Alabama for years, and who invited Dr. King to come to Selma, are personified in the film by one confused sounding, infantile behaving youth who we are supposed to believe is James Forman, the SNCC executive secretary who was, in real life, a Korean War veteran and former teacher and ground-breaking organizer about the same age as Dr. King. In the film, the James Forman character comes across as petty-minded, while Dr. King is made to seem like the only adult in town. Veterans of SNCC have a right to be hurt at being consigned to the dustbin of history by the likes of Oprah Winfrey. The rest of us should also be angry at having our history treated like a Saturday morning cartoon.

“King was seeking social transformation, a new system of living.”

Some people are missing from the film that absolutely should be in there. No, I’m not talking about Stokely Carmichael, although yes, he is quite relevant to the story. I mean the Kennedy brothers, John and Bobby, who were the ones who authorized the bugging of Dr. King’s phones and office and hotel rooms. But Oprah loves the Kennedys, and so the movie leads the audience to believe that J. Edgar Hoover and President Lyndon Johnson set out to surveil and destroy King because of his push for voting rights. But Attorney General Robert Kennedy signed the order, while his brother, who was then president, was still alive. Oprah insults Black SNCC civil rights heroes, but she protects the white, rich Kennedys.

Finally, near the end of the film, Dr. King is depicted as yearning for an end to mass protests, so that Black people could achieve real political power – quite clearly meaning the election of more Black people to office. As if that’s what the mass movement was all about, in King’s mind. We know that’s not true, because Dr. King said the opposite in countless sermons, speeches, books and essays; that he was seeking social transformation, a new system of living. Three years after Selma, King died, still seeking to revive the mass movement.

For Oprah Winfrey, Dr. King was just an opening act for a future President Obama, and for an age of billionaire Black TV celebrities.

As Prof. Abdul Alkalimat, of the University of Illinois, has written about the film Selma: “If the most militant person in the movie is played by Oprah, you know something is very, very wrong.”

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com, and sign up for email notifications of our new issues, each Wednesday.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
Direct download: 20150121_gf_OprahSelma.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:51am EST

The Big Reality Show, the 1% and the Myth of the Thin Blue Line

 

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

 

There's a potent and powerful racist and classist myth that tough cops, jailers, judges and prosecutors are all that stand between us and rampant crime, anarchy and ruin. For American politics its an increasingly necessary fantasy, a myth that generations of public officials from jailing judges and hang 'em high prosecutors, to lock 'em up legislators, sheriffs, governors and even presidents have based their careers upon.

 

The myths are necessary because no modern society can openly abandon its duty to provide its people quality educations, decent housing, living wage jobs and economic security, unless it is willing to brand large numbers of those it won't provide education or housing or jobs and a dignified retirement unworthy, undeserving and irredeemable. The American political class of both parties, including black politicians stopped even talking about any rights to full employment, decent housing, economic security and the like decades ago, preferring to pretend that There Is No Alternative.

 

Thus the myths of the triflin' lazy, drug-addled crime-ridden, mostly black and brown poor are essential to the stability of America as we know it. These myths are the ethical and moral justification of the neoliberal economic order and its prison state. Overpolicing and mass incarceration don't just happen because the cops are racist, the prosecutors corrupt, and the legislators and media vicious and cowardly, nor are they driven by the profits of private prisons or captive labor.

 

America's savage police and prison states provide us with a long running reality show that justifies our profoundly unequal and unjust social order. It gives us a morality play that casts the criminalized and mostly nonwhite poor as villains kept at bay by the heroism of that thin blue line, while schools, roads, parks public works, nature and even water are privatized, while private and public pensions are looted, while student loan debt, black unemployment and underemployment continue to rise and wages continue to fall, while child homelessness is at an all time high and there are more vacant homes than homeless people, and while the rich and famous are celebrated and lionized for being famously rich.

 

This is something that politicians from the president down to local mayors and aldermen know, and top cops, from Homeland Security and the FBI to state and local departments know as well. It's something those in motion in the streets today over the last dozen and the next dozen police atrocities need to better understand and articulate. The burgeoning movement against police immunity and impunity really IS a threat to so-called “national security”, a menace to the privileges of banksters and employers, of privatizers and gentrifiers, the prerogatives of the 1%.

 

When more of them openly question these prerogatives in the same breaths as they do the privilege of cops to murder and maim with immunity and impunity, we'll be a long step closer to a better world.

 

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 member of the state committee of the GA Green Party. Contact him via this site's contact page or via email at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.

 

Direct download: 20140107_bd_thin_blue_line.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:59pm EST

Once Again, the US Empire Rolls the Dice of War

Once Again, the Empire Rolls the Dice of War

 

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

 

If the war against Iraq was dumb, the oil price war is the Mother of Dementia.”

 

Twelve years ago, the people who rule the United States wagered the fate of its decaying empire on a lightning military strike into the Middle East, beginning with the rapid conquest of Iraq. From there, the Americans planned to project imperial power deep into energy-rich central Asia, allowing Washington to isolate and strangle China, which was then only a few years away from becoming the world’s largest economy. America’s pivotal ally in the region was Saudi Arabia, the most reactionary regime on the face of the earth and a client state of the U.S. since the end of World War Two.

 

Instead of containing China, the Americans “accelerated the processes of their own ruin,”as I predicted on the very day they invaded Iraq. George Bush’s successor, Barack Obama, called it a “dumb war.” But, in fact, the Iraq War was a calculated act of desperate men, based on the inescapable facts of imperial decline and the logic of class survival. It was a war in which the potential damage to U.S. power and prestige in the world was weighed and measured against the consequences of allowing China to continue its rise, possibly in a future partnership with Russia, creating a new nexus of economic and political collaboration that would draw in Brazil, India, Latin America – and, eventually, even Europe. In other words, U.S. imperialism looked into the near future, and saw its own death. It chose not to die, but to preemptively re-set the global chessboard, knowing full well that failure in Iraq would hasten the pace of imperial decline. George Bush rolled the dice – and lost. But, that’s what any ruling class would do when staring death in the face.

 

Forestalling the Inevitable

 

Barack Obama, who answers to the same masters as Bush, entered office confronting the same scenario as his predecessor – only from an even weaker position. Obama chose to spread chaos through proxy jihadist wars in North Africa and the Middle East – in partnership with Saudi Arabia. But the pace of imperial decline had quickened decisively with the financial meltdown. Chaos is an unreliable weapon, and jihadists are no friends of Wall Street bankers or Saudi royalty. China is the acknowledged economic top dog, with Russia as a partner and the rest of the world reconfiguring itself. Death is still breathing down U.S. imperialism’s neck.

 

And so, Barack Obama, like George Bush before him, rolls the dice of war.

 

His partner, once again, is Saudi Arabia, without which the breathtaking plunge in oil prices could not have occurred. This time around, Washington aims to cripple Russia, before moving against China, by destabilizing the whole world’s energy sector – including U.S. energy production. But, that’s like setting your apartment on fire to get rid of an unwanted roommate. There is no way to calibrate and control such an assault on energy pricing, no possible means of avoiding a cascade of unintended consequences to the world economy. If the war against Iraq was dumb, the oil price war is the Mother of Dementia, and cannot help but further unravel all manner of capitalist structures – including deadly derivatives – throughout the planet.

 

But, doomed systems and declining classes will do anything to forestall the inevitable.

 

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com, and sign up for email notifications of our new issues, each Wednesday.

 

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

 

Direct download: 20150107_gf_OilPriceWar.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:45am EST