Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.
Freddie Gray Case Judge Rules it is Unreasonable to Expect Cops to Obey the Law

“If you’re going to go back and charge every police officer whose arrest was determined to be illegal with assault, you’re going to indict the entire police force.”

The cops charged in the death of Freddie Gray had another good day in a Baltimore courtroom, on Monday, when one of the six officers was found not guilty of second degree assault, misconduct and reckless endangerment. Officer Edward Nero had opted not to undergo a trial by jury, so the case was decided by a Black circuit court judge, Barry Williams. The trial of another cop, William Porter, ended in a mistrial back in December when the jury deadlocked on all four counts. If Officer Porter is tried again, it will be after the trials of all the other cops are completed.

But Officer Nero is home free, because Judge Williams ruled that there was “no evidence that the cop intended for a crime to occur.” Judge Williams was affirming the triple legal standard that exists in American law: one standard for cops, another for civilians in general, and no reliable expectation of justice at all for Black people.

Officer Nero was one of the cops that arrested Freddie Gray, dragged his limping body to a police transport wagon, and then failed to secure him with a seatbelt. Gray was given a wild ride through the streets of Baltimore, his handcuffed body crashing into the sides and front of the vehicle, fatally severing his spine.

Lawlessness Begins with the Lawmen

Freddie Gray’s only offense was to run away after making eye contact with a police supervisor – which is not a crime in anybody’s law book. But, as my colleague Bruce Dixon often says, cops are like hounds, and Black people are treated like rabbits, and when a rabbit runs away from the hounds they will chase it down and tear it apart.

So, the hounds are on trial in Baltimore. The prosecution maintains that the cops had no right to arrest and move Freddie Gray – that this amounted to second degree assault on his person. In her closing arguments, deputy state’s attorney Janice Bledsoe said “people get jacked up in the city all the time” by cops, and such behavior must be punished. But, the judge seemed to think it would be ridiculous to treat every arrest as criminal just because there were no grounds for arrest. Officer Nero’s lawyer agreed, saying it didn’t make any difference if the cops acted illegally in arresting Freddie Gray. “Wrong or right isn’t the standard,” said the cop’s attorney. “The standard is, were they so wrong that it was unreasonable?”

So, cops have to be more than just guilty of breaking the law; they must be “unreasonably” guilty – whatever that is.

Warren Brown, a defense lawyer who observed the proceedings, said: “If you’re going to go back and charge every police officer whose arrest was determined to be illegal with assault, or every search that’s deemed to be absent probable cause, [then] you’re going to indict the entire police force.”

Sounds good to me. Indict them all, and empower the people to form a security force that respects, and is answerable to, the community it serves. But, of course, it would be “unreasonable” for Black people to expect anything that smacks of justice in America.

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: 20160525_gf_BaltCopAcquitted.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:11am EST

 Dixiecrat Ballot Access Law Temporarily Overtuned: This is What a Voting Rights Breakthrough Looks Like

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

There's an opportunity for a major voting rights breakthrough in Georgia and several other southern states. It's a breakthrough that may allow third party candidates and campaigns on the ballot for the first time in many states in 70 years.

A few weeks ago the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals made a historic voting rights ruling in a lawsuit brought by the Georgia Green Party against Georgia's unfair election laws.

Back in the 1940s Georgia and other states feared that returning veterans, especially black ones would try to get on the ballot, most likely as communists or socialists. So the Dixiecrat legislatures in Georgia, North Carolina and elsewhere passed laws intended to make ballot access more difficult.

Current Georgia requires nominating petitions signed by one percent of statewide voters in the last election, for a candidate who's not a Republican or Democrat to appear on the statewide ballot. For 70 years, this Dixiecrat ballot access law has kept all candidates and parties which lack the support of friendly billionaires off the statewide ballot in Georgia. They did of course suspend the rule when their fellow Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond ran for president in 1948.

The Dixiecrat laws make it even harder for third party candidates in local elections. Not one but five percent of voters in the last election must sign petitions for local candidates to appear on the ballot. Want to run as a Green or independent for Congress in Georgia? You'll need an almost impossible 18 to 24 thousand voter signatures on your nominating petitions.

But in March 2016 a federal appeals court judge ruled in a lawsuit brought by the Georgia Green Party that Georgia's ballot access barriers for everybody except the two capitalist parties were3 unconstitutional, and temporarily lowered the number of petition signatures for statewide candidates in Georgia from 50,000 to only 7,500, provided these are filed by July 12, 2016.

That's less than eight weeks away. If activists in and near Georgia can mobilize and organize to get on the November ballot, that will make history. They … I mean WE... because I am co-chair of the Georgia Green Party will be the very first party on the statewide ballot not backed by the one percent in 70 years.

Georgia legislators 70 years ago knew what they were doing. They knew you couldn't vote for peace and justice if they didn't allow peace and justice candidates or parties on the ballot. Present day Democrats and Republicans know it too, which is why they've left Dixiecrat barriers to meaningful voter choice still on the books in Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee and especially in North Carolina.

If Georgia Greens can get those 7,500 signatures by July 12, and get one percent of the vote for the Green presidential candidate Jill Stein, we will have guaranteed ballot access for 2018, and we might also get the impossibly high barriers to local Green candidates lowered too. Georgia voters could see Green and independent candidates for school board, county offices, for state legislature, congress and the senate in 2018. Other states with similar rules can't be far behind. That's what a voting rights breakthough looks like.

The judge's ruling is only temporary, until the legislature meets next year. We expect neither Democrats nor Republicans in the state house want these barriers lowered. So we have to get through the door while it's open, to make it harder to close again. Help us out. Click http://www.jill2016.com/ga_ballot_access_07 and see what you can do. That's http://www.jill2016.com/ga_ballot_access_07, repeat http://www.jill2016.com/ga_ballot_access_07.

I'm Bruce Dixon for Black Agenda Report. Be sure to subscribe to our weekly email at www.blackagendareport.com.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and the co-chair of the Georgia Green Party. He lives and works near Marietta GA and can be reached via email at bruce.dixon@blackagendareport.com.

Direct download: 20160518_bd_ballot_access_breakthrough.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:07pm EST

If White People Love Drugs So Much, Why are the Prisons Full of Blacks?

“The way Black people actually behave is not nearly as important as the way the state intervenes in Black people’s lives.”

It is now commonly recognized that white people do more drugs than Blacks and Hispanics, but go to jail for it far less often. White kids also smoke and drink more than Black kids, which most people would assume should correlate with youthful rebellion or rowdiness, but it’s the Black kids that are expelled from school at far higher rates than those hard smoking, booze-swilling whites. What the numbers are telling us is that the way Black people actually behave is not nearly as important as the way the state intervenes in Black people’s lives. Crime statistics do not measure actual crime; they measure arrests and convictions. In that sense, crime statistics are actually measurements of the activities of police, prosecutors and judges; Black people are simply the objects that are being acted upon, by the criminal justice system.

Now, this does not mean that Black folks don’t engage in their share of crime; it simply means you can’t measure the prevalence of crime or anti-social behavior in the Black community by arrest and conviction statistics, or by expulsions from school.

Longitudinal studies are valuable sociological tools because they keep track of groups of people over a period of years, or even decades, rather than just presenting a snap-shot of the human subjects. This month, the American Journal of Public Health published the results of a longitudinal study of nearly two thousand young people who passed through the intake facility at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center in Chicago, Illinois, between November, 1995, and June, 1998. Researchers interviewed the juveniles about their substance-use disorders, or SUDS in the jargon of the profession. At intervals, over a period of 12 years, the researchers caught up with their subjects, and debriefed them on their use of alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, hallucinogens or PCP, opiates, amphetamines, and other drugs. They found that, not only were the white former juvenile detainees more likely to use drugs as they got older, their use of cocaine was 30 times higher than among the African Americans in the study. Hispanics were 20 times more likely to get coked up than Blacks. And whites were 50 times more likely than Blacks to be abusing opiates.

Deeply Troubled White Kids, Cruelly Oppressed Black Kids

These are extreme figures, showing a disparity in drug abuse behavior between Blacks and whites so huge, it could not possibly reflect the different ethnic groups’ behavior in society at large. White people as a group do not do 30 times more cocaine than Blacks. However, white kids that wind up getting caught by Chicago area police and sent to the juvenile detention center represent the most troubled segment of their age and race. Even white skin privilege could not save them from arrest. They were the most doped up of their young white cohort – and they stayed that way as they got older. Whereas, the Black kids that were passing through the Cook County juvenile detention center were much more ordinary – because picking up Black children and throwing them in jail is quite an ordinary thing for cops to do.

The study does not shed much light on race and drugs, but it does reveal a lot about race and the criminal justice system.

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: 20160518_gf_RaceDrugsCops.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:14pm EST

“Soft Coup” Finds Soft Target in Brazil

“Soft Coup” Finds Soft Target in Brazil

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

The scandal exposed the entire system as pervasively corrupt – but only Rousseff and her party are in the crosshairs.”

If the Brazilian politicians that are clamoring to impeach President Dilma Rousseff were opposed to corruption, they would impeach themselves, since 60 percent of them are facing some kind kind of corruption charges. Rousseff is personally squeaky clean. Her nominal offense was manipulating budget numbers so that her government could continue programs to help the poor after the bottom fell out of economy because of the global economic slowdown. But, the actual charge against Rousseff almost never came up when the lower house of the Brazilian legislature voted to impeach her, which is why the Speaker of the lower house briefly ruled the impeachment null and void – and then reversed himself less than a day later, clearing the way for the Senate to put Rousseff on trial and remove her from office.

Dilma Rousseff’s Workers Party and its allies on the left like MST, the Landless Workers Movement, call the impeachment drive a “soft coup,” and see the long arm of the United States at work. In 2013 Rousseff stood at the United Nations General Assembly, in New York, to denounce the Obama administration for spying on her. The U.S. spymasters didn’t get anything on Rousseff, who is clean, but they dug up plenty on the giant Brazilian state oil company, Petrobas, which is at the center of a web of corruption involving billions of dollars in bribery and payoffs to politicians and businessmen affiliated with a whole range of Brazilian political parties, including, of course, Rousseff’s Workers Party. The scandal exposed the entire system as pervasively corrupt – but only Rousseff and her party are in the crosshairs.

Disintegrating Alliances of Convenience

The Brazilian Left says it will take the battle “to the streets” and mobilize internationally to defeat the “soft” legislative coup. But, sympathizers outside of Brazil must wonder, How did it come to this? How did a party that, since 2002, has won majorities of the national vote even after the economy turned sour find itself being hounded out of executive power by yelping packs of thoroughly corrupt political hyenas?

The Workers Party had a huge national following, but it makes up only about 15 percent of the country’s legislature. Early on, its charismatic leader, “Lula” da Silva, made alliances with parties to his right, at the state and national level. The more the Workers Party became enmeshed with its capitalist partners-of-convenience, the further it moved from its grassroots support. The Workers Party embraced neoliberal austerity when times got rough, and shared cabinet positions and campaign funds with its erstwhile rightwing friends. This relationship was apparently reflected in the realm of corruption, as well, with a host of parties sharing in the feast.  All the while, the deeply reactionary and vicious Brazilian ruling class, which controls the monopoly media, awaited its chance to destroy the Workers Party, even at the risk of economic and social chaos. This “soft coup” could turn very, very hard, very quickly.

The Left hangs by a thread in Brazil, has been ousted in Argentina, and is halfway out the door in Venezuela, because the power of the capitalists in those countries remained intact. Capitalism is the ultimate corruption, that never quits until it is stamped out.

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: 20160511_gf_BrazilSoftCoup.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:32pm EST

Why Obama Silenced bin Laden

Why Obama Silenced bin Laden

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

“Bin Laden had to die so that al Qaida could live to fight another day for U.S. imperialism in Libya and Syria.”

Five years ago, this week, U.S. Navy Seals killed Osama bin Laden, in a fully wired, real-time assassination that was observed, half a world away by President Obama and much of his entourage. It was as if the high commission of the Mafia had gathered to watch the silencing of a witness who might testify to what the whole gang had been up to all these years. The SEALS that carried out the hit, supposedly the most disciplined troops in the U.S. military, made no effort whatsoever to capture bin Laden. Instead, they shot him on sight in the head and then raked his body with at least one hundreds bullets.

Bin Laden wasn’t going to do any talking to anybody; that was the purpose of the mission. The United States government had no interest in learning the real history or capabilities of al Qaida; they already knew every detail. They had been there, with bin Laden, from the very beginning, back in Afghanistan in the late Seventies and early Eighties, when the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Pakistan created the world’s first international Islamic jihadist network, with bin Laden at the center. The U.S. and its allies have been manipulating that network like attack dogs, ever since, siccing them on their enemies with one hand and then pretending to wage never ending war against the jihadists, with the other. It’s been one hell of a scam.

A Symbolic Decapitation, to Deflect Attention from a Huge Mobilization

There was an urgent need to take out bin Laden in May of 2011. The United States and its European and royal Arab allies were in the midst of another Shock and Awe offensive to bring down the secular governments of Libya and Syria, and they needed all the jihadist foot soldiers they could get. The trick was to pretend that the jihadists in Libya and Syria were really just freedom-loving political dissidents and patriotic “moderates” who were oppressed by their governments and, therefore, deserving of U.S. arms, financing, and air support. To pull that one off, Washington had to create the impression that al Qaida, the international jihadist network, had been drastically weakened and marginalized, so that Westerners would not be terrified watching Islamic fighters on television running around cutting off heads and shouting “God is Great.” Al Qaida had to be symbolically decapitated, through the killing of bin Laden, so that the U.S. could trick its own citizens, if not the world, into believing that the Arab fighters that Washington was backing were the good guys, even though they behaved just like al Qaida.

In short, bin Laden had to die so that al Qaida could live to fight another day for U.S. imperialism in Libya and Syria. The U.S. is still arming and protecting al Qaida, whose Syrian affiliate, al Nusra, is the main force holding the so-called “rebel” lines in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. The U.S. would be protecting the al Qaida off-shoot ISIS, as well, if ISIS had not decided to fight its own war, for its own reasons. Even so, the U.S. did not mount serious attacks against ISIS in Syria until the Russians intervened, which showed the whole world that Washington had been collaborating with the terrorists, all along – something that we might have learned of in great detail, if Osama bin Laden had been captured and put on trial.

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: 20160504_gf_WhyBinLadenDied.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:48pm EST