Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.
Black Agenda Radio for Week of January 30, 2017

Obamacare is Doomed; It’s Time for Single Payer

Instead of attempting to salvage the doomed and fatally flawed Affordable Healthcare Act, progressives should seize the time and push for single payer health care, said pediatrician and political activist Dr. Margaret Flowers. “Eighty percent of Democratic voters want a single payer health care system, and now polls are showing that even Republicans, particularly those with lower incomes, are moving into majority support for National Improved Medicare for All.” The push, however, must come from the people, not the Democrats. “Even Sen. Sanders has backed down and is saying, Let’s protect the Affordable Care Act now and we’ll fight for single payer later,” said Flowers. The HOPE campaign -- “Health Over Profit for Everyone” -- begins February 1.

On Reparations, It’s Not a Question of “If,” but “How”

There’s been a substantive change in H.R. 40, the Reparations legislation Rep. John Conyers has introduced every year since 1989. Originally, the bill called for a study of whether Black Americans had been injured by slavery and Jim Crow. But now, according to Kamm Howard, chairman of the legislative committee of N’COBRA, the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America, the bill “begins with the focus that reparations are due, and how does this government engage in reparative initiatives.” He said the 2001 United Nations World Conference on Racism, in Durban, South Africa, made clear the enslaving nations’ “obligation to make repairs” to descendants of the victims. Howard helped Rep. Conyers’ staff reframe the legislation.

Will Democrats Help Trump Renegotiate NAFTA?

“If President Trump wants to enact a renegotiated NAFTA, he’s going to have to work with the Democrats to figure out how to build a majority” on Capitol Hill, “which will be comprised of most of the Democrats and a handful of Republicans,” said Lori Wallach, director of Global Trade Watch for Public Citizen. President Bill Clinton pushed the NAFTA corporate trade deal through Congress against the wishes of majorities of Democrats. “The reality is, you will never get a majority of the Republicans in Congress to change the old NAFTA,” said Wallach. NAFTA might not end in a renegotiation. “If President Trump continues to be so disrespectful to other world leaders,” Mexico or the U.S. might simply withdraw from NAFTA.

Courtrooms as Political Forums

Veteran Black activist Efia Nwangaza had been looking forward to a jury trial on charges of blocking a Greenville, South Carolina, intersection two years ago to protest a Missouri grand jury’s failure to indict the cop that killed Michael Brown, in Ferguson. However, Greenville authorities dropped the charges the day before her trial, depriving Nwangaza of the opportunity to put on a political defense. “The purpose of the demonstration was to call attention to police impunity and their slaughtering of us from one end of the country to the other,” said Nwangaza, director of the Malcolm X Center for Self-Determination and a leader of the state’s Stop Mass Incarceration Network. With the courtroom venue no longer available, Nwangaza and her defense team will now bring the issues before a people’s tribunal and “strengthen the cause that has been advanced by the Uhuru Movement for Black community control of the police.”

Black Agenda Radio on the Progressive Radio Network is hosted by Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey. A new edition of the program airs every Monday at 11:00am ET on PRN. Length: one hour.

Direct download: black_agenda_radio_20170130.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:09pm EDT

Flint’s 1000-Plus Days Without Safe Drinking Water

“Residents have been fooled ‘too many times’ and will never trust the water again.”

Flint, Michigan, a city that used to be famous for producing cars but gained notoriety almost three years ago for its poisoned water supply, last week marked its 1000th day without clean drinking water. Nevertheless, the 100,000 mostly poor, predominantly Black residents of Flint have been informed that the current levels of lead in their water no longer exceed federal limits. That would be good news – if you could believe it, and if lead were the only problem with Flint’s water. Mona Hanna-Attisha doesn’t believe the water is safe for drinking. She’s the pediatrician who helped blow the whistle on skyrocketing rates of lead in the blood of Flint’s children, after state emergency financial managers forced the city to draw its water from the heavily polluted Flint River. Dr. Hanna-Attisha says the federal regulations are too weak to protect young brains and bodies from stunted development.

Gina Luster, a community organizer in Flint, warns that, even if lead levels are down, the there’s plenty of other harmful stuff in the water. Her advice is, “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.” Luster says she and other residents have been fooled “too many times” and will never trust the water again.”

Nine people have so far been criminally charged in the poisoning of Flint’s water, eight of them state employees. But no one at the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which has broad powers over the whole country’s water supply, has been charged with a crime. The EPA, however, is on President Donald Trump’s hit list -- not for failing the people of Flint, but for sometimes getting on the wrong side of Trump’s friends in polluting industries. The Trump administration has frozen all EPA grants and contracts, which put in question $100 million that Congress allocated to help Flint replace and repair its water infrastructure. Michigan’s two Senators, both of them Democrats, got worried when they heard about the freeze from news reports. Neither the White House nor the EPA could say for sure whether Flint’s money had been tied up by the freeze. Plus, the money doesn’t exactly have Flint’s name on it. The $100 million is supposed to be awarded to “a municipality that is, or has been, the subject of an emergency declaration due to lead contamination. The bill doesn’t mention Flint by name. However, the funds should eventually find their way to Flint, since it’s the only city in the country that fits that description.

Multiply that by 3,000

But, when it comes to lead poisoning, Flint is anything but alone. An investigative report by the Reuters news agency, in December, showed that children in nearly 3,000 communities across the country show lead levels in their blood at least twice as high as kids in Flint. In more than 1,100 neighborhoods, kids tested four times higher than children in Flint. At the peak of the contamination of Flint’s water, 5 percent of children tested had high levels of lead. However, in some neighborhoods in South Bend, Indiana almost one-third of the kids had high lead levels. Pennsylvania is the state with the most census tracts with lead-contaminated water. Thirty-six percent of the kids in Warren, Pennsylvania tested high for lead.

So, if Flint needs $100 million to tackle a lead problem that is, supposedly, close to under control, how much money is needed to make the water safe in 3,000 other communities across the country?

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: 20170125_gf_FlintWater.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:26pm EDT

Black Agenda Radio for Week of January 23, 2017

Irrationality Reigns: After All the Lies, Some Folks Still Believe the CIA

Ajamu Baraka, the Green Party’s vice 2016 presidential candidate, said he is appalled at the spectacle of “progressives” and even self-styled radicals “parroting the Democratic line that the Russians are a threat” to U.S. democracy. This new McCarthyism is “a strange diversion” and “a demonstration of the irrationality of politics in the U.S,” said Baraka, who is also an editor and columnist for Black Agenda Report. It represents “the complete abandonment of critical thought, embracing the State and propping up the intelligence agencies as authoritative sources even after the years of deception, disinformation, and psychological operations that we know is the modus operandi of the CIA. It is absolutely bizarre.”

Blacks Should Stop ‘Hitch-Hiking’ with the Democrats

Black people made political alliances “with whoever came along -- like a hitchhiker,” said Omali Yeshitela, chairman of the Black Is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations. “When you catch a ride as a hitchhiker, you’ve got to go wherever the driver is going. That’s what being with the Democratic Party was about, and we are determined that that mess is over.” The Black is Back Coalition makes alliances based on the principles of Black self-determination and opposition to imperialism – which is why it has held together since the first year of the Obama administration. “Trump is president because of the crisis in the imperialist system,” said Yeshitela.

Poor People’s Campaign Tackles MLK’s Unfinished Work

The scourge of poverty has increased since the Poor People’s Campaign of 1968 was interrupted by the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said Willie Baptist, a veteran of the welfare and homeless movements, and now an organizer of the 21st century version of the campaign. “Poverty has gotten worse, with huge sections of the middle strata being rendered homeless and a good section of the poor rendered superfluous,” said Baptist, now based in New York City at the Union Theological Seminary’s Kairos Center. Changes in technology are “not just saving labor, it’s actually eliminating labor,” he said. “The world’s productive capacity totally outweighs its purchasing capacity. As a result, you have poverty in the midst of plenty.”

Afro-Colombian Leader Beheaded

Rightwing paramilitaries are suspected in the murder of Emilsen Manyoma, a leader of a network of Black and indigenous community organizations. “Her assassination was a response to the work she was doing, defending the rights of Black people,” said Charo Mina-Rojas, an Afro-Colombian political activist who reports that over 200 Black and indigenous leaders were killed last year, despite a peace agreement between the government and FARC guerillas. Blacks and natives in Ms. Manyoma’s region are under pressure from coca producers and illegal mine operators and their gunmen.

Where Did All the Black and Latino Teachers Go?

Back in 2002, 27.2 percent of the teachers hired by the New York City public schools were Black or Latino. By 2012, the proportion had shrunk to 11.6 percent. What happened? “When you look at what’s been going on for the past 15 years, you see a picture that requires people to point to the real causes of the disappearances, and to change those policies,” said Sean Ahern, a political activist who teaches juvenile prisoners at the giant Rikers Island jail. Ahern blames the drop in minority teachers on “mayoral control” of the schools, “high stakes testing, school closings, charter school push-ins” -- essentially, the whole program of so-called “reform” that was pushed by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and championed by the Obama administration.

Black Agenda Radio on the Progressive Radio Network is hosted by Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey. A new edition of the program airs every Monday at 11:00am ET on PRN. Length: one hour.

Direct download: black_agenda_radio_20170123.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:38pm EDT

Is It Time To Revoke John Lewis’s Lifetime Civil Rights Hero Pass?

Is It Time To Revoke John Lewis’s Lifetime Civil Rights Hero Pass?

 

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

Sheroes and heroes are people who take risks, who make great personal sacrifices to perform difficult and important duties for others. By that standard John Lewis and the six hundred who walked that bridge in Selma Alabama 52 years ago are heroes whose actions helped pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Let’s agree on that.

But long should that hero pass last? How many years, how many decades do you get to to boast and roast and toast and coast before you need to do something else even mildly heroic to keep your status current?

It’s not like Lewis has lacked new chances to serve the people this last half century. He’s represented a metro Atlanta district in Congress the past 28 years. Ruled by black mayors and the black political class since 1973, Atlanta has billed itself as “Black Mecca” though for more than half of black Atlanta there’s been little to celebrate. Black mayors have relentlessly gentrified the city, starting with the Carter Presidential Library in the 80s, the Olympics in the 90s, and after that demolition of public housing, privatization of the land under it, and the BeltLine project which steals $150 million annually from Atlanta’s public schools to build yuppie housing and shopping destinations. Marquee “development” projects have driven a six figure number of poorer black residents from the city. John Lewis never says a mumbling word about any of this. John Lewis never publicly contradicts the black Atlanta mayors who crack down on the homeless, who line up for the privatization of public property, public transit and public schools. Perhaps being a Legendary Civil Rights Hero puts him above all that.

Supporting Hillary Clinton last year, Lewis spoke out against free health care and free college tuition which many countries grant their young people, explaining that “free stuff” was just not the American Way. Lewis was also an early member of the Democratic Leadership Council, which irretrievably locked that party into subservience to its one percenter donors.

Sometimes members of Congress can undo historic wrongs. Lewis blew one such chance when he doubled down upon the expulsion of the descendants of black freedmen from the Cherokee nation in which they had once enjoyed voting rights.

John Lewis calls himself a pacifist and never misses a chance to lecture on the supreme utility of nonviolence. But the US Navy is building a ship with his name on it, a “fleet replenishment oiler” to resupply warships on deployment. Isn’t this an “honor” a pacifist should reject? And shouldn’t our Apostle of Non-Violence vote against every arms giveaway, sale and Pentagon budget? John Lewis doesn’t. Like most other members of the Black Caucus Lewis votes to fund mass surveillance and re-arm the apartheid state of Israel with depressing regularity.

It’s time to ask whether Civil Rights Hero status from 52 years ago is really enough to cancel out or ignore all this, and what purpose John’s Hero status serves today. John Lewis is in the news now because he called Big Cheeto’s presidency “not legitimate.” But why?

Is it because Lewis fears Trump will pursue more than 6 bloody wars, that he will deport millions of innocents, expand mass surveillance and militarized policing? Is it because Lewis knows the Donald will help greedy banksters stay ut of jail and he’ll enable hedge fund parasites to gentrify, plunder and privatize public education, nature and the commons? Probably not, because these are all Obama policies which Trump is expected to double down on.

John Lewis’s problem with Trump is that the CIA and FBI, which helped assassinate King and cover it up says that Russia helped elect him, and Lewis believes it. Big Cheeto did a Twitter fight with Lewis the other day and some of his followers called Lewis the n-word.

So now the Obama/Hillary liberals are flogging John Lewis’s tattered sainthood as hard as they can, to have a #NotMyPresident message that draws attention away from the many matters on which Republicans and the Obama/Hillary liberals agree. The old Civil Rights Hero does not oppose Trump for any reason which might lead to questioning past, present or future Democrats. Lewis is warming up the crowd for Obama’s exit and the entrance of whoever the Democrats run next.

This is what happens when there is no time limit on those Legendary Civil Rights Hero credentials. Time to revoke them.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at Black Agenda Report dot com, or follow us on Twitter @blkagendareport. Thanks for listening.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and a member of the state committee of the GA Green Party. He lives and works near Marietta GA and can be reached via email at bruce.dixon@blackagendareport.com, or via Twitter at @brucedixon.

Direct download: 20170118_bd_civil-rights-hero.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:34pm EDT

An Ever-Smaller Circle of Billionaires Controls the Planet’s Wealth

“Billionaires must be made extinct, one way or the other.”

The world is being strangled, smothered and starved to death by billionaires – 1,826 of them, by Forbes magazine’s count. The ever-deepening concentration of wealth that is both the logic and the inevitable result of capitalism has reached such depraved proportions that eight of the richest people on the planet now own as much wealth as the bottom half of the entire human race. The very existence of such concentrated private wealth is a crime against humanity, and incompatible with any notion of civilization. Indeed, how can a society call itself civilized, when half the value of all of humanity’s labor -- which is what those fortunes actually represent -- is at the disposal of eight men?

Clearly, the world needs a revolution, to throw off the dead weight of these billionaires. Last year, the Oxfam organization calculated that it took 62 of the world’s richest people to equal the wealth held by the bottom half of humanity. This year, it only takes eight. According to Oxfam’s latest study, the way capitalism is going, in 25 years we could be talking about a few trillionaires controlling the wealth of planet Earth. However, I doubt that we will ever see an Age of Trillionaires if only because global society would shatter and explode from the sheer magnitude of the accumulated theft of human labor and natural resources.

The billionaires must be made extinct, one way or the other, so that the multitudes can restructure the world into a survivable place. The 500 richest people on the planet cannot be allowed, 20 years from now, to pass on $2.1 trillion in inheritance to their privileged children -- the equivalent of the entire yearly economy of India and its 1.3 billion people.

The Last of the Super-Rich

The United States has by far the highest concentration of billionaires – 536, followed by China, with 251. Russia is way down in sixth place, with only 77 billionaires, behind Britain, Germany and India. But, of course, billionaires live anywhere they want to -- which really means they live nowhere at all. Home is where their money is, and every billionaire is a fully globalized citizen, with no loyalties except to his class.

The existence of billionaires should be seen as a measure of the sickness of the capitalist system, now in its last stages. Of the eight richest billionaires in the United States, six made their fortunes from the telecommunications industry, whose political influence now rivals that of Wall Street. Not only are the Silicon Valley fat cats obscenely wealthy, but they control the information systems that he rest of us depend on to understand what’s going on in our world. That makes people like Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg very dangerous. The good news is, young people around the world understand the nature of the threat to human freedom posed by these information system tycoons, who got rich through monopoly and market manipulation, just like the other capitalists. They too, must face expropriation, so that the saga of human equality can begin.

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: 20170118_gf_Billionaires.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:03pm EDT

Black Agenda Radio for Week of January 16, 2017

The Democrats: Serving the One Percent, Blaming the Russians

The Democrats are using the Russians as a scapegoat to avoid confronting “the rightwing Wall Street-captive party that they’ve become,” said activist and educator Paul Street, author of several books on President Barack Obama. Essentially, Democrats are saying, “It’s not that we’re a rightwing, corporate, neoliberal party beholden to the nation’s unelected dictatorship of money and empire. It’s not that we abandoned the working class and the causes of social justice and peace decades ago.” Speaking at the Open University of the Left, in Chicago, Street said Donald Trump did not ride to victory on a “big rust belt rebellion of the white working class.” The real story “is that the Democrats lost those voters to non-voting.”

When Capitalism Gets Sick, the Democrats Get Mean

The Democratic Party’s sharp turn to the right is its response to the “existential crisis at the core of capitalism,” a global phenomenon that has left the ruling class and its servants with “hardly any space to reform the system,” said Dr. Anthony Monteiro, the Philadelphia-based Duboisian scholar and activist. With “no room to maneuver,” the capitalists resort increasingly to war and repression. “Monopoly capitalism must be undone, the banks broken up, a large part of them nationalized,” said Monteiro. “In other words,” there must be “a profound and fundamental end to the neoliberal order, globally; a retreat from empire and war; and a seizing of the military budget and turning it towards economic development, jobs and a green economy.”

Political Prisoners Under Pressure in Indiana

Khalfani Malik Khaldun, serving time at Wabash Valley prison, in Indiana, said officials have carried out “a series of raids on targeted political prisoners,” including himself. Khaldun was told by “top brass” that they consider him to be the facility’s “most influential” inmate and are pressuring him to use that influence to “stop the proliferation of meth, a synthetic drug spreading throughout the prison.” Otherwise, “they had orders to put me and ten of my comrades in solitary confinement,” where he is now housed. Khaldun said prison officials “are making me out to be running some form of drug ring, in an attempt to destroy my political credibility as an activist on the inside.”

Black Agenda Radio on the Progressive Radio Network is hosted by Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey. A new edition of the program airs every Monday at 11:00am ET on PRN. Length: one hour.

Direct download: black_agenda_radio_20170116.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:47pm EDT

Obama’s Last Presidential Lies

“Obama spent his first term sabotaging every effort to create mandatory limits on emissions.”

Barack Obama has spoken to the nation as president for the last time. Hallelujah! The man I dubbed the “more effective evil” now gets a chance to make millions for himself, after spending eight years defending the wealth of the bankers and the rest of the One Percent.

Obama is going out like he came in: telling lies, with great style and skill. So many lies. He said he favored giving unions “the power to organize for better wages.” He said the same thing when he was campaigning for his first term, promising to support the “card check” bill that would have allowed workers to rebuild their union membership. But he betrayed organized labor and did nothing to push the bill in Congress.

The outgoing president pointed out that “the effects of slavery and Jim Crow didn’t just vanish in the Sixties” – that these effects continue to plague Black people. But 100 days after first taking the oath of office, Obama told reporters that he would not consider programs targeted at Black communities -- that Blacks would have to depend on a rising tide to lift all boats, even though no such tide has ever risen for Black people in America.

Obama said the U.S. has “led the world...on the promise to save the planet.” That’s an outrageous lie. The U.S., China and a few other powerful countries have been the problem, not the solution to climate change. Obama spent his first term sabotaging every effort to create mandatory limits on emissions.

“On his watch, no federal charges were brought against any killer cops.”

The First Black President acknowledged that many Americans are “convinced that their government only serves the interests of the powerful.” But, he didn’t take any of the blame, even though it was under his administration that Wall Street bankers were deemed “too big to jail,” or even to indict. In the same dishonest fashion, Obama declared on Tuesday that “We need to uphold laws against discrimination...and in our criminal justice system” -- when, on his watch, no federal charges were brought against any killer cops, except one who had already been indicted by local authorities.

Obama got downright cocky in defense of Obamacare, the rightwing Republican health program that Obama adopted as his own. The president said: “If anybody can put together a plan that is demonstrably better, I will support it.” But don’t bet any money on the letter and spirit of Obama’s promises on health care. Back in 2003, when Bruce Dixon and I asked him if he favored a single payer health care system, Obama answered that he favored “universal health care for all Americans” and intended to introduce or sponsor legislation toward that end.” He kept saying that for the next five years, until he was elected president, and then proceeded to isolate and crush supporters of single payer, to the delight of the insurance and drug industries, which no longer had to fear single payer. Obama is sneaky, that way.

Finally, Obama bragged that the U.S. has “taken out thousands of terrorists, including bin Laden.” What he didn’t say was that his administration presided over the jihadist takeovers of Libya and much of Syria and Iraq. The truth is that tens of thousands of jihadists have been trained, armed, financed and protected by the United States and its allies – not under Bush, but under Obama, making him fully responsible for the deaths of half a million people in those three countries, alone. Not to mention Obama’s other wars. But, I’ve run out of time. The good thing is, so has Obama.

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: 20170111_gf_ObamaByeBye.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:54pm EDT

Black Agenda Radio for Week of January 9, 2017

Rally in DC for Black Self-Determination

Self-determination is the “missing ingredient” in contemporary Black politics, said Omali Yeshitela, chairman of the Black is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations. The Coalition will hold a rally on January 14 at Freedom Plaza, on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC, to advance “an independent Black agenda for our people, and not have us joined at the hip to the Democratic Party.” The time is ripe for a Black self-determinationist strategy, said Yeshitela, because “the Democrats, the Republicans, and the electoral process, itself, have fallen into disrepute.”

Reforming the Green Party

“We have to take our movement away from the non-profits, and the only way we can do that is if we can transform the Green Party into something more like the working class, socialist parties overseas,” said Georgia Green Party co-chair Bruce Dixon, speaking on a telephone call-in with party members across the country. “All of these parties are based on membership dues,” with their officers accountable to the membership -- something our current Green Party does not do,” said Dixon, who is also managing editor of Black Agenda Report. Some members warned that a dues structure might discourage involvement of low-income people, while others cautioned against “infiltration” of the Party by other groups. The Green Party garnered only about one percent of the vote in November.

Judge Orders Hep-C Cure for Mumia

A federal judge ruled that, within three weeks, Pennsylvania prison officials must begin administering a Hepatitis-C cure to the nation’s best known political prisoner. Atty. Bob Boyle, of Mumia Abu Jamal’s legal team, told BAR producer Kyle Fraser: “This judge ruled that the 8th Amendment guarantees people in prison adequate health care under the ‘cruel and inhuman treatment’ clause.” Boyle said “upwards of 40 percent of the prisoners in the Pennsylvania system have chronic Hepatitis-C,” and could benefit from the ruling.

Mumia Abu Jamal suffered a near-death crisis in mid-2015 due to complications from the disease. When told of the judge’s ruling, he urged activists to “spread the word, because this is not what the Commonwealth wants people to know about -- that they engage in unconstitutional medical practices designed, not to cure, and not even to treat,” a deadly illness. “Here we have a cure, and the government of Pennsylvania refused to give it to thousands of people for years, until they got to the brink of death.”

Rev. Edward Pinkney Appeals for Help

“I was convicted with absolutely no evidence, no witness, no confession, no crime scene, by an all-white jury,” said human rights activist Rev. Edward Pinkney, serving his second stint in prison for helping Black people in Benton Harbor, Michigan, effectively exercise their right to vote. “I was given the death penalty for a 68 year-old man: 30 months in the prison system, with absolutely no evidence.” Pinkney has already served 25 months of his current sentence. “I am an innocent man, threatened, tried Nazi-style and convicted in an effort to isolate and silence me against the power of the land-grabbing, job outsourcing, blood-sucking, criminal Whirlpool Corporation, that has its headquarters in Benton Harbor. I need the people’s help,” said Pinkney. He can be contacted at the Muskegon state prison, inmate #294671.

Black Agenda Radio on the Progressive Radio Network is hosted by Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey. A new edition of the program airs every Monday at 11:00am ET on PRN. Length: one hour.

Direct download: black_agenda_radio_20170109.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:19am EDT

Obama’s Pardons Distract from the Horror of Mass Black Incarceration

“The system is deliberately racist, brutal, arbitrary and malevolent.”

President Obama, a master of public relations, now has bragging rights for having granted clemency to a record number of federal prisoners – 1,176 of them, at last count, more than those set free by the past 11 presidents, combined. Looking at the number from a different angle, Obama released only one out of every two thousand of the nation’s 2.3 million prison inmates, the largest incarcerated population in the world, both in raw numbers and in the proportion of U.S. society living behind bars. In other words, Obama’s clemencies, like all other presidents’, are statistically meaningless and morally and politically distractive. But, of course, that’s what Obama’s good at – distracting people.

The incompetent, lazy and white supremacist corporate media forget, or never reported, that for several years the Obama administration delayed the release from prison of five times as many inmates as he pardoned: about 6,000 federal prisoners convicted under the old crack cocaine laws. A federal appeals court wanted to let them out, ruling that they were covered by a prison reform bill, but President Obama successfully argued to keep these men and women in prison. Several years later, Obama staged a huge public relations extravaganza, releasing many of these same inmates, supposedly out of the goodness of his heart. It was two years too late. Some never got out.

The Brennan Center for Justice released a study last month that concluded the U.S. could set free 39 percent of its prison population with no threat to public safety. The Brennan researchers argue that you can’t make a dent in the mass incarceration system unless whole categories of prisoners are made eligible for immediate release. They say 25 percent of the prison population should, instead, have been sentenced to drug treatment, community service, probation or a fine. Another 14 percent of inmates have already served enough time in prison, and are no longer a risk. Together, that comes to almost 40 percent of the prison population -- one and a half million people, about half of them Black.

“Not Even a Half-Way Measure”

Prison reformers seem to think the system can be made more rational and fair. They don’t seem to understand that the system is deliberately racist, brutal, arbitrary and malevolent -- it is not meant to be fair, and it cannot be reformed. Former Black Panther Sundiata Acoli turns 80 this month. He has been in a New Jersey prison since 1973 and first became eligible for parole in 1992, but was turned down by the parole board, which set his next parole hearing for 15 years from now, when Sundiata Acoli will be 95 years old.

This system is pure meanness and race-hate. The Brennan Center’s proposal to release almost 40 percent of prison inmates is, itself, not even a half-way measure. As the Black Is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations points out in number five of its 19 point platform on Black self-determination, the United States would have to release 80 percent of its prison population -- four out of every five inmates -- just to bring the incarceration rate down to 1973 levels. And, remember: the U.S. was already the worst mass incarceration state in the world back in 1973. Even the release of four out every five inmates does not change the essential nature of American mass Black incarceration. There can be no compromise with such an evil.

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: 20170104_gf_ObamaPardons.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:29pm EDT

Black Agenda Radio for Week of January 2, 2017

Obama, Trump, Clinton, Bush – They All Serve the Same Masters

When Donald Trump recently stated a willingness to escalate the arms race, it caused a great media stir. But President Obama set in motion a trillion dollar nuclear weapons upgrade with barely a peep from the corporate press. “It really shows that it’s the U.S. system, it’s the Pentagon as a military institution, and corporations that must expand or they suffocate,” that are the source of endless war policies, said Sara Flounders, of the United National Anti-War Coalition. “Although the media always acts like there is a choice, that there are huge differences” between the candidates of the two major parties, “both carry out the interests of U.S. corporate power.”

Haitians Take to Streets to Defy U.S. – and Americans Should Do the Same

Jovenel Moise, the rightwing candidate that elections officials claim won 55 percent of the vote in a four-way presidential race, “is the individual that the United States understands will continue the plunder, the pillaging that they’ve been doing in Haiti,” said Daoud Andre, a Brooklyn-based Haitian community activist and radio host. Charging the November 20 vote was rigged, tens of thousands of Haitians have engaged in nearly daily protests. U.S. progressives should take note, and “not take on Donald Trump from a defensive position,” said Andre. “I think we have to go back to the militant movements of the Sixties, movements for people to take their destinies in their own hands. We cannot be afraid of a clown. These are paper tigers.”

Obama’s “Legacy”: A Boon for the Rich

“We are in a ‘post-hope’ era,” BreakingBrown.com publisher Yvette Carnell told Counterpunch Radio host Eric Draitser. “He saved the financial industry and neutralized working people’s politics, especially Black politics, and left us far worse off than we were before he came.” The outgoing president “was a creature of Wall Street and finance capital from the beginning,” said fellow guest Pascal Robert, a lawyer and frequent contributor to Black Agenda Report. “He had complete control of the Senate and the House” but “expended no political capital to push a jobs agenda at any time in his presidency.”

Milwaukee Cops Pressure Panther Feed-the-People Program

Activists and parents say Milwaukee police hit a 10 year-old girl in the face while targeting a community feeding program operated by the Revolutionary Black Panther Party, last week. “This is the first time since the 1960s that they have attacked a Black Panther food program,” said Dr. Alli Muhammad, Chief General Commander of the RBPP. The police seem angered that the Panther group held an armed march -- legal, under Wisconsin law -- and organized an African Holocaust Human Rights Tribunal, the week before. “It appears that they are trying to intimidate the people, to make them afraid to support us,” said Dr. Muhammad.

Mumia on the “Magic of Black Music”

The nation’s best known political prisoner noted the passing of Sharon Jones, lead singer for Dap-Kings, and British pop star George Michael. “It was in the magical realm of music that Black folks found their closest vision of freedom -- to be, to become, themselves,” said Mumia Abu Jamal, in a commentary for Prison Radio. Of George Michael, he said: “Black musical beats and rhythms liberated him, freed him to be his self, because in Black music one finds that yearning for freedom.”

Black Agenda Radio on the Progressive Radio Network is hosted by Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey. A new edition of the program airs every Monday at 11:00am ET on PRN. Length: one hour.

Direct download: black_agenda_radio_20170102.mp3
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