Thu, 18 April 2019
ADOS stands for American Descendants of Slaves, a group founded by Yvette Carnell and Antonio Moore, supposedly advocates of reparations for the descendants of Africans enslaved in the US. Moore is a former LA County prosecutor, Carnell a former US Senate staffer, and both have been blogging, Tweeting, YouTubing and fishing in the waters of corporate social media a good while now.
ADOS has strong ties to Republicans and racist white supremacists. Its co-founder Yvette Carnell sits on the board of the cynically misnamed Progressives For Immigration Reform, an outfit founded by noted white supremacist John Tanton, who’s been trying to manufacture black and so-called environmentalist organizations to parrot his racist views on immigration, eugenics and more since the 1970s. It’s a match made in heaven for PFIR, which has struggled to invent or find a black group to fly their crooked flag for four decades, and if things work out it’ll be a good career move for Carnell too. CNN, Fox News or ABC would be delighted to bring on a charismatic black commentator willing to spout Trumpist talking points interspersed with faux reparationist rhetoric. If Yvette does get a broadcast talking head job out of this, that might be the only piece of #tangibles2020 that comes out of the current presidential campaign.
We live in a nation where most people cannot find the countries their tax dollars pay to bomb every day on a map, a country where sixty million (mostly) white people voted for Trump. There’s no reason to imagine this proud North American ignorance of history, the planet and its people is confined to white Americans. When Barack Obama threatened to bomb Syria, polling showed that black people, always the least hawkish of US constituencies, were more inclined to war than their white neighbors. So the appearance of a social media savvy right wing black reparationist group, with hashtags like #lineagematters followed by 3 or 4 American flags, a group which claims the exclusion of Mexican, Central American, African and Caribbean immigrants is necessary to protect the livelihoods and social capital of black Americans should be no surprise.
Popular support for empire, such as can be obtained, depends, as we have observed before, on lots of fake news and fake history. ADOS embraces capitalism, empire and the American Exceptionalist ideology that goes with with it. Until now, black reparationists have aligned themselves with colonized people around the world. But true to its roots in social media and right wing politics, ADOS takes the short cut, to embrace the racist narrative of Zionism. ADOS leaders and followers routinely assert that US military, diplomatic, financial support of Israel’s apartheid regime are examples of “reparations for the Jews,” in support of its own reparations claim in the US. The Jews got theirs, ADOS followers say, pointing to Israel. It’s time we got ours. This is both telling and pernicious for all kinds of reasons.
The fact is that since the fall of the old regime in South Africa 25 years ago, Israel is the world’s premiere apartheid state, viciously persecuting Africans, Arabs and anybody else it deems not “Jewish,” however they define that. The fact is that Zionists, and the Zionist project was never about representing all Jews, or making a home for all Jews, or reparations for the persecuted. It has always been about using Jewish nationalism to establish a settler state. To depict a racist settler state as an example of restorative justice requires bottomless cynicism on the part of leaders who know better, and deep historical ignorance on the part of followers who don’t.
In the absence of real journalism, for which Julian Assange may be on his way to a Guantanamo torture cell for practicing, such narratives are easily disseminated on Twitter and YouTube, where the flat earthers, the moon landing skeptics, the birthers and the folks warning us about us about the lizard people all have big followings too. But none of them enjoy shoutouts from Cornel West, none of them try to wrap themselves in the just cause of reparations and none of them aim to affect the 2020 elections. ADOS does.
We’ll talk more about that some other time. As my colleague Glen Ford says, we need to pass HR 40. I agree. Ford says we need an extended debate among black people on just what reparations and restorative justice look like. That sounds sensible. But it’s hard to imagine how such an exchange 3can take place in an atmosphere of willful ignorance and disinformation. And somebody really should talk to brother Cornel.
For Black Agenda Radio Commentaries, I’m Bruce Dixon. Please find our audio products – two of them – Black Agenda Radio, a one hour weekly show hosted by Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey, and Black Agenda Radio Commentaries which are usually just me on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your audio podcasts. It helps if you leave a comment or review, even an emoji because that encourages other people to discover us.
Black Agenda Report publishes five to ten original print articles each and every week, as we have each week since October 2006, which you can find at www.blackagendareport.com, that’s www.blackagendareport.com. Our content is frequently suppressed by Google and other social media, so the only way you can guarantee you’re getting fresh news, commentary and analysis from the black left is to visit www.blackagendareport.com and hit the subscribe button to receive our free weekly email newsletter, with summaries of and links to all our weekly published print, audio and sometimes video content. You can also make a contribution there to support our ongoing work.
Wed, 3 April 2019
The Real Peace Candidate for 2020 Isn’t Tulsi Gabbard, It’s Howie Hawkins
by Bruce A. Dixon
Respectfully, my comrade and friend Danny Haiphong is wrong. Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is not a peace candidate. To extent that she diverges from the warlike bipartisan consensus that’s a good thing. But it’s not the job of the left to, in Danny’s’s words “nurture” or support Gabbard with campaign donations so she can get into the televised Democratic primary debates.
Danny Haiphong says he is neither a Democrat nor a Gabbard supporter and I believe him. That’s what makes his “sophisticated” – his word not mine – notion that the left needs to line up behind Gabbard utterly baffling. The plain truth is that whatever else the Democratic party may be, it is also one of the two permanent government parties of the US, a party of empire and war, despite the fact that a great number of Democratic voters are, for a multitude of reasons, opposed to imperial war.
But if Gabbard’s campaign can’t get votes and campaign contributions from those folks who envision themselves as being still inside the Democratic party, then hers is just another sheepdog candidacy. As I explained back in 2015…
“...the sheepdog candidate is charged with herding activists and voters back into the Democratic fold who might otherwise drift leftward and outside of the Democratic party, either staying home or trying to build something outside the two party box...
Gabbard fits this description to a T. Her antiwar rhetoric serves to herd left leaning voters and activists back under the big stinky Democratic tent with the likes of Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Joe Biden, Rahm Emanuel and the rest, and keep them as always safely inside until the Democrats’ 2020 summer convention. By then, it will be way too late for the strenuous yearlong national organizing effort which the laws passed by Democrat and Republican politicians require to place a third party alternative on the ballot.
I do love and respect Danny. But we differ on this one. I won’t give a nickel to a sheepdogging Democrat, even one who some imagine to be a peace candidate.
A real peace candidate would be about the business of building a real peace party, not pulling us back into the party of war. The only 2020 presidential candidate who fits that description is Howie Hawkins, who announced the exploratory phase of his presidential campaign today in Washington DC.
Howie Hawkins has a practical and a workable vision of how the Green Party can be built into a sustainable and nationally competitive opposition party, not based upon the contributions of greedy corporations and billionaires like the Democrats and the Republicans, but on the modest and regular contributions, the dues of its members. If you’re reading the print version of this piece, there’s a link to the YouTube video of a workshop Howie and I did outlining how the process of how the Green Party can be transformed into a mass based sustainable party capable of contending for power across the country.
The Hawkins vision includes a yearlong grassroots organizing campaign to overcome the profoundly unjust legal barriers which Republican and Democratic politicians together have erected in almost half the states to prevent the Greens from competing against them in national and local elections. Unlike the regulations pertaining to Republicans and Democrats, these arbitrary, anti-democratic and unjust laws require Green Party candidates to present more than 800,000 voter signatures on paper petitions just to allow Green candidates for local, state and national office to appear on the ballot in about a third of the states.
Texas requires 85,000 petition signatures,
Georgia 65,000 signatures,
Tennessee, 56,000 signatures,
Alabama demands 51,000 signatures
Minnesota requires an outrageous 147,000 signatures
just to name a few.
Many of these legal barriers to third parties appearing on the ballot have been in place for a century, and raised even higher whenever insurgent parties threatened to overcome them. What we were all taught in school to call “the two party system” is nothing more than the product of the two capitalist parties colluding with each other to continuously tweak the laws in such a manner as to protect themselves against competition. Competition from parties funded by people instead of billionaires, Competition from socialist and eco-socialist parties, competition from parties who stand for economic and racial justice at home and for peace abroad.
The latest legislative tweak aimed at kneecapping the Green Party was buried in the Democrats HR1, a provision that raised the amount Green presidential candidates needed to raise per state to qualify for matching funds from $5000 in small donations from each of 20 states to $25,000 in 20 states was endorsed and voted for by supposed socialist Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and every other Democrat in the House of Representatives. Curiously none of the so-called progressive Democrats, nobody in the media, in civil rights industrial complex, none of our friends in DSA and certainly not Tulsi Gabbard or even Bernie Sanders have ever bothered to mention this cynical and longstanding piece of voter suppression. These unjust legal barriers to third parties on the ballot are the main reason most US voters don’t get to see Green candidates on the ballot for state legislature, for governor or local offices, or for president.
Howie Hawkins is 2020’s only real peace candidate because Howie is committed to the hard work of building a permanent peace and justice party from the bottom up, and putting it on the ballot nationwide, not just to running a one-shot sheepdog campaign and lining up behind whoever the capitalist war party eventually nominates. Howie has been in the movement longer than Gabbard has been alive, working against the Vietnam war as a teenager before joining the Marines in 1972 and taking part in the widespread antiwar movement inside the US military of that time. Hawkins worked with the Peace and Freedom Party in the 1970s, and as a construction worker building sustainable housing through the 1970s and as a community organizer in the 1980s while picking up a degree at Dartmouth, and worked as a Teamster at UPS until retiring last year. Along the way, Howie Hawkins was one of the founders of the Green Party, which was soon taken over by mostly white professionals who chose to follow the organizing models of Democrats and Republicans rather than that of socialist and working class parties around the world, resulting in the weak and largely ineffective Green Party we have all seen the last two decades. With the presidential candidacy of Howie Hawkins, the Green Party is transforming itself in to the fighting ecosocialist party that the current crisis demands.
Howie Hawkins was the first US candidate to run on a Green New Deal, in a 2010 campaign for NY governor, declaring that it was entirely possible and absolutely to zero out New York’s carbon emissions by 2030 while creating millions of new jobs and rehabbing millions of units of affordable housing along the way. He ran on the Green New Deal again in 2014 and 2018, and since then the phrase and concept have gone viral.
The Democrats always declare the current election is the most important of our lifetimes, and this time they’ll claim this one is too important to “waste your vote” on any candidate that won’t defeat Trump. But they’re the same party that wants us to believe the Russians fooled black folks into not voting for Hillary Clinton with a handful of Facebook ads, most of them published after the election. They’re the same folks who called Trump a traitor for meeting with North Korean leaders, and applaud him for being “presidential” when he bombs Syria. These are the same Democrats who raised Trumps already outrageous military budget another ten percent to show Boeing, Lockheed and the other military contractors that they were good friends too, and the same Democrats who join Republicans in backing the apartheid state of Israel. Democrats don’t have the solution to climate change, they can’t get behind Medicare For All, rent control, and couldn’t be bothered with enforcing the Voting Rights Act and the galaxy of existing anti-discrimination laws in housing, employment or anywhere else when they had power.
Our future, the future of our children and grandchildren, of our planet is too important to trust either of the two capitalist parties. It’s time to make a longer term plan than the next election, time to organize and build for the long fight ahead. It’s not a time to let sheepdogs herd us into doing what we’ve done so many times before. Instead of giving to sheepdog Tulsi Gabbard, we should be lining up with Howie Hawkins to build the kind of fighting ecosocialist party the times require.
Howie needs $5,000 in donations $250 and under in each of 20 states for his campaign to receive federal matching funds that will enable us to launch the yearlong ballot access campaign that will put the Green Party on the ballot in every state, and put us on the road to building a fighting party sustained and run by its members. Go to HowieHawkins.US to volunteer, and to give what you can now. The clock is ticking.
For Black Agenda Radio Commentaries I’m Bruce Dixon. Find our audio podcasts – there are two of them, Black Agenda Radio and Black Agenda Radio Commentaries on iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud, Libsyn or wherever you get your podcasts.
Please do know that Black Agenda Report is being censored by Google and other commercial social media, and has been singled out by anonymous cowards who accuse us of making propaganda for the Russians. So please do like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and all, but old fashioned email direct from us to you is the only way to guarantee you’re receiving the fresh news, commentary and analysis from the black left that Black Agenda Report has delivered each and every week since 2006. So please visit our web site at www.blackagendareport.com and hit the subscribe button to receive our free weekly email newsletter containing weekly summaries of and links to all our weekly posted print, audio and video content neatly packaged for your listening and sharing convenience.
To comment on our material, join the conversation on our Facebook page, or send us email to comments(at)blackagendareport.com, or you can message us on Twitter @blkagendareport.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, a state committee member of the Georgia Green Party, and a member of the Howie Hawkins Exploratory Campaign Committee. He lives and works near Marietta GA and can be reached via email at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport. He answers email, and has also been known to answer tweets to @brucedixon.
Sat, 16 March 2019
“ADOS followers throw away the internationalism of their forbears, embracing instead a sometimes polite, but always frank hostility toward immigrants of all nations on the grounds that they’re either economic competition for native-born blacks...”
Why can’t y’all just decide to be what you already are – more like us – a white co-worker named Travis asked me in the early 1980s. He was a diehard Southern Baptist, Reagan was the president, and we were working at the Hammond Pullman plant, laying on our sides routing ducts and cabling in the tiny equipment rooms beneath Amtrak cars, talking politics and history. I’d just brought up the war in Vietnam, in which the US killed 3 million Vietnamese alone, and the murderous wars in Central America which were happening as we spoke. I probably threw in some references to the ongoing wars for liberation in southern Africa as well.
But you were born here, Travis insisted. Your parents and grandparents were born here, not over there. You’re an American, just like me. What are those people to you?
I never did get through to Travis. War crimes against black and brown people and a mountain of dead possibly communist foreigners meant nothing to him. His identity was not with humankind, certainly not with the working class, his White God and but with his white or mostly white tribe whose flag was the stars and stripes and which had been chosen to rule the world. In the decades since I have heard the same question posed a few more times. Why can’t black folks just be good Americans?Why shouldn’t we embrace empire and line up for our cut like everybody else? Well, now It looks now like Travis got his wish.
There’s an internet current of US-born black people calling themselves ADOS, the American Descendants of Slaves who seem to be trying their level best to be the kind of Good Black Americans Travis talked about. The ADOS people claim to be relentless advocates of reparations for the crimes of slavery, Jim Crow, the prison state and more, but with an important right wing twist which sharply differentiates them from the previous generation of reparistas. ADOS followers throw away the internationalism of their forbears, embracing instead a sometimes polite, but always frank hostility toward immigrants of all nations on the grounds that they’re either economic competition for native-born blacks, that they’re stealing the affirmative action and similar spots which ought to go to native-born black Americans, or that they are somehow cashing in the accumulated moral and social capital which belongs to the US born descendants of slaves alone. It’s a tribal thing, #LineageMatters, ADOSers tell anybody listening, and anyone not a US born descendant of US slaves on both sides of the family is in some other tribe. Until last summer’s wave of revulsion at the deliberately cruel separation of refugee children from their parents at the border, the kindest sentiment you could find on ADOS Twitter feeds was the equivalent of “Latinos don’t stand up for us, why we gotta stand up for them?”
Yvette Carnell and Antonio Moore, originators of the #ADOS name and hashtag would like us to believe ADOS is a movement. But that claim is made so often by so many canny self-promoters that it’s hard to take seriously without some kind of proof. Carnell has been doing podcasts, internet writing and commentary, and most reccently YouTube blogging the past several years, while Antonio Moore teaches economics at Duke University. They’ve got a web site at ados101.com and plan to hold a conference this fall in Louisville.
“Yvette Carnell and Antonio Moore, originators of the #ADOS name and hashtag would like us to believe ADOS is a movement. But that claim is made so often by so many canny self-promoters that it’s hard to take seriously without some kind of proof….”
Politically bankrupt black Democrats of the black political class don’t know what to make of #ADOS. CNN commentator and corporate lAngela Rye, following the lead of similarly enightened Democratic pundits, would like her audience to believe the ADOS message originates with the Russians. Rye is worse than clueless, she’s lazily chiming in behind the corrupt cops and the so-called intelligence community, a great deal of whom are also Democrats, who guarantee their own budgets and jobs by portraying Americans who disagree with the establishment as foreign-inspired traitors. It’s the RussiaGate scam. Democrats avoid responsibility for the failure of their party to reliably represent anybody but the lords of capital by accusing anybody with unanswerable arguments or inconvenient facts of being mouthpieces for foreign subversion. It’s cynical BS when they level it at the Green Party, or at Wikileaks and Julian Assange. It’s baseless garbage when they throw it at Black Agenda Report – and they have – and its errant nonsense when corporate lazy corporate hacks like Angela Rye throw it at ADOS. ADOSers don’t take money or direction and haven’t borrowed ideas from the Russians Their insular tribalism – and Yvette Carnell frequently refers to ADOS in terms of “our tribe” is entirely home grown and very very tribal. If you look, you can find its like just about anywhere on the planet. Like monarchy, it’s one of those ancient backward looking but widespread human social contraptions which belong in a museum.
The reparations advocacy of ADOS departs from the previous generation of pro-reparations activists, who for convenience I’ll call the Pan Africanists, even though some of them are not. The historic vision and practice of the Pan Africanist movement flowed through the careers of Guinea’s , Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah and the final years of W.E.B. DuBois’s life in Africa. Pan-Africanists had their own reparationist ideas, and by the late 70s and 80s significant numbers of Pan Africanists had entered the academy. They were influenced by the current traceable to SNCC’s James Forman who called on white US synagogues and churches to hand over $500 million as reparations to philanthropic organizations, printing and publishing enterprises and organizations that included the National Welfare Rights Organization. These reparistas, reparationists, whichever you prefer, kept the internationalist view of the Pan Africanists, even when they don’t identify as such. They embrace the entire human family, while holding that the political and economic unification of the African continent and the coordinated democratic uplift of the African Diaspora is a giant and indispensable step towards human liberation worldwide. Their fundamental moral and political calculus dictates solidarity, with Africans and their descendants worldwide, and with oppressed people struggling against imperialism everywhere.
“So where, if anyplace will ADOS go from here? Right now it’s just internet noise. A lot of noise. If ADOSers have ever managed to put fifty or a hundred people in a room or anywhere in meatspace, not cyberspace it’s news to most of us….”
ADOSers have taken a different road. Being tribalists rather than internationalists, ADOSers rarely mention the existence of class differences among American blacks. They usually manage to ignore the very existence the US empire in whose heartland they and their tribe were born and raised, let alone explain how that global capitalist generates the influx of refugees to which they object so vehemently, Obviously, the refusal to talk about class is a kind of class politics itself, while their inability or unwillingness to examine and acknowledge the role of empire is a de facto endorsement of the same. Opposing racist and capitalist empire is what a left would do, and ADOSers are NOT leftists. ADOSers are one of the home grown intellectual outcomes of what Adolph Reed calls the substitution of the neoliberal politics of antiracism in place of building an actual left. (IF YOU’RE LISTENING TO THIS YOU SHOULD FIND THE PRINT VERSION AT BLACKAGENDAREPORT.COM AND READ THE PIECE THE PHRASE LINKS TO.)
ADOSers are in a permanent rage against Democrats, who they see as going out of their way to pander to every other constituency but black Americans who are owed reparations. What ADOSers miss of course is that while Democrats rhetorically pander to gays and Latinos every election cycle, they only deliver results to the lords of capital who fund their careers, to Big Insurance, Big Real Estate, Big Media, Big Energy, to Silcon Valley, military contractors, to charter school sugar daddies and hedge fund boyz and similar malefactors of great wealth. Candidate Barack Obama won the whopping majority of the Latino vote in 2008 and 2012 by promising a road to citizenship. But President Obama was the deporter-in-chief, delivering an all time record 2 million deportations during his eight years, so many that even a two-term Trump is unlikely to match is total cause there just aren’t enough undocumented people and green card holders accused of misdemeanors remaining who they can manufacture excuses to deport. President Obama separated immigrant families at the border and built hundreds of miles of border wall, leaving only the last six or seven hundred miles for his successor to complete. Obama opposed gay marriage in 2008, only coming around when election to a second term seemed certain. The pandering to other ethnic voting blocs that so enrages ADOSers is pretty much fakery, but as tribal folks will do, ADOSers seem to see only perceive the slights, the lies, the insults which are directed at them.
ADOS leaders Carnell and Moore have probably never participated in, probably never seen a mass movement against unjust authority. As far as most of us know, they’ve never organized a new union or tried to take over a corrupt old one, never led a rent strike, never founded a cooperative, or gotten themselves arrested for defying unjust authority. There was a time when those sorts of credentials were required for aspiring black leaders.
“ADOS is not a movement. It’s another hashtag, a brand. It’s shrunken, shriveled and tribal brand of reparations politics, tacitly endorsing US global empire and throwing shade on solidarity...”
So where, if anyplace will ADOS go from here? Right now it’s just internet noise. A lot of noise. If ADOSers have ever managed to put fifty or a hundred people in a room or anywhere in meatspace, not cyberspace it’s news to most of us. What put #BLM on the map back in 2015 was their Cleveland conference, into which corporate philanthropists allied with the Democratic party sunk a cool million or two for hotel and conference rooms, travel expenses, food, entertainment, per diems, media production and the organizing person-hours to bring several thousand people into town for the affair. ADOS doesn’t have anywhere near that kind of money, and it’s hard to imagine who might fund them. Carnell and Moore are not about to turn ADOS into a membership supported organization. The only institution I know of with which they’ve cultivated actual ties are some sectors of the black church. But the black church’s pockets aren’t that deep and they don’t have a tradition of funding what would look to them like a political initiative, unlike the mainline Protestant churches who are shoveling money at the New Poor Peoples Campaign.
ADOS is not a movement. It’s another hashtag, a brand. It’s shrunken, shriveled and tribal brand of reparations politics, tacitly endorsing US global empire and throwing shade on solidarity. Its backward looking tribalism, and hopefully its inability to find a way to finance growth into any kind of effective political force will doom it to haunt the margins of black twitter, YouTube celebrity, and some corners of the academy.
If we’re lucky.
For Black Agenda Radio Commentaries I’m Bruce Dixon. Find our audio podcasts – there are two of them, Black Agenda Radio and Black Agenda Radio Commentaries on iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud, Libsyn or wherever you get your podcasts.
Please do know that Black Agenda Report is being censored by Google and other commercial social media, and has been singled out by anonymous cowards who, like Angela Rye does with ADOS, accuse us of making propaganda for the Russians. So please do like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and all, but old fashioned email direct frofm us to you is the only way to guarantee you’re receiving the fresh news, commentary and analysis from the black left that Black Agenda Report has delivered each and every week since 2006. So please visit our web site at www.blackagendareport.com and hit the subscribe button to receive our free weekly email newsletter containing weekly summaries of and links to all our weekly posted print, audio and video content neatly packaged for your listening and sharing convenience.
To comment on our material, join the conversation on our Facebook page, or send us email to comments(at)blackagendareport.com, or you can message us on Twitter @blkagendareport.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a state committee member of the Georgia Green Party. He lives and works near Marietta GA and can be reached via email at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport. He answers email, and has also been known to answer tweets to @brucedixon.
Direct download: 20190304_bd_ADOS_tribalism_shrinks_repartionist_politics-FINAL.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 10:03pm EDT
Thu, 7 March 2019
The moral justice of the reparations proposition is unassailable. Millions were murdered, transported across oceans, worked to death, starved abused, raped, their labor, loved ones and children stolen from them, and their descendants selectively disadvantaged to this very day. They deserve to be made whole. It’s only justice, and it’s only right to try to correct an historic wrong.
The reparations demand is not new. It was embodied in the efforts of some Union generals in the Civil War who redistributed land confiscated from slavemasters. That’s where the slogan “40 acres and a mule” comes from. President Andrew Johnson vetoed legislation to give the freed slaves the land they had worked on, and quickly reversed the policy almost every place it had been enacted. In the 1890s the demand surfaced again with proposals to grant pensions and land to surviving former slaves and their families. Again there was powerful opposition from the planter class, since most African Americans were agriculture and domestic workers in the South, and all the pension bills died in committee.
The modern reparations current – and I call it a current to distinguish it from a movement – and everything claims to be a movement these days – that current begins with James Forman of the Student NonViolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) whose 1969 “Black Manifesto” demanded $500 million from white churches and synagogues to be handed over to philanthropic trusts, a southern land bank, printing, publishing and other projects including the National Welfare Rights Organization.
In 1980 and 87, the federal government awarded reparations to a small group of Native Americans – a tiny fraction of First Nations people slaughtered and dispossessed, and to 60,000 survivors and descendants of Japanese-Americans stripped of their property and interned during WW2. In 1987 NCOBRA, the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America was founded. And in 1989 Detroit congressman John Conyers introduced a reparations study bill in Congress. Conyers re-submitted that reparations bill each and every congressional session till 2007, when he finally became chair of the House Judiciary Committee. The bill sat in his desk drawer during the next four years while he had the power to pass it out of committee. Once Conyers was safely out of power in 2011, he resumed the submission of his reparations study bill to each successive Congress until his forced retirement last year.
“...19th century reparistas if I can call them that, were all about the practical politics of assembling political coalitions ...”
Again, the moral correctness of the reparations proposition is unarguable. People were wronged, their descendants were wronged and they deserve to be made whole. Only a fool can argue with that. But something has changed here. Reparations agitation in the 19th century arose directly from former slaves, from the black working class. 19th century reparistas if I can call them that, were all about the practical politics of assembling political coalitions which might do the heavy political lifting needed to carry out reparations for African Americans. Although they failed, they were seriously about the politics and the implementation. The reparations current of the 20th and 21st century is something altogether different.
To begin with, the modern reparations current did not originate with the black poor, the black working class. No disrespect to the late brother Forman, but the modern reparations current originates from the class of what Adolph Reed calls professional race managers, the cohort of relatively educated and affluent African Americans who assume the roles of spokesnegroes allegedly representing the rest of us. In the 1960s and 70s some of us fought for the inclusion of the histories, the writings and the scholarship of people who looked like us in the academic canon. One outcome of that struggles is the careers of a class of black academics who have adopted the morally just reparations arguments, extending them into the realms of psychology and spiritual well-being.
There is a truly vast amount of academic and popular writing from dozens, perhaps hundreds of black academics and professionals who insist that the pursuit of reparations and the attainment of apologies for slavery and Jim Crow are crucial to the spiritual and psychological well being of African Americans. You can find their views exhaustively examined in Psychology Today, in the journal of the American Psychological Association.
Some would have us believe that the current reparations demand arises from the most politically advanced sectors of black American thought and political action. I’m not buying that. I can’t really prove it, but I suspect a lot of the young people currently flying the “reparations now” flag learned to consider reparations as a moral and as a political proposition from black academics, not from the broad masses of our people.
The trouble is that all a moral proposition needs to justify itself is to be right. A political proposition must be made to happen in the real world, which is frequently indifferent or hostile to moral propositions. In the political world, a 21st century appeal for reparations is pathetically easy to twist into “something for those undeserving people and nothing for you real Americansf white people.” The worldwide political reality is that special policies aimed at special constituencies make for easy targets.
Medicaid for instance has proved trivially easy to shrink and shred and even deny eligibility to most of those who should qualify for it because Medicaid is aimed exclusively at poor people – popularly but incorrectly assumed to be mostly black. France has universal day care from infancy to about age 4 for everybody, whether you’re a working mom, disabled, or a billionaire. That’s what makes it politically bulletproof, the fact that everybody is in and nobody is out. The same inclusive model -protects the free at the point of service medical care systems of Britain, Canada and other places.
Once we untangle the moral and psychological parts of reparations from the political task of making stuff happen we are faced with a political problem.
The only two times black people in this country made significant material advances were during the Civil War and early Reconstruction, and the brief heyday of the Freedom Movement when Jim Crow was largely dismantled from about 1960 to 1975. In both cases the forward progress only lasted as long as a large plurality of white support backed black aspirations. When that plurality of white support eroded, the period of progress ended.
Our modern reparistas focus on the spiritual and psychological “only-this-and many apologies-will-make-us-whole” facets of reparations while they take no responsibility whatsoever for even identifying even the vaguest of roadmaps, naming the constituencies we’d have to persuade to our side to make the political heavy lifting of reparations possible. The politics most or our reparistas do espouse pretend that there ARE no class distinctions inside black communities, even though the gaps between the richest and poorest American blacks are larger than those between corresponding American whites.
Many modern advocates of reparations are straight up opportunists, like Ta Nehisi Coates, who deploy reparations rhetoric as a counter to socialism. There’s a reason why many of Chicago’s most prominent reparistas supported Rahm Emanual in the last mayoral election. The Conyers reparations bill and others like it are great things to hide behind, with no thought of ever achieving results. So the notion that the reparations demand arises from the most politically advanced sectors of the black community is highly questionable too
The fact is that Medicare For All, the Green New Deal, legalized unions with the unrestricted right to strike, and the forgiveness of student debt would all disproportionately benefit African Americans. Which demographic segment has the highest per capita student debt? It’s black women. Black people are disproportionate victims of predatory student, medical and consumer debt too. We were represented far higher than our share among the home foreclosures of 2006-2009, black women are the most likely demographic segment to form and join a fighting union.
“Many modern advocates of reparations are straight up opportunists, like Ta Nehisi Coates, who deploy reparations rhetoric as a counter to socialism. ...”
Again, the reparations proposition is entirely morally justified. But the political atmosphere is not a neutral place where arguments prevail because they are righteous. We live in the place where 60 million people voted for Trump, and where we cannot even marshal a plurality of white support for affirmative action, a far lower hurdle than reparations. A sober assessment of current political reality seems to indicate that a dogged insistence on calling the policies of fairness, equity and justice by that name, may be a big impediment to the heavy lifting it takes to enact them.
It’s not rocket science. People are clever enough to talk and to listen in code all the time. And though large majorities of black people DO support reparations when pollsters ask the question, they’re likely far more attached to results than they are to the label.
So what if we just did the work to make the stuff happen, but we didn’t call it reparations?
For Black Agenda Radio Commentaries I’m Bruce Dixon. Black Agenda Report is being censored by Google and other commercial social media, and has been singled out by anonymous cowards who accuse us of making propaganda for the Russians. So you should like us on Facebook and all, but the only way to guarantee you’re receiving the fresh news, commentary and analysis from the black left that we’ve delivered each and every week since 2006 is to visit our web site at www.blackagendareport.com and hit the subscribe button. Subscribing to our free weekly email newsletter is the only way you can get weekly summaries and links to all our weekly posted content neatly packaged for your listening and sharing convenience.
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Thu, 28 February 2019
Four years ago this May I was the first to brand Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders as 2016’s Democratic sheepdog candidate. As I explained then,
“The sheepdog is a card the Democratic party plays every presidential primary season when there's no White House Democrat running for re-election. The sheepdog is a presidential candidate running ostensibly to the left of the establishment Democrat to whom the billionaires will award the nomination. Sheepdogs are herders, and the sheepdog candidate is charged with herding activists and voters back into the Democratic fold who might otherwise drift leftward and outside of the Democratic party, either staying home or trying to build something outside the two party box.”
Four years later, that hasn’t changed. Bernie 2.0 is still the sheepdog, running to the left of the rest of the field of Democratic presidential contenders, beckoning, barking at us to come on back under the tent. What’s different now is that Bernie is the front runner, for whatever that’s worth 21 months out from election day and likely the most popular politician in the country.
Bernie has a proven fundraising model that depends on large numbers of relatively small contributions. His machinery can bring in the tens of millions per month it will take to field a national operation and most of all to purchase the expensive broadcast time and internet presence it will take to compete with the corporate funded likes of Kamala Harris and the rest of the Democratic field, and ultimately with Donald Trump and the White Man’s Party.
Bernie pledges now just as he did in 2016 that he’ll support whichever nominee the Democratic party puts forth, even if it’s not him.
Some other things however have changed. This is Bernie 2.0 – the Vermont senator has stepped up his game. His announcement speech, a half hour CBS interview and his performance a CNN Town Hall before a half black audience show that as a candidate, Bernie has evolved. His remarks are now peppered with references to criminal justice reform, and mass incarceration, the abolition of cash bail and private prisons and references to racism and homophobia, all subjects he spoke relatively little on in 2016. Bernie did well among younger black voters then, and he will do better still this time.
He’ll need to. Sanders is asking for a million volunteers, both as a fundraising base, and to substitute for the party which does not want him. Democrats, not Republicans stole the election from Bernie in 2016, in Maryland, Illinois, New York, California and in the media and on the DNC among other places. Bernie imagines he can, as Glen Ford put it, steal one of the rich man’s parties out from under the lords of capital. That’s not a new project, it’s pretty old one, a wall actually against which progressive Democrats have been banging their heads ever since the 1930s. In any case, some people are still committed to that, so keeping up that fight inside the Democratic party is their job. Some of us have a different job.
If we can’t hijack the rich man’s party we need to build our own party.
While Bernie imagines he can hijack the rich man’s party, some of us are about the business of building a peoples party from the ground up. The Green Party, to which I belong, is faced with a unique set of challenges for 2020.
Despite expected howls of protest that any vote for, any energy expended on behalf of a non-Democrat only benefits Trump and his minions, and the very certain knowledge that the next president will be a Republican or a Democrat, not our guy or gal – the Green Party will have to credibly explain just what we are doing in the 2020 presidential election, and how we intends to get that stuff done. With the right campaign, and the right – or really the left candidate, we CAN do that. Just like Bernie’s people are hard at work 21 months out from election day, so are some of us.
Here’s what we need to do.
Number one, the Green Party has to raise funds for and conduct a national ballot access drive.
Thanks to laws passed by Republicans and Democrats to protect themselves against competition, the Greens are not allowed to place local and national candidates on the ballot in about 20 states. Republicans and Democrats have passed laws from Texas and Illinois to Georgia, Alabama, Ohio and beyond which together require the signatures of more than half a million voters on paper petitions just to enable the Green Party’s local and national candidates to appear on the ballot. A state by state 2019-2020 GP aimed at ending the bipartisan ban on Green ballot access will demand some resourceful organizing, and will be an invaluable training exercise for Green activists across the country, and is absolutely essential to achieve a national presence for the party.
The GP and its 2020 presidential campaign will have to raise and spend a million to a million and a half on such a campaign, far more than the GP’s yearly budget for any of the last several years, but it’s a big step up that’s got to happen.
Number two, the Greens must begin to build effective, sustainable, membership supported state and local Green parties by the summer of 2020.
There was a moment after the Democratic convention in Philly, when Bernie knuckled under to the forces who stole the election from him. Thousands, maybe tens of thousands of activists looked at the Green Party and mostly discovered there was no there there. The national Green Party, and I am on its national committee, is unfortunately a feeble shell of what it ought to be. More than a dozen state Green parties are barely functional bodies with minimal budgets and tiny mailing lists that haven’t put forty or fifty people in a room in years, even in states with multiple cities over a million in population. Not a single Green Party in the country, as far as I’m aware, maintains an actual office.
In their current condition, a number of critical state Green parties lack the capacity to undertake successful ballot access drives, don’t have the ability to launch credible organizing drives of any kind, and have no prospects of raising the bucks needed to pay for the organizers, the training and the tools to make it all happen. That will have to come from the Greens 2020 presidential campaign, as the presidential campaign always raises several times what the party does.
Democrat and Republican parties are financed by Big Ag, Big Energy, Big Pharma, Pentagon contractors, Big Insurance, Big Real Estate, Silicon Valley and assorted billionaires. Greens have tried the purist volunteer ethic. It failed. It’s time for the GP to adopt the universal (universal outside the US anyway) model of workers parties and peoples parties who sustainably fund themselves year after year with the dues of their own members.
Number three, the Greens must field a 2020 candidate and campaign focused on obtaining national ballot access and building strong, viable and sustainable state and local parties.
Howie Hawkins, the longtime UPS worker and union activist who was the NY Green Party’s gubernatorial candidate the last two times around is one of the party’s OG, i.e., Original Green founders. He’s been the most persistent and persuasive advocate of re-imagining the Greens as an independent party with a dues paying membership in the thousands and tens of thousands in every state. That’s what the Socialist Party had up until the Wilson administration took away their free mail privileges at the beginning of World War 1. There are proven organizing models out here, cheap but not free. Billionaires and foundations won’t pay to initialize or to sustain them. They have to be organized and funded from the ground up.
Howie Hawkins is the only one of the possible Green presidential candidates to acknowledge the scope of what his party must do to do in order to become a viable national force. And along with Green activists across the country, Hawkins is closely considering an exploratory campaign committee, the first legal step in a 2020 presidential run. Get ready for it.
This is Bruce Dixon for Black Agenda Radio Commentaries. Find our podcasts everywhere, iTunes, Stitcher, Libsyn as Black Agenda Radio and Black Agenda Radio Commentaries. You can visit our web site at www.blackagendareport.com, where you can subscribe to our free weekly email newsletter containing links to all of our video, audio and print contact neatly packaged for your listening, viewing and sharing convenience, to forward and share with friends, family and colleagues. Since Google and other commercial social media platforms do suppress the appearance of our material in search results, email, that is, dark social media is the only way you can be assured you’re receiving fresh news, commentary and analysis from the black left every week.
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Wed, 6 February 2019
HR 1 is the premiere legislative initiative of Democrats in the 116th Congress. It contains 571 pages of proposals and findings and such, but only two of HR 1’s dozens of provisions have a reasonable chance of passing the House and obtaining the bipartisan support in the Senate needed to become law.
The first is a provision of HR 1 which deputizes the intelligence, police and prison establishment and their contractors to produce an annual report on the threats posed to the security of the US electoral system posed by Americans who might be under the influence of foreign powers. HR 1 cites as the “congressional findings” justifying the legislation a set of cowardly accusations levied by an anonymous group but given wide distribution by the Washington Post, as Glen Greenwald wrote about at the time. Greenwald mentions that Black Agenda Report was one of the institutions anonymously accused. As is the way with anonymous cowards, the page with the accusations has since been taken down, though the accusations still kind of count as “congressional findings.”
SECOND HR 1 is surgically aimed to eliminate federal matching funds for Green Party candidates by raising the qualifying amount from its current level of $5,000 in each of 20 states to $25,000 in 20 states. HR 1 would cut funding for a Green presidential candidate in half, and by making ballot access for a Green presidential candidate impossible in several states it would also guarantee loss of the party’s ability to run for local offices.
Speaker Pelosi says HR 1 will get a House vote some time in the next few weeks. The reality is that the impressive voting rights proposals in HR1 and the somewhat less impressive ethics legislation in it too are nothing but cynical vanishing bait. HR 1’s actual legislative payloads, that is, the parts of HR 1 actually intended to attract enough Republican support to pass into law are its proposal to cut third party campaign funding in half and its institutionalizing an annual threat report to be written by the Pentagon and the cops. All the other parts of HR 1 are dead on arrival in the US Senate. Senate Republicans have no reason give away voter caging or gerrymandering. Why would they do that? But enough of them will cheerfully cross the aisle to cut the matching funds of third parties, and to institutionalizing the Pentagon, spies and cops to produce an annual report on the threat to electoral security.
Democrats are a capitalist party, they are a government party, and this is how they govern. HR 1 reaches back a hundred years into the Democrat playbook politicians created a foreign menace to herd the population into World War 1, which ended in the Red Scare and a couple of red summers, waves of official and unofficial violence and deportations against US leftists and against black people. The Red Scare led to the founding of the FBI, the core of the nation’s permanent political police. All that was a gift from the Democrats a hundred years ago. Fifty years ago these were the same civil servants who gave us the assassinations, the disinformation and illegality of COINTELPRO, and much, much more before that and since then.
HR 1 says let’s go to the Pentagon and the cops, let’s order them to discover threats to the electoral system posed by Americans working to save themselves and the planet. It amounts to Democrats siccing the Homeland Security dogs on us.
HR 1 should pose some immediate questions to so-called House Progressives, and perhaps to our DSA friends as well.
Do House Progressives support knocking the Green Party off the ballot in a dozen or more states? Does DSA? If narrowing voter choices is not voter suppression, its hard to imagine what else is.
Do House Progressives really endorse deputizing the Pentagon, Homeland Security and the police state to do annual reports on alleged security threats from Americans? If they don’t, why are they signed on to HR 1?
For Black Agenda Report, I’m Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com, and find Black Agenda Radio and Black Agenda Radio Commentaries anywhere you get podcasts. Please know that Google and Facebook and Twitter and other commercial social media game their algorithms to suppress the appearance of our content in searches, so the only way you can be sure you’re getting our free weekly email updates each and every week is to visit www.blackagendareport.com on your computer or mobile device and hitting the subscribe button. Hit that button and we will deliver you via email every week our free weekly email newsletter with summaries of and links to all of our new content each and every week.
Fri, 25 January 2019
Corporate media absolutely won’t tell you this, but this year’s Los Angeles teachers strike is the latest chapter in the long running struggle against the privatization of public education in the US. With massive public support, 30,000 teachers have voted a settlement that increases their wages a little, brings back nurses, librarians and counselors to each and every one of the city’s 900 schools, caps class sizes and charter school expansion and more. Striking teachers managed to bring issues to the table that were supposed to be impossible to address, like the manipulation of school board real estate, school closings and charter policies to gentrify neighborhoods, among others.
The facts, which again corporate media has no interest in telling you, are that United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), following and improving on the model of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) leading up to their 2012 strike, raised its membership dues a couple years in advance to hire a research team and a cadre of community organizers. These cadre were charged with forging deep and permanent links between teachers and communities across the city in motion for better housing, against mass incarceration, for equitable transit and most especially with organized parents in every corner of the city who aimed to improve the schools. Childrens’ learning conditions after all, are the teachers working conditions. As in Chicago, these deep organizational and personal links with the organized masses provided them with a degree of immunity from the tsunami of lies coming from corporate media before, during and after the strike. UTLA spent extra money, extra staff time and extra care as well cultivating and educating its own members to support the new policies, to ensure every teacher was contacted repeatedly in the year and longer before the strike, provided with the facts and offered opportunities and chances to weigh in and to take ownership of their union at every level.
For a generation now, privatizing the public schools has been the bipartisan project of America’s one percenters. Democrats and Republicans, Donald Trump and Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, celebrities like John Legend and Magic Johnson, conservative and liberal engines of corporate philanthropy including the Gates, Walton, Broad, Heritage, McArthur and other foundations, Fox News and CNN, black and white big city mayors, hucksters like Al Sharpton and Roland Martin, the lords of Silicon Valley, Amazon, and Mark Zuckerberg, the hedge fund boyz, and a gaggle of thousands of big and small time crooks of all colors and descriptions are in on the hustle. Glen Ford explained several years ago how a handful of right wing foundations spent a cool billion or more in the 1990s trying to create an astroturf “movement” for privatizing schools, first through vouchers, then as charter schools, peddling the proposition that getting poor children out of public schools was civil rights movement of the coming new century.
The privatizers’ big breakthrough was the 2002 federal elementary and secondary public school funding act, the No Child Left Behind Act, which among much else, mandated excessive and biased testing and diverted education funding away from schools with low scores to charter schools and contractors of all kinds, giving birth overnight to a galaxy of unregulated profiteers. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina Louisiana authorities closed the entire New Orleans public school system firing thousands of teachers and all employees and went to an all charter system. In New York, Philly, Chicago and dozens of other cities without elected school boards local mayors and state governments closed and privatized thousands of public schools. In the places with elected school boards, laws were passed, even state constitutions amended to allow states to overrule and fire locally elected school boards who didn’t go along on the grounds those school boards were not were not fulfilling their duties. Conveniently the accrediting agencies were privately owned bodies staffed by the Gates, Walton Family, Broad and other pro-privatization foundations. That’s the way it was done in several Atlanta area counties, and hundreds more places besides.
The privatizers’ next and biggest break was the election of President Barack Obama, who elevated Arne Duncan, a hedge fund guy with no public school classroom or administrative experience before he undertook the savage decimation of public education in Chicago, to US Secretary of Education. In April 2009 Obama and Duncan announced their intention to close and privatize 5,000 so-called underperforming public schools, even though public education was supposed to be a local affair not a federal one. Obama utilized a one-time $4 billion dollar windfall appropriated to rebuild schools across the country, to fund Race To The Top, a federal program that awarded competitive grants (as in a race) to school districts based on how many teachers they could fire, how many public schools they could close and privatize. More than a hundred thousand qualified and experienced black teachers alone lost their jobs, among the many other casualties of Race to the Top.
Los Angeles had an elected school board, so the Broad Foundation and other charter school entrepreneurs funneled at least $12 million of outside money into school board election campaigns to get a pro-privatization majority, and to install Austin Butner, a guy with no teaching or school administrative experience before his swearing in as chief of the nation’s second largest school system. Butner championed the breakup of Los Angeles United School District into 32 “portfolios” of privately managed entities competing with each other on the free market. The relationship of these portfolios to parents and students would be one of customer service, and the relationship of the entities to teachers would be pretty much peons. Except that unlike teachers, peons and serfs were guaranteed housing and food, however miserable and could not be fired. All this too was left out of the corporate media coverage both inside Los Angeles and around the country.
Los Angeles is not West Virginia, or Oklahoma, or Arizona.
None of this came to pass overnight. Organized teachers in Los Angeles, like those in Chicago, saw the crisis coming years off, and began serious preparations more than two years before strike. That’s what is making the Los Angeles strike’s reach, influence and outcome very different from the relatively spontaneous teacher uprisings in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona and perhaps those looming in Indiana, Virginia or Texas. The power to win, as Jane McAlevey asserts in her book No Shortcuts, is both inside and outside the school workplace. The pro-privatization forces are deeply entrenched, deeply organized and cannot successfully be opposed without deep organizing both in the workplace and in the communities served by the schools.
UTLA realized it was necessary to put forward a vision of caring, empowered and grassroots democratic community schools, in opposition to the pitiless marketplace of charter school competition. They call it the community school, not the charter school. UTLA was able, in the couple years preparation for the strike moment, in cooperation with its community allies, to envision, to develop, to enact and even to tweak elements of its community school model in a few places around the city. This is something impossible to do in spontaneous situations like the teachers strikes of West Virginia, Oklahoma or Arizona.
Without a deeply organized and empowered base inside and outside the school workplace, teachers and the public are vulnerable to corporate media tropes that the crisis is provoked exclusively by one party and the solution is mainly electoral – mainly confronting the Republicans and running for office as or doubling down on support for Democrats. During their strikes ten, twenty, thirty thousand and more teachers and parents mobbed their respective state legislatures, but the results they got were far less definitive, far less sustainable than what the meticulously planned actions of teachers in Chicago and Los Angeles achieved.
In Oklahoma, West Virginia and Arizona many activist parents and teachers emerged from the strike crisis with real and justified questions about the ability of their unions, the only organized and sustainable body with even the potential to reach across all the lines statewide, to lead a struggle to build just and democratic school communities in which teachers can teach, students can learn and communities can prosper. That’s what happens when unions don’t do their jobs, when they don’t undertake long term visioning and deep organizing both inside and outside their scholl workplaces. But contrast, teachers and school community activtists in Chicago and Los Angeles emerged from their strike crises with more of the confidence and resources to plan the next steps. That’s what deep organizing can an do, even in the face of the decades long assault upon public education from the forces of neoliberal capital, which aims to change all relations between people to those of the pitiless marketplace.
For Black Agenda Radio Commentaries, I’m Bruce Dixon. Find us as Black Agenda Radio, and Black Agenda Radio Commentaries on iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you find your podcasts. Most of our work is not audio however, it’s print. If you access the print version of this Black Agenda Radio Commentary for example you will find links to at least a dozen other pieces of our previous material, some audio and some print on the long struggle against the privatization of education, how it affects communities of color in particularly vicious fashion, and how the black and brown faces of politicians, celebrities and so-called journalists are utilized to sell it in black communities. Black Agenda Report, at www.blackagendareport.com has delivered news, commentary and analysis from the black left since October 2006. For the past three years, Google and other corporate social media including Twitter and Facebook have suppressed the appearance of our material in searches and subscriptions because anonymous cowards have accused us of being under hostile foreign influences.
So the only way you can be certain you’re getting fresh news, commentary and analysis from the black left each and every week is to visit www.blackagendareport.com and subscribe to our free weekly newsletter, which contains summaries of and links to all of our newly published material each week. That’s www.blackagendareport.com and hit the subscribe button to receive summaries to all the fresh news commentary and analysis Black Agenda Report provides each and every week direct to your email inbox for your reading, listening and sharing convenience. We urge you to forward the individual stories and items via your favorite social media platforms, be that Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or whatever, and to forward our email newsletter to your friends, colleagues and family and associates, that’s how the word gets out.
If you want to comment on our articles visit Black Agenda Report’s Facebook page and join the discussion there, or send us an email to email@example.com . I’m Bruce Dixon, managing editor at Black Agenda Report. You can email me at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com. Thanks for listening.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a state committee member of the Georgia Green Party. He lives and works near Marietta GA and can be reached via email at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.
Thu, 17 January 2019
House Democrats’ HR 1 – Faking the Funk on Voting Rights, Spreading Fear and Gunning For the Greens in 2020
House Democrats’ HR 1 – Faking the Funk on Voting Rights, Spreading Fear and Gunning For the Greens in 2020
It’s a brand new year and Democrats running the House of Representatives under Nancy Pelosi, Jim Clyburn and Steny Hoyer need to rebrand themselves in preparation for the 2020 elections. So Team Pelosi has rolled out what they and their far flung chorus of corporate media hacks from MSNBC to so-called “woke” social media are calling their flagship bill for the 116th Congress. To hear them tell it, it’s all about ending corruption in Congress and the White House, about taking the Big Money out of politics, and most of all, it’s about protecting voting rights.
It’s HR 1, a 571 page monstrosity, actually a sleazy ghetto ice cream truckload of empty promises Democrats wouldn’t keep even if they had the power, and which they refused to put forward when they DID have the power. In typical Democrat fashion HR 1 also contains a couple of serious threats against American left dissenters in general and the Green Party in particular which Democrats might just be able to carry out if they seek and secure the support of a modest number of House and Senate Republicans. As of our publication date HR 1 does not yet appear on the official House web site, but we read the version on the web site of its sponsor, Congressman John Sarbanes of Maryland. You can also find it at the Brennan Center for Justice.
HR 1 pretends to be a voting rights bill, but is in fact a sleazy ghetto ice cream truckload of empty campaign promises intended to rebrand Democrats as the party of voting rights, despite their dismal non-record of struggle to protect or expand these rights. They are all commonsense measures Nancy P, who has been part of House Democrat leadership since the 1990s, and has led Democrats in the House since 2003, could have tried to put into law at any time, many times over the past twenty-five and more years. But they didn’t.
Here’s HR 1’s list of what ought to be real and significant voting rights reforms. But again, coming from Nancy P and the House Dems at the beginning of the 2020 campaign season they are obviously no more than empty and cynical campaign promises:
All these proposals are pretty much borrowed or stolen from the actual left, some of which are captive constituencies allowed to ride in the Democratic party’s trunk and let out to vote every two years. Since Congress has maintained a minimum re-election rate around 90% for decades, hearing stuff like this from top Democratic party leaders is only great good news till you look at their history on voting rights. When you do that the music pretty much stops, because the history of the last 25 years clearly indicates that Democrats in Congress have no such intention.
House Democrats, along with Democrats in the Senate and, Democrats in the Clinton and Obama Justice Departments, and Democrats in the White House have pretty much stood by idly the past quarter century while Republicans on the state level and in the judiciary have painstakingly assembled and implemented bit by bit what is now a vast panoply of administrative tactics, state laws and court rulings aimed at minimizing, intimidating and blocking and suppressing the anti-Republican vote. The sudden Democrat conversion to make themselves ardent protectors of the right to vote comes conveniently at the start of the 2020 election season, when they control ONLY the House of Representatives. Though the Senate, the White House, much of the federal court and a majority of the Supreme Court are in Republican hands today, but when Democrats DID the power to actually advance these reforms they DID next to nothing. So it’s really hard for any sober and sentient being to take this stuff seriously coming from Nancy P and the gang of 200 and something.
HR 1 is also the House Democrat bid to rebrand themselves into crusaders against big money in politics and corruption in public office.
Given that most owe their own careers to the generosity of Big Oil, Big Real Estate, Big Agriculture, Big Chemical and Pharma, the banksters who crashed the economy in 2007-2008, the hedge fund boyz, Amazon, Silicon Valley, Wal-Mart, the charter school sugar daddies, privatizers, payday lenders, and the galaxy of contractors of the Pentagon, the “intelligence community,” Homeland Security and the probation and private prison industries, this is either a sudden and shocking transformation or empty and cynical 2020 campaign rhetoric. Go figger.
But again we can’t look away from the source and timing. It’s Nancy P and the House Dems and it’s the kickoff of the 2020 campaign season.? Here’s HR 1’S list of anti-corruption and taking the money out of politics reforms. Given their record, can anyone really believe these are any more than hollow and empty campaign promises? These newly converted reformers say they want to
As with HR1’s voting rights proposals, all of its ethics and campaign funding stuff with two huge exceptions we will examine in a moment, it would be great good news if Democrats were even half serious about enacting it into law. But of course they are not.
Republicans run the Senate and the White House. Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell has already pledged the entire package of HR 1 is dead on arrival, and right now even that arrival is uncertain since Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer has not even bothered to introduce a matching bill in that chamber. Essentially Schumer is not even signing on to this load of cynical promises. Not yet anyway. But if the stench of cynicism is strong enough to make a vulture like Chuck Schumer hesitate, that really says something.
Second, Republicans are not about to give up voter caging, mass purges of young and minority voters, state voter ID laws, lightning round redistricting and the panoply of anti-democratic gerrymandering and other devices they have erected the last 20 years to give them more state and federal legislative seats with millions fewer votes than Democrats.
Third, it’s an old and established fact that the stock market portfolios of House and Senate members have routinely outperformed those of top professional money managers for decades. And why wouldn’t they? It's members members of Congress along with top executive appointees who regulate the very “industries,” if you can call some of them that, in which they invest. Uber, Google, Monsanto and Amazon, just to name a few, powered up entire multibillion dollar business models which were transparently illegal, but attracted lots of well-connected investors. After the first few tens of billions rolled in they purchased enough politicians to legalize their previously illegal business models.
Congress is where the capitalist predators must come to get all kinds of laws and regulations changed in their favor, so members of Congress are in the ultimate spot to receive and to benefit from insider tips. In the 2012 election cycle, the House and Senate DID pass a partial ban on stock market insider trading by members of Congress. But the next year they quietly repealed it on a Friday afternoon voice vote in the House which blurred greasy individual fingerprints. There were 30 seconds of debate. In the Senate the vote to repeal was unanimous. Democratic President Barack Obama quickly and quietly signed it into law. Thanks to Kevin Zeese at PopularResistance.Org for pointing that one out to me. Good catch, comrade.
These newly converted get-the-big-money-outa-politics crusaders are the same House Democrats who did that. They are the same crew who in 2017 responded to Trump’s record breaking military budget, roughly the next nine countries combined spend on their weapons of war and mass destruction, all of it paid for with funds taken away from education, infrastructure, a just transition to a clean energy economy, raising social security, free college tuition and Medicare For All, all the stuff the American people need right here at home. The same House Democrats who back HR 1 today increased Trumps military budget by about $60 billion dollars, an increase as large as the entire yearlly militaryy budget of Russia. Why?
House and Senate Democrats did this in an attempt to outbid Trump and the Republicans for the allegiance of those military contractor contributors. That’s why we at Black Agenda Report often call “the Resistance” “the Assistance.’
But hey, now the 2020 election season has begun. Democrats all wanna knock out Trump, so the Resistance more accurately the Assistance imagines that tens of millions of us are so really, really thirsty we are ready to believe or pretend to believe the Democrat wing of America’s corporate government party have now morphed into crusaders against corruption and big money in politics, and justice everywhere. Yeah. Good to know.
There are only 2 pieces of HR 1 which are NOT empty 2020 campaign promises, and which have a reasonable change of becoming law. Really, really BAD law.
HR 1 has twenty-five or thirty components, all neatly packaged to be lifted out of the 571 page thing and introduced as standalone bills. HR 1 is dead on arrival outside the House. That’s done. Only two of its provisions have even the faintest chance of attracting a few House and Senate Republicans and thus making it to the president’s desk to signed into law.
HR 1 is the 2020 election season’s brightly painted ghetto ice cream truck. It’s on your Facebook pages, Instagram and other social media feeds, even in some of your more “woke” churches. It's blasting loud music about voting rights, protecting the vote, ballots by mail, getting the money out of political campaigns, and reforming the corrupt ethics of Congress and the Whtie House. But none of that stuff will pass while Republicans run the Senate, while Trump is in the White House, and even if they’re out of office, none of it will pass while Democrats are on the corporate tit themselves. If Democrats do take the White House in 2020 you won’t see that sleazy ghetto ice cream truck or hear HR 1’s voting rights and anti-corruption promises any more either. Bet on that.
HR 1 is not designed to deliver protection for voting rights. It's not intended to take big money out of politics, or safeguard the public interest against official corruption. The only so-called reforms HR 1 can actually deliver are officially manufactured fear of the manufactured threats posed by Americans in America working for change, Americans working to save themselves, their children, their grandchildren and the planet itself from capitalist robbery, genocide and ecocide, along with even more voter suppression through the removal of all voter choices outside the two capitalist parties.
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com, the only place where you can guarantee you’re getting fresh weekly news, commentary and analysis from the black left every week, which we’ve have delivered since 2006, by hitting the subscribe button. Google suppresses our appearance in search results, Facebook limits the appearance of our material in your news feeds, and other corporate social media contraptions do the same. But email still flows direct from us to you, so if you visit us at www.blackagendareport.com on your computer or mobile device and you hit that subscribe button you can be certain you will receive our free weekly newsletter containing descriptions of and links to all our weekly published print and audio content for your reading, listening, viewing and especially sharing convenience. Share our newsletter on your favorite social media, and forward the email to family, colleagues, friends and enemies. You can find our audio labeled as Black Agenda Radio, and as Black Agenda Radio Commentaries on iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. If you catch us on any of these especially iTunes, please leave a comment and review, because that helps new people find us.
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Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a member of the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. He can be contacted directly via email at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.
Fri, 11 January 2019
There’s a lot of talk lately about the Green New Deal. The phrase was first used in the US by Howie Hawkins , the Green party candidate for governor in New York state in 2010, 2014 and 2018.
Howie says he stole it from the European Greens who’d been intrigued by the old American New Deal of the 1930s under Franklin Roosevelt. European Greens wanted to regulate the banking sector, something we can't seem to do here. They wanted to raise wages, to shorten working weeks, to stimulate the econony with massive infrastructure upgrades and repair, and to pay for the whole thing with higher taxes on the rich, all of that straight out of the playbook of the 1930s, plus putting the economies of their countries on a path to zero emisions . Their vision included giving away, not selling but giving away the new green technologies enabling such a transition to the global south as reparations. Altogether it was a really ambitious and humane extension upon the old New Deal.
Howie Hawkins stole the slogan and the idea back from the European Greens. Some American Greens said that’s Democrat stuff, Howie, you don’t want that, to which he replied that it ws stuff rank and file Democrats still wanted but that Democratic politicians being who and what they are, had never been willing or able to deliver. There was a wealth of reputable studies asserting that given the political will, it should be possible to get the US economy to zero emissions by 2030, so that became the package upon which Hawkins based his 2010 NY gubernatorial campaign. Economic human rights, guaranteed jobs at living wages, decent housing for all, Medicare for All , curbing military spending, and an absolute ban on fracking, which all the corporate funded environmental organizations in 2010, in the Obama era were saying was “the bridge to the future .”
When Howie Hawkins was polling at 15% in 2014, Democrats put Zephyr Teachout in the governor’s race to bring him back down to 5%, but the fracking ban and some other elements of the Green New Deal were also borrowed by some Democratic politicians. Eventually New York adopted a statewide fracking ban.
Howie Hawkins was part of the team which adapted the Green New Deal proposals to the campaign of Jill Stein, the Green Party’s presidential candidate in 2012 and 2016. Stein was able to get on the ballot in all but three states, and although she was banned from the debates and most corporate media coverage, her campaign did more to popularize the notion of a Green New Deal than anything that happened before. Insurgent Democrat congressional campaigns all over the country were mouthing the words “Green New Deal,” and though nearly all of them who had actual opposition from established Democrats lost except Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and a couple others, the notion in some form or other is now part of the political language.
At the very least, even in the mouths of Democrats the Green New Deal includes Medicare For All, a living wage, raising taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations, and increased spending on infrastructure and education. Most Democrats, even the so-called progressive ones, as we noted last year in Black Agenda Report refuse even to mention the military, or the US overseas empire, as if those things don’t exist. They’re all over the map too on the green part of the Green New Deal as well, with many supporting fracking bans and others not. But that too is to be expected. Democrats are not so much united around policy positions as they are united behind their presidential candidates, or their president, when they have one in the White House or against the president when a Republican occupies that office.
When Greens talk about a Green New Deal they include jobs and affordable housing for everybody, words you scarcely hear out of any Democrats’ mouths. Greens support a national fracking ban and placing the economy on a transition to zero emissions in the short run by leaving the oil, coal and gas deposits in the ground, finding other ways to generate the power we need, and guaranteeing the jobs of people in the transition, also something you don’t hear from Democrats. Greens also support drastic cuts in the military budget, the cessation of support for apartheid Israel, closing the empire of a thousand US military base s around the world and more.
The New York Greens even have a state level climate bill with multiple legislative sponsors which would commit local governments, along with the state’s agricultural, energy, transportation and other sectors to specific goals on the road to zero emissions. If other Green parties on the state level are even minimally serious about pushing a Green New Deal, this is something we should expect to see them emulate and imitate in other states. It's how we raise the bar.
I’m in Georgia, and we expect to have a Georgia Green Climate Bill ready to walk the legislature with this session. We’ll be inviting legislators to sponsor and introduce it, or to borrow or steal provisions from it as they choose. When our party achieves ballot access for 2020 our state legislative candidates will be running on its provisions, including a statewide fracking ban and a bar imported fracked gas, job guarantees for displaced people in the energy sector, and the creation of milestone targets for sectors of our state’s economy on the road to zero emissions by 2030. State level action like this is a vitally important part of building the constituency for and the sense of possibility around a Green New Deal and a just transition.
The Green New Deal and the 116th Congress
The plan for engineering whatever parts of the Green New Deal might have been possible through the Democrat controlled House hinged upon the hopes of some that a sufficient fraction of the House Progressive Caucus might be mobilized to impress Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team. That didn’t work out. Ocasio-Cortez led a sit-in outisde Pelosi’s office which got lots of press but seems not to have moved the speaker.
Ocasio-Cortez asked for a special committee, a House Select Committee, to draft the Green New Deal legislation, a way of getting around the entrenched committee system of the House, and that members of congress in hock to energy companies not be allowed to serve on the committee. Pelosi refused the ban on members who took oil, gas and nuke money, then decided against creation of the select committee altogether. No surprise there.
The US custom, in the legislatures of all the state and both houses of congress, is that Democrats and Republicans select as their party legislative leaders those members who are most successful in garnering big donations from wealthy individuals and corporations. Those wealthy corporations include the insurance industry, Big Pharma and private hospitals, so we can’t expect corporate Democrats to ever support Medicare For All.
Even Bernie Sanders has felt the need to to deviate from the Medicare For All bill that has been in the Congress more than a decade now, and introduce his own which makes space for private insurers. It’s a marked retreat from his previous advocacy of simply lowering the Medicare age to include everybody, but such is the price for being included in the Democratic party heirarchy, and being permitted to run in Democratic primaries as a presidential candidate.
Our place as Greens, as leftists generally then, is not to whine about how the Democrats stole our Green New Deal slogan and slapped it onto their half-assed efforts to appear responsive to the looming crises around us. What we did is we managed to raise the bar, and we have to find ways to do that constantly and consistently, again and again. If we can’t do that, it’s time for us all to go home and watch Netflix.
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Bruce Dixon.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and a state committee member of the GA Green Party. he can be reached via email at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.
Thu, 3 January 2019
If anybody else had written it, the first hundred pages of Michelle Obama’s book “Becoming” would stand as a brief, but warm and fuzzy memoir of growing up on the black south side of Chicago. But Michelle Obama is NOT anybody else. She’s the wife of Barack Obama, the first black president, with all the weight and responsibility that carries.
You’d think the former first lady would seize the opportunity presented by her best selling memoir to educate her audience not just to the fact that people growing up on the south side frequently come from loving two parent families, that they grow up in cramped apartments, that they have aunties who give piano lessons, uncles who love jazz, that some of them get good grades, attend magnet high schools, end up in ivy league universities and Harvard Law School, but educate them just a little about the political realities governing the place she grew up.
Michelle Obama doesn’t do that. She tells us her loving and hard working father worked for the city’s water department, and that he was a Democratic precinct captain but she never connects the two. Every Chicagoan knows that water department employees and tens of thousands of other city and county workers, for decades before the seventies and decades afterward are obliged to walk the precincts election day and deliver assigned quotas of votes for what Chicagoans call the Machine. That’s what precinct captains and their helpers are. The captains who fail to deliver their quota lose those city jobs and are replaced with others who can deliver the vote. For forty-five out of fifty-five years Chicago was ruled by one or another mayor named Richard Daley, and deploying an army of patronage workers like Michelle’s father was how they and their stooges stayed in office. Little Michelle Robinson wouldn’t have known that, but by the time one becomes an adult in Chicago these facts are well known.
The other three quarters of her book, in which she meets her husband and he pursues a political career, is pretty unremarkable. She meets her husband to be at work, they get to know each other, they marry, he settles on a political career. He spends a few years as a state senator, is elected US senator from Illinois. They have children, and Barack Obama is elected president. She describes some key members of her husband’s political team, and her own support staff. She fulfills the duties of first lady, but is relieved when it’s time to campaign for a second term. She travels, she meets lots of people. She climbs into the limo with Trump’s wife for their inauguration, and the book ends where it began, some time in 2017.
Michelle Obama has lots of stories, but few if any lessons, and when it comes to her husband’s career, some of the stories aren’t even true. She depicts her husband’s path up to his run for president in 2007 as kind of aimless happenstance. She claims the notion of running for president didn’t surface till other people brought it up after Barack Obama’s “...there is no black America, there is no white America...” speech at the 2004 Democratic convention. This is wildly implausible.
I was one of the three field organizers at Project VOTE Illinois in 1992, and Barack Obama was our state director. Michelle Obama devotes a couple pages to Project VOTE in her memoir. After we registered more than 100,000 new voters and chased them out to the polls that November, the talk around Barack was that he would be running for the first open state senate seat on that part of the south side, the first open congressional seat on the south side, followed by a run for statewide office and a run for national office. As political organizers who’d had a hand in multiple Chicago mayoral campaigns and voter registration drives for 15 years by then, such a career arc seemed entirely plausible to us. That was around the Xmas holiday of 1992. If I heard it, then so did Michelle Obama. It’s not exactly the sort of plan one keeps from the wife.
Despite what Michelle Obama says in her book, by the time a politician is invited to deliver the keynote at the Democratic party’s national convention, as Barack was in 2004, one is firmly on the short list of that party’s prospects for the next presidential election.
Michelle Obama remembers that her feelings were hurt when Congressman Bobby Rush called her husband an “educated fool” in 1999 or early 2000. But she omits entirely the political context of Barack Obama’s 2000 run for Congress against Rush, the only electoral contest he managed to lose. By then, the Daley Machine had ruled Chicago for decades despite a fairly robust, longstanding and widespread political opposition. But that opposition didn’t have a mayoral candidate for 1999. Bobby Rush stepped forward to be the opposition’s mayoral candidate that year, even though he knew he couldn’t win. Obama’s primary election run against Congressman Rush the following year was widely perceived in Chicago as payback, a gesture of Daley’s displeasure against Bobby Rush. In return for his losing run though, Barack Obama was well rewarded indeed. His state senate district was redrawn to shed most of its ghetto precincts and replace them with some of the wealthiest areas in the city, really some of the wealthiest in the nation, making it easier to raise far more money when he chose to run for higher office.
“As the White House's resident advocate for healthy eating and exercise, Ms. Obama has leveraged her image as a priceless asset to Wal-Mart, endorsing its drive to penetrate new urban markets , crush competition, and gobble up even more public tax breaks and subsidies. But in the real world, more urban Wal-Marts, and giving more public subsidies and market share to the amoral company that already accounts for 27 cents of every dollar spent on groceries in this country is not so much the solution to urban “food deserts” as it is the solution to Wal-Mart's problem of how to raise that 27 cents to 30, 40 or 50 cents of every grocery dollar in its corporate coffers. That's the problem Michelle Obama is helping solve, not the problem of accessing decent food at reasonable prices.“
Michelle Obama is obviously an intelligent and well educated woman. But her education seems to have taught her faith and unquestioning acceptance of the power of elites, and how that power is wielded rather than to look for ways to put that power in the hands of the kind of ordinary people among whom she was raised. For the Michelle Obamas of this world, the sky is the limit, as far as personal ambition goes. But she freely manufactures excuses for her lack of faith in any uplift by collective effort. “Bitterness,” she says, and “cranky mistrust” of whites, are as much to blame for lack of black progress than anything which originates from above.
This serves to insulate the former first lady from the world the rest of us live and struggle in. It makes her not a very interesting person, with a memoir that should have ended after the first hundred or so pages. I’d give her book one star out of four.