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

There are more than 40 federal offenses for which the death penalty can be applied to human beings, most of them connected to homicide of one kind or another. But countless homicides committed by the artificial persons we call corporations go unpunished every day. Apparently “personal responsibility” applies only to humans who are not operating behind the legal shield of corporate personhood.

Time For A Corporate Death Penalty 

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Over the last hundred or so years, corporations have gained many of the rights previously accorded only to human beings.  Corporations have the right to buy and sell anything or anyone that can be bought or sold.  Corporations have claimed the right to lie in their advertising and PR as "free speech,"  along with the right to help us mere humans choose our judges and elected officials with unlimited amounts of cash, including anonymous cash.  Corporations have been awarded the right to patent genetic sequences of diseases and to monopolize their cures, as well as patent rights to living plants and animals not of their invention.  A whole type of new anti-pollution regulation called "cap and trade" actually enshrines a corporate right to pollute and establishes exchanges upon which speculators can bid, trade and capture rents for those alleged rights.  And unlike a working person, who has no right to next month's let alone next year's wages, legal scholars working for corporations have devised and popularized something they call the "regulatory takings" doctrine, under which corporations may claim and recover from the government rights to profits they might have made in years to come.  And let's not even talk about trillions in corporate welfare for banks, military contractors, Wal-Mart and others.\

While many argue that corporations have too many rights as it is, this might be a good time to extend them at least one more right we humans have kept for ourselves until now; the right to be put to death for serious crimes.  Right now federal statutes alone offer individuals more than 40 different ways to earn the death penalty, including kidnapping, treason, aircraft hijacking, espionage and many varieties of murder, conspiracy, threatening murder and some drug crimes.  Individual states offer the death penalty for a host of similar offenses.

Putting bad corporate actors down the way we do rabid dogs and serial killers is not a new or even a radical idea.  Corporations are created by the charters of individual states, so states DO have the power to revoke them.  Early in this country's history, corporate charters used to limit a company's existence to a set number of years, to confine their operations to manufacturing a certain item, building a specific road or canal and prohibit them from changing ownership, dumping or concealing their assets or engaging in other kinds of business.  These are legal powers that our governments have not used in a long, long time, but which it's high time to reclaim.

Homicidal profit-seeking on the part of corporations has become an everyday fact of modern life.  Whether it's employers cutting health and safety corners, marketers pushing unsafe drugs, food and products of all kinds, or the deadly industrial fouling of the planet's air, soil, oceans and climate we are living in the midst of a corporate crime wave of murderous and epic proportions.  If we value human life, it only makes sense to treat corporate serial killers like, well, corporate serial killers, to confiscate their ill-gotten assets, to revoke their corporate charters and sentence the artificial personae of corporate malefactors to death.  If corporations are legal persons, it's time to enforce some personal responsibility upon them with a corporate death penalty.

After we accomplish that, it will be time to think about extending a little of that personal responsibility to the actual humans who operate behind the legal shield of the corporations.  But right now, as the saying goes, a corporation can't even get arrested in this country, which, come to think of it is still another right we humans ought to bestow upon them.

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

Direct download: 20100609_bd_corporate_death_penalty.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 5:47am EST

The Twilight of Black Harlem

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Greater Harlem is now less Black “than at any time since the 1920s,” with African Americans making up only 4 in 10 residents. Galloping gentrification is a “racial as well as economic crime,” predicated on the historical devaluation of Black life, nationwide. “Poor Blacks are considered the human equivalent of blight, while affluent whites are treated as precious resources.”

The Twilight of Black Harlem

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

“Poor Blacks are considered the human equivalent of blight, while affluent whites are treated as precious resources.”

Harlem, that piece of Manhattan real estate that epitomized Black urban life for most of the 20th century, is no longer majority African American. The white presence in central Harlem has grown from only 672 individuals in 1990, to almost 14,000 in 2008. According to Census data citied in a recent article in the New York Times, Blacks now make up just 62 percent of central Harlem, and only 41 percent of greater Harlem, the cityscape between the Hudson and East Rivers from 96th Street to 155th Street. Greater Harlem’s Black population is now smaller than at any time since the 1920s. It is true that Hispanic Harlem grew dramatically in the last decade, but in Manhattan as a whole Latinos are losing ground right along with Blacks. The island gets whiter by the day.

The driving force that is rendering Harlem uninhabitable to its traditional population, is not white people swarming uptown – that’s just a symptom of the underlying pathology. Harlem, like inner cities across America, is under relentless siege by organized money, the real estate and banking interests that reap their greatest profits by forcing out poor and working class residents in order to create a much more expensive space for the relatively rich. It is pure predation, and a racial as well as economic crime.

The New York Times article on the whitening of Harlem attempts to treat runaway gentrification as a, somehow, race-neutral phenomenon – as if race and the price of real estate have not always been inextricably intertwined in America. It is the manipulation of race and its relationship to housing and land values in a racist society that allows speculators the greatest opportunities to buy low and sell high. Whether in scaring whites out of city neighborhoods in the Forties and Fifties, or pushing Blacks out today, vast fortunes have been made by the skillful use of race to inflate or deflate the value of entire neighborhoods. The racist devaluation of Black people shows up as profits on the bankers’ and developers’ side of the ledger.

“Greater Harlem’s Black population is now smaller than at any time since the 1920s.”

Race has everything to do with the politics of gentrification. Both the political and economic marketing of gentrification are based on the assumption that “good” neighborhoods and attractive cities are those populated by upscale white people. Poor Blacks are considered the human equivalent of blight, while affluent whites are treated as precious resources. New York Mayor Michael Bloomburg, plans to lay a white line of luxury apartments right across the center of Harlem, from river to to river, at 125th Street – and call it a renaissance. Most Manhattan Black elected officials are allies of the mayor, the developers, the landlords and the banks in the project to destroy Black Harlem. They are loyal to money, not their constituents, and hope to make enough money in the short run that they will not need those constituents in the long term.

It's the same story in Atlanta and other large Black population centers across the United States, the majority of which are hemorrhaging Black residents. The fact that gentrification is such a potent force for Black removal in all regions is proof that racism and finance capitalism behave in remarkably similar fashion throughout the United States. In that sense, nothing has changed since the days of racial blockbusting, several generations ago.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.

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

Direct download: 20100113_gf_BlackHarlem.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:49pm EST

somali kidsA Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
Three years after creating the “worst humanitarian crisis” in Africa by encouraging Ethiopia to invade Somalia, the U.S. now unleashes the food weapon on starving people. “Forty million pounds of American-donated food is sitting in warehouses in Mombasa, Kenya, but U.S. officials won’t allow aid workers to deliver the food to the Somalis that need it.”
U.S. Starves Children in Somali War
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
The Americans are blatantly using food as a political weapon.”
The United States is waging a war of starvation against the people of Somalia. According to United Nations officials, Washington has interrupted the flow of desperately needed food to Somalia, on the grounds that some of it might find its way into the hands of the Shabab, the Islamists the U.S. calls “terrorists,” but who are winning the war for control of southern and central Somalia.
Forty million pounds of American-donated food is sitting in warehouses in Mombasa, Kenya, but U.S. officials won’t allow aid workers to deliver the food to the Somalis that need it. The Americans are blatantly using food as a political weapon, holding starving people hostage to U.S. political objectives – much like ancient armies did when they laid siege to cities to starve the inhabitants into surrender.
It’s now going on three years since the Americans imposed a living hell on Somalia. In December 2006, the U.S. encouraged Ethiopia to invade Somalia to crush an Islamist government that had brought a modicum of peace to the country. The invasion created what the United Nations called the “worst humanitarian crisis in Africa” – worse than Darfur. This U.S.-made crisis was worsened by a devastating drought, leaving half the population totally dependent on outside food aid, the largest part of it from the United States. By locking the food up in Kenyan warehouses, “the U.S. government is holding the Somalia relief enterprise…hostage to its counterterrorism policy,” according to a recent issue of Foreign Policy magazine.
The Americans cannot win in any conventional military sense, so they resort to a war of starvation.”
The American puppet government in Somalia controls no more than a few neighborhoods of the capital city, Mogadishu, and its airport. Were it not for massive U.S. arms aid and the protection of Rwandan and Burundian soldiers, the U.S.-backed government would disintegrate. The Americans cannot win in any conventional military sense, so they resort to a war of starvation.
According to a New York Times article, Somali elders report that many children who had been kept alive by food relief are now dying because of the American aid cutoff. The situation is so dire, that only the U.S. food stores in Kenya can reach Somalia in time to stave off a disastrous famine. There are simply no other resources available.
The drought in East Africa has affected U.S. allies and enemies, alike. Ethiopia has made a plea on behalf of 23 million people threatened by drought in the region. And “the worst drought in ten years” has been exacerbated by a huge, artificial rise in food prices caused by speculators, most of them based in the United States and other rich countries.
Thus, Somalia's hungry are battered from three sides: by artificially high food prices, by drought, and by a deliberate U.S. war of starvation. The Obama Administration is determined to make the Somali people scream as punishment for resisting American domination. But starving babies cannot scream. They can't even cry.
For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
Direct download: 20091111_gf_SomaliaFood.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 6:29am EST

Send In the Clowns: 3 Stooges, Gingrich, Sharpton & Duncan Hit the Road For Corporate “School Reform”

Quite separately from each other, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Rev. Al Sharpton and Newt Gingrich have long ago forfeited whatever credibility they may once have had. Taken together, they are simply a bad joke: three gown men publicly eye-poking and slap fighting each other while they all come together to sell us high-stakes testing, charter schools, educational privatization and the whole package of corporate “school reform.”

Send In the Clowns: 3 Stooges, Gingrich, Sharpton & Duncan Hit the Road For Corporate “School Reform”

by BAR managing editor Bruce Dixon

Back in the late 19th and early 20th century heydays of vaudeville, when the singers bombed, when the jokes fell flat and audience attention started wandering, management knew what to do. They would send in the clowns. Some things haven't changed.

Despite a decade of hard sell by right wing think tanks, foundations, and big media, the American people have not bought the corporate version of school reform. Most people just don't believe public schools should be privatized or militarized, or operated by business people like businesses instead of by educators, parents and communities in the interests of children, parents and communities, like the best schools always have been run. And most educators doubt that high stakes testing improves educational outcomes in any meaningful way.

Since the public debates on charter schools and privatizing education are ones that our elite cannot win, they have decreed there will be no debate. Instead of an honest public examination of the disastrous impact of No Child Left Behind, and its attendant decade of creeping educational privatization, corporate media, the Obama administration and its bipartisan allies are sending in the clowns with a 21st century three stooges remake starring the Rev. Al Sharpton, along with Republican former Speaker Newt Gingrich and Obama Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, elbowing and slapping at each other, yukking it up about their supposed political differences while they all come together around the corporate elite's version of “school reform.”

Stooge number one is Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, a former basketball player and friend of the president who, without a single hour of teaching experience was named by Chicago's Mayor Daley to head the nation's third largest school system. Duncan now pledges to extend the Chicago model of high stakes testing and massive school closings to create opportunities for what he calls “innovative” charter schools. Thanks to Duncan, Chicago's public schools are now being sued by black teachers for racial discrimination in the wholesale dismissal of hundreds of qualified, dedicated black teachers and their replacement with younger, cheaper, less experienced and mostly whiter ones. Even now, the Obama administration is withholding federal education funds from states and school districts to force nationwide implementation of these so-called “reforms.”

Stooge number two is the Rev. Al Sharpton, whose presence allows the stooges to claim they are a “civil rights” act. Rev. Sharpton jumped aboard the corporate education reform bandwagon with both feet after receiving a half million dollar bribe last year, for his National Action Network reportedly brokered by New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein through a right wing not for profit agency that promotes charter schools.

Stooge number three is the same Newt Gingrich who, who once advocated removal of underachieving children from their parents homes to boarding schools and military academies, and whose 1994 Contract For America, demanded the dissolution of the US Department of Education.

Mass media ought to be where the studies, the facts, the experience and the voices of parents, educators, students and communities across the country wrestling with the problems of education are held up for all to examine and understand. But that would be too much like public service for our America's privatized media. What we'll get instead is entertainment. They're sending in the clowns. And here they come!

Privatization Pictures presents a No Child Left Behind Production starring the New Three Stooges, Arne Duncan, Al Sharpton and Newt Gingrich in Corporate School Reform directed by Barack Obama and produced by the Bradley, Heritage and Walton Family Foundations, featuring fake statistics, dubious studies, crackpot merit pay schemes, charter schools including military charter schools, cronyism, patronage, corruption, worse educational outcomes, thousands of school closings, mass firings of qualified teachers, community destabilization, loss of public and community control, and the privatization of education.

For Black Agenda Report, I'm Bruce Dixon apologizing to the ghosts of the original three stooges. They'd understand. On the web, we are at www.blackagendareport.com.

Direct download: 20090818_3stooges_2.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:24am EST

Barack Obama and the Future of American PoliticsLong time activist, researcher and scholar Paul Street offers perhaps the most clear-heded and meticulously researched dissection yet of the career of the current president, along with a frank assessment of the possibilites, good and not so good, in an Obama administration.

In part 3 of this hour-long interview with Dr. Jared Ball, Street completes his exploration of the phenomenon of Barack Obama and what it means to black and progressive politics.

Direct download: 20090615_jared-interviews-paulstreet3.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:51am EST

High Court Tries to Freeze White Privilege in Place

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The real “activist” judiciary if represented by the U.S. Supreme Court majority than is determined to re-enshrine white privilege in law. The New Haven firefighters ruling is an assault on Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. “The High Court decision would preserve an ethnic, clan and family racial protection racket that has been embedded in fire and police departments for generations.”
 
High Court Tries to Freeze White Privilege in Place
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
What the racist majority is actually attempting to do is to freeze white privilege in place.”
In siding with white firefighters in New Haven, Connecticut, the 5-4 Supreme Court majority treats white dominance in firefighting as a kind of harmless “tradition” rather then evidence on its face of systemic, institutional racism in hiring and promotion. The ruling reflects a general white American worldview, that sees the Irish fireman as an iconic figure, even in neighborhoods that long ago turned Black or Latino. Under the terms of the past world the majority seeks to preserve, the white fireman and cop is a wholesome and “natural” presence, rather than an affront to every non-white resident of the neighborhood.
The Supreme Court majority, in striking down Federal Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s ruling in New Haven, is raising the bar significantly for minorities seeking entrance or promotion in these historically white men’s clubs – the police precincts and station houses. The justices now demand “strong, basic evidence” of previous discrimination. Yet such evidence is everywhere available in the firefighting and police professions. What the racist majority is actually attempting to do is to freeze white privilege in place. In this case, the High Court decision would preserve an ethnic, clan and family racial protection racket that has been embedded in fire and police departments for generations – the most raw and obvious form of on-the-job apartheid.
A general white American worldview sees the Irish fireman as an iconic figure, even in neighborhoods that long ago turned Black or Latino.”
The white-dominated society, through its media and cultural institutions, actively glorifies this historical white entitlement to jobs by reserving special places of honor for men, and now women, who are third and fourth generation fire and police persons. Most whites do not even question how white ethnic groups, clans and individual families perpetuated themselves in relatively well paid, stable and prestigious civil service employment, from one generation to the next. It is accepted as simply “the way of the world” and a good thing, a comforting situation to most white people – and especially comforting to the sons and daughters that feel entitled to follow their fathers and grandfathers into the firehouse or on the beat or into the white ethnic-dominated construction trades.
The rightwing judges that now dominate the federal judiciary constantly warn against judicial “activism” – when in fact it is they who are on a reactionary political mission to preserve white privilege. They attempt to dismantle key elements of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. As Dr. Ron Walters has written, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act has been “settled law” for 35 years. Its clear intent was to prevent the “protected classes” – which, at the time, meant Blacks – from being excluded from employment as a result of testing devices. The forces of white privilege have been trying to turn the Act on its head, ever since, by framing whites as in need of protection. As if society has ever been weighted against the interests of white men.
The actual impact of testing in New Haven and elsewhere has been to exclude Blacks and Latinos. These are the facts that racist judges willfully ignore. Instead of facts, they substitute color-blind mumbo-jumbo, a thin cover for race privilege preservation.
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
Direct download: 20090701_gf_SCOTUSfirefightrs.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 5:33am EST