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

So many people call themselves "organizers" these days that the word is meaningless. The Alexandra Ocasio-Corte campaign supplies left electoral and other organizing efforts with a real world organizing benchmark -- the AOC unit -- 120,000 phone calls.

This is Bruce Dixon from Black Agenda Report with the latest in our series about organizing, what for reference sake we’ll call the 200 series. If you haven’t you really should check out the 100 series which we did two or three years ago. While of course you can always Google Black Agenda Report, organizing 101, you should be aware that Black Agenda Report is one of the news outlets – the only outlet owned by African Americans and aimed at a black audience, for which Google deliberately suppresses search results, on the basis that we are tools of the Russians or something. So the ony reliable way to find Black Agenda Report’s Organizing 100 series is to visit our site at BlackAgendaReport.com, and click the links there.

Everybody’s an “organizer” nowadays, to hear them tell it. Ever notice though, how almost none of these organizers actually tell us what that means, what this “organizing” stuff actually is? That should make you wonder a little bit right there. The fact is on the lips of many, it doesn’t mean anything at all. So let’s fix that.

In a recent interview broadcast on Daniel Denvir’s The Dig podcast, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez spelled out the technical essence of her successful campaign effort. She said it was shoe leather canvassing, a lot of door to door work in which the canvassers dropped written material on and actuallly talked with every registered voter who’d come to the door, and that’s easier in New York City than in many places, since the doors are relatively close to one another. They made sure to extract phone and email contact information from potential supporters. They distributed literature at public places, street corners, transit stops and gatherings of all kinds in the district, not just in the spirit of passing the paper, but with the specific aim of extracting email and phone contact information from people in these encounters as well. The AOC social media campaign focused on engaging the contacts gained by the door to door canvass and the street operation, so they were not just shouting into the void. And most importantly of all, Ocasio-Cortez says they made about 120,000 phone calls.

Social media is great. Literature is necessary Appearing in debates and public stuff is useful. But without those 120,000 phone calls, the people whose door you knock on in April will have long forgotten you by a June election. You have to make a LOT of intial contacts and a lot of following up by email, by text messages, and you gotta do thousands, tens of thousands of phone calls. The volunteers who make the calls were recruited from among the enthusiastic supporters encountered in the canvass, on the street, and through the social media aimed at supporters encountered those ways.

This is the essence of electoral organizing. You contact people win person with your message, and you stay in touch frequently enough and long enough to stampede them out to vote election day Since votes are actually counted, the way the organizer knows the job is going is to count the new contacts made each week, the number of first time and follow-up calls made that week.

Numbers measure the organizing process. If your electoral campaign or so-called organzing effort is not making hundreds or thousands of in person calls (not robocalls) every week to your new and old contacts, whatever you’re doing is NOT organizing. Organizers who don’t set numerical goals and strive accountably to meet them are faking the funk, it’s that simple. Numbers measure the organizing process, not signs and banners. Not “visibility” and not carrying a sign at somebody elses march or protest. In fact when your people DO attend the marches and protests put on by other outfits and fail to bring back new names for your people to contact in follow-up they too are helping you fake the funk.

Leafleting at street corners, transit stops, picnics, public events and places? Is your practice and your pitch tailored to bring back new names, phone numbers, email address? If not you’re scattering paper into the wind. Organizers get the digits and get them called back. Organizers make and sustain contact with the people they reach, and in electoral contests, that’s at least till election day. That’s exactly how Ocasio-Cortez said it was done, and it’s a formula decades old. It just has to be done.

They call 93 million miles, the distance from the earth to the sun an astronomical unit, an AU. So let’s give Ocasio-Cortez her unit, the AOC unit – 120,000 calls. Since most of us haven’t scaled up like that, we should probably call a mere 20,000 just a plain old generic unit. To keep from mixing apples with lawn furniture let’s stipulate that robocalls and text messaging do not count toward these units, that they are tallied separately. So the useful questions is how many people are on your email lists? How many new names did you add to your database this month, and how many will you add next month? How many phone calls is your organizing effort making this month? Half a unit, 10,000 calls? A full unit, 20,000 calls? If you’re not asking these questions, answering them and taking steps to get and sustain those numbers, whatever you’re doing ain’t organizing. Numbers tell the story. Get some numbers so we can tell some accurate stories.

This is North America. The almighty market uses the media to inundate us with a flood of 24/7 entertainment, making us the best entertained and the least informed people on earth. There’s plenty of public conversation, but what exists there serves the market, not those who want to make the world a better place. We don’t have much media access because the big media are owned and operated by billionaires. There is little place in their matrix for us. We have to grab people on the street or in their doorways or workplaces or public events and get them into OUR conversation. We have to supply and to engineer some of that conversation, we have to foster it, to host it and to sustain it if we intend to build a popular movement that will someday have the power to change this world for the better. 120,000 calls. Measure your organizing efforts against that. Ask how many calls is your organizing project making this month?

If you’re and your fellow “organizers” are not asking and answering these questions, whatever is going on is NOT organizing.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com, where we have 12 years of news and analysis and commentary from the black left, new articles every Wednesday of every week.

Direct download: 20180725_bd_organizing-201-120000-phone-calls.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 9:24pm EDT

Less than a month ago, the president instructed the Pentagon to draw up plans to house 120,000 immigrants in what it described as “austere tent cities” – in plain language deliberately cruel concentration camps, apparently on military bases. The projected expansion of the US gulag is equivalent to throwing up a brand new California (129,000 inmates) state prison system almost overnight. Nothing like this has been publicly contemplated in any of our lifetimes. This is a new and uniquely dangerous moment in US political history.

So where is the Green Party? When the news became public, every vaguely leftish nonprofit and political outfit with two laptops, a cell phone, a pulse and a mailing list was appealing for funds, many calling virtual and in-person public meetings and actions at airports, detention centers, and other locations. But not the Green Party. Determined to be and to remain irrelevant, the Green Party has barely acknowledged this pivotal juncture. Although the Green Party has a substantial national mailing list, it has not bothered to explain itself or educate the public on this political moment, to give or ask for any clear stand on the part of state parties and activists. If an opposition party won’t seize the chance to grow in influence and numbers at times when millions of people are looking for effective ways to stand up, it’s hard to see that party growing into any kind of relevant force in the nation’s political life.

The Green Party has an outreach committee but no outreach operation. The Green party has a media committee but no real press operation. The Green Party has a ballot access committee, and although the party is banned from the ballot in more than a dozen states, its cannot be bothered to devise any credible plan, any achievable campaign to put itself on the ballot in those states. I know this because I was part of the crew which researched and drew up the bare bones of such a plan in 2015, a full year and more before the election for the Jill Stein campaign. But by December of that year the party’s presidential campaign was moonwalking away from any attempt to a wage coordinated ballot access drive in those key states, which contain about one eighth the nation’s black voters.

In the weeks before and after the inauguration of Donald Trump, when hundreds of thousands of people were in the streets the Green Party made no attempt to call its own meetings or events. Party leaders utterly ignored the chances to raise a million or two party-building dollars, along with opportunities for priceless visibility and outreach by putting its 2016 and 2017 presidential and vice presidential candidates on the road for a month-long “victory tour.” As a national organization, the Green Party is really good as an idea, but a hot mess as far as implementing that idea. There is, as I outlined a few weeks ago in Why Our Green Parties Haven’t Taken Off, the Green Party lacks any coherent organizing methodology, has no political clarity, has no structures to promote internal democratic discussion. Many of its activists and leaders seem to imagine they can self-organize with methods similar to those of Republicans and Democrats, and that only electoral campaigns, which they often have little idea how to conduct, will build a party. And in the name of diversity and inclusion the Green party has empowered token caucuses which pretend to represent African Americans and others, but which are centers of opportunism.

In its defense, the party was organized by liberals two decades ago who correctly assessed the WHAT – the need for something outside the two government parties but didn’t have much a grip on HOW to make any of it happen. That part is for those of us on the scene today to figure out, and the mistakes of two decades are ours to recognize, to learn from, and to undo. Or not. I still think we can undo a lot of them.

This weekend the Greens hold their annual meeting in Salt Lake City. Like many others, I won’t be there because no votes are taken or decisions are made at the meeting. The most you can do at Green annual meetings is meet some people in person you otherwise only encounter online, and be one of hundreds of faces in an applauding crowd. That didn’t seem worth the whole weekend, or the trip.

But the Greens elect several members of their national leadership body, their steering committee this weekend. I believe it’s still possible to turn the thing around, and I’m one of the 150 people who get to vote in that election. I’ll be voting for Greens who make no bones about being avowed socialists, and who understand the nature and the urgency of the tasks before them. If the Green Party can be saved, and transformed into a useful vehicle in the struggle, a lot rides on the vote this weekend. The choices are pretty stark. But at least they ARE choices.

For Black Agenda Report I’m Bruce Dixon. Google and other corporate social media are suppressing our content in their search results, so the only way to ensure you get notified of new content each week at Black Agenda Report is to visit us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com and hit the subscribe button to receive our weekly notices of new content via email. You can also find our one hour Black Agenda Radio show and Black Agenda Radio Commentaries on SoundCloud, Libsyn, iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

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

Direct download: 20180719_bd_greenparty.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 11:57am EDT

In 2005 and 2006 Democrats John Kerry and Barack Obama on the Senate Judiciary Committee refused to delay, filibuster or even closely question Bsuh's Supreme Court nominees Sam Alito and John Roberts.

We cannot and should not blame Trump and the Republicans alone for the Supreme Court. Leading Democrats had a big hand in it too.

The US Supreme Court has been around as long as the Constitution itself, more than two centuries now. Since the Warren court of the 1950s, Republicans have been quite open about their intent to pack it with judges who will repeal birth control, civil rights, labor rights, minimum wages, environmental regulation and most of the 20th century. Democrats, if they were ever a party of the people, as opposed to another party of the elite, have had sixty-some years to craft their own strategy to thwart Republicans. But no such strategy has ever emerged because Democratic elected officials have much more in common with their elite Republican counterparts than they do with the unwashed masses who vote Democratic, and who can always be rallied with the cynical cry that only electing more Democrats can save them from an evil Republican Supreme Court.

Back in 2005 the second President Bush nominated John Roberts as chief justice. The ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee was the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry. The most celebrated, widely quoted, and closely watched Democrat on the judiciary committee was the acclaimed constitutional scholar and freshman from Illinois, Barack Obama. These were the guys on point for Democrats that season.

John Roberts had a long history of hostility to birth control, to voting rights, to organized labor, black and brown people, anti-discrimination laws and to anything else which might mitigate or restrain the rule of the rich in even the smallest degree. As a DC circuit court judge he “legalized” after the fact Bush’s illegitimate detention and torture at offshore black sites. As a private attorney he represented mining companies defending the horrifically destructive practice of mountaintop removal, and he was part of the Bush V. Gore legal team which succeeded in letting the Supreme Court overrule the ongoing tally of votes in Florida and declare Bush the winner. Roberts was also a board member of the rabidly right wing Federalist Society, which seeks to overturn virtually all civil rights and environmental law, and all regulation of so-called “free markets” whatsoever.

Republican leaning corporate media rejoiced, saying they were finally gonna get what they wanted. Environmental, voting rights and civil rights organizations sounded the alarm, but to little avail. Elected Democrats, their supposed champions, along with Democrat-leaning corporate media whined that there was insufficient evidence of Roberts’ rightward leanings to invest much effort in stopping his ascent to the court. Ranking Democrat John Kerry and Barack Obama were urged to filibuster the Roberts nomination. They pretended to entertain the idea a while, but did not. Both Kerry and Obama failed to oppose the Roberts nomination in committee, where they could have imposed substantial roadblocks and opened an ongoing debate about the sinister role of the corporate funded Federalist Society. They voted against the nomination on the Senate floor, where it made no difference, and John Roberts got on the Supreme Court with no serious opposition.

The next summer, in 2006 when Bush nominated Sam Alito to the Supreme Court the exercise was repeated. Samuel Alito had an even more balls-out reputation as an opponent of civil and human rights. Republicans exulted while lawyerly Democrats and their media mouthpieces claimed there were no smoking guns to tell whether Alito was actually the kind of judge Republicans claimed he was. Kerry and Obama, both lawyers of course were urged again to vigorously oppose the nomination in committee, and above all to make Alito’s membership in the Federalist Society a major point in opposing him and the entire wave of Republican judges it vets and spawns for local benches and the federal judiciary.

The Federalist Society was founded during the first term of Ronald Reagan in 1982, and immediately attracted lavish funding from a galaxy of right wing foundations, deep corporate pockets and wealthy individuals including the Walton Family Foundation, the Koch Brothers, the Scaife, Coors and Heritage Foundations. It swiftly established chapters in law schools across the country and became the go-to portal for young Republican lawyers on the make. The Federalist society also has working groups of law school professors and groups where practicing attorneys and prominent jurists meet and associate with law students, and in which legal arguments for new corporate rights are developed, rehearsed and fine tuned. For about a generation now, practically no Republican attorney has snagged a spot on state or federal judicial or prosecutorial benches, or appointed to federal agencies without the stamp of the Federalist Society on his or her resume.

As the two Democratic leaders of the Senate judiciary committee, Kerry and Obama were urged again and again by civil rights, environmental groups, by labor unions – by all the advocacy groups which supposedly represent the Democratic party’s base voters, to stall, to delay and to vigorously oppose the Alito nomination. By the summer of 2006 it was clear that Democrats would take back the house in November, and possibly the Senate as well. This time, Kerry and Obama said they were considering filibustering the nomination. But they didn’t, and even worse, they refused to question Sam Alito on his association with the Federalist Society, which might have made that organization’s stranglehold on Republican prosecutorial and judicial nominees an ongoing issue.

After perfunctory questioning, Kerry, Obama and their committee passed Alito out to the full Senate where he was confirmed with no significant opposition. To this day, the corporate funded Federalist Society is still choosing a huge share of judges and prosecutors.

Let’s be clear… the courts in the US were never intended to be a small d democratic institution. The founding fathers were quite open about their intention to insulate judges from the will of the electorate, even when only white men with substantial property were allowed to vote. From the nation’s beginning, its courts have always been an elite institution, staffed by and answerable to elites, not to the people. And the US elite is thoroughly bipartisan. Vigorous Democratic opposition to Federalist Society nominees a dozen years ago by leading Democrats, most notably by then senators Barack Obama and John Kerry might have made kept dozens or hundreds of right wing judges off the bench and made it impossible for Trump to nominate his latest corporate mouthpiece. It didn’t happen because elite Democrats have far more in common with elite Republicans than they do with mere Democratic voters.

So the answer to Democrat excuse makers who sagely assure us that elections DO make a difference is yeah, sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t. But fighting, resisting injustice, exploitation and oppression always makes a difference. Too bad that’s simply NOT what Democratic elected officials actually DO.

For Black Agenda Report I’m Bruce Dixon. Google and other corporate social media are suppressing our content in their search results, so the only way to ensure you get notified of new content each week at Black Agenda Report is to visit us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com and hit the subscribe button to receive our weekly notices of new content via email. You can also find our one hour Black Agenda Radio show and Black Agenda Radio Commentaries on SoundCloud, iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

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

Direct download: 20180711_bd_SCOTUS_and-the-Dems-v2.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 11:08am EDT

Black Caucus Members Shame Themselves, as South America Warns U.S. Not to Sanction Venezuela

Black Caucus Members Shame Themselves, as South America Warns U.S. Not to Sanction Venezuela

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

Even Colombia, Washington’s client state in the region, joined in rejecting U.S. sanctions.”

The U.S. House of Representatives began debating, on Wednesday, a bill to impose sanctions on Venezuela for supposed human rights violations. A similar bill has already cleared important hurdles in the Senate, and it is questionable whether the Obama administration could prevent passage in both Houses of Congress, even if wanted to. It’s all part of U.S. blustering and bullying in Latin America, a continent that refuses to be treated as Uncle Sam’s back yard. Foreign ministers from all 12 members of the Union of South American Nations last week spoke with one voice, declaring that U.S. sanctions would represent "an obstacle” for the Venezuelan people to “overcome their difficulties with independence, and in democratic peace.” Even Colombia, Washington’s client state in the region, joined in rejecting U.S. sanctions.

Unlike the Organization of American States, or OAS, the Union of South American Nations has no role for the United States or Canada, although Mexico and Panama have observer status. The late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez was a prime mover in creating the Union, to allow South Americans to forge their own economic and political ties without interference from the imperial behemoth to the North. Were it not for South American solidarity in the face of constant U.S. threats against Venezuela, the U.S. would be moving even more aggressively to turn the socialist government into a failed state, ripe of plucking.

These overtly racist elements have staged violent demonstrations since February.”

Ever since the defeat of a U.S.-backed coup in 2002, Washington has financed and trained a right-wing Venezuelan opposition centered in the mostly white upper classes of the country. Unable to win victory at the polls, these overtly racist elements have staged violent demonstrations since February, openly vowing to make the country ungovernable. President Nicolás Maduro’s government has been cautious in containing the outbreaks – more cautious than some of his comrades would like. Maduro has called on President Obama to stop destabilizing his country, to join a commission to discuss “peace and sovereignty” – and to call off those American factions that, Maduro says, are out to assassinate him. In his appeal to the U.S. president, Maduro noted that he, like Obama, has “African grandparents.” Hugo Chavez was also proud of his African ancestry.

However, the Black delegation to the U.S. Congress from Florida is nothing for any Black person to be proud off. All three Black Caucus members from the state – Corrine Brown, Frederica Wilson, and Alcee Hastings – signed on as co-sponsors of the Venezuela sanctions bill. Once again, the Black Misleadership Class shames 40 million African Americans with their slavish devotion to the imperial powers-that-be. Venezuela is overwhelmingly a black and brown country struggling to overcome centuries of racist internal rule and national subjugation to the will of the White Colossus in the North. The brown Obama is no better, nor are the sycophants of the Congressional Black Caucus, whose notions of solidarity begin and end with a checkbook.

If Venezuela’s sovereignty and dignity are to be preserved, it will be through their own efforts and the determination of South Americans to run their own affairs, to act in the spirit of Chavez, and the still-living example of Fidel.

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

 

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

Direct download: 20140528_gf_VenezuelaSanctions.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 9:00am EDT

USA: Bad Jobs Country

USA: Bad Jobs Country

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

You will hear no countervailing vision from the Democrats, whose message differs from Republicans only in tone, not in substance.”

A new study shows that the U.S. economy has finally produced more jobs than there were before the Great Recession of 2008. The problem is, they’re mostly bad jobs in fast-food restaurants and low-wage retail. The National Employment Law Project found that there are almost two million fewer good paying jobs than there were back in 2008, but also close to two million more jobs in the low-wage sector of the economy – meaning, most of the new jobs have been bad jobs.

Actually, the change in the jobs picture during the Great Recession was just a speeded up version of what capitalism has been producing in the United States for more than 30 years. It is by design. Every time employers have turned the screws on labor, in terms of wages, benefits and jobs security, Wall Street has rewarded those companies. The Lords of Capital have also richly rewarded the politicians from both parties for removing the remaining obstacles to the direct rule of the rich.

Capital’s global plan is to reduce all workers to a state of absolute insecurity, so that they will accept those bad jobs without complaint. That requires the destruction of what we used to call the social safety net – a term that sounds increasingly quaint in the dog-eat-dog environment engineered into the system by Wall Street.

Make no mistake about it: austerity is the common program of both the business parties. That’s why you will hear no countervailing vision from the Democrats, whose message differs from Republicans only in tone, not in substance.Both answer to the Lords of Capital.

Big Capital’s intentions have been quite clear for decades.”

Barack Obama, the great actor and political chameleon, pretends to commiserate with his Democratic minority and working class constituents. Like his mentor, Bill Clinton, Obama claims to feel their pain. Yet, he is feverishly working to pass trade treaties that will further establish the legal structures of the global race to the bottom – treaties so blatantly biased towards corporations and against every principle of democracy and national sovereignty, that the language must be kept secret.

However, the main problem for American workers isn’t that Wall Street’s economic and social plans are secret – because, for the most part, they’re not. Big Capital’s intentions have been quite clear for decades. The NAFTA trade treaty has been savaging U.S. factory workers and Mexican peasants for 20 years. The Democrats were in power when the banks were set free to loot and plunder 15 years ago. Every employment study has tracked the steady decline of union membership, which the Democrats have done virtually nothing to reverse. That’s quite understandable since finance capital has steadily increased its campaign contributions to Democrats. None of this has been a secret, and no one should be surprised that, as a result, most new jobs are bad jobs. As far as Wall Street is concerned, that’s good news.

What makes the current era different from the past, is that neither of the business parties even bothers to pretend that it has a plan for a good jobs society. That means the people must put forward their own plan, through their own organizations – and learn to avoid the Democrats, whose job is to nip genuine people’s movements in the bud, so as not to disturb the corporate order.

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

 

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

Direct download: 20140430_gf_BadJobs.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 9:40am EDT

Ford and IBM May Have to Answer for Their Role in Apartheid

Ford and IBM May Have to Answer for Their Role in Apartheid

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

The judge rejected Ford and IBM’s contention that multinational corporations are legally shielded from these kinds of lawsuits.”

The United States court system, whose value to anyone but the rich is rapidly disappearing, may yet play a role in the unfinished business of South African liberation. A federal district judge in Manhattan ruled that a group of South Africans can proceed with a suit against Ford Motor Company and IBM for doing business with the white regime during the time of apartheid. The plaintiffs include victims of torture and relatives of people killed by the racist government. They will have to prove, not only that the American corporations knew that their products would be used to oppress and torture South Africans, but that Ford and IBM’s purpose in doing business in the country was to “aid and abet” the white authorities.

That’s a very high burden of proof. However, it’s a better shot than the U.S. Supreme Court gave to a group of Nigerian refugees who tried to sue Shell Oil for helping the Nigerian military to systematically torture and kill environmentalists in the 1990s. The High Court’s interpretation of the relevant U.S. law was that the crimes committed in Nigeria didn’t have a close enough connection to the United States. However, the justices left the door open to other cases that might have a stronger connection to the U.S.

This week, federal judge Shira Scheindlin – the same judge who issued the sweeping ruling against New York City’s stop-and-frisk policies, last year – gave the South African plaintiffs permission to make their case. She also rejected Ford and IBM’s contention that multinational corporations are legally shielded from these kinds of lawsuits. Judge Scheindlin found no basis in law to argue that international laws against such things as genocide, slavery, war crimes and piracy “apply only to natural persons and not to corporations.”

The South African government failed to prosecute perpetrators from the old regime and paid out only paltry reparations to the victims.”

The South African plaintiffs are part of the Khulumani Group, which was created as a response to the weaknesses of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up by the new Black government of South Africa. The Khulumani activists say the government failed to prosecute perpetrators from the old regime and paid out only paltry reparations to the victims. Most importantly, the Black government that came to power in 1994 and its reconciliation program provided no redress for the systematic social and economic crimes of apartheid. The Khulumani Group agreed with Frank Meintjies, a South African activist and intellectual who wrote that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission “failed to address the more collective loss of dignity, opportunities and systemic violence experienced by the oppressed.” He continued: “No hearings were held on land issues, on the education system, on the migrant labor system and on the role of companies that collaborated with, and made money from, the apartheid security system” – companies like Ford and IBM.

Thanks to the Khulumani Group’s lawsuit in Manhattan, two U.S.-based multinational corporations may finally have to explain why they gave aid and comfort to South African apartheid.

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

 

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

Direct download: 20140423_gf_FordIBMSAfrica.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 1:04pm EDT

Armstrong Williams Wants “Diversity” Favor from FCC

Armstrong Williams Wants “Diversity” Favor from FCC

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

Williams claims that he is known to provide broadcast content that reflects a minority perspective.”

The Federal Communications Commission this week dealt at least a potential blow to the monopolists who have sucked every drop of social value out of American commercial television. The FCC ruled that TV stations that sell substantial portions of other TV stations advertizing, are the real owners of the station, and thus are violating rules against multiple ownerships in the same market. The practice of joint advertizing has meant that many stations are little more than shells for getting around the rules against monopolization. The National Association of Black Journalists applauds the FCC action, since shared advertizing agreements usually mean firing the whole newsroom of one of the stations. The Minority Media and Telecommunications Council supports the ruling, because the shared advertizing game only helps the media giants eat up the smaller guys.

One person who’s not happy is Armstrong Williams, the Black rightwing propagandist and hustler who calls himself a journalist. Williams owns two stations that are essentially extra channels for stations already owned by Sinclair Broadcasting, which is the largest operator of non-network affiliated stations in the country. Williams claims that Black people in Flint, Michigan, and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, will suffer if he loses his stations there, since he is known to provide broadcast content that reflects a minority perspective. Now, that’s a joke! Armstrong Williams, whose mentor was South Carolina’s rabidly racist Sen. Strom Thurmond, has never uttered or written a word that was relevant to the hopes and dreams of most Black people. In political terms, Armstrong Williams most closely resembles the character played by Samuel L. Jackson in Django Unchained.

The fact that the owner is Black doesn’t affect the stations’ broadcast schedules and program content one bit.”

But, more importantly, there is nothing on his TV stations that distinguishes them from any other corporate money machine. In Myrtle Beach, it’s a long day of Jerry Springer and People’s Court and Friends reruns, with news at 10 provided by a network owned by CBS and Warner Bros. In Michigan, his station is just another NBC affiliate, spewing the same bland corporate crap. The fact that the owner is Black doesn’t affect the stations’ broadcast schedules and program content one bit. It’s still garbage, of no socially redeeming value. Program-wise, it’s not even Black garbage.

Black people have no reason to be concerned about the survival of television stations that do not substantially serve their interests. It is true that Armstrong Williams has as much right as any white person to get rich from poisoning the airwaves – but that does not mean that we have to help him. And in fact, the airwaves still technically belong to the public. The government is obligated by law to ensure that the broadcast spectrum is put to uses that best serve the public. That means programming that is accountable to the public, including Black people.

There was a time when the FCC at least pretended to take public input seriously. The very fact that, two generations ago, the Black public could challenge the licenses of stations that ignored, abused or simply underserved them, created wondrous opportunities for intra-Black communications – opportunities that have been wiped out by corporate consolidation.

The FCC may well make an exception to its own joint advertizing ruling, on “diversity” grounds. And, that would be a victory – for Armstrong Williams. However, Black people as a whole will have won nothing, and lost a great deal.

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

 

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

Direct download: 20140402_gf_FCC.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 12:05pm EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The Obama campaign has succeeded in placing it’s Black pit bull in MSNBC’s prime time slot, where Al Sharpton will more than fulfill his promise to never say anything critical of the First Black President. MSNBC ejected a mildly leftish analyst to provide Sharpton with a megaphone to keep African American politicians and activists on the Obama reservation, where they can do no harm to Wall Street’s rulers – a perfect position for an “eminently buyable man.”

 

Is Sharpton Move to MSNBC Black “Progress”?

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

All we will get from Sharpton is a demand that Blacks build a “wall” around Obama to keep him safe and secure in the White House for another term.”

Is Rev. Al Sharpton’s move to a prime time slot on MSNBC television a good thing for Black people? There was a time, two generations ago, when the placement of just about any Black personality in front of the TV cameras was assumed to be a pure plus – that is, unless that person somehow embarrassed “The Race” in full view of white people. But that was before whites with power learned how to put Black faces to corporate use. They discovered that there were plenty of African Americans that were so eager to be on television, they would say anything. These aspiring anchors would read news copy full of racist code words like “forced bussing” without complaint – glad to get the check and to be on the tube. The news didn’t really get better, in terms of its treatment of Black people and the issues that mattered most to the African American community. In fact, it’s generally gotten worse. But the presence of Black faces on the screen created the illusion that television’s news content was now friendlier, and more relevant, to Blacks.

Lots of Black folks are still playing that face-counting game, and for them, MSNBC’s decision to put Al Sharpton out front at 6pm is a sign of Black progress, maybe even a kind of coup. Look at Reverend Al! He used to take it to the streets to challenge authority, and now he’s the authority, holding down a prime-time spot. That must be good for Black people, right?

Wrong. MSNBC’s choice of Sharpton over the leftish young Turkish American Jenk Uygur is a net loss for everyone outside the orbits of power. Al Sharpton is President Obama’s paid pit bull, whose main mission is to maul and mangle any Black politicians and activists that might consider leaving the Obama reservation. He has beenbankrolled by billionaire New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is running Black and brown folks out of the Big Apple as fast as hyper-gentrification will allow. Sharpton – always buyable and never trustworthy – has completed his biggest deal yet with Power, Wall Street power, and the power of a White House that serves Wall Street. He is nestled in the bosom of the rulers, and will savage anyone that tries to mess with his sugar daddies: Obama and Bloomberg.

MSNBC’s choice of Sharpton over the leftish young Turkish American Jenk You-gur is a net loss for everyone outside the orbits of power.”

So, how do Black people, or anyone else seeking to understand reality, benefit from having Obama’s pit bull and Mayor Bloomberg’s pet taking up space on the MSNBC set, every night? Who will be better off when Rev. Al hosts Obama administration officials, or even the president, on his show? Rev. Al is not going to put forward any questions worth asking – that would violate the terms of his service to Obama and Wall Street. No, all we will get from Sharpton is a demand that Blacks build a “wall” around Obama to keep him safe and secure in the White House for another term – no matter how much of the social safety net he signs away forever.

The young Turkish American host, Jenk Uygur, showed that he could be counted on to confront the Obama administration on questions of policy. That’s why he was replaced by the mercenary, Al Sharpton.

So, we will have our Black face at 6pm. Some African Americans think what’s most important is to have Black role models on TV, for the sake of the children. That’s what’s so scary: Al Sharpton, the eminently buyable man, a role model for Black kids. 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@BlackAgendarport.com.

Direct download: 20110727_gf_SharptonMSNBC.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 5:15am EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR editor and columnist Jared A. Ball

What can President Obama do to show that he cares, just a little bit, about Black Americans? Since he has done nothing so far in his term, a good a place as any would be to free political prisoners, many of whom have been held for three and four decades. Black lawyers “are calling for the United States to be held to the standards of conduct established by the United Nations’ Human Rights Council (HRC) and Convention to End All Forms of Racism and Discrimination (CERD).”

 

Political Prisoners? Black Lawyers Say Obama Could Free ‘Em All

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR editor and columnist Jared A. Ball

This call by Black lawyers to free those this country denies are political prisoners remains as important a bright-line standard as any other.”

With their call this week for president Obama to free all political prisoners the National Conference of Black Lawyers (NCBL) have given him yet one more opportunity to actually address a specific concern of many Black and other well-meaning people around the world. And he might as well because, as Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor has written recently, Obama hasn’t done much else for Black America since assuming office.

Instead of championing or even making plain by highlighting and careful simple explanation the plights of Black Americans, Obama is instead only reapplying a very old strategy of preparing a base support of voters. Deploying a national propaganda campaign reminiscent of the early 20th century Creel Commission, Obama has Michael Blake, as he says himself, “crisscrossing the country… taking our stories directly to people about how the African-American community is benefiting from the Obama administration... For those who say we don't have a Black agenda,” continues Blake, “I would challenge them and ask, 'How are our policies not helping the African-American community?”

Well, Ms. Taylor provides as succinct an answer to anyone not living it or not able to look out their own windows. Black adult men are suffering the highest rate of unemployment ever measured, 43%. Twenty-six percent of the Black population lives beneath the poverty line, a line already set so low as to hide how bad it really is. For a family of 4 with a household income of roughly $20,000, “poverty” is too nice a term. These are so-called “Third World” conditions. Besides, as Taylor reminds us, 8% of African America has lost their homes and 21% more are in “imminent” danger of being next. And since, as Ms. Taylor also notes, there has been no real follow up to organize and mobilize by the Obamaton community of liberal leadership many other severe concerns continue to go unaddressed.

For a family of four with a household income of roughly $20,000, “poverty” is too nice a term.”

Among these include the repressive levels of incarceration and the continued political imprisonment of dozens of movement heroines and heroes. So this call by Black lawyers to free those this country denies are political prisoners remains as important a bright-line standard as any other. These lawyers are calling for the United States to be held to the standards of conduct established by the United Nations’ Human Rights Council (HRC) and Convention to End All Forms of Racism and Discrimination (CERD). In part and in short this would mean releasing political prisoners who, though not recognized as such, have been demonstrated to have suffered incarceration largely due to the unjust and illegal practices of the FBI and their Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO). This systematic and illegal attack on Black activists and those in support of Black liberation now has dozens held in anti-human conditions. Having been there more than three and four decades they are elderly and deserving of relative freedom.

Two new books are either out already or soon to come. One is Marshall Law by Marshall Eddie Conway and the other is Love and Struggle by David Gilbert. These are to be added to existing works on or about political prisoners such as Safiya Bukhari’s The War Before, Jalil Muntaquim’s We Are Our Own Liberatorsand the many works of Mumia Abu-Jamal among others and made the centerpiece of symposia, study groups and classrooms so that we may turn them into living documents of political organization and platform agenda items.

So while many continue to say that Obama is not the president of Black people he can still be challenged to amend his nation’s mistakes on behalf of the Black Americans still at least nominally held as citizens. He has done so little. These political prisoners certainly deserve their release, we certainly deserve them back in our communities and the world deserves to know that if they are not freed that all words emanating from this country regarding human rights are as baseless as the claims it makes to freedom and democracy.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Jared Ball. Online go towww.BlackAgendaReport.com

Dr. Jared A. Ball is author of the newly released I Mix What I Like! A Mixtape Manifesto (AK Press). All proceeds from the book go to support political prisoners. More information can be found online at: IMixWhatILike.com.

Direct download: 20110525_jb_PoliticalPrisoners.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 9:18am EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Public education’s corporate enemies – Democrat and Republican – now wage open warfare against teachers unions, seeking to strip them of collective bargaining rights. But that’s just the beginning. “The billionaires, and the politicians they have purchased, want nothing less than to destroy teaching as a profession.” In the ideal corporate world, most teachers would have the status of temps.

 

The Corporate Dream: Teachers as Temps

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Under the guise of ‘reform,’ the United States is moving in exactly the opposite direction as the rest of the world.”

As Democrats hustle to shovel a billion dollars into President Obama’s campaign coffers – making promises to rich people and their corporations every step of the way – America’s billionaires are spending even more money to seize control of the nation’s public schools. Although super-wealthy capitalists like Microsoft’s Bill Gates, fellow computer mogul Michael Dell, real estate magnate Eli Broad, and the rapacious owners of Wal-Mart, the Walton Family, would like people to think of them as philanthropists, they are nothing more than down-and-dirty investors who hope to reap much more than they sow. This mega-buck mafia's goal is to gain access to the $600 billion per year that taxpayers pump into public schools, and then to profit in perpetuity by shaping the nation’s educational system to their corporate needs. The corporate education project has nothing to do with growing new generations of smarter, socially aware, independent-thinking citizens, but is designed to raid public treasuries through wholesale contracting-out of public schooling.

This mega-buck mafia's goal is to gain access to the $600 billion per year that taxpayers pump into public schools.”

Teachers are the biggest obstacle in the way of the corporate educational coup, which is why the billionaires, eagerly assisted by their servants in the Obama administration, have made demonization and eventual destruction of teachers unions their top priority. Corporations hate collective bargaining, or working people’s power of any kind, but their vision goes way beyond simply neutralizing teachers unions. The billionaires, and the politicians they have purchased, want nothing less than to destroy teaching as a profession. Plutocrats like Bill Gates and politicians like Barack Obama may make noises about respecting teachers' life-long commitment to learning, but their actions prove the opposite. At every opportunity, whenever a real or manufactured educational crisis presents itself, the corporate gang champions charter schools and imports platoons of young, mostly white, inexperienced rookies from programs like Teach for America. Most of these neophytes have no intention of making teaching a career, so they accept low wages, turnover is high, and they have no long term interest in any particular school, or school system, or the profession in general. They are temporary teachers – which is precisely the point.

Just as corporations have revamped the private white collar workforce, replacing full-time, salaried personnel with “temporary” workers – a system in which some managers are officially temps – such are the prospects for teachers in the brave new corporate world of education “reform.”

The billionaires' propaganda machinery claims the corporatization of American education is necessary to make the United States “competitive,” internationally. But teachers in most of the countries that lead the U.S. in learning are highly respected, if not revered, and relatively well compensated. Under the guise of “reform,” the United States is moving in exactly the opposite direction as the rest of the world. The American people are being conned by billionaire hustlers who are stealing the public schools – and the national future – right in front of our eyes.

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: 20110525_gf_TempTeachers.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 9:03am EDT