Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.
Blacks Cannot Fare Well Under "Shovel-Ready" Stimulus Blacks Cannot Fare Well Under "Shovel-Ready" Stimulus
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
"The same racial imbalances in employment and contracting that existed before the stimulus, will prevail afterwards."
In his inaugural speech, Barack Obama vowed to "begin again the work of remaking America." He seemed to be promising a transformational response to the current crisis, one that would right historical wrongs while restarting an economy that would be made to work for the great bulk of the people. The task would begin with a massive infusion of money for the nation's infrastructure - a makeover reminiscent of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, which ultimately succeeded in physically and politically transforming much of America. But Obama's grand vision has already devolved into something much more ordinary - more business as usual - and far less transformative.
The watchword of Obama's attempt to revitalize American infrastructure is "shovel-ready" - meaning, projects will be funded that have already been approved by the political powers-that-be in the various states. Almost by definition, shovel-ready projects are those that states would do anyway, if they had the money. Thus, the $100 billion allocated for infrastructure in the House version of the economic stimulus measure will not fund any grand plan to remake America; rather, it will finance a hodgepodge of projects of varying merit that have been sanctioned by the dominant political factions in the 50 states. Mississippi will be enabled to do more of what Mississippi always does. The same thing with Ohio, Utah, and all the rest.
"Mississippi will be enabled to do more of what Mississippi always does."
Shovel-ready means, $100 billion later, the social, economic and political relationships that existed before the stimulus will remain in place. The same favored contractors that have always hogged state construction dollars, will be treated to a feast. The same racial imbalances in employment and contracting that existed before the stimulus, will prevail afterwards.
The shovel-ready approach is necessary, we are told, because that's the only way to create lots of jobs in a hurry. That's not necessarily so. The truth is, the Obama administration has chosen the easiest route to spend lots of money quickly in ways that please the political actors that are in power at the local level.
Shovel-ready is a continuation of the local status quo, with federal money. It rocks no boats, rights no wrongs, alters no fundamental realities. Status quo recovery policies ensure that Blacks will continue to endure unemployment levels twice that of whites - as has been the case for two generations and through a host of deep recessions. A shovel-ready approach to economic stimulus puts no tools in the hands of the half of Black male New Yorkers who had no job before the economic meltdown. It will build no roads to recovery for those inner cities that were not already slated for help before the bottom fell out of Wall Street. For Black America, it represents, at best a return to the same depressed relative status as previously occupied. That's not what the largely Black millions on the Washington Mall were cheering for, on Inauguration Day.
Barack Obama is already talking about the need for belt-tightening after a few years of big spending. That means the window for a real American makeover will not be open long. Any groups or sectors that are left out of the stimulus, will find no relief in the era of austerity that will follow. When racism is part of the very infrastructure of the nation, shovel-ready projects don't solve Black people's problems.
For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford. On the web, go to
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at
Direct download: 20090128_gf_shovel_ready.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:09am EDT

Who and What, If Anything, Will Obama Fight For? Who and What, If Anything,  Will Obama Fight For?
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
"Obama would much rather displease his own people than fight the Right."
Homeowners facing foreclosure should know that their plight is not an immediate priority for Barack Obama. The new president last week told Illinois Senator Dick Durbin that the White House doesn't want its economic stimulus package to include a measure that would allow judges to adjust the mortgage payments of bankrupt homeowners. It's called bankruptcy "cram-down" legislation, and it was the only ray of hope in sight for at least some of the millions facing loss of their homes. Obama previously claimed to support the concept - but backed off in fear that "cram-down" might endanger his economic stimulus package. As a consolation, the White House assured Senator Durbin that cram-down will move to the pile of "must-pass" legislation to be acted on at some later time.
I have a feeling this is going to be the pattern under President Obama: His genius for rhetoric allows him to cast a large and glittering net, with which he hauls in loads of people who are willing to support HIM. But at some point the question arises, Who will Obama support, wholeheartedly? The answer, I suspect, is that Obama is much quicker on the take, than on the give. Obama got everything organized labor had to give during the campaign. What the unions want most desperately in return is passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it much easier for workers to join unions. Obama promised to back the union measure, but now it's been moved to the back-burner, just like the besieged homeowners' cram-down bill. It's rumored that Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel wants to delay action on the Employee Free Choice Act until after the midterm elections in 2010, after which, presumably, there will be fewer Republicans around. (Of course, there might just as easily be more of them.)
"Obama promised to back the union measure, but now it's been moved to the back-burner."
Obama seems easily intimidated by rich people and their Republican servants. Obama will dismiss an ally to his left in a second, but he's quick to back off even a hint of confrontation with the rich and powerful. There weren't supposed to be so many tax breaks for the not-very-needy in Obama's stimulus package. But Obama included them as goodwill gifts to the Republicans, hundreds of billions of dollars worth, offered in the hope that the GOP will be kind to the rest of the stimulus. Remember, the battle on Capitol Hill has not begun, yet Obama relentlessly gives ground to the GOP while help for unions and desperate homeowners is delayed indefinitely.
The Republicans will soon figure out - if they haven't already - that Obama would much rather displease his own people than fight the Right. He is so quick to jump over the aisle to the Republican side, sometimes it seems like he likes it better over there. Obama has been holding meetings with Republicans only, on Capitol Hill, lately. It appears they're getting next to him. Speaker Nancy Pelosi insists that the Democrats will move to repeal George Bush's tax cuts for the rich, but President Obama has gone silent on the issue.
Homeowners that hoped the Congress and president would give them a chance to plead their case with a bankruptcy judge, are running out of time. They need Barack Obama's help right now, but he's got other fish to fry.
For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford. On the web, go to
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at
Direct download: 20090129_gf_obama_wont_fight.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:02am EDT

The Crime  of Walking While Black The Crime of Walking While Black
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
"The data make plain that race-based police conduct is the norm."
Half a million times last year, New York City police stopped and frisked individuals on the street. Eighty percent of the time, those individuals were Black or Latino - groups that make up just over half the city's population. Whites comprise 44 percent of New Yorkers, but made up only ten percent of the people stopped and frisked by police. The Center for Constitutional Rights says that's hard evidence of racial profiling and stopping people without reasonable grounds for suspicion, violations of the 4th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The data on stop-and-frisks was compiled by the NYPD, itself, but it took ten years to force the cops to make the numbers public - proving, in a real sense, that lots of cops would prefer to be in the "secret police."
Over a period of three-and-a-half years New York City police made 1.6 million stops on the streets - many of which involved stopping the same people in the same neighborhoods over and over again, even after finding they were engaged in nothing illegal. In fact, one of the most disturbing patterns of police behavior was the "remarkably low rates of stops-and-frisks" that resulted in arrests or the seizure of weapons or other contraband. In other words, in most of the cases cops were bothering Black and Latino pedestrians who were just going about their business.
"It is the police who are provoking - or inventing - resistance to arbitrary police authority."
The New York City street cop data is quite similar to statistics on vehicular stops in other states and localities. The same broad pattern emerges: whites are seldom stopped except for actual violations, while Blacks and Latinos are stopped for no reason at all. They are guilty only of driving or walking while Black or Latino.
Although most of the people stopped by New York cops are allowed to continue on their way, about one in four stops results in excessive police use of physical force. This is a very disturbing statistic, since few of these instances of police force involve people who are carrying weapons or contraband. It is the police who are provoking - or inventing - resistance to arbitrary police authority. Put another way, the cops are creating crimes, and committing crimes. That's the opposite of law enforcement.
No wonder the cops fought tooth and nail for a decade to keep their own records a secret. What the numbers reveal is pervasive, institutional racism against Blacks and Latinos under color of the law. The data make plain that race-based police conduct is the norm. The numbers are so consistent, it is impossible not to conclude that racial profiling and contempt for the rights of non-whites is official policy of the New York City Police Department. Which is what the Center for Constitutional Rights hopes to prove, in court.
The American Black Prison Gulag begins on the streets, with super-surveillance of Black youth who are then swept up by cops, to be devoured by prosecutors, judges and, ultimately, prisons. The process is systematic, but it bears no relationship to justice.
For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford. On the web, check out
Direct download: 20090126_gf_walking_while_black.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:56pm EDT

So We Know A Black President Is Possible.  Now What?

So Now We Know A Black President Is Possible. What Does That Mean?

by BAR Managing Editor Bruce Dixon

I can't really say I always knew a that black president was possible. But as someone who's spent a lot of time working in and more recently writing about politics, I can say that I've known a black president was very possible, even likely since at least late 1992 or early 1993, and that it might well be Barack Obama.

You see, back in 1992, I worked with Barack Obama in Chicago. Project VOTE was, in keeping with the campaign finance laws of those days, a national soft money funnel which concentrated resources in one or two locations each election cycle where a big spike in black registration and turnout would have national impact. In 1992 that spot was Illinois, Chicago in particular.

"When a mutual friend told me soon after the 1992 election that Barack would eventually be a candidate for national office it seemed entirely plausible, almost natural. And now it has come to pass."

Fresh out of Harvard Law, Barack Obama was named state director of Project VOTE Illinois. I was one of the project's three field organizers, so Obama was my direct supervisor from June to November of that year. We registered about 130,000 voters that season, mostly blacks, Latinos and gays, thus contributing to the lopsided total by which Bill Clinton carried the state, and accounting for many times the narrow margin of Carol Moseley Braun, the first African American to be elected to the US Senate in more than a century. It was a foregone conclusion that Barack would launch a political career after the record breaking voter registration drive.

Anybody plugged in and paying attention to the local political scene in those days knew that Barack was headed for Congress at the least, and likely statewide office or higher. I never met any candidate or official with a firmer grasp of the organizing fundamentals involved in running a winning campaign. He knew how to talk to ordinary people about their needs without seeming to patronize, had proven an able fundraiser, capable of building and holding together a team long enough to get something done. And in status-ridden America, where connections are everything, nothing beats an ivy league and Harvard Law pedigree. When a mutual friend told me soon after the 1992 election that Barack would eventually be a candidate for national office it seemed entirely plausible, almost natural. And now it has come to pass.

"Hope is better than nothing, but it's not a plan."

So what does Barack Obama's career mean for ordinary African Americans? Since the mid-century Freedom Movement and the Voting Rights Act thousands of African Americans have been elected to county boards and city councils, to school boards and state legislatures, to congress and statewide offices. The black elite now includes thousands of black millionaires and corporate figures as well as elected officials and traditional figures like preachers. But the percentage of black children in poverty is roughly what it was forty years ago when Dr. King died. The proportion of black and Latino children in underfunded and segregated schools is as high as it was in the late 1950s and the dropout rate may be higher, and the percentage of African Americans in prisons and jails dwarfs anything we could have imagined in 1969. Black incomes did not rise as much as those of whites in good economic times, and have been falling faster in bad times.

Barack Obama, just like the waves of black elected officials before him, carries on his back the dreams and aspirations of the descendants of enslaved and exploited people. Although his career is built upon their hopes, his record does not indicate a willingness to take political risks for the locked out, the locked up, the left behind. Hope is better than nothing, but it's not a plan.

Obama's supporters among ordinary people invested their energy, their enthusiasm, their volunteer time in his campaign without having extracted any specific promises from the new president. They supplied the hope. Obama's plans, it seems, will be supplied by his campaign contributors on Wall Street and elsewhere who gave us the current wars and overlapping crises in the environment, energy, education, and more. It's going to be a long four years.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Bruce Dixon.

Direct download: 20090121_bd_hope_is_no_plan.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00am EDT

Financial Crime Pays Well

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

When Wall Street’s investment bankers destroyed the entire financial system through wild gambling and systematic looting, Congress and the president rewarded them.”

America is a place where moral values prevail, we are told. Often, it seems this purported moral rectitude translates as an urge to kill everyone that disturbs the social order. But of course, not everyone. In reality, only the poor and the powerless bear the full brunt of America’s justice system. For example, growing numbers of young women – especially women of color – are serving time in federal prison because their boyfriends were dealing drugs – and the women were aware of it. It’s a crime not to snitch on your significant other. That is, unless you’re Mrs. Bernard Madoff, wife of the accused $50 billion dollar rip-off artist. Ruth and Bernie have been inseparable throughout nearly fifty years of marriage. According to a New York Times profile of the couple, Ruth and Bernie worked together, dined together, and traveled together. Ruth is a director of her husband’s company. Madoff’s whole family – his two sons, brother, niece and nephew – lived high on the hog from the patriarch’s alleged Ponzi scheme. If the Madoff’s were African Americans or had vowels at the ends of their names, they’d be considered a crime family. But nobody is calling Ruth Madoff a Ponzi Queen, or threatening to charge her with criminal conspiracy. For the time being, Ruth and Bernie remain inseparable in their $7 million Manhattan apartment. In the United States, wealth brings impunity, no matter how you got rich.

In China, quotations from Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book have been replaced by slogans like, “It is good to be rich.” When high officials in the Communist Party talk that way, lower officials listen, and behave accordingly. China doesn’t allow gambling, except in the former Portuguese colony of Macao, the largest gaming center in the world, with revenues exceeding Las Vegas and Atlantic City, combined. In the spirit of “it’s good to be rich,” Chinese Communist Party officials and heads of state enterprises have been losing hundreds of millions of dollars of the people’s money in Macoa’s betting places – nobody knows for sure how much.

If the Madoff’s were African Americans or had vowels at the ends of their names, they’d be considered a crime family.”

Executives of Chinese state-owned companies don’t bring home the fabulous salaries and bonuses lavished on their American counterparts, so when one of them loses $2 million at the blackjack table, it’s obvious he stole the money. One government official is said to have embezzled $24 million dollars in state funds, then lost half it at a casino. In such cases, when the house wins, the Chinese people as a whole lose. The Chinese apparently remain sufficiently socialist to consider theft of the people’s resources a serious matter. At least fifteen of the gambler-thieves have been executed.

Now, that sends a message. American law-and-order types are always talking about sending criminals a message, but the message never seems to reach places like Park Avenue, where Ruth and Bernie Madoff live. Indeed, nowadays the U.S. government is sending out a completely different kind of message to corporate thieves. When Wall Street’s investment bankers destroyed the entire financial system through wild gambling and systematic looting, Congress and the president rewarded them with trillions of dollars of the people’s money – in effect, saying “Here’s some more of the current and future wealth of the nation for you to play with. Good luck.”

In the United States, it’s not only good to be rich – it’s great to be a crook.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, check us out at

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Direct download: 20090120_gf_financial_crime_pays_well.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:51pm EDT

Time To Give Guantanamo Back to the Cubans

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay is an affront to the very concept of national sovereignty.”

Barack Obama has put out the word that it might take him as long as a year to close down the infamous U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a premiere symbol of American lawlessness in the world. If and when the task of emptying the detention facility of prisoners is completed, the administration will proclaim that America has rid itself of the shame called Guantanamo – GITMO, as the U.S. Navy calls it. But nothing could be farther from the truth, because the greatest U.S. crime under the heading “Guantanamo” is the very existence of an American base in the sovereign nation of Cuba. The illegal U.S. military occupation of Guantanamo Bay is one of the most enduring legacies of U.S. imperialism, a more than century-long crime to which Americans have become so accustomed, they think Guantanamo belongs to them – if they bother to think of it at all outside the context torture and extra-legal detention.

The United States seized Guantanamo Bay and the rest of Cuba from Spanish colonial rulers by force of arms in 1898, and immediately proceeded to set itself up as the new colonial power. Like George Bush in Iraq, President McKinley coached his imperial war in terms of spreading democracy to Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippine Islands. In both Cuba and the Philippines, independence movements already had the Spanish on the ropes, when the Americans intervened – ostensibly on the side of the rebels. And in both countries, the Americans established their own occupation regimes, thwarting the will of the native peoples. The Filipinos resisted the American double-cross, refusing to exchange one colonial master for another. The Americans then launched a scorched-earth campaign to wipe out the Filipino liberation movement in a Vietnam-like orgy of mass murder that ultimately killed a million people – and introduced water-boarding as a U.S. military torture of choice.

International law does not recognize treaties that are imposed by force.”

The Cubans, exhausted after having fought two wars of national liberation in 20 years, with the loss of perhaps one-fifth of their population, were forced into colonial status in all but name by imposition of the Platt Amendment, in 1901. In return for U.S. withdrawal of troops from most of the island, the United States gave itself the right to intervene militarily in Cuba for any reason it saw fit, prohibited Cuba from signing treaties with other countries without U.S. permission, and stipulated that Cuba could transfer land to no other country but the U.S. Guantanamo Bay would be leased to the U.S. Navy at a nominal rent for as long as the Americans found it convenient. Had the Cubans refused these terms, there is little doubt the Americans would have unleashed a bloodbath similar to their crimes against humanity in the Philippines.

In 1934 the Americans withdrew the Platt Amendment, but reaffirmed their hold on Guantanamo Bay. Washington sent a fleet of warships to Cuban waters to back up its bargaining position. International law does not recognize treaties that are imposed by force, as was the Guantanamo Bay arrangement. But the Washington claims that Cuba’s new revolutionary government cashed one of those tiny American checks for rent of Guantanamo Bay during the confusion of 1959, and in doing so, ratified the terms of the agreement. That is the flimsy technicality on which American occupation of Guantanamo Bay, America’s oldest overseas military base. Its continued existence is an affront to the very concept of national sovereignty – arguably a more profound violation of international law than the uses to which the Guantanamo Bay detention center has been put. If President Obama wants the United States to conform to international law, for a change, then he will turn Guantanamo Bay over to its owners, the Cuban nation.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, check out

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Direct download: 20090119_gf_give_back_gitmo.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:19pm EDT

Rev. Pinkney;  Release From Prison, But "Banned" Like in Old South Africa A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
The trials (literally) and tribulations of Benton Harbor, Michigan’s Rev. Edward Pinkney give the lie to American claims of “race-neutrality.” The activist minister has been stripped of most of his political rights, plunged into a purgatory of the “banned” as in white-ruled South Africa.  Apparently freedom of speech is not a right that African American political activists, especially those who have been as successful locally as Rev. Pinkney, may take for granted.

"He is banned from exercising any of his political rights."

As the United States prepares to indulge in a ritual of self-congratulation on its miraculous journey to race-neutrality, we need only look to southwest Michigan to find the old America shuffling along as if the national transformation never happened. Rev. Edward Pinkney, from the mostly Black town of Benton Harbor, would like to tell you what race relations in the so-called "heartland" are really like, but his lipped are sealed by court order. A Black man's freedom of speech is not a right in Benton Harbor - in fact, it's a criminal offense, for which one can be sentenced to three-to-ten years in prison. The persecution of Rev. Pinkney exposes both the grand and petty aspects of 21st Century American racism.

Benton Harbor has the misfortune of being situated in a sea of white folks who have managed to remain untouched by the Obama phenomenon. The Whirlpool Corporation, which dominates the political and economic life of the region, decided that a golf course would be the best use for 22 acres of local parkland. Under Rev. Pinkney's leadership, Benton Harbor's impoverished Blacks sought redress of this and other grievances through the electoral process - resulting in Rev. Pinkney's conviction by an all-white jury on charges of vote tampering. He was sentenced to a year in prison and five years probation.
"A Black man's freedom of speech is not a right in Benton Harbor - it's a criminal offense."

When the Reverend expressed his political opinion in a newspaper piece, prophesying that God would "curse" the judge unless he "hearkened unto the voice of the Lord thy God to observe and to do all that is right,' the judge went ballistic. He revoked Rev. Pinkney's bail - "the first time in modern history that a preacher has been imprisoned for predicting what God might do," according the ACLU. Just before Christmas, the Michigan Court of Appeals allowed Rev. Pinkney to be released on bail, a victory that is credited to massive public expressions of support for the Reverend's liberationist ministry. But Rev. Pinkney is by no means a free man. Under the terms of his bail, he cannot use a cell phone or a pager, is barred from public speaking or preaching, cannot use a credit card, is prohibited from saying anything that might be considered defamatory about the racist judge who sentenced him, and is under a 24-hour curfew. If, for some reason, Rev. Pinkney is ordered back to prison, he has every reason to believe that his life will be in danger.

So we see that southwest Michigan is not very different than southwest Georgia. Corporate domination in Benton Harbor meshes quite nicely with your garden variety white racism that sentences Black men to prison for the simple exercise of their fundamental constitutional rights. Benton Harbor embodies the full-spectrum racism - from corporate headquarters to county courthouse - that is actually the norm in the United States. Rev. Pinkney is no longer imprisoned, but is instead subjected to the same kinds of restrictions that were called "banning" in white-ruled South Africa. He is banned from exercising any of his political rights. The newfound American rhetoric of race neutrality seeks validation through endless repetition - but it's still a lie.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford.

We are informed that Rev. Pinkney would like very much to be contacted. Reach out to the brother at: or call him at 269.925.0001. As you can imagine, he's near the phone.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Direct download: 20090114_gf_rev_pinkney_banned.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:30am EDT

Obama Appointments and the CIA's Complicity in Global Drug Trade Whether it's post World War 2 Europe and Turkey, Vietnam and Southeast Asia of the 60s and 70s, Colombia from the 80s till now, or US occupied Afghanistan, the CIA has funded its puppet armies with the proceeds of the global drug trade.  Will Obama's appointment of a non-CIA insider signal a departure from traditional CIA methods of operation?  Probably not.

A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by Glen Ford

Obama Appointments and the CIA's Complicity in Global Drug Tradecrack_cia

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

"The CIA is Narcotics-Central for the planet."

Leon Panetta, the former congressman and Clinton chief of staff, has no background in any of America's spy agencies, foreign or domestic. And that's a wonderful reason for Barack Obama to nominate him to head the CIA.. Critics of Obama's choice of Panetta, a Washington insider, argue that the CIA chief should have experience in the agency's peculiar culture. That's like saying that the best qualification for U.S. Attorney General is having spent a lifetime as a member of the Mafia.

The Central Intelligence Agency has been an institutional criminal enterprise for its entire existence. I'm not talking about the business of espionage and its attendant lies and double-dealing. Hypothetically speaking, the tools of the spy trade can be used for good purposes or bad. But the CIA's historical nexus is the drug trade, an unmitigated evil.

One of the CIA's first assignments in the aftermath of World War Two was to undermine the electoral systems of France and Italy, to make sure that popular communist parties did not get close to power. To that end, the CIA helped the Italian and French mafias get back on their feet by establishing the global drug trade. In return, the French and Italian gangsters acted as the CIA's muscle, in Europe. That unholy alliance set the pattern for the CIA's next six decades. Wherever the agency ventured, international narcotics delivery systems proliferated, and the drug trade flourished. During the Vietnam War, the CIA organized the Southeast Asian heroin trade, centered in Burma's Golden Triangle, creating a global empire with profit centers in every Black neighborhood in the United States. In the 1980s, the agency facilitated the spread of crack cocaine into America's ghettos, to enrich its allies in U.S. wars against leftists in Latin America.

"Wherever the agency ventured, international narcotics delivery systems proliferated."

Over time, it became standard operating procedure for the CIA to establish close relationships with the criminal classes in every area of operations, and to work through these criminals to achieve U.S. policy objectives. Today, the CIA is Narcotics-Central for the planet, with its cocaine capital in Colombia and its heroin capital in Afghanistan. As the overseer of narco-states and the main architect of the international narcotics network, the United States may be described as a narco-imperialist power.

Of course, the controversy over Leon Panetta's nomination to head the CIA doesn't even touch on the agency's role as Godfather to the international drug trade. Rather, it's about what Barack Obama plans to do to detoxify and cleanse the agency of George Bush's torture, extraordinary rendition and assorted other War on Terror paraphernalia. This is especially sensitive since there still exist a few Democrats who would really like to sort out where the CIA's crimes end, and George Bush's begin. Leon Panetta's nomination is Barack Obama's symbolic statement that his administration is making a clean break with the CIA's recent past. In the end, Obama is likely to keep more of the Bush War on Terror CIA than he rejects. But no administration can separate the agency from the international drug trade. That's part of the CIA's DNA.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

More commentaries at
Direct download: 20090113_gf_cia_narco-kleptocrats.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:00pm EDT

Employee Free Choice Act Is Labor's Last Chance

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

"The strength of Obama's commitment to the Employee Free Choice Act is uncertain."

The corporate world isn't freeing up much capital for productive investment in the economy, but big business is putting plenty of cash behind its campaign to defeat the Employee Free Choice Act. The bill would make it far easier to organize workers into unions, requiring only that a majority of employees sign a card saying they want a union. Barack Obama is on record as favoring the Employee Free Choice Act, but the strength of his commitment is uncertain. There is every reason to question whether Obama's people are as determined to push through the bill, as big business is to defeat or sidetrack it. On economic policy, Obama's administration is heavily weighted in favor of capital, as was his campaign team. The Employee Free Choice Act passed the U.S. House, last year, but was bottled up in the Senate. The Democrats don't have the 60 votes necessary to shut down a Republican filibuster, and can't even count on every Democratic senator. That means passage will require a full court press by the Obama team, with plenty of arm-twisting and full deployment of the presidential bully pulpit
The likelihood is that much of Obama's inner circle - top-heavy as it is with bankers - will counsel that he refrain from throwing the full weight of his presidency behind the union organizing bill, and that, in a pinch, the measure be put off until some future, more propitious moment. When this happens, and I believe it will, it will be up to organized labor to either roll over and continue on its slow journey to the grave, or force the issue by bringing hundreds of thousands of bodies to Capitol Hill.
"What must emerge from the current crisis is a new relationship of political forces."

If we have learned anything these last several years about Barack Obama, it is that he tends to take the path of least resistance. Corporate America is preparing to mount fierce resistance to the Employee Free Choice Act, and unless Obama is convinced that labor will go to the barricades for the bill's passage, he will do everything possible to avoid confrontation with Big Capital. Labor must be ready to buck and, if necessary, embarrass the president they did so much to elect, or lose the opportunity to save itself from oblivion.
It has recently become fashionable among corporate pundits to question how effective President Franklin Roosevelt's economic policies were in raising the nation out of the Great Depression. But the success of the New Deal should not be measured simply in terms of unemployment levels and other economic indicators. The United States became a different and better country in the 1930s largely because the New Deal made it less difficult to form unions. Working men and women were finally enabled to effectively counter the power of capital. What must emerge from the current crisis is a new relationship of political forces. The financial collapse has knocked the bankers to their knees, economically, but they remain on top, politically, including within the Obama administration. Obama will make almost any compromise to keep peace with corporate America. But for labor, the Employee Free Choice Act must not be negotiable.
For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford.
On the web, check out Black Agenda Report at
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at
Direct download: 20090114_gf_union_cards.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:20am EDT

Gaza Massacre Is Obama Administration's First Foreign Policy Test

"There is only one other nation whose appetite for violence is comparable to the United States: Israel."

Just before the U.S. elections, Senator Joe Biden shot off his mouthabout the certainty that Barack Obama would be "tested" early in his presidency. "Watch," said the blathering vice-presidential candidate. "We're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy." Biden didn't predict where the test would come from.

Then, a week before Christmas, a senior Bush State Department official filled in the blanks. Obama's "mettle" would be tested by the Russians, over U.S. anti-missile systems in Eastern Europe.

The truth is, nobody on the planet wants to "test" any American president. Everyone knows the Americans are crazy, always looking for a fight, the "greatest purveyors of violence in the world," as Dr. Martin Luther King said back in 1967. There is only one other nation whose appetite for violence is comparable to the United States: Israel, America's junior partner in aggression.

It is Israel that is testing the limits of world tolerance for its 60-year war against the Palestinian people. More specifically, Israel is taking measure of the incoming Obama administration's sensibilities to the spilling of Palestinian blood in the besieged enclave of Gaza. Israel's aerial blitzkrieg and long-standing blockade of 1.5 million people is a crime against humanity for which its sponsor and champion, the United States, is equally guilty. But the Israeli leadership understands that complicity in crime must be constantly renewed, so that each party is reminded that its hands are also soaked in blood. The Israeli atrocity against Gaza serves as a ritual renewal of its special relationship with yet another U.S. administration.

"Both countries are under the permanent control of their respective war parties."

Not that Barack Obama's loyalties to Israel have ever been suspect. As a candidate, Obama went further than any U.S. president in recognizing Israeli sovereignty over all of Jerusalem - a position that guarantees there can be no lasting piece in the region. Obama's right-hand man, chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, is a born-and-bred Zionist who volunteered to work for the Israeli army during the 1991 Gulf War. And the Bush regime's Defense Department, a bastion of Israeli Likud Party warmongers, is about to be transformed into the Obama Defense Department, with few changes in personnel, including the guy at the top, Secretary Robert Gates, who is being retained.

Israel and the United States have a wartime alliance that never quits, since both nations are constantly at war. Both countries are under the permanent control of their respective war parties - although Israel gets the better part of the deal, since her domestic war party has also infiltrated both U.S. political parties.

Despite the deep ties that bind American and Israeli war criminals, the junior partner, Israel, seems to constantly need reassurance that the senior gangster, Washington, is a willing accomplice in the next bloodbath. Thus, the timing of the massacre in Gaza, ensuring that Obama - by deferring to Bush - enters office with blood on the soles of his shoes. He has passed the Israeli test.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted

Direct download: 20090111_gf_us_israel_aggressors.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:47am EDT

As Union Membership Declines, So Do Black Economic Fortunes

The saga of Black economic progress has largely been a story of men and women who fought to get into unions and, once in, became organized labor's most militant members. By the mid 1980s, African Americans were 50 percent more likely than whites to be members of a union. But by 2007, Black workers were only 30 percent more likely than whites to belong to a union. In other words, while union membership has been in general decline for two generations, Black union membership, while still at relatively high levels, has been declining faster than for whites.

The data make clear that the decline in Black union membership is partly related to the overall shrinkage in manufacturing jobs. By the 1960s, Blacks were disproportionately represented in the heavily unionized auto industry, although Blacks were no more likely than whites to work in manufacturing in general. A study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a Washington think tank, shows that Blacks were employed in manufacturing at about the same percentage as whites "from the end of the 1970s through the early 1990s." But then, Black fortunes in manufacturing took a turn for the worse. According to the study, "By 2007, blacks were about 15 percent less likely than other workers to have a job in manufacturing."

The decline in manufacturing has been cruel to Black workers, loosening what once seemed to be a firm hold on middle income status....

Read the full text of this commentary, and much more, at
Direct download: 20090110_gf_blacks_lose.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:48pm EDT

Somalia:  President Obama's Turn To Kill Africans

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The corporate media declare that Barack Obama's first foreign crisis will be in Gaza where the Israelis will likely still be engaged in the work of massacre when the president-elect puts his hand on Abraham Lincoln's Bible, January 20.

The 60-year U.S.-Israeli connection is but one of many unholy alliances in which Washington is perpetually mired. In truth, the criminal entanglements of American empire is a minefield of crises waiting to explode. They pop up at the most inconvenient times. Chickens are liable to fly home to roost from all sorts of places - like Somalia...

Read the rest of this commentary and more at Black Agenda Report,

Direct download: 20090108_gf_obamas_african_war.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:39pm EDT

Bankers and the Military to Retain Power in the Obama Administration Despite the broad and deep hungers for and expectations of change in the Obama era, the door to progressive input in the new administration's decision-making process appears virtually shut.
More at <a href="">Black Agenda Report</a>, the journal of African American political thought and action.
Direct download: 20090107_gf_urban_policy.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 4:23pm EDT