Wed, 23 April 2014
“Chicagoland” Hero Cops Cook Books to Make Murders Disappear, CNN Pretends Not To Notice
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
Chicagoland is a fake “documentary” an 8 part miniseries length campaign commercial currently airing on CNN. It's a commercial for Obama's former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, a character many say was only elected mayor of Chicago because Obama personally came back to town to lay hands on him.
Chicagoland is produced by the same right wing hack outfit that produced Brick City, a similar commercial pretending to be a documentary for Corey Booker in his re-election bid for mayor in Newark a few years ago. Rahm Emanuel's bid for re-election is only months away, and like Corey Booker he is reputed to have ambitions beyond City Hall.
Chicagoland is a commercial for a neoliberal vision of America, in which teacher and public employee wages and pensions are driving the city to ruin – a lie; in which throwing public money at big league sports teams is a “job creator” and holds the city together – also a lie. It paints clever tax rules called TIFs an acronym for “tax increment financing” keep wealthy neighborhoods from having to share their property tax revenue with the rest of the city, as good economic development tools. Chicagoland portrays the mayor as a tough-talking character with a soft spot for black young people, whom he scoops at random off west side streets to mentor – if not a lie than surely beside the point. Chicagoland wants us to imagine that an epidemic of violence with no particular cause threatens to swamp the city, but Chicago's cops are the thin blue line succeeding under Emanuel's leadership at holding the murder rate down and making the city safe for all of us. Except that's a lie too.
In the months since the series was filmed, real Chicago journalists, have been question the city's suspect murder stats, and now the answers are in. Chicago's top cop Garry McCarthy, who as police chief in Newark co-starred in Brick City as well, cooked the books to make dozens of Chicago murders disappear the last couple years in a row. Homicides committed on freeways running through the city? Well those freeways are patrolled by the state police, so Rahm Emanuel's cops omit those from their stats. Month-old corpses found in vacant warehouses who died naked and tied to chairs? Gunshot wounds to the head? Cases like these have been classified as “unexplained deaths.” Not once or twice but dozens of times over the last couple years.
This is the same Chicago police department that throws tens of millions in public money out to settle cases where its brutal cops maim, mistreat and kill civilians. It's the same police department that pays a generous monthly pension to former police commander Jon Burge, convicted of supervising the torture and false confessions of dozens.
CNN bills itself as “the most trusted name in news.” It's given big play to “Chicagoland.” But CNN has yet to mention on the air how the supporting cast of its own campaign commercial actually does make the city safer, at least statistically, for us all.
For Black Agenda Radio I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.
Bruce A. Dixon is a native Chicagoan now living in exile in the suburbs of Atlanta, where he works as an IT professional and is co-chair of the Georgia Green Party. He can be reached via this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.
Wed, 23 April 2014
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.