The “Smarter Sentencing Act”, Wishful Thinking and White House Fakery: Obama as Prison Reformer

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

As the Smarter Sentencing Act moves through Congress, President Obama masquerades as a prison reformer. In reality, the administration “has placed legal roadblocks in the way of release for thousands” and “has no intention of limiting the scope and powers of the Incarceration State.”

 
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Rwanda’s Peacekeeping Operations: A Poisoned Pill that Blackmails the West

by Theogene Rudasingwa

Under dictator Paul Kagame, Rwanda’s military is highly paid for peacekeeping duties in Darfur, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Haiti – despite its role in the death of millions in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The West depends on Kagame as its man in Africa, and in return gives impunity to his criminal network. 

Judge Rhodes to Detroit: Don't Pay the Banksters

by Tom Stephens

The judge in Detroit’s disastrous bankruptcy process has, at least temporarily, blocked the wholesale transfer of much of the city’s assets to predatory bankers. But public dialogue must be made to focus on “cancellation of the debt allegedly ‘owed’ to the banks by Detroit,” so that the people can seize “new opportunities to build a new city.”

Letter to Obama: America’s Selective Memory and the Cuban Five

by Piero Gleijeses

Washington’s selective memory of Cuba’s role in the world – and America’s own sordid past and present – prevents its leaders from seeing reality clearly. But President Obama witnessed first hand that Africa remembers who its friends are. “While the Cubans were fighting for the liberation of the people of South Africa, successive American governments did everything they could to stop them.”

Listen to Black Agenda Radio on the Progressive Radio Network, with Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey – Week of 2/5/14

 

Resist Obama and His Black Corporate Brethren

President Obama’s “most unmemorable” State of the Union address shows “he represents corporate America and empire,” said Kevin Alexander Gray, the Columbia, South Carolina Black activist and author of Waiting for Lightning to Strike: The Fundamentals of Black Politics. “We’ve got to challenge those folks who are operating for the interests of the corporations and not in the interests of the people, folks like [New Jersey Senator] Cory Booker, like [Atlanta Mayor] Kasim Reed – and like Barack Obama.”

President Stuck in Neoliberal Paradigm

“If you look at Obama’s speech, he is still stuck in a neoliberal economic paradigm that has been quite destructive for ordinary Americans,” said Lynn Parramore, a senior editor at Alternet and author of the article, “State of the Union: Obama’s Underwhelming Plan to Tackle Inequality.” Denizens of Wall Street are treated as “too big to jail,” said Parramore. “Seeing bankers walk off Scot-free when they’ve done things a thousand times worse than what most people sitting in America’s prisons have done, is damaging to the spirit of the country.”

Democratic Brand Sloganizing

“Democrats only take up the cause of the minimum wage when Republicans are in office, to reinforce their fake ‘brand’ as champions of the oppressed,” said Black Agenda Report managing editor Bruce Dixon. “When Democratic are in power, their attention drifts elsewhere,” said Dixon, noting that Obama did next to nothing to boost the minimum wage or pass union-favored “card check” legislation when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress, during his first two years in office.

Mumia Astonished at Global Wealth Disparities

The nation’s best-known political prisoner seemed aghast at news that 85 people possess wealth equal to the assets of 3.5 billion people – half the world’s population. “Rome, infamous for its rich and corrupt senate, never saw such inequality as this,” said Mumia Abu Jamal, in a recent Prison Radio commentary. “Marx, for all of his acumen, never saw that coming.”

Only the Poor Drink the Water

West Virginia officials claim it’s now safe for the Charleston area’s 300,000 people to drink the local water, following a huge chemical spill early last month. But Russell Mokhiber, editor of the Corporate Crime Reporter, said only folks with no other options are drinking the water. “The people in the know, the legislators, the lawyers, the doctors in Charleston, when you press them: Are you drinking the water, are you letting your family drink the water? – they say no.”

Diversity Doesn’t Come Naturally in U.S.

Robert Greenfield IV, a Black Student Union leader at the University of Michigan, said the administration is deliberately marginalizing students of color. Diversity is “something that doesn’t naturally occur in the United States,” said Greenfield. “Unfortunately, you do have to have an artificial hand to make sure that people from the marginalized societies have an equal opportunity with their white counterparts.”

Giving Clarence Thomas a Pass

Students of history should check out the new documentary Anita, the story of Anita Hill’s testimony against Clarence Thomas at the 1991 Senate hearings on his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, said Dr. Donald Smith, professor emeritus of education at New York City’s Baruch College. “Unfortunately, many people did not support Anita Hill,” said Dr. Smith. “It’s still difficult to understand, to this day, why Clarence Thomas would have been supported by so many Black people, including Maya Angelou. A lot of Black people gave him a pass.”

27 Years in Prison Based on “Vision in a Dream” and Lost Evidence

Simple justice demands that Clarence Moses El, who has spent the last 27 years in a Colorado prison on a rape and assault conviction, deserves a new trial, said Larry Hale, of the People’s Power Assemblies. Denver police “lost” DNA evidence that might have acquitted Moses El, but a U.S. Supreme Court precedent holds that “destruction of evidence, in and of itself, does not constitute bad faith” on the part of law enforcement, said Hale. The only witness against Moses El, the victim, said she identified him after a vision in a dream, and another inmate has confessed to the crime. The People’s Power Assemblies are circulating a petition on Moses El’s behalf.

Black Bodies Keep Surfacing in Lake Michigan

“In the last four years we’ve had four Black bodies come floating up in Lake Michigan, and every time it ends up with” officials finding no evidence of “foul play,” said community activist Rev. Edward Pinkney, of mostly Black Benton Harbor, Michigan. Rev. Pinkney strongly suspects police involvement in the killings, and has called for mass demonstrations on March 1.

American State of the Union: A Festival of Lies

by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

Before the nation and the world, President Obama pledges to take “action” against “economic inequality,” while simultaneously holding secret negotiations on a Trans Pacific Partnership trade scheme that will quicken the pace of the global Race to the Bottom, deepening economic inequalities. “Lies of omission are even more despicable than the overt variety, because they hide.”

Barack Obama, the State of the Union and the Prison State

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

For a generation now, predatory policing, the war on drugs and the prison state have been government's most frequent intersection with young black Americans. The gossip before this year's State of the Union was that the president would now do by executive order all those good things Republicans have blocked him on the last 3 years. Does that include reining in or rolling back the prison state? Should we hold our collective breath?

Freedom Rider: State of the Union: Awful

by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley

Do not expect honesty, accuracy, or even a semblance of reality from U.S. presidents’ reports on the State of the Union. Better to call it the State of Delusion address. So, skip the charade, here are the facts: “The state of the union is not very good for anyone except the ruling 1%.”

Planning for War and Deception: How the Obama Administration celebrates the King Holiday

by BAR editor and columnist Ajamu Baraka

The Americans are playing a deadly and cynical game at the Geneva II conference on Syria, sabotaging the talks in order to set the stage for more warfare and terror. In this sick equation, diplomatic failure is victory: “the U.S. moves closer to their real strategic objective – regime change or the dismemberment of the Syrian state.”

Do Democrats and President Obama Really Want to Raise the Minimum Wage?

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

$10.10 an hour isn't much of a raise, but it's better than a sharp stick in the eye. The truth is that rhetoric about “passing a jobs bill”, “universal pre-K” and raising the minimum wage are things Democrats dust off to reinforce their brand, only when when Republicans are in a position to block them. That makes them branding exercises, not political deeds they intend to accomplish.

Cory Booker Hits Senate Just in Time to Vote for Private School Vouchers

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker began his political career as an advocate of publicly funded vouchers for private schools – a position that put him at the far right of the political spectrum. Today, private school vouchers remain a largely Republican domain, but Booker will find it hard to avoid supporting a vouchers bill sponsored by a senator from Tennessee.

 
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Solidarity & Sustainability: An Interview with Sokari Ekine

by Peter James Hudson

The Nigerian social activist and writer holds forth on poverty and foreign meddling in Haiti and repression against homosexuals in Africa and the Diaspora. On Haiti: “Some people made a lot of money in the aftermath of the earthquake and a small few are still making money but the poor are being erased.”

Outsourcing Haiti: How Disaster Relief Became a Disaster of its Own

by Jake Jonston

Billions of dollars have been directed towards Haiti earthquake relief – and most of the money has circled right back into the pockets of foreign corporations and NGOs. Hundreds of thousands remain in tents or dangerous dwellings. Yet, “by September 2013, nearly four years after the earthquake, only 7,500 new homes had been built and 27,000 repaired—an incredibly small achievement.”

Listen to Black Agenda Radio on the Progressive Radio Network, with Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey – Week of 1/29/14

A Black-Green Alliance in Libya?

Reports of intense fighting in southern Libya against the NATO-installed regime indicate that “Green” supporters of the former Gaddafi government could form an alliance with Black Libyans, who have been subjected to murderous ethnic cleansing, said political analyst Eric Draitser, of StopImperialism.com. “As these two forces begin to fight back against these racist and imperialist puppets that run the country, we’re beginning to see a form of mass resistance. What form that ends up taking still remains to be seen,” said Draitser.

NSA is Like J. Edgar Hoover on Steroids

The recent report of the federal Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, which described the omnibus NSA spy program as unconstitutional, will make Congress “more responsive to the public outcry” against the Surveillance State, said Carl Messineo, legal director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund. “Public opinion polls are clear that a majority of Americans recognize that there has been an unacceptable loss of civil liberties in the so-called pursuit of anti-terrorism,” said Messineo. “This is J. Edgar Hoover’s intelligence program on steroids.”

Sexual Abuse Rampant in U.S. Prisons

A Bureau of Justice Statistics report shows continued high rates of sexual misconduct against inmates in the nations federal, state and local prisons and jails. However, only a very small proportion of cases lead to prosecutions of prison staff, said Chris Daley, deputy executive director of Just Detention International, a watchdog group. Most sexual abuse victims get no medical care, despite the fact that “the vast majority of facilities have medical folks on staff who, within about a 12-hour period, could easily provide both emergency care and collect evidence needed for prosecution” – but that rarely happens in U.S. prisons, said Daley.

NYC Police Commissioner Bratton is “War Criminal of Our Communities”

A father recently took his two daughters to the Brooklyn Academy of Music to hear Angela Davis and watch a film on political prisoners. Instead, the place was packed with “establishment Democratic Party speakers backslapping each other about [Mayor Bill] de Blasio’s election,” including Bill Bratton, de Blasio’s new police commissioner and an architect of stop-and-frisk. “I was aghast that this type of forum” during MLK week “would give a voice to this war criminal of our communities,” said Greg Butterfield, of New Yorkers Against Bratton.

Bring Mumia Home Campaign

The Fraternal Order of Police is spearheading a drive against former NAACP Legal Defense Fund lawyer Debo Adegbile’s nomination as head of the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. The LDF helped overturn the death sentence against Mumia Abu Jamal, in the killing of a Philadelphia policeman in 1981. Dr. Johanna Fernandez, professor of history at Baruch College and a member of Mumia’s defense team, said the FOP “distorts race to delegitimize the claims of Mumia Abu Jamal and all people who have been wrongly incarcerated by the state.”

Anthony Monteiro spoke in support of the Bring Mumia Home Campaign. “At some point, white America has to confront itself and its own contradictions,” he said. “It is not Mumia that they fear; it is the truth that Mumia represents.” Temple University has refused to renew Dr. Monteiro’s contract as a professor of African American Studies – in retaliation, many believe, for his political activism.

Amiri Baraka Eulogized by His Son

“My father was – IS – a revolutionary,” said Ras Baraka, in his eulogy for famed poet/activist Amiri Baraka, who died at age 79 in Newark, New Jersey. City councilman Ras Baraka is running for mayor of Newark.

Black Madness Under Obama: African Americans More Pro-NSA, Anti-Snowden Than Whites and Hispanics

by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

A new poll shows “Blacks remain more NSA spy-friendly than whites and Hispanics.” Earlier surveys showed Blacks were the ethnic group most willing to go along with Obama’s threatened air war against Syria. What happened to Black progressivism? “If an individual exhibited such lifelong personality and values reversals, her relatives and friends would immediately suspect an emotional breakdown.”

MSNBC: Cherry Picking News & Issues to Make Toxic Democrats Look Good

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

For the last couple weeks and several more to come, Chris Christie will get more air time on MSNBC than drone murders, gentrification, NSA spying, and network neutrality put together. Why not? He's a Republican, and Democrats are only fighting it out between the 40 yard lines.

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