Saturday, June 15, 2013

Open University of the Left at Left Forum 2013, June 7-9, Pace Universit...

Black Agenda Report panel at Left Forum

On June 9, 2013, Black Agenda Report sponsored a panel at the Left Forum entitled "Black Politics at the Tail End of Obama - and Beyond." Nellie Bailey, Glen Ford, Paul Street, Bruce Dixon, Anthony Monteiro, and yours truly all explained in various ways how and why black politics must recover from the Obama delusion. Don't be afraid of the two hour length of the video. It goes by quickly and is well worth your time.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

James Clyburn, Edward Snowden and the Surveillance State

At Black Agenda Report, we are giving full coverage to the Edward Snowden story. Glen Ford, Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, Wilmer Leon and yours truly all have much to say in the issue that went online today. The Snowden case represents for me a very simple litmus test. If you believe in freedom from government oppression, if you believe the constitutional gives protection against unreasonable search and seizure and if you just believe that the government's evil doing must be revealed, then you support Snowden and act to defend him from the clutches of the surveillance state.

I was particularly interested in what Glen Ford had to say about Congressman James Clyburn's reaction to the revelation that the National Security Agency is spying on millions of people. Clyburn is a long serving member of the congressional black caucus and a person whose opinions carry some weight. He did the world a great service this week when he commented on Snowden and proved once and for all that the black misleadership class has nothing to offer and ought to be ignored.

“If one good thing has come out of Barack Obama’s ascension to the White House, it is that his rise has exposed the appalling backwardness of the Black Misleadership Class – a petty and puny-minded cohort whose worldview is so narrow, it can accommodate only one issue: the political fortunes of the First Black President. Nothing else matters to these incredibly parochial political midgets – not issues of war and peace, nor the precarious state of planetary ecology, not even the economic well-being of the masses of Black Americans. Certainly, not civil liberties. Only Obama.

Congressman James Clyburn is supposed to represent the interests of more than half a million South Carolinians, the majority of them Black. One might expect a Black congressman to have more than a passing interest in the Bill of Rights and protection of civil liberties. The revelation that Uncle Sam is building up a dossier on everyone with a telephone and a computer connection should be at least mildly upsetting to anyone that calls himself a Black leader. But Congressman Clyburn has but one priority: to protect the image and legacy of Barack Obama.”

What upsets Clyburn so much? He thinks that Snowden is out to embarrass Obama. After all, how could a guy with a GED get a security clearance?

Unlike Rep. Clyburn I decided to get a few facts about security clearances. I googled. I discovered that 4.9 million people have security clearances. If there are nearly 5 million people with this designation then it isn’t odd that a handful would have GEDs. Booz Allen, the contractor that employed Snowden, has 25,000 employees and 48% of them have security clearances. That is at least 11,000 people at just one firm. There are a variety of clearance levels, but obviously it is not the rarified state we thought it was.

Here we were thinking that the president, the CIA director and James Bond were the only people with security clearances and instead it turns out that every Tom, Dick and Harry has one. And yes, many of them aren’t even government employees.

But I digress in responding to this asinine argument.  No, a black person with only a GED probably couldn’t get a good gig like Snowden. Being a blond white man never hurt anyone.  But in this case I have to ask, so what?

Do the Clyburns of the world care at all about the information that Snowden revealed? We are all under constant surveillance and Snowden proved it. But Clyburn doesn’t care. He only cares about Obama looking bad and grasps at straws to keep the conversation away from the main point, which is that the president and the congress have authorized spying on a massive scale.

Yes, Snowden embarrassed Obama and I’m glad he did. He also embarrassed Clyburn and his colleagues too. Anytime a president, whether Bush or Obama, wants to go to war or spy on us all congress says yes without hesitation. That means Clyburn said yes too. Maybe that is why he has his nose so firmly out of joint.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Left Forum Panel “Black Politics at the Tail End of Obama–and Beyond”

Black Agenda Report also sponsored a Left Forum panel yesterday. Nellie Bailey moderated Glen Ford, Bruce Dixon, Paul Street, Anthony Monteiro, and yours truly as we talked about Obama’s exit and what it should mean.

January 21, 2017 should be celebrated as the day of jubilee for black Americans, a modern day Juneteenth. It will be the day that Barack Obama will no longer be president of the United States.

Before Obama was elected black people spent decades debating whether they would ever see such a thing. Could a black person be elected? Would he be assassinated? Would it be a he or a she? Would a republican or democrat be able to win? So you see Obama took up mental space in the black American brain before he was ever heard of, and that meant his ascension was a very bad thing.

The years of the Barack Obama administration have been the nadir of the political life of black Americans. Black politics had been on life support for some time, but Obama’s ascendance marked the day that the plug was finally pulled.

Black politics was killed by everything from COINTELPRO, to mass incarceration and to the power of money which destroyed the once progressive spirit of the congressional black caucus. But the supreme irony of the election of a black man meaning the end of black politics cannot be overstated.

The joy of black America in witnessing this sight cannot be overstated either. Their levels of voting participation reached record levels in 2008 and 2012, and it was all because the goal was to get Obama into office. I don’t think it is an overstatement to say that the vast majority of black Americans are addicted to Barack Obama and the extraordinary sight of seeing a black president. It is a very sick relationship.

We all know from personal experience and anecdotes that nothing good can come from a relationship in which one party puts him or herself at a disadvantage to the other. Battered wives and sometimes husbands come to mind. The relationship with Obama is much the same.  Simply put, black people are addicted to Obama and will need to go into a period of recovery after he leaves office.

Will the end be like a happy ending of a reality show about a recovered addict home from rehab or will it be a sad story about the person who didn’t even finish the program because of fear of change? I am being partly humorous but recovery from addiction is the best model I can think of to describe this phenomenon.

The damage done to the cognitive abilities of black people is immense and can’t be undone by typical means. The love for Obama defies logic and his absence will be difficult to take. Obamaphiles are of 2 minds about their idol. When he has a political success they sing his praises and speak endlessly of how smart he is, and how high he will rank in the presidential pantheon. On the other hand, when even they can’t defend him, this “genius” suddenly becomes weak and hapless, unable to do what he really wants because of republican obstruction.

By the way, success for Obamaphiles means only that he gets his way. It doesn’t matter if his initiatives end up hurting them. Republican unhappiness is reason enough for their joy.

Our panel is titled the Tail End of Obama but there are a couple of points to keep in mind. One, that he has 3 years 7 months and 12 days left in office. He did a lot of damage in the first 4 years, and he has a lot of time left to do more.

In four years, Obama has turned the political world on its head. The so-called Obamacare program may be anathema to republicans now but it wasn’t always so. It is essentially the same program Richard Nixon proposed 40 years ago. It is now official. The democrats of today are the republicans of the past.

Obama has been praised as “born again neo-con” by the likes of William Kristol. Since the story of NSA spying on Americans came to light, it is republicans who have gone out of their way to praise him. Yet his absence will cause withdrawal symptoms for people who previously would never have had common cause with Kristol and the neo-cons.

Before he became president, social security was the third rail of politics, untouchable to anyone who wanted to survive a term in office. It was the lowest hanging fruit for the democrats. Now the republican dream of eviscerating the safety net has come true and during a democratic administration no less.

Now it is completely “touchable” and can be changed or turned over to wall street like any other public asset and instead of being outraged, democrats spend their time obsessing over the latest racist and/or asinine statement made by some republican congressman whose name they never heard previously.

That should not be true of anyone who attends an event called Left Forum. We should have been speaking out against this man all along. (We certainly have done so at the Black Agenda Report.) Our goal should be to re-create black politics from a black left perspective, which is not, I hasten to add, the same thing as having black politicians in office.

The joy of seeing a black commander in chief and first lady presiding over state dinners comes at a very high price for 30 million people. Senate candidate Barack Obama made his first appearance to the majority of Americans when he spoke at the 2004 democratic convention before a prime time audience. He famously said, “There is no black America, there is not white America…” The statement was obviously absurd and a lie. It was a lie meant to make him palatable to white voters. There in lies the danger of wanting to see a black president in the first place. Of course there is a black America and asserting that fact should be the essence of true black politics and an undisputed fact for people who call themselves leftists.

We will have a lot of work to do from now until January 21, 2017. We must continue our fight against the people who choose the presidents. They act against the interests of the masses of people on the planet and the occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue or 10 Downing Street or Elysee Palace must always be taken to task or humanity is in grave danger.

These facts which we here know and accept to be true are not known by people who love to see Barack Obama, even when he goes on television to tell them that he isn’t listening to their phone calls when he in fact is.

In January 2017 we will have to find a way to drag millions of people kicking and screaming from their delusions. Some of them may see the light on their own, but too many of them will be wistful as the replay in their memories the moments of seeing Obama sworn into office or meeting the queen of England or emerging from air force one or dancing with the first lay. They will not want anything to challenge the fulfillment of their fantasy.

We will be stuck with Obama for a very long time, but his specter, like his physical being shouldn’t shut us up, not if we claim to be on the left.

This is the left forum, not the democratic party forum. One of Obama’s means of escaping blame for the NSA public relations disaster is to say that congress knew all about it. We have a chance with his exit from office to point out that the democrats, before and during the Obama administration, have been happy to throw us all under a bus. Maybe the people who make good use of their stint in recovery will be able to see some of the light about the corrupt nature of our entire political system.

Obama’s exit provides an opportunity to move the masses away from the democratic party and towards a discussion of alternatives. Perhaps seeing the rotten nature of American politics will keep leftists from quaking in their boots when they are told they will be spoilers if they vote green or just dump the democrats once and for all. The system needs to be spoiled after all, and perhaps Obama’s exit will make that clear.

I want to add that some people are just drugged up Obamabots. They just don’t have the language to talk about what they have experienced. They have vague unease or speak of disappointment but that is where we come in when we continue to speak boldly about the nature of our system.

Thank you.

Left Forum Panel “The War on Africa”

Left Forum 2013 just ended. I was pleased to present at two panels. On Saturday, the United National Antiwar Coalition sponsored “The War on Africa.” My fellow panelists were Joe Lombardo, Abayomi Azikwe, Anna Edwards and Patrick Bond. I’m hoping to post the video soon. In the meantime, here are my comments.

The stand down of progressive forces to the Obama administration has had many disastrous consequences in the U.S. and around the world. There is so much evil to expose, and so little time to talk about it all.

But today we are talking about Africa and I want to talk about the terrible role that the U.S. has played in causing suffering for millions of people on that continent, from Libya to Congo to Somalia.
It isn’t an exaggeration to say that Africa would be able to prosper were it not for the interference of the western world. Somalia was emerging from years of war when the Bush administration used Ethiopia to invade that country and kill hundreds of thousands of people. In 2011 alone 250,000 Somalis died of starvation as a direct result of the warfare which was instigated by the U.S.

Just as in the 19th century when European nations carved up African spheres of influence at the Berlin conference, in the 21st century the U.S. and other western nations decide who will control the destiny of Africa.

They may decide to overthrow a government as they did in Libya, or pit one country against another as they have done by supporting Uganda and Rwanda in their invasions and plundering of the eastern Congo that have killed 6 million people.

As he has done all over the world, Obama has accelerated the pace of U.S. intervention in Africa, and he has legitimized practices which previously would not have been acceptable to people who attend events called Left Forum.

The 1% committed the perfect crime when they chose Barack Obama to be president back in 2008. They have been able to hide their evil doing behind a brown face and Africa would be exhibit A if there were true justice on this planet and the crimes committed against Africa were ever prosecuted.
The U.S. African Command, Africom, began in 2008 but has reached its peak of influence under the Obama administration. Drone bases exist in Ethiopia, Niger, Burkina Fasso and the Seychelles. Special forces are stationed in Uganda, Kenya, Central African Republic and the South Sudan.

Africa holds a special place in the hearts and minds of black Americans, but as with every other issue that Obama touches, the urge to defend the president outweighs every other imperative and makes a mockery of the word African in the term African-American.

The saga of Susan Rice is a perfect example of how this tragicomedy plays out. Rice began her career in the Clinton administration serving on the National Security Council. She and her boss should forever be scorned as they watched the genocide unfold in Rwanda but did nothing. They did nothing because Rwanda was then, as it is today, a U.S. client state.

Rice climbed the diplomatic ladder, and was confirmed as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in the Obama administration. In that position her name became a house hold word, but for all the wrong reasons.

Susan Rice was one of the administration’s strongest advocates for regime change in Libya. She helped to concoct the worst lies about the Gaddafi regime in order to make the case for U.S. and NATO intervention.

She was among those who spread false tales about Gaddafi supplying his troops with viagra in order to commit rape on a mass scale. It was a lie and someone as smart as Rice had to known that. While Libya descended into chaos and African migrants and dark skinned Libyans were targets for rape and other atrocities, Rice said nothing.

Of course, the chickens do always come home to roost, and that is what happened at Benghazi where the US ambassador and others were killed. You see Rice and her boss bet on the jihadi horse to take out Gaddafi. They won their bet, but then had to deal with an unwieldy marriage of convenience.

The ambassador was killed by some of the very same people who Rice and Obama put in power. Republicans made enough hay out of Benghazi and Rice’s public statements about it that she was thwarted in her ambition to be nominated as secretary of state, but not before the black misleadership class and sadly, popular black opinion was foolishly directed in her favor.

The lack of good reporting, especially as it relates to Africa, or even any basic knowledge of African history, combined with the desire to protect the black face seated in a high place, gave Rice cover, despite the terror she helped American presidents wield against Africans.

Senator John McCain not only criticized Rice’s much discussed Benghazi talking points but also felt compelled to add that she was “unqualified” and opined “I don’t think she is that smart.” Those were fighting words for the black misleadership and for the average black person too.

It was galling to many people to see the old right wing white man who made his career from family ties, entitlement and marriage to a rich woman, criticizing a black Rhodes scholar who works for the beloved black president.

The Rice defense league leaped into action, writing online petitions, irate op-eds and inspiring an outraged citizenry. Of course the Rice explanation was phony, because the Obama administration didn’t dare tell the truth about what it had done in Libya and how the chaos they created ended up killing an American diplomat.

There was no massacre in the very same Benghazi, no viagra laden troops, just a voracious U.S., and its partners Britain and France who decided they ought to take out a militarily weak oil but oil rich nation because they could get away with it as the Arab spring unfolded with unknown consequences for the west. And they got away with it because they made common cause with gulf monarchies and jihadists, and some of those jihadists didn’t as the saying goes, stay in their place.

The righteously angry didn’t talk about what Rice had done to Rwanda or the Congo. As U.N. Ambassador she actively worked to delay a report on human rights violations in Congo committed by America’s friends in Uganda and Rwanda.

We described this phenomenon in BAR in the November 28, 2012.

“The first document, a ‘Mapping Report,’ described human rights violations in the Democratic Republic of Congo from 1993 through 2003. Finally published by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in October of 2010, after long delays, the document specifically charges Rwandan troops with engaging in mass killings ‘that might be classified as crimes of genocide.’ The more recent report by a UN Group of Experts concludes that M23, the Congolese ‘rebel’ group that captured Goma, is actually “a Rwandan creation,” embedded with Rwandan soldiers that take their orders from Paul Kagame’s military. Uganda also supports M23.”

No matter. The congressional black caucus couldn’t find the time to condemn U.S. actions in that region, but they publicly upheld Rice as a symbol of the virtues of black womanhood, her career ambition having been derailed by those mean old republicans.

Rice and her boss Barack Obama ought to be condemned for what they did in Libya and for what they continue to do in the Congo. It is just one of a long list of crimes that Obama has gotten away with and sadly with the support of people who once would have stood up for the mother land.
Obama’s ability to lie so well is always dangerous but particularly so as his policies relate to Africa. Needless to say, he wouldn’t have been chosen to serve as president if he hadn’t promised to continue the imperial project in the first place.

Now Rice will serve as National Security Adviser where she will continue all the evil doing demanded by the U.S. government. The problems go deeper than Susan Rice, who after all is acting like mid-level managers the world over and doing what her boss tells her to do.

As we said in Black Agenda Report, there is now no constituency in the U.S. which acts to protect Africa interests. Before money took over black politics and before there was a black president for people to rapturously rally around, there was at the very least lip service of concern expressed for Africa.

At the very moment when the noose tightens around the continent the misguided love for a black president trumps all else. Concern for the career success of ambitious but unscrupulous people is allowed to trump every other concern. In short, the black community’s love for all things Obama has proven disastrous yet again.

Today I read online an article on Doctors Without Borders website. It told the story of a woman names Victorine and her family trying to survive in the Congo.

“Victorine and her family fled their home near Goma, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), during four days of violent clashes in late May between the Congolese army and the M23 rebel group. She is now one of up to 5,000 people taking refuge in Sotraki Stadium, on the outskirts of the city.

This was the third time since 2008 that the family had been forced to flee. The last time was just six months earlier, during the M23 attack on Goma in November 2012, when the family spent two weeks sheltering in a school as they waited for the fighting to die down.”

But I would be remiss if I didn’t connect the reaction or lack of reaction to what is happening in Africa to the larger issue of the crisis in left wing politics. Here at an event called Left Forum we must ask ourselves why the role of the U.S. and NATO in destroying Africa isn’t more widely known. 

Yes the corporate media have done their usual terrible job in either ignoring or outright lying about how the deeds concocted in Washington, London and Paris have caused such suffering.

We cannot be shy in calling imperialism imperialism or genocide genocide. There is no reason to distinguish ourselves as being on the left if we go along with terror if it is committed by a democratic president.

The war on Africa now is primarily an American one. As Americans with claims of conscious we must be the ones who expose the wrong doing which comes straight from Washington.

Thank you.