Sunday, December 29, 2013

Miss Ani

“The second mention of slaves came when the guide spoke of the ingenuity that Mr. Randolph displayed when he developed an intricate bell system which rang in different tones so that the slaves would know exactly which room they were needed in. The last mention of slaves on the one-hour tour came when the guide described the “whistling way.” This was the path that led from the outside kitchen to the dining room. As the guide noted, Mr. Randolph ordered his slaves to whistle while they walked along the path in order to ensure that they were not eating or spitting on any [sic] the family’s food.”

About 24 hours ago I was sitting at home thinking about the new year and minding my own business. Well, truthfully I was bored and that leads to indulging in my social media addiction. Social media can lead to further boredom, new and valuable information, or foolish drama. I ended up learning about a drama which actually did turn out to be illuminating. Read on.

While on facebook I saw that my friend Marc Polite posted something intriguing.  Two weeks ago Ani DiFranco, a feminist, bi-sexual, anti-racist, left wing, singer/songwriter, had announced that she was hosting an event called Righteous Retreat which would be held at the Nottoway Plantation in Louisiana.

Louisiana plantation? Uh oh. Black feminists and many others were quite rightly angry and as happens nowadays a facebook kerfuffle ensued. One white DiFranco fan decided to defend her idol under the disguise of  black womanhood. Yes, a white woman pretended to be black so that she might make a more pervasive case. She even called herself LaQueeta. Oh yeah, it has been a hot mess.

The story certainly piqued my curiosity. While doing my investigatory due diligence on facebook and twitter I discovered many things. Nottoway Plantation is not just a resort. Its antebellum owners held 155 people in chattel slavery as they harvested sugar cane. It is now a slavery theme park, complete with books extolling the virtues of the confederacy, the peculiar institution, and white supremacy.

“The gift shop cashier kept eyeing us suspiciously. Then we noticed the books for sale. The collection included books such as When the South was Southern by Michael Grissom, The South was Right by James and Walter Kennedy, Myths of Slavery by Walter Kennedy and Bob Harrison, and Memories of a Southern Woman of Letters by Grace King.”

Episodes such as this tell us a lot about who people really are.  The Righteous Retreat was also to have featured Toshi Reagon. Ms. Reagon is also an accomplished musician and as a black woman found herself in a difficult position. She attempted to explain herself via a facebook post called Plantations and frankly she should not have bothered.

“We know we are connected to a world economy that is based on the exploitation of workers many of whom are children, but a lot of us still have smart phones, computers, clothes on our backs, new sneakers, etc...”

It is true that we cannot live without some connection to exploitation on this earth, but that doesn’t excuse blithely supporting an institution which was the location of endless atrocities and which celebrates those atrocities to this day.  Nottoway is a no go and there is no getting around it.

“All told, I wish I had been more aware of this gig.  I would have spoken about it right away and there would be no way to go that place without being in dialogue with where I was.  We all need to be in dialogue with where we are actually standing.” 

Aside from wishing she had done her homework, it isn’t clear what Ms. Reagon is saying. I don’t know what it means to be in dialogue with where she is but I definitely know where Louisiana is. Nottoway was in the belly of the beast. New Orleans had the largest slave market in the country and as such was the epicenter of evil. That can’t be wished away with meditation and verses of kumbaya.

Today Ani DiFranco announced that she was cancelling the retreat and in so doing should have ended her misery and the controversy. But Ms. DiFranco obviously succumbed to pressure and not to conscience. She didn’t really understand why she shouldn’t have chosen Nottoway in the first place or why so many people were so angry for the past two weeks. She was also angry because complaining colored people foiled her plans.

Like Ms. Reagon she claimed ignorance about Nottoway.

“when i agreed to do a retreat (with a promoter who has organized such things before with other artists and who approached me about being the next curator/host/teacher), i did not know the exact location it was to be held.”

And also like Ms. Reagon, she didn’t ask enough questions. (Apparently getting information about the venue was not a big issue for anybody.) DiFranco went on to say that she didn’t see what the big deal was and she didn’t understand why colored people were so upset.

“i did not imagine or understand that the setting of a plantation would trigger such collective outrage or result in so much high velocity bitterness. i imagined instead that the setting would become a participant in the event. this was doubtless to be a gathering of progressive and engaged people, so i imagined a dialogue would emerge organically over the four days about the issue of where we were.”

Pity the poor do-gooder white person. Bitter black people just won’t let them get their groove on and dialogue about the distant mists of time.

“i believe that people must go to those places with awareness and with compassionate energy and meditate on what has happened and absorb some of the reverberating pain with their attention and their awareness. i believe that compassionate energy is transformative and necessary for healing the wounds of history. i believe that even though i am white, i can and must do this work too.”

So just say “Om,” as you strum your guitar and the bad ancestral memories will disappear. Voila! How very white of you.

“i know that the pain of slavery is real and runs very deep and wide. however, in this incident i think is very unfortunate what many have chosen to do with that pain.”

My response is simple. It is none of her business how anyone chooses to express their pain. If black people are mad get over it Miss Anne, I mean Ani. 

“i also planned to take the whole group on a field trip to Roots of Music, a free music school for underprivileged kids in New Orleans. Roots of Music is located at the Cabildo, a building in the French Quarter which was the seat of the former slaveholder government where all the laws of the slave state were first written and enacted. i believe that the existence of Roots of Music in this building is transcendent and it would have been a very inspiring place to visit.”

Black people really need to shut up. She was going to do a poor ghetto child tour and get all transcendent.
I know so many conscious white people but this incident proves there are precious few of them. When push came to shove, Ani DiFranco was self centered and petulant, whining because black people questioned her intentions.  Whatever else can be said of her, Ani DiFranco chose sides and she chose to be a white person before she was a feminist or non-racist or whatever else. She should have done a quick mea culpa and called it a day but she didn’t do that because she wanted to hang on to what she considered the rightness of her decision and her whiteness too.

“maybe we should indeed have drawn a line in this case and said nottoway plantation is not a good place to go; maybe we should have vetted the place more thoroughly. but should hatred be spit at me over that mistake?”

Well, Miss Ani, the answer to that question is yes. The fact that you even asked means that the answer is yes.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Trinity College Under Pressure

“We suspect it says a great deal about the state of US academia and its democratic traditions that presidents can speak for a college or university without the minimal courtesy of consultation of the faculty, staff, students and

The National Council of the American Studies Association (ASA) voted to endorse an academic boycott of Israel. They did the right thing but of course but the pressure placed on the ASA was immediate and intense.

Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut was among the institutions who bowed to the pressure. The president and dean issued a statement in opposition to the ASA vote without notifying Trinity faculty they were doing so. Some of those faculty are ASA members and are supportive of the call for a boycott.  They wrote this letter in response.

January 2014.

Dear President Jones and Dean Mitzel,

We received your letter by accident. It was sent to one of us after it was sent off to the American Studies Association (ASA). No announcement was made to the faculty prior to the letter going out, and so no discussion was permitted. The letter – which is below – condemns the ASA for its resolution on Israel. It is also found on the website of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, as part of a campaign by that body to undermine the ASA.

Many of us who are signing this letter are members of the ASA, proudly so, and several of us voted on behalf of that resolution that you chose to condemn in your letter. We believe that your letter is wrong-headed for several reasons. Some of these are detailed below:

(1) Your letter is singularly uninformed.
One of the tired mantras of the Anti-Defamation League is to say that Israel is the “only democracy in the Middle East.” This is a factually challenged statement. You seem to neglect at least two countries – Lebanon and Turkey – that are formal democracies. In the region, as well, there are monarchical democracies such as Kuwait and Morocco, with Jordan not far behind. Surely these are not so different from the monarchical democracies of Europe that would not earn a similar sneer (Denmark, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom for example). We do not hold any water for monarchical democracies, but the double standards is remarkable.

The use of this statement reveals how little effort was used to write this important position taken by the President and Dean of Trinity College. Or else you are of the view taken by Princeton’s doyen of Orientalism Bernard Lewis, that Arabs are somehow not capable of democracy – and that even where there is electoral democracy, this is simply a mirage. As an antidote to this view, we recommend Larbi Sadiki’s The Search for Arab Democracy: Discourses and Counter-Discourses, 2004 and the volume Democracy in the Arab World edited by Ibrahim Elbadawi and Samir Makdisi, 2011.

Democracy should not be reduced entirely to elections. It has to be seen in a wider context. For instance, the Israeli system has disenfranchised the totality of occupied Palestinians and has reduced the democratic rights of Palestinian Arabs who live in Israel (in other words, Palestinians who live in Israel and hold its passport have lesser rights in practice). We recommend for your reading the reports from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and from B’Tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. If you are interested in these issues, we strongly recommend you read the new UN report, Report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories (November 13, 2013). This has to be part of any discussion of “democracy in the Middle East.” At the same time, in the context of the Arab Spring, as vibrant attempts to create political democracy continue across the Middle East, your comment sounds tone deaf.

(2) Your letter is intellectually lazy.
The debate over the ASA’s resolution began in 2007, and was heightened over the past six months. The discussion about boycotts and academic freedom took center stage in the debate. The level of intellectual conversation on these themes was sophisticated and of great interest. Your letter avoids the fine-grained conversation and returns to clichéd denunciations. We would encourage you to read at least a few of the essays that offer the case for the ASA position and show that academic freedom is not violated. The best debate was held in the American Association of University Professor’s journal, Journal of Academic Freedom, vol. 4 (2013), edited by Ashley Dawson (; to us Princeton historian Joan Scott’s essay, “Changing My Mind About the Boycott” is a good place to begin. But the debate is an old one. The philosopher Judith Butler offered a scrupulous analysis of the idea of academic freedom and the boycott strategy in 2006 (“Israel-Palestine and the Paradoxes of Academic Freedom” Radical Philosophy, vol. 135, January-February 2006; available ~ It would have been a useful gesture to have read up on the debate and engaged it with some authority. As it is, your letter returns to the first utterance when the campaign for an academic boycott was proposed by Palestinian and Israeli scholars in 2005 – there is no engagement with the long debate as it has unfolded over the past decade.

What is doubly disappointing is that you had a front-row seat a few years ago when Vijay Prashad’s appointment to lead an institution at the college was attacked by the ADL and faculty on campus – at that time Vijay had engaged President Jones in a discussion about academic boycotts in his role as member of the advisory board for the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. On your faculty you have several people – Raymond Baker, a former Dean, and Johnny Williams, for instance – who have worked concertedly on issues of justice for Palestinians. None of this seems to have in any way troubled the tired language of your letter. At the very least, there might have been recognition that this is a long-standing discussion and not an impetuous decision by the ASA as you suggest. It behooves intellectual leaders who speak for academic freedom to at the very least take the ideas seriously. That is what the ASA did, which is why it hosted a long period of debate and discussion.

(3) Your letter ignores the denial of academic freedom to Palestinians.

In her essay mentioned above, Judith Butler lays out a broad understanding of academic freedom:
“a. The new formulation of an academic-freedom argument that insists that academic freedom requires and consists in the workable material infrastructure of educational institutions and the ability to travel without impediment and without harassment to educational sites; by linking academic freedom to the right to be free from violent threats and arbitrary detentions and delays, one would effectively be saying that the very idea of academic freedom makes no sense and its exercise is foreclosed by the conditions of Occupation. This would be a way of affirming that academic freedom is essentially linked with other kinds of protections and rights and cannot be separated out from them.
b. When academic freedom becomes a question of abstract right alone, we miss the opportunity to consider how academic freedom debates more generally – and here I would include both pro- and anti-boycott debates – deflect from the broader political problem of how to address the destruction of infrastructure, civil society, cultural and intellectual life under the conditions of the Occupation. As much as rights, considered as universal, have to be imagined transculturally and transpolitically, they also bring with their assertion certain geopolitical presuppositions, if not geopolitical imaginaries, that may not be at all appropriate for the situation at hand.”

Your letter notes that Trinity participates in the very important Rescue Scholar program – the program that funds scholars from parts of the world who feel threatened in their workplaces or whose political views deny them academic work. This is a laudable effort, and as you know many of us have been major supporters of it.

A study of the academic situation in Occupied Palestinian lands might have you reconsider your smug statement that “it is inconceivable to us that we would ever be welcoming a Rescue Scholar fleeing Israel for political reasons.” As a warm up to understand the situation of academic freedom in Israel, we recommend you read Ilan Pappé’s Out of the Frame: The Struggle for Academic Freedom in Israel (2010). Ilan used to teach at the University of Haifa, in the city of his birth in 1954, but was hounded out in 2007 when the President of his college called for his removal based on his support of the academic boycott campaign – a campaign that is illegal according to Israeli law (so much for academic freedom, by the way). Ilan now teaches, virtually as a Rescue Scholar, at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom.

If matters are hard for Israeli academics who wish to put their views against the Occupation on record, matters are worse for Palestinians and those who teach in Palestinian universities. Once more we recommend that you read a few of the publically available reports:

a) Gisha: Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, “Obstacle Course: Students Denied Exit from Gaza,” July 2009.
b) Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, “Students from Gaza: Disregarded Victims of Israel’s Siege of the Gaza Strip. A Report on Israel’s Prevention of Gazan Students from Studying at the West Bank Universities,” July 2010.
c) The materials amassed by the Right to Education campaign at Birzeit University, a college that has been under siege for the past decade (
d) Ruhan Nagra, Academia Undermined: Israeli Restrictions on Foreign National Academics in Palestinian Higher Education Institutions, May 2013.

Your silence on this deep attack on the rights of Palestinians to an education indicates that the principle that motivates your letter is not academic freedom. If it were, you would certainly have expressed your concern about the violation of the academic freedom of an entire population since at least 1967. What principle you are upholding is up to you to establish. An indication might come from your failed attempt to suborn the American Studies faculty at Trinity to break their institutional linkage to the ASA; having failed with the faculty, you ignored them and claimed to speak as if there is not a rich seam of disagreement on our campus on this issue.

Your letter does not surprise us. In 2007, without a discussion in the faculty, President Jones signed on to an American Jewish Committee advertisement in the New York Times with the inflammatory tag line, “Boycott Israeli Universities? Boycott Ours, Too!” We suspect it says a great deal about the state of US academia and its democratic traditions that presidents can speak for a college or university without the minimal courtesy of consultation of the faculty, staff, students and
alumni. The signing of the 2007 letter to the Times, this letter – these are political acts by a college administration that are disguised as acts of high principle.

That you have written this letter shows that the resolution of the ASA has had some effect – it has forced a conversation about the denial of the rights to full education of our Palestinian colleagues, about the impunity granted to Israeli institutions by the complicity in the US as well as the active financial, military and diplomatic support by the US government for the Israeli occupation of the Palestinians. That your letter does not seriously engage any of the issues – even academic freedom still less the actual occupation – is a sign of the lack of seriousness on your part. We look forward to a more robust discussion. As it is, you did not speak in our name – also members of the Trinity College community – when you wrote this ill-advised letter to the ASA President.

1. Anne Lambright, Associate Professor of Language and Culture Studies.
2. Davarian L. Baldwin, Paul E. Raether Distinguished Professor of American Studies.
3. Drew Hyland, Charles A. Dana Professor of Philosophy.
4. Garth A. Myers, Paul E. Raether Distinguished Professor of Urban International Studies.
5. Gary Reger, Hobart Professor of Classical Languages.
6. Janet Bauer, Associate Professor of International Studies.
7. Jeffrey Bayliss, Charles A. Dana Research Associate Professor of History.
8. Johnny E. Williams, Associate Professor of Sociology.
9. Maurice Wade, Professor of Philosophy.
10. Paul Lauter, Allan K. & Gwendolyn Miles Smith Professor of Literature and past president of the American Studies Association (1998).
11. Raymond William Baker, College Professor of International Politics and Chair, Middle East Studies Program.
12. Robert J. Corber, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor in American Institutions and Values.
13. Seth Sanders, Associate Professor of Religious Studies.
14. Thomas Harrington, Associate Professor of Language and Culture Studies.
15. Vijay Prashad, George and Martha Kellner Chair of South Asian Studies and Professor of International Studies.
16. Zayde Antrim, Charles A. Dana Research Professor of History and International Studies and Director, International Studies Program.


James F. Jones, Jr.
President and Trinity College Professor in the Humanities
Office of the President
Trinity College
300 Summit Street
Hartford, Connecticut 06106
(telephone) 860-297-2086, 2087
(fax) 860-297-5359

From: Jones Jr., James F.
Sent: Tuesday, December 24, 2013 9:49 AM
To: ''
Cc: Mitzel, Thomas M; Keating, Mary Jo M.; Holland, Jenny N.; Jacklin, Michele J.
Subject: ASA boycott of Israel
Importance: High

To The Immediate Attention of the President of the American Studies Association:

Our Dean of the Faculty, Thomas Mitzel, and I wish to go on record announcing the boycott of Israel on the part of the ASA. Trinity once years back was an institutional member (we were then advertizing for an open position), and apparently some members of our faculty are individual members. Were we still an institutional member, we would not be any longer after the misguided and unprincipled announcement of the boycott of the only democracy in the Middle East. The Dean and I oppose academic boycotts in general because they can so easily encroach upon academic freedom. In this strange case, why the ASA would propose an academic boycott of Israel and
not, for example, of Syria, the Sudan, North Korea, China, Iran, Iraq, or Russia escapes rational thought. Trinity has participated in the Rescue Scholar program since its inception; we have welcomed scholars from some of the most repressive countries on the planet, and it is inconceivable to us that we would ever be welcoming a Rescue Scholar fleeing Israel for political reasons.
As President of the ASA, you have tarnished a once distinguished association.

James F. Jones, Jr.
President and Trinity College Professor in the Humanities
Office of the President
Trinity College
300 Summit Street
Hartford, Connecticut 06106
(telephone) 860-297-2086, 2087
(fax) 860-297-5359

Sunday, December 22, 2013

"Talking About Mandela" with Netfa Freeman

Today I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Netfa Freeman of the Institute for Policy Studies. We talked about my recent Black Agenda Report column, Talking About Mandela. The interview will be aired on Tuesday, December 23rd on the Voices with Vision program on WPFW radio.

I would like to add that Netfa had a great interview with Rene Gonzalez, one of the Cuban Five. We linked to the interview in Black Agenda Report. Read it here.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Obama’s Phony Commutations

My Black Agenda Report colleague Glen Ford pointed out that Barack Obama is not the lesser of two evils. He is the more effective evil and all of his nefarious skills were seen clearly today with an important announcement. The president made a decision which is right and proper and that will be applauded by anyone who believes in justice. Unfortunately a grave injustice was recently done with Obama’s help and hardly anyone knows about that.

There is good news for eight fortunate people. The president will commute their drug conviction sentences which were determined by terribly draconian crack cocaine laws. Thanks to presidents Reagan, Bush and Clinton, 5,000 people languish in prisons across the country because the mass incarceration, prison industrial complex was brought to its fullest fruition on their collective watch.

The crack cocaine “epidemic” was a trope used to whip the public into a frenzy of fear. The media and politicians used justifiable concerns about drug trafficking to turn the United States into a gulag for black people.

Judges were stripped of discretionary authority and mandatory minimum sentences for crack cocaine were meted out at a ratio of 100:1. Possession of 5 grams of crack was treated like 500 grams of powdered cocaine.

We were told that only “kingpins” would do serious time but every black person was turned into a kingpin and all did serious time. After years of protest and lawsuits Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act in 2010 which lessened the ratio to 18:1. 

But an important question remained about those sentenced under the older guidelines. Would they be able to request resentencing based on the new rules? On December 3, 2013 the Sixth Court of Appeals answered in the negative.

Organizations like the NAACP Legal Defense Fund immediately protested but didn’t bother to point out that president Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder also opposed making the new guidelines retroactive.  Another BAR colleague, Bruce Dixon, asks an important question. “Are establishment black  ‘civil rights’ organizations like the NAACP, the National Action Network and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund really opposed to mass incarceration and the prison state?”

“They claim to oppose mass incarceration and the prison state, although they've only just learned the phrase ‘mass incarceration’ and cannot fix their lips to say ‘prison state.’

But since their first priority is boosting the political fortunes and careers of their peers in the black political elite, who we affectionately call our black misleadership class, they are unable to call the devil in charge of mass incarceration by his name, if that devil has a black face.”

I have not read about Obama and Holder’s duplicity outside of the pages of the Black Agenda Report. The New York Times article I linked to doesn’t mention it, and neither do the rest of the corporate media. Obamabots are dancing for joy but most probably have no idea that Barack Obama could have begun the process of releasing 5,000 people unjustly incarcerated. Sadly, even if they did know they would still be in love with their idol.

Obama had an opportunity to fight for the rights of 5,000 people, but instead fought against them, and then makes a big splash about doing the right thing for just eight individuals. Well played.

I am happy for these few people who will soon be going home but I haven’t forgotten about the rest. I also haven’t forgotten that the first black president and first black attorney general chose to keep them behind bars.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Telling the Truth About Nelson Mandela

“Mandela, too, fostered crony relationships with wealthy whites from the corporate world, including those who had profited from apartheid. He saw this as part of ‘reconciliation’.” John Pilger
I am feeling very sad right now. I don’t feel sad because Nelson Mandela died today. After all he was 95 and had been ill for some time. Of course if he were my father or grand father I would not be so sanguine, but ultimately we all have to die and preferably in peace without physical suffering.
I feel sad because the hideous hagiography has already begun. The sickening mantra that he forgave white people. As I pointed out in a recent Black Agenda Report column, Black people are always lauded if they forgive white people. If Mandela didn’t forgive white people for what they did to South Africa, well, who could blame him? White people of course but I digress.
Mandela fought the good fight against oppression for many years. That is why he was imprisoned in the first place. But his release from prison and the direction the ANC took after he became president were intertwined with deals he made to keep white people on top economically and the country firmly in the grip of avaricious capitalism.
We at Black Agenda Report have reported numerous times on the betrayal of black South Africans by their own misleadership class. We were fortunate to meet with Ronnie Kasrils, a long time ANC member and Mandela comrade who has told uncomfortable truths about the end of apartheid.
“What I call our Faustian moment came when we took an IMF loan on the eve of our first democratic election. That loan, with strings attached that precluded a radical economic agenda, was considered a necessary evil, as were concessions to keep negotiations on track and take delivery of the promised land for our people. Doubt had come to reign supreme: we believed, wrongly, there was no other option; that we had to be cautious, since by 1991 our once powerful ally, the Soviet union, bankrupted by the arms race, had collapsed. Inexcusably, we had lost faith in the ability of our own revolutionary masses to overcome all obstacles. Whatever the threats to isolate a radicalizing South Africa, the world could not have done without our vast reserves of minerals. To lose our nerve was not necessary or inevitable. The ANC leadership needed to remain determined, united and free of corruption – and, above all, to hold on to its revolutionary will. Instead, we chickened out.”
Mandela need not be vilified completely, but he doesn’t need to be canonized either. While the Cubans must be given credit for bringing about South Africa’s military defeat, it is also necessary to talk about the deals that Mandela made to get out of prison.
Black South Africans are free to travel where they want but that freedom means little if going on strike means being killed by the police. It doesn’t mean anything if the country still supplies the world with  wealth which the workers will never enjoy.
I am feeling sad because the lies and dumbing down will be thick until his funeral takes place. I’m hoping that event will take place as quickly as possible. I don’t look forward to Obama claiming that he loved Mandela and he was inspired by him and blah, blah, and blah. I don’t want to see British royals looking solemn or celebrities who don’t much of anything suddenly claiming to know South African history.
I wonder how Fidel Castro is feeling now. He fought for decades to aid African liberation movements. How does he feel after seeing his South African comrades succumb so badly and so blatantly? Does he regret his decision to defeat apartheid? I wonder.
Let’s tell the truth, the whole truth about Nelson Mandela.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

NFL is “Jail with money”

“The NFL is like jail with money. It really is. There is a culture of intimidation, humiliation and violence.  That makes you… You know they try to keep you in control.” – Terry Crews

“Hey, wassup, you half-nigger piece of shit. I saw you on Twitter, you been training 10 weeks. [I want to] shit in your fucking mouth. [I'm going to] slap your fucking mouth. [I'm going to] slap your real mother across the face [laughter]. Fuck you, you're still a rookie. I'll kill you.” – Richie Incognito

I happen to be a fan of professional football. I come from a family of sport fans. In the days when we only had channels 2 through 13, it was a big deal when Ohio State games were televised and my dad made a very big deal out of watching his favorite team. I knew way more than I needed to about Woody Hayes (google if you must) and how brilliant he was. It was all a lot of fun and I have great memories about it.

My level of interest has waxed and waned over time but I’ve been a consistent football fan for the past couple of years and I’m a big fan of the New York Giants. It is a great sport and I admire the skill of the players. I enjoy having a kind of camaraderie with other fans who understand why I’m happy or sad or why I like or dislike a person or a team. It has been fun, but all that started to change for me recently.

Last week, Jonathan Martin, a black player for the Miami Dolphins, left the team after enduring insults, humiliations and threats to his family from team mate Richie Incognito. (Yes, that is his real name.) The story itself was pretty shocking, but the real shock came when black players defended Incognito and berated Martin. To a person they said the same things. Martin should just “man up” and ought to have “handled it in house.” He was called “weak” and “a coward.”

I assumed that football players were not the most enlightened people, but I’m shocked that they do in fact live up to the worst stereotypes about dumb jocks. It is heart breaking to see these black men sound like old segregationists whining about their “way of life.” Football has its own culture we are told. That’s just the way it is. Everyone is first bullied and then bullies others.

In other words, they are a bunch of highly paid gangsters with the NFL locker room being like a prison yard. If that is the case they can play without getting more of my time, energy or attention.

In case you didn’t google Woody Hayes, you should know that he was fired after he punched an opposing player. Yup. I have been in denial for years.

It is hard to stop doing things we find enjoyable, which is we have rehab and weight watchers. Tomorrow is Sunday and will be the first day of my football reduced diet. Time for a different hobby.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Very Small of You, Jay Z

How lame was Jay Z’s statement about his collaboration with Barneys New York? It was so lame, that even the conservative New York Daily News took him to task. I did that when I posted yesterday. Today I’ll let the Daily News speak for itself.

“When he joined a partnership with upscale retailer Barneys, Shawn “Jay Z” Carter applied his celebrity, fashion sense and marketing savvy to raising large sums of money for his charitable foundation. All hail.

Certainly, Carter was shocked to read, via the Daily News front page, about mounting evidence of racial profiling by his chic collaborators.

First, he learned that store security had triggered the groundless arrest of a young African-American man who purchased a $350 belt with a debit card wrongly assumed to be fraudulent. Then, he learned that a similar false presumption brought detectives down on a young African-American woman.

Were he reading closely — and Carter and public relations aides surely were — he also saw that in 2013, Barneys had logged more than 50 calls to the NYPD alleging credit card fraud against specific individuals.

The store’s allegations produced a total of only 11 arrests, according to the police department, strongly suggesting that Barneys has overwhelmingly been siccing cops on consumers baselessly judged to have been criminals. How many were white, black or other? Neither the police nor Barneys will say.

None of this was Carter’s fault.

But it became his responsibility, because with power and the wealth that begets power come social obligations. These can be heavy for notables who become role models and even more onerous for those, like Carter, who rise to iconic stature. In this cultural stratosphere, he carries the dreams, allegiance and commercial support of the public, and the public, perhaps especially the black public, expects his allegiance in return.

Carter had long put forth the face of just that kind of generous, socially conscious figure. Now, in the aftermath of the racial profiling revelations, the public looks into the soul of a peevishly egotistical man who appears to have erased from memory his long-ago address in Brooklyn’s Marcy Houses.

After three days of why-are-you-bothering-me evasions, Carter on Saturday issued a statement that portrayed him — and not Barneys arrestees Trayon Christian and Kayla Phillips — as the mightily wronged party.

Twice his name appeared in the statement; never once theirs.

He complained of being “demonized and denounced”; they were swarmed by cops and held in custody.

He imagined “negligent, erroneous reports and attacks on my character.” There were none, but Christian and Phillips suffered the very real fear and humiliation of being held and interrogated by police, wondering whether their only offense was skin color.

Finally, in the eighth paragraph of 10 paragraphs of bitterness, Carter said that he had been working “to get to the bottom of these incidents,” wanted a “solution that doesn’t harm all those that stand to benefit from this collaboration,” and empathized with anyone who had been profiled.

Carter’s cry of victimization must be taken as the measure of the man, for he issued it not in the heat of the moment but after three days of consideration and consultation. The tone deafness of a man so musically talented is all the more glaring in comparison with the words and actions of the NYPD and Barneys.

While neither has been remotely forthcoming with facts, both have recognized the gravity of the Christian and Phillips cases. The cops who arrested Christian apologized, and the department has launched an Internal Affairs investigation. Barneys quickly brought in a civil rights lawyer to review its actions and policies.

And Carter felt aggrieved that anyone might hope to hear his voice reverberate for justice. The smallness of a big man is most shocking.”

Jay Z’s Presence at Barneys

“It’s what I call the re-niggerization of the Black professional class, where you have fear, you have a tremendous sense of being intimidated even though you have big money,” said West. “So you say to Brother Jay-Z, What are you risking? We don’t want to just see you successful, we appreciate it, we want to see you faithful to something bigger than you, and faith has to do with risking something. The only way you become de-niggerized and free is when you are willing to risk, when you’re willing to go against the grain, to show you’re not fearful, you’re not afraid. Unfortunately, Jay-Z at his worst is an example of folk who get so elevated that they don’t show courage and take a risk for something that is bigger than them.”
Cornel West on Black Agenda Report TV

“I think one of the great abuses of this modern time is that we should have had such high-profile artists, powerful celebrities. But they have turned their back on social responsibility,” he accused. “That goes for Jay-Z and Beyoncé, for example. Give me Bruce Springsteen, and now you’re talking. I really think he is black.
Harry Belafonte

"I’m offended by that because first of all, and this is going to sound arrogant, but my presence is charity. Just who I am. Just like Obama’s is."
Jay Z

Shawn Carter, aka Jay Z, is one of the most successful entertainers of this era. He is not only a top selling recording artist, but a businessman with stakes in sports, fashion and movies. He is also married to Beyonce Knowles, who is equally successful and a constant presence in every kind of media. They are a power couple, a brand in and of themselves.

Cornel West and Harry Belafonte sought in vain to engage the Carters in the kind of political activism which Belafonte and artists of his generation were known for. I admired the effort but knew that it was for naught. I never thought they had any interest in what West or Belafonte had to say and I've been proven right. Jay Z sold Occupy Wall Street themed t-shirts to make money, but didn't real think much of the OWS movement. He said he just didn't understand it.

He clearly didn't get it because he was quoted as saying that "we need less government" which is a strange statement coming from someone who directly profited from government intervention in getting the New York Nets a new stadium. The sad truth of the matter is that the day of the artist willing to take a stand on important issues has come to an end.

So unwilling is Mr. Carter, that he has been silent at a time when his name and reputation were linked to a business proven to have discriminated against black people. In the past week, two black people have come forward to report that after spending their money at the Barneys New York clothing store, they were stopped by and in one case detained by the police. They were both accused of using fake debit cards, asked where they got their money, where they lived and why they dared to cross the lilly white threshold of the luxury retailer.

The timing could not have been any worse for Jay Z. Barneys recently announced that their annual celebrity holiday shopping partner was, well guess who. A portion of the proceeds of the New York Holiday campaign would go to Carter's scholarship fund. The rest goes to Jay Z and Barneys.

Barneys was forced to issue not one, but two statements within 48 hours of the story breaking in the media. Jay Z took his time to respond on his website but when he did he sounded like the petulant injured party.

"I move and speak based on facts and not emotion. I haven’t made any comments because I am waiting on facts and the outcome of a meeting between community leaders and Barneys. Why am I being demonized, denounced and thrown on the cover of a newspaper for not speaking immediately? The negligent, erroneous reports and attacks on my character, intentions, and the spirit of this collaboration have forced me into a statement I didn’t want to make without the full facts. Making a decision prematurely to pull out of this project, wouldn’t hurt Barneys or Shawn Carter, but all the people that stand a chance at higher education. I have been working with my team ever since the situation was brought to my attention to get to the bottom of these incidents and at the same time find a solution that doesn’t harm all those that stand to benefit from this collaboration."

Defensive much? Despite Mr. Carter's assertions, the facts are quite clear. Black shoppers spent their money in Barneys only to be treated as if they were shop lifters. The only honorable thing for him to do is cancel his collaboration. If his mere presence is charity, then he can give scholarships without doing business with Barneys. All he has to do is write a check. Problem solved.

So Belafonte and West have been proven right. Jay Z is of the money, by the money and for the money. He has enough of it to give up this bad deal with Barneys but he won't. Jay Z doesn't care about black people.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Glen Ford Speaks about the Black "Mis-Leadership" Class

This is the first video from the Black Agenda Report fundraiser held on October 18th at the Riverside Church here in New York City. Glen Ford's opening remarks were followed by two panels which included Ajamu Baraka, Kevin Gray, Marsha Coleman Adebayo, Boyce Watkins, Bruce Dixon, Anthony Monteiro and yours truly. Maurice Carney of Friends of the Congo spoke on the upcoming Congo Week and Raymond "Nat" Turner provided beautiful spoken word.

If you are wondering whether Cory Booker will make a good senator for New Jersey, listen up. Glen answers the question in no uncertain terms.

Thanks to Stan Heller for the video. More to come.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Solomon Northup Reboot

I hope to see the new film 12 Years a Slave within the week. I was excited when I first heard about this project, which is based on Solomon Northup’s memoir. Northup was a free black man living in New York state who was deceived by an offer to perform in Washington DC. Instead he was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Louisiana.

I am however curious about why no one points out that this is the second telling of Northup’s story. In 1984 Solomon Northup’s Odyssey was presented on PBS. The film starred Avery Brooks and was directed by Gordon Parks. It was later released on video with the title Half Slave, Half Free.

Director Steve McQueen said this in an NPR interview.

“It was the only firsthand account of a free black man who went into slavery and came out the other end — who actually regained his freedom. But then Uncle Tom's Cabin came out the year after and obliterated it, and it was buried. And I was really upset with myself that I did not know about this book. No one knew about this book. And it just became my passion, sort of — make this book into a film.”

I find it hard to believe that neither McQueen nor anyone else in the film industry was aware that Northup’s story had already been told on film. By all accounts this is an excellent movie and I look forward to seeing it, but I’m curious about why there seems to be a need to claim that this story was unknown after it had already been told on film.

As for McQueen’s assertion that there is no other account of a story of this kind, well I’m not sure that is true either.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

John Brown

"I believe that to have interfered as I have done as I have always freely admitted I have done in behalf of His despised poor, was not wrong, but right. Now, if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children and with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments, I submit; so let it be done!"

On this date in 1859 John Brown set out with a small group and headed to Harper's Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia). His goal was to seize weapons from the federal arsenal and lead enslaved persons to freedom in the nearby mountains. He wanted this army  to grow until all of the enslaved persons in the southern states had gained their freedom too.

Brown's raid was considered a failure. He was captured and later hanged. Two of his sons were killed as were five others. His supporters denied him. One even committed himself to a mental hospital in order to escape punishment. Brown's captors included Robert E. Lee and Jeb Stewart and John Wilkes Booth was a witness to his hanging.

Despite those facts, Brown was a success. He started the civil war which was the only hope for the enslaved millions. This is a great day in history and must always be celebrated.

(It makes more sense than celebrating Columbus Day.)

Sunday, October 06, 2013

“You’re all illegal. We didn’t invite none of you here.”

Watch the video. I have nothing to add. This man says it all. I wish I knew his name so that I could acknowledge him properly.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Help Kickstart World War III!

Help Obama Start World War III

Best line? "Why? Because Obama!"

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Syria Street Meeting Sept 8, 2013, New Brunswick, NJ

I was invited to speak at an anti-war event in New Brunswick, New Jersey on Sunday. Bob Witanek was kind enough to invite me. Madelyn Hoffman of New Jersey Peace Action was also a speaker.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Obama's Accomplices to War Crimes

Such is the title of my most recent Black Agenda Report column. We are headed to war because the criminal in chief has lots of help from the corporate media, feckless politicians and war mongering democrats.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Colin Powell Busted


Two days ago I went to the High Line, a park located on what was once an old train line on the far west side of Manhattan. It is a lovely place surrounded by old and new architecture, beautiful views, plants, and works of art. One of those works is called Colin Powell and is part of an exhibit ironically called Busted. The bust shows Powell in that infamous moment at the UN when he used a vial as a prop and lied about the existence of WMD in Iraq. That is an important moment to remember as we are being told that there is incontrovertible proof of a chemical weapons attack in Syria.

The text description of the sculpture reads thusly:

“Goshka Macuga (b. 1967, Poland) presents Colin Powell, a sculpture of the former Secretary of State during his 2003 United Nations speech on weapons of mass destruction. The sculpture is inspired by the replica of Pablo Picasso’s Guernica, the anti-war painting which usually hangs in the assembly, but was covered during Powell’s speech.”

I didn’t know that the UN chose to spare the super sensitive secretary from seeing an anti-war statement. I had never heard of  Ms. Macuga until yesterday but now I am a fan.

You can see the sculpture until June 2014. It is located on the High Line near 22nd Street. Busted indeed.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

George Galloway Always Kicks Ass

British MP said what no American politician would say in the US Senate.

British MP George Galloway doesn’t play. In parliament this week he broke it down in the way that only he can about why the plan to start a war with Syria is so very evil.

I am reminded of his bravura performance back on May 17, 2005 when he sliced and diced senator Norm Coleman who accused him of profiting from the oil for food program. Coleman didn’t know that Galloway had already won a libel suit against a British newspaper regarding this very issue.

Not only did Galloway make it clear that he was innocent of the charges but he took the opportunity to give Coleman a piece of his mind about the whole corrupt enterprise.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Americans Will Support War Against Syria

Right now most Americans are opposed to any United States action against Syria. Too bad that won’t last. Mark Twain explains.

“There has never been a just [war], never an honorable one--on the part of the instigator of the war. I can see a million years ahead, and this rule will never change in so many as half a dozen instances. The loud little handful--as usual--will shout for the war. The pulpit will--warily and cautiously--object--at first; the great, big, dull bulk of the nation will rub its sleepy eyes and try to make out why there should be a war, and will say, earnestly and indignantly, 'It is unjust and dishonorable, and there is no necessity for it.' Then the handful will shout louder. A few fair men on the other side will argue and reason against the war with speech and pen, and at first will have a hearing and be applauded; but it will not last long; those others will outshout them, and presently the anti-war audiences will thin out and lose popularity. Before long you will see this curious thing: the speakers stoned from the platform, and free speech strangled by hordes of furious men who in their secret hearts are still at one with those stoned speakers--as earlier--but do not dare say so. And now the whole nation--pulpit and all--will take up the war-cry, and shout itself hoarse, and mob any honest man who ventures to open his mouth; and presently such mouths will cease to open. Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception.”

Monday, August 26, 2013

U.S. War on Africa

On June 8, 2013 I participated on a Left Forum panel sponsored by the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC), "The War on Africa." At the time the Susan Rice drama was front and center in the news but I made the point that it didn't matter if she was secretary of state or not. She and her bosses Bill Clinton and Barack Obama had taken actions which killed millions of Africans, especially in the Congo. Listen up for ten minutes.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Interview on State of the City

Last week I was interviewed by Daren Muhammed on his WFBR program State of City. I talked about the beauty of old R&B (his question) but mostly about my recent Black Agenda Report column Sex Tapes and Butlers. Interview starts at about 4 minutes 40 seconds and lasts for about 30 minutes.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Russell Simmons' Harriet Tubman Sex Tape

Where to begin? Yesterday Russell Simmons caused a disruption in the cosmos with a video called The Harriet Tubman Sex Tape. I was first in denial, not wanting to know how the words Harriet Tubman and sex tape could be in the same sentence.

Harriet Tubman is one of the greatest people who ever lived in this country. She was born enslaved in Maryland. She escaped slavery but returned numerous times to free over 300 men, women and children. She was the only woman known to have led an assault during the civil war. The Combahee River raid resulted in a confederate defeat and the liberation of 750 people. She was a union spy and nurse. 

No matter. The bottom feeder Russell Simmons thought it would be funny to mock her and turn her into a pornography character. Apparently Simmons has issues with women and even if they do empower themselves he sees them as only able to empower with sex. Fortunately most people on the planet with a brain and an internet connection thought otherwise. Despite originally calling his ill conceived opus "one of the funniest things I've ever seen" Simmons issued a half hearted non-apology and removed the video from youtube. 

I have so many questions. Who thought of this? What was the pitch meeting like? Did anyone think it might not be a good idea? What went through the minds of the actors and the crew? WTF is wrong with people?

You can't unsee the Harriet Tubman sex tape. It is out there in the universe still and it will live on, in a very bad way, in our memories. 

Friday, August 09, 2013

Obama Kind of Sort of Thanks Edward Snowden

President Obama held a news conference today. That fact is now particularly newsworthy, but the first item on his agenda was.

Thanks to Edward Snowden, Americans know that their personal data is sucked up into the maw of the surveillance state. Obama huffed and puffed and tried to blow the house down but Vladimir Putin gave Snowden temporary asylum in Russia and the big bad wolf went home empty handed.

So today the president announced a task force and a web site and an ombudsman and a transparent thingamajig to "restore confidence" in the government's ability to spy on millions of people here and around the world. The question is why. After first going on Jay Leno's show to yuck it up a bit before telling us we shouldn't worry our pretty little heads about this, he now gives a performance of charades. Of course Snowden's name came up and the slippery politician tried to have it both ways.

"And there's no doubt that Mr. Snowden's leaks triggered a much more rapid and passionate response than would have been the case if I had simply appointed this review board to go through -- and I'd sat down with Congress and we had worked this thing through -- it would have been less exciting and it would not have generated as much press -- I actually think we would have gotten to the same place, and we would have done so without putting at risk our national security and some very vital ways that we are able to get intelligence that we need to secure the country."

Less exciting? How about never would have happened? How about senators Wyden and Udall being stone walled at every turn when they asked questions about the NSA and the FISA court? 
Well anyway, he was forced to answer not only to millions of Americans but to foreign governments who now know that they were being spied on too. I can't say it enough. Edward Snowden is one of my favorite people. He did the right thing, he screwed our government, and then he got away. Obama and his crew are left sputtering and hoping Leno helps them out. How perfect is that?

Monday, August 05, 2013

August 6, 1945: A Date That Will Live in Infamy

"Very late the next night, however, something happened that did change the plan. The Soviet Union declared war and launched a broad surprise attack on Japanese forces in Manchuria. In that instant, Japan’s strategy was ruined. Stalin would not be extracting concessions from the Americans. And the approaching Red Army brought new concerns: The military position was more dire, and it was hard to imagine occupying communists allowing Japan’s traditional imperial system to continue. Better to surrender to Washington than to Moscow."

American propaganda teaches that Japan's surrender in 1945 happened only because Hiroshima and Nagasaki were incinerated. That mantra is demonstrably false. They surrendered because the Soviets declared war and left them with no way out. The United States is still the only nation that has dropped atomic weapons on human beings and it didn't have to happen. Read here.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

What Chris Hayes Said About Bradley Manning Sentence

On Tuesday, July 30th, PFC Bradley Manning was acquitted of the most serious charge of aiding the enemy but found guilty of 20 different counts of espionage by a military court.

I have written about the government’s zealous pursuit of Manning in my Black Agenda Report column. Manning is but one person who has been victimized by the Obama administration’s effort to punish whistle blowers with the utmost severity.  The 1917 Espionage Act has been Obama’s weapon of choice to make sure that no one considers joining their ranks. Of course, there will always be an Edward Snowden, thank goodness, but a potential 100 year prison sentence isn’t likely to inspire similar behavior.

Obviously a great deal was written about Manning on the day the verdict was announced. On Facebook I shared a post which claimed that MSNBC’s Chris Hayes advocated that Manning receive a 20 year sentence.

That is not what Hayes said. Here is the end of Hayes’s interview with Elizabeth Goitein of the Brennan Center for Justice. Video and transcript can be found here.

Hayes - The final thing I want to get from you is this. You know, defenders of Bradley Manning have been quite vocal and active and very well organized, and I'm quite sympathetic in some ways to people's pointing out the absolute difficult to justify conditions under which Bradley Manning was held, ten months of solitary. The three years before he faced trial. The overkill of the prosecution. It also does seem to me the army isn't going to walk away from some private first class giving away 800,000 documents, right? My question to you is, as sentencing starts tomorrow and there is no minimum sentence , he faces 100 years. What do you think justice is in this case?

Goitein -  I think justice is to take in account those very things that were considered irrelevant. I think they shouldn't have been considered irrelevant, but they were considered irrelevant at the guilt phase. That is his actual motive and the actual harm that the disclosures caused, or in this case really didn't cause. Those factors will be relevant at the sentencing hearing and, you know, I think some sentence is appropriate. I actually believe that.

Hayes -  He has pled to a sentence that would give him about 20 years. I have to say --

Goitein -  Up to 20 years.

Hayes - Up to 20 years. I mean, I'm not a sentencing judge, but clearly that would be a disincentive for future actions if that's the thing the army is worried about. Liza Goitein from the Brennan Center for Justice . Thank you.

Early in the interview Hayes did explain why the government’s claim of aiding the enemy was so wrong and how it would have devastated freedom of the press. It is also very clear that neither Hayes nor his guest advocated for any particular sentence. His guest says that a sentence of some kind is in order, but she only mentioned 20 years as a way of explaining what a sentence based on his guilty pleas might be.

If it were up to me, Manning would never have been charged in the first place. If I could speak to the judge now I would ask for a sentence of time served so that Manning could be freed immediately. (I know. Won’t happen.)

Hayes gives the impression that while critical of the charge of aiding the enemy, he isn’t very concerned about what happens to Manning now. His words come off as a shrug of the shoulders. “Well, what do you expect when you break the rules?”

I have a lot of issues with MSNBC. Hayes is one of the beneficiaries of left leaning media which “… in creating media personalities who, in advancing themselves, have done significant damage to the left and its ability to communicate its message.”

He is not the worst actor in this drama but he showed his true colors with his remarks on Edward Snowden’s pursuit of his right to seek asylum. Hayes expressed “concern” about Snowden’s revelations of government surveillance of nearly every American, but when pressed could only wag his finger at Snowden for seeking asylum in Russia. The fact that he was forced to do so because president Obama violated his right to seek asylum in numerous other countries went unmentioned.

There are no true leftists in corporate media and that means critique of MSNBC is necessary. It is seen as being something it isn’t and can never be, which actually makes it more problematic to progressives than Fox news. We should point that out and still get the facts straight.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Snowden is Free


“So consider what has happened: we have a sitting President who is treating a journalist as a personal threat and is going to extreme lengths to stymie him providing testimony to Congress. That of course has not deterred Greenwald. One of the points of the testimony Wednesday (technically, not a hearing) was for Greenwald to rebut statements made by Obama, James Clapper, and Keith Alexander that the NSA programs were limited…” Naked Capitalism

At last. Edward Snowden left the Moscow airport today after being forced to take sanctuary there for the past five weeks. Russia gave him temporary asylum and allowed him to enter the country. The former defense contractor employee fled first to Hong Kong and was then en route to a third country when the Obama administration cancelled his passport as he landed in Moscow.

Liberal Obamabots wrung their hands and scolded Snowden for seeking refuge in evil Russia. They never bothered to point out that Snowden sought asylum in over 20 countries but was thwarted by American government interference. Absent the Obama temper tantrum he might have ended up someplace that liberals found more acceptable.

This news is huge. Vladimir Putin directed a very public rebuke to Barack Obama who was very ham handed in his appeals to the Russian president. Kerry, Carney and every member of the senate and house fumed and fussed. They called Snowden a traitor and all used the finger in the eye metaphor straight out of the Three Stooges. It was all for naught. Putin was already angry about Syria and about being made a fool of over the Libya security council vote. He also refused to give in on Russian law, which has no extradition agreement with the United States.

It isn’t coincidental that Russia made its decision official two days after Bradley Manning was convicted of espionage. The Manning case proved that Snowden had a well founded fear of persecution, which is the international standard for the granting of asylum.

Obama had gone to great lengths to get Snowden and to silence his critics. Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who broke the Snowden story was scheduled to give testimony to congress on the NSA. Congress had narrowly defeated a bill meant to defund the NSA’s ability to gather and store information on our phone calls. The double whammy of Greenwald speaking directly to congress was too much for the president to handle  says Firedoglake.

President Obama has historically considered the Hill some lower bardo of hell.  One of the major complaints of congressional Democrats has always been that the President does not consult them or include them in shaping his legislative agenda, let alone stop by for a chin wag.

So imagine everyone’s surprise when the President suddenly announced he was coming to the Hill today to meet with all the Democrats –  right before the August recess begins.

Coincidentally, this forced Alan Grayson to cancel the hearing on NSA activity scheduled for today, at which the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald was to testify. Grayson’s bipartisan hearing was organized to give critics of the NSA’s sweeping surveillance programs a chance to air their concerns, and stem the tide of “constant misleading information” coming from the intelligence community, per Grayson.

Those who saw Glenn Greenwald on ABC’s This Week last Sunday heard him hint at reporting he would publish this week which would directly contradict claims made by General Keith Alexander, James Clapper and President Obama himself about the limited nature of the NSA’s programs (video above).

DSWright has more on XKeyscore, the NSA program Greenwald reports on today.  Suffice to say the Guardian publishes copies of training manuals that teach analysts how to search nearly “everything a user does on the internet.”  Of all the revelations made by Edward Snowden so far, these are by far the most explosive — and they directly contradict statements by the President that the NSA’s surveillance activities are limited to metadata.

Sadly, Grayson’s hearing has to be pushed into September because of the President’s sudden desire to drop by for a cuppa.  Coincidence?  Only those in the White House would know for sure.

I’ll say it. It was no coincidence at all. But it doesn’t matter. The U.S. can’t always succeed in telling the rest of the world what to do.

Thank goodness.

Monday, July 22, 2013

A Shout Out from Cornel West

"That’s why Brother Snowden and Brother Manning are the John Browns of our day, and the Glenn Greenwalds and the Chris Hedges and Glen Fords and Bruce Dixons and Margaret Kimberleys and Nellie Baileys are the William Lloyd Garrisons of our day, when we talk about the national security state."

Cornel West was a guest on Democracy Now with Amy Goodman. He said many important things about Barack Obama's statement on Trayvon Martin but I have admit I was most excited about getting a shout out from Cornel West himself.

But enough about me. Dr. West did not spare Obama or his supporters.

"Well, the first thing, I think we have to acknowledge that President Obama has very little moral authority at this point, because we know anybody who tries to rationalize the killing of innocent peoples, a criminal—George Zimmerman is a criminal—but President Obama is a global George Zimmerman, because he tries to rationalize the killing of innocent children, 221 so far, in the name of self-defense, so that there’s actually parallels here."

"Then he tells stories about racial profiling. They’re moving, sentimental stories, what Brother Kendall Thomas called racial moralism, very sentimental. But then, Ray Kelly, major candidate for Department of Homeland Security, he’s the poster child of racial profiling. You know, Brother Carl Dix and many of us went to jail under Ray Kelly. Why? Because he racially profiled millions of young black and brown brothers. So, on the one hand, you get these stories, sentimental—"

"But the rage is going to hit up against a stone wall. Why? Because Obama and Holder, will they come through at the federal level for Trayvon Martin? We hope so. Don’t hold your breath. And when they don’t, they’re going to have to somehow contain that rage. And in containing that rage, there’s going to be many people who say, "No, we see, this president is not serious about the criminalizing of poor people." We’ve got a black leadership that is deferential to Obama, that is subservient to Obama, and that’s what niggerizing is. You keep folks so scared. You keep folks so intimidated. You can give them money, access, but they’re still scared. And as long as you’re scared, you’re on the plantation."

"Black people, we settled for so little, so we get a little symbolic gesture, we get a little identification, and like on MSNBC, which is part of the Obama plantation, they start breakdancing again: "Oh, isn’t it so wonderful? He’s really one of us. We can now wave the flag again. We can now support our mindless Americanism," in the language of my dear brother Maulana Karenga, intellectual that he is. No. We ought to be over against injustice, no matter what, across the board, and be vigilant about it. I don’t care what color the president or the governor or the mayor is."

America Still Ruled by White Supremacy

There is so much to be said about the verdict which acquitted George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin but I believe in keeping things simple. It is all about white supremacy. Period. The end.

Here is a link to my interview with Stan Heller of Economic Uprising. It takes me about 15 minutes to discuss it all, but the title of this post tells you what I said.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Justice for Trayvon Martin Rally Harlem, July 14, 2013

I was able to see one of the many demonstrations which took place yesterday after George Zimmerman was acquitted of killing Trayvon Martin. Honk for Trayvon!
"It's a White Man's World"

I'm proud to have Forrest Palmer as a Facebook friend. He is a phenomenal writer and a very conscious man. Today he kept it short and sweet but he is always on point. He had this to say today about punditry and the George Zimmerman verdict.

"I saw a lot of black media types on the idiot box after the verdict...and I know could never make it on television because when George Stephanopoulos or Piers Morgan or Anderson Cooper or any of those other fuckwads asked me about it, I would just say one thing: "It's a white man's world. Thank you."...
Zimmerman Walks

Alas, all the cute white men in the world couldn't get George Zimmerman convicted for murdering Trayvon Martin in cold blood. I was hopeful, but in truth I knew it all along. The white jurors had no intention of convicting Zimmmerman of murder. One of them is already shopping a book deal and admitted as much in a CNN interview. This is what I wrote last week in my Black Agenda Report column.

Freedom Rider: If George Zimmerman Goes Free
by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley
The corporate media have given very little attention to these extrajudicial killings. We call them ‘extrajudicial’ because they happen without trial or any due process, against all international law and human rights conventions. Those few mainstream media outlets that mention the epidemic of killings are unwilling to acknowledge that the killings are systemic – meaning they are embedded in institutional racism and national oppression.” – Malcolm X Grass Roots Movement
Lynch law has never been repealed.”
Trayvon Martin was murdered by George Zimmerman on February 26, 2012. The 17-year-old was visiting his father in Sanford, Florida and left his home to buy junk food at a local store. This simple act made him the target of George Zimmerman, a 21st century vigilante of the old slavery era patroller school.
The Zimmermans of this country have a very long history. The much debated Second Amendment to the Constitution gave the 18th century vigilante the right to control the enslaved and Native American populations. The “well regulated militia” was nothing more than a means of making sure that the white population had every other group under control with the threat and use of violence. Slavery was a perfect means of doing that. When it ended, Jim Crow and lynch law ruled. As we previously pointed out in Black Agenda Report, lynch law has never been repealed. Trayvon Martin is just the most famous victim of recent times.
George Zimmerman is now on trial for Martin’s murder and expert legal observers agree that a guilty verdict on the charge of murder is far from assured. The case ought to be open and shut. Martin was minding his own business and breaking no laws as he returned to his father’s house. The unarmed Martin was attacked by Zimmerman and a physical altercation followed. Trayvon Martin had a right to defend himself from being assaulted and there was no reason for Zimmerman to have ever approached him. Zimmerman ought to be found guilty and pay the heaviest penalty possible under Florida law. Instead he stands a good chance of going free because the deceased and any other black person who speaks for him has been put on trial in the court and in the court of public opinion.
Trayvon Martin had a right to defend himself from being assaulted and there was no reason for Zimmerman to have ever approached him.”
The defense claims that the man without a gun threatened the life of the man who did have a gun. Rachel Jeantel, the friend who spoke to Martin before he was attacked was herself attacked in and out of the court room. It couldn’t be otherwise because her words should be enough to put Zimmerman behind bars for a long time.
If not for the courageous persistence of Trayvon’s parents Sabryna Fulton and Tracy Martin, Zimmerman would never have been charged. The local police didn’t arrest Zimmerman who they said acted properly under Florida’s “stand your ground” laws, an updated version of the 18th century militia. Stand your ground laws have been repeated in many venues across the country. At first glance they seem just silly, a solution in search of a problem. They are in fact quite serious, giving white people the right to shoot anyone for almost any reason. There are long standing and universally observed self-defense statutes which made stand your ground unnecessary. But if one group of people is to successfully maintain its power over others, no means of control can be over looked.
From the beginning, the victim was made out to be the criminal. Martin’s body was tested for drugs. Zimmerman was not. Martin’s grades in school, his facebook postings and his temporary suspension from school were and are still made an issue. Zimmerman’s history, education and deportment were never issues to law enforcement, or to the media for the simple reason that they don’t think he did anything wrong when he killed Trayvon Martin.
The deceased and any other black person who speaks for him has been put on trial.”
In 2012 the Macolm X Grass Roots Movement published a report which detailed the extra judicial killings of black people by the police, security guards and self-appointed law enforcers like Zimmerman. In the first half of that year they reported that 120 black people were murdered in this manner, one death every 36 hours. That report was report was recently updated to show that modern day lynch law takes place every 28 hours.
If Zimmerman goes free how will black people respond? There will surely be public expressions of anger and anguish, but there is a larger question. As a group, how will we react to the denial of justice for Trayvon Martin and the hundreds of others whose names we don’t even know? It wouldn’t be enough to tell people not to be violent, or to march in silent protest.
There must be very public, very outspoken acknowledgement that our system demands that black people be victimized by those in authority on a regular basis. A volunteer security guard qualifies as an authority if he kills a black person. The songs, parades and kumbayahs should be kept to a minimum. Anyone who speaks about the case should be unafraid to tell the ugly truth about the many ways in which black people are targeted in this country.
The well paid pundits and black misleaders should be called out if they aren’t willing to speak openly about why Trayvon Martin was killed. If the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement is correct, some 300 black people have died in the same manner since the day Trayvon was killed. Their names need to be known and there should be a frank discussion about why they died. Mealy mouthed platitudes urging us to “talk about race” and silly questions about why black and white people see things differently are an affront to intelligence and to justice.
Trayvon Martin is dead because lynch law still lives. If George Zimmerman is acquitted that simple fact ought to be spoken loudly and often. If it isn’t then the injustice is magnified for Trayvon Martin and the hundreds of other unknown victims.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Snowden Litmus Test

I was honored to once again be a guest on Doug Lain’s Diet Soap podcast. I spoke about my Black Agenda Report column on Edward Snowden.

This conversation is especially timely. Snowden has requested asylum from numerous nations but is still stuck at an airport in Moscow. The United States is threatening and bullying those countries and violating Snowden’s right to asylum. Not much of a right if the president decides you don’t really have it.

Thanks again Doug.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

America’s Gangsta Government

‘’This is a lie, a falsehood. It was generated by the U.S. government. It is an outrage. It is an abuse. It is a violation of the conventions and agreements of international air transportation.” Ruben Saavedra, Bolivian Foreign Minister

Let’s get this straight. The president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, travels to Moscow doing the kind of thing that presidents do. In this case he was attending a conference of gas exporting nations.

While in Russia, Morales said he would consider giving asylum to Edward Snowden. Because of this statement, his plane was denied permission to travel in French or Portuguese air space all because the U.S. suspected that Edward Snowden was on board. Morales was forced to land in Austria and his government was none too happy about that fact.

We should all be angry and very afraid. If the U.S. doesn’t respect the rights of a head of state, then Snowden’s goose is cooked.

This also proves that Obama flat out lied when he said he wouldn’t “scramble any jets” because of Snowden. There may not have been any jets scrambled, but a plane thought to be carrying him couldn’t go anywhere that America’s subservient allies wouldn’t allow.

Snowden has a right to request asylum and other nations have the right to give it to him. Presidents of Bolivia or Russia or Fredonia have the right to travel as they please.

At least they used to. But that was all before president nobel peace prize took office.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Edward Snowden

“One week ago I left Hong Kong after it became clear that my freedom and safety were under threat for revealing the truth. My continued liberty has been owed to the efforts of friends new and old, family, and others who I have never met and probably never will. I trusted them with my life and they returned that trust with a faith in me for which I will always be thankful.
On Thursday, President Obama declared before the world that he would not permit any diplomatic "wheeling and dealing" over my case. Yet now it is being reported that after promising not to do so, the President ordered his Vice President to pressure the leaders of nations from which I have requested protection to deny my asylum petitions.
This kind of deception from a world leader is not justice, and neither is the extralegal penalty of exile. These are the old, bad tools of political aggression.
Their purpose is to frighten, not me, but those who would come after me.
For decades the United States of America has been one of the strongest defenders of the human right to seek asylum. Sadly, this right, laid out and voted for by the U.S. in Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is now being rejected by the current government of my country. The Obama administration has now adopted the strategy of using citizenship as a weapon. Although I am convicted of nothing, it has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person. Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right. A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum.
In the end the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, Bradley Manning or Thomas Drake. We are stateless, imprisoned, or powerless. No, the Obama administration is afraid of you. It is afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised — and it should be.
I am unbowed in my convictions and impressed at the efforts taken by so many.”

Edward Joseph Snowden
Monday 1st July 2013'