Why Bill Clinton’s Apology and Barack Obama’s Prison Drive-By, Token Clemencies Are Cynical Election Year Posturing

[Beware, the electoral season is upon us and the masters of political deception and fraud are invading every home.  In the US, every four years, presidential elections are theatrically staged, designed to confuse and disrupt popular movements against class exploitation and racial oppression, and other democratic movements. The elections claim to be “the way democracy works”, and people “must vote” for politicians to represent their interests. Whoever wins, the people’s interests are lost in the shuffle, and their independence and political initiative and action has been suffocated or destroyed.  Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have in their Presidencies continued the mass incarceration, predominantly black and brown men and women, at world-record levels, and now they have made a dramatic last minute cosmetic relief to cleanse their legacy, at least rhetorically, so that Hillary Clinton’s campaign may not have to apologize to potential black voters for the Bill and Barack legacies.  They cannot avoid blame for things too many know.  —  Frontlines ed.] 
A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon, 07/17/2015

Ten whole years ago, back in July 2005 when the Black Agenda Report crew was still at Black Commentator, I wrote that

With under 5 percent of the world’s people, the US accounts for 25 percent of the planet’s prisoners.  More than half its 2.2 million prisoners come from the one eighth of its population which is black.  Today, an astounding 3 percent of all African Americans languish in prisons and jails, and nearly as many more are on probation, parole, bail, house arrest or court supervision… Right now, the shadow of prison squats at the corners of, and often at the center of nearly every black family’s life in this nation.”

Yesterday President Obama repeated some of these same figures, and they are pretty much the same. Total US prisoners are still 2.2 or 2.3 million, and a slight drop in the black incarceration rate makes us now a little less instead of a little more than half, but the overall picture is unchanged in a decade. The president then announced the release of forty-some nonviolent federal drug offenders out of a total of about 70,000, and stopped in at a federal prison Thursday. The same day, ex-president Bill Clinton offered a half-hearted “apology” for his 1990s crime bills, which he admitted “set the stage” for state and federal governments to nearly double the US prison population.

Why? Why did President Obama wait six and a half years into his presidency to say the basic damning numbers and free a token handful of drug war prisoners? And how come Bill Clinton, fifteen years out of office chose this week to publicly admit that black mass incarceration was maybe not the best public policy?

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Bernie Sanders’ big test: Can he learn from his Netroots Nation conflict with Black Lives Matter activists?

The 73-year-old socialist got where he is by sticking to his guns. But his righteousness stunts his political reach

Bernie Sanders’ big test: Can he learn from his Netroots Nation conflict with Black Lives Matter activists?

Desiree Griffiths demonstrates at a Miami protest, Dec. 5, 2014; Bernie Sanders (Credit: AP/Lynne Sladky/Carolyn Kaster)

Sen. Bernie Sanders is who he is: a 73-year-old socialist inured to being told he’s wrong, politically, who’s developed an ironclad hold on the conviction that he’s right. So it’s not surprising that he’s resisting learning lessons from his early campaign stumbles at winning support from African Americans and Latinos.

If you’re a Sanders fan, part of what you like about him is that he sticks to his guns. In fact, Sanders fans are a lot like him: used to being on the political margins, they’ve learned to take refuge in the knowledge of their righteousness, which eases the sting of being perpetually in the political minority.

Unfortunately, the mutually reinforcing self-righteousness of Sanders and his supporters is a liability for his promising presidential campaign. Sanders has a genuine problem with the Democratic Party’s African American and Latino base, and no amount of insisting that class supersedes race will change that. I wrote about it last month, and got a ton of pushback from Sanders backers. Then came the conflict at Netroots Nation on Saturday, where Sanders was heckled by Black Lives Matter protesters.

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#BlackLivesMatter co-founder warns presidential candidates: ‘We will shut down every single debate

[This is another in series on electoral politics. In the US, every four years, presidential elections are theatrically staged, designed to confuse and disrupt popular movements against class exploitation and racial oppression, and other democratic movements. The elections claim to be the way democracy works, and people must vote for politicians to represent their interests. Whoever wins, the people’s interests have been lost in the shuffle, and their independence and political initiative and action has been suffocated or destroyed. As the 2016 election candidacies begin to control the political imaginations of millions, a fight-back begins to grow.  In this report of a Black Lives Matter protest at a Bernie Sanders campaign event, a BLM leader says no politician deserves automatic support (but leaves open the option for later). — Frontlines ed.]

Black Lives Matter protesters in New York City (Shuttershock)

Black Lives Matter protesters in New York City (Shuttershock)

“He couldn’t take 15 more minutes of the heat,” Cullors said of Sanders in an interview on This Week in Blackness, making reference to the senator ending his appearance as demonstrators at the event walked out en masse.

On the Mass Political Movement Inside US Prisons

Pelican Bay Hunger Strike: Four years and still fighting

July 14, 2015, SF Bayview Newspaper

by Claude Marks and Isaac Ontiveros

Four years ago prisoners in California – led by those in the control units of Pelican Bay – organized a hunger strike to demand an end to the torturous conditions of solitary confinement. Two more strikes would follow, with over 30,000 prisoners taking united action in the summer of 2013 – both in isolation and in general population in nearly every California prison.

“Will You Stand Up and Let Your Voice Be Heard July 8th 2013?” – Art: Michael D. Russell

The strikes reflected significant shifts in political consciousness among prisoners and their loved ones. The violence of imprisonment was further exposed by demands and heightened organization from within the cages. Prisoner-led collective actions as well as growing public support dramatically have changed the political landscape.

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The Notorious Treatment of India’s Political Prisoner Dr. GN Saibaba

[Two former political prisoners, Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves,  who also were jailed under India’s notorious Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, which has incarcerated countless as accused “Naxalites”, describe the details of the notorious and abusive treatment of Professor GN Saibaba, who suffers from polio and multiple medical issues and deteriorating health due to the conditions of his imprisonment. — Frontlines ed.]

How Maharashtra robbed Dr Saibaba of his rights

Until police can be compelled to respect basic human rights, we will continue to remain far removed from the democracy we claim to be.

Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves

“I hope you are doing well, despite the fact that you are all in a larger penitentiary, as Uncle Sam would call it. I have been in a smaller enclosure here for the last ten months. My wish to join you back in the larger prison-house has been thwarted once again. I am sure you all understand the anxieties of your friend’s existence in the claustrophobic sealed concrete enclosure of an ‘anda cell’ behind seven heavy and gigantic gates.” Gokarakonda Naga Saibaba’s words (written over three months ago from the confines of the Nagpur Central Prison) carry that gritty tone characteristic of the man ‘guilty’ of supporting and participating in sundry issues and causes of the poor and dispossessed in various parts of the country over the last three decades.

Dr Saibaba, a Delhi University Professor in English, with 90 per cent permanent physical impairment of his lower limbs, was abducted on May 9, 2014 from a Delhi road by the Maharashtra police and has since been behind bars. His story is a telling commentary on the biases of a criminal justice system that readily releases convicted film-stars and politicians but insists on incarcerating those accused of committing the ‘crime’ of supporting or believing in thought contrary to the ruling ideology. Despite many Supreme Court rulings and the recent Kerala High Court assertion that ‘being a Maoist is no crime’, the reality is that it is just this accusation that keeps Saibaba and hundreds of others like him in prison for years on end.

In the last thirteen months, Saibaba has had his bail rejected four times – thrice in the Sessions Court and once in the High Court. Despite his severe disability and his rapidly deteriorating medical condition, the State has not only vigorously opposed bail, but also gone out of its way to deny him proper medical care. Whenever Saibaba has applied for bail on medical and disability grounds, the prosecution has adopted the tactic of ensuring that facilities were provided in the jail when the bail application came up for hearing, but after the bail application was disposed of, those facilities are withdrawn. Continue reading

Imprisoning undocumented immigrants isn’t ‘national security’ – it’s cruelty

Innocent children and families are being detained just like Japanese Americans were during World War II. This must stop. Photograph: David Maung/EPA

These detentions seem to be a repeat of the Japanese American internment camps – an ugly part of US history

29 June 2015

As Japanese Americans whose relatives were imprisoned as “national security threats” during World War II, we were shocked to learn that the Obama administration is contracting with private prison companies to imprison thousands of mothers and children from Central America in detention camps. This, after these families fled some of the most violent countries in the world to apply for asylum in the United States.

After visiting one of these family detention facilities, a descendant of incarcerated Japanese Americans described the place as feeling like “an updated version” of the World War II prison camps. The Japanese American Citizens League has stated that the organization is “deeply troubled by the chilling similarities between the confinement of women and children in places such as Dilley and Karnes, and the wartime treatment of Japanese Americans at places such as Manzanar, Heart Mountain and Tule Lake.” Continue reading