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?

Continue reading

For Palestinians, there is no Obama-Netanyahu rift

 by Ali Abunimah, in Huffington Post,  02/28/2015

Palestinians do not see any substantive Obama-Netanyahu rift on life and death matters for them. But there urgently needs to be one. (Chuck Kennedy / White House Photo)

Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned speech to the United States Congress next week has led to much talk of a rift between the Israeli prime minister and the US president, and even between their two countries.

Tuesday, national security adviser Susan E. Rice said the growing partisanship regarding Israel is “destructive of the fabric of the relationship.”

Citing protocol of not meeting foreign leaders too close to an election, President Barack Obama will shun his Israeli counterpart in Washington, and Vice President Joe Biden will stay away from the joint session of Congress when Netanyahu appears.

The dispute has taken on rancorous partisan tones with more than two dozen Democratic lawmakers vowing to boycott the speech. They charge that Netanyahu’s goal is to undermine the president’s diplomacy with Iran, and that Republican House Speaker John Boehner invited the Israeli leader to defy and humiliate the White House.

Yet all those objecting to the speech, whether in the United States, or Netanyahu’s rivals at home, where he faces an election next month, protest that their concern is to guarantee US-Israeli relations on whose strength the very future of Israel is said to hang.

But what all this sound and fury misses is that for the Palestinians, there is no meaningful Obama-Netanyahu rift. Indeed US-Israeli relations have never been stronger, nor more damaging to the prospects for peace and justice and for the very survival of the Palestinian people.

Just look at the recent record. Last December, the Palestinian Authority put forward a tepid resolution in the UN Security Council that did little more than repeat long-standing US policy on the outlines of a two-state solution. Obama’s UN ambassador Samantha Power marshaled all her resources to defeat it.

She claimed that the resolution was “deeply imbalanced” and took “no account of Israel’s legitimate security concerns.”

The next day, after disappointed Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas signed the treaty acceding to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Obama’s State Department declared itself “deeply troubled,” accusing Palestinians of an “escalatory step” that “badly damages the atmosphere with the very people with whom they ultimately need to make peace.”

Power said the Palestinian move “really poses a profound threat to Israel.”

These words are perverse. Israel’s 51-day long attack on Gaza that left more than 2,200 people dead didn’t “damage the atmosphere” as far as the Obama administration was concerned, but any Palestinian effort to use international bodies in pursuit of justice and accountability is tantamount to an act of war.

I challenge Power to go and repeat her words to any of the 100,000 Palestinians in Gaza still living in the damp and freezing rubble of their homes, to the surviving parents of more than 500 children killed in the Israeli attack, or to the thousands who will live with lifelong injuries.

Neither the ambassador nor her president has commented on the findings of Amnesty International, which said that Israel “brazenly flouted the laws of war by carrying out a series of attacks on civilian homes, displaying callous indifference to the carnage caused.”

Few Palestinians will forget that when Israeli fire was raining down on them, the Obama administration authorized the transfer of grenades and mortar rounds to resupply the Israeli army.

Last summer’s war was something even Hamas leaders tried to avoid. After it began, armed Palestinian groups declared that their goal was a ceasefire accompanied by a lifting of the eight-year siege that has devastated Gaza’s economy and isolated its 1.8 million people from the rest of humanity.

Since the war, promises that the siege would be lifted have been broken. Billions pledged in reconstruction aid have failed to materialize. As a result, cash-strapped UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, has suspended repairs on Gaza homes.

Israel’s view tends to be unquestioningly echoed by US officials and media: that Palestinians are at fault for the repeated surges of violence.

Yet even senior Israeli leaders and officers have often acknowledged that Palestinian armed groups, especially Hamas, have meticulously stuck to ceasefire agreements, as they are doing currently.

Despite this, the US put no pressure on Israel to end the years-long blockade.

As a result, the lesson Palestinians have repeatedly learned is that whether they fight or stay quiet, Israel will be allowed to do as it pleases. It can besiege and slaughter them in Gaza, seize and colonize their land in the West Bank, deprive them of their most fundamental rights, and Obama will have Israel’s back.

Just because Obama, Netanyahu and their partisan followers may be peeved at each other does not change the basic dynamic of full US support for Israel’s occupation of millions of Palestinians, the continuation of which guarantees ongoing suffering with regional repercussions.

Sure enough, despite the supposed rift, the US is proceeding with the sale of more of the most advanced F-35 fighter jets to Israel.

That’s why Palestinians do not see any substantive Obama-Netanyahu rift on life and death matters for them. But there urgently needs to be one.

It is long past time for the American people and their representatives to challenge Israel on its seemingly permanent subjugation of the Palestinians.

This post was first published by The Huffington Post.

On Obama’s Insistence that “We Are Not at War with Islam”

by Gary Leupp, Counterpunch, February 25, 2015

One would like to say that the cruelty of ISIL (ISIS) shocks the entire world. In fact, however, it doesn’t shock everyone. Sad though it may seem to you or me, some people actually observe events in the emergent “Islamic State” with approval and admiration. Thousands of young men and even young women from many countries—even some from Europe and North America—are flocking to ISIL’s black banner. There are various estimates of ISIL strength available, ranging from 30,000 to 100,000. European intelligence agencies estimate that 3,000 young people have joined from the continent.

One should not assume these are all uncivilized thugs, just because they inflict horrible suffering on fellow human beings. They are far from alone in doing that, or in viewing their actions as the administration of some god’s punishment.

We should not presuppose, as Barack Obama suggested in his February 17 speech, that its members join ISIL simply due to such factors as unemployment, alienation and the nebulous phenomenon of “radicalization” to which some minds are strangely vulnerable.

To me they appear as people with a set of serious religious beliefs, including the belief in the existence of a Supreme Being; belief in a holy book of divine authorship; and belief in a set of laws authored by this one-and-only God that—for society to function properly, and the problems posed by modernity fixed—must be rigorously implemented.

Continue reading

Shifting Tides, Shifty Obama-ists

[We are not accustomed to quoting the Bible, but sometimes the biblical words have become part of common culture, as in this:  “Matthew 7:15-20, ‘You Will Know Them by Their Fruits’ — ‘Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.  You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?  Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Therefore by their fruits you will know them.'”  Which is appropriate warned, when perusing the shifting claims and tides of Obama-ists like Angela Davis, whose latest statement (read down to her Guardian article) reaches into more radical territory to restore credibility.  Davis, who partially broke with the path of the revisionist CPUSA many years ago, and who has made contributions to the growing prison abolitionist movement, still has promoted electoral-democratic-reform illusions about the imperialist system against revolutionary strategies. (our highlights, for emphasis). —  Frontlines ed.]

  • From Black Agenda Report, by Glen Ford — March 27, 2012 — “Angela Davis Lost Her Mind Over Obama” —  The “delusional effect” that swept Black America with the advent of the First Black President has warped and weakened the mental powers of some of our most revered icons – and it has been painful to behold. Earlier this month, Angela Davis diminished herself as a scholar and thinker in a gush of nonsense about the corporate executive in the White House. The occasion was a conference on Empowering Women of Color, in Berkeley, California. Davis shared the stage with Grace Lee Boggs, the 96-year-old activist from Detroit. The subject was social transformation, but Davis suddenly launched into how wonderful it felt to see people “dancing in the streets” when Barack Obama was elected. She called that campaign a “victory, not of an individual, but of…people who refused to believe that it was impossible to elect a person, a Black person, who identified with the Black radical tradition.”……There was a hush in the room, as if in mourning of the death of brain cells. Angela Davis was saying that Barack Obama is a man who identifies with the Black radical tradition. She said it casually, as if Black radicalism and Obama were not antithetical terms; as if everything he has written, said and done in national politics has not been a repudiation of the Black radical tradition; as if his rejection of his former minister, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, was not a thorough disavowal of the Black radical tradition. In his famous 2008 campaign speech in Philadelphia, Obama blamed such radicals for compounding the nation’s problems.
  • From Democracy Now, January 21, 2013  —  Addressing the Peace Ball in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, the renowned author, educator and political activist Angela Davis urges those content with President Obama’s re-election to continue pushing him for social change. “This time around we cannot subordinate our aspirations and our hopes to presidential agendas,” Davis says. “Our passionate support for President Barack Obama … should also be expressed in our determination to raise issues that have been largely ignored or not appropriately addressed by the administration.”
  • And Angela today, adjusting her tone, more accurately and radical, to the shifting tides, as anger and defiance grow…………

“From Michael Brown to Assata Shakur, the racist state of America persists”

by Angela Davis, The GuardianSaturday, 1 November 2014 
Although racist state violence has been a consistent theme in the history of people of African descent in North America, it has become especially noteworthy during the administration of the first African-American president, whose very election was widely interpreted as heralding the advent of a new, postracial era.

Neo-Liberals be Damned — Let the Democrats Rot

by ROB URIE, CounterPunch

When considering elections in the U.S. the tendency is for voters to look at the issues placed in front of them rather than at history, political trajectory and who it is that chooses the issues? On their face Republicans, broadly considered, are more direct shills for the worst of the corporate-state— Wall Street, multi-national oil and gas companies, munitions manufacturers and replacement of any and all democratic tendencies with corporate interests. This written, Democrats have been the cleverer proponents of these same interests, the clean-up crew that poses state support as response to ‘natural’ catastrophes that are exactly and precisely the product of self-cannibalizing corporate-state capitalism.

Eleicoes no Brasil

The cartoonist Latuff’s commentary on the elimination of independent and opposition politics, when embracing electoral illiusions and voting. The cartoon was produced in response to the false choices offered the people in Brazil’s elections this year

Political strategy within the mainstream, the choice between slower or faster decay, leaves out of its calculation the possibility of break and rupture that are the most likely ends. Wall Street, which counts ‘both’ political parties in the U.S. as wholly owned subsidiaries, has had three crises of increasing magnitude in as many decades. The oil mafia, the CIA-MI5-BP-Exxon Mobil-military oil and gas establishment, is launching wars at increasing cost with decreasing results except inasmuch as human and environmental catastrophes sustain it. And the ‘political’ establishment that sits metaphorically atop this morass retains public attention only through infinite iterations of manufactured cultural difference.

Continue reading

US’ Controls on Kashmiri and Sikh anti-Modi Protests

September 30, 2014 | By Parmjit Singh, sikhsiyasat.net

Washington, DC: The Kashmir American Council staged a sit-in outside the White House on Monday (Sept. 29) as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived to attend a private dinner where he was due to meet US President Obama and other key US officials.

A number of Sikh protesters also gathered outside the White House and raised slogans against the Indian prime minister.

An “International The News” report says police had to intervene when some of Narendra Modi supporters and protesters came face to face.

WASHINGTON: The Kashmir American Council staged a sit-in outside the White House on Monday as Indian Prime Minister arrived to attend a private dinner where he was due to meet President Obama and other key US officials.

Continue reading