The Tragically Brief Life and Cruel Death of Malcolm Shabazz l The Nation – David Zirin

The Tragically Brief Life and Cruel Death of Malcolm Shabazz

Dave Zirin on May 11, 2013 

A store below the Palace bar in Mexico City, where Malcolm Shabazz was killed. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

Malcolm Shabazz had everything going for him. He was 28 years old, handsome as hell and a remarkably charismatic public speaker. He was an activist, an organizer and a proud father. He also had the blessing of being the grandson of Malcolm X.

Malcolm Shabazz had everything going against him. He was a young black man with a criminal record in the age of the New Jim Crow. He proudly allied himself with countries resisting US occupation and influence. He spoke to audiences across the earth, earning the unwanted attention of the Department of Homeland Security. He was treated with persecution, scorn and incarceration instead of the utmost sympathy for his role in a fire that took his grandmother Dr. Betty Shabazz, when he was only 13. He also had the burden of being the grandson of Malcolm X.

Now Malcolm Shabazz is dead. He was in Mexico City to meet in solidarity with a labor organizer deported from the United States and ended up beaten to death outside of a bar. Details of how and why he was killed are extremely sketchy, and I am not writing this to add to that noise, except to say that I’ll trust a police report about the death of Malcolm X’s grandson around the time I grow a tail.

I’m more writing out of anger: anger that this young man, whom I was able to get to know after meeting at a panel on fatherhood, is having his character assassinated in death. For reasons it should have to answer for, USA Today chose to display a picture of him in handcuffs alongside a brief notice about his killing. The Huffington Post—and no, I won’t link to this garbage—provided no sense of who he was except to write that he “pleaded guilty to attempted robbery in 2002 and was sentenced to three and a half years in prison. Just months after his release in 2006, he was arrested again, this time for punching a hole in a store window.”

With very few exceptions, not a single piece has what you would expect in a typical obituary: remembrances of loved ones and colleagues to give a three-dimensional portrait of someone’s life. The grandson of Malcolm X can only be seen in one dimension. That dimension, as the Associated Press wrote, was just that he “led a troubled life.”

There is no question Malcolm Shabazz had troubles. As he himself said, “Considering what I’ve been through, it’s a miracle that I’ve been able to hold it together. I’m just trying to find my way… Some of the things I’ve been through, the average person would have cracked.”

But “troubled” is not the sum total of who this young man was. Here’s a different take on Malcolm Shabazz by someone who actually knew him. Former NBA player Etan Thomas organized the fatherhood panel I mentioned earlier and worked with Malcolm on numerous events. I asked Etan for his thoughts. He said,

There is a lot of mischaracterization going on from people who know nothing. They never met Malcolm. They stayed far away from him but now they want to inaccurately characterize him. I knew Malcolm. Talked with him, worked with him, he was my friend. Malcolm had a heart of gold. He wanted to help people and change the world. He had been through so much in his young life. He went with me to Riker’s Island to talk to young incarcerated men under 18 and they were focused on his every word. He shared with them the mistakes he made in the past, the absence of a father’s presence, gave them words of encouragement and upliftment. And they were hanging on his every word because they saw the sincerity in him. He genuinely cared. It was an honor to work with him, and to have had him as a friend. He will be missed.

When I met Malcolm Shabazz, I had to ask him the question I’m sure he’d been asked a thousand times. I asked, “Is it more burden or blessing to be Malcolm X’s grandson?” He smiled and said, “I wouldn’t say it’s been easy. Yes, being his grandson is a blessing. But you know what? Being a father is a blessing. Being in the struggle is a blessing. And just being alive is a blessing.”

We should mourn for the family of Malcolm Shabazz. We should also mourn for ourselves. In a selfish world where the offspring of the famous are more likely to use their cultural capital to become media parasites, we lost someone truly special. He wanted to wield Malcolm’s memory to fight for a better world. Now we should do the same with the memory of both of these Malcolms. They were both brilliant. They were both maligned. They were both taken far too young with far too much unfinished work in front of them. Malcolm Shabazz: Presente!

In the US, people under the age of eighteen can be held in solidarity confinement. Check out Nation Action for what you can do to stop it.

Related Topics: Racism and Discrimination | Politics | Society

Where does Jesse Jackson’s family go from here? l KultureKritic

Where does Jesse Jackson’s family go from here?

By  David A. Love on Twitter at @davidalove

 February 22, 2013

jesse-jackson-family-16x9

Are we witnessing the end of the Jackson dynasty?  Where does this once beloved political family go from here?

With former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. pleading guilty to spending $750,000 in campaign funds on a personal spending spree—and his wife Sandra Stevens Jackson pleading guilty to knowingly filing false joint federal income tax returns—the couple is facing years of prison time.

Mrs. Jackson, who resigned as a Chicago alderman last month, failed to declare $600,000 to the feds.

For a man who was once considered a contender for mayor of Chicago, the fall from grace was swift and sudden.

But even more dramatic than the fraud and conspiracy charges against the son of the veteran civil rights leader is how so much was thrown away on so little, it seems.  Is one’s career and reputation worth a$43,000 Rolex watch, nearly $9,600 in children’s furniture, over $14,500 in dry cleaning, $5,800 in drinks and $5,150 in furs?  An even better question: Is the legacy of the civil rights movement worth a man benefiting from his father’s name and enjoying a lavish lifestyle in the process?

“Over the course of my life I have come to realize that none of us are immune from our share of shortcomings and human frailties,” the former congressman said in a statement.  “Still I offer no excuses for my conduct and I fully accept my responsibility for the improper decisions and mistakes I have made.”

“The guilty plea today is so tragic because it represents such wasted potential,” said U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. at a news conference.  “Jesse Jackson Jr. had drive, the ability and the talent to be the voice of a new generation, but he squandered that talent.  He exchanged that instead to satisfy his personal whims and extravagant lifestyle.”

Meanwhile, in light of his brother’s political woes, Jonathan Jackson, a professor at Chicago State University, was viewed as a possible replacement for Jesse Jr. in Congress, but declined to run for the seat due to a lack of interest in politics.

So, now what?  As for Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., who may have had hopes of building a political dynasty that once knocked on the White House door, just as another prominent black Chicago family moved into the White House, it would appear that dynasty has ended.  And maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

Empires and dynasties decline and crumble for a variety of reasons, including corruption, greed and excess, mission creep, and mediocre successors to the throne.  Old dynasties are replaced, and time goes on.  The senior Jackson, known for his role in the civil rights movement working with Martin Luther King, became a power broker with his 1984 and 1988 presidential runs. He has a long track record of fighting for economic and social justice for the poor and disenfranchised, and for his international activism, including aiding in the release of Americans captured in foreign countries.

His accomplishments are to be honored and appreciated, personal foibles, stumbles and all. After all, no one is perfect, and we are all human beings with imperfections.  But that otherwise great legacy does not translate into a right to cash in the chips of past civil rights struggles for personal fame and perpetual power.

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Follow David A. Love on Twitter at @davidalove

“Restorative Justice, Slavery, and the American Soul” . . . The Question of Reparations” l This Week on Our Common Ground

OUR COMMON GROUND with Janice Graham

“Restorative Justice, Slavery, and the American Soul”
. . . The Question of Reparations”

February 23, 2013 10 pm ET

02-23 Blevins

OUR Guest: Michael BlevinsAuthor, Professor, Change and Justice Leader/Activist

 Founding Executive Director, NE Iowa Peace & Justice Center

ABOUT Michael Blevins

Mike Blevins fall.2012.Michael Blevins, JD, M.Div, LL.M (Intercultural Human Rights) works from Decorah, IA. He was a defense attorney for ten years in the state of Kansas and is an ordained pastor. He currently is a human rights advocate and activist who teaches Ethics and Philosophy at the college level and was recently the founding Executive Director of the NE Iowa Peace & Justice Center in Decorah, Iowa.

Mike is a Diversified Social Change and Non-Profit Professional with over twenty years experience in law, ministry, classroom teaching, community organizing, non-profit leadership, conflict resolution services, strategic planning, human rights advocacy and non-profit community development–including non-profit leadership, human rights education and advocacy.

He authored “Restorative Justice, Slavery, and the American Soul, A Policy-Oriented Approach to the Question of Reparations”, which was awarded the 2005 Institute of Policy Sciences Best Graduate Student Paper prize; the paper was presented by the author at the Annual Symposium of the Institute of Policy Sciences at Yale University Law School in October, 2005; Published by the Thurgood Marshall Law School Journal (Volume 31, No.2, pp. 253-322, Spring 2006.

Our discussion with Mike with focus on the following topics:

  • What is Restorative Justice and how might it apply to the evil of White Supremacy
  • Mass Incarceration and other aspects of the New Jim Crow
  • The Question of Reparations 
  • Reparations Initiatives including HR 40 (Conyers) and other proposals for approaching reparations 

HIS WORK
Blevins, Michael F. (2005). Restorative Justice, Slavery, and the American Soul, A Policy-Oriented Intercultural Human Rights Approach to the Question of Reparations. Thurgood Marshall Law Review. 31:253-322. Summary by Restorative Justice.Org:
“Blevins provides an overview of how past slavery has an effect on present society; reparations have not been paid to the African American community and injustice remains. Reparations, Blevins states, should come in the form of aid, not charity, and that the United States owes reparations to both Africa and African-Americans. The current theories and laws addressing slavery reparations are centered on a litigation approach. This approach is ineffective and inhibits justice from being served. Blevins then discusses the Restorative Justice approach, briefly mentioning the Truth and Reconciliation processes in Africa, the Truth Commission established in Peru, and other Restorative Justice initiatives around the world. The article states that if nothing is done in the United States to address the past and present problems with slavery and racism, these problems will continue. To be successful, the reparations movement must occur within the academic, professional, civic, and religious sectors. Blevins suggests that an African American Redress Commission should be established by the House and Senate. Additionally, a commission would then be established in each district, with the purpose of conducting investigations and research, holding hearings, and holding community forums. The most important aspect of these commissions being the forums because the community would have a chance to be heard and to come up with solutions for the present problem. Each district would then submit a plan to the executive Commission, complete with legislative recommendations, entitled “America’s 21st Century Contract with African Americans.” Blevins ties this whole process to the commencement of slavery in Jamestown Virginia, comes up with an outline of a possible payment plan from the United States government to both African Americans and Africans, and challenges individual States to take action.”OUR COMMON GROUND with Janice Graham

“Speaking Truth to Power and Ourselves”
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How the media tried to assassinate Chris Dorner Claims of ‘mental illness’ are in the mind of the beholder l Thandisizwe Chimurenga

How the media tried to assassinate Chris Dorner Claims of ‘mental illness’ are in the mind of the beholder

Published on Thursday, 21 February 2013 15:55

 Thandisizwe Chimurenga

LAWatts Time  Contributing Writer

 

 

Christopher Jordan Dorner is dead but his words and actions will continue to impact the Los Angeles area and beyond for quite some time. The former U.S. Navy lieutenant and Los Angeles police officer who is alleged to have shot and killed four people earlier this month was the subject of the largest manhunt in Southern California history.  Authorities say that manhunt ended on Feb. 12 with Dorner, surrounded by law enforcement in a cabin in the Big Bear area of San Bernadino, committing suicide as highly flammable tear gas canisters ignited the cabin and burned it to the ground.

Dorner’s ‘manifesto’, in which he declared war on the Los Angeles Police Department and his subsequent actions were horrifying to many.  In an effort to understand the reason behind his rage and actions, many mainstream media outlets posited that Dorner must have suffered from some sort of mental illness.

Appearing on “Piers Morgan Tonight” on Feb. 7 Dr. Xavier Amador, a regular commentator for CNN, said there was “absolutely no basis in reality for [Dorner’s] complaints that he was mistreated, that there was any kind of police corruption,” that Dorner had “clear signs of mental illness,” and that his ‘manifesto’ was “delusional.”

Amador’s analysis was based on a review of Dorner’s LAPD case file, he said.

According to Neon Tommy the online news site of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa declared that “Whatever problem [Dorner] has is mental,” while speaking at a press conference on proposed gun safety legislation. Villaraigosa’s comments were part of a Feb. 7 news article entitled “Christopher Dorner’s Navy Service Record And Mental Health Scrutinized.”

On Feb. 9, The Associated Press ran a news brief on Dorner’s unsuccessful attempt to obtain a restraining order in 2006 against his then-girlfriend Ariana Williams.  The story quotes court documents filed in the case that called Dorner “severely emotionally and mentally disturbed.”  The court documents also link Williams to a post about Dorner on a website that was signed anonymously, calling Dorner “twisted” and “super paranoid.”

Also on Feb. 9, The Christian Science Monitor, in “Christopher Dorner: Experts look for clues to alleged cop killer’s mental state,” quotes a retired FBI profiler who said Dorner’s actions were “completely over the top.” Dorner, who claimed in his manifesto that he simply wanted to “clear his name,” had a “personality disorder” according to Mary Ellen O’Toole.

While it can be considered normal to search for answers in a case such as this, attempting to make a mental health diagnosis of Christopher Dorner without ever having physically examined him is not.

“It is difficult to make a diagnostic conclusion given how little any of us know about Dorner’s mental health history, having no audio transcripts to review, no testing and assessment instruments to analyze, and no clinical interview data, said Thomas Parham, PhD.  Parham is past president of the national Association of Black Psychologists and a co-author of “Psychology of Blacks: Centering Our Perspectives in the African Consciousness.”

“All we have is a so-called “manifesto” (that I have not read) that is selectively presented in the media.  So, for the press and media to be making a statement in absence of that kind of information is just interesting, if not useless chatter,” he said.

Clive D. Kennedy, a clinical forensic psychologist and president of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Association of Black Psychologists, echoes Parham’s comments on evaluating Dorner’s mental state.  “I believe no professional has indicated he or she is aware of Mr. Dorner’s mental health status and therefore, we are unlikely to ever know, including those in the media who have been so forthcoming of his psychiatric condition,” he said.

Dorner claimed in his manifesto clearly and explicitly that not only was he a victim of racism but that his attempts to “blow the whistle” on the racism of the LAPD against him and other officers are why he believes he was fired.  According to Dorner retaliation against “snitching” on other police officers was one of several corrupt practices within the, department.  Despite this, much of the media coverage of Dorner’s mental state has conveniently left this fact out.

Are Charges of Racism Enough to Push One Over The Edge?

In her Feb. 9 Los Angeles Times op-ed, civil rights attorney Connie Rice recalls a conversation she had with former Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Jesse Brewer. Describing him as “wise and classy,” Rice states that Brewer, the first African American president of the Los Angeles Police Commission that oversees the LAPD, “came to my law office in 1990. He described to me his own ordeals on the force, in which white officers illegally blocked his entrance to the Police Academy, tried to plant false evidence on him, blocked all of his promotions and set him up for ambush in the field. He also described how viciously the department retaliated against him and other officers who tried to stand up for fellow officers or civilians who suffered abuse from cops. The LAPD never did allow whistle-blowers of any kind to survive, no matter how righteous they were,” wrote Rice.

Chillingly, Rice goes on to write that Brewer told her that Black LAPD officers had to resort to accepting abuse from white police officers and  “outsmarting” them because, “If you let them get to you, you’ll become homicidal.”

In her 1995 work “Killing Rage, Ending Racism,” noted political and cultural critic bell hooks wrote: “the conditions of racism can ‘drive one mad.’

Referring to an outbreak of violence in New York City in which a Black man opened fire randomly on a subway train, hooks states that “ … most Black folks can recognize that it is ethically and morally wrong to kill folks even as we can also sympathize with mental illness that is either engendered or exacerbated by life in [the United States].”

Psychologist Thomas Parham echoed that sentiment.  “We must extend our prayers for those who lost their lives in this rampage (both victims and perpetrator) and for the families who are left to grieve. There is never a justification for the taking of innocent lives, no matter what the level of unfairness one believes has impacted their own life.  There is nothing more sacred in the African tradition than life, so to be so callous in the taking of innocent lives would seem to be the most fundamental violation of an African centered worldview.”

Parham continued, “Clearly, the actions Dorner engaged in are very “out of the ordinary,” and beyond the realm of most standards of normalcy and decency that society embraces. Yet, like all of us, he is a product of a social system that makes an implicit contract with its citizens that says if you work hard and play by the rules, including doing the right thing on your job, then success should be the reward for one’s hard work, dedication, and commitment … I suspect that if he embraced this implicit social contract with the rigidity of a very concrete thinker, and then believes that his life was ruined by some unfair and discriminatory treatment when he called himself trying to do the right thing and report abuse by a fellow officer, then the violation and betrayal he feels might evoke that type of anger, rage, and desire for retribution that we all witnessed…”

Paul Harris, a San Francisco-based attorney and author, says that “ … even in cases where the perpetrator of the crime is mentally ill, one must look at the concrete experiences of racism (and other environmental hardships) to understand the resulting behavior.”  Harris is the author of “Black Rage Confronts the Law,” a 1971 book based on a case in which Harris was successful in defending a young Black man accused of bank robbery.  “Too many people cry racism in explaining these crimes without combining the underlying mental problems, with the specific life experience with racism the person has suffered,” said Harris.

Joy DeGruy, author of “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome,” uttered similar  comments as Harris.  “I would think that any serious response would include consideration of the obvious and blatant differential treatment of African Americans by a dysfunctional justice system and the structural inequalities inherent in that system.”  DeGruy holds degrees in social work and clinical psychology and is an assistant professor at Portland State University.

More than 1,000 sightings of Christopher Dorner were reported to police during the manhunt to apprehend him.  The overwhelming majority of those tips were based on faulty identifications of Black men whose appearance was similar to Dorner.  What we do not know for sure is how many of those tips were from individuals that were simply Good Samaritans interested in assisting law enforcement, and how many were from individuals who were genuinely frightened that Dorner might attack them.

As we continue to ponder Dorner’s mental state we might also take into account the words of bell hooks:  “White supremacy is frightening.  It promotes mental illness and various dysfunctional behaviors on the part of whites and non-whites.  It is the real and present danger – not black rage.”

Read the LAWT Here

 

theGrio’s 100: OUR COMMON GROUND Voice, Barbara Arnwine

theGrio’s 100: Barbara Arnwine, keeping civil rights front and center

Laywers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Executive Director Barbara Arnwine (2nd R) speaks during a news conference to voice opposition to state photo identification voter laws with the Rev. Jesse Jackson (C) and members of Congress at the U.S. Capitol July 13, 2011 in Washington, DC. In what the the committee calls 'vote supression legislation,' eight states require photo identification for people to vote and 22 others are considering similar legislation. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)Laywers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Executive Director Barbara Arnwine (2nd R) speaks during a news conference to voice opposition to state photo identification voter laws with the Rev. Jesse Jackson (C) and members of Congress at the U.S. Capitol July 13, 2011 in Washington, DC. In what the the committee calls ‘vote supression legislation,’ eight states require photo identification for people to vote and 22 others are considering similar legislation. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Arnwine is president and executive director of theLawyers Committee on Civil Rights Under Law,which works on issues like racial profiling and voter protection.

Why is she on theGrio’s 100? 

Arnwine and her group were instrumental in battling controversial voting laws, such as ones requiring photo identification to vote, that were passed by Republican legislatures in 2011 and 2012. The committee joined lawsuits against many of the laws, helping lead to many of them being struck down by courts. The group also created a “Map of Shame” depicting which states had the most controversial voting laws and a hotline for people to report voting or registration problems in the months before Election Day.

“Voter suppression legislation that has been debated and passed across the nation since the 2010 mid-terms threatens to heighten voter confusion this November,” Arnwine said in the midst of the campaign.

The effort by Arnwine and others was successful, as Obama campaign aides said the voter laws had little impact on the 2012 election results.

What ‘s next for Arnwine? 

The battle over voter laws is likely to continue. While courts put aside many of the laws in 2012, Republican-led legislatures and governors are likely to propose them again in the future. And the 2014 and 2016 campaigns are not far away.

Arwine

LISTEN TO OUR COMMON GROUND with Barbara Arnwine HERE

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The Audacity of Fluff: A Critical Reading of Obama’s Inaugural Address l The Atlantic

 

The Audacity of Fluff: A Critical Reading of Obama’s Inaugural Address

 

 The president’s words elided inconvenient realities and too often lacked rigor.

Conor Friedersdorf

o inaug reuters.jpg

Reuters

President Obama’s Second Inaugural Address is unlikely to be much remembered by future generations. Its authors have a talent for “rhetorical craftsmanship,” as James Fallows astutely noted. But to what end?

Were hard truths expressed? Were complicated concepts rendered in clarifying language? Were the disagreements that divide us insightfully characterized? Was an argument advanced? No, the craftsmanship was marshaled in place of substance rather than in support of it. The president expertly associated himself with certain ideas and evoked certain impressions.

He burnished his brand rather than acting like a leader.

I don’t mean to suggest a total dearth of ideas.

The speech’s theme: As Americans, we’re in this together. That’s a fine theme. Like the vast majority of Americans, I favor a social safety net to care for those who can’t care for themselves; I grant the wisdom of funding infrastructure projects through federal and state governments; I agree that “our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very
well and a growing many barely make it”; and I think the present generation has some obligations to posterity.

Of course, sharing those concerns needn’t mean accepting that any one related policy proposal would be effective or desirable. I often disagree with Obama’s proposed remedies. I am hardly alone. What did the second inaugural offer an American like me? Neither a serious, reasoned attempt to persuade me of his vision nor an acknowledgement that it is deeply contested.

As he often does, Obama proceeded as if leadership is an exercise in eliding disagreements; as if defeating a straw man in argument is persuasive; and sometimes even as if pretty lies are preferable to the truth. Certain passages met a basic threshold of substance. But they were surrounded by fluff: rhetoric so light, soft, and fuzzy it ought to be beneath a historical occasion. We now expect no better of our pols. So they meet our expectations.

What follows are passages I found particularly objectionable (for a variety of reasons).

Said Obama:

Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone.

Oh really?

Obama favors greater central authority in health care, energy, education, gun regulation, and occupational safety. His underlings have actively undermined state efforts to decentralize marijuana policy. And on national-security matters, he has worked to centralize authority in the executive branch. In what way has Obama’s supposed skepticism of central authority manifested itself in the last four years? I can think of no significant step he has taken to check it. This is phrased as a nod to ideological opponents, but the concession has no substance behind it.

Said Obama:

Preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action. For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people.

That apples-and-oranges comparison at the beginning reads like a passage from a Tom Friedman column. It’s trivially true that no single person can train all the math teachers we need, or build all the research labs. But it hardly follows that we need to do all those things together, “as one nation, and one people.” Some of the math teachers can be trained by Jesuit institutions that secular Americans are uninclined to support. Some of the research labs can be built with private money to conduct research that many wouldn’t care to fund, whether due to moral objections or because they don’t appreciate its value. A great strength of America is the fact that we don’t have to do everything collectively, “as one nation, and one people.” Individuals and diverse groups work alone or in private collaboration to pursue their own notions of the good, and everyone benefits from their greatest achievements. If we’re smart, we also benefit from the science teachers and research laboratories of other peoples and nations. In a pluralistic nation, actually doing anything as one is either a vapid illusion or creeping fascism. Progressives feel that way when they’re told opposing a particular war is un-American.

Said Obama:

America’s possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention. My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it — so long as we seize it together.

Our world is not without boundaries. And America’s capacity for risk is not “endless,” thank goodness.

Said Obama:

We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.

In America, it has never been true that a little girl born into the bleakest poverty “knows” she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she has never and does not currently have the same chance. Equality of opportunity is something to which America ought to keep aspiring. So I suppose I agree with what I take to be his point. What I don’t understand is why Obama would phrase things as if, when we’ve been true to ourselves, the destitute poor enjoyed that equality. They never have (though some of them have managed to “make it” anyway).

Said Obama:

We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. We must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, reach higher.

This elides the reason for our woes. The tax code is flawed because it accommodates special interests as often as the general interest, among other reasons, not because it’s waiting for “new ideas” or “technology” to fix it. It isn’t “ideas” or “technology” that are going to fix our government or our schools either. Pretending as much is a frivolous evasion that serves no one.

Obama:

We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future.

Are today’s retirees “the” generation that built this country? No. Is there anyone arguing that America must choose between the binary options caring for the elderly and investing in the children?

No.

There are people suggesting that the relative amounts flowing to those groups must be re-calibrated. Obama’s words create a straw man that is marshaled to elide the fact that society must decide how much the state spends on young and on old, and that the two decisions impact one another.

Said Obama:

We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.

It isn’t actually clear that the United States will respond to the threat of climate change, partly because most Americans can still mostly escape the impact of wildfires, droughts, and more powerful storms. The politics are difficult precisely because the costs are borne by other people.

Said Obama:

The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries — we must claim its promise.

Actually, if Japan or Germany or Brazil invented an awesome new technology that made clean energy cheaply, without any American leadership, we’d still benefit from it, and there would be no danger of us “ceding” it, whatever that means. We’d adopt the technology, obviously. Again, Obama is trying to elide something: in this case, that “clean energy” is presently inferior, at least when you can ignore its externalities, and that the transition is being resisted for that reason. What purpose does it serve to frame controversies in a way that elides their core?

Said Obama:

We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war. Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flames of battle, are unmatched in skill and courage.

Actually, America is presently engaged in a War on Terrorism, and no one, the president included, thinks it is going to end in the foreseeable future. Nor has he put forth any strategy or analytic framework under which it would end, or defined what a victory would mean. Also, there is no evidence for the belief that American soldiers are unmatched in their courage. There are almost certainly people of other nationalities as brave. Why pretend otherwise?

Said Obama, “We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law.” But the last two presidents have repeatedly broken domestic and international law in the course of fighting the War on Terrorism. He continued, “No one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation.” Actually, weaker nations have a greater stake in a peaceful world, because they’re unable to prevent violent aggressors from invading and killing their people.

“We will support democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom,” Obama said, though neither our interests nor our conscience will cause him to support democracy in Saudi Arabia or Qatar.

Said Obama:

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths — that all of us are created equal — is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot
walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.

But in his actions, he makes abundantly clear his belief that people in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, to name three countries where he approves drone strikes, are not to be treated as if their lives are equally valuable as American lives, or as if they enjoy the very same rights and liberties. If our freedom is “inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth,” when does the invasion of North Korea begin? Or are we actually quite free despite their living in tyranny? If Obama is being guided by the stars of Selma and Stonewall he’s an awful navigator.

So many passages in Obama’s second inaugural betrayed a predictable yet disappointing lack of rigor and forthrightness. But other than all the quoted passages above, the speech was okay. I’m sure Obama’s defenders will point out that many of the shortcomings I’ve detailed are no worse than what is found in most every politician’s speech. I concede the point, but encourage everyone to stop treating that as a good reason to withhold criticism.

 

 – Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

Wicked African Leaders Are Selling-Off Africa

Wicked African Leaders Are Selling-Off Africa

Source: Modern Ghana

Updated January 3, 2013 at 5:11 am GMT |

Killing our own African brothers and sisters for political power

Killing our own African brothers and sisters for political power

By Naiwu Osahon

A new form of neo-colonialism has since surfaced in Africa. It is land grabbing by foreign companies and governments. It is probably not new. Arabs began grabbing Northern Africa and eliminating the native African owners of the land from 638 CE and is continuing this today in Southern Sudan, particularly now in Darfur. Europeans grabbed the rest of Africa, settled significant populations in Southern Africa, and hijacked most of the arable land in Zimbabwe and South Africa. Land is still the issue between Africa and the West in these countries even now.

The new land grabbing phenomenon started in earnest in the year 2000, and began to spiral out of control from 2004. The deals that have been concluded so far, place no obligations on the land grabbers. Agreements concerning thousands of hectares of farm land are generally just two to four pages long, and lack transparency, oversight regulations and environmental safeguards. They do not protect the small holding native farmers who lose their customary rights to their land in the deals.

The size of the deals so far is mind boggling. Foreigners are buying off Africa for pittance from ill-informed, selfish African political leaders, looking for personal gains. They put the tokens they collect from the deals, in their private accounts in Switzerland. A 2008 study of the media reports on foreigners’ recent land acquisitions in Africa by GRAIN, a non-governmental organization, and others, suggest that some 40mn hectares of farm land have been or are being grabbed by foreign interest groups. Some 10mn hectares of these have been given away for a variety of food crops and live stock farming in the Republic of Congo. Another 6mn hectares have been signed off in neighbouring countries. The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), a UK research outfit, estimates that at least 2.5mn hectares have been grabbed by foreign entities since 2004 in Ethiopia, Ghana, Madagascar, Mali and Sudan. The report claims that the scale of the leases is unprecedented and that they do not have complete data on the cases because of the secrecy surrounding the deals. Commercial enterprises, many of them European as well as Chinese companies have been in the lead in cultivating Jatropha, Sorghum, and other bio-fuels, in countries such as Madagascar, Mozambique and Tanzania.

In Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia, for example, only some 12 per cent of arable land is actually cultivated, so the political leaders feel they can give the rest away cheaply and without safeguards, to foreign entities. The Chinese are at the moment negotiating to lease 2.8mn hectares in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to grow oil palm, and a further 2mn hectares in Zambia, to grow Jatropha (a crop used for bio-fuels). In Mozambique, local opposition to a Chinese project to develop 100,000 hectares was based on plans to import Chinese labour.

China sees Africa as virgin land to relocate some of her teaming population. Indians too are moving into Africa. Their companies, backed by their government, have invested $1.5bn in Ethiopia, to meet rising domestic food and animal feed demand in India.

A deal by South Korea’s Daewoo Corporation to lease 1.3mn hectares of land was a key factor in building support for the overthrow of Madagascar’s President, Marc Ravalomanana, in March 2009. Sudan has agreed to lease 690,000 hectares of land to South Korea to grow wheat.

In Kenya, the government leaders there are trying to bend the rules to overcome local opposition to a proposal to give Qatar, right over some 40,000 hectares of land, in the Tana River Valley, in return for building a deep-sea port. Saudi Arabia has not been left out of all these. Saudi has already grabbed 100,000 hectares to grow corn and wheat in Toshika, Southern Egypt, and yet unspecified size of land, (because of on-going pogrom), from the displaced or eliminated African owners of the land in Southern Sudan. They have moved their peasant farmers into all the land seized from the native Africans driven out of Darfur.

Naiwu Osahon: is a renowned author, philosopher of science, mystique, leader of the world Pan-African Movement.