Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Black Agenda Report Editor Glen Ford Weighs in On Cornel West's Critique of President Obama and Its Political Implications for the United States

Dr. Cornel West

Black Agenda Report

News, analysis and commentary from the black left

How Cornel West Did the Obamites a Favor
by Glen Ford
May 25, 2011

Black Agenda Report

Unable to defend the indefensible, Black Obama supporters have been “rendered all but mute on issues of policy.” They got their chance to reenter the political conversation when Princeton professor and media celebrity Cornel West, a former Obama supporter who is now a harsh critic, speculated on the racial workings of the president’s brain. That was a mistake. “There is no need to inject racial psychoanalysis into the (public) conversation when straightforward political analysis is more than sufficient to the task.”

How Cornel West Did the Obamites a Favor
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

“Cornel West’s foray into Obamanalysis gave them the opportunity to explode in reams of outraged words that had little or nothing to do with policy.”

It is a shame that Princeton professor Cornel West did not stick to a disciplined critique of the corporatist policies that have made Barack Obama richly deserving of the label, a “Black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs.” Instead, West slipped into psycho-babble, musing on the president’s supposed “fear of free Black men” and associated personality deformities. The particularities of Obama’s racial background may, or may not, have contributed to his malignant neglect of the African American condition, but we will not forge a movement to defeat Obama and his Wall Street masters by putting the president on the couch.

There is no need to inject racial psychoanalysis into the (public) conversation when straightforward political analysis is more than sufficient to the task. In two and a half years, the Obama administration has expanded George Bush’s wars and national security infrastructure and budget, added a new theater of combat in North Africa, and proclaimed a presidential prerogative to assassinate and invade at will. He has out-Bushed Bush.

Obama engineered by far the greatest transfer of wealth in the history of mankind, funneling at least $12 trillion to Wall Street. At the height of his popularity, still riding the crests of post-election euphoria, and under no real pressure from a demoralized Republican Party, Obama eagerly placed Social Security and other entitlements “on the table” for chopping. He endorsed the corporate/Republican line that deficits were the nation’s biggest problem, effectively sentencing the unemployed to damnation and inviting the austerity reign of terror that has descended. And these are just the highlights of Obama’s tenure.

“The rationale for continued Black and progressive support of the Obama administration has been reduced to one factor: a primal fear of the Tea Party boogeyman.”

The resulting catastrophe in Black America had rendered Black Obamites all but mute on issues of policy; they could not defend the indefensible. In an MSNBC debate with West, Al Sharpton, the administration’s Black pit bull, was reduced to inane sputtering. The rationale for continued Black and progressive support of the Obama administration has been reduced to one factor: a primal fear of the Tea Party boogeyman. Yet, the sheer economic and political devastation wrought under Obama’s brief tenure has made it plausible to make the case – as we do at Black Agenda Report – that the First Black President is not the lesser of two evils, but the more effective evil, having facilitated more of the right-wing agenda at home and abroad than George Bush ever attempted or envisioned. What does it matter that Obama is not a white Republican, if he can tear down the social safety net, privatize education and wage aggressive war more effectively than the GOP?

Of course, Obama is empowered to act as Wall Street’s Trojan Horse by the acquiescence of the Left’s core constituencies – chiefly, Black America, without whose consent and active participation progressive politics is reduced to the fringes. For reasons that have everything to do with race, Black people have clung to Obama even as he has consistently pushed them away. But the agonzing facts of a community in historical free-fall can no longer be denied. The “Black Wall” that the African American mis-leadership class attempts to erect around Obama is cracking, if not crumbling, especially among left activists and intellectuals. Cornel West is a celebrity example.

“The First Black President is not the lesser of two evils, but the more effective evil, having facilitated more of the right-wing agenda at home and abroad than George Bush ever attempted or envisioned.”

Unable to mount a coherent defense of Obama’s policy decisions, especially after his further, dramatic lurch to the right following last year’s midterm elections, Obama’s unrepentant Black politicos seethed in relative silence. It had become impossible to speak in policy terms without indicting the presidential icon. Cornel West’s foray into Obamanalysis gave them the opportunity to explode in reams of outraged words that had little or nothing to do with policy. Prof. Melissa Harris-Perry managed to write almost 1,500 words for The Nation on West’s “personal attack” on Obama, offering only 130 words about her own position on Obama’s tenure at the end of the piece., a Black Obamite corporate hangout, gleefully reported that West had “’stepped in it’ with his controversial comments about President Obama,” with “Google News listing more than 100 stories.”

This is the kind of “controversy” in which Obamites revel, precisely because it allows them to avoid confrontation with Obama’s indefensible policies. If they can resurrect another version of the phony, diversionary arguments of 2007 and 2008 about whether Obama is “Black enough” to deserve African American support, then they can hope to coast through the 2012 campaign without having to justify support for the “Black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs.”

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Cornel West speaking on "Left of Black, Episode 35"--Duke University--May 23, 2011

What's Really Required of Progressive African American Leadership in a Time of Global Crisis

Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou


An excellent piece and right on target. This is what is known as a clear-minded, mature, and politically sophisticated critical analysis of what the real issues are in this entire very important public debate, and why only a genuine critique informed by a disciplined commitment to alternative ideas-- and most importantly an organized grassroots and mass-based social movement-- can seriously address and resolve the problems that we all face on a national level--no matter who the President is at any given time...


Cornel West and the Crisis in Black Leadership
By Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou
23 May 2011
Fellowship of Reconciliation

The recent controversy ignited by Cornel West’s critique of President Barack Obama and subsequent critiques of Dr. West reveal a fundamental crisis in black leadership. Traditionally, African-American intellectuals and activists have encountered the office of the president as outsiders with a nuanced understanding and repertoire of tactics including electoral brokerage, inside strategy, and social protest (organized and rhetorical).

These tactics have been executed against “The White Man.” The oppositional politic was the normative means of encountering the office of the presidency and the deployment of fierce rhetoric was an accepted means of public engagement. Both the candidacy and presidency of Barack Obama are a disruption of that rhetorical and tactical tradition. The African-American tradition of speaking truth to power has been complicated because that power is now embodied by “A Black Man.”

This is a unique moment in American democracy. The white supremacist gaze in the United States demonized black bodies, subjected their intelligence, and interrogated their national allegiance. Barack Obama’s winning campaign called into question these deep-seated notions that shaped U.S. public policy and perceptions.

Hence, the Obama presidency is an electoral and existential victory. The way in which African-American people make meaning for themselves inside the American empire has been recast. There is a widely-accepted narrative about Obama’s election. While it is true that his presence in the White House is because of his intelligence, effective fundraising apparatus, and sophisticated campaign machinery, the red carpets at the inaugural balls were soaked in the blood of martyrs.

The presidency of Barack Obama is a by-product of African Americans’ 400 years of struggle for access to the democratic project called America. The president has often located himself in that tradition and trajectory. He has strategically trafficked in the prophetic rhetoric of the civil rights movement and employed the homiletical rhythms of the Black Church. He has conveniently used these cultural signifiers in a way that is titillating to the national consciousness—linguistically embodying black folks’ quest for a more democratic society.

Moreover, black folks take great pride in the presence of three generations of African Americans in the White House. The real image of a beautiful black family beaming into the homes of all Americans has a deep impact on the psyche of the nation, and a denigrated people. There is a collective desire on the part of black America to protect and shield their existential idol-President Barack Hussein Obama. This is a new space in U.S. history—racial and collective national memory. The right-wing backlash, contemptible treatment, and flat-out disrespect consistently directed at the President and First Lady only serve to reinforce this protective existential and racial logic.

However, there is a counterpoint to this protectionist logic. Based on the criterion set forth by the African-American freedom struggle, there is an expectation beyond physical and psychic symbolism. Behind the ad hominem attacks, personal slights, and blogosphere punditry, what is at stake in West’s complaint is this prophetic expectation—there must be public policy to reflect the very tradition that the president uses and benefited from in his rise to power. Is it inappropriate to have this expectation of the President Barack Obama? Is it appropriate for black folks to levy a critique and action against a black man in the White House? Or must black leadership focus on defending the president from racist attacks?

The protectionist logic combined with the ultra-conservative Republican Party has circumscribed the political vision of the vast majority of African Americans. The logic goes that criticism of the president is tantamount to supporting ultra-conservative politics. Regardless of his legislative record, African Americans will vote for him in record numbers. This electoral allegiance is not a negotiating tool, but, rather, an existential duty. The protectionists cheapen any critical conversation about the president’s agenda. The only legitimate engagement is an insider strategy—access to the White House and supporting the administration’s agenda at all cost. Accordingly, organized and rhetorical protests are, vehemently, dismissed. In this formulation, the aforementioned questions and West’s lamentation remain unanswered.

The improvised electoral options guarantee that the president will not have to provide any substantive policy response to underemployment, unemployment, foreclosures, affordable healthcare, quality public education, expanding prison-industrial complex, and affordable housing—all of which affect African Americans, disproportionately. This makes him no different than any other president. Hence, he should be treated as such.

Every president since Abraham Lincoln has had to contend with an organized and rhetorical protest—the prophetic tradition. This tradition has always focused on the nation’s treatment of the most vulnerable citizens—the least of these. Under the prophetic gaze, politicians have either been celebrated or rebuked. Frederick Douglass and the abolitionists supported the Underground Railroad and offered stern public rebukes of Abraham Lincoln for not ending slavery. A. Philip Randolph and the broader labor movement marched and chastised Franklin D. Roosevelt until the creation of the New Deal. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement pressured and protested the Kennedy and Johnson administration into the passage of civil rights and the Great Society legislation.

King once remarked that electoral politics are thermometers—measuring political climate; social protests and movements are thermostats—setting political climate. Organized and rhetorical protests have set the climate for an effective insider strategy and subsequent electoral allegiance in the voting booth. Prophetic rhetoric and organized rage have created the context for the passage of public policy that improves the quality of life for the least of these. The contemporary political climate is such that there are very limited possibilities for progressive social policies to emerge from the administration, itself. A recalcitrant Congress, a right-of-center Democratic Party, and two decades of neoliberal policies require that the president serve a right-of-center agenda which has been at odds with the prophetic tradition and the needs of the most vulnerable.

Hence, African-American leadership can not go it alone. The challenges facing democracy are nothing less that the retraction of the promise of the civil rights movement, dismantling of the Great Society, and reversal of the New Deal—let alone an ever-expanding prison- and military-industrial complex. Cornel West’s critique is part and parcel of a grand tradition of fiery prophetic rhetoric that must be connected to social movements. In order to shift the political discourse and create the conditions for progressive policy, a new multi-racial and multi-issue coalition has to emerge. Rhetorical protest must be matched with mass organizing.

Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou is a Freeman Fellow of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR-USA). This article was originally published on May 20, 2011 on “the feministwire” and is being cross-posted in various ally communities for wider distribution.

Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou's blog:


Here is still more CLARITY and DEPTH in this very important national debate...


Dr. Cornel West

by Greg L
May 19, 2011
The African American Clarion Call

I’ve been on a bit of hiatus from my blog, in part due to work and in part to just taking a bit of a break. I rarely run out of things to say, but sometimes one has to do more listening and reading than “saying” and I find that’s good to do exclusively on occasion to gain some perspective.

It looks like we’ve got a fight brewing between the president and Princeton professor Cornell West over Obama’s credentials as a black man and West taking personal affront to being not respected. This really isn’t new as West has been having issues with Obama since shortly after his inauguration. In my view, some of the heat Obama is taking from West is to be dismissed while he has legitimate points on others.

First, let’s deal with that which should be dismissed. West asserts that Obama’s background is such that he’s more comfortable dealing with elite whites than he is dealing with “free black men”. Presumably, West counts himself among those who are free black men. I think it would be impossible for Obama to have become president with the support among the elite if he wasn’t comfortable moving in those circles. The converse is also true; that’s to say that there must also be a comfort level with him felt by the elite players. Based on our existing political structure in this country, pretty much anyone who ascends to the presidency has to meet that particular criteria and that’s the primary reason why many of the people who’ve been in that office are a product of the nation’s elite educational institutions and organizations. I’d imagine that West himself would have had to meet similar criteria in his experiences at Harvard and Princeton. So this criticism is pretty much a cheap shot way of calling Obama an Uncle Tom and I really think it can and should be dismissed as such.

But once one gets past that, there is a substantive critique of Obama’s foreign and domestic policies, particularly those domestic policies revolving around the financial crisis. On the latter, West suggests that Obama is “a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of the corporate plutocrats.” Again, the reference to Obama being a black mascot clouds the issue and smacks of calling him an Uncle Tom, so I reject that part of the statement, but I find myself in agreement with the concept that Obama is very much a captive of the oligarchs. Rather than using this crisis to pursue much needed reforms, punishment of those who caused the problems and actually break the hold they have on the economy, Obama and his economic team have instead pursued accommodative policies that delay the inevitable day of reckoning. Rather than bringing the change on this front that everyone hoped for, we gotten a milquetoast response to a true crisis that really hasn’t ended. It’s only been ameliorated by delaying the day of reckoning.

On the foreign policy front, we’ve largely seen a continuation and expansion of the Bush policies. The war front has been expanded in Afghanistan, Libya and Pakistan and the sorts of things that have always gone on in pursuit of Pax Americana abroad continue unabated. Drone attacks have been expanded, Guantanamo remains open, domestic spying continues unabated and you can’t travel without getting groped and felt on. He continues the Bush policy of “exporting” democracy in the middle east as a tool for regime change while standing down on regime change for the tyrants that happen to be our “friends”. On the so called war on terror, the doctrines of Obama and Bush are virtually indistinguishable. That’s certainly not the change that many voted for and West’s critique here is spot on.

What we have here is a right wing democrat and rather than promoting change, Obama is more concerned with continuing the status quo. To be honest, I don’t think that he could have done anything else as that’s the nature of our political system. The system has swung towards fascism and political behavior across the board has been shaped towards that end. As that idea dawns on more people, there will be a backlash. You can’t sell everyone change and then bring none of it. That’s not to suggest that any of this would have been easy, so the fact that he hasn’t brought substantive change is really not the issue. The issue revolves around the failure to fight for it and to represent the interests of the people. West’s indictment against Obama here as well is spot on.

Personally, what I look for in a leader is the ability to speak the unvarnished truth, regardless of how controversial and painful it may be. This is what the country urgently needs and truth is the only premise upon which a true solution can be formulated. One can’t just hold his finger to the wind and do the political calculus as a condition of telling it. One has to have the courage to tell it, no matter the outcome or the controversy that may attend it and not cower in fear because of what Fox News is going to say. The Shirley Sherrod affair was instructive on Obama’s fears and lack of backbone.

For a fleeting moment, many believed that change was possible. It’s becoming clear that Obama sold what he has never attempted to deliver. It will be very hard for the next fresh face who comes along promising the sky to be believed as this is the last hurrah for hope and change.


Cornel West: Response to Obama’s State of the Union Speech
Obama fires back: Responds to African-American Critics
Cornel West: Obama is for big business not the jobless
House Republicans Vow “No Compromise”
The Alien in the White House

Where is the National Movment for Jobs and Justice in the United States Today?


Where is the organized national movement for Jobs and Justice? And where are the mass organizations needed to formally coalesce and systematically carry out such an important mission? And what is "the left" doing concretely to help bring about and develop such a movement? And when are we going to stop talking and complaining and start organizing? Only the answers to these questions really matter at this point...


Why Washington Isn't Doing Squat About Jobs and Wages
Sunday 5 June 2011
by Robert Reich
Robert Reich's Blog

Tony Harrington waits in line to talk with potential employers at a job fair, which drew more than 250 people, in Bloomington, Minn., May 2, 2011. (Photo: Craig Lassig / The New York Times)

The silence is deafening. While the rest of the nation is heading back toward a double dip, Washington continues to obsess about future budget deficits. Why?

Republicans don’t want to do anything about jobs and wages. They’re so intent on unseating Obama they’d like the economy to remain in the dumps through Election Day. They also see the lousy economy as an opportunity to sell Americans their big lie that government spending is the culprit — and jobs will return if spending is cut and government shrinks.

Democrats, meanwhile, don’t want to admit the recovery has stalled. They worry such talk will further undermine consumer confidence or spook the bond market. They don’t want to head into the election year sounding downbeat. And they don’t think they have the votes for anything that will have much effect before Election Day anyway.

But there’s a third reason for Washington’s inaction. It’s not being talked about — which is itself evidence of the problem.

The unemployed are politically invisible. They don’t make major campaign donations. They don’t lobby Congress. There’s no National Association of Unemployed People.

Their ranks are filled with women who had been public employees, single mothers, minorities, young people trying to enter the labor force, and middle-aged men who have been out of work for longer than six months. You couldn’t find a collection of people with less political clout.

Women who had been teachers, public health professionals and social workers have been hit hard. These jobs continue to be slashed by state and local governments. Public schools alone accounted for nearly 40% of the nation’s total public sector job losses in the last year. From March 2010 to March 2011, women lost 214,000 public sector jobs, compared with a loss of 115,000 public jobs by men.

Unmarried mothers are having a particularly difficult time getting back jobs because their work was heavily concentrated in the retail, restaurant and hotel sectors. Many of these jobs disappeared when consumers reduced their discretionary spending, and they won’t come back in force until consumers start spending more again.

According to a new report by the California Budget Project, the recession erased more than half the jobs single mothers in California had gained from 1992 to 2002. The result has been a drop in the share of unmarried mothers in jobs, from 69.2% in 2007 to 58.8% in 2010. Unmarried mothers who still have jobs are working fewer hours per week than before.

Blacks also continue to be hard hit. Their unemployment rate here in California reached 20% this past March, up 5% from a year ago. That’s more than double their rate before the downturn. Some of this is because of the comparatively low education levels of many blacks, and their weak connections to the labor market. Some is due to employer discrimination. Blacks were among the last hired before the recession and therefore among the first to be let go in the downturn. That means they’ll be among the last hired as the economy recovers.

Many young people who have never been in the job market are unable to land a first job. Employers with a pick of applicants see no reason to hire someone without a track record, particularly those without much education. Unemployment among high school dropouts is hovering around 30%. Even recent college graduates are having a much harder time than usual finding a job. Many are settling for jobs that don’t ordinarily require college degrees, which pushes those with less education even further back in the line.

Older workers who have lost their jobs are at the greatest risk of continued unemployment. Employers assume they aren’t as qualified or reliable as those who are younger and have been working more recently. According to research by the Urban Institute, once you’re laid off, your chance of finding another job within a year is 36% if you’re under the age of 34. But your odds drop the older you get. If you’re jobless and in your 50s, your chance of landing another job within the year is only 24%. Over 62, you’ve got only an 18% chance.

What do these jobless have in common? They lack the political connections and organizations to get the ears of politicians, and demand policies to spur job growth.


Forget all the self serving and blustery political rhetoric blowing in from Washington by either the Democrats or the Republicans. THIS is the very UGLY REALITY that is paralyzing the nation...and YEAH BUDDY...President Obama's administration and the Democratic Party BETTER do something about it VERY SOON or both THEY AND US are burnt toast come November 2012...TALK IS CHEAP...We need "Deeds, Not Words"...



Employment Data May Be the Key to the President’s Job
June 1, 2011
New York Times

WASHINGTON — No American president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt has won a second term in office when the unemployment rate on Election Day topped 7.2 percent.

Seventeen months before the next election, it is increasingly clear that President Obama must defy that trend to keep his job.

Roughly 9 percent of Americans who want to go to work cannot find an employer. Companies are firing fewer people, but hiring remains anemic. And the vast majority of economic forecasters, including the president’s own advisers, predict only modest progress by November 2012.

The latest job numbers, due Friday, are expected to provide new cause for concern. Other indicators suggest the pace of growth is flagging. Weak manufacturing data, a gloomy reading on jobs in advance of Friday’s report and a drop in auto sales led the markets to their worst close since August, and those declines carried over into Asia Thursday.

But the grim reality of widespread unemployment is drawing little response from Washington. The Federal Reserve says it is all but tapped out. There is even less reason to expect Congressional action. Both Democrats and Republicans see clear steps to create jobs, but they are trying to walk in opposite directions and are making little progress.

Republicans have set the terms of debate by pressing for large cuts in federal spending, which they say will encourage private investment. Democrats have found themselves battling to minimize and postpone such cuts, which they fear will cause new job losses.

House Republicans told the president that they would not support new spending to spur growth during a meeting at the White House on Wednesday.

“The discussion really focused on the philosophical difference on whether Washington should continue to pump money into the economy or should we provide an incentive for entrepreneurs and small businesses to grow,” said Eric Cantor, the majority leader. “The president talked about a need for us to continue to quote-unquote invest from Washington’s standpoint, and for a lot of us that’s code for more Washington spending, something that we can’t afford right now.”

The White House, its possibilities constrained by the gridlock, has offered no new grand plans. After agreeing to extend the Bush-era tax cuts and reducing the payroll tax last December, the administration has focused on smaller ideas, like streamlining corporate taxation and increasing American exports to Asia and Latin America.

“It’s a very tough predicament,” said Jared Bernstein, who until April was economic policy adviser to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. “Is there any political appetite for something that would resemble another large Keynesian stimulus? Obviously no. You can say that’s what we should do and you’d probably be right, but that’s pretty academic.”

More than 13.7 million Americans were unable to find work in April; most had been seeking jobs for months. Millions more have stopped trying. Their inability to earn money is a personal catastrophe; studies show that the chance of finding new work slips away with time. It is also a strain on their families, charities and public support programs.

The Federal Reserve, the nation’s central bank, has the means and the mandate to reduce unemployment by pumping money into the economy.

As financial markets nearly collapsed in 2008, the Fed unleashed a series of unprecedented programs, first to arrest the crisis and then to promote recovery, investing more than $2 trillion. The final installment, a $600 billion bond-buying program, ends in June.

Now, however, the leaders of the central bank say they are reluctant to do more. The Fed’s chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, said in April that more money might not increase growth, but there was a growing risk that it would accelerate inflation.

Congress charged the Fed in 1978 with minimizing unemployment and inflation. Those goals, however, are often in conflict, and the Fed has made clear that inflation is its priority. Fed officials argue in part that maintaining slow, steady inflation forms a basis for enduring economic expansion.

Eric S. Rosengren, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, said in a recent interview that the Fed had reached the limits of responsible policy.

“We’ve done things that are quite unusual. We’re using tools that we have less experience with,” Mr. Rosengren said. “Most of the criticism has been that we’re being too accommodative. That is a concern that we have to put some weight on.”

Heather Boushey, senior economist at the Center for American Progress, a liberal research group, said that the Fed was being too cautious about inflation and too callous about joblessness.

“We have a massive unemployment problem in this country right now. It is festering. It’s not good for our economy. It’s not good for our society. And we have the tools to fix it,” she said. “We certainly need to be concerned about what happens down the road, but shouldn’t we first be concerned about getting the U.S. economy back on track?”

Ten presidents have stood for re-election since Mr. Roosevelt. In four instances the unemployment rate stood above 6 percent on Election Day. Three presidents lost: Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush. But Ronald Reagan won, despite 7.2 percent unemployment in November 1984, because the rate was falling and voters decided he was fixing the problem.

The Obama administration hopes to tell a similar story.

“We have undertaken some of the biggest policy actions to create jobs that any administration has ever done,” said Jason Furman, deputy director of the National Economic Council, which advises the president on economic policy. Mr. Furman said that the economy was still benefiting from last year’s tax cuts, and from the dollop of federal stimulus spending that Democrats pushed through in 2009.

The White House is pursuing a number of smaller initiatives, like persuading China to buy more American goods and services; increasing business confidence in the health of the economy, to spur new investment; and striking a deal with Republicans to overhaul corporate taxation.

It is also pushing to renew federal financing for transportation projects with an important twist: The six-year plan would be front-loaded so that $50 billion would be spent in the first year.

But Christina Romer, who headed the president’s Council of Economic Advisers until fall 2010, said in a recent speech at Washington University in St. Louis that no part of the government was addressing unemployment with sufficient urgency or hope.

“Urgency, because unemployment is a tragedy that should not be tolerated a minute longer,” she said. “And hope, because prudent and possible policies could make a crucial difference.”

Jackie Calmes contributed reporting.

Cornel West on the Struggle for Democracy and Justice in the United States and What It Means in the 21st Century

Dr. Cornel West provides illumination on the state of the nation in the intellectual sanctuary of his Princeton office (Photo: Max Eternity)

Man of Mystery: LEGENDS - Cornel West from the Man of Mystery series (Limited-edition digital print by Max Eternity)

In the following five video clips:

West explains what it means to be a "funkmaster," while also commenting on America as a "death-dodging, death-ducking, death-denying culture."

West makes a comparative analysis of the respective legacies of MLK and Malcolm X.

West talks about the two forms of a new Jim Crow offered by the Democratic and Republican parties, also speaking to the "gangster-like" activities of President Obama's big-banking allies on Wall Street. West shares his understanding of casino capitalism and what he calls "turbo-capitalism." West also explains why President Obama is unlike FDR.

West says the left in America has been pushed out to the wilderness - the "poor people demonized, poverty criminalized, trade unions scapegoated," while at the same time we saw "prophetic churches, mosques and synagogues marginalized." West comments on President Obama's choice to prop up Wall Street by placing the very people who destroyed the US economy - Timothy Geithner, Larry Summers, et al. - on his economic team.

West talks about President Obama's unwillingness to make mention of poor people in his 2011 State of the Union Address and asserts that Obama's economic team has no care or concern for the poor.

Dr. Cornel West: Greetings From a 21st-Century Prophet
Sunday 5 June 2011

by Max Eternity

Truthout | Multimedia Interview

"There is a price to pay for speaking the truth. There is a bigger price for living a lie."
-Dr. Cornel West

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Can America's collective economics inform who we are as a people, whereby - through obsessive bean-counting - we sculpt our destiny, tacitly sanctioning the stripping of basic dignity from fellow citizens, the erosion of civil liberties, the evisceration of public education policies, of the arts and humanities, bankrupting entire communities, tarnishing longstanding values of the populace and its self-image, thus ultimately destroying all that was once valuable to society?

For even after the world swooned from the megahype of England's latest royal wedding and the hip, hip, hurrah of President Obama's ordered assassination of Osama bin Laden, a cornucopia of catastrophic socioeconomic horrors - in addition to America's continued unpreparedness for natural disaster - still face this nation: endless war, long-term unemployment, swelling prison populations and multiple years of record-breaking home foreclosures.

All of these problems may be well on their way to becoming the new normal in the US, but they won't be here to stay if a certain brilliant, black man of prophetic word and deed can help it - namely, Dr. Cornel West.

West equates America's banking elite with gangsters and deplores President Obama's choice to surround himself with their minions - Timothy Geithner, Larry Summers et al. This well-heeled phalanx of criminals is, in West's view, to blame for many, if not most, of America's current ills.

In a moment when the clatter and chatter of austerity economics has reached a fever pitch, West observes that some elected officials and policymakers want to take austerity to yet another level of penny-pinching belt-tightening, which almost always means cutting America's already-anemic social programs to depressed new lows of paucity. The union-busting in Wisconsin and elsewhere assures the near-irreversibility of those lows.

It would seem money is tight, except when it comes to finding $100 million a day to drop bombs on Libya. That's a peculiarity that serves as proof that, no matter how supposedly broke the country is, the American government seems to always have a blank check handy for certain things, such as the ambiguous and wildly unsuccessful war on drugs, and the war on terror.

President Obama once embodied the promise of a glorious future for this nation. In these times, however, West points out that Obama's leadership more or less represents a renaissance denied, a platform of unfulfilled assurances.

President Obama, he said in an interview with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges, is the, "black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats." Yet such criticisms come much to the chagrin of some African-American heavyweights like Al Sharpton, who recently appeared on MSNBC saying that, "too many of us are putting it all on the president," and Melissa Harris-Perry, who wrote in an article published in The Nation that many of West's comments were "utter hilarity."

West stands firmly by his remarks. For all the president's super-sophistication and caviar oration, in West's view, the enduring fact remains that almost everything Obama has chosen to put in place, such as the Summers-Geithner economic team, spells business as usual. This pattern leads to one to question: does hope minus change equal more of the same ... a la Dubya?

"To be human, you must bear witness to justice," West writes in his book, "Hope on a Tightrope," for, "[j]ustice is what love looks like in public." It's an idea that West is passionate about, even though truth and justice might seem antiquated in this waterboarding, Guantanamo Bay world where wars of aggression have become commonplace.

Nevertheless, in a podcast recorded in his Princeton University office on April 27, 2011, West dug deep into his passion for justice and his kinship and empathy for the poor and working class, and also shared what it means to be a "funkmaster." It was an electrifying conversation in which West spoke frankly about the Obama administration and the unfolding developments in Egypt and other nations of that region. He also spoke about some of the more private joys in his life, such as the particulars of his favorite musical legends. This discourse came after enjoying a shared round of homemade gourmet cookies from renowned cake masters Ellen Baumwoll and Cheryl Kleinman at Betty Bakery in Brooklyn. It was a chat that found West imparting wisdom about the critical importance of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's (FDR) Works Projects Administration (WPA) as an example from which America could be learning. He also provided some illumination as to why Obama has not chosen the course of reigniting FDR's grand civic plan in a way that is appropriately nuanced for today.

"For me, I come out of a black freedom movement that is on intimate terms with death," West says. "The social death of slavery ... civic death, Jim Crow ... psychic death, taught to hate ourselves ... but America," he says "is a death-dodging, death-denying, death-ducking culture - so they clash."

In the dialogue, West spoke of the power of love, too, illustrating the idea by holding up Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as both a unified field and contrasting manifestations of what love means in action.

This work by Truthout is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

Chris Hedges On Cornel West, the Liberal Class, The Democratic Party, and the Domination of the Corporate State


I LOVE Chris Hedges. He's not only brilliant and profound, but even more important he's got GUTS AND INTEGRITY, the two most necessary qualities any genuine revolutionary intellectual and activist MUST have to be of any real enduring value at all. Hedges also understands that the only effective way to lead is BY EXAMPLE. Talking big, acting the poseur, and handing down authoritarian edicts to cowed idolators and acolytes is always the way of deeply antidemocratic cultists and egotists masquerading as papier mache saviors. Hedges knows that we need IDEAS AND PRINCIPLES far more than any infantile pollyanna claptrap about "giving people hope" or providing a "guideline to the future". It's always a genuine love of and respect for ourselves and others that we need and require and only a truly sincere and unrelenting commitment to truth and justice will even begin to get us there...


Why Liberal Sellouts Attack Prophets Like Cornel West
Posted on May 23, 2011
By Chris Hedges

The liberal class, which attempted last week to discredit the words my friend Cornel West spoke about Barack Obama and the Democratic Party, prefers comfort and privilege to justice, truth and confrontation. Its guiding ideological stance is determined by what is most expedient to the careers of its members. It refuses to challenge, in a meaningful way, the decaying structures of democracy or the ascendancy of the corporate state. It glosses over the relentless assault on working men and women and the imperial wars that are bankrupting the nation. It proclaims its adherence to traditional liberal values while defending and promoting systems of power that mock these values.The pillars of the liberal establishment—the press, the church, culture, the university, labor and the Democratic Party—all honor an unwritten quid pro quo with corporations and the power elite, as well as our masters of war, on whom they depend for money, access and positions of influence. Those who expose this moral cowardice and collaboration with corporate power are always ruthlessly thrust aside.

The capitulation of the liberal class to corporate capitalism, as Irving Howe once noted, has “bleached out all political tendencies.” The liberal class has become, Howe wrote, “a loose shelter, a poncho rather than a program; to call oneself a liberal one doesn’t really have to believe in anything.” The decision to subordinate ethics to political expediency has led liberals to steadily surrender their moral autonomy, voice and beliefs to the dictates of the corporate state. As Dwight Macdonald wrote in “The Root Is Man,” those who do not make human beings the center of their concern soon lose the capacity to make any ethical choices, for they willingly sacrifice others in the name of the politically expedient and practical.

By extolling the power of the state as an agent of change, as well as measuring human progress through the advances of science, technology and consumption, liberals abetted the cult of the self and the ascendancy of the corporate state. The liberal class placed its faith in the inevitability of human progress and abandoned the human values that should have remained at the core of its activism. The state, now the repository of the hopes and dreams of the liberal class, should always have been seen as the enemy. The destruction of the old radical and militant movements—the communists, socialists and anarchists—has left liberals without a source of new ideas. The link between an effective liberal class and a more radical left was always essential to the health of the former. The liberal class, by allowing radical movements to be dismembered through Red baiting and by banishing those within its ranks who had moral autonomy, gradually deformed basic liberal tenets to support unfettered capitalism, the national security state, globalization and permanent war. Liberalism, cut off from the radical roots of creative and bold thought, merged completely with the corporate power elite. The liberal class at once was betrayed and betrayed itself. And it now functions like a commercial brand, giving a different flavor, face or spin to the ruthless mechanisms of corporate power. This, indeed, is the primary function of Barack Obama.

The liberal class, despite becoming an object of widespread public scorn, prefers the choreographed charade. It will decry the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or call for universal health care, but continue to defend and support a Democratic Party that has no intention of disrupting the corporate machine. As long as the charade is played, the liberal class can hold itself up as the conscience of the nation without having to act. It can maintain its privileged economic status. It can continue to live in an imaginary world where democratic reform and responsible government exist. It can pretend it has a voice and influence in the corridors of power. But the uselessness and irrelevancy of the liberal class are not lost on the tens of millions of Americans who suffer the indignities of the corporate state. And this is why liberals are rightly despised by the working class and the poor.

The liberal class is incapable of reforming itself. It does not hold within its ranks the rebels and iconoclasts who have the moral or physical courage to defy the corporate state and power elite. And when someone such as Cornel West speaks out, packs of careerist liberals—or perhaps one should call them neoliberals—descend on the apostate like hellhounds, never addressing the truths that are expressed but instead engaging in vicious character assassination. The same thing happened to Ralph Nader, Noam Chomsky, Dennis Kucinich, Jeremiah Wright and others who defied the political orthodoxy of corporate capitalism. The corporate forces, which have taken control of the press and which break unions, run the universities, fund the arts and own the Democratic Party, demand the banishment of all who question the good intentions of the powerful. Liberals who comply are tolerated within the system. They are permitted to busy themselves with the boutique activism of political correctness, inclusiveness or multiculturalism. If they attempt to fight for the primacy of justice, they become pariahs.

Leo Tolstoy wrote that there were three characteristics of all forms of prophecy: “First, it is entirely opposed to the general ideas of the people in the midst of whom it is uttered; second, all who hear it feel its truth; and thirdly, above all, it urges men to realize what it foretells.”

Prophets put forward during their day ideas that the mass of people, including the elite, denounce as impractical and yet at the same time sense to be true. This is what invokes the rage against the prophet. He or she states the obvious in a society where the obvious is seditious. Prophecy is feared because of the consequences of the truth. To accept that Obama is, as West said, a mascot for Wall Street means having to challenge some frightening monoliths of power and give up the comfortable illusion that the Democratic Party or liberal institutions can be instruments for genuine reform. It means having to step outside the mainstream. It means a new radicalism. It means recognizing that there is no hope for a correction or a reversal within the formal systems of power. It means defying traditional systems of power. And liberals, who have become courtiers to the corporate state, must attempt to silence all those who condemn the ruthlessness and mendacity of these systems of destruction. Their denunciation of all who rebel is a matter of self-preservation. For once the callous heart of the corporate state is exposed, so is the callous heart of the liberal class.

Chris Hedges is a weekly Truthdig columnist and a fellow at The Nation Institute. His newest book is “The World As it Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress” (Nation Books, 2011)

A Progressive Journal of News and Opinion. Editor, Robert Scheer. Publisher, Zuade Kaufman.
Copyright © 2011 Truthdig, L.L.C. All rights reserved.
Web site development by Hop Studios

American Racism, Right Wing Demagoguery, and the 2012 National Presidential Election


Jack White is a well known and deeply respected veteran black journalist who worked for Time and Newsweek magazines for nearly 30 years and is also a very savvy political analyst (extra note: He was born and raised in Oakland, California). I think he's 100% right about the upcoming 2012 election (I and many other people I know have been saying the exact same thing as Jack in this article). I thoroughly agree with his assessment of the reasons why as well. Cornel should not have gone off on the President in such nasty personal terms in public though I can well understand why he feels personally betrayed by Obama because of the very active role he played in his campaign, the major public endorsement that Cornel gave the President in 2008, and Obama's subsequent snubbing of him since he became President. But Jack's right--we should always keep our most important and necessary political criticisms of the President focused exclusively on POLITICS alone and not descend into personal spite because that kind of rhetoric does play into the racist right wing's hands (though I thoroughly agree with Cornel in his fundamental POLITICAL criticisms of Obama). But since the national election of ANY white Republican political alternative to the President would be an absolute major catastrophe for black people, the United States, and the world, it's gonna be absolutely necessary that Obama be re-elected in 2012. There's no doubt about that...


Published on The Root

Forecasting a Nasty 2012 Campaign
By Jack White
May 28, 2011
The Root

RightWatch: White rage and a dearth of new Republican ideas should result in a noxious and racially tinged campaign next year.

As many a would-be prophet can attest, predicting the future is one surefire way of making yourself look ridiculous. When your prognostication goes wrong, the only ones who look sillier than you are those who believed in the forecast.

Take, for example, radio Bible thumper Harold Camping, who whipped legions of evangelical Christians into a frenzy by claiming that the rapture, in which the faithful would be literally spirited up into heaven, was going to take place last Saturday. Lo and behold, we -- and he -- are still here. But instead of curing Camping of being a seer, that seemingly incontrovertible piece of evidence only forced him to revise his schedule. He now says the end of the world will take place on Oct. 21, and I hope he is right.

That's because the coming of doomsday this fall would spare us what I boldly predict will be the nastiest, most racially charged presidential campaign in decades, perhaps even since the Civil War. That's not because the developing field of Republican candidates is a pack of rabid race-baiters. Indeed, so far only one of them, the inimitable Newton Leroy Gingrich, has descended into that gutter with his charge that Barack Obama is "the most successful food stamp president in American history."

Despite the GOP's long history of exploiting white fear for political gain, I doubt that the eventual nominee will make such a blatant racist appeal. He or she won't have to. Their surrogates or those in charge of supposedly independent expenditures will handle it for them. And it will simply be in the air.

My fearless forecast is not based on the personalities of the candidates but on what analysts call the objective factors: the underlying social context in which the campaign will unfold. And right now it's setting up as a perfect storm for racially charged resentment on the far right, even if the candidates make no overt attempt to exploit it. Here are three of my reasons, two pretty obvious and one less so:

* White people are really angry. According to a hugely publicized study by Tufts University researchers, a growing number of whites believe that race relations are a zero-sum game in which every inch of black progress is offset by an increase in discrimination against whites. Indeed, the researchers contend, many whites have now convinced themselves that bias against people like themselves is a bigger problem than anti-black prejudice. The most obvious symbol of black progress -- and of their own setbacks -- is none other than the man who will be at the top of the Democratic ticket next year: the first African-American president.

* The Republicans don't have winning issues. The triumph of Democrat Kathy Hochul this week in a special election in a historically conservative district in upstate New York underscores my belief that when right-leaning Republicans actually spell out what they stand for, independent voters flee in droves. In this case, the central issue was conservative budget guru Paul Ryan's radical plan for replacing Medicare with a voucher system that would force seniors to pay substantially more for their health care, which has been endorsed by an overwhelming majority of Republicans in both the House and Senate.

In addition to defending that unpopular proposal, the Republican nominee will have no bold new ideas to push. The much ballyhooed job-creation plan that the GOP released this week is just more of the same-old, same-old combination of tax breaks for the wealthy and big corporations and a pullback on regulation that got us into this economic mess. And with the death of Osama bin Laden, any attempt to paint Obama as a weak commander-in-chief chief will be an exercise in futility.

* Finally, Obama's critics on the left have opened the floodgates. One of the unintended consequences of Cornel West's impassioned recent attack on Obama is that by sinking into ad hominem claims about the president's character, he implicitly sanctioned the validity of similar charges from the right. There is not, after all, that much difference between accusing Obama of being afraid of "free black men" because he was reared by Caucasians, and bashing him for possessing a Kenyan anti-colonial view of the world that he supposedly got from his African daddy. How left-wing critics expect to combat right-wing efforts to paint Obama as an exotic outsider after they indulge in equivalent mudslinging is a conundrum that only a highbrow philosophy professor can resolve.

So there you have it: a conservative electoral base seething with anti-black resentment, combined with an unpopular platform and a de facto go-ahead from the left to portray Obama as some kind of alien. That's a witches' brew for what could easily spill over into a truly noxious explosion of racially tinged politicking, even if the eventual Republican standard-bearer never explicitly brings up the subject.

Hey, maybe my fearless forecast isn't really all that fearless. There doesn't seem much to stop it from coming true -- unless Camping's dreadful prophecy is fulfilled and we don't have to worry about it.

Jack White is a regular contributor to The Root.

Like The Root on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

Source URL:
[8] a Nasty 2012 Campaign&u=
[9] a Nasty 2012 Campaign
[10] a Nasty 2012 Campaign
[11]| @TheRoot247: Forecasting a Nasty 2012 Campaign&url=
[22] a Nasty 2012 Campaign