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Kidnapped Girls Become Tools of US Imperial Policy in Africa May 14, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Central African Republic, Congo, Genocide, Human Rights, Women.
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Roger’s note: the average North American’s lack of knowledge and understanding of Africa the the United States’ continued role there is astounding, present company included.  Here is a bit of eye opening reporting for the always reliable Black Action Agenda’s Glen Ford.

In video footage released on May 12, 2014, Boko Haram purported to show dozens of girls recently kidnapped in Nigeria. (Public domain)

A chorus of outraged public opinion demands that the “international community” and the Nigerian military “Do something!” about the abduction by Boko Haram of 280 teenage girls. It is difficult to fault the average U.S. consumer of packaged “news” products for knowing next to nothing about what the Nigerian army has actually been “doing” to suppress the Muslim fundamentalist rebels since, as senior columnist Margaret Kimberley pointed out in these pages, last week, the three U.S. broadcast networks carried “not a single television news story about Boko Haram” in all of 2013. (Nor did the misinformation corporations provide a nanosecond of coverage of the bloodshed in the Central African Republic, where thousands died and a million were made homeless by communal fighting over the past year.) But, that doesn’t mean the Nigerian army hasn’t been bombing, strafing, and indiscriminately slaughtering thousands of, mainly, young men in the country’s mostly Muslim north.

The newly aware U.S. public may or may not be screaming for blood, but rivers of blood have already flowed in the region. Those Americans who read – which, presumably, includes First Lady Michelle Obama, who took her husband’s place on radio last weekend to pledge U.S. help in the hunt for the girls – would have learned in the New York Times of the army’s savage offensive near the Niger border, last May and June. In the town of Bosso, the Nigerian army killed hundreds of young men in traditional Muslim garb “Without Asking Who They Are,” according to the NYT headline. “They don’t ask any questions,” said a witness who later fled for his life, like thousands of others. “When they see young men in traditional robes, they shoot them on the spot,” said a student. “They catch many of the others and take them away, and we don’t hear from them again.”

The Times’ Adam Nossiter interviewed many refugees from the army’s “all-out land and air campaign to crush the Boko Haram insurgency.” He reported:

“All spoke of a climate of terror that had pushed them, in the thousands, to flee for miles through the harsh and baking semidesert, sometimes on foot, to Niger. A few blamed Boko Haram — a shadowy, rarely glimpsed presence for most residents — for the violence. But the overwhelming majority blamed the military, saying they had fled their country because of it.”

In just one village, 200 people were killed by the military.

In March of this year, fighters who were assumed to be from Boko Haram attacked a barracks and jail in the northern city of Maiduguri. Hundreds of prisoners fled, but 200 youths were rounded up and made to lie on the ground. A witness told the Times: “The soldiers made some calls and a few minutes later they started shooting the people on the ground. I counted 198 people killed at that checkpoint.”

All told, according to Amnesty International, more than 600 people were extrajudicially murdered, “most of them unarmed, escaped detainees, around Maiduguri.” An additional 950 prisoners were killed in the first half of 2013 in detention facilities run by Nigeria’s military Joint Task Force, many at the same barracks in Maiduguri. Amnesty International quotes a senior officer in the Nigerian Army, speaking anonymously: “Hundreds have been killed in detention either by shooting them or by suffocation,” he said. “There are times when people are brought out on a daily basis and killed. About five people, on average, are killed nearly on a daily basis.”

Chibok, where the teenage girls were abducted, is 80 miles from Maiduguri, capital of Borno State.

In 2009, when the Boko Haram had not yet been transformed into a fully armed opposition, the military summarily executed their handcuffed leader and killed at least 1,000 accused members in the states of Borno, Yobe, Kano and Bauchi, many of them apparently simply youths from suspect neighborhoods. A gruesome video shows the military at work. “In the video, a number of unarmed men are seen being made to lie down in the road outside a building before they are shot,” Al Jazeera reports in text accompanying the video. “As one man is brought out to face death, one of the officers can be heard urging his colleague to ‘shoot him in the chest not the head – I want his hat.’”

These are only snapshots of the army’s response to Boko Haram – atrocities that are part of the context of Boko Haram’s ghastly behavior. The military has refused the group’s offer to exchange the kidnapped girls for imprisoned Boko Haram members. (We should not assume that everyone detained as Boko Haram is actually a member – only that all detainees face imminent and arbitrary execution.)

None of the above is meant to tell Boko Haram’s “side” in this grisly story (fundamentalist religious jihadists find no favor at BAR), but to emphasize the Nigerian military’s culpability in the group’s mad trajectory – the same military that many newly-minted “Save Our Girls” activists demand take more decisive action in Borno.

The bush to which the Boko Haram retreated with their captives was already a free-fire zone, where anything that moves is subject to obliteration by government aircraft. Nigerian air forces have now been joined by U.S. surveillance planes operating out of the new U.S. drone base in neighboring Niger, further entrenching AFRICOM/CIA in the continental landscape. Last week it was announced that, for the first time,AFRICOM troops will train a Nigerian ranger battalion in counterinsurgency warfare.

The Chibok abductions have served the same U.S. foreign policy purposes as Joseph Kony sightings in central Africa, which were conjured-up to justify the permanent stationing of U.S Special Forcesin the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, the Central African Republic and South Sudan, in 2011, on humanitarian interventionist grounds. (This past March, the U.S. sent 150 more Special Ops troops to the region, claiming to have again spotted Kony, who is said to be deathly ill, holed up with a small band of followers somewhere in the Central African Republic.) The United States (and France and Britain, plus the rest of NATO, if need be) must maintain a deepening and permanent presence in Africa to defend the continent from…Africans.

When the crowd yells that America “Do something!” somewhere in Africa, the U.S. military is likely to already be there.

Barack Obama certainly needs no encouragement to intervention; his presidency is roughly coterminous with AFRICOM’s founding and explosive expansion. Obama broadened the war against Somalia that was launched by George Bush in partnership with the genocidal Ethiopian regime, in 2006 (an invasion that led directly to what the United Nations called “the worst humanitarian crisis is Africa”). He built on Bill Clinton and George Bush’s legacies in the Congo, where U.S. client states Uganda and Rwanda caused the slaughter of 6 million people since 1996 – the greatest genocide of the post War World II era. He welcomed South Sudan as the world’s newest nation – the culmination of a decades-long project of the U.S., Britain and Israel to dismember Africa’s largest country, but which has now fallen into a bloody chaos, as does everything the U.S. touches, these days.

Most relevant to the plight of Chibok’s young women, Obama led “from behind” NATO’s regime change in Libya, removing the anti-jihadist bulwark Muamar Gaddafi (“We came, we saw, he died,” said Hillary Clinton) and destabilizing the whole Sahelian tier of the continent, all the way down to northern Nigeria. As BAR editor and columnist Ajamu Baraka writes in the current issue, “Boko Haram benefited from the destabilization of various countries across the Sahel following the Libya conflict.” The once-“shadowy” group now sported new weapons and vehicles and was clearly better trained and disciplined. In short, the Boko Haram, like other jihadists, had become more dangerous in a post-Gaddafi Africa – thus justifying a larger military presence for the same Americansand (mainly French) Europeans who had brought these convulsions to the region.

If Obama has his way, it will be a very long war – the better to grow AFRICOM – with some very unsavory allies (from both the Nigerian and American perspectives).

Whatever Obama does to deepen the U.S. presence in Nigeria and the rest of the continent, he can count on the Congressional Black Caucus, including its most “progressive” member, Barbara Lee (D-CA), the only member of the U.S. Congress to vote against the invasion of Afghanistan, in 2001. Lee, along with Reps. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and fellow Californian Karen Bass, who is the ranking member on the House Subcommittee on African, gave cart blanch to Obama to “Do something!” in Nigeria. “And so our first command and demand is to use all resources to bring the terrorist thugs to justice,” they said.

A year and a half ago, when then UN Ambassador Susan Rice’s prospects for promotion to top U.S. diplomat were being torpedoed by the Benghazi controversy, a dozen Black congresspersons scurried to her defense. “We will not allow a brilliant public servant’s record to be mugged to cut off her consideration to be secretary of state,” said Washington, DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.

As persons who are presumed to read, Black Caucus members were certainly aware of the messy diplomatic scandal around Rice’s role in suppressing United Nation’s reports on U.S. allies’ Rwanda and Uganda’s genocidal acts against the Congolese people. Of all the high profile politicians from both the corporate parties, Rice – the rabid interventionist – is most intimately implicated in the Congo holocaust, dating back to the policy’s formulation under Clinton. Apparently, that’s not the part of Rice’s record that counts to Delegate Norton and the rest of the Black Caucus. Genocide against Africans does not move them one bit.

So, why are we to believe that they are really so concerned about the girls of Chibok?

Barack, Michelle, and the Heckler’s Guide for Those in Power June 6, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Democracy.
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Roger’s note: Here we see the courage and grace of Medea Benjamin versus the arrogance of the First Lady.

 

Michelle Obama was snippy with her heckler, while Barack was graceful to me. But democracy depends on such healthy dissent

 

In the past week, both President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have been interrupted by what some call hecklers, but I prefer to call protesters. I was the one who interrupted President Obama’s speech at the National Defense University with my impassioned questions about drone strikes and Guantánamo.

 

Anti-war activist Medea Benjamin is led away after heckling Barack Obama during his counter-terrorism speech at the National Defense University in Washington. (Photo: Win Mcnamee/Getty Images)

After my interventions, the president graciously replied, “That woman’s voice is worth listening to.” But when the First Lady was confronted by a lesbian woman speaking up about President Obama’s failure to protect gay people in the workplace, as he had promised, she reacted angrily.

As some who has witnessed (and participated in) many interruptions, here are some examples of what I consider good responses.

Several years ago, I was once at a large conference when Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was speaking. Suddenly, a group of black and Latina women interrupted him, shouting out about the need for more buses in their communities, instead of the city plan to spend many millions expanding the metro. The mayor first tried to talk over them, then the audience tried to drown them out, but the women kept shouting. Villaraigosa quieted the audience and then said:

“Look, it takes a lot of courage for these people to get up in a big audience and promote a cause they believe in. Let’s give them a round of applause.”

It was a brilliant way to recognize the passion of the protesters, but turn around the dynamic so he could continue his talk.

Speaking out to express our political beliefs or show disapproval of those in power is part of the venerable practice of nonviolent civil disobedience.At an event in 2007, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner gave a speech in Washington, DC on the heels of remarks that the US and France should prepare for a possible war with Iran. US peace activists, who had been trying hard to prevent war, were appalled. A group of us spoke out at the event and unfurled a banner in French reading: “Va-t-en-guerre san frontieres” (warmonger without borders) – playing off the fact that Kouchner was one of the founders of Doctors Without Borders. Security guards pulled us out of room, but Kouchner asked them to let us back in so he could address our concerns directly, which he did.

When the talk was over, he came over to shake our hands, and even asked if he could have the banner as a souvenir, since he thought it was very clever. “We are used to rowdy audiences in France,” he laughed, “so you made me feel right at home.”

Most protests are coming from frustrated citizens confronting the powerful and are part of a much larger strategy for change. In 1964, civil rights activists, including Bayard Ruskin and James Farmer, shouted down President Lyndon Johnson during his speech at the World’s Fair, calling for passage of the Civil Rights Act. They were arrested, but their intervention was celebrated as part of a much larger nonviolent strategy of the civil rights movement.

Sometimes, it’s not the powerful who are interrupted, but simply someone with a different viewpoint. Speaking at a university, I was once interrupted by a group of students who disagreed with my views on Israel/Palestine. My response was to invite them on stage to use the mic so they could be heard by all. They did, and when they were finished, I thanked them, addressed their issues according to my – very different – perspective; I said I hoped they’d stick around for the Q&A, so we could keep the conversation going.

Speaking out to express our political beliefs or show disapproval of those in power is part of the venerable practice of nonviolent civil disobedience. The tactic might be considered impolite and it disrupts business as usual, but hopefully, it helps push forward a larger debate on issues of great importance to society.

At a campaign event when Obama was first running for president, someone asked him what he would do about the Middle East. Obama repeated the legendary story about President Franklin Delano Roosevelt meeting with labor leader A Philip Randolph about workers’ rights. Reportedly, FDR listened intently, then replied:

I agree with everything you have said. Now, make me do it.

Speaking out on the rare occasions we have to interact with the powerful is just that: pushing those in power to do the right thing.

Medea Benjamin

Medea Benjamin (medea@globalexchange.org), cofounder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK: Women for Peace, is the author of Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control. Her previous books include Don’t Be Afraid Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks from the Heart., and (with Jodie Evans) Stop the Next War Now (Inner Ocean Action Guide).

How Obama and Valerie Jarrett Helped Launch Their Political Careers in an Outrageous ‘Urban Renewal’ Scheme February 24, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Chicago, Housing/Homelessness, Race.
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Roger’s note: as anyone who has followed this Blog knows, I have characterized Obama as a fraud from the beginning (of his ascendency to the presidency).  I posted an article reprinted from the Toronto Star when Obama was elected the first Black editor of the Harvard Law Review, where a fellow Black student talks about his charismatic gifts always leading to a cop out.  In the article below, compare Obama’s history of “community development” in housing with that of Saul Alinsky in the 60s, where he organized popular protests against the University of Chicago’s plans to destroy neighborhoods for expansion.  Also, in the article below you will learn how Michelle Obama earned over $300,000 a year dumping poor patients to make room for richer ones at the University of Chicago Medical Center.      

AlterNet / By Allison Kilkenny

Developers and investors got rich on a project that destroyed the homes of thousands of Chicago’s poorest black residents.

January 25, 2013  |
 As President Obama’s second term begins, and inequality, especially for black Americans, is worse than it was when Obama first took office, it’s worth revisiting progressives’ and Obama supporters’ impression of the president as somebody who might actually care about equality and helping the most unfortunate in society. And a big centerpiece of that impression, which endures despite evidence that he’s at best ambivalent, is his early days in Chicago. The narrative that Obama is a salt-of-the-earth community organizer has been spoon-fed to the American populace since Obama first began campaigning. In reality, there’s a big piece of the president’s past that has gone under-reported that will help us to understand Obama and his closest adviser Valerie Jarrett a bit better: Obama and Jarrett built the nexus of political support that took him to the presidency by participating in one of the most appalling examples of neoliberal-corrupted City Hall-“urban renewal projects” in recent history that enriched developers and investors and destroyed the lives of thousands of Chicago’s poorest black residents, in some cases using his community organizer job as camouflage.
We have the opportunity to revisit our impression of Obama thanks to a speech by Robert Fitch, a radical journalist and activist who chronicled the destruction of public housing in his 1996 book, The Assassination of New York, in which he detailed the changing landscape of the city at the hands of bankers and developers. New York’s poorest were left to the mercy of the extremely rich, who used their power and money to gentrify, gut and obliterate public housing. Fitch’s accounts of the plunder of New York and Obama’s efforts in Chicago offer a different narrative than we’re often accustomed to hearing — they weren’t the “fault of Republicans,” but rather examples of the most frequent attack on democracy and the general welfare: how politicians “of all stripes” served the interests of the richest and most powerful in the society. In the case of NY and Chicago, the powerful took the form of a collection of interests that Fitch called FIRE: finance, insurance and real estate.
During a speech delivered at the Harlem Tenants Associations in November 2008, directly after Obama’s presidential win, Fitch explained how the new president and other middle-class blacks, including Valerie Jarrett and Obama’s wife Michelle, climbed the power ladder in Chicago at the expense of poor African Americans by aligning themselves with “friendly FIRE”:

…[A]s Obama knows very well, for most of the last two decades in Chicago there’s been in place a very specific economic development plan. The plan was to make the South Side like the North Side. Which is the same kind of project as making the land north of Central Park like the land south of Central Park. The North Side is the area north of the Loop—Chicago’s midtown central business district—where rich white people live; they root for the Cubs. They’re neighborhood is called the Gold Coast.

For almost a hundred years in Chicago blacks have lived on the South Side close to Chicago’s factories and slaughter houses. And Cellular Field, home of the White Sox. The area where they lived was called the Black Belt or Bronzeville—and it’s the largest concentration of African American people in the U.S.—nearly 600,000 people—about twice the size of Harlem.

In the 1950s, big swaths of urban renewal were ripped through the black belt, demolishing private housing on the south east side. The argument then was that the old low rise private housing was old and unsuitable. Black people needed to be housed in new, high-rise public housing which the city built just east of the Dan Ryan Expressway. The Administration of the Chicago Housing Authority was widely acclaimed as the most corrupt, racist and incompetent in America. Gradually only the poorest of the poor lived there. And in the 1980s, the argument began to be made that the public housing needed to be demolished and the people moved back into private housing. …

If we examine more carefully the interests that Obama represents; if we look at his core financial supporters; as well as his inmost circle of advisors, we’ll see that they represent the primary activists in the demolition movement and the primary real estate beneficiaries of this transformation of public housing projects into condos and townhouses: the profitable creep of the Central Business District and elite residential neighborhoods southward; and the shifting of the pile of human misery about three miles further into the South Side and the south suburbs.

Obama’s political base comes primarily from Chicago FIRE—the finance, insurance and real estate industry. And the wealthiest families—the Pritzkers, the Crowns and the Levins. But it’s more than just Chicago FIRE. Also within Obama’s inner core of support are allies from the non-profit sector: the liberal foundations, the elite universities, the non-profit community developers and the real estate reverends who produce market rate housing with tax breaks from the city and who have been known to shout from the pulpit“ give us this day our Daley, Richard Daley bread.”

Aggregate them and what emerges is a constellation of interests around Obama that I call “Friendly FIRE.” Fire power disguised by the camouflage of community uplift; augmented by the authority of academia; greased by billions in foundation grants; and wired to conventional FIRE by the terms of the Community Reinvestment Act of 1995. And yet friendly FIRE is just as deadly as the conventional FIRE that comes from bankers and developers that we’re used to ducking from. It’s the whole condominium of interests whose advancement depends on the elimination of poor blacks from the community and their replacement by white people and—at least temporarily—by the black middle-class—who’ve gotten subprime mortgages—in a kind of redlining in reverse.

Evidence of the public-private partnerships’ failures emerged almost immediately.

The public housing included in Senator Obama’s transformation plans, such as the 504 apartments in the squat brick buildings of Grove Parc Plaza, quickly fell into disrepair. Reports emerged of uninhabitable units with collapsed roofs, fire damage, mice infestations, and sewage backups. In 2006, federal inspectors graded the condition of the complex an 11 on a 100-point scale, a score so bad the buildings were demolished in 2011.

A Boston Globe review found that thousands of apartments across Chicago that had been built with local, state and federal subsidies — including several hundred in Obama’s former district — deteriorated so completely they were no longer habitable. Grove Parc, a project that was, along with several other prominent failures, developed and managed by Obama’s close friends and political supporters, became a symbol of the broader failures of handing over public subsidies to FIRE cronies, private companies to build and manage affordable housing, an approach lauded by Obama as the best, sometimes only, replacement for public housing.

At the time, Jarrett was the chief executive of Habitat Co., which managed Grove Parc Plaza from 2001 until the winter of 2008 and co-managed an even larger subsidized complex in Chicago that was seized by the federal government in 2006 after city inspectors found widespread problems. Jarrett had earlier served as Commissioner of the Department of Planning and Development from 1992 through 1995. When questioned by the Globe, Jarrett defended Obama’s position that public-private partnerships are superior to public housing.

“Government is just not as good at owning and managing as the private sector because the incentives are not there,” said Jarrett, whose company manages more than 23,000 apartments. “I would argue that someone living in a poor neighborhood that isn’t 100 percent public housing is by definition better off.”

But as theGlobe pointed out, Daley’s plans to privatize Chicago public housing quickly drew criticism:

[Chicagoans] asked why the government should pay developers to perform a basic public service — one successfully performed by governments in other cities. And they noted that privately managed projects had a history of deteriorating because guaranteed government rent subsidies left companies with little incentive to spend money on maintenance.

Most of all, they alleged that Chicago was interested primarily in redeveloping projects close to the Loop, the downtown area that was seeing a surge of private development activity, shunting poor families to neighborhoods farther from the city center. Only about one in three residents was able to return to the redeveloped projects.

“They are rapidly displacing poor people, and these companies are profiting from this displacement,” said Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle of Southside Together Organizing for Power, a community group that seeks to help tenants stay in the same neighborhoods.

“The same exact people who ran these places into the ground,” the private companies paid to build and manage the city’s affordable housing, “now are profiting by redeveloping them.”

Obama believes deeply that privatization works. He once told theChicago Tribune that he had briefly considered becoming a developer of affordable housing, but after graduating from Harvard Law School in 1991, he turned down a job with Tony Rezko’s development company, Rezmar, to instead work at the civil rights law firm Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland. The firm represented a number of nonprofit companies that were partnering with private developers to build affordable housing with government subsidies.

The Globe reported that shortly after becoming a state senator in 1997, Obama told theChicago Daily Law Bulletinthat his experience working with the development industry had reinforced his belief in subsidizing private developers of affordable housing. “That’s an example of a smart policy,” the paper quoted Obama as saying. “The developers were thinking in market terms and operating under the rules of the marketplace; but at the same time, we had government supporting and subsidizing those efforts.”

What Obama is describing is corporate welfare: the government subsidizes private companies which then lack incentive to provide services to tenants because the government i.e. taxpayers will continue funding them regardless, and then the same private companies win new contracts down the road when they demolish and rebuild apartments as part of a “revitalizing” scheme.

Oftentimes, Obama’s community organizer veneer served to camouflage his FIRE roots. For example, Grove Parc Plaza opened in 1990 as a redevelopment of an older housing complex, and the new owner was a local nonprofit company called Woodlawn Preservation and Investment Corp, led by two of the neighborhoods’ most powerful ministers, Arthur Brazier and Leon Finney. All of this sounded like grassroots in action. However, Woodlawn Preservation hired a private management firm, William Moorehead and Associates, to oversee the complex. The company then lost that contract and a contract to manage several public housing projects for allegedly failing to do its job, and was subsequently convicted of embezzling almost $1 million in management feeds theGlobe reported.

Woodlawn Preservation then hired a new property manager, Habitat Co., where Valerie Jarrett served as executive vice president. Residents told the Globe that the complex deteriorated under Moorehead’s management and the decline continued after Habitat took over. A maintenance worker at the complex told the Globe that money often wasn’t available for steel wool to plug rat holes, but regardless federal inspectors rated Grove Parc an 82 out of 100 as late as 2003.

In their extensive report on Obama’s private-public partnership failings, theGlobe profiles one of the largest recipients of government subsidies: Rezmar Corp, founded in 1989 by Tony Rezko, who between 1999 and 2008 used more than $87 million in government grants, loans, and tax credits to renovate about 1,000 apartments in 30 Chicago buildings. Companies run by the partners also managed many of the buildings, collecting government rent subsidies. Neither Rezko, nor his partner Daniel Mahru, had any development experience:

Rezmar collected millions in development fees but fell behind on mortgage payments almost immediately. On its first project, the city government agreed to reduce the company’s monthly payments from almost $3,000 to less than $500.

By the time Obama entered the state senate in 1997, the buildings were beginning to deteriorate. In January 1997, the city sued Rezmar for failing to provide adequate heat in a South Side building in the middle of an unusually cold winter. It was one of more than two dozen housing-complaint suits filed by the city against Rezmar for violations at its properties.

People who lived in some of the Rezmar buildings say trash was not picked up and maintenance problems were ignored. Roofs leaked, windows whistled, insects moved in.

“In the winter I can feel the cold air coming through the walls and the sockets,” said Anthony Frizzell, 57, who has lived for almost two decades in a Rezmar building on South Greenwood Avenue. “They didn’t insulate it or nothing.”

“Affordable housing run by private companies just doesn’t work,” Mahru told the Globe. “It’s difficult, if not impossible, for a private company to maintain affordable housing for low-income tenants.”

Most of Rezko and Mahru’s buildings have since been foreclosed upon, forcing the tenants to find new housing.

When Obama opened his campaign for state senate in 1995, Rezko’s companies gave $2,000 on the first day of fundraising, and as the Globepoints out, essentially “seeded the start of Obama’s political career.”

While Obama eventually distanced himself from Rezko, he maintained close ties to other developers. Jarrett became a close adviser, and Obama chose Martin Nesbitt, chairman of the Chicago Housing Authority, as his campaign treasurer. Nesbitt was one of the key overseers of the shift toward private management and development. And Obama kept the rich families around him.

From the Globe story:

As a result, some people in Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods are torn between a natural inclination to support Obama and a concern about his relationships with the developers they hold responsible for Chicago’s affordable housing failures. Some housing advocates worry that Obama has not learned from those failures.

“I’m not against Barack Obama,” said Willie J.R. Fleming, an organizer with the Coalition to Protect Public Housing and a former public housing resident. “What I am against is some of the people around him.”

Jamie Kalven, a longtime Chicago housing activist, put it this way: “I hope there is not much predictive value in his history and in his involvement with that community.”

In a 2012 Harpersmagazinearticle, Ben Austen writes that the area around Cabrini-Green no longer resembles the neighborhood he remembered from his years growing up in Chicago in the ’70s and ’80s.

Down the street from 1230 N. Burling stood a mixed-income development of orange-bricked condos and townhomes called Parkside of Old Town. Its squat buildings were outfitted with balconies and adorned with purple ornamentation and decorative pillars. There was a new school, a new police station, a renovated park, and a shopping center with a Dominick’s supermarket and a Starbucks. A Target was expected on the site the last tower would soon vacate. Later, I would warm up two blocks south in @Spot Café, where employees from Groupon’s nearby corporate headquarters streamed in to pay full price for lattes and panini.

Today, what seems harder to fathom than the erasure of entire high-rise neighborhoods is that they were ever erected in the first place. For years the projects had stood as monuments to a bygone effort to provide affordable housing for the poor and working-class, the reflection of a belief in a deeper social contract.

Shortly before the demolition of 1230 N. Burling in 2012, Austen attended a Chicago Housing Authority meeting during which residents protested the board in response to the city forcing poor people off prime real estate. Activists included residents and supporters of a housing project called Lathrop Homes, a development in a well-off section of the North Side that was next in line to be demolished.

“The residents didn’t want to be forced into the private market or into temporary housing, especially since they doubted they’d be able to return to whatever replaced Lathrop; nor did they agree that market-rate apartments were needed in the redeveloped community, as the surrounding area was already full of market-rate condos,” Austen wrote.

Chicago’s $1.6 billion “Plan for Transformation” envisioned a mix of public-housing residents with market-rate condos and subsidized rentals or homes, with one-third of each in these new communities.

In late 2012, NPR detailed how after more than a decade in the works, one of the country’s most closely watched public housing experiments was badly failing, partly due to the flailing economy.

NPR profiled Lathrop resident Mary Thomas:

Thomas has lived here for eight years with her husband and 7-year-old son. Lathrop sits on what many now consider prime land, next to the Chicago River. A busy street splits the development into a north and south section.

The north side is completely shuttered, cordoned off by gates, a ghost town of boarded-up buildings. Thomas lives in the open southern section, where steam from the old heating system wafts into the street. About 170 of the 900-plus units are occupied.

Thomas says all three of the concepts for Lathrop should be dumped and there should be more input from residents. She says there’s little affordable housing in the area and there’s no need for market-rate units at all.

Far from adopting a reflective attitude in the wake of Chicago’s failed experiment in public-private housing partnerships, Obama has now taken his love of public-private codependence to a national level, touting public-private partnerships in everything from creating jobs to education to tackling insurance fraud to collaborations involving foreign nations, which you can bet means the wealthiest multinational conglomerates teaming up to increase their profits at the expense of the 99 percent.

The First Lady played her own part in the Chicago racket of profiting off the poor. Michelle Obama worked at the University of Chicago Medical Center “redirecting” low-income patients to community hospitals in order to use its own beds for rich patients. Nick Jouriles, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, released a statement saying the practice comes “dangerously close to patient dumping,” a practice made illegal by the Emergency Medical Labor and Treatment Act (EMTALA), and reflected an effort to “cherry pick” wealthy patients over poor.
“This is a dangerous precedent that could have catastrophic effects in poor neighborhoods across the country. Congress needs to hold hearings about the problems facing emergency patients. If other community, non-profit hospitals follow this example and shift the lion’s share of resources to its high-revenue elective patients and procedures, it will leave many emergency patients virtually out in the cold. The University of Chicago Medical Center is located in a poor neighborhood whose residents have few, if any, other options for emergency care.”
The media barely paid any attention to Michelle Obama’s role in all of this, though the Chicago Sun-Times reported in 2008 that her $317,000-a-year role as Vice-President of the hospital helped create the patient-dumping program.
Quoted in a related Washington Post article, Quentin Young, a South Side physician, remarks the scheme is nothing more than an “attempt to ensure that the hospital retains only affluent patients with insurance.”

“If you put enough money into it, you could save a whole bunch of community health centers,” Young said. “But to date, they haven’t.”

Edward Novak, president of Chicago’s Sacred Heart Hospital, declined to discuss the center’s initiative in particular but dismissed as “bull” attempts to justify such programs as good for patients. “What they’re really saying is, ‘Don’t use our emergency room because it will cost us money, and we don’t want the public-aid population,’ ” Novak said.

At the end of January this year, community residents launched a protest outside the University of Chicago Medical Center, angry that the hospital ignored their needs, especially for “victims of gun violence,” according to a news report: “One woman said her son, shot just blocks away from the university, died on the way to a hospital ten miles away.” Four were arrested at the protest.

Robert Fitch’s words hold true: the poor remain at the mercy of the rich, who are seeking profits on everything possible, including their homes, but also their water, healthcare and education.

Allison Kilkenny co-hosts Citizen Radio, an alternative political radio show. Her work has appeared in the American Prospect, the LA Times, In These Times, and Truthout.

The First Lady and The Monsanto-Washington Unification Process Vs. Our Human Rights July 25, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Agriculture, Environment, Human Rights, Science and Technology.
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Roger’s note:  the tone of this ariticle is sarcastic; this may offend some reader, and, if so, I am sorry; but what is a thousand times more offensive is what the article reveals.

Lenore Daniels, www.opednews.com,  July 24, 2008

The effect is again a magical and hypnotic one–the projection of images which convey irresistible unity, harmony of contradictions. Thus the loved and fear Father, the spender of life, generates the H-bomb for the annihilation of life; “science-military’ joins the efforts to reduce anxiety and suffering with the job of creating anxiety and suffering.

Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man

 

 

Monsanto has great respect for all of us, little people, and for Mother Earth, the source of all its (Monsanto’s) material wealth. But Monsanto would like to remind the world that however much those activists transgressors in Brazil condemn its connection to the use of dioxin in a current project to defoliate the rain forest or however much those Vietnam Vets agitators shout about the long-term harmful effects of Agent Orange, Monsanto is a new humanitarian enterprise, working with struggling farmers on behalf of the poor and starving children of the world. Monsanto, along with the cooperative government of the U.S. and other Western nations, envisions a future filled with healthy and happy humans.

 

Chuckle. Chuckle.

 

We have great respect for the U.S. soldiers sent to war and all those affected by the Vietnam conflict. All sides share in the pain from this difficult time in our history. One of the legacies of that war is Agent Orange, where questions remain nearly 40 years later.

 

By way of background, the U.S. military used Agent Orange from 1961 to 1971 to save the lives of U.S. and allied soldiers by defoliating dense vegetation in the Vietnamese jungles and therefore reducing the chances of ambush.

 

As the war began and intensified, the U.S. government used its authority under the Defense Production Act to issue contracts to seven major chemical companies to obtain Agent Orange and other herbicides for use by U.S. and allied troops in Vietnam. The government specified the chemical composition of Agent Orange and when, where and how the material was to be used in the field, including application rates. Agent Orange was one of 15 herbicides used for military purposes during the Vietnam War and the most commonly applied. It received its name because of the orange band around containers of the material”

 

There have been a number of lawsuits. Monsanto and the six other chemical manufacturers reached agreement with U.S. veterans in a class action lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York in 1984 that involved millions of U.S. veterans and their families. There was not a finding of fault. It was settled by the parties rather than undertake a lengthy and complicated trial. The $180 million in funds that were part of the agreement were distributed according to a plan developed in part by U.S. District Judge Jack B. Weinstein”

 

[There have been other lawsuits since 2009 but]“

 

Monsanto is now primarily a seed and agricultural products company.

 

We believe that the adverse consequences alleged to have arisen out of the Vietnam War, including the use of Agent Orange, should be resolved by the governments that were involved. (Monsanto.com)

 

((“The Agent Orange produced by Monsanto had dioxin levels many times higher than that produced by Dow Chemicals, the other major supplier of Agent Orange to Vietnam,”   “The Legacy of Agent Orange” at Corp Watch.com.))

 

(((Monsanto produced “some of the most toxic substances ever created,” according to an investigative report entitled, “Harvest of Fear,” published at Vanity Fair, May 2008.)))

 

You are now ordered to forget those images of children with skin burned and bloodied; babies with two heads and one eye, deformed and missing limbs–forget them! Whatever happened in the past was unintentional.   We were ordered by your government to do it! If harm was done when Monsanto was the Monsanto we are not now, sorry! Contact your government and scream until you pass out! We are “dedicated to a better place for future generations.”

In the “imagined future,” one in which we have “foreknowledge” and “mystically share in,” that “dark place” of the Orwellian realm (1984), Monsanto assures us that information is available, accessible, and understandable,” (Monsanto.com).

Infringe on Monsanto’s patents of genetically modified food or transgress its seed laws and its “shadowy army” of private investigators and agents–“secretly” videotaping and photographing wrong doers, and infiltrating “community meetings”–will   to “get you” (“Harvest of Fear”). Farmers know Monsanto as the “seed police,” the “Gestapo” of the Heartland.

 

We are witnessing the criminalization of producing and consuming healthy food.

 

Here is what the telescreen preaches to us: the U.S. Empire has detected a problem. The results of studies are in and obesity is that problem. Citizens of the U.S. of A. are obese! The littlest of the little people, the children, are “too fat.” They indulge in “fatty foods.” The children along with their parents are irresponsible.

 

The first Black First Lady enters the picture. The mother of two well-feed children, except for the occasional treat of French fries, is in search of obese children. In a timely manner, Michelle Obama launches her “Let’s Move” program, later in that same year (2010), she announces that she “wants to take her campaign to reduce childhood obesity to a bigger audience: the global one.”

 

Everyone applauds! Cameras follow the First Lady as she flies from one end of the country to the other, promoting the consumption of greens, carrots, apples, and strawberries, (and indulging occasionally in a side dish of French fries).

 

Monsanto has the future of our children on its horizon–and it would seem Mrs. Obama does too!

 

The International Journal of Biological Science issued its findings, too, and it found a problem, too, with 3 genetically modified corn varieties produced by the new, supposedly non-lethal Monsanto. In fact, this study found the problem to be with the giant Monsanto! “80 percent of all corn grown in the U.S. had been genetically modified by Monsanto.” Three strains of corn tested caused serious problems in the liver (organichealthadvisor.com) and this is just one example of the risk Monsanto’s food products pose for the current and future generations of children. Agriculture Society reports that the Institute for Responsible Technology found the following health issues arising from consuming GMO foods:

 

Infertility

Immune system problems

Accelerated aging

Faulty insulin regulation

Development of pathogenic bacteria in the digestive tract

Changes in other major organs

 

The International Journal of Biological Science report concludes: This is a “huge problem.” (And let us not forget–health insurance is another problem in the heartland of the U.S. Empire!).

 

Any word from the First Lady about Monsanto, GMOs, health risks for eating just about anything, including veggies and fruits?

 

Do not look to Monsanto to give up either!

 

Monsanto is a master shape-shifter like so many we can think of today operating at the headquarters imperial power in Washington D.C. In fact, you might find more Monsanto shape-shifters in Washington than anywhere else.   That is because the First Lady’s husband, President Barrack Obama and Monsanto want to ensure the longevity of the corporation.

 

Here is President Barrack Obama shuffling Monsanto food executives and research scientists from the boardroom and labs to the global reaches of the U.S. Empire faster than his wife, the First Lady, can fly to her next lecture on “obesity.”. Former Monsanto executives occupy leadership positions in the Department of Agriculture.

 

 

In “Farming–Why Obama’s Government is George Wallace, Monsanto is the KKK, and We Are All Black Children” (Opednews.com),   Linn Cohen Cole writes about Monsanto’s “rural cleansing” campaign.   Oh, Monsanto is everywhere! The First Lady should not miss omnipotent beings in the halls of the White House, in Congress, certainly not at the Department of Agriculture and not at the Supreme Court where Justice Clarence Thomas, another former Monsanto employee, loves his Monsanto more than he does our current and future generation of children.

 

Since Thomas’ appointment, writes Cole, the court has ruled in favor of genetically altered organisms and, in addition, has upheld laws protecting Monsanto’s “intellectual property rights.” As a result, Monsanto’s “rural cleansing” campaign is chasing farmers off their lands, from one end of the country to the other, while contaminating nature with its genetically engineered products. This is all good, for Clarence, and apparently the White House and the First Lady, too, flying, to and from, above it all!

 

Cole argues that these rulings are in “violation of our civil rights.” Here is a “”justice,'” Cole continues, destroying “previously taken for granted and thus undefined civil and human rights around nature.” We can generalize about “agriculture” and “commodities” or “profits””but “the profound truth that this is about life or death and our civil rights to live” is left out of the argument.

 

And you would think Thomas, Mr. Obama, and Mrs. Obama should know all about the civil right to live! But here is the 21st Century is Thomas, loyal corporate man, Barrack Obama, organizer of the Monsanto-Washington unification process, and Mrs. Obama saving our children’s lives from the ravages of obesity!

 

Mrs. Obama giving us images of Black obese children and then Brown obese children and then obese white children careful not to give us images of parents working 2 or 3 jobs, if they are working at all, and children, then, who are left to eat potato chips and candy, genetically engineered corn-based products for breakfast, lunch, and sometimes even dinner while watching television commercials featuring genetically fattened chicken. Where are the urban, migrant poor and the working class children to establish a garden like the one Mrs. Obama tenders at the White House? (Ah, “urban cleansing”! They have done that already!).

 

Unintentional, you think? Corporate and government indifference is deadly!

 

Monsanto’s food products not only contribute to “obesity” in children (and adults as well), but also contributes to the rise in diabetes, cancer, and heart disease (Cole).

 

Talk about insanity–on a grand level!

 

But let me reiterate! The installation of Clarence Thomas as an administer of justice and Barrack Obama as a Commander-in-Chief (or is that Chef?) at the helm of the U.S. Empire represents strategic steps, salvos, intended to kill anything human or natural! (So much for the end of the Agent Orange era!). Rights are rendered to corporations these dark days. You can only imagine the light in our future,

 

Returning to Cole–the author, like so many of us non-important, little people, recognizes from here below, that Monsanto is practicing a form of “discrimination,” where “one group is using corrupt means to discriminate against a defined segment of the population–all of us who wish to live.”

 

Cole is not alone in condemning not only Monsanto but also the system that is out to destroy life, human and nature, on this planet.   Cole’s observation is one voiced by those few of us Black commentators who were critical of that mechanizing and criminalizing system and the selection of Obama (the first “Black” president) chosen by Wall Street and the corporate rulers to oversee the further progress of a One World order. But the foot soldiers of “progress,” the liberal-progressive-alternative-left media thanked the Daley Machine on LaSalle Street and obliged the Democratic Party by bracketing our warnings in double, triple parenthesis–with a warning of their own: shut up!

 

“Progress” is buying the double talk and eating the crap!   And we are where we are today!

 

Cole writes: Obama “is a black man [the George Wallace of this generation] overseeing a government that is discriminating and abusing a marginalized group.” But it is not one racial or ethnic group, or one class, or only women marginalized today. Here is a George Wallace in controlling and selling humans and the land to the Monsantos of the world, the KKK, Cole argues. All of us are the little Black children of yesterday.

 

All of us are the little people subject to whims of the state police and the “food” police, and labels of “terrorists” or “food” terrorists.

 

Cole continues:

 

This is not just an agricultural issue. It is a civil rights and a human rights issue–the most profound in human history since it is about the right to (normal) nature and survival itself. The totalitarian and corrupt parties discriminating against us all can only be dealt with once we see this as a single issue and come together in a civil rights movement on behalf of us all.

 

But do not turn your eyes away from the First Lady who, for fear of losing life as she knows it, is the savior of children one minute and is campaign cheerleader the next.   All in a day’s work–for the Big People!

 

For husband’s re-election, for the corporatist Party, and for corporate rulers, the First Lady reads Monsanto’s letter to transgressors and agitators, salutes and says, “I do, too.”

 

Catch that smile and those wonderful gowns!

 

No wonder Monsanto exchanged its dusty fatigues for a more formal, more “global” one of skull and bones.

 

Published at The Black Commentator.com, July 21, 2011

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