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Mumia Abu-Jamal's Radio Essays

Commentaries by the award-winning journalist and activist Mumia Abu-Jamal
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Mumia Abu-Jamal's Radio Essays
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Now displaying: 2008
Sep 1, 2008
If you ever needed proof that politics is a kind of war, the next-day's selection of Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin, to join the presidential campaign ticket of Sen. John McCain should erase all doubts. Putting aside the political positions of Palin, her choice was a transparent attempt to exploit disaffected women voters, who felt burned by the decision of the Democratic nominee to choose someone other than Sen. Hillary Clinton (D.-NY) for the number two spot. But transparent doesn't necessarily mean ineffective. For is Sen. Barack Obama's (D. -IL) campaign breaks new historic ground, Sen. McCain is trying to do so as well, by nominating the first GOP woman for the second chair in the nation's history. Notice I said 'first GOP woman' for the post, for Democrats will never forget how former Vice President Walter Mondale in June of 1984 named Geraldine Ferraro as his Vice Presidential pick. In November of that year, Ronald Reagan swept 49 states in a landslide. Now, McCain is no Reagan, and 2008 isn't 1984, but in the 24 years since then women have emerged as pivotal players in the elections. Will Palin prove helpful to McCain's chances? Time will tell. But, where Sen. Obama opted for a safe bet, Sen McCain opted for boldness. Is it bold enough - or too bold? Again, time will tell. Not since (the first) George Bush chose an obscure Senator, Dan Quayle, as his running mate has there been a greater stretch of years between the two sides of the ticket. Bush was 23 years older than Quayle; McCain is some 28 years older than Palin. Now, that's not necessarily a bad thing, but McCain, at 72, ain't no spring chicken. Palin, at 44, could well become the next president of the United States, in the blink of an eye. (c) '08 Mumia Abu-Jamal
Aug 29, 2008
From the maelstrom of ambition, politics and power, something new in symbol emerged from the Mile High City; Denver. In a national political convention that was, until then, undistinguished, few saw the political sleight-of-hand that led Illinois Sen. Barack Obama's bitterest rival, New York's Democratic Sen. Hillary R, Clinton to seize the moment to move the convention to suspend the rules, and vote by acclamation that Obama be named the Party's nominee for President. It was a political master-stroke, that left some, Black and white, Latino and Asian, male and female, in tears. In that one, deft move, history turned on a dime, and a new card entered the shifting deck of politics. As a youth, I recalled the thrill when the names of Channing Phillips, and Julian Bond, were entered into nomination, but these were symbolic acts, meant to garner less than a dozen votes (if that), with no possibility of more. This is a different thing altogether, and speaks to a singular moment in American politics. To be sure, a nomination is not an election, and the months to come promise to be hard fought and bitter indeed. But it is a nomination, and marks a moment that this country has never seen before. That is the essence of history. --(c) '08 maj
Aug 29, 2008
Although little discussed by major political figures, there is an acidic undertow in the eternal sea of politics. This subterranean issue is immigration, especially from Mexico, and the Latin South. Such voices suffuse the airwaves and the blogosphere, and can reach a fever pitch. At their core is a profound fear, of a dark, brown flood, washing away all that went before of America. As long as there has been a United States (and, in fact, a good while longer), such a fear has found expression in the American psyche. The first Congress rushed to pass a Naturalization Act that limited citizenship to white people. Law books are thick with precedents deciding who is (or isn't), white, and by such a judgment, millions of people were turned away from the U.S. because they hailed from India, China, Syria, Palestine, or even Turkey. Many such cases shifted like tectonic plates, using various definitions of whiteness, to accept, or reject, a given applicant. The point is, people that were determined nonwhite one year, could be found white a few years later, either by the shift of a vote, or the change of a judge. And, despite the Sturm und Drang, despite the hyperventilation on the net, today's browns are tomorrow's whites, for how could it be otherwise when millions of Latin Americans hail from Spain, Portugal, Italy, and the Iberian Peninsula of Southern Europe. Of course, there are millions of Latin Americans who are descendants of African and Native American tribes. In the early 20th century, Italian, Jewish and similar immigrants were derided as threatening, foreign sources of a kind of contagion. Their languages and customs stirred up fear and profound xenophobia among American nativists. Indeed, as the movie "Gangs of New York" revealed, U.S. born Irish fought tooth and nail against immigrant Irish, proof, if an is needed, of the illusions of nationality. That fear that throbs beneath the radar of race and politics is long standing and cyclical. Like that of yore, this too will pass. (c) '08 maj
Aug 27, 2008
The choice of Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden as the Vice Presidential pick of Sen. Barack Obama (D.IL) and his presidential campaign challenges the central theme of the run, and suggests that the constant critique of inexperience is finding its target. For, no other analysis makes sense. Biden is a likable guy, but his past presidential runs have had all the oomph of a ham sandwich. He has been a Washington insider for several generations! He hails from the tiny state of Delaware -- with perhaps 3 electoral votes. As a state that has been safely in the Democratic column since 1992, it brings Obama no more that he needs to corral the electoral votes required to prevail. Also, Biden, for all of his vaunted foreign policy experience, voted for the Iraq War, despite all the evidence to the contrary. If Obama's star has risen because of his anti-Iraq War rhetoric, how does it help to choose a neo liberal hawk as his number two? More to the point, Biden doesn't close Obama's perilous Hillary-gap, that of white women amped about the opportunity to make history. That's why I wrongly suspected he'd select Kathleen Sebelius, Governor of Kansas, to give added oomph to the campaign of change. But, in opting for Biden, Obama chooses not too much change (or more change than many Americans are able to tolerate). For Biden is as much a part of the Washington establishment as the Washington monument. Biden is a central character in the so-called Washington consensus, the brain trust that found Iraq war acceptable, that supported globalization, that lives off of the cream of corporate largess, while the average person lives a life of quiet desperation, in the hung for rent, for food, gas, for a better education. Change has never seemed so much the same. --(c) '08 maj
Aug 22, 2008
Ona Move! Thank you, Re-Create '68, for inviting me to join your efforts in Denver, to practice real democracy in the shadows of the Empire. When I think of the DNC, I'm reminded of the words of the great French writer, Voltaire, who, when speaking of the Holy Roman Empire, quipped it "was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire." The Democratic National Committee is neither democratic, nor national, nor a committee. If it were democratic why would it reject the voices of the people, who protest against its rule? If it were national, it wouldn't be driven by imperialist and globalist corporate interests. (Let us not forget William J. Clinton - perhaps the best known globalist (NAFTA?) in the country). And if it were truly a committee then anybody could join it - not just the political puppets of corporate power. In 1968, a Democratic mayor named Daley unleashed brutal and vicious cops on people who dared protest against the Democratic Party's support for the atrocities in Vietnam. Those young people were allegedly protected under the free speech 'guarantees' of the Constitution. Instead, they got the crap beat out them. It was imperial war then - and it's imperial war now, and only the names and faces have changed (some names - there's still a Mayor Daley in Chicago). In fact, things are more repressive today than they were in '68, for then, anti-war activists and students could at least march through the streets. They got their asses whipped, but at least they marched. Today, city governments have built cages for protest. So much for respect for the constitution! Now, as in LA 2000, you can get your ass whipped -- in a cage! That is what American democracy looks like in 2008. For another idea, look at what Pakistan did a few days ago. When the head-of-state violated the constitution, the people took to the streets. When he brought out the troops, they continued to protest. And they demanded impeachment! There, democracy forced a dictator to resign! There, democracy marches - ona move! Here, democracy is in cages, hidden in the boondocks, while alleged representatives sell their souls to the highest corporate bidder, to further the interests of imperial war. Here, politicians take the label of 'democrat', hire the cops to beat you, hire the media to slander you, so that they can send your children to war for oil pipelines, or to protect foreign despots and princes. Here, democracy is on life-support, while paid-for politicians give mouth to mouth to imperialism, rampant globalization and the ravaging of the poor. Our revered ancestor Frederick Douglass said, "Power concedes nothing without demand. It never has and never will." Your protests are in that great spirit of resistance. We only need more! Ona Move! Long Live John Africa! I thank you all! Mumia Abu-Jamal (c) '08 maj
Aug 19, 2008
With news of the abrupt resignation of Pakistani general-cum-president, Pervez Musharraf, comes the stark realization that, in Islamabad, democracy means the power of the people over that of a dictator. It also means that Pakistanis so believe in their Constitution that they were willing to confront a military dictator who violated it. Musharraf, buffeted by the bellows of opposition, chose to switch, rather than fight. He knew that parliamentary opposition parties were intent on impeaching him for violation of the national constitution. They protested in the streets from the elites to the poor, and Musharraf threw them into jails. Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated under suspicious circumstances. Some 7,000 miles away, another president violates the constitution at will, and breaks both statutory and international laws on torture, secret prisons, renditions, illegal detentions, wiretaps -- and on and on. But,of course, in this other democracy, the constitution is an historical artifact, held under special glass in a vacuum of a special gas, something to be worshipped from a distance, while violated daily. And the national legislature? They favor false stability over all things -- and when the party in opposition recently gained the majority, they immediately announced impeachment was "off the table." In a nation based on precedent, this means every president -- from now on- can feel free to violate the constitution at will. He - or she - can go to war on a whim - or lies. She may order her subordinates to torture, to kidnap, to break any law with impunity, and be sure that she is protected by precedent. The political classes have decided that the only avenue left for the people is every four years or so, during an election where millionaires are the candidates. In the meantime, anything goes. Right? In the US, democracy is a word that we throw out to justify armed invasions and illegal violations of international law -- it has no intrinsic meaning. In Pakistan, democracy is thriving and alive. It marched in the streets, it spoke in the courts, and it ran in the actions of Parliament, demanding impeachment. In democracy, it seems, Americans have a great deal to learn. --(c) '08 maj
Aug 18, 2008
The Foreign Policy of Fools It is impossible to look at recent US diplomacy without discovering that it is one based more on whim and fancy, than reason. That's because much of what passes for diplomacy and foreign policy is driven by the market, which is ultimately, the only true bipartisan feature of the nation's politics. The market buys politicians by the bushel, and when they are slick enough to gain office, they serve corporate interests first, second, and always. When you think about it, isn't this a perversity of democracy? In Raj Patel's brilliant new book, Stuffed & Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System (Brooklyn, NY: Melville House Publ., 2008) we find a telling quotation from Robert Strauss, the former head of the Democratic National Committee, describing his relationship with the agricultural business giant, Archer Daniels Midland. Speaking of the company's former chairman, Strauss said, "Dwayne Andreas just owns me. But I mean that in a nice way" (pp.112-13). If you visited the nation's capital, you'd doubtless find hundreds of men and women who could quite effortlessly replace ADM with Lockheed-Martin, Northrop Grumman, Occidental Petroleum, Exxon Mobil, Halliburton ad infinitum. And it is precisely on behalf of such interests that foreign policy is made. It's not, and has never been, democracy. It's not freedom. It's none of these things. It's what's good for business. This may seem a hard truth, but it is the truth. The Iraq war was a pipe dream of the energy corporations, and opposed by more Americans than almost any war in generations. Who did the politicians listen to -- the people? -- or the corporations? The impact on US foreign policy and democracy couldn't be more pronounced, as shown by incumbent President Bush's recent visit to the Middle East. America's closest allies essentially gave him the brush-off, and one US-supported leader, Lebanon's Prime Minister, Fuad Saniora, actually told Bush that he didn't have time to rap -- he had another, more important meeting -- with Hezbollah. Indeed, several weeks later Lebanon's Parliament voted to give more power to Hezbollah. That's one side-effect of US foreign policy; here's another. Virtually every elected forum in Pakistan has voted for the impeachment of Pakistan's so-called President (and US ally) Pervez Musharraf, the de facto dictator who locked up his opponents, tossed lawyers in jail, and removed Supreme Court judges who didn't vote his way. Who has America supported - the dictator? -- or the People? How's this supporting democracy? Over the border in Afghanistan, the US supports what may be called a narcocracy -- or a narco-state. The preferred US ally is a military junta (or dictatorship) which oppressed its people with violence and terror. We have nearly a century of examples to prove this all throughout Latin America. What kind of foreign policy is this but an imperial one? One designed to make millions of enemies, instead of a few isolated 'friends?' Mumia Abu-Jamal (c) 8/16/08 ========= Source: "Hezbollah Gains Power in Lebanon," USA Today, 8/13/08, 5A; Mr. Patel's book, Stuffed & Starved, is available at:www.mhpbooks.com
Aug 13, 2008
The conflict between Russia and Georgia gives us some idea of things to come. It shows, more than conflicts in Eastern Europe, the extra costs of the Iraqi Imperial adventure. For America, though it would dearly love to intervene, hasn't the troops nor the material to engage the Russians on Georgia's behalf. Instead, it is relegated to the sidelines while French President Nicolas Sarkozy mediates a cease fire between the two sides, while the US issues press releases. The US media has, once again, echoed the administration line, which points Russians as the side which provoked the conflict. But most media can only do so if it ignores news reports from early August, which stated that Georgian troops attacked rebel fighters in South Ossetia, an impoverished mountainous region which won independence from Georgia after a bloody war in the early '90's. The Russian incursion also shows that the country, now flush with cash, is a far cry from the debtor nation of a decade ago. This was a demonstration as much to Georgia as it was to the world, of a new Russia, aggressive, armed and willing to enter its former territories of the Soviet era. Russian aggressiveness was made possible in part by its recent oil wealth. As a major oil power, it has profited from the rise in prices since the Iraq invasion, which sent prices soaring worldwide. The actions of one state influences the fate and actions of other states. And where was US outrage at military attacks on neighbors when Israel bombed Lebanon from coast to coast? When the Arab League begged the US to mediate peace between the two warring sides, America's Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, said what people in Lebanon were seeing weren't bombs, death and destruction, but "the birth pangs of democracy." But that was then -- this is now. Russia saw an opportunity, provided a justification; and seized it. Sound familiar? [Source: Schwirtz, Michael, "6 Die as Georgia Battles Rebel Group," Sun. New York Times, 8/3/08, p.12.] (c) 8/13/08 Mumia Abu-Jamal
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