Fascism is the union of government with private business against the People.
"To The States, or any one of them, or to any city of The States: Resist much, Obey little; Once unquestioning obedience, at once fully enslaved; Once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city, ever afterward resumes its liberty." from "Caution" by Walt Whitman

Sunday, March 30, 2014

"Progress in Benton Harbor: Rev. Pinkney, FBI, and ACLU are talking"

Benton Harbor, a town in Michigan under an executive dictatorship [link]

2014-03-30 from Rev. Edward Pinkney:
New Buffalo, white neighboring town to Benton Harbor, is having a recall election on May 6, 2014. The Mayor of New Buffalo along with a Council member were recalled. However, the Berrien County sheriff and his deputies are not roaming the streets of New Buffalo intimidating voters.  In the last 2 weeks, they have knocked on over 200 doors in Benton Harbor, under the guise of an "investigation." They have not knocked on one door in New Buffalo.
All citizens have the civil right to recall or initiate a referendum by way of petition. To intimidate, harass, accuse, or use gestapo tactics to infringe on a citizens civil rights is a federal crime.
This practice was used in the 2011 mayoral election in Benton Harbor.  Emergency Manager Joseph Harris deployed police officers to voter precincts to intimidate residents.
Now, the Berrien County Sheriff's department has created a police state surrounding the legal recall of mayor James Hightower.
The Benton Harbor City Clerk verified 440 recall signatures as valid. The Berrien County Clerk verified 409 recall signatures as valid. The required amount to recall James Hightower was 392.
In spite of these results, the Berrien County Prosecutor is conducting a false investigation.
Unfortunately, the media has turned a blind eye. There have been numerous Herald Palladium stories on the Benton Harbor recall, and none on the New Buffalo recall. There is a clear double standard that exists. This is an issue of race. And the Whirlpool land grab by any means necessary. 
These issues will be addressed in a class action lawsuit against James Hightower, Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey, Prosecutor Mike Sepic, and County Clerk Sharon Tyler.
More information will be forth coming.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Ignorance of History

If the following is true (admittedly, the statistics presented are without source), then this is an example about why the process of fascism continues unimpeded in the "Land of the Free".
Without books, there is no accounting for history, and without history, nobody knows where society has journeyed in political heights and lows, and the people cannot know where it is heading...

Monday, March 24, 2014

"The Other America": 2800 corporations have liquid cash equal to ALL USA Federal Spending for 2013

"Envy and Jealousy? Gag Me With a Silver Spoon"
2014-03-24 by Michael Winship from "Common Dreams" [www.commondreams.org/view/2014/03/24-2]: 
[ ... ]
Open the Books, a new nonprofit working for greater transparency in government spending, reports that between 2000 and 2012, Fortune magazine’s top 100 companies received $1.2 trillion from the feds. And, Aaron CantĂș writes at Alternet.org [http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/new-report-fortune-100-companies-have-received-whopping-12-trillion-corporate], “That doesn’t include all the billions of dollars doled out to housing, auto and banking enterprises in 2008-2009, nor does it include ethanol subsidies to agribusiness or tax breaks for wind turbine makers.”
Investigative journalist David Cay Johnston reports big business hoarding money as if they were hiding cash in a mattress [http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/3/corporations-cashreservestaxavoidanceoffshore.html]: “Uncle Sam spent $3.5 trillion in fiscal 2013. Corporations hold liquid assets equal to all the money the federal government spent that year plus 2012 and three months of 2011. The total corporate cash reserve… amounts to almost $25,000 per American, up from $13,000 per American in 1994 (again after adjusting for inflation). And this cash is highly concentrated, most of it held by the 2,800 biggest companies, IRS data shows. Since 1994, liquid assets have grown at about six times sales, my analysis of the official data shows. When liquid assets grow six times faster than revenues, it tells you that companies are hoarding cash, not investing or spending."
Richard Rubin at Bloomberg News recently found that [http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-03-12/cash-abroad-rises-206-billion-as-apple-to-ibm-avoid-tax.html], “The largest US-based companies added $206 billion to their stockpiles of offshore profits last year, parking earnings in low-tax countries until Congress gives them a reason not to. The multinational companies have accumulated $1.95 trillion outside the US, up 11.8 percent from a year earlier.”
Alan Pyke at the website ThinkProgress adds, “While precise estimates of lost revenue are difficult to make, previous inquiries into profit offshoring found that it cost the US between $30 billion and $90 billion each year during the early and middle 2000s, when the pile of untaxed corporate profits was much smaller. States and localities also lose out on tens of billions of dollars in tax revenue each year to similar offshoring strategies. A recent study found that by closing just one small loophole in state business tax laws, states could bring in a billion dollars in new revenue almost overnight."
Think of the highways, bridges and housing that money could build or repair, and the jobs that could be created, the teachers and tuitions it could provide, the mouths it could feed. Then throw in corporate malfeasance without punishment, gross mismanagement and exorbitant executive salaries — for example, Henrique de Castro, the failed #2 at Yahoo, who’s getting $109 million for his 15 disastrous months there, or about $244,000 per day (h/t to R.J. Eskow [http://www.alternet.org/economy/6-examples-wildly-overpaid-rich-folks-and-teachers-we-could-have-gotten-money]).
[ ... ]

Friday, March 21, 2014

Monopolist Banks pay bonuses to their managers roughly equal to the entire salary of all minimum-wage full-time workers in the USA

The money paid out in bonuses do not enter the economy of the USA, but is instead siphoned to off-shore accounts without being used to stimulate economic activity. Instead, the money is used to gain profit as a "financial instrument".

Image posted 2014-03 to facebook.com by "National Association of Injured & Disabled Workers (NAIDW)" [www.NAIDW.org]

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

"Dow Jones Industrial Average" is propaganda using artificial indicators of economic growth to reassure the investors and the public

"The Dow Jones Industrial Average Is a Farce"
by Wim Grommen, posted 2014-03-19 as "The DJIA Is A Hoax" at [http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2014/03/djia-hoax.html]:
Guest post by Wim Grommen. Mr. Grommen was a teacher in mathematics and physics for eight years at secondary schools. The last twenty years he trained programmers in Oracle-software. He worked almost five years as trainer for Oracle and the last 18 years as trainer for Transfer Solutions in the Netherlands.
The last 15 years he studied transitions, social transformation processes, the S-curve and transitions in relation to market indices. Articles about these topics have been published in various magazines / sites in The Netherlands and Belgium. The paper “The present crisis, a pattern: current problems associated with the end of the third industrial revolution” was accepted for an International Symposium in Valencia: The Economic Crisis: Time for a paradigm shift, Towards a systems approach. On January 25 2013, during the symposium in Valencia he presented his paper to scientists.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) Index is the only stock market index that covers both the second and the third industrial revolution. Calculating share indexes such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average and showing this index in a historical graph is a useful way to show which phase the industrial revolution is in. Changes in the DJIA shares basket, changes in the formula and stock splits during the take-off phase and acceleration phase of industrial revolutions are perfect transition-indicators. The similarities of these indicators during the last two revolutions are fascinating, but also a reason for concern. In fact the graph of the DJIA is a classic example of fictional truth, a hoax.

Transitions -
Every production phase, civilization or other human invention goes through a so called transformation process. Transitions are social transformation processes that cover at least one generation. In this article I will use one such transition to demonstrate the position of our present civilization and its possible effect on stock exchange rates.
A transition has the following characteristics:
* it involves a structural change of civilization or a complex subsystem of our civilization
* it shows technological, economical, ecological, socio cultural and institutional changes at different levels that influence and enhance each other
* it is the result of slow changes (changes in supplies) and fast dynamics (flows)
A transition process is not fixed from the start because during the transition processes will adapt to the new situation. A transition is not dogmatic.

Four transition phases -
In general transitions can be seen to go through the S curve and we can distinguish four phases (see fig. 1):
1. a pre development phase of a dynamic balance in which the present status does not visibly change
2. a take off phase in which the process of change starts because of changes in the system
3. an acceleration phase in which visible structural changes take place through an accumulation of socio cultural, economical, ecological and institutional changes influencing each other; in this phase we see collective learning processes, diffusion and processes of embedding
4. a stabilization phase in which the speed of sociological change slows down and a new dynamic balance is achieved through learning
A product life cycle also goes through an S curve. In that case there is a fifth phase:
1. the degeneration phase in which cost rises because of over capacity and the producer will finally withdraw from the market.

Figure 1. The S curve of a transition - Four phases in a transition best visualized by means of an S curve: Pre-development, Take-off, Acceleration, Stabilization.

When we look back into the past we see three transitions, also called industrial revolutions, taking place with far-reaching effect :
1. The first industrial revolution (1780 until circa 1850); the steam engine
2. The second industrial revolution (1870 until circa 1930); electricity, oil and the car
3. The third industrial revolution (1950 until ….); computer and microprocessor

Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) -
The Dow Index was first published in 1896 when it consisted of just 12 constituents and was a simple price average index in which the sum total value of the shares of the 12 constituents were simply divided by 12. As such those shares with the highest prices had the greatest influence on the movements of the index as a whole. In 1916 the Dow 12 became the Dow 20 with four companies being removed from the original twelve and twelve new companies being added. In October, 1928 the Dow 20 became the Dow 30 but the calculation of the index was changed to be the sum of the value of the shares of the 30 constituents divided by what is known as the Dow Divisor.
While the inclusion of the Dow Divisor may have seemed totally straightforward it was – and still is – anything but! Why so? Because every time the number of, or specific constituent, companies change in the index any comparison of the new index value with the old index value is impossible to make with any validity whatsoever. It is like comparing the taste of a cocktail of fruits when the number of different fruits and their distinctive flavours – keep changing. Let me explain the aforementioned as it relates to the Dow.

The False Appreciation of the Dow Explained -
On the other hand, companies in the take-off or acceleration phase are added to the index. This greatly increases the chances that the index will always continue to advance rather than decline. In fact, the manner in which the Dow index is maintained actually creates a kind of pyramid scheme! All goes well as long as companies are added that are in their take-off or acceleration phase in place of companies in their stabilization or degeneration phase.
On October 1st, 1928, when the Dow was enlarged to 30 constituents, the calculation formula for the index was changed to take into account the fact that the shares of companies in the Index split on occasion. It was determined that, to allow the value of the Index to remain constant, the sum total of the share values of the 30 constituent companies would be divided by 16.67 ( called the Dow Divisor) as opposed to the previous 30.
On October 1st, 1928 the sum value of the shares of the 30 constituents of the Dow 30 was $3,984 which was then divided by 16.67 rather than 30 thereby generating an index value of 239 (3984 divided by 16.67) instead of 132.8 (3984 divided by 30) representing an increase of 80% overnight!! This action had the affect of putting dramatically more importance on the absolute dollar changes of those shares with the greatest price changes. But it didn’t stop there!
On September, 1929 the Dow divisor was adjusted yet again. This time it was reduced even further down to 10.47 as a way of better accounting for the change in the deletion and addition of constituents back in October, 1928 which, in effect, increased the October 1st, 1928 index value to 380.5 from the original 132.8 for a paper increase of 186.5%!!! From September, 1929 onwards (at least for a while) this “adjustment” had the affect – and I repeat myself – of putting even that much more importance on the absolute dollar changes of those shares with the greatest changes.

How the Dow Divisor Contributed to the Crash of ‘29 -
From the above analyses/explanation it is evident that the dramatic “adjustments” to the Dow Divisor (coupled with the addition/deletion of constituent companies according to which transition phase they were in) were major contributors to the dramatic increase in the Dow from 1920 until October 1929 and the following dramatic decrease in the Dow 30 from then until 1932 notwithstanding the economic conditions of the time as well.

Dow Jones Industrial Index is a Hoax -
In many graphs the y-axis is a fixed unit, such as kg, meter, liter or euro. In the graphs showing the stock exchange values, this also seems to be the case because the unit shows a number of points. However, this is far from true! An index point is not a fixed unit in time and does not have any historical significance. An index is calculated on the basis of a set of shares. Every index has its own formula and the formula gives the number of points of the index. Unfortunately many people attach a lot of value to these graphs which are, however, very deceptive.
An index is calculated on the basis of a set of shares. Every index has its own formula and the formula results in the number of points of the index. However, this set of shares changes regularly. For a new period the value is based on a different set of shares. It is very strange that these different sets of shares are represented as the same unit. In less than ten years twelve of the thirty companies (i.e. 40%) in the Dow Jones were replaced. Over a period of sixteen years, twenty companies were replaced, a figure of 67%. This meant that over a very short period we were left comparing a basket of today’s apples with a basket of yesterday’s pears.
Even more disturbing is the fact that with every change in the set of shares used to calculate the number of points, the formula also changes. This is done because the index, which is the result of two different sets of shares at the moment the set is changed, must be the same for both sets at that point in time. The index graphs must be continuous lines. For example, the Dow Jones is calculated by adding the shares and dividing the result by a number. Because of changes in the set of shares and the splitting of shares the divider changes continuously. At the moment the divider is 0.15571590501117 but in 1985 this number was higher than 1. An index point in two periods of time is therefore calculated in different ways:
* Dow1985 = (x1 + x2 +..+x30) / 1
* Dow2014 = (x1 + x2 +.. + x30) / 0.15571590501117
In the 1990s many shares were split. To make sure the result of the calculation remained the same both the number of shares and the divider changed. An increase in share value of 1 dollar of the set of shares in 2014 results is 6.4 times more points than in 1985. The fact that in the 1990s many shares were split is probably the cause of the exponential growth of the Dow Jones index. At the moment the Dow is at 16,437 points. If we used the 1985 formula it would be at 2,559 points.
The most remarkable characteristic is of course the constantly changing set of shares. Generally speaking, the companies that are removed from the set are in a stabilization or degeneration phase. Companies in a take off phase or acceleration phase are added to the set. This greatly increases the chance that the index will rise rather than go down. This is obvious, especially when this is done during the acceleration phase of a transition. From 1980 onward 7 ICT companies (3M, AT&T, Cisco, HP, IBM, Intel, Microsoft), the engines of the latest revolution and 5 financial institutions, which always play an important role in every transition, were added to the Dow Jones.

Table 1. Changes in the Dow, stock splits and the value of the Dow Divisor after the market crash of 1929.
Period / Basket changes / Stock splits / Dow Divisor end period
1930-1940 / 18 / 0 / 15,100 
1940-1950 / 0 / 12 / 9,060
1950-1960 / 5 / 27 / 3,824
1960-1970 / 0 / 26 / 1,894
1970-1980 / 3 / 12 / 1,465
1980-1990 / 5 / 32 / 0,586
1990-2000 / 11 / 40 / 0,201
2000-2010 / 7 / 13 / 0,132

Figure 2.  Dow Jones Industrial Average: Exchange rates of Dow Jones during the latest two industrial revolutions. During the last few years the rate increases have accelerated enormously.

Overview from 1997 : 20 winners in – 20 losers out, a figure of 67% -
* September 23, 2013: Hewlett – Packard Co., Bank of America Inc. and Alcoa Inc. will replaced by Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Nike Inc. and Visa Inc.
Alcoa has dropped from $40 in 2007 to $8.08. Hewlett- Packard Co. has dropped from $50 in 2010 to $22.36.
Bank of America has dropped from $50 in 2007 to $14.48.
But Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Nike Inc. and Visa Inc. have risen 25%, 27% and 18% respectively in 2013.
* September 20, 2012: UnitedHealth Group Inc. (UNH) replaces Kraft Foods Inc.
Kraft Foods Inc. was split into two companies and was therefore deemed less representative so no longer suitable for the Dow. The share value of UnitedHealth Group Inc. had risen for two years before inclusion in the Dow by 53%.
* June 8, 2009: Cisco and Travelers replaced Citigroup and General Motors.
 Citigroup and General Motors have received billions of dollars of U.S. government money to survive and were not representative of the Do.
* September 22, 2008: Kraft Foods Inc. replaced American International Group. 
American International Group was replaced after the decision of the government to take a 79.9% stake in the insurance giant. AIG was narrowly saved from destruction by an emergency loan from the Fed.
* February 19, 2008: Bank of America Corp. and Chevron Corp. replaced Altria Group Inc. and Honeywell International.
Altria was split into two companies and was deemed no longer suitable for the Dow.
 Honeywell was removed from the Dow because the role of industrial companies in the U.S. stock market in the recent years had declined and Honeywell had the smallest sales and profits among the participants in the Dow.
* April 8, 2004: Verizon Communications Inc., American International Group Inc. and Pfizer Inc. replace AT & T Corp., Eastman Kodak Co. and International Paper.
AIG shares had increased over 387% in the previous decade and Pfizer had an increase of more than 675& behind it. Shares of AT & T and Kodak, on the other hand, had decreases of more than 40% in the past decade and were therefore removed from the Dow.
* November 1, 1999: Microsoft Corporation, Intel Corporation, SBC Communications and Home Depot Incorporated replaced Chevron Corporation, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, Union Carbide Corporation and Sears Roebuck.
* March 17, 1997:  Travelers Group, Hewlett-Packard Company, Johnson & Johnson and Wal-Mart Stores Incorporated replaced Westinghouse Electric Corporation, Texaco Incorporated, Bethlehem Steel Corporation and Woolworth Corporation.

Real truth and fictional truth -
Is the number of points that the Dow Jones now gives us a truth or a fictional truth? 
If a fictional truth then the number of points now says absolutely nothing about the state that the economy or society is in when compared to the past. In that case a better guide would be to look at the number of people in society that use food stamps today – That is the real truth.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

"Prison Profiteers Are Neo-Slaveholders and Solitary Is Their Weapon of Choice"

Slave Labor in the USA [link]; Torture in Prisons [link]; Political & Conscious Prisoners in the USA [link].

by Chris Hedges, posted 2014-03-18 at "Truthdig" [http://www.truthdig.com/report/page3/the_shame_of_americas_gulag_20130317/]:
If, as Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote, “the degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons” then we are a nation of barbarians. Our vast network of federal and state prisons, with some 2.3 million inmates, rivals the gulags of totalitarian states. Once you disappear behind prison walls you become prey. Rape. Torture. Beatings. Prolonged isolation. Sensory deprivation. Racial profiling. Chain gangs. Forced labor. Rancid food. Children imprisoned as adults. Prisoners forced to take medications to induce lethargy. Inadequate heating and ventilation. Poor health care. Draconian sentences for nonviolent crimes. Endemic violence.
Bonnie Kerness [http://solitarywatch.com/2012/11/08/bonnie-kerness-pioneer-in-the-struggle-against-solitary-confinement/] and Ojore Lutalo [http://www.abcf.net/prisoners/lutalo.htm], both of whom I met in Newark, N.J., a few days ago at the office of American Friends Service Committee Prison Watch, have fought longer and harder than perhaps any others in the country against the expanding abuse of prisoners, especially the use of solitary confinement. Lutalo, once a member of the Black Liberation Army, an offshoot of the Black Panthers, first wrote Kerness in 1986 while he was a prisoner at Trenton State Prison, now called New Jersey State Prison. He described to her the bleak and degrading world of solitary confinement, the world of the prisoners like him held in the so-called management control unit, which he called “a prison within a prison.” Before being released in 2009, Lutalo was in the management control unit for 22 of the 28 years he served for the second of two convictions—the first for a bank robbery and the second for a gun battle with a drug dealer. He kept his sanity, he told me, by following a strict regime of exercising in his tiny cell, writing, meditating and tearing up newspapers to make collages that portrayed his prison conditions.
“The guards in riot gear would suddenly wake you up at 1 a.m., force you to strip and make you grab all your things and move you to another cell just to harass you,” he said when we spoke in Newark. “They had attack dogs with them that were trained to go for your genitals. You spent 24 hours alone one day in your cell and 22 the next. If you do not have a strong sense of purpose you don’t survive psychologically. Isolation is designed to defeat prisoners mentally, and I saw a lot of prisoners defeated.”
Lutalo’s letter was Kerness’ first indication that the U.S. prison system was creating something new—special detention facilities that under international law are a form of torture. He wrote to her: “How does one go about articulating desperation to another who is not desperate? How does one go about articulating the psychological stress of knowing that people are waiting for me to self-destruct?”
The techniques of sensory deprivation and prolonged isolation were pioneered by the Central Intelligence Agency to break prisoners during the Cold War. Alfred McCoy, the author of “A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, From the Cold War to the War on Terror,” wrote in his book that “interrogators had found that mere physical pain, no matter how extreme, often produced heightened resistance.” So the intelligence agency turned to the more effective mechanisms of “sensory disorientation” and “self-inflicted pain,” McCoy noted. [One example of causing self-inflicted pain is to force a prisoner to stand without moving or to hold some other stressful bodily position for a long period.] The combination, government psychologists argued, would cause victims to feel responsible for their own suffering and accelerate psychological disintegration. Sensory disorientation combines extreme sensory overload with extreme sensory deprivation. Prolonged isolation is followed by intense interrogation. Extreme heat is followed by extreme cold. Glaring light is followed by total darkness. Loud and sustained noise is followed by silence. “The fusion of these two techniques, sensory disorientation and self-inflicted pain, creates a synergy of physical and psychological trauma whose sum is a hammer-blow to the existential platforms of personal identity,” McCoy wrote.
After hearing from Lutalo, Kerness became a fierce advocate for him and other prisoners held in isolation units. She published through her office a survivor’s manual for those held in isolation [http://www.afsc.org/sites/afsc.civicactions.net/files/documents/Survivors%20Manual_0.pdf] as well as a booklet titled “Torture in United States Prisons” [https://afsc.org/sites/afsc.civicactions.net/files/documents/torture_in_us_prisons.pdf].  And she began to collect the stories of prisoners held in isolation.
“My food trays have been sprayed with mace or cleaning agents, … human feces and urine put into them by guards who deliver trays to my breakfast, lunch, and dinner… ,” a prisoner in isolation in the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility at Carlisle, Ind., was quoted as saying in “Torture in United States Prisons.” “I have witnessed sane men of character become self-mutilators, suffer paranoia, panic attacks, hostile fantasies about revenge. One prisoner would swallow packs of AA batteries, and stick a pencil in his penis. They would cut on themselves to gain contact with staff nurses or just to draw attention to themselves. These men made slinging human feces ‘body waste’ daily like it was a recognized sport. Some would eat it or rub it all over themselves as if it was body lotion. ... Prisoncrats use a form of restraint, a bed crafted to strap men in four point Velcro straps. Both hands to the wrist and both feet to the ankles and secured. Prisoners have been kept like this for 3-6 hours at a time. Most times they would remove all their clothes. The Special Confinement Unit used [water hoses] on these men also. ... When prisons become overcrowded, prisoncrats will do forced double bunking. Over-crowding issues present an assortment of problems many of which results in violence. ... Prisoncrats will purposely house a ‘sex offender’ in a cell with prisoners with sole intentions of having him beaten up or even killed.”
In 1913 Eastern State Penitentiary, in Philadelphia, discontinued its isolation cages. Prisoners within the U.S. prison system would not be held in isolation again in large numbers until the turmoil of the 1960s and the rise of the anti-war and civil rights movements along with the emergence of radical groups such as the Black Panthers. Trenton State Prison established a management control unit, or isolation unit, in 1975 for political prisoners, mostly black radicals such as Lutalo whom the state wanted to segregate from the wider prison population. Those held in the isolation unit were rarely there because they had violated prison rules; they were there because of their revolutionary beliefs—beliefs the prison authorities feared might resonate with other prisoners. In 1983 the federal prison in Marion, Ill., instituted a permanent lockdown, creating, in essence, a prisonwide “control unit.” By 1994 the Federal Bureau of Prisons, using the Marion model, built its maximum-security prison in Florence, Colo. The use of prolonged isolation and sensory deprivation exploded. “Special housing units” were formed for the mentally ill. “Security threat group management units” were formed for those accused of gang activity. “Communications management units” were formed to isolate Muslims labeled as terrorists. Voluntary and involuntary protective custody units were formed. Administrative segregation punishment units were formed to isolate prisoners said to be psychologically troubled. All were established in open violation of the United Nations Convention Against Torture, the U.N.’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Kerness calls it “the war at home.” And she says it is only the latest variation of the long assault on the poor, especially people of color.
“There are no former Jim Crow systems,” Kerness said. “The transition from slavery to Black Codes to convict leasing to the Jim Crow laws to the wars on poverty, veterans, youth and political activism in the 1960s has been a seamless evolution of political and social incapacitation of poor people of color. The sophisticated fascism of the practices of stop and frisk, charging people in inner cities with ‘wandering,’ driving and walking while black, ZIP code racism—these and many other de facto practices all serve to keep our prisons full. In a system where 60 percent of those who are imprisoned are people of color, where students of color face harsher punishments in school than their white peers, where 58 percent of African [American] youth … are sent to adult prisons, where women of color are 69 percent more likely to be imprisoned and where offenders of color receive longer sentences, the concept of colorblindness doesn’t exist. The racism around me is palpable” [http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/race/news/2012/03/13/11351/the-top-10-most-startling-facts-about-people-of-color-and-criminal-justice-in-the-united-states/].
“The 1960s, when the last of the Jim Crow laws were reversed, this whole new set of practices accepted by law enforcement was designed to continue to feed the money-generating prison system, which has neo-slavery at its core,” she said. “Until we deeply recognize that the system’s bottom line is social control and creating a business from bodies of color and the poor, nothing can change.” She noted that more than half of those in the prison system have never physically harmed another person but that “just about all of these people have been harmed themselves.” And not only does the criminal justice sweep up the poor and people of color, but slavery within the prison system is permitted by the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which reads: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States. …”
This, Kerness said, “is at the core how the labor of slaves was transformed into what people in prison call neo-slavery.” Neo-slavery is an integral part of the prison industrial complex, in which hundreds of thousands of the nation’s prisoners, primarily people of color, are forced to work at involuntary labor for a dollar or less an hour. “If you call the New Jersey Bureau of Tourism you are most likely talking to a prisoner at the Edna Mahan Correctional Institution for Women who is earning 23 cents an hour who has no ability to negotiate working hours or working conditions,” she said.
The bodies of poor, unemployed youths are worth little on the streets but become valuable commodities once they are behind bars.
“People have said to me that the criminal justice system doesn’t work,” Kerness said. “I’ve come to believe exactly the opposite—that it works perfectly, just as slavery did, as a matter of economic and political policy. How is it that a 15-year-old in Newark who the country labels worthless to the economy, who has no hope of getting a job or affording college, can suddenly generate 20,000 to 30,000 dollars a year once trapped in the criminal justice system? The expansion of prisons, parole, probation, the court and police systems has resulted in an enormous bureaucracy which has been a boon to everyone from architects to food vendors—all with one thing in common, a paycheck earned by keeping human beings in cages. The criminalization of poverty is a lucrative business, and we have replaced the social safety net with a dragnet.”
Prisons are at once hugely expensive—the country has spent some $300 billion on them since 1980—and, as Kerness pointed out, hugely profitable. Prisons function in the same way the military-industrial complex functions. The money is public and the profits are private. “Privatization in the prison industrial complex includes companies, which run prisons for profit while at the same time gleaning profits from forced labor,” she said. “In the state of New Jersey, food and medical services are provided by corporations, which have a profit motive. One recent explosion of private industry is the partnering of Corrections Corporation of America with the federal government to detain close to 1 million undocumented people. Using public monies to enrich private citizens is the history of capitalism at its most exploitive.”
Those released from prison are woefully unprepared for re-entry. They carry with them the years of trauma they endured. They often suffer from the endemic health problems that come with long incarceration, including hepatitis C, tuberculosis and HIV. They often do not have access to medications upon release to treat their physical and mental illnesses. Finding work is difficult. They feel alienated and are often estranged from friends and family. More than 60 percent end up back in prison.
“How do you teach someone to rid themselves of degradation?” Kerness asked. “How long does it take to teach people to feel safe, a sense of empowerment in a world where they often come home emotionally and physically damaged and unemployable? There are many reasons that ex-prisoners do not make it—paramount among them is that they are not supposed to succeed.”
Kerness has long been a crusader. In 1961 at the age of 19 she left New York to work for a decade in Tennessee in the civil rights struggle, including a year at Tennessee’s Highlander Research and Education Center, where Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. trained. By the 1970s she was involved in housing campaigns for the poor in New Jersey. She kept running into families that included incarcerated members. This led her to found Prison Watch.
The letters that pour into her office are disturbing. Female prisoners routinely complain of being sexually abused by guards. One prisoner wrote to her office: “That was not part of my sentence to perform oral sex with officers.” Other prisoners write on behalf of the mentally ill who have been left to deteriorate in the prison system. One California prisoner told of a mentally ill man spreading feces over himself and the guards then dumping him into a scalding bath that took skin off 30 percent of his body.
Kerness said the letters she receives from prisoners collectively present a litany of “inhumane conditions including cold, filth, callous medical care, extended isolation often lasting years, use of devices of torture, harassment, brutality and racism.” Prisoners send her drawings of “four- and five-point restraints, restraint hoods, restraint belts, restraint beds, stun grenades, stun guns, stun belts, spit hoods, tethers, and waist and leg chains.” But the worst torment, prisoners tell her, is the psychological pain caused by “no touch torture” that included “humiliation, sleep deprivation, sensory disorientation, extreme light or dark, extreme cold or heat” and “extended solitary confinement.” These techniques, she said, are consciously designed to carry out “a systematic attack on all human stimuli.”
The use of sensory deprivation was applied by the government to imprisoned radicals in the 1960s including members of the Black Panthers, the Black Liberation Army, the Puerto Rican independence movement and the American Indian Movement, along with environmentalists, anti-imperialists and civil rights activists. It is now used extensively against Islamic militants, jailhouse lawyers and political prisoners. Many of those political prisoners were part of radical black underground movements in the 1960s that advocated violence. A few, such as Leonard Peltier [http://www.freeleonard.org/case/index.html] and Mumia Abu Jamal [http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_unsilenced_voice_of_a_long-distance_revolutionary_20121209/], are well known, but most have little public visibility—among them Sundiata Acoli [http://www.sundiataacoli.org/], Mutulu Shakur [http://mutulushakur.com/site/], Imam Jamil Al-Amin [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H._Rap_Brown] (known as H. Rap Brown when in the 1960s he was the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), Jalil Bottom [http://www.freejalil.com/], Sekou Odinga [http://www.sekouodinga.com/], Abdul Majid [http://www.cbpm.org/prlistnyatod.html], Tom Manning [http://www.partisandefense.org/csdn/36/manning.html] and Bill Dunne [http://www.abcf.net/abc/pdfs/dunne.pdf].
Those within the system who attempt to resist the abuse and mistreatment are dealt with severely. Prisoners in the overcrowded Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison in Lucasville, Ohio, staged a revolt in 1993 after years of routine beatings, degrading rituals of public humiliation and the alleged murders of prisoners by guards. The some 450 prisoners, who were able to unite antagonistic prison factions including the Aryan Brotherhood and the black Gangster Disciples, held out for 11 days. It was one of the longest prison rebellions in U.S. history. Nine prisoners and a guard were killed by the prisoners during the revolt. The state responded with characteristic fury. It singled out some 40 prisoners and eventually shipped them to Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP), a supermax facility outside Youngstown that was constructed in 1998. There prisoners are held in solitary confinement 23 hours a day in 7-by-11-foot cells. Prisoners at OSP almost never see the sun or have human contact. Those charged with participating in the uprising have, in some cases, been held in these punitive conditions at OSP or other facilities since the 1993 revolt. Five prisoners—Bomani Shakur, Siddique Abdullah Hasan, Jason Robb, George Skatzes and Namir Abdul Mateen—involved in the uprising were charged with murder. They are being held in isolation on death row [http://www.lucasvilleamnesty.org/p/background.html].
Kerness says the for-profit prison companies have created an entrepreneurial class like that of the Southern slaveholders, one “dependent on the poor, and on bodies of color as a source for income,” and she describes federal and state departments of corrections as “a state of mind.” This state of mind, she said in the interview, “led to Abu Ghraib, Bagram and Guantanamo and what is going on in U.S. prisons right this moment.”
As long as profit remains an incentive to incarcerate human beings and our corporate state abounds in surplus, redundant labor, there is little chance that the prison system will be reformed. It is making our corporate overlords wealthy. Our prisons serve the engine of corporate capitalism, transferring state money to private corporations. These corporations will continue to stymie rational prison reform because the system, however inhumane and unjust, feeds corporate bank accounts. At its bottom the problem is not race—although race plays a huge part in incarceration rates—nor is it finally poverty; it is the predatory nature of corporate capitalism itself. And until we slay the beast of corporate capitalism, until we wrest power back from corporations, until we build social institutions and a system of governance designed not to profit the few but foster the common good, our prison industry and the horror it perpetuates will only expand.

Monday, March 17, 2014

US Government to Deregulate Meat Industry

evaluated by "Project Censored", posted 2014-03-14 to [http://www.projectcensored.org/us-government-deregulate-meat-industry]:
Student Researcher: Nikolle Palazzolo (Florida Atlantic University)
Faculty Evaluator: James F. Tracy (Florida Atlantic University)
Source: Martha Rosenberg, “Get Ready for Extra Helpings of Feces, Pus and Chlorine on Your Plate: America is Deregulating Its Meat Industry,” Alternet.org, October 4, 2013, [http://www.alternet.org/food/get-ready-extra-helpings-feces-pus-and-chlorine-your-plate-america-deregulating-its-meat].
Government is increasingly moving to prevent federal meat inspectors from exercising their authority at slaughter plants and instead allowing private industry to regulate itself.  In 1998, the USDA rolled out its trial “Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points” (HACCP) program.  Noting its deregulatory spirit, meat inspectors and industry watchdogs quickly dubbed it, “Have a Cup of Coffee and Pray.” HACCP intended to replace meat inspectors’ old-fashioned “poke and sniff” method of visually examining carcasses with advanced microbiology techniques. But it is also an “honors system,” where federal inspectors simply ratify companies’ self-regulation.
In October 2013 a coalition of food and worker safety advocates gathered to protest USDA’s plan to implement HACCP across the US after its long-term use at pilot locations. “Instead of trained USDA inspectors, companies will police themselves,” says activist group sumofus.org. “Chickens will spend more time soaking in contaminants and poultry plants are compensating by washing them in chlorine.”
The expansion, HIMP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point-Based Inspection Models Project), will reduce the number of poultry inspectors while increasing use of antimicrobial sprays to control bacteria. Inspectors would be reassigned to ends of assembly line so they could not intercept unacceptable birds, only view them as they go by. It would also allow only one side of the bird to be examined. Birds once considered unacceptable can now end up remaining on the line, only to be dipped in disinfectants like chlorine to reduce disease risk, say food advocates.
In addition, under the new HACCP/HIMP rules, bruises, scabs, sores, blisters, infections and tumors on chickens will no longer be deemed “Other Consumer Protections” (OCPs) and removed. When half a carcass is “covered with an inflammatory process” it can be “salvaged” for food, an anonymous poultry inspector observes.

Tea Party Republican Governor Chris Christie uses government to disable electric car sales

Tell Chris Christie: Stop blocking Tesla from selling electric vehicles in New Jersey.
Governor Chris Christie just caved to auto dealers and banned Tesla Motors from selling electric cars in New Jersey.
New Jersey is now the fifth state nationwide to enact a ban, after the National Auto Dealers Association has spent millions in campaign contributions and lobbying to challenge Tesla’s direct-to-consumer sales model.
With similar attacks threatening to spread to other states and slow advancements in clean electric cars, we need to push back hard on Gov. Chris Christie's decision now.
This ban makes New Jersey the fifth state to completely ban Tesla sales - joining Arizona, Maryland, Texas, and Virginia - and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has already told autodealers there that he will sign a ban that makes it to his desk.
But the decision is especially surprising and hypocritical coming from Gov. Christie. After Hurricane Sandy, he knows the damage that climate change poses to our communities as well as anyone. With transportation making up more than a quarter of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, he should be welcoming Tesla's innovations in clean transportation - not making it harder for people to get access to clean electric vehicles.
And less than two weeks ago, at the conservative CPAC conference, Governor Christie said, “We need to talk about the fact that we’re for a free-market society that allows your effort and your ingenuity to determine your success, not the cold, hard hand of government determining winners and losers.”
But blocking innovation is exactly what he is now doing. And if we don’t push back, more states including New York, could be next.

1. "How Auto Dealers Are Muscling State Legislatures Into Barring Tesla Motors". Alex Kane. AlterNet. March 17, 2014.
2. "Free-Market Cheerleader Chris Christie Blocks Tesla Sales in New Jersey". Will Oremus. Slate. March 12, 2014.

Friday, March 14, 2014

"Lower-wage workers stuck as middle-class jobs disappear"

2014-03-14 by "Associated Press" [www.sfgate.com/business/article/Lower-wage-workers-stuck-as-middle-class-jobs-5315517.php]:
For years, many Americans followed a simple career path: Land an entry-level job. Accept a modest wage. Gain skills. Leave eventually for a better-paying job.
The workers benefited, and so did lower-wage retailers such as Walmart: When its staffers left for better-paying jobs, they could spend more at its stores. And the U.S. economy gained, too, because more consumer spending fueled growth.
Not so much anymore. Since the recession began in late 2007, that path has narrowed because many of the next-tier jobs no longer exist. That means more lower-wage workers have to stay put. The resulting bottleneck is helping widen a gap between the richest Americans and everyone else.
"Some people took those jobs because they were the only ones available and haven't been able to figure out how to move out of that," said Bill Simon, CEO of Wal-Mart U.S.
If Walmart employees "can go to another company and another job and make more money and develop, they'll be better," Simon explained. "It'll be better for the economy. It'll be better for us as a business, to be quite honest, because they'll continue to advance in their economic life."
Yet for now, the lower-wage jobs once seen as stepping stones are increasingly being held for longer periods by older, better-educated, more experienced workers.
The trend extends well beyond Walmart, the nation's largest employer, and is reverberating across the U.S. economy. It's partly why average inflation-adjusted income has declined 9 percent for the bottom 40 percent of households since 2007, even as incomes for the top 5 percent now slightly exceed where they were when the recession began late that year, according to the Census Bureau.
Research shows that occupations that once helped elevate people from the minimum wage into the middle class have disappeared during the past three recessions dating to 1991.
One such category includes bookkeepers and executive secretaries, with average wages of $16.54 an hour, according to the Labor Department. Since the mid-1980s, the economy has shed these middle-income jobs - a trend that's become more pronounced with the recoveries that have followed each subsequent recession, according to research by Henry Siu, an economist at the University of British Columbia, and Duke University economist Nir Jaimovich.
That leaves many workers remaining in jobs as cashiers earning an average of $9.79 an hour, or in retail sales at roughly $10.50 - jobs that used to be entry points to higher-paying work. Hourly pay at Walmart averages $8.90, according to the site Glassdoor.com. (Walmart disputes that figure; it says its pay for hourly workers averages $11.83.)
Since the recession began, the share of U.S workers employed by the retail and restaurant sector has risen from 16.5 to 17.1 percent.
"It really has contributed to this widening of inequality," Siu said.
The shift has injected new pressures into the economy. Older and better-educated retail and fast-food workers have become more vocal in pressing for raises. Labor unions helped launch protests last year against such employers as Walmart, McDonald's and Burger King.
Fewer teenagers are staffing cash registers, prepping meals or stocking shelves, according to government data. Replacing them are adults, many of whom are struggling with the burdens of college debt or child rearing. Some are on the verge of what was once envisioned as retirement years.
Last year, 17.4 million Americans between ages 25 and 64 earned less than $10.10 an hour, the minimum wage proposed by President Obama (The current federal minimum is $7.25.) That's equal to an income of nearly $19,000 for a full-time employee - less than half the median pay of a U.S. worker.
The share of Americans in their prime earning years who earn the equivalent of $10.10 an hour or less, adjusted for inflation, has risen to 13.4 percent from 10.4 percent in 1979, according to government data analyzed by John Schmitt, a senior economist at the progressive Center for Economic and Policy Research.
Nearly a third of low-wage employees last year had had some college education. An additional 10 percent had graduated. By contrast, in 1979 less than 25 percent of low-wage employees had college experience. Most had not completed high school. For millions of lower-wage workers, more schooling hasn't led to higher pay.
"Where you start out in terms of wages helps to predict where you move over time," Schmitt said.

"Debtor nation: Americans pay interest on $163 billion held by top tech firms overseas"

2014-03-14 from "RT News" [http://rt.com/usa/google-microsoft-debt-offshore-710]:
United States taxpayers make large interest payments to the top four technology firms for the $163 billion in US government debt the companies own and shelter in tax-free offshore accounts.
United States taxpayers make large interest payments to the top four technology firms for the $163 billion in US government debt the companies own and shelter in tax-free offshore accounts.
Apple, Cisco Systems, Google, and Microsoft legally hold $124 billion in US Treasury securities and $39 billion in US government agency debt in accounts overseas, allowing them to avoid the 35 percent (maximum) corporate tax rate in the United States, according to Securities & Exchange Commission reports.
Together, the companies would be the 14th biggest overseas holder of Treasury securities, just ahead of countries like Norway, Singapore, and India.
“If a US multinational puts its offshore cash into a US bank and uses the money to buy US treasuries, stocks and bonds, those funds ought to be treated as having been repatriated and subject to US tax,” Sen. Carl Levin, chair of the Senate permanent subcommittee on investigations told the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
Combined, the four top technology giants have $255 billion in “cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities…in their foreign subsidiaries,” the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported [http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2014/03/12/apple-and-microsoft-among-us-tech-giants-reaping-interest-payments-on-offshore-cash/?_ga=1.211368981.187311748.1394745580].
If that total amount was held onshore, making it subject to being taxed by the US government, it would yield $89 billion – or 17 percent of America’s projected $514 billion budget deficit this year.
Overall, the companies hold $333 billion in domestic and foreign accounts, making them the most lucrative American firms outside the financial sector.
The companies also hold $93.3 billion of corporate, municipal, and sovereign debt.
“This is a ridiculous situation," said University of Michigan professor of law, Reuven Avi-Yonah. “The result is US taxpayers pay interest on this money as opposed to the government receiving taxes. Bringing this cash onshore and taxing it at 35% would significantly help reduce the annual deficit of the US government.”
Cisco Systems, which holds $40.4 billion in cash in foreign subsidiaries and has $27.8 billion in Treasury bonds, was the only firm to respond to the Bureau on the subject of debt held offshore.
“Cisco pays all taxes that are due. The cash held in Cisco’s non-US subsidiaries is generated from Cisco’s international operations. Cisco has approximately 50% of its employees outside the US and Cisco’s sales are approximately 50% from non-US customers,” Cisco said.
“US government obligations have long been one of the most stable investments in the world. The US Congress long ago enacted laws to promote investment in the US by individuals and businesses overseas, including non-US subsidiaries. Any interest income that Cisco receives on its U.S. government obligations is US taxable income to Cisco.”
Microsoft, which holds far more in US securities ($64.9 billion) than the other three, said it “complies with the tax rules in each jurisdiction in which it operates and pays billions of dollars each year in total taxes, including U.S. federal, state, and local taxes and foreign taxes.”
Apple, with $111.3 billion in foreign subsidiaries and $44.5 billion in US debt, did not address the issue, but said it also follows US tax law.
“We not only comply with the laws, but we comply with the spirit of the laws. We don’t depend on tax gimmicks. Apple carefully manages its foreign cash holdings to support its overseas operations in the best interests of its shareholders. Apple pays an extraordinary amount in US taxes.”
Twenty-six of the most powerful American corporations – such as Boeing, General Electric, and Verizon – actually paid no federal income tax from 2008 to 2012, according to a recent report that detailed how Fortune 500 companies exploit tax breaks and loopholes.
The report [http://rt.com/usa/low-corporate-tax-rates-275/], conducted by public advocacy group Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ), focused on the 288 companies in the Fortune 500 that registered consistent profit every year from 2008 to 2012. Those 288 profitable corporations paid an “effective federal income tax rate of just 19.4 percent over the five-year period — far less than the statutory 35 percent tax rate,” CTJ stated.
The non-profit group said this lax taxation climate among the most powerful US corporations comes amid an aggressive push by lobby and trade groups on Capitol Hill “to reduce the federal corporate income tax rate, based on the claim that our corporate tax is uncompetitively high compared to other developed nations.”
While the US corporate tax rate is technically the highest among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s 34 member countries, the US Congressional Budget Office found two years ago that the total corporate federal tax amount paid by US companies came to 12.1 percent of profits, the lowest total since 1972.
Besides offshore tax sheltering, CTJ said the companies are allowed to skirt tax rates based on factors that include accelerated asset depreciation based on continued investment, stock options, and industry-specific tax breaks.
On Wednesday, Bloomberg reported that the 317 largest US-based companies have $1.95 trillion held outside the US, an increase of 11.8 percent from last year.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

"Low hopes for democracy in Benton Harbor"

Benton Harbor municipality in Michigan is under an unelected fascist regime [link]

2014-03-12 by Rev Edward Pinkney:
On Monday Governor Rick Snyder declared on that Benton Harbor's financial problems are over.
Benton Harbor residents are much worse off today than five years ago.  We have higher taxes for home owners, no services in the community, water bills four times higher than five years ago, the streets are in shambles, and no relief in sight.  We are still over five million dollars in debt - with the 2.3 million dollar loan received from the state on Jan. 1, 2014.
Hopes are very low in Benton Harbor when we judge what happened in Pontiac, Mich.  Democracy could be years or decades away.
State officials claimed they resolved the debt issues in Benton Harbor.  NOT SO.
We are still in handcuffs in Benton Harbor, and have no idea when it's going to end.  We see no end in sight for a massive overreach of power by Gov. Snyder in our city.
Benton Harbor must answer to the arm of the state power.  A Transition Advisory Board that consists of five members will meet monthly:  two Whirlpool employees, the Berrien County treasurer, and the Michigan Treasury Dept. manager.  NOT ONE OF THESE PEOPLE WILL ADVOCATE FOR OUR CITY WITH THE HIGHEST POVERTY RATE IN MICHIGAN.
When will the people take a stand against the lies and propaganda?  

American Exceptionalism for Megadeath: An Ideology of Denial

USA charter corporations and their investors have used USA agencies, including the military and clandestine agencies", to invade and murder millions of civilians in foreign jurisdictions across the world, conducting operations worse than anything organized by the USSR, the old rival of the USA which is the victim of a historical revision of inflated death-counts, and these operations by the USA, organized to stabilize the world market for the investors, has killed hundreds of millions throughout the 20th and 21st century, with the majority being victims of the monopolizing of food producing lands in Africa, Asia and the Americas, and the monopolizing of medicines, water, and suppression and genocide of entire nations...
Despite all this, many USA Citizens feel morally superior that the USA is not used to perpetuate genocide, and believe in "American Exceptionalism", a doctrine that describes the USA being not beholden to international law, especially those which regulate human-rights abuse against civilians.
"American Exceptionalism" is created through propaganda operations organized by USA military and clandestine agencies, and USA chartered corporations and their investors. The following article describes the history of “The Moral Equivalence Working Group", which began during the early 1980s to produce propaganda for the world market which denied any human-rights abuse by the USA and agencies, and supporting falsified history against enemy governments...

"Reagan-Style Hypocrisy and the Ukraine Crisis"
2014-03-12 by Robert Parry from "Consortium News" [link]:
The mainstream U.S. news media has so fully bought into the U.S. government’s narrative on Ukraine that almost no one sees the layers of hypocrisy, an achievement in “group think” that dates back to Ronald Reagan’s war against “moral equivalence”
Official Washington’s hearty disdain for anyone who cites U.S. hypocrisy toward the Ukraine crisis can be traced back to a propaganda strategy hatched by the Reagan administration in 1984, dismissing any comparisons between U.S. and Soviet behavior as unacceptable expressions of “moral equivalence.”
This “moral equivalence” concern stemmed, in part, from the prior decade’s disclosures of U.S. government misconduct – the Vietnam War, CIA-sponsored coups and other intelligence abuses at home and abroad. In that climate of heightened skepticism, U.S. journalists felt it was their job to show some skepticism and hold U.S. officials accountable for their behavior.President Ronald Reagan.
President Ronald Reagan.
For President Ronald Reagan, that meant journalists taking note of his administration’s support for terrorism by the Contra rebels in Nicaragua and for death-squad-tainted governments slaughtering civilians in countries such as Guatemala and El Salvador.
So, to counter this P.R. problem, Reagan administration officials developed a propaganda “theme” that, in effect, asserted that the U.S. government should not be held to the same human rights standards as the Soviet government because the United States was morally superior to the Soviet Union.
According to documents recently released by the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, the Reagan administration established a “Moral Equivalence Working Group” in 1984 reporting to Walter Raymond Jr., who had been a top psychological warfare specialist at the CIA before being moved to Reagan’s National Security Council where he oversaw a wide-ranging program of domestic and foreign propaganda.
Though the working group’s core complaint was something of a straw man, since it would be hard to find anyone who equated the U.S. and USSR, the Reagan administration made clear that anyone who continued to apply common moral standards to the two governments would be accused of “moral equivalence.”
This framing proved effective in tarring U.S. journalists and human rights activists as, in essence, Soviet apologists. The “theme” was most famously expressed by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Jeane Kirkpatrick at the Republican National Convention in 1984 when she decried anyone who would “blame America first.”

Link to the Present -
As an Associated Press reporter, I encountered this “moral equivalence” attack line when I questioned State Department officials about their hypocrisy in applying strict human rights standards to Nicaragua’s Sandinista government while excusing far more serious abuses by the Contras and other U.S. allies in Central America.
Neocon intellectual Robert Kagan, who then was a senior official in the State Department’s Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America, warned me that I was edging dangerously close to the line on “moral equivalence.”
Ironically, Kagan’s wife, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, is now at the forefront of U.S. support for the Ukrainian coup, which relied on neo-Nazi militias to overthrow a democratically elected president, though the official U.S. narrative is that this was a “democratic” uprising. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Neocons and the Ukraine Coup.” http://consortiumnews.com/2014/02/23/neocons-and-the-ukraine-coup/]
Over the past three decades, the argument against “moral equivalence” has changed little, though it has morphed into what is now more commonly described as American “exceptionalism,” the new trump card against anyone who suggests that the U.S. government should abide by international law and be held to common human rights standards.
Today, if you make the case that universal rules should apply to the United States, you are accused of not embracing America as an “exceptional” country. As a result, very few mainstream observers in Official Washington even blink now at the U.S. government taking contradictory positions on issues such as intervening in other countries.
Invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan are “justified” as are drone strikes and aerial bombardments of countries from Pakistan to Yemen to Somalia to Libya. It’s also okay to threaten to bomb Syria and Iran.
Supporting the overthrow of sovereign governments is also fine – for the United States but not for anyone else. Just during the Obama administration, the U.S. government has backed coups in Honduras, Libya and now Ukraine. U.S.-endorsed secessions are okay, too, as with oil-rich South Sudan from Sudan.
Yet, when the geopolitical shoe is on the other foot – when Russia objects to the violent overthrow of Ukraine’s duly-elected President Viktor Yanukovych and, as a result, supports a secession referendum by Crimea on whether its citizens want to join the Russian Federation – Official Washington cries out in moral outrage.
Suddenly, we see mainstream American journalists searching for some clause in Ukraine’s constitution that prohibits secession, though these journalists had no problem with the violation of the same constitution’s procedures for impeaching a president, rules ignored by the coup regime with barely a peep from U.S. news outlets.

Framing the Debate -
These ever-moving goal posts on this ever-shifting moral playing field was defined by the Reagan administration’s propagandists in the mid-1980s, coincidentally in the iconic year 1984, according to documents at the Reagan Library. I found in Raymond’s files a “concept paper” for a conference to address “moral equivalence,” attached to a memo dated Sept. 4, 1984. The paper read:
“The Moral Equivalence Working Group … has for some time been examining ways to counter the common (and for US, very damaging) concept of the ‘moral equivalence of the superpowers,’ i.e., the notion that there is no moral distinction to be made between the US and the USSR, particularly in the areas of foreign and military policy. … Moral equivalence is a particularly insidious problem because it permeates almost every level of public discourse both at home and abroad.”
The “concept paper” offers no specific examples of anyone actually engaging in this “moral equivalence,” but it insists that the problem is widespread among elites and could be detected when people, for instance, compared the U.S. invasion of Grenada to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The paper reads:
“This is not to suggest that moral equivalence is in fact a majority perception. There is reason to believe that it is primarily an elite problem and that the broad mass of people has a sounder instinct on the inherent moral differences between the US and Soviet systems. However, given the dominance of morally equivalent thinking among elites, particularly in the media and in academia, public resistance to moral equivalence is provided with little informational or intellectual support.”
The paper then proposes a high-level conference sponsored by the neoconservative Center for Strategic and International Studies with the goal of analyzing “the Moral Equivalence misconception” and devising ways “to combat the problem” including addressing “intellectual fashion and ways to have an impact on it.”
Over the intervening three decades, these U.S. government’s propaganda efforts against holding the United States to the same moral standards as other countries have proved remarkably successful, at least within U.S. opinion circles.
It is now common for mainstream journalists to accept the principle of “American exceptionalism” in both implications of the word: that the United States is a wonderfully exceptional nation and that it is exempted from international law.
Indeed, it is rare for anyone in mainstream journalism to assert that the United States should conform to international law, i.e. respecting the sovereign borders of other countries. Yet, the same opinion leaders express outrage when Russia intervenes in Ukraine in the wake of a neo-Nazi-spearheaded coup on Russia’s border.
No longer do mainstream U.S. journalists and academics try to apply the same rules to Washington and Moscow. The “problem” that Reagan’s team detected in the 1980s has been solved. Today, American hypocrisy is the accepted “group think.”

"Understanding the Propaganda Campaign Against Public Education"

2014-03-12 by Diane Ravitch from "Huffington Post" [http://www.huffingtonpost.com/diane-ravitch/public-education_b_4941678.html]:
A few years ago, when I was blogging at Education Week with Deborah Meier, a reader introduced the term FUD. I had never heard of it. It is a marketing technique used in business and politics to harm your competition. The term and its history can be found on Wikipedia. FUD stands for Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. The reader said that those who were trying to create a market-based system to replace public education were using FUD to undermine public confidence in public education. They were selling the false narrative that our public schools are obsolete and failing.
This insight inspired me to write Reign of Error to show that the "reform" narrative is a fraud. Test scores on NAEP are at their highest point in history for white students, black students, Hispanic students, and Asian students. Graduation rates are the highest in history for these groups. The dropout rate is at an historic low point.
Why the FUD campaign against one of our nation's most treasured democratic institutions? It helps the competition. It makes people so desperate that they will seek out unproven alternatives. It makes the public gullible when they hear phony claims about miracle schools, where everyone graduates and everyone gets high test scores, and everyone goes to a four-year college. No such school exists. The "miracle school" usually has a high suspension rate, a high expulsion rate, a high attrition rate, and such schools usually do not replace the kids they somehow got rid of. Some "miracle schools" have never graduated anyone because they have only elementary schools, but that doesn't stop the claims and boasting.
It turns out that there is actually a scholar studying the phenomenon of the "the cultural production of ignorance."
He hasn't looked at the attack on public schools, but his work shows how propaganda may be skillfully deployed to confuse and mislead the public. Michael Hiltzik of theLos Angeles Times writes about the work of Robert Proctor of Stanford University [http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-hiltzik-20140307,0,3373375,full.column#axzz2vTmKuWmV]:
[begin excerpt] Robert Proctor doesn't think ignorance is bliss. He thinks that what you don't know can hurt you. And that there's more ignorance around than there used to be, and that its purveyors have gotten much better at filling our heads with nonsense.
Proctor, a professor of the history of science at Stanford, is one of the world's leading experts in agnotology, a neologism signifying the study of the cultural production of ignorance. It's a rich field, especially today when whole industries devote themselves to sowing public misinformation and doubt about their products and activities.
The tobacco industry was a pioneer at this. Its goal was to erode public acceptance of the scientifically proven links between smoking and disease: In the words of an internal 1969 memo legal opponents extracted from Brown & Williamson's files, "Doubt is our product." Big Tobacco's method should not be to debunk the evidence, the memo's author wrote, but to establish a "controversy."
When this sort of manipulation of information is done for profit, or to confound the development of beneficial public policy, it becomes a threat to health and to democratic society. Big Tobacco's program has been carefully studied by the sugar industry, which has become a major target of public health advocates. [end excerpt]
FUD was pioneered decades ago. Now public education is the target, and privatizing it is the goal. I hope Professor Proctor turns his attention to this issue, where a well-funded propaganda campaign seeks to spread enough doubt to destroy an essential Democratic institution.
There is no evidence from any other nation that replacing a public system with a privatized choice system produces anything but social, economic, and racial segregation.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Truth About Charter Schools: Padded cells, poor instruction and corporate management

2014-03-11 from "Project Censored" [http://www.projectcensored.org/truth-charter-schools-padded-cells-poor-instruction-corporate-management/]:
Student Researcher: Jessie De La O (Sonoma State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Lynn Lowery (Sonoma State University)
Charter schools have been heralded as the antidote to “failed” public schools, especially in poor urban communities of African-American and Latino/a students. Politicians and celebrities alike now advocate charters schools and preside over their openings. However, as Salon, AlterNet and other independent media outlets report, charter schools have come under fire for not fulfilling the roles or achieving the results that their proponents have claimed. Instead of providing positive teaching and preparing children for the future, recent news reports indicate that charter schools are subjecting students to padded cells, public shaming and embarrassment, poor instruction and the negative consequences of financial corruption.
In January 2014, Salon’s Jeff Bryant reported on a five-year-old New York charter school where a student was “occasionally thrown in a padded cell and detained alone for stretches as long as 20 minutes.” Bryant also describes students who were made to “earn” their desks by sitting on their classroom floor. Similarly, AlterNet’s James Horn reports on the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP), which is the largest corporate public charter school program in the United States. “KIPP requires the poorest urban children, those who have received the least in life, to earn everything,” Horn reports. The harsh practices implemented by some charter school instructors result in negative repercussions for all children involved, obstructing their learning and undermining their sense of security in what is supposed to be a positive environment.
KIPP is just one example of the growing number of large, national chains of educational management organizations (or EMOs) that run many of the new charter schools.  As Bryant reports, along with the development of EMOs themselves, “nationwide organizations have rapidly developed to lobby for these schools.” One such organization, the Alliance for School Choice, recently received a $6 million gift from the Walton Foundation, of Wal-Mart fame.
Stan Karp of Rethinking Schools writes that, “The charter school movement has changed dramatically in recent years in ways that have undermined its original intentions… It’s time to put the brakes on charter expansion and refocus public policy on providing excellent public schools for all.”

* Jeff Bryant, “The truth about charter schools: Padded cells, corruption, lousy instruction and worse results,” Salon.com, January 10, 2014, [http://www.salon.com/2014/01/10/the_truth_about_charter_schools_padded_cells_corruption_lousy_instruction_and_worse_results/].
* James Horn, “KIPP Forces 5th graders to ‘Earn’ Desks By Sitting On the Floor For a Week,” AlterNet.org, Education blog, December 17, 2013, [http://www.alternet.org/education/kipp-forces-5th-graders-earn-desks-sitting-floor-week].
* Stan Karp, How Charter Schools Are Undermining the Future of Public Education, AlterNet, November 14, 2013, [http://www.alternet.org/education/how-charter-schools-are-undermining-future-public-education].
* Ben Chapman and Rachel Monahan, “Padded ‘calm-down’ room at charter school drives kids to anxiety attacks,” NYDailyNews.com, December 11, 2013, [http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/padded-calm-down-room-causing-anxiety-kids-article-1.1543983].

"Private Prisons and the Creation of a Permanent Under Class"

2014-03-11 by Julia Meszaros from "Huffington Post" [http://www.huffingtonpost.com/julia-meszaros/private-prisons-and-the-c_b_4931187.html]:
"Prison ain't the place to find your right of passage in, it's slavery, with nasty food in your abdomen." - Immortal Technique (Parole, The 3rd World)

Unfortunately, for increasing numbers of teenage African American and Latino males, prison is becoming a rite of passage and their presence in juvenile detention facilities has become more and more profitable. Nearly forty percent of American juvenile detention facilities are private and in Florida, it is 100 percent. Increasingly, financially strapped states hire private prison corporations to run their incarceration facilities in order to gain a large financial payout. This seemingly 'logical' financial move by states to outsource their incarceration to private companies makes imprisonment a newly booming business. While the government's goal for incarcerating people is to 'rehabilitate' them into becoming productive members of society, private prison companies' goals for incarcerating people is to make profits through keeping prison beds filled (thus, the private companies require states to meet a certain quota of prisoners). At the same time that states are pouring more money into incarceration, they are slashing their educational budgets. The concurrent defunding of public education and the privatizing of juvenile detention facilities is creating a school to prison pipeline that is heavily racialized and gendered.
The "school-to-prison pipeline" highlights the racial inequalities associated with incarceration and educational opportunities within the U.S. Most of the students targeted for disciplinary action at public schools are male, African American, Latino, low-income, or disabled. Disabled African American students are suspended at three times the rate of their disabled white peers. One in three African American men will spend time incarcerated, and one in seven Latino men. The massive public school closures occurring in urban centers like Chicago and Oakland are leaving thousands of children without an option for education, pushing them towards the privatized juvenile facility beds. Teaching at a public university in Miami-Dade county has opened my eyes to the ways in which urban public schools have largely become prisons: my students would tell me about armed police, metal detectors, metal bar doors that would lock students inside, and feeling threatened enough to carry weapons to school. This 'conditioning' of lower income and minority students to prison-like conditions in their educational setting makes it an easier 'transition' for when they do eventually end up in some form of correctional facility. Noam Chomsky calls the War on Drugs and massive incarceration of nonviolent offenders the rich man's counterinsurgency.
Many people argue that private prisons are more cost effective than state run prisons and provide financial savings to taxpayers. This mythos of cost effectiveness has been debunked by a recent Yale economic study. While private prisons do have lower costs on average per prisoner, the high increased rates of recidivism after release from a private prison makes it actually more costly in the long term. There have been reports of increased physical and sexual abuse occurring in private prisons. The U.S. Department of Justice released a report that states 9.5 percent of juveniles in detention facilities are subject to sexual abuse. Instead of educating children in low income urban areas, our society decides it is a better investment for taxpayers to incarcerate them. However, as the Yale study pointed out, prisons are definitely not more cost-effective than education in preventing criminality. Despite all this evidence that private prisons, and incarceration in general, do not produce the most cost effective ways to manage crime within our society, we continue on this expensive and unjust path. This is because these policies are enacted in order to create a permanent underclass within American society that is racialized and classed.
The fact that nearly 10 percent of teenage youth in detention facilities are abused is horrifying enough, but we often forget how damaging a criminal record is once people are released back into society. In a number of states, felons cannot vote, and this law continues the tradition of racist voter suppression laws in a much more covert manner. In this way, the urban underclass created through the school-prison pipeline is largely left out of politics and making real changes to the current incarceration systems that oppress them. As mentioned earlier, rates of recidivism in private juvenile facilities are significantly higher than rates for state run facilities and hovers around forty percent. The vicious cycle of incarceration and recidivism is largely due to the way in which our society treats released prisoners. Many have a hard time finding employment once they are released because of their criminal records and often end up right back where they started. In this way, we are creating a permanent underclass that remains uneducated, unemployable, and that eventually becomes disenfranchised, both legally and intellectually, from the political system. And the face of this member of the permanent underclass is overwhelmingly black or brown and male.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Drug War is a racist war to destabilize captive nations in the USA, concludes former Undercover Narcotics Officer

"This Racist Drug War..." [link]

"Tales from a former undercover narc"
2014-03-10 text and photos by Roc Morin, from "VICE" magazine:
Sometimes he was Steven Francis Neill, and sometimes he was Neill Franklin. One was an unemployed junky looking to score on the streets of Baltimore. The other was an undercover narcotics agent.
“Eventually, it became somewhat problematic,” the now retired Neill Franklin (which is his real name) explained. “I felt myself getting lost at times between the two worlds. This is one of the reasons for establishing rigid limitations on how long someone remains undercover. We've left some investigators ‘under’ way too long.”
I met Neill for a tour of his Baltimore, the city he grew up in, policed for 34 years, and left upon retirement. As we cruised through a wasteland of abandoned and burned-out houses, it was easy to see why the 55-year-old had moved to the suburbs. Corner boys glared out from under street signs with names suggesting far more idyllic surroundings—Eden, Crystal, and Spring.
We meandered for the next several hours as I interviewed him about the drug war that he helped to wage and now blames for the ruination of the city he once called home. As the executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), Franklin—along with 3,500 other former cops, judges, and district attorneys—is on a crusade to make all drugs legal.

VICE: What was it like growing up here?
Neill Franklin: Back in the 60s, all of these wonderful row homes that you see all boarded up and vacant, they had people in them. In my neighborhood, we had doctors, and teachers, and businessmen. We had all of these positive influences within walking distance, but violence chased them away.

VICE: How did the violence start?
Neill Franklin: The drug trade. No, not so much the drug trade, but policing the drug trade. We always had drugs, but we didn’t always have violence in our streets. Back then, there were major drug organizations in the city that divided up different areas among themselves. “That’s your area, this is ours, and if we have problems, we settle them among ourselves.” Violence was bad for business. When the drug war began, though, we started dismantling those organizations. The vacancies that we created were filled by the sons of the men we sent to prison. The sons fought each other over who would fill those vacancies. They went to the street corners, and gangs started developing, and six organizations turned into 600.

VICE: So there’s actually an increase in violence after every drug bust?
Neill Franklin: Yes, that’s exactly right. There’s also an increase in overdoses. People overdose because their dealer got arrested and they have to go to a new dealer. With their old dealer, he always mixes it the same way, so they know what the potency is. Suddenly, though, they’re buying from this new guy and have no idea how potent it is. Too much and they’re dead. The problems of drug use and addiction are real, but the policies of prohibition don’t get rid of them and end up creating a whole bunch of other problems.

VICE: Did you consider any of this when you joined the police force?
Neill Franklin: I had not a clue.

VICE: What were your convictions at the time?
Neill Franklin: I really didn’t have a whole lot. I joined pretty much because my older brother did.

VICE: Why did you choose narcotics?
Neill Franklin: It wasn’t like I was on this mission to rid the world of drugs or anything like that. It was just a very exciting thing to do. I noticed there was this shady group of folks who just kept coming in and out of the basement of the police barracks. They were always pulling up in their Cameros, Trans Ams, and Corvettes. I found out that they were narcs—narcotics agents. I put in for a transfer right away, and that was the beginning of my career in drug enforcement.

VICE: So what was your fake identity?
Neill Franklin: My basic character was that of a wealthy kid, no job, kicked out of the house by his father,= but cherished by his mother, with access to cash at times.

VICE: Where did your persona come from?
Neill Franklin: It’s pretty simple. You watch the folks you’re hanging with, take a little from each, and craft a character. I've always been good at emulating others. A natural ability, I guess.

VICE: What was your job as a narc?
Neill Franklin: All you had to do was frequent your local bars, really. You meet people who are doing drugs, and you branch out from there. You arrest those people and turn them into your informants. Then you get more people.

VICE: So you weren’t actually going after specific people?
Neill Franklin: Well, sometimes I was. There was this one guy they wanted me to get at this place called the Duke’s Lounge. The guy’s name was Gant. He never trusted me, from day one. But Nicky and Angelo were two guys I befriended. We flipped them. Then there was Freddy and Ray Charles Brown. I have no idea what happened to them after we made the arrests. It was only later that I realized that the reason they were sending me into that place was because it was a black club and they wanted the black clubs shut down.

VICE: So it was racially motivated?
Neill Franklin: In most cases I don’t think it was. It’s just easier to bust those guys. You give me a squad of narcs and drug dogs, and we’ll go to some affluent white community. I can walk down the streets sniffing cars, do some knock-and-talks, and I assure you we’ll come across some marijuana parties. I guarantee I can come out of there with some drug arrests. But after the first day, after the mayor’s phone rings off the hook—that’s the end of that operation.

VICE: As a narc, did you feel sympathy for any of the people you pretended to befriend?
Neill Franklin: Some of them, I did. These were good people—just like anybody else. I didn’t think that way back then, but these weren’t people out there robbing stores, hurting people.

VICE: What did you think back then?
Neill Franklin: At the time that I started, I really did believe that some of these people were the scum of the earth. Mostly, though, I was just doing the job I was paid to do. I didn’t think that much about it.

VICE: Was there anyone in particular who changed your mind?
Neill Franklin: No one in particular—just as time went on I came to realize why most of the people use the stuff. I thought, why is smoking a joint any different from someone else sucking down Jack Daniels? Eventually, I started learning about why these policies exist. It really boils down to social control: people controlling other people.

VICE: How do you mean?
Neill Franklin: Well, let’s look at how the drug war began, with Richard Nixon. His main headaches were Vietnam War protesters and the civil-rights movement. You can’t throw people in prison for protesting because of freedom of speech, and you can’t throw people in prison for being black. But you can always criminalize what they do. One of Richard Nixon’s closest aides, H. R. Haldeman, said he remembers Nixon saying that blacks were the real problem and we have to figure out a way to deal with them without appearing to. That was right before he started the drug war.

VICE: And did Nixon’s plan work?
Neill Franklin: Well, look—drug use is relatively the same across demographics. Types of drugs might be different. Methods might be different. But enforcement is obviously different. That’s why we have higher incarceration rates of blacks than Latinos and whites. Generally, blacks lack political and financial power, so there’s no one to push back. There’s no one to come to their defense.

VICE: What do you think are the effects of those higher incarceration rates?
Neill Franklin: You want safer communities? Sending people to prison won’t do it. Think about it—if you put a man in prison, you put his whole family in prison too. You’ve just put that family into financial dire straits. Prisons are not institutions of higher learning. They are institutions of corruption, institutions of violence. People come back to their communities worse off than when they went in. They’ve got a record, so they’re unemployable for the most part except for the drug trade. The drug trade will hire you no matter what. It’s a vicious cycle.

VICE: How do you respond to critics who say that drugs destroy families too?
Neill Franklin: The problem for most people is not the drug itself, but the lifestyle that comes along with the drug in an environment of prohibition. In the world of prohibition, the price of these drugs is hyper-inflated. Therefore, I must rob, I must deal, I must do whatever I can to support my addiction.

VICE: What changed your mind about drug policy?
Neill Franklin: It wasn’t until I retired that I really started taking a critical look at what was going on. A friend of mine was working undercover with the FBI in Washington, DC, and he was assassinated, so that shook me up, got me thinking about how these policies create violence.

VICE: What happened?
Neill Franklin: His name was Ed Toatley, and he used to be my partner. He was one of those talented black undercover agents the department farmed out to everybody. Ed was working with the FBI, buying cocaine from a mid-level dealer. He had bought from this guy before and was meeting him again for one last buy. This time though, the guy decided he was going to keep the drugs and the money. He came up to the car, reached in, and shot Ed in the head.

VICE: What do you say to people who make the argument that legalizing drugs will increase usage?
Neill Franklin: First thing I ask them is, “If it’s legal tomorrow, what drug are you going to use? Cocaine, heroin, meth?” Bottom line is, no one ever says, “Yeah, I can’t wait to go try meth.” Drugs are so easy to get that anyone who wants to use them can get them already. Even in prison you can get them. In all of America, there is not one drug-free prison. If you can’t keep drugs out of a prison, how are you going to keep drugs out of a free society?

VICE: Why do you think there’s such resistance to LEAP’s proposal?
Neill Franklin: There’s that old adage that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. People have been doing it this way for so long.

VICE: With alcohol prohibition, it only took 13 years for people to figure out it didn’t work.
Neill Franklin: That’s right. And that’s because, since it was such a short time, people remembered what it was like before prohibition. In 13 years we went from horse-drawn carriages to guys hanging off the sides of automobiles with submachine guns.

VICE: Why do you think people view alcohol differently from other drugs?
Neill Franklin: Probably because alcohol has such a long tradition in our society. But alcohol is far more dangerous than all the other drugs we have out there. Alcohol eats you from the inside out. Heroin doesn’t do that. Cocaine doesn’t do that that. People think it does, but it doesn’t. It’s the cutting agents that are used that cause you the health issues. If you get pure heroin—no adulterants, baby laxatives, and things like that—you’ll live just as long as anybody else.

VICE: As a cop, did you have more trouble with people on drugs or people on alcohol?
Neill Franklin: It was always alcohol. Alcohol and violence go hand-in-hand. As a cop on the street, in my entire career, I never had an altercation with someone on weed alone. Domestic violence calls, it’s always alcohol. Weed, man, they’re the most docile folks.

VICE: So I notice the crucifix you have here. You’re obviously a religious man. How do those views inform your work with LEAP?
Neill Franklin: I honestly feel that the Lord called me to do this work.

VICE: What do you think Jesus Christ would say about current drug policy?
Neill Franklin: He’d be pretty pissed off about it, if you ask me. Jesus Christ was about two things: Number one was forgiveness, and number two was compassion. So if you’re a Christian and you think that these policies are something that your Lord and Savior would embrace, you’ve got another thing coming. Not only that, but how would he feel about us supporting policies that are the foundation for much of the violence and mayhem that we have around the globe today? Loving people—that’s how you get people to treat themselves better.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

An ideology mixing libertarianism with dictatorship

"Benevolent dictatorship is never the answer"
2014-03-08 by Rachel Kleinfeld [http://www.sfgate.com/opinion/article/Benevolent-dictatorship-is-never-the-answer-5298320.php]:
Rachel Kleinfeld is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and founder of the Truman National Security Project.
Viktor Yanukovych is the kind of dictator we love to hate. A kleptocrat who chose a bribe from Russia over his people's future in the EU. A thug who sent other thugs to beat up protesters, until he was finally ousted by his own people. A man who left his country bankrupt while pictures of his palatial estate and private zoo are broadcast around the world. We vilify dictators like this. And, yet, there remains a dream, for far too many development experts, business people and others around the globe that a strong leader with authoritarian powers is needed to move poor countries into the developed world.
I am watching Ukraine implode from a West Africa nation where corruption is perceived to be growing, development is stalled and the economy is heading downhill. From high-level government appointees to members of civil society, I hear: "What we need is a benevolent dictator. ... " The sentiment is generally followed by praise for Paul Kagame, who has created a remarkably clean and efficient Rwanda after that country's genocide, or Lee Kuan Yew, the "father of Singapore," who corralled government corruption and thrust his nation into the first world.
The desire for benevolent dictatorship is not confined to developing nations. I hear it even more often from America's business community and those working on international development - often accompanied by praise for China's ability to "get things done." The problem is that the entire 20th century seems to have produced at most one largely benevolent dictator and one efficient but increasingly repressive leader, both in tiny countries.
Meanwhile, we have seen scores of Yanukovych-like kleptocrats, Pinochet-style military dictatorships that torture dissenters in secret prisons and "disappear" those who disagree, and North Korean-style totalitarians whose gulags and concentration camps starve and murder hundreds of thousands or even millions of their countrymen.
Occasionally, dictators begin benevolently and grow worse. The world is littered with Kwame Nkrumahs, Fidel Castros and Robert Mugabes who rose to power with great popularity, built their nations, then turned their people's hopes to ash through corruption, personality cults and violence. One Lee Kuan Yew and a Kagame teetering from benevolence toward repression, versus every other dictatorship of the 20th century? Those are not odds to bet your country on.
And yet, the longing for benevolent dictators continues, particularly in California among our technology titans, whose denigration of politics leads to a special Silicon Valley ideology that mixes libertarianism with dictatorship. They seem to want politics to work the way their products do: with elegant, clear solutions implemented by smart, creative doers.
But politics does not have a "right" answer. It is the field where our values compete. Surely, you say, there is a right way to get the job done: to fill in the potholes, build the roads, keep our streets safe, get our kids to learn reading and math. Ah, but look how quickly those issues get contentious.
Whose potholes should get filled first? Do we try to keep our streets safe through community policing or long prison sentences? Should teachers be given merit pay, are small classrooms better, or should we lengthen the school day? These issues engender deep political fights, all - even in the few debates where research provides clear, technocratic answers. That is because the area of politics is an area for values disputes, not technical solutions.
One person's "right" is not another's because people prioritize different values: equity versus excellence, efficiency versus voice and participation, security versus social justice, short-term versus long-term gains.
At a conference I attended recently, a businessman extolled the Chinese government ministers in attendance for "building 100 airport runways while we in the West have failed to add even a single runway to notoriously overburdened Heathrow." That was, of course, because the British have civil liberties and private property, while the Chinese do not have to worry about such niceties. Democracy allows many ideas of "right" to flourish. It is less efficient than dictatorship. It also makes fewer tremendous mistakes.
The longing for a leader who knows what is in her people's best interests, who rules with care and guides the nation on a wise path, was Plato's idea of a philosopher-king. It's a tempting picture, but it's asking the wrong question. In political history, philosophers moved from a preference for such benevolent dictators to the ugly realities of democracy when they switched the question from "who could best rule?" to "what system prevents the worst rule?"
And as problematic as democracy is, the ability to throw the bums out does seem to prevent the worst rule. Corruption, vast inequality and failure to deliver basic goods and services are real problems with democracies in developed and developing nations. These ills are dangerous, leading to anger, stagnation and political violence. But dictatorship is no answer: it's playing roulette where almost every spot on the wheel leads to a Yanukovych or worse.
As Syria burns and Ukraine implodes, Americans tempted by the security or simplicity of dictators, benevolent or otherwise, should give up such simple answers and face the messy realities of politics.