Monday, July 26, 2010

Amerikkka: In Permanent Denial

Fourteen Examples of Systemic Racism in the US Criminal Justice System
By Bill Quigley / July 26, 2010

The biggest crime in the U.S. criminal justice system is that it is a race-based institution where African-Americans are directly targeted and punished in a much more aggressive way than white people.

Saying the US criminal system is racist may be politically controversial in some circles. But the facts are overwhelming. No real debate about that. Below I set out numerous examples of these facts.

The question is – are these facts the mistakes of an otherwise good system, or are they evidence that the racist criminal justice system is working exactly as intended? Is the US criminal justice system operated to marginalize and control millions of African Americans?

Information on race is available for each step of the criminal justice system – from the use of drugs, police stops, arrests, getting out on bail, legal representation, jury selection, trial, sentencing, prison, parole and freedom. Look what these facts show.

One. The US has seen a surge in arrests and putting people in jail over the last four decades. Most of the reason is the war on drugs. Yet whites and blacks engage in drug offenses, possession and sales, at roughly comparable rates – according to a report on race and drug enforcement published by Human Rights Watch in May 2008. While African Americans comprise 13% of the US population and 14% of monthly drug users they are 37% of the people arrested for drug offenses – according to 2009 Congressional testimony by Marc Mauer of The Sentencing Project.

Two. The police stop blacks and Latinos at rates that are much higher than whites. In New York City, where people of color make up about half of the population, 80% of the NYPD stops were of blacks and Latinos. When whites were stopped, only 8% were frisked. When blacks and Latinos are stopped 85% were frisked according to information provided by the NYPD. The same is true most other places as well. In a California study, the ACLU found blacks are three times more likely to be stopped than whites.

Three. Since 1970, drug arrests have skyrocketed rising from 320,000 to close to 1.6 million according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the U.S. Department of Justice.

African Americans are arrested for drug offenses at rates 2 to 11 times higher than the rate for whites – according to a May 2009 report on disparity in drug arrests by Human Rights Watch.

Four. Once arrested, blacks are more likely to remain in prison awaiting trial than whites. For example, the New York state division of criminal justice did a 1995 review of disparities in processing felony arrests and found that in some parts of New York blacks are 33% more likely to be detained awaiting felony trials than whites facing felony trials.

Five. Once arrested, 80% of the people in the criminal justice system get a public defender for their lawyer. Race plays a big role here as well. Stop in any urban courtroom and look a the color of the people who are waiting for public defenders. Despite often heroic efforts by public defenders the system gives them much more work and much less money than the prosecution. The American Bar Association, not a radical bunch, reviewed the US public defender system in 2004 and concluded “All too often, defendants plead guilty, even if they are innocent, without really understanding their legal rights or what is occurring…The fundamental right to a lawyer that America assumes applies to everyone accused of criminal conduct effectively does not exist in practice for countless people across the US.”

Six. African Americans are frequently illegally excluded from criminal jury service according to a June 2010 study released by the Equal Justice Initiative. For example in Houston County, Alabama, 8 out of 10 African Americans qualified for jury service have been struck by prosecutors from serving on death penalty cases.

Seven. Trials are rare. Only 3 to 5 percent of criminal cases go to trial – the rest are plea bargained. Most African Americans defendants never get a trial. Most plea bargains consist of promise of a longer sentence if a person exercises their constitutional right to trial. As a result, people caught up in the system, as the American Bar Association points out, plead guilty even when innocent. Why? As one young man told me recently, “Who wouldn’t rather do three years for a crime they didn’t commit than risk twenty-five years for a crime they didn’t do?”

Eight. The U.S. Sentencing Commission reported in March 2010 that in the federal system black offenders receive sentences that are 10% longer than white offenders for the same crimes. Marc Mauer of the Sentencing Project reports African Americans are 21% more likely to receive mandatory minimum sentences than white defendants and 20% more like to be sentenced to prison than white drug defendants.

Nine. The longer the sentence, the more likely it is that non-white people will be the ones getting it. A July 2009 report by the Sentencing Project found that two-thirds of the people in the US with life sentences are non-white. In New York, it is 83%.

Ten. As a result, African Americans, who are 13% of the population and 14% of drug users, are not only 37% of the people arrested for drugs but 56% of the people in state prisons for drug offenses. Marc Mauer May 2009 Congressional Testimony for The Sentencing Project.

Eleven. The US Bureau of Justice Statistics concludes that the chance of a black male born in 2001 of going to jail is 32% or 1 in three. Latino males have a 17% chance and white males have a 6% chance. Thus black boys are five times and Latino boys nearly three times as likely as white boys to go to jail.

Twelve. So, while African American juvenile youth is but 16% of the population, they are 28% of juvenile arrests, 37% of the youth in juvenile jails and 58% of the youth sent to adult prisons. 2009 Criminal Justice Primer, The Sentencing Project.

Thirteen. Remember that the US leads the world in putting our own people into jail and prison. The New York Times reported in 2008 that the US has five percent of the world’s population but a quarter of the world’s prisoners, over 2.3 million people behind bars, dwarfing other nations. The US rate of incarceration is five to eight times higher than other highly developed countries and black males are the largest percentage of inmates according to ABC News.

Fourteen. Even when released from prison, race continues to dominate. A study by Professor Devah Pager of the University of Wisconsin found that 17% of white job applicants with criminal records received call backs from employers while only 5% of black job applicants with criminal records received call backs. Race is so prominent in that study that whites with criminal records actually received better treatment than blacks without criminal records!

So, what conclusions do these facts lead to? The criminal justice system, from start to finish, is seriously racist.

Professor Michelle Alexander concludes that it is no coincidence that the criminal justice system ramped up its processing of African Americans just as the Jim Crow laws enforced since the age of slavery ended. Her book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness sees these facts as evidence of the new way the US has decided to control African Americans – a racialized system of social control. The stigma of criminality functions in much the same way as Jim Crow – creating legal boundaries between them and us, allowing legal discrimination against them, removing the right to vote from millions, and essentially warehousing a disposable population of unwanted people. She calls it a new caste system.

Poor whites and people of other ethnicity are also subjected to this system of social control. Because if poor whites or others get out of line, they will be given the worst possible treatment, they will be treated just like poor blacks.

Other critics like Professor Dylan Rodriguez see the criminal justice system as a key part of what he calls the domestic war on the marginalized. Because of globalization, he argues in his book Forced Passages, there is an excess of people in the US and elsewhere. “These people”, whether they are in Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib or US jails and prisons, are not productive, are not needed, are not wanted and are not really entitled to the same human rights as the productive ones. They must be controlled and dominated for the safety of the productive. They must be intimidated into accepting their inferiority or they must be removed from the society of the productive.

This domestic war relies on the same technology that the US uses internationally. More and more we see the militarization of this country’s police. Likewise, the goals of the US justice system are the same as the US war on terror - domination and control by capture, immobilization, punishment and liquidation.

What to do?

Martin Luther King Jr., said we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values.

A radical approach to the US criminal justice system means we must go to the root of the problem. Not reform. Not better beds in better prisons. We are not called to only trim the leaves or prune the branches, but rip up this unjust system by its roots.

We are all entitled to safety. That is a human right everyone has a right to expect. But do we really think that continuing with a deeply racist system leading the world in incarcerating our children is making us safer?

It is time for every person interested in justice and safety to join in and dismantle this racist system. Should the US decriminalize drugs like marijuana? Should prisons be abolished? Should we expand the use of restorative justice? Can we create fair educational, medical and employment systems? All these questions and many more have to be seriously explored. Join a group like INCITE, Critical Resistance, the Center for Community Alternatives, Thousand Kites, or the California Prison Moratorium and work on it. As Professor Alexander says “Nothing short of a major social movement can dismantle this new caste system.”

Bill is Legal Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights and a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans. He is a Katrina survivor and has been active in human rights in Haiti for years with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.

Source / Common Dreams

Fluxed Up World

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Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Truth About the Star Spangled Banner

Restoration Of 'Star Spangled Banner' Uncovers Horrifying New Verses

Source / Today Now

Thanks to Deva Wood / Fluxed Up World

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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Morons (and Liars) Abound in the Right Wing

U.S. President George W. Bush (L) and Afghan President Hamid Karzai shake hands at the conclusion of their joint statement to reporters at the Presidential Palace in Afghanistan December 15, 2008. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

Steele blames Obama for Afghanistan, Defends Iraq War
By Juan Cole / July 3, 2010

Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele has provoked a furor by remarks he made on President Obama’s Afghanistan policy at a GOP fundraiser in Noank, Ct. (where he mumbled on for all the world like a third-rate lounge lizard at an off-off the Strip Vegas discount casino before an audience mesmerized into zombiehood by its subsidized lunch buffet). The speech appears to have been secretly recorded, and is now on the Web. Geo at the Right Vs. Left blog put up a transcript of Steele’s comments.

The Republican line on the Afghanistan War is apparently that it is a good war, well-fought, but has the misfortune to be overseen by Obama, who, despite personally ordering all the elements of the war that the GOP praises, is nevertheless somehow an inappropriate leader of it.

Self-contradiction poses no conundrum for politicians as long as the public does not notice it. That it is illogical to denigrate Obama as leader while praising the troop surge and the counter-insurgency strategy that he authorized appears not to occur to anyone south of the Mason-Dixon line. Conservatives (with the exception of Libertarians) can embrace this paradox because they hold twin premises. The first is that the United States should always be at war and all of its wars are glorious, righteous and beneficial to all concerned, even the enemy. The second is that a Democratic president is sort of like gay marriage; it is against nature and intrinsically wrong, and while it may actually exist in some times and places, it must be vigorously ignored until it can be undone and safely forgotten about. With a Democratic president in the White House, the munificent War must resemble the virgin birth, having no human author and yet bestowing infinite grace on all.

Steele violated this both-sides-of-the-mouth absurd discourse every which way from Sunday. He attributed the war to Obama, restoring him as commander-in-chief, a presidential epithet applicable only to GOP heads of state. Steele said that Afghanistan “was a war of Obama’s choosing. This was not something that the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in.”

Steele seems to have missed the part where the Bush administration gradually committed the US to war-fighting in Afghanistan. He has paid no attention to what has been going on in Afghanistan since the Taliban were overthrown or at least sidelined in 2001. He does not seem to realize that the NATO and US troops were doing active war-fighting in Afghanistan all through 2008, when 159 Americans gave their lives and nearly that number again of NATO and allied troops also died.

Then Steele openly said that the war, far from being magnificent and beneficent, is actually a Major Mistake and almost certain to End Badly. He said that if Obama

is such a student of history, has he not understood that you know that’s the one thing you don’t do, is engage in a land war in Afghanistan? Alright, because everyone who has tried over a thousand years of history has failed, and there are reasons for that. There are other ways to engage in Afghanistan ...

(I would argue that it is actually only since Afghans began learning how to manufacture [in artisan style] hand-held firearms that they have become truly formidable, i.e. from the late 1600s.)

Steele’s remarks on Afghanistan can be distinguished from those of Denis Kucinich only insofar as the RNC chairman complained about Obama’s ‘demonization’ of the Iraq War (as if it had actually gone very well and been unproblematic, deserving none of the opprobrium heaped upon it by mere reality). Steele said, “But it was the President who was trying to be cute by half by building a script demonizing Iraq, while saying the battle really should in Afghanistan.” Other than his attachment to a war launched in impudent violation of the United Nations charter and all subsequent international law, which killed perhaps a million persons, wounded 3 million and displaced and made homeless another 4 million… Steele sounded like a left-wing Democrat. He seems to have been reading Ann Jones at Tomdispatch (would that more GOP officials did).

Here is the video; turn the audio way up:

Having delivered himself of the only principled and sensible arguments he has put forward since the Good Old-boy Party humorlessly made him its public face, Steele now faces demands by the hounds of the Right that he resign in ignominy. When Bill Kristol, who has notoriously been Wrong about Everything, demands that an RNC chairman resign, it can only mean that the party has a choice between reviving Neoconservatism– which is pernicious but creepily coherent as a nihilist ideology of perduring destruction– and muddling along with no positive message at all.

Source / Informed Comment

Fluxed Up World

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The Richest 2% Own More Than Half the World

Maude Barlow: "The World Has Divided into Rich and Poor as at No Time in History"

As world leaders gathered in Toronto for the G20 summit last week, leading activists from around the world joined thousands in Toronto’s Massey Hall to oppose the G20 agenda. Maude Barlow was one of the key speakers at the event. She heads the Council of Canadians, Canada’s largest public advocacy organization, and is a founder of the Blue Planet Project.

On the eve of this G-20 gathering, let’s look at a few facts.

Fact, the world has divided into rich and poor as at no time in our history. The richest 2% own more than half the household wealth in the world. The richest 10% hold 85% of total global assets and the bottom half of humanity owns less than 1% of the wealth in the world. The three richest men in the world have more money than the poorest 48 countries.

Fact, while those responsible for the 2008 global financial crisis were bailed out and even rewarded by the G-20 government’s gathering here, the International Labor Organization tells us that in 2009, 34 million people were added to the global unemployed, swelling those ranks to 239 million, the highest ever recorded. Another 200 million are at risk in precarious jobs and the World Bank tells us that at the end of 2010, another 64 million will have lost their jobs. By 2030, more than half the population of the megacities of the Global South will be slumdwellers with no access to education, health care, water, or sanitation.

Fact, global climate change is rapidly advancing, claiming at least 300,000 lives and $125 billion in damages every year. Called the silent crisis, climate change is melting glaciers, eroding soil, causing freak and increasingly wild storms, displacing untold millions from rural communities to live in desperate poverty in peri-urban centers. Almost every victim lives in the Global South in communities not responsible for greenhouse gas emissions and not represented here at the summit.

The atmosphere has already warmed up a full degree in the last several decades and is on course to warm up another two degrees by 2100.

Fact, half the tropical forests in the world, the lungs of our ecosystem, are gone. By 2030, at the present rate of extraction or so-called harvest, only 10% will be left standing. 90% of the big fish in the sea are gone, victim to wanton predatory fishing practice. Says a prominent scientist studying their demise, there is no blue frontier left. Half the world’s wetlands, the kidneys of our ecosystem, have been destroyed in the 20th century. Species extinction is taking place at a rate 1,000 times greater than before humans existed. According to a Smithsonian scientist, we are headed toward of biodiversity deficit in which species and ecosystems will be destroyed at a rate faster than nature can replace them with new ones.

Fact, we are polluting our lakes, rivers and streams to death. Every day, two million tons of sewage and industrial agricultural waste are discharged into the world’s water. That’s the equivalent of the entire human population of 6.8 billion people. The amount of waste water produced annually is about six times more water than exists in all the rivers of the world. We are minding our ground water faster than we can replenish it, sucking it to grow water guzzling chemical-fed crops in deserts or to water thirsty cities who dump an astounding 700 trillion liters of land-based water into oceans every year as waste.

The global mining industry sucks up another 800 trillion liters which it also leaves behind as poison and fully one-third of global water withdrawals are now used to produce biofuels, enough water to feed the world. Nearly three billion people on our planet do not have running water within a kilometer of their home and every eight seconds, somewhere in our world, a child is dying of waterborne disease. The global water crisis is getting steadily worse with reports of countries from India to Pakistan to Yemen facing depletion. The World Bank says that by 2030, demand for water will outstrip supply by 40%. This may sound just like a statistic, but the suffering behind that is absolutely unspeakable.

Fact, knowing there will not be enough food and water for all in the near future, wealthy countries and global investment pension and hedge funds are buying up land and water, fields and forests in the Global South, creating a new wave of invasive colonialism that will have huge geopolitical ramifications. Rich countries faced by food shortages have already bought up an area in Africa alone more than twice the size of the United Kingdom.

Now I don’t think I exaggerate if I say that our world has never faced a greater set of threats and issues than it does today. So what are the twenty leaders who have gathered here, some already here and the others coming in tonight, what are they going to talk about over the next two days? By the way, their summit costs $1 million a minute. By the way, we figure it’s going to be closer to $2 billion when it’s finished, and the annual budget to run the United Nations is $1.9 billion. I assure you, they are not going to tackle the above issues in any serious way.

The declarations have already been drafted, the failures already spun. Instead, this global royalty who have more in common with one another than they do with their own citizens and they are here really to advance the issues and interest of their class are also here just to advance the status quo that serves the interest of the elite in their own countries and the business community or the B-20, the new term, a community that will get private and privileged access to advance their free market solutions to these eager leaders.

The agenda is more of the bad medicine that made the world sick in the first place. Environmental deregulation, unbridled financial speculation, unlimited growth, unregulated free trade, relentless resource exploitation, tax cuts for the wealthy, cuts to Social Security and a war on working people. In other words, savage capitalism.

Now let’s look at our own country here and the assault that has been launched on the work of generations of Canadians toward a just society. Stephen Harper’s government has cut the heart out of any group that dissents, from First Nations people, to women, to international agencies and church groups like KAIROS, Alternative, and the Canadian Council for International Cooperation.

Source / Democracy Now

Thanks to Roger Baker / Fluxed Up World

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