Tag Archives: prisons

HAS OBAMA GIVEN THE GREEN LIGHT FOR ARMED REVOLUTION IN THE USA?

What are we waiting for?  There was a book I read in high school called “REICHTAG FIRE: ASHES OF DEMOCRACY” about Adolph Hitler’s staged communist attack on the German Parliament as grounds for shutting down the democratically elected Parliament which, ironically enough, had brought him to power.  Obama, the first “allegedly black”, President seems determined to do so much more damage to this Country’s constitutional heritage than even George W. Bush did—but Obama might get by with it because conservatives demand that the “allegedly most liberal”—President not go soft on the Al Qaida operatives, and Obama’s supports will see him as liberal (apparently) no matter how much like Joseph Stalin or Mao Tse Tung he becomes…  Here is Glenn Greenwald’s latest from Salon.com (Read it and Weep—especially all you IDIOTS who voted for OBAMA!):

Facts and myths about Obama’s preventive detention proposal

 

[Updated below - Update II (Interview with ACLU) - Update III - Update IV - Update V ]

In the wake of Obama’s speech yesterday, there are vast numbers of new converts who now support indefinite “preventive detention.”  It thus seems constructive to have as dispassionate and fact-based discussion as possible of the implications of “preventive detention” and Obama’s related detention proposals (military commissions).  I’ll have a podcast discussion on this topic a little bit later today with the ACLU’s Ben Wizner, which I’ll add below, but until then, here are some facts and other points worth noting:

 

(1) What does “preventive detention” allow?  

It’s important to be clear about what “preventive detention” authorizes.  It does not merely allow the U.S. Government to imprison people alleged to have committed Terrorist acts yet who are unable to be convicted in a civilian court proceeding.  That class is merely a subset, perhaps a small subset, of who the Government can detain.  Far more significant, “preventive detention” allows indefiniteimprisonment not based on proven crimes or past violations of law, but of those deemed generally “dangerous” by the Government for various reasons (such as, as Obama put it yesterday, they “expressed their allegiance to Osama bin Laden” or “otherwise made it clear that they want to kill Americans”).  That’s what “preventive” means:  imprisoning people because the Government claims they are likely to engage in violent acts in the future because they are alleged to be “combatants.”  

Once known, the details of the proposal could — and likely will — make this even more extreme by extending the “preventive detention” power beyond a handful of Guantanamo detainees to anyone, anywhere in the world, alleged to be a “combatant.”  After all, once you accept the rationale on which this proposal is based — namely, that the U.S. Government must, in order to keep us safe, preventively detain “dangerous” people even when they can’t prove they violated any laws — there’s no coherent reason whatsoever to limit that power to people already at Guantanamo, as opposed to indefinitely imprisoning with no trials all allegedly “dangerous” combatants, whether located in Pakistan, Thailand, Indonesia, Western countries and even the U.S.


(2) 
 Are defenders of Obama’s proposals being consistent?

During the Bush years, it was common for Democrats to try to convince conservatives to oppose Bush’s executive power expansions by asking them:  “Do you really want these powers to be exercised by Hillary Clinton or some liberal President?”

Following that logic, for any Democrat/progressive/liberal/Obama supporter who wants to defend Obama’s proposal of “preventive detention,” shouldn’t you first ask yourself three simple questions:  

(a) what would I have said if George Bush and Dick Cheney advocated a law vesting them with the power to preventively imprison people indefinitely and with no charges?;

(b) when Bush and Cheney did preventively imprison large numbers of people, was I in favor of that or did I oppose it, and when right-wing groups such as Heritage Foundation were alone in urging a preventive detention law in 2004, did I support them?; and

(c) even if I’m comfortable with Obama having this new power because I trust him not to abuse it, am I comfortable with future Presidents — including Republicans — having the power of indefinite “preventive detention”?

 

(3)  Questions for defenders of Obama’s proposal:

There are many claims being made by defenders of Obama’s proposals which seem quite contradictory and/or without any apparent basis, and I’ve been searching for a defender of those proposals to address these questions:

Bush supporters have long claimed — and many Obama supporters are now insisting as well — that there are hard-core terrorists who cannot be convicted in our civilian courts.  For anyone making that claim, what is the basis for believing that?  In the Bush era, the Government has repeatedlybeen able to convict alleged Al Qaeda and Taliban members in civilian courts, including several (Ali al-Marri, Jose Padilla, John Walker Lindh) who were tortured and others (Zacharais Moussaoui, Padilla) where evidence against them was obtained by extreme coercion.  What convinced you to believe that genuine terrorists can’t be convicted in our justice system?

For those asserting that there are dangerous people who have not yet been given any trial and who Obama can’t possibly release, how do you know they are “dangerous” if they haven’t been tried?  Is the Government’s accusation enough for you to assume it’s true?

Above all:  for those justifying Obama’s use of military commissions by arguing that some terrorists can’t be convicted in civilian courts because the evidence against them is “tainted” because it was obtained by Bush’s torture, Obama himself claimed just yesterday that his military commissions also won’t allow such evidence (“We will no longer permit the use of evidence — as evidence statements that have been obtained using cruel, inhuman, or degrading interrogation methods”).  How does our civilian court’s refusal to consider evidence obtained by torture demonstrate the need for Obama’s military commissions if, as Obama himself claims, Obama’s military commissionsalso won’t consider evidence obtained by torture?

Finally, don’t virtually all progressives and Democrats argue that torture produces unreliable evidence?  If it’s really true (as Obama defenders claim) that the evidence we have against these detainees was obtained by torture and is therefore inadmissible in real courts, do you really think suchunreliable evidence — evidence we obtained by torture — should be the basis for concluding that someone is so “dangerous” that they belong in prison indefinitely with no trial?  If you don’t trust evidence obtained by torture, why do you trust it to justify holding someone forever, with no trial, as “dangerous”?

 

(4)  Do other countries have indefinite preventive detention?

Obama yesterday suggested that other countries have turned to “preventive detention” and that his proposal therefore isn’t radical (“other countries have grappled with this question; now, so must we”).  Is that true?

In June of last year, there was a tumultuous political debate in Britain that sheds ample light on this question.  In the era of IRA bombings, the British Parliament passed a law allowing the Government to preventively detain terrorist suspects for 14 days — and then either have to charge them or release them.  In 2006, Prime Minister Tony Blair — citing the London subway attacks and the need to “intervene early before a terrorist cell has the opportunity to achieve its goals” — wanted to increase the preventive detention period to 90 days, but MPs from his own party and across the political spectrum overwhelmingly opposed this, and ultimately increased it only to 28 days

In June of last year, Prime Minister Gordon Brown sought an expansion of this preventive detention authority to 42 days — a mere two weeks more.  Reacting to that extremely modest increase, amajor political rebellion erupted, with large numbers of Brown’s own Labour Party joining with Tories to vehemently oppose it as a major threat to liberty.  Ultimately, Brown’s 42-day scheme barely passed the House of Commons.  As former Prime Minister John Major put it in opposing the expansion to 42 days:

It is hard to justify: pre-charge detention in Canada is 24 hours; South Africa, Germany, New Zealand and America 48 hours; Russia 5 days; and Turkey 7½ days.

By rather stark and extreme contrast, Obama is seeking preventive detention powers that areindefinite – meaning without any end, potentially permanent.  There’s no time limit on the “preventive detention.”  Compare that power to the proposal that caused such a political storm in Britain and what these other governments are empowered to do.  The suggestion that indefinitepreventive detention without charges is some sort of common or traditional scheme is clearly false.

 

(5)   Is this comparable to traditional POW detentions?

When Bush supporters used to justify Bush/Cheney detention policies by arguing that it’s normal for “Prisoners of War” to be held without trials, that argument was deeply misleading.  And it’s no less misleading when made now by Obama supporters.  That comparison is patently inappropriate for two reasons:  (a) the circumstances of the apprehension, and (b) the fact that, by all accounts, this “war” will not be over for decades, if ever, which means — unlike for traditional POWs, who are released once the war is over — these prisoners are going to be in a cage not for a few years, but for decades, if not life.

Traditional “POWs” are ones picked up during an actual military battle, on a real battlefield, wearing a uniform, while engaged in fighting.  The potential for error and abuse in deciding who was a “combatant” was thus minimal.  By contrast, many of the people we accuse in the “war on terror” of being “combatants” aren’t anywhere near a “battlefield,” aren’t part of any army, aren’t wearing any uniforms, etc.  Instead, many of them are picked up from their homes, at work, off the streets.  In most cases, then, we thus have little more than the say-so of the U.S. Government that they are guilty, which is why actual judicial proceedings before imprisoning them is so much more vital than in the standard POW situation.  

Anyone who doubts that should just look at how many Guantanamo detainees were accused of being “the worst of the worst” yet ended up being released because they did absolutely nothing wrong.  Can anyone point to any traditional POW situation where so many people were falsely accused and where the risk of false accusations was so high?  For obvious reasons, this is not and has never been a traditional POW detention scheme.  

During the Bush era, that was a standard argument among Democrats, so why should that change now?  Here is what Anne-Marie Slaughter — now Obama’s Director of Policy Planning for the State Department — said about Bush’s “POW” comparison on Fox News in, November 21, 2001:

Military commissions have been around since the Revolutionary War. But they’ve always been used to try spies that we find behind enemy lines. It’s normally a situation, you’re on the battlefield, you find an enemy spy behind your lines. You can’t ship them to national court, so you provide a kind of rough battlefield justice in a commission. You give them the best process you can, and then you execute the sentence on the spot, which generally means executing the defendant.

That’s not this situation. It’s not remotely like it.

As for duration, the U.S. government has repeatedly said that this “war” is so different from standard wars because it will last for decades, if not generations. Obama himself yesterday said that “unlike the Civil War or World War II, we can’t count on a surrender ceremony to bring this journey to an end” and that we’ll still be fighting this “war” “a year from now, five years from now, and — in all probability — 10 years from now.”  No rational person can compare POW detentions of a finite and usually short (2-5 years) duration to decades or life in a cage.  That’s why, yesterday, Law Professor Diane Marie Amann, in The New York Timessaid this:

[Obama] signaled a plan by which [Guantanamo detainees] — and perhaps other detainees yet to be arrested? — could remain in custody forever without charge.There is no precedent in the American legal tradition for this kind of preventive detention. That is not quite right: precedents do exist, among them the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 and the Japanese internment of the 1940s, but they are widely seen as low points in America’s history under the Constitution.

There are many things that can be said about indefinitely imprisoning people with no charges who were not captured on any battlefield, but the claim that this is some sort of standard or well-established practice in American history is patently false.

 

(6)  Is it “due process” when the Government can guarantee it always wins?

If you really think about the argument Obama made yesterday — when he described the five categories of detainees and the procedures to which each will be subjected — it becomes manifest just how profound a violation of Western conceptions of justice this is.  What Obama is saying is this:  we’ll give real trials only to those detainees we know in advance we will convict.  For those we don’t think we can convict in a real court, we’ll get convictions in the military commissions I’m creating.  For those we can’t convict even in my military commissions, we’ll just imprison them anyway with no charges (“preventively detain” them). 

Giving trials to people only when you know for sure, in advance, that you’ll get convictions is not due process.  Those are called “show trials.”  In a healthy system of justice, the Government giveseveryone it wants to imprison a trial and then imprisons only those whom it can convict.  The process is constant (trials), and the outcome varies (convictions or acquittals). 

Obama is saying the opposite:  in his scheme, it is the outcome that is constant (everyone ends up imprisoned), while the process varies and is determined by the Government (trials for some; military commissions for others; indefinite detention for the rest).  The Government picks and chooses which process you get in order to ensure that it always wins.  A more warped “system of justice” is hard to imagine.

 

(7)  Can we “be safe” by locking up all the Terrorists with no charges?

Obama stressed yesterday that the “preventive detention” system should be created only through an act of Congress with “a process of periodic review, so that any prolonged detention is carefully evaluated and justified.” That’s certainly better than what Bush did:  namely, preventively detain people with no oversight and no Congressional authorization — in violation of the law.  But as we learned with the Military Commissions Act of 2006 and the Protect America Act of 2007, the mere fact that Congress approves of a radical policy may mean that it is no longer lawless but it doesn’t make it justified.  As Professor Amann put it:  “no amount of procedures can justify deprivations that, because of their very nature violate the Constitution’s core guarantee of liberty.”  Dan Froomkin saidthat no matter how many procedures are created, that’s “a dangerously extreme policy proposal.”

Regarding Obama’s “process” justification — and regarding Obama’s primary argument that we need to preventively detain allegedly dangerous people in order to keep us safe — Digby said it best:

We are still in a “war” against a method of violence, which means there is no possible end and which means that the government can capture and imprison anyone they determine to be “the enemy” forever.  The only thing that will change is where the prisoners are held and few little procedural tweaks to make it less capricious. (It’s nice that some sort of official committee will meet once in a while to decide if the war is over or if the prisoner is finally too old to still be a “danger to Americans.”)

There seems to be some misunderstanding about Guantanamo. Somehow people have gotten it into their heads is that it is nothing more than a symbol, which can be dealt with simply by closing the prison. That’s just not true. Guantanamo is a symbol, true, but it’s a symbol of a lawless, unconstitutional detention and interrogation system. Changing the venue doesn’t solve the problem.

I know it’s a mess, but the fact is that this isn’t really that difficult, except in the usual beltway kabuki political sense. There are literally tens of thousands of potential terrorists all over the world who could theoretically harm America. We cannot protect ourselves from that possibility by keeping the handful we have in custody locked up forever, whether in Guantanamo or some Super Max prison in the US. It’s patently absurd to obsess over these guys like it makes us even the slightest bit safer to have them under indefinite lock and key so they “can’t kill Americans.”

The mere fact that we are doing this makes us less safe because the complete lack of faith we show in our constitution and our justice systems is what fuels the idea that this country is weak and easily terrified. There is no such thing as a terrorist suspect who is too dangerous to be set free. They are a dime a dozen, they are all over the world and for every one we lock up there will be three to take his place. There is not some finite number of terrorists we can kill or capture and then the “war” will be over and the babies will always be safe. This whole concept is nonsensical.

As I said yesterday, there were some positive aspects to Obama’s speech.  His resolve to close Guantanamo in the face of all the fear-mongering, like his release of the OLC memos, is commendable.  But the fact that a Democratic President who ran on a platform of restoring America’s standing and returning to our core principles is now advocating the creation of a new system of indefinite preventive detention — something that is now sure to become a standard view of Democratic politicians and hordes of Obama supporters — is by far the most consequential event yet in the formation of Obama’s civil liberties policies.

 

UPDATE: Here’s what White House Counsel Greg Craig told The New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer in February:

“It’s possible but hard to imagine Barack Obama as the first President of the United States to introduce a preventive-detention law,” Craig said.  “Our presumption is that there is no need to create a whole new system. Our system is very capable.”

“The first President of the United States to introduce a preventive-detention law” is how Obama’s own White House Counsel described him.  Technically speaking, that is a form of change, but probably not the type that many Obama voters expected.

 

UPDATE II: Ben Wizner of the ACLU’s National Security Project is the lead lawyer in the Jeppesencase, which resulted in the recent rejection by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals of the Bush/Obama state secrets argument, and also co-wrote (along with the ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer) a superb article inSalon in December making the case against preventive detention.  I spoke with him this morning for roughly 20 minutes regarding the detention policies proposed by Obama in yesterday’s speech.  It can be heard by clicking PLAY on the recorder below.  A transcript will be posted shortly.

 

UPDATE III: Rachel Maddow was superb last night — truly superb — on the topic of Obama’s preventive detention proposal:

 

UPDATE IV:  The New Yorker‘s Amy Davidson compares Obama’s detention proposal to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II (as did Professor Amann, quoted above).  Hilzoy, of The Washington Monthlywrites:  “If we don’t have enough evidence to charge someone with a crime, we don’t have enough evidence to hold them. Period” and “the power to detain people without filing criminal charges against them is a dictatorial power.”  Salon‘s Joan Walsh quotesthe Center for Constitutional Rights’ Vincent Warren as saying:  “They’re creating, essentially, an American Gulag.”  The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Will Bunch says of Obama’s proposal:  “What he’s proposing is against one of this country’s core principles” and “this is why people need to keep the pressure on Obama — even those inclined to view his presidency favorably.”

 

UPDATE V:  The Atlantic‘s Marc Ambinder — who is as close to the Obama White House as any journalist around — makes an important point about Obama that I really wish more of his supporters would appreciate:

[Obama] was blunt [in his meeting with civil libertiarians]; the [military commissions] are a fait accompli, so the civil libertarians can either help Congress and the White House figure out the best way to protect the rights of the accused within the framework of that decision, or they can remain on the outside, as agitators. That’s not meant to be pejorative; whereas the White House does not give a scintilla of attention to its right-wing critics, it does read, and will read, everythingGlenn Greenwald writesObama, according to an administration official, finds this outside pressure healthy and useful.

Ambinder doesn’t mean me personally or exclusively; he means people who are criticizing Obama not in order to harm him politically, but in order to pressure him to do better.  It’s not just the right, but the duty, of citizens to pressure and criticize political leaders when they adopt policies that one finds objectionable or destructive.  Criticism of this sort is a vital check on political leaders — a key way to impose accountability — and Obama himself has said as much many times before. 

It has nothing to do with personalities or allegiances.  It doesn’t matter if one “likes” or “trusts” Obama or thinks he’s a good or bad person.  That’s all irrelevant.  The only thing that matters is whether one thinks that the actions he’s undertaking are helpful or harmful.  If they’re harmful, one should criticize them.  Where, as here, they’re very harmful and dangerous, one should criticize them loudly.  Obama himself, according to Ambinder, “finds this outside pressure healthy and useful.”  And it is.  It’s not only healthy and useful but absolutely vital.

– Glenn Greenwald

Are we too afraid to be free? of a world without prisons?

To Vladmir Ilyich Ulyanov, aka V.I. Lenin, is attributed the old Soviet boast, “The nature of Capitalism is such that the last Capitalist will sell the rope to the Communist with which to hang the last Capitalist.”  It could be true that Capitalism may be inherently self-destructive, but Democracy is even more so.  

I am increasingly convinced that the American people WANT to live in Slavery; they WANT to live in a secure and well-regulated Corporate World Prison Planet; they fear freedom and the self-responsibility that comes with it; they loathe the idea that their chains could or should be shaken off: like the frog in hot water, they may in fact become incrementally more comfortable with ever slightly tighter chains, in fact, until their circulation stops entire—

“We have lingered in the chambers of the sea/

By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown/

Till human voices wake us, and we drown.”

Or in other words, “In my end is my beginning.”  The way my grandfather always explained it was, “So long as I am the dictator, I favor pure democracy.”

          Young people who use drugs apparently, for the most part, do not really favor the legalization of drugs or think it is wrong that people who use or sell drugs are put in jail.  They, like prisoners in jails everywhere, fear pederasts and pedophiles will go free, or that murderers and rapists will rule the streets, if there is any meaningful relaxation in the criminal laws which would restore due process of law and civil rights.  And I’m not just talking about young people I meet in the bleak suburbs of Florida and Texas and other bleak places, I’m talking about many of the young people walking around the streets of Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts, where the American Revolution effectively began, where the Sons of Liberty toasted from bowls made by Paul Revere, and George Washington took command of the Continental Army.

          I for my part dream of a world without prisons, or at least a world with no long-term incarceration for anything, ever.  Murder?  Well, it’s rare, for one thing, and for another, Non-civilized tribesmen have no jails, yet murder is rare because vengeance will follow murder, and feuds will decimate the population as a result.  Anthropologists who have studied the feuding Indians of Amazonia and adjacent portions of South America (such as the “Fierce People: the Yanomamo of the Orinoco River in Venezuela) or the until very recently continually warring and sometimes cannibalistic tribes of New Guinea have not seemed to fear for their lives (although it is possible that one Michael Clark Rockefeller who vanished sometime in November 1961 SHOULD have….). 

The simple fact is that throughout history, murder has not always been punished by imprisonment or death and yet murder may be more common now in the United States of America than it ever was before, anywhere.  The United States Supreme Court recently declined to extend the death penalty back to crimes involving something other than homicide, but for a long time in the Anglo-American world, people were hanged for almost anything and everything—horse-stealing, pick-pocketing, etc.

But the young people of America seem convinced that, “if you do the crime you should do the time” and so they will probably continue voting for the politicians who build the most prisons and increase mandatory minimum sentences and probation violations until more people will be in jail or under supervision than outside of it.

I envision a world in which we return to the “injury-only” view of crime.  I can break your taboos all I want to, would be my argument, so long as I don’t hurt you, and if I do hurt you, then I should owe you compensa-tion, and if I will not or cannot compensate you adequately, then you are entitled to vengeance—but that vengeance is yours alone, and if you don’t care, why should anyone else?  That is my ideal world.  So I suppose that, “if I were sitting on the Court, every crime would sound in tort.”

Civil litigation supplemented by personal vendettas is a poor enforcement tool, but is it any worse or less efficient or less accurate than criminal justice?

The same young people I mentioned talking to above also seem to believe that most people in jail deserve to be there.  How ANYONE can think that (in light of recent history and plain reality) is just a mystery to me.  Most people who are in jail in the United States are in jail for drug-related crimes, and all or nearly all drug-related laws in the United States are plainly unconstitutional, and imprisonment for drugs is only socially destructive, NEVER socially constructive.  I would especially say this is true all Federal anti-drug laws, which carry the stiffest sentences, and are backed up by not one single line in the constitution, and by analogy with the abolition of slavery and the prohibition of liquor—if there’s nothing in the constitution about abolishing or prohibiting a species of property, such as alcohol, or drugs, the constitution prohibits the abolition or prohibition of that species of property by way of the due process clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment).

At Middle Age, Lost in the Dark Wood….

Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita, mi ritrovai per una selva oscura, ché la diritta via era smarrita.

        It is very difficult to feel more “lost” than to be locked up in jail…the dementors of Azkaban are not just a fantasy of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Books…rather, J.K. Rowling seems to have had an uncannot sense of social and political reality.  I don’t know how to explain it, but survival and recovery from the experience is all about evaluating who is at fault—the incarcerated self or the incarcerator?  I have pretty much concluded that it is the system, the series of jailers and their apprentices who are at fault, but I don’t want anyone to think that I haven’t considered the contrary. 

        When you’re trying to sleep at night on an uncomfortable cot with almost no cushion, it is very easy to feel “hated, rejected, and despised of men”…to become or think of oneself as “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”  Whoever recognizes these quotes, though, will see where I’m going with this.  There is something very powerful about the experience of justice, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for my sake.” 

        Jesus Christ was not the first revolutionary, but he was perhaps the greatest revolutionary of all times.  Few of the right-wing reactionaries who constantly cite Christian values and inspiration as a reason for this, that, or the other oppressive tactic employed or proposed to be employed would like to be held, line-by-line, to Christs’ teachings against oppressors and hypocrites, the wealthy and selfish, whose removal from the Gospels would cut the number of Jesus’ teachings down by about 90%. 

         It’s really SO hard even to remember that Jesus was, fundamentally, a revolutionary when you hear all the hateful reactionaries claiming to be Christians these days.   If the 43rd President of the United States is a Christian, in the spirit of the Gospels, then I am Mickey Mouse.   

          Anyone who on ANY LEVEL supports or approves of the Bush-Ashcroft-Gonzalez-current Justice Department, the FBI, the Bureau of Prisons, the war on drugs and/or the war on immigration while claiming to be a Christian is a fraud—a hypocrite, a lover of the law of EXACTLY the stripe against whom Jesus Christ preached ceaselessly.  It is probably not too much to say that Christ was not only a revolutionary, he was a socialist revolutionary. 

          Of course, Jesus did not ask either the government of Rome or Judea to strip the rich of their riches—he merely asked people to make a choice—which master to serve, and thereby warned the rich that they were doomed to hell in his and would never enter into his or his Father’s Kingdom so long as they grasped and held onto their wealth.

         I confess that I write all this as the product of a rather “WASPSY” background, that I am myself a fairly “WASPSY” fellow from a privileged educational and financial background (mostly Texas and Louisiana with English and German ancestors, at least a couple with titles of nobility).  My maternal grandfather was a politically well-connected “captain of industry”, and my paternal grandfather owned farmland spread out to the four corners of the horizon, with borders beyond sight (and although I’ve benefited throughout my life from too much of this wealth, as a Prodigal Son I haven’t hung on to much of it to speak of). 

         But I also really do write as one who hates drugs and what they do to people, really never touching any of the stuff myself, and as an eight generation American, through some branches of the family tree anyhow, I have no recent personal experience of what it’s like to be an “immigrant” in this country—except that I spent the past two months surrounded by sweet, innocent Mexicans and Central Americans who were among the most viciously oppressed victims of the jail system—they have done nothing wrong except come seeking honest employment (at least the ones I met locked up at any of seven prisons across California, Okalahoma, and Texas).The prison system has very few readily identifiable values, but one of the values is that “waste is good.”  

         They keep the jails insanely cold, for instance—ALL of them that I “visited” except the last one in Falfurrias, South Texas, where, even in January, it actually DOES get hot.  I was told that it is a means of emotional and physical control to keep the prisoners’ passions “on ice.”  If so, it is cruel and unusual punishment. 

         The Bureau of Prisons also loves to inflict selective sleep deprivation.  Of course, routinely, the guards wake you up throughout the night counting and recounting to see whether anyone managed to escape (as if it were likely or even remotely possible, especially in the Federal Fortresses).  But when you need your brains to be at their best, in jail, the days you’re going to Court—well those are the days when they intensify the sleep deprivation—the guards wake you up at 2:00-4:00 a.m. for hearings that NEVER start before 9:00 a.m. and may (in Los Angeles or Houston) be held only across the street, but even when traveling an hour or so as from Falfurrias to Corpus Christi, there is no need for a six hour (or in my case, 12 hour) lag time between waking up and actually going to Court.   But you see, you don’t want your prisoners to be thinking or alert while they’re in court—that would lead to disorder, chaos, and…..God Forbid—a fair adversarial process maybe.  They would NEVER allow that.

          Everything in jail is “throw away”, including especially but not limited to the inmates, the people, and the lives of the incarcerated.  But Jail is a very unsanitary, anti-environment, in which “conservation” is the last thing that could possibly matter.  Every inmate is forbidden to keep, accummulate, conserve, or save ANYTHING, and there is no recycling allowed—everything must be routinely thrown away immediately.

         And during this election year, it is worth noting that anyone who thinks that the Republicans are better or worse than the Democrats with regard to the past twenty years needs to “bone up” on their history.  The Patriot Act (as it came to be called in 2001) was just a series of amendments to the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) of 1996, drafted and enacted by Newt Gingerich’s Company of Corporate Minions and signed by Bill Clinton, the wolf in sheep’s clothing who came in as an alternative, rather than a clone, of the civil-liberty hating Republicans of the Bush stripe.  

           Let me clarify here about my political background (which naturally goes along with what I said about my family background above)—although all my Grandparents grew up as Yellow-Dog Southern Democrats, by the time I came around they were changing party and I was a more-or-less born and bred a Barry Goldwater Republican.  I don’t think anyone in my family ever joined, but it seemed like all of their friends were members of the John Birch Society and similar groups.  My grandfather was a 33rd Degree Freemason. 

           I even went to summer camp in Colorado and New Mexico when I was a kid with one of Barry Goldwater’s grandchildren [Ty Ross, who later led Barry to one of his finest moments in later life---standing up against other Republicans of the Moral Majority stripe for the rights of Gays to be treated as Human Beings].  When I was in High School in Los Angeles, I was just about the only fan Governor Reagan had at the Hollywood Professional School (they considered me a wacked out Southern conservative, even though Reagan WAS Governor of California). 

         Then in my undergraduate years at Tulane I was actually President of College Republicans and founded a Chapter of Young Americans for Freedom.  Once I got to graduate school at Harvard, I was again the almost only person I knew who openly admitted voting for Reagan in 1980 (although Reagan DID carry the State of Massachusetts that year). 

          So I didn’t start off life thinking of myself as a liberal exactly.  But life experience is a pretty harsh teacher—and almost immediately, when Reagan took office as President, I got the feeling I was NOT going to be as comfortable with him on the national level as I had been when he was Governor.  For one thing, he appointed an anti-environmental lunatic (James Gaius Watt) to the office of Secretary of the Interior and for another, just when I was becoming acutely aware of the dangers of Third-World debt by virtue of living in Mexico during the 1982 nationalization of the banking industry and subsequent inflation/ disastrous devaluation of the peso, Ronald Reagan’s government took the modest Carter-era deficit and turned it into the catastrophic Reagan-era deficit from which this country has never recovered.

          On the other hand, I liked President Reagan’s first appointee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Sandra Day O’Connor—she was a protégée of Senator Barry Goldwater.   When Jerry Falwell, Chairman of the Moral Majority, questioned Sandra Day’s qualifications to sit on the highest court because she was insufficiently committed to overturning Roe v. Wade,  Barry Goldwater responded, appropriately enough, “Jerry Falwell can kiss my ass” on the Senate floor.  I’ve really missed Barry Goldwater since he died in 1998.  He and Strom Thurmond were two of the finest Americans who ever lived, and neither one of them were anti-American subversives like the Bushes and Clintons have been.  In my own recent struggles, I find myself using Sandra Day O’Connor opinions or dissents together with Strom Thurmond’s 1996 Amendments to the Civil Rights Action, 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, as the strongest arguments against governmental oppression and the corruption of the legal system.  Another Reagan appointee, Anthony Kennedy, also of the 9th Circuit (from whence Sandra Day O’Connor hailed), has also been one of the great libertarians on the Court.  But Antonin Scalia, Reagan’s third appointee, has pretty much only been reliably “libertarian” with regards to the preservation of the power and prerogatives of juries, for he is decidedly authoritarian on all other subjects.

         The old Goldwater-Rockefeller rivalry within the Republican Party was often framed as “reactionary conservative vs. progressive liberal”, but few people realize that Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller as Governor of New York started two of the most repressive modern trends in criminal law, namely the War on Drugs, which Rockefeller envisioned and implemented at the state level even before Nixon picked it up in the Federal system.  Goldwater was consistently, always, against the expansion of governmental power, including the power of the government to put people in jail.  Goldwater’s stance on the War on Drugs and the limitations on governmental power is now a decided minority in the Republican Party, represented ONLY by Congressman Ron Paul of Texas on the national scene.

          Possibly even worse for its victims over the short-term than, but closely correlated with, the longer-term effects of the War on Drugs, Governor Rockefeller presided over the first major “mass production” industrial level expansion of the American prison system—New York’s prisons became so over-crowded and inhumane by 1971 that in September a riot broke out at one of the largest and most modern prisons in the state: Attica.The Attica Prison riot occurred at the Attica Correctional Facility in Attica, New York, United States in 1971.  The riot was based in part upon prisoners’ demands for better living conditions.  Attica inmates took forty-two officers and civilians hostage and aired a list of grievances, demanding their needs be met before their surrender.  In a facility designed to hold 1,200 inmates and actually housing 2,225, theirs was a substantial list.  They felt that they had been illegally denied certain rights and conditions to which they were entitled, illustrated by such practices as being allowed only one bucket of water for a “shower” per week and one roll of toilet paper per person per month.  

         On September 9, 1971, responding to rumors of the impending torture of a prisoner, about one thousand of the prison’s approximately 2,200 inmates rioted and seized control of the prison, taking thirty-three guards hostage.

         In historical perspective, Attica was a landmark even, but had mixed results.   By the time of my own 54 days incarceration in December 9 2007-February 2, 2008, prisoners everywhere could count on at least one roll of toilet paper per week (and usually as much as you needed—if you begged hard enough) and all the facilities I visited had running water—not always hot or very good showers, but showers of a sort nonetheless. 

           After Attica, on the other hand, jail security measures became much stricter throughout the United States, and Attica garnered support for the increasing repression of the people in that it (almost for the first time) brought Northern (“socially liberal”) supporters of Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller (his middle name “Aldrich” was given after one of his uncles who founded the Federal Reserve System in 1913) and Southern White “social conservatives” closer together than anyone had ever dreamed possible in supporting increased incarceration and severe punishment for all non-white “criminals” in the Country—Attica’s population was 54% African-American in 1971.  Now approximately 54% of the male African-American population between the ages of 15-45 have been incarcerated or on probation for at least six months out of their lives.  According to the U.S. Justice Department’s own statistics for the year 2004-2005, around one in ten African American men in their twenties and thirties are CURRENTLY in prison.

         And plainly, none of this EVER have happened without the War on Drugs which Governor Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller began, and which Presidents Richard M. Nixon, Ronald Reagan, William Jefferson Clinton, and all Bushes, elder, younger, and Florida governor, have pursued with a vengeance.  Clinton’s greatest contribution was to sign the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.It was this “AEDPA” which first effectively castrated the ancient Writ of Habeas Corpus, the oldest legal remedy against oppression in the Anglo-American system, constituting a key facet of the Magna Carta in 1215.

          In fact, all the early (pre-9/11) attempts at “false flag” and domestic terrorism in the United States took place during the Bill Clinton/Janet Reno years.  It is disheartening in the extreme, it is deeply disturbing.  It is criminal.  It is not too much to say that the United States Government would appear to be the largest criminal enterprise in the world at the present time—even exceeding China.

The similarities between prison/incarceration and slavery are well focused through the fact that 1971, the year of Attica, was also the first year of approaches by Nixon’s National Security Advisor (later Secretary of State) Henry Kissinger towards China—and at this time the elder Bush was ambassador to the U.N. and later to China, or perhaps vice-versa—but he was in on the Globalist conspiracy to bridge the gap between the U.S. and China from the beginning. 

 Let no one be deceived that China became more liberal or open through this process.  After 18 years of contact with the U.S., from 1971-1989, China showed the state of its civil rights revolution at Tienanmen Square.  During the next 19 years, the U.S. became dependent upon trade with and loans from China—the greatest slavocracy the world has ever known, and the palpably more Maoist than Jeffersonian Bureau of Prisons is ten thousand times more repressive than Tienanmen Square.

And so now I spend my free time, still lost in the dark wood, still wondering how it is that a Goldwater Republican came to be a hater of the Republican Party’s President, Vice-President, and all of their policies.  I was brought up in my family to admire members of the aristocracy (both European and American), and in fact to consider myself to be one of the aristocrats, but I now look with devious suspicion on the connection between the Rockefeller Family, the Federal Reserve, the War on Drugs, and the expansion of American Prisons. 

Alex Jones’ latest movie “Endgame: Blueprint for Global Enslavement” reflects on all these issues, and given my own life knowledge and experience, I cannot help but belief that it is true: the United States and China have become one—China has given up its ideals of communism and adopted a Gospel of Greed, while the United States has given up its ideals of freedom and adopted a Constitution of Mass Produced Slavery—importing slaves from all over the world to become melted down, not to confer the blessings of freedom, but to guarantee the riches of the oligarchy. 

Like the astonishing behavioral, psychological, and even morphological convergence of pigs and human landowners in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, it has become impossible to tell the Chinese Communist Oppressors from the American Capitalist Liberators: they all walk on two legs and flourish from the poverty and labor of the oppressed.  In reflecting after 47 years on this Anglo-Chinese world-fusion, it is very difficult to find Serenity…..