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marmar

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Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 70,339

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Chris Hedges: The Prison State of America


from truthdig:



by Chris Hedges


Prisons employ and exploit the ideal worker. Prisoners do not receive benefits or pensions. They are not paid overtime. They are forbidden to organize and strike. They must show up on time. They are not paid for sick days or granted vacations. They cannot formally complain about working conditions or safety hazards. If they are disobedient, or attempt to protest their pitiful wages, they lose their jobs and can be sent to isolation cells. The roughly 1 million prisoners who work for corporations and government industries in the American prison system are models for what the corporate state expects us all to become. And corporations have no intention of permitting prison reforms that would reduce the size of their bonded workforce. In fact, they are seeking to replicate these conditions throughout the society.

States, in the name of austerity, have stopped providing prisoners with essential items including shoes, extra blankets and even toilet paper, while starting to charge them for electricity and room and board. Most prisoners and the families that struggle to support them are chronically short of money. Prisons are company towns. Scrip, rather than money, was once paid to coal miners, and it could be used only at the company store. Prisoners are in a similar condition. When they go broke—and being broke is a frequent occurrence in prison—prisoners must take out prison loans to pay for medications, legal and medical fees and basic commissary items such as soap and deodorant. Debt peonage inside prison is as prevalent as it is outside prison.

States impose an array of fees on prisoners. For example, there is a 10 percent charge imposed by New Jersey on every commissary purchase. Stamps have a 10 percent surcharge. Prisoners must pay the state for a 15-minute deathbed visit to an immediate family member or a 15-minute visit to a funeral home to view the deceased. New Jersey, like most other states, forces a prisoner to reimburse the system for overtime wages paid to the two guards who accompany him or her, plus mileage cost. The charge can be as high as $945.04. It can take years to pay off a visit with a dying father or mother.

Fines, often in the thousands of dollars, are assessed against many prisoners when they are sentenced. There are 22 fines that can be imposed in New Jersey, including the Violent Crime Compensation Assessment (VCCB), the Law Enforcement Officers Training & Equipment Fund (LEOT) and Extradition Costs (EXTRA). The state takes a percentage each month out of prison pay to pay down the fines, a process that can take decades. If a prisoner who is fined $10,000 at sentencing must rely solely on a prison salary he or she will owe about $4,000 after making payments for 25 years. Prisoners can leave prison in debt to the state. And if they cannot continue to make regular payments—difficult because of high unemployment—they are sent back to prison. High recidivism is part of the design. .........................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_prison_state_of_america_20141228



Chris Hedges and Rev. David Bullock: Christmas Charity and Revolution





In a special Christmas episode of The Real News Network’s “Reality Asserts Itself,” Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges and Detroit’s Rev. David Bullock discuss capitalism’s perversion of charity and the season’s potential to breathe social justice back into national life.

“Charity has become the instrument by which justice is denied throughout the society,” Hedges tells Bullock and host Paul Jay. “We are stripping away civil services, destroying basic programs which sustain the poorest of the poor, because charity is supposed to take it over. We’re watching large corporations, which are predatory, justify themselves through acts of charity or philanthropy. And these corporations at their heart are disemboweling the country, are creating untold misery for the vulnerable, not only domestically, but globally. And so charity becomes something that is kind of unrelenting as a kind of ideology, because it’s a mask for the denial of justice and for the justification of predatory capitalism.”

Bullock adds: “I think there has been a tug-of-war, at least in this country, between competing ideals. Charity, love, benevolence versus what John Rawls would call justice as fairness. And, so, of course, Rawls lost to Robert Nozick and love has triumphed over justice. This plays out in an interesting way even in the hands up don’t shoot or black lives matter movement. So we die-in, sit in, walk in, eat in, and sleep in, but don’t ask for any public policy solution to police brutality. Or better yet, activists stand next to families, lawyers represent those families, go into a criminal case that they know they can’t win because the law makes it impossible for them to actually win the criminal case. They know that in advance. But then, in the name of love, we get the family a settlement and march around New York or Washington, D.C., and give back. We wear a T-shirt at a basketball game and score points for the Lakers. I mean, so there is this shadowboxing, this veneer of care that has triumphed over the deep, significant need for justice, fairness, equality, public policy that empowers the people, as opposed to a limited and light love that lifts up corporations.

Bullock continues: “I’m not sure that we should continue to say that Jesus’ message was forgiving and loving and giving. I think we need to back up a bit. Jesus primarily, when you encounter Jesus talking to people and teaching them, he’s either teaching his disciples or he’s teaching his enemies Sadducees and Pharisees and other sects. And some of the things that he says primarily, about the Sabbath and about the legalism and about the sign of holiness or the sign of being blessed, who God’s people are, this isn’t just kind of some individual love your neighbor, give, and forgive. I mean, this is deep critique of legal systems of oppression. The work that Jesus does in the Temple, which is also a bank, right—and, of course, people never read the bank temple. They read the temple as the sanctuary of worship. It’s a bank. And so the high interest fees that are being charged on poor people who have tied their religious worship to a deity, right, to their financial prospectus—so they can’t opt out, because if you opt out, you’re a bad worshiper. So you have to pay the exorbitant amount of being charged for the turtledove and charged for the sacrifice. And Jesus comes and says, no. Right? I mean, so that Jesus flips over the tables, and whips. So the meek, caring, loving, forgiving Jesus pulls a whip out, OK, and whips the money changers out of the temple, which is why, ultimately, he makes a lot of enemies and gets crucified. You know, he goes to Zacchaeus’ house. I don’t know what he told the brother, but whatever he told Zacchaeus, Zacchaeus came out of that dinner meeting giving folks their money back. .................(more)

http://www.truthdig.com/avbooth/item/chris_hedges_and_bullock_charity_and_revolution_at_christmastime_20141227



The American Public Gets Distracted From Torture

http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/the_american_public_gets_distracted_from_torture_20141228


via truthdig:



News this holiday season of the hacking of Sony studios and new U.S. relations with Cuba “flushed” the bad news of the Senate’s torture report from the public mind, writes Robert Hennelly at Salon.

Among the revelations that are fast escaping public notice is the fact that contractors who water boarded detainees made $1,800 a day—four times more than contractors who didn’t.

Hennelly reports:

In this case the devil really is in the details. For years the public was told the torture techniques saved lives, prevented additional terror attacks and helped lead to the capture of Osama bin Laden. Not so, says the Senate report, which goes on to chronicle years of obfuscation, deceit and deception by a CIA that was hell-bent on covering its tracks. Now the CIA is saying it is “unknowable” if the torture techniques produced results.

… Dozens of individuals were wrongfully detained by the CIA and two of the Agency’s informants were mistakenly tortured. One detainee died of hypothermia after 48 hours of sleep deprivation, getting doused with cold water and being chained to a concrete floor.
Certainly these are all activities that would be defined as illegal under the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which the United States ratified in 1994. Under the terms of the Convention there are no “exceptional circumstances,” like preventing a potential terrorist act, which would permit the use of these techniques that deliberately inflict “severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental.”

… New Crossroads labor correspondent Gregory Heires writes in his aptly titled post “Outsourcing Torture” that “the contract workers had a conflict of interest. They were responsible for carrying out torture while also determining whether it was effective and safe.” Heires notes there was a built-in financial incentive to be brutal.


Read more here.



Chris Hedges and Rev. David Bullock: Christmas Charity and Revolution





In a special Christmas episode of The Real News Network’s “Reality Asserts Itself,” Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges and Detroit’s Rev. David Bullock discuss capitalism’s perversion of charity and the season’s potential to breathe social justice back into national life.

“Charity has become the instrument by which justice is denied throughout the society,” Hedges tells Bullock and host Paul Jay. “We are stripping away civil services, destroying basic programs which sustain the poorest of the poor, because charity is supposed to take it over. We’re watching large corporations, which are predatory, justify themselves through acts of charity or philanthropy. And these corporations at their heart are disemboweling the country, are creating untold misery for the vulnerable, not only domestically, but globally. And so charity becomes something that is kind of unrelenting as a kind of ideology, because it’s a mask for the denial of justice and for the justification of predatory capitalism.”

Bullock adds: “I think there has been a tug-of-war, at least in this country, between competing ideals. Charity, love, benevolence versus what John Rawls would call justice as fairness. And, so, of course, Rawls lost to Robert Nozick and love has triumphed over justice. This plays out in an interesting way even in the hands up don’t shoot or black lives matter movement. So we die-in, sit in, walk in, eat in, and sleep in, but don’t ask for any public policy solution to police brutality. Or better yet, activists stand next to families, lawyers represent those families, go into a criminal case that they know they can’t win because the law makes it impossible for them to actually win the criminal case. They know that in advance. But then, in the name of love, we get the family a settlement and march around New York or Washington, D.C., and give back. We wear a T-shirt at a basketball game and score points for the Lakers. I mean, so there is this shadowboxing, this veneer of care that has triumphed over the deep, significant need for justice, fairness, equality, public policy that empowers the people, as opposed to a limited and light love that lifts up corporations.

Bullock continues: “I’m not sure that we should continue to say that Jesus’ message was forgiving and loving and giving. I think we need to back up a bit. Jesus primarily, when you encounter Jesus talking to people and teaching them, he’s either teaching his disciples or he’s teaching his enemies Sadducees and Pharisees and other sects. And some of the things that he says primarily, about the Sabbath and about the legalism and about the sign of holiness or the sign of being blessed, who God’s people are, this isn’t just kind of some individual love your neighbor, give, and forgive. I mean, this is deep critique of legal systems of oppression. The work that Jesus does in the Temple, which is also a bank, right—and, of course, people never read the bank temple. They read the temple as the sanctuary of worship. It’s a bank. And so the high interest fees that are being charged on poor people who have tied their religious worship to a deity, right, to their financial prospectus—so they can’t opt out, because if you opt out, you’re a bad worshiper. So you have to pay the exorbitant amount of being charged for the turtledove and charged for the sacrifice. And Jesus comes and says, no. Right? I mean, so that Jesus flips over the tables, and whips. So the meek, caring, loving, forgiving Jesus pulls a whip out, OK, and whips the money changers out of the temple, which is why, ultimately, he makes a lot of enemies and gets crucified. You know, he goes to Zacchaeus’ house. I don’t know what he told the brother, but whatever he told Zacchaeus, Zacchaeus came out of that dinner meeting giving folks their money back. .................(more)

http://www.truthdig.com/avbooth/item/chris_hedges_and_bullock_charity_and_revolution_at_christmastime_20141227



“No, I’m basically selling insurance, but not getting a commission.”


from In These Times:


Obamacare Counselor: “On the Surface, People Have Choices. But It’s a Complete Farce”
BY REBECCA BURNS


I talk to people about Obamacare. My job is to help people buy insurance if they’re making above a certain income level. So I’m basically an insurance broker, except I’m paid by the government instead of an insurance company. And I’m making a crappy non-profit wage.

When I initially trained for the job, they couldn’t actually show us what the Marketplace was going to look like—it wasn’t up and running yet—so the training was more like, “Here’s how you greet a client.” It went over how to how to ask them questions about their situation, things like that.

By the time we started signing people up for the actual Marketplace, sometimes I would be discovering along with the patient what the next steps were, sitting and reading it along with them and figuring it out as I went. My job is to help people navigate complex websites. For a lot of people, the process is inherently alienating. The ACA took the healthcare system, which is messed up already, and then it added an application and an online shopping system on top of it, and then more layers of tax law and immigration law on top of that. It didn’t actually make the health system itself better.

.....(snip).....

There are some aspects that are worthwhile, like the expansion of Medicaid. But generally, it seems like we’re moving things away from what a lot of people need. Many who are above the Medicaid limit don’t agree with the government’s estimate of what “affordable” means, and they don’t think the options on the Marketplace make sense for their budget. There are people who don’t like the insurance they have at their job and thought they’d be able to buy something better on the Marketplace. Those people are kind of between a rock and a hard place.

.....(snip).....

It’s a complete farce. On the surface, individuals have all these choices, but I can’t really predict what will be best, and the patient can’t either. That’s one of the problems with the fact that all this is privatized. The people who actually have the useful information aren’t in the room. ......................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/17470/obamacare_counselor



Bankers Brought Rating Agencies ‘To Their Knees’ On Tobacco Bonds





This story was co-published by ProPublica and Marketplace.


When the economy nosedived in 2008, it didn’t take long to find the crucial trigger. Wall Street banks had peddled billions of dollars in toxic securities after packing them with subprime mortgages that were sure to default.

Behind the bankers’ actions, however, stood a less-visible part of the finance industry that also came under fire. The big credit-rating firms – S&P, Moody’s and Fitch – routinely blessed the securities as safe investments. Two U.S. investigations found that raters compromised their independence under pressure from banks and the lure of profits, becoming, as the government’s official inquiry panel put it, “essential cogs in the wheel of financial destruction.”

Now there is evidence the raters also may have succumbed to pressure from the bankers in another area: The sale of billions of dollars in bonds by states and municipalities looking to quickly cash in on the massive 1998 legal settlement with Big Tobacco.
A review by ProPublica of documents from 22 tobacco bond offerings sold by 15 state and local governments shows that bankers routinely bragged about having their way with the agencies that rated their products. The claims were brazen, the documents show, with bankers saying they routinely played one firm against its competitors to win changes to rating methods, jack up a rating or agree to rate longer-term, riskier bonds. ....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/bankers_brought_rating_agencies_to_their_knees_on_tobacco_bonds_20141227



Chris Hedges "One Nation Under Surveillance"





Happy Holidays DU!! ... A little Zinnspiration for you .... Remember, a better world is possible !




Eugene Debs and the Idea of Socialism
by Howard Zinn

excerpted from the book
Howard Zinn on History


When the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1989, we heard a constant refrain in the press and from the mouths of politicians, that socialism had been discredited, and capitalism was the wave of the future. I was annoyed by the way Stalinism was mistaken for socialism, and wanted to recapture that idea of socialism which had inspired millions of people in this country before the Bolshevik revolution ever existed. No one represented that idea more eloquently than the socialist leader Eugene Debs.

We are always in need of radicals who are also lovable and so we would do well to bring back to public attention the person of Eugene Victor Debs. Ninety years ago, at the time The Progressive was born, Debs was nationally famous as leader of the Socialist Party, and the poet James Whitcomb Riley wrote of him:

As warm a heart as ever beat
Betwixt here and the Judgement Seat


Debs was what every socialist or anarchist or radical should be fierce in his convictions, kind and compassionate in his personal relations. Sam Moore, a fellow inmate of the Atlanta penitentiary, where Debs was imprisoned for opposing the first world war, told, years later, how he felt as Debs was about to be released on Christmas Day 1921: "As miserable as I was, I would defy fate with all its cruelty as long as Debs held my hand, and I was the most miserably happiest man on earth when I knew he was going home Christmas."

Debs had won the hearts of his fellow prisoners in Atlanta. He had fought for them in a hundred ways, and refused any special privileges for himself. That day of Debs' release from Atlanta prison, the warden ignored prison regulations and opened every cellblock to allow over two thousand inmates to mass in front of the main jail building to say goodbye to Eugene Debs. As he started down the walkway from the prison, a roar went up and he turned, tears streaming down his face, and stretched out his arms to the other prisoners.

This was not his first prison experience. In 1894, not yet a Socialist, but an organizer of railroad workers in the American Railway Union, he had led a nationwide boycott of the railroads in support of the striking workers at the Pullman Palace Car Company. They effectively tied up the railroad system, burned hundreds of railway cars, and were met with the full force of the capitalist state: Attorney General Richard Olney, a former railroad lawyer, got a court injunction to prohibit blocking trains. President Cleveland called out the army, which used bayonets, and rifle fire on a crowd of five thousand strike sympathizers in Chicago. Seven hundred were arrested. Thirteen were shot to death. ..................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Zinn/EDebs_Socialism_HZOH.html



Get Ready Now for the Fast-Track Fight


Get Ready Now for the Fast-Track Fight

Wednesday, 24 December 2014 11:18
By Dave Johnson, Campaign for America's Future | Op-Ed


As soon as the new Congress is sworn in next year, the fight over Fast Track will begin. Start preparing now.

David Cay Johnston, explains in “Full Speed Ahead On Secretive Trade Deal”: (Note the ‘t’ in his last name. I am David C JohnSON.)

Early next year, after the 114th Congress begins meeting, a new Washington coalition will move quickly to approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a 12-nation trade agreement that will destroy American jobs, restrict individual liberty and burden American taxpayers. Oh, and it will do so without any real debate.

… The agreement would even let foreign companies seek damages if U.S. or state rules threaten their profits. Plaintiff companies would not have to sustain damages to collect damages from American taxpayers. They would only need to show a threat to their profits, leaks from the trade talks have revealed. Under previous trade deals, American taxpayers already have paid $3 billion in damages, with $14 billion in claims still in litigation.


Johnston explains that this will be pushed using Fast Track:

Fast track = little debate

Don’t expect a vigorous congressional debate exploring the agreement and its implications, especially for workers, before it becomes the law of the land.

Obama wants Congress to fast-track the agreement, which would mean perfunctory congressional hearings followed by an up-or-down vote within 90 days, no amendments allowed. That congressional Republicans favor fast-tracking has an “Alice in Wonderland” quality, given GOP attacks on his supposed dictatorial use of executive orders. (He has issued far fewer executive orders per year than any other president in the last century.)

Secrecy and fast track are not how democracy is supposed to work. They are also a glaring contradiction of candidate Obama’s transparency promises in 2008.
.......................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/28195-get-ready-now-for-the-fast-track-fight



Franco redux?


What’s a government to do when the people take to the street to protest the way the country is being run? A sensible government would change policies to appease the people it is committed to serving. Alternately, a government could take Spain’s current approach, which is to start fining and arresting people for protesting in the first place. Yes, that will solve the problem!

Spain is showing signs of fascism with its new anti-protest legislation nicknamed the “Gag Law.” This past week, Spain’s lower parliament okayed the law, pushing it much closer to reality. Among the restrictions cemented by the law, punishable by a $700-37,000 fine:

Holding a protest without obtaining a permit from the government first.
Protesting the day before an election.
Insulting a police officer.
Burning a flag.
Photographing/filming police officers and sharing said photos/videos.
Protesting at a bank.
Blocking a home foreclosure
Assembling near a legislative building
Wearing hoods or masks, as they prevent authorities from identifying you.


That’s not all. Even peaceful protests can be shut down if police fear that the protest could at some point “turn disorderly”ť (left to the police’s discretion, obviously.) Oh, and don’t even think about appealing these fines in court. People who appeal these fines will be made to pay the court costs.

A quarter of Spain’s population is unemployed, with half of the nation’s young adults lacking a job. By upping the financial repercussions for protesting, the government knows it can scare away people who can’t afford to pay these tickets. ............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/28175-spanish-government-strips-away-protesting-rights



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