Inequality is back in the news, largely thanks to Occupy Wall Street, but with an assist from the Congressional Budget Office. And you know what that means: It’s time to roll out the obfuscators!
Anyone who has tracked this issue over time knows what I mean. Whenever growing income disparities threaten to come into focus, a reliable set of defenders tries to bring back the blur. Think tanks put out reports claiming that inequality isn’t really rising, or that it doesn’t matter.
via Oligarchy, American Style – NYTimes.com.
More Americans receive mental health treatment in prisons and jails than in hospitals or treatment centers. In fact, the three largest inpatient psychiatric facilities in the country are jails: Los Angeles County Jail, Rikers Island Jail in New York City and Cook County Jail in Illinois.
“We have a criminal justice system which has a very clear purpose: You get arrested. We want justice. We try you, and justice hopefully prevails. It was never built to handle people that were very, very ill, at least with mental illness,” Judge Steve Leifman tells Laura Sullivan, guest host of weekends on All Things Considered.
via Nations Jails Struggle With Mentally Ill Prisoners : NPR.
When Dr. King spoke of the great arc bending toward justice, he did not mean that we should wait for it to bend. He exhorted others to put their full weight behind it, and he gave his life speaking with a voice that cut through the blistering force of water cannons and the gnashing teeth of police dogs. He preached the gospel of nonviolence, but he knew that whether a bully hid behind a club or a poll tax, the only effective response was to face the bully down, and to make the bully show his true and repugnant face in public.
IN contrast, when faced with the greatest economic crisis, the greatest levels of economic inequality, and the greatest levels of corporate influence on politics since the Depression, Barack Obama stared into the eyes of history and chose to avert his gaze. Instead of indicting the people whose recklessness wrecked the economy, he put them in charge of it. He never explained that decision to the public — a failure in storytelling as extraordinary as the failure in judgment behind it. Had the president chosen to bend the arc of history, he would have told the public the story of the destruction wrought by the dismantling of the New Deal regulations that had protected them for more than half a century. He would have offered them a counternarrative of how to fix the problem other than the politics of appeasement, one that emphasized creating economic demand and consumer confidence by putting consumers back to work. He would have had to stare down those who had wrecked the economy, and he would have had to tolerate their hatred if not welcome it. But the arc of his temperament just didn’t bend that far.
via What Happened to Obama’s Passion? – NYTimes.com.
The breaded chicken patty your child bites into at school may have been made by a worker earning twenty cents an hour, not in a faraway country, but by a member of an invisible American workforce: prisoners. At the Union Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison in Florida, inmates from a nearby lower-security prison manufacture tons of processed beef, chicken and pork for Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises PRIDE, a privately held non-profit corporation that operates the state’s forty-one work programs. In addition to processed food, PRIDE’s website reveals an array of products for sale through contracts with private companies, from eyeglasses to office furniture, to be shipped from a distribution center in Florida to businesses across the US. PRIDE boasts that its work programs are “designed to provide vocational training, to improve prison security, to reduce the cost of state government, and to promote the rehabilitation of the state inmates.”
via The Hidden History of ALEC and Prison Labor | The Nation.
Phoenix — They came from all over the country, agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, brought here in a bold new effort to shut down the flow of U.S. guns to Mexican drug cartels. It was called Operation Fast and Furious, after a popular movie about street car racing.But from the beginning, much of the fury was inside the agency itself.
via Operation Fast and Furious: A gunrunning sting gone wrong – The Washington Post.
As we write this, thousands of inmates across California–spearheaded by an organized bloc in the Pelican Bay secure housing unit (SHU)–are refusing meals and risking their bodies and lives in the struggle to reform the atrocious conditions prevalent across the state penitentiary system. But this struggle is about more than reforming incarceration and improving conditions: the hunger strike speaks to the struggle for revolutionary change across society as a whole an offers a preliminary glimpse of the new world gestating in the hellish bowels of the old.
Read full article at:
George Ciccariello-Maher and Jeff St. Andrews: Every Crook Can Govern.
Frankly, Mr. President, you should take this one personally. As you must know, the War on Drugs has been, in effect, a war on black men. Though whites are the nation’s biggest users and dealers of illicit drugs, blacks are the ones most likely to be jailed for drug crimes and to suffer the disruption of families and communities that comes with it.You have done little to address these and other racial inequities of the criminal injustice system.
via Time to end drug ‘war’ – Leonard Pitts Jr. – MiamiHerald.com.
Providers of civil legal services to the poor are having to furlough their staff, triage their clients, and turn away more people in need as a result of the congressional budget compromise reached last month. Legal services may include defending low-income individuals dealing with predatory lending, domestic violence, landlord-tenant disputes or foreclosure. As weve noted, legal experts have particularly urged to Congress to adequately fund legal services in order to alleviate the crisis of flawed foreclosures.
But far from seeing any budget increases, the umbrella nonprofit group Legal Services Corporation had its funding cut by $15.8 million—about 4 percent of its most recent budget—as a result of last months budget compromise. It was spared a $75 million cut first proposed by House Republicans.
via Legal Services for Poor Face Growing Need and Less Funding – ProPublica.
The racism within the police-court-prison system is one of America’s most neglected evils, as is the impact it has on the poor African-American and Latino communities that are home for so many released convicts.
via Inside Criminal Justice.
Of all the topics on which Ive focused, Ive likely written most about Americas two-tiered justice system — the way in which political and financial elites now enjoy virtually full-scale legal immunity for even the most egregious lawbreaking, while ordinary Americans, especially the poor and racial and ethnic minorities, are subjected to exactly the opposite treatment: the worlds largest prison state and most merciless justice system. That full-scale destruction of the rule of law is also the topic of my forthcoming book. But The New York Times this morning has a long article so perfectly illustrating what I mean by “two-tiered justice system” — and the way in which it obliterates the core covenant of the American Founding: equality before the law — that its impossible for me not to highlight it.
via The Two-Tiered Justice System: An Illustration | Common Dreams.