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The Un-Development of the US Economy

By Paul Craig Roberts | CounterPunch | January 29, 2014

A few days ago, I explained how economists and policymakers destroyed our economy for the sake of short-term corporate profits from jobs offshoring and financial deregulation.

That same week Business Week published an article, “Factory Jobs Are Gone. Get Over It,” by Charles Kenny.    Kenny expresses the view of establishment economists, such as Brookings Institute economist Justin Wolfers who wants to know “What’s with the political fetish for manufacturing?  Are factories really so awesome?”

“Not really,” Kenny says.  Citing Eric Fisher of the Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank, Kenny reports that wages rise most rapidly in those states that most quickly abandon manufacturing.  Kenny cites Gary Hufbauer, once an academic colleague of mine now at the Peterson Institute, who claims that the 2009 tariffs applied to Chinese tire imports cost US consumers $1 billion in higher prices and 3,731 lost retail jobs. Note the precision of the jobs loss, right down to the last 31.

In support of the argument that Americans are better off without manufacturing jobs, Kenny cites MIT and Harvard academic economists to the effect that there is no evidence that manufacturing tends to cluster, thus disputing the view that there are economies from manufacturers tending to congregate in the same areas where they benefit from an experienced work force and established supply chains.

Perhaps the MIT and Harvard economists did their study after US manufacturing centers became shells of their former selves and Detroit lost 25% of its population, Gary Indiana lost 22% of its population, Flint Michigan lost 18% of its population, Cleveland lost 17% of its population, and St Louis lost 20% of its population.  If the economists’ studies were done after manufacturing had departed, they would not find manufacturing concentrated in locations where it formerly flourished.  MIT and Harvard economists might find this an idea too large to comprehend.

Kenny’s answer to the displaced manufacturing workers is–you guessed it–jobs training. He cites MIT economist David Autor who thinks the problem is the federal government only spends $1 on retraining for every $400 that it spends on supporting displaced workers.

These arguments are so absurd as to be mindless.  Let’s examine them.  What jobs are the displaced manufacturing workers to be trained for?  Why, service jobs, of course. Kenny actually thinks that “service industries–hotels, hospitals, media, and accounting–have taken up the slack.”  (I don’t know where he gets media and accounting from; scant sign of such jobs are found in the payroll jobs reports.)  Moreover, service jobs have certainly not taken up the slack as the rising rate of long-term unemployment and declining labor force participation rate prove.

Nontradable service sector jobs such as hotel maids, hospital orderlies, retail clerks, waitresses and bartenders are low productivity, low value-added jobs that cannot pay incomes comparable to manufacturing jobs.  The long term decline in real median family income relates to the movement offshore of manufacturing jobs and tradable professional service jobs, such as software engineering, IT, research and design.

Moreover, domestic service jobs do not produce exportable goods and services.  A country without manufactures has little with which to earn foreign exchange in order to pay for its imports of its shoes, clothing, manufactured goods, high-technology products, Apple computers, and increasingly food.  Therefore, that country’s trade deficit widens as each year it owes more and more to foreigners.

A country whose best known products are fraudulent and toxic financial instruments and GMO foods that no one wants cannot pay for its imports except by signing over its existing assets. The foreigners buy up US assets with their trade surpluses.  Consequently, income from rents, interest, dividends, capital gains, and profits leave US pockets for foreign pockets.  It is a safe bet that Hufbauer did not include any of these costs or maybe even the loss of US tire workers’ wages and tire manufacturers’ profits when he concluded that trying to save US tire manufacturing jobs cost more than it was worth.

Eric Fisher’s argument that the highest wage growth is found in areas where higher productivity manufacturing jobs are most rapidly replaced with lower productivity domestic service jobs is beyond absurd. (Possibly Fisher did not say this; I’m taking Kenny’s word for it.) It has always been a foundation of labor economics that workers are paid the value of their contribution to output.  Manufacturing employees working with technology embodied in plant and equipment produce more value per man hour than maids changing sheets and bartenders mixing drinks.

In my book, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism And Economic Dissolution Of The West (2013), I point out the obvious mistakes in “studies” by Matthew Slaughter, a former member of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, and Harvard professor  Michael Porter.  These academic economists conclude on the basis of extraordinary errors and ignorance of empirical facts, that jobs offshoring is good for Americans.  They were able to reach this conclusion despite the absence of any visibility of this good, and they hold to this absurd conclusion despite the inability of a “recovery” (or lack of one) that is 4.5 years old to get off the ground and get employment back up to where it was six years ago.  They hold to their “education is the answer” solution despite the growing percentage of university graduates who cannot find employment.

Michael Hudson is certainly correct to call economists purveyors of  “junk economics.”  Indeed, I wonder if economists even have junk value.  But they are well paid by Wall Street and the offshoring corporations.

What the Brookings Institute’s Justin Wolfers needs to ask himself is: what is the redefinition of economic development?  For my lifetime the definition of a developed economy is an industrialized economy.  It has always been “the industrialized countries” that occupy the status of “developed economies,” contrasted with “undeveloped countries,” “developing countries,” and “emerging economies.”  How is an economy developed if it is shedding its industry and manufacturing?  This is the reverse of the development process.  Without realizing it, Kenny describes the unravelling of the US economy when he describes the decline of US manufacturing from 28 percent of US GDP in 1953 to 12% in 2012.  The US now has the work force of a third world country, with the vast bulk of the population employed in lowly paid domestic services.  The US work force no longer looks like the work force of a developed country.  It looks like third world India’s work force of three decades ago.

Kenny and junk economists speak of the decline of US manufacturing jobs as if they are not being offshored to countries where labor is cheap but replaced by automation.  No doubt there has been automation, and more ways of replacing humans with machines will be found. But if manufacturing jobs are things of the past, why is China’s sudden and rapid rise to economic power accompanied by 100 million manufacturing jobs?  Apple computers are not made in China by robots.  If robots are making Apple computers, it would be just as cheap to make the computers in the US.  The Chinese manufacturing workforce is almost the size of the entire US work force.

US companies employ Americans to market the products that are produced abroad for sale in the US.  This is why US corporations employ Americans mainly in service jobs. Foreigners make the goods, and Americans sell them.

Economic development has always been about acquiring the capital, technology, business knowledge, and trained workforce to make valuable things that can be sold  at home and abroad.  US capital and technology are being located abroad, and the trained domestic workforce is disappearing from disuse and abandonment.  The US is falling out of the ranks of the industrialized countries and is on the path to becoming an undeveloped economy.

January 29, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Economics | | Leave a comment

American State of the Union: A Festival of Lies

obama-arrival-sotu

By Glen Ford | Black Agenda Report | January 29, 2014

“Believe it,” said the current Prevaricator-in-Chief, in the conclusion to his annual litany lies. President Obama’s specialty, honed to theatrical near-perfection over five disastrous years, is in crafting the sympathetic lie, designed to suspend disbelief among those targeted for oblivion, through displays of empathy for the victims. In contrast to the aggressive insults and bluster employed by Republican political actors, whose goal is to incite racist passions against the Other, the sympathetic Democratic liar disarms those who are about to be sacrificed by pretending to feel their pain.

Barack Obama, who has presided over the sharpest increases in economic inequality in U.S. history, adopts the persona of public advocate, reciting wrongs inflicted by unseen and unknown forces that have “deepened” the gap between the rich and the rest of us and “stalled” upward mobility. Having spent half a decade stuffing tens of trillions of dollars into the accounts of an ever shrinking gaggle of financial capitalists, Obama declares this to be “a year of action” in the opposite direction. “Believe it.” And if you do believe it, then crown him the Most Effective Liar of the young century.

Lies of omission are even more despicable than the overt variety, because they hide. The potentially most devastating Obama contribution to economic inequality is being crafted in secret by hundreds of corporate lobbyists and lawyers and their revolving-door counterparts in government. The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, described as “NAFTA on steroids,” would accelerate the global Race to the Bottom that has made a wasteland of American manufacturing, plunging the working class into levels of poverty and insecurity without parallel in most people’s lifetimes, and totally eviscerating the meager gains of three generations of African Americans. Yet, the closest Obama came to even an oblique allusion to his great crime-in-the-making, was to announce that “new trade partnerships with Europe and the Asia-Pacific will help [small businesses] create even more jobs. We need to work together on tools like bipartisan trade promotion authority to protect our workers, protect our environment and open new markets to new goods stamped ‘Made in the USA.’” Like NAFTA twenty years ago – only far bigger and more diabolically destructive – TPP will have the opposite effect, destroying millions more jobs and further deepening worker insecurity. The Trans Pacific Partnership expands the legal basis for global economic inequalities – which is why the negotiations are secret, and why the treaty’s name could not be spoken in the State of the Union address. It is a lie of omission of global proportions. Give Obama his crown.

The president who promised in his 2008 campaign to support a hike in the minimum wage to $9.50 by 2011, and then did nothing at all to make it happen, says this is the “year of action” when he’ll move heaven and earth to get a $10.10 minimum. He will start, Obama told the Congress and the nation, by issuing “an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally-funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour because if you cook our troops’ meals or wash their dishes, you should not have to live in poverty.” Obama neglected to mention that only new hires – a small fraction, beginning with zero, of the two million federal contract workers – will get the wage boost; a huge and conscious lie of omission. The fact that the president does not even propose a gradual, mandated increase for the rest of the two million shows he has no intention of using his full powers to ameliorate taxpayer-financed poverty. We can also expect Obama to issue waivers to every firm that claims a hardship, as is always his practice.

What is Obama’s jobs program? It is the same as laid out at last year’s State of the Union, and elaborated on last summer: lower business taxes and higher business subsidies. When you say “jobs,” he says tax cuts – just like the Republicans, only Obama first cites the pain of the unemployed, so that you know he cares. “Both Democrats and Republicans have argued that our tax code is riddled with wasteful, complicated loopholes that punish businesses investing here, and reward companies that keep profits abroad. Let’s flip that equation. Let’s work together to close those loopholes, end those incentives to ship jobs overseas, and lower tax rates for businesses that create jobs right here at home.” Actually, Obama wants to lower tax rates for all corporations to 28 percent, from 35 percent, as part of his ongoing quest for a Grand Bargain with Republicans. For Obama, the way to bring jobs back to the U.S. is to make American taxes and wages more “competitive” in the “global marketplace” – the Race to the Bottom.

In the final analysis, the sympathetic corporate Democrat and the arrogant corporate Republican offer only small variations on the same menu: ever increasing austerity. Obama bragged about reducing the deficit, never acknowledging that this has been accomplished on the backs of the poor, contributing mightily to economic inequality and social insecurity.

Obama offers nothing of substance, because he is not authorized by his corporate masters to do so. He takes his general orders from the same people as do the Republicans. That’s why Obama only speaks of minimum wage hikes while Republicans are in power, rather than when his own party controlled both houses of Congress. Grand Bargains are preferred, because they are the result of consensus between the two corporate parties. In effect, the Grand Bargain is the distilled political will of Wall Street, which feeds the donkey and the elephant. Wall Street – the 1 percent – believes the world is theirs for the taking, and they want all of it. Given this overarching truth, Obama has no choice but to stage a festival of lies.

~

Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com

January 29, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Paths to Peace”: Normalizing Israel’s Collective Punishment of Gaza!

Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI) | January 28, 2014

Besieged Gaza, Occupied Palestine – It has come to our knowledge that Paths to Peace,[i] a program that brings students of different faiths and backgrounds from Israel and Palestine (West Bank and Gaza) to study together for one semester at New York University has been recruiting university students from Gaza. The program is dedicated to training future leaders, endowing them with the skills and experience to advance “reconciliation and coexistence for future generations.”

This is supposed to be an experience the academic objective of which is “to focus on the historical, political, cultural, and religious relationships between Israelis and Palestinians.” Students in this program participate in two weekly workshops “conducted by experienced Palestinian and Israeli facilitators.” Students engage in “an in-depth process of exploration, observation and analysis of the conflict” and have the opportunity “to gain important insights into their identities as well as the dynamics of groups in conflict.”

The Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic boycott of Israel considers this an act of normalization that violates the boycott guidelines issued by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)2. Paths to Peace program seems to ignore the fact that the reason why Palestinians and Israelis cannot get together is because the former are colonized and the latter are settler colonists. It also ignores the fact that Israel is an apartheid state, as former American president Jimmy Carter and anti-Apartheid activist and Nobel Laureate Desmund Tutu called it; a state that discriminates not only against the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank (whom the program targets), but also against the 1.2 million Palestinians living in it as third class citizens.

We, Palestinian youth of Gaza, ask if the Israeli students participating in the program will be willing to admit to their Palestinian counterparts that the creation of the state of Israel was responsible for the (continuing) ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people since 1948? That it illegally occupies the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and racially discriminates against the 1948 Palestinians in what the United Nations Special Rapporteur John Dugard described as the only remaining case after Apartheid South Africa of a “Western-affiliated regime that denies self-determination and human rights to a developing people and that has done so for so long.”[3] ? A state responsible for ongoing house demolitions, illegal settlement expansions and the building of a monstrous Apartheid Wall—not to mention the collective punishment of 1.5 million Palestinians of Gaza, who are subjugated to a brutal, medieval siege entering its seventh year?

The program brings a group of students of different faiths and backgrounds from Israel and Palestine to endow them with “the skills and experience to advance reconciliation and coexistence for future generations.” We wonder whether the program will allude to the 500 children and teenagers killed by Israel in the last two genocidal wars of 2009 and 2012 against the Palestinians of Gaza. Will that also be referred to as from of “dialogue” between “two equal parities” engaged in a “conflict?’ Will it state the fact that two thirds of the Palestinians of Gaza are refugees who were ethnically cleansed from the towns and villages where their Israeli counterparts live now, and who are entitled to their right of return in accordance with UNGA resolution 194?

Where are the “two sides” of this “conflict?” Do we understand from the Paths to Peace program that there was a “conflict” between the native Blacks of South Africa and the White supremacists of the apartheid regime? Or the Americans of African descent and those of European descent in the South? If recruiting Palestinian university students in the program means that the Israeli “partners” will admit to these atrocities committed by their own state, as a group of a few, albeit courageous, Israeli activists from Boycott From Within have done, then perhaps we can reconsider our position.

This initiative is one more arrogant attempt to equate between colonizer and colonized; oppressor and oppressed; victim and executioner. We ask: will it speak about the cultural confiscation, the occupation of Palestinian history, the system of racial discrimination, home demolition, settlement expansion, settler colonialism and land expropriation? Will it tell of how apartheid Israel slices the West Bank into Bantustans separated by more than 600 checkpoints and a monstrous Apartheid Separation Wall preventing Palestinians from access to local hospitals, schools and universities, not to mention their families and relatives? Will it even mention Israel’s policy of occupation, colonization and apartheid? Isn’t it telling that some of those Gaza-based Palestinian students who have been offered this “opportunity” have been barred by Apartheid Israel from travelling to the US.4

“Visions” of real “coexistence” would involve spreading the voices of the marginalized, suppressed, and silenced Palestinians in the impoverished and crowded refugee camps, in the Gaza concentration camp, and in the Bantustanized West Bank, promoting their right to self-determination and the right of return of all those displaced and forcefully removed throughout Israel’s occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands in accordance with International Law.

We, therefore, consider this project a continuation of a campaign of normalization that aims at whitewashing Israel’s tarnished image and does nothing but falsely creates the facade that there are actually two equal sides to “the conflict.” Palestinian students from Gaza, and elsewhere, should refrain from joining such programs.

Coexistence that is not based on equality is a form of blatant racism! This is the lesson we’ve learned from Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King.

1. http://www.nyu.edu/global/international-immigration-services/programs-and-events/paths-to-peace.html

2. http://pacbi.org/einside.php?id=69

3. http://electronicintifada.net/content/un-rapporteur-compares-israel-apartheid-south-africa/6779

4. http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.570281#.UuFhwFZzL4E.facebook

pscabi@gmail.com

Endorsed by University Teachers’ Association

January 29, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | Leave a comment

Palestinian man shot dead by Israeli forces near Ramallah

Ma’an – 29/01/2014

RAMALLAH – Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian man near the Ramallah village of Ein Siniya on Wednesday.

A Ma’an reporter identified the victim as Muhammad Mahmoud Mubarak, 22, from al-Jalazun refugee camp.

Israeli forces in the area denied Palestinian ambulances access to the body before medics were eventually allowed to transfer the man to Ramallah Medical Complex.

A Palestinian official in the military liaison department told Ma’an that Mubarak was shot dead by a soldier positioned in a military watchtower.

“A Palestinian terrorist opened fire at an IDF (army) post near Ofra. The soldiers responded immediately in order to eliminate the imminent threat to their lives and fired towards the terrorist, identifying a hit,” Israel’s army said.

Eyewitnesses in the area told Ma’an that Mubarak was a laborer working with the al-Tarifi company on a USAID funded project to refurbish the main road in Ein Siniya.

Earlier, he had been directing traffic in the area with a handheld sign.

“While he was doing his job, a number of Israeli soldiers arrived and started to harass him,” witnesses told Ma’an.

“They forced him to take off his clothes, then put them on again. Then they ordered him to take a few steps forward, then walk back, and finally they shot him and left him bleeding preventing ambulance and medics from reaching him.”

Coworkers and an executive from the al-Tarifi company were close-by when the shooting took place.

Last year, Israel’s army killed 27 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, according to UN statistics.

January 29, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | Leave a comment

Outsourcing Probation: A Lucrative and Growing Industry

By Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman | AllGov | January 29, 2014

Privatization of the criminal justice system has extended beyond prisons that are run for profit and now includes probation operators making a buck off Americans who have violated the law.

Quietly over the past four decades, private probation companies have gone into business in 40% of U.S. states, most of them in the South. Georgia alone has 34 businesses providing probation services.

These entrepreneurs have replaced county offices that used to oversee individuals given probation instead of jail time for their offenses.

But the switch from public to private probation has resulted in excessive financial costs levied on probationers, some of whom have been threatened with incarceration for not paying these companies on time.

Circuit Judge Hub Harrington called the private probation system in Harpersville, Alabama, a “judicially sanctioned extortion racket.”

Take for example Sentinel Offender Services, a $30 million enterprise operating in four states. An investigation by NBC News found that Sentinel demanded payments for fees from low-income probationers and resorted to arrest warrants to force the issue, regardless of the individuals’ financial status.

All of this despite a 1983 federal ruling that said that people on probation cannot be imprisoned for being indigent.

In Florida, private firms can add as much as 40% in surcharges on top of the debt owed by probationers. In Illinois, the add-on fees can amount to 30% of the standing debt.

The Brennan Center for Justice says that at least nine states allow companies to charge probationers excessive fees.

Former law enforcement officials control this industry—at least in Georgia—having leveraged their connections into profitable contracts. “This is completely dominated by retired state probation people and wardens of state prisons,” Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “They created this industry for themselves.”

They did so after Georgia passed a law in 2000 that transferred state probation services to the counties, thereby allowing local courts to outsource those services to private companies. They are allowed to handle all probation cases other than those involving felons.

Bobby Whitworth, the former head of the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, accepted payoffs in return for helping to pass that law. He was eventually imprisoned on public corruption charges for having done so.

“My problem [with private probation services] is with…the fact that people are getting rich off the poorest people in society,” Steve Bright, senior counsel for the Southern Center for Human Rights, told the Journal-Constitution. “Many private probation companies don’t do anything but collect checks from people. Perhaps someone who has run a loan company would be better qualified.”

To Learn More:

Connections Matter in Ga. Private Probation Industry (by Rhonda Cook, Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

‘Cash Register Justice’: Private Probation Services Face Legal Counterattack (by Hannah Rappleye and Lisa Riordan-Seville, NBC News)

January 29, 2014 Posted by | Corruption, Subjugation - Torture | , , | 1 Comment

Torture in the Age of Obama

​Article 5 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights expressly forbids that any person “be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

When then-Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama promised to end torture, close the Guantanamo Bay gulag and restore habeas corpus, he was speaking to a fundamental desire within the American public consciousness to restore the ideals upon which the United States is based – ideals which had been all but discarded under the Bush administration.

Americans wanted an end to CIA torture sites, an end to “enhanced interrogation” and an end to arbitrary and indefinite detention. Once elected, President Obama did his best to present the appearance that the country had restored its humanity by signing Executive Order #13,491, effectively ending the “enhanced interrogation” policies enacted under George W. Bush.

Yet the United States, under both the Bush and Obama administrations, has engaged in systematic torture and inhuman treatment in blatant violation of international law. Buried in the text of Obama’s Executive Order was the condition that, “an individual in the custody… of the United States Government… shall not be subjected to any interrogation technique or approach, or any treatment related to interrogation, that is not authorized by and listed in Army Field Manual 2 22.3.” Essentially then, the Obama administration began its first term of office by sanctioning the use of the Army Field Manual and the standards, protocols and methods of interrogation outlined within it. Rather than officially ending the torture practices implemented during the Bush years, Obama simply put an end to certain egregious methods while validating others.

As the Center for Constitutional Rights noted at the time: “While the current Army Field Manual does not allow waterboarding, it does include approved techniques that constitute torture.” Some of these techniques are outlined in the infamous Appendix M of the field manual which describes the use of “Separation” which is applied to the ambiguously termed “unlawful combatants” who, because of their status as something other than prisoners of war, are subjected to gross violations of international law. Appendix M describes techniques such as prolonged isolation, sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation and the use of fear and humiliation of prisoners. And yet Obama claims to have “ended torture.”

It should be noted also that, instead of pushing for strict anti-torture legislation that would have codified policies against the use of “enhanced interrogation,” Obama chose to issue an executive order that can be reversed with the stroke of a pen from any future president. Moreover, he chose to limit the scope of the order in order to provide political wiggle-room for himself in case he was seen as “soft on terror.” It is within this context that one should remember that, despite his promises, Guantanamo Bay remains open, rendition programs continue and not one person from the CIA or any other agency has ever been held to account for their myriad crimes. As Obama said in 2009 “[I have a] belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards… at the CIA you’ve got extraordinarily talented people who are working very hard to keep Americans safe. I don’t want them to suddenly feel like they’ve got to spend all their time looking over their shoulders.”

In 2013, the non-partisan Constitution Project issued a report that, among other things, documented in painstaking detail many of the ways in which the Obama administration has cleverly manipulated and ignored the laws, not to mention Obama’s campaign promises, in order to continue the torture and rendition programs. The report noted: “Taken as a whole, the lack of successful prosecutions demonstrates major gaps in enforcement of the laws against torture and war crimes, which likely reduces their deterrent effect.” Essentially then, the current administration, by turning a blind eye to crimes committed by interrogators under Bush as well as Obama, has effectively negated any perceived anti-torture stance it might have taken.

While the president has managed, through rhetoric and spin, to keep up the appearance that he has put a stop to torture when it comes to the so-called “War on Terror,” he has maintained a deafening silence when it comes to torture at home.

Torture and the American Gulag

Despite managing to lecture countries such as Russia, China and Cuba for human rights abuses and political prisoners, the United States continues to be, by far, the greatest police state in the world. With only 5 percent of the world’s population, the US has 25 percent of the world’s prison population. Within this pervasive prison-industrial complex, many thousands of prisoners are held in extended solitary confinement, which undoubtedly constitutes torture. In fact, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez stated in 2011:

“Segregation, isolation, separation, cellular, lockdown, Supermax, the hole, Secure Housing Unit… whatever the name, solitary confinement should be banned by states as a punishment or extortion technique… Solitary confinement is a harsh measure which is contrary to rehabilitation, the aim of the penitentiary system… Considering the severe mental pain or suffering solitary confinement may cause, it can amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment when used as a punishment, during pre-trial detention, indefinitely or for a prolonged period, for persons with mental disabilities or juveniles.”

It should of course be noted that, like the prison population in general, solitary confinement is disproportionately applied to people of color. More to the point, it is most often utilized to break the mind, body and spirit of political prisoners, especially those from civil rights and radical political movements. So, if the president were actually interested in putting an end to torture, not to mention paying attention to the issues most directly affecting people of color in the US, wouldn’t it stand to reason that he might have something to say about this abhorrent practice in the US prison system? Obama meets such questions with silence.

Did you think that the United States only operated secret prisons abroad? If so, you’d be wrong. Under the Obama administration there has been an expansion of the use of so called “Communication Management Units” (CMUs) – secret prisons specifically designed to house political prisoners in isolation and in blatant violation of their constitutional rights. Prisoners of Middle Eastern descent, animal rights activists, environmental activists and others have found themselves locked up in CMUs with little to no contact with family and/or their legal representatives. Naturally, the President has never spoken on this issue as it would once again fly in the face of the picture of the constitutional scholar-cum-president and his image as a defender of human rights.

There has been resistance to these inhuman policies carried out by the United States. In Guantanamo, the world watched as a number of prisoners risked their lives in a prolonged hunger strike to call attention to their continued illegal imprisonment. Similarly, recent hunger strikes in US prisons, most notably at California’s infamous Pelican Bay prison, have attempted to focus media attention and public scrutiny on the continued torture of inmates. Luis Esquivel, an inmate at Pelican Bay, succinctly illustrated the point when he said: “I feel dead. It’s been 13 years since I’ve shaken someone’s hand and I fear I’ll forget the feel of human contact.”

Whether engaging in systematic torture abroad or at home, the United States continues to be a world leader in this regard. Despite the rhetoric from President Obama, substantive changes have not been made to the way in which the US treats its prisoners, nor to the rights afforded them. Indeed, despite the high-minded ideals Obama espouses in speech after speech, the sad reality is that, like Bush before him, Obama is the figurehead of the most aggressive and repressive power in the world today.

January 29, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Progressive Hypocrite, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Checkpoint – Jasiri X

jasirix · January 28, 2014

“Checkpoint” is based on the oppression and discrimination Jasiri X witnessed firsthand during his recent trip to Palestine and Israel “Checkpoint” is produced by Agent of Change, and directed by Haute Muslim. Download “Checkpoint” at https://jasirix.bandcamp.com/track/ch….

LYRICS
Journal of the hard times tales from the dark side
Evidence of the settlements on my hard drive
Man I swear my heart died at the end of that car ride
When I saw that checkpoint welcome to apartheid
Soldiers wear military green at the checkpoint
Automatic guns that’s machine at the checkpoint
Tavors not m16s at the checkpoint
Fingers on the trigger you’ll get leaned at the checkpoint
Little children grown adults or teens at the checkpoint
All ya papers better be clean at the checkpoint
You gotta but your finger on the screen at the checkpoint
And pray that red light turns green at the check point

If Martin Luther King had a dream of the checkpoint
He wake with loud screams from the scenes at the checkpoint
It’s Malcolm X by any means at the check point
Imagine if you daily routine was the checkpoint

Separation walls that’s surrounding the checkpoint
On top is barbwire like a crown on the checkpoint
Better have ya permits if your found at the checkpoint
Gunmen on the tower aiming down at the checkpoint
The idea is to keep you in fear of the checkpoint
You enter through the cage in the rear of the checkpoint
It feels like prison on a tier at the check point
I’d rather be anywhere but here at this checkpoint
Nelson Mandela wasn’t blind to the check point
He stood for free Palestine not a check point
Support BDS don’t give a dime to the checkpoint
This is international crime at the checkpoint
Arabs get treated like dogs at the checkpoint
Cause discrimination is the law at the checkpoint
Criminalized without a cause at the checkpoint
I’m just telling you what I saw at the checkpoint
Soldiers got bad attitudes at the checkpoint
Condescending and real rude at the checkpoint
Don’t look em in they eyes when they move at the checkpoint
They might strip a man or woman nude at the checkpoint
Soldiers might blow you out of ya shoes at the checkpoint
Gas you up and then light the fuse at the checkpoint
Everyday you stand to be accused at the checkpoint
Each time your life you could lose at the checkpoint

If Martin Luther King had a dream of the checkpoint
He wake with loud screams from the scenes at the checkpoint
It’s Malcolm X by any means at the check point
Imagine if you daily routine was the checkpoint

At the airport in Tel Aviv is a checkpoint
They pulled over our taxi at the checkpoint
Passport visa ID at the checkpoint
Soldiers going all through my things at the checkpoint
Said I was high risk security at the checkpoint
Because of the oppression I see at the checkpoint
Occupation in the 3rd degree at the checkpoint
All a nigga wanna do is leave fuck a checkpoint

Follow Jasiri X at https://twitter.com/jasiri_x

January 29, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , , | Leave a comment

Legal Analysis Requested By Members Of Parliament Says GCHQ Surveillance Is Illegal Too

By Mike Masnick | Techdirt | January 29, 2014

We’ve seen a few times now how legal analysis suggests that the NSA’s surveillance activities are clearly illegal. However, over in the UK, the government has appeared to be even more protective of the surveillance by GCHQ, and even more insistent that the activities have been legal. While there’s a thriving debate going on in the US, many UK officials seem to have pushed back on even the possibility of a similar debate — and there has been little suggestion of reform. While it’s still unclear how much reform there will be of the NSA, the UK government hasn’t indicated even an openness to the idea.

But now, similar to the recent PCLOB report in the US, a legal analysis of the GCHQ, written at the request of a bunch of Members of Parliament, has argued that much of what GCHQ is doing is illegal under UK law:

In a 32-page opinion, the leading public law barrister Jemima Stratford QC raises a series of concerns about the legality and proportionality of GCHQ’s work, and the lack of safeguards for protecting privacy.

It makes clear the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (Ripa), the British law used to sanction much of GCHQ’s activity, has been left behind by advances in technology. The advice warns:

  • Ripa does not allow mass interception of contents of communications between two people in the UK, even if messages are routed via a transatlantic cable.
  • The interception of bulk metadata – such as phone numbers and email addresses – is a “disproportionate interference” with Article 8 of the ECHR.
  • The current framework for the retention, use and destruction of metadata is inadequate and likely to be unlawful.
  • If the government knows it is transferring data that may be used for drone strikes against non-combatants in countries such as Yemen and Pakistan, that is probably unlawful.
  • The power given to ministers to sanction GCHQ’s interception of messages abroad “is very probably unlawful”.

There’s a lot more in the report, described at that Guardian link above, which is well worth reading. It makes you wonder how much longer the UK government can pretend that everything is perfectly fine with the GCHQ’s activities.

January 29, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment