Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “lobbyists”

Jail for the Privileged and Profiteers – Roger Ingalls

Another city jail opens its doors to corruption. Fremont, California over build their incarceration capacity by a factor of six so now they’ve decided to lower their vacancy rate by renting out the open cells in an attempt to turn a quarter of a million dollar profit. On the surface it sounds like a good idea because the city fixes a planning mistake and they also make money to spend elsewhere. But these profit motivated jailing programs have proven corrupt and beneficial to mainly the privileged.

Obviously, these programs cater to the wealthier members of society. As an example, if someone breaks the law and is sentenced to jail time, instead of serving time in a crowded county jail they can appeal to the judge for movement to a city facility if they pay a daily rental fee. In the case of Fremont, the daily fee is $155. If you have extra money, you can buy your way into a nicer jail with fewer prisoners and a less stressful environment. So, two criminals with the same offence with different monetary standings will serve different sentences. The poorer guy gets hell while the richer one gets a more privileged stay. Sentencing for crime should not be based on a criminal’s wealth.

picture by thinkprogress.org

picture by thinkprogress.org

Another problem with for profit jails is financial corruption. Again, it’s already been proven that judges can get bought. A for profit juvenile jail in Pennsylvania kicked back $2.6 million to two judges for keeping their facility at capacity; the infamous Kids for Cash Scandal. Offences that normally resulted in suspension from school for a few days often put teenagers in juvy-jail for months. The judges hid behind a position of zero tolerance but in actuality it was payola time.

For profit incarceration is also driving the criminalization of basic human behavior. Many of the prisons built over the past twenty years are constructed and managed by companies on the stock exchange. Many facilities originally built by local governments are now being handed over to for profit companies. Do you wonder why crime reports state that violent crimes are down but then the next report says the prison population is increasing? To attract stock investors, publicly traded incarceration companies need to grow revenue quarterly and annually…that’s how Wall Street and their financial institutions work. More prisoners equal more dollars and rehabilitation is a dirty word. These huge prison companies and their large work force hire lobbyists and political marketing firms to promote the passing of new laws or rally against movements that try to do away with bad laws that criminalize normal human behavior. Again, these companies need bodies behind bars to make money.

Jailing for the purpose of profit is a corruption of justice.

China and Human Rights Pt. 2

Following on from my blog post on Monday, I have been thinking of the threat China holds over the US. This is not about tanks and nuclear weapons, but money. The US owes China over $1 trillion – I can’t comprehend a number that size.

US companies are falling over themselves to business with China and the government is happy for the revenue.  Ironically, these companies are often collaborating on projects that provide effective tools to quash protests and free speech. A while ago my colleague, Tom Rossi, wrote that corporations exist solely to make money, not to better our society.

Installing surveillance cameras

Here are some examples I provided in an earlier post:

– Cisco Systems (among others) are creating the biggest police surveillance system in the world through a government contract in the city of Chongqing.

– Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, still censors searches in China. Earlier this month, it agreed to provide search results in English for Baidu, China’s leading — and heavily censored — engine. This is taking place 18 months after Google, to avoid aiding the government with such censorship, pulled its search engine out of China.

The Consequences:

1) Shi Tao sits in prison for a 10 year sentence after Yahoo provided copies of his emails to the government.

2) In May 2011, Cisco was sued by Chinese practitioners of Falun Gong who accused the multinational of abetting  the Chinese government through the creation and maintainable of the so-called Golden Shield system. This surveillance system targets and then follows dissidents communicating online, which has led to the detaining and torturing of Falun Gong practitioners.

Cisco took issue with the accusation. The company claims that it does not design it’s programs or equipment to aid the government censor content, intercept communications or track users. It sells the Chinese government standard-issue general network equipment.

In fairness, some of the multinational corporations did begin to take steps after Yahoo’s debacle regarding its role in Shi Tao’s arrest and convictionYahoo, Microsoft and Google joined in the Global Network Initiative which tries to create guidelines to protect “the freedom of expression rights of their users when confronted with government demands, laws and regulations to suppress freedom of expression.”

But these commitments are voluntary. Should the government take a role in clearly setting boundaries? It happened following the 1989 Tienanmen Square massacre when companies were barred from selling such technology. Quite rightly, it has been pointed out that effective anti-spam and hacking technology could be adapted to aid repressive regimes.

One executive from Hewlett-Packard, who are bidding for a stake in the Chongqing surveillance project told The Wall Street Journal: “It’s not my job to really understand what they’re going to use it for.”

Really? Is there no responsibility beyond the profit line? Coming from a multinational, probably not.

Which is why, if the United States truly sees itself as the leader of world freedom, it needs to create not guidelines or principles, but laws preventing American technology helping totalitarian regimes. However, we may discover that since our government cannot even get these companies to pay their taxes, it might have little power over such huge economic conglomerates and their powerful lobbyist allies.

Even scarier is the fact that we are confronting a country that is not only strong militarily, but outdoing us financially and to whom we owe over $1 trillion.

——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

Declaration of Change

Too many Americans are suffering. Our unalienable rights – the right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness – whether given by the God of Creation or by Natural Law, are being violated. The self-evident truth that all REAL people are created equal is not recognized by the forces now governing us.

Our representative form of democracy – government of, by and for real people – has been corrupted. An insidious and deceptive process has transformed a government from one that once placed importance on real people to one that now favors artificial persons (corporations). Consequently, legislative reforms and laws, over the past 30 years, have benefited big business and the wealthiest Americans while burdening the middle-class and poor.

When any form of government becomes destructive to the safety and happiness of its real people, it is the RIGHT of the people and it is their duty to change or abolish the current form and implement a new government that effects and guards their future security.

Americans are suffering…suffering from the financial burdens placed on them as a result of tax rate changes, trade agreements and uncontrolled multi-national globalization. Long-standing corporate responsibility has eroded. Campaign contribution from big business, their PACs and lobbyists influenced politicians to make favorable financial legislation for corporations. The government represents the tyrant-will of artificial persons and the wealthy. It is now unfit to govern free people.

The people have been abused to the point of action. The winds of change are blowing and it’s time to support it. Occupy Wall Street is just one of many battles to come. This blog posting, which borrows key words and phrases from the Declaration of Independence, is my initial show of support for the brave individuals that are sleeping and protesting in the parks and avenues of New York.

It’s time to act. It’s our right and our duty to cast off tyranny.

-Roger Ingalls

—————————

Roger Ingalls is well traveled and has seen the good and bad of many foreign governments. He hopes his blogging will encourage readers to think more deeply about the American political system and its impact on US citizens and the international community.

The New American Slave (Roger Ingalls)

Remember that game teachers played to help develop our logic and reasoning skills? They would hold up a picture and ask, “what’s wrong with this picture” and we would have to figure it out.

Well, my fellow Americans, what’s wrong with this picture?

Based on the incarceration numbers shown in this chart, it appears that many Americans suddenly became criminals during the Nixon administration and turned more evil during the Reagan administration.

Now, I ask you, does this really make sense? Did the citizens of the United States exponentially turn to the dark side during the 70s and 80s? Your gut is probably saying no, people don’t change that drastically. Your intuition is correct, the people didn’t change but the laws did.

Virtually overnight, human behavior was criminalized by Nixon’s War On Drugs legislation. This was conservative backlash for the 1960’s Enlightened Movements. Ten years later, the Reagans stepped into the Whitehouse. While the country was in a recession, Nancy spent a few hundred thousand dollars on new dinnerware and this didn’t go over well with the public. The spin doctors came to her rescue and she became the Just Say No First Lady. The Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 came into existence along with harsh penalties for drug related crimes.

Nixon’s prohibition of recreational drugs and the subsequent draconian penalties are responsible for the exponential growth of the prison and jail populations. To make matter worse, incarceration is becoming more privatized and the bigger prison companies are publicly traded. Wall Street expects these for profit companies to grow annually at a rate that is faster than the real crime rate. Do we see a problem here? The prison industry, their lobbyists and law enforcement need more criminalization of human behavior and harsher penalties to maintain jobs and profits.

Throughout history man has used mind altering substances, it’s our nature. It is estimated that 30% of those incarcerated have committed non-violent drug related crimes.

Taxpayers can no longer afford an annual $70 billion bill for the War On Drugs.

We need to do away with the prohibition of recreational drugs and regulate them similar to tobacco and alcohol. We also need to do away with for profit incarceration that creates incentives for enslavement.

The 40 year experiment of criminalizing human behavior has failed.

————————————————————————-

Roger Ingalls is well travelled and has seen the good and bad of many foreign governments. He hopes his blogging will encourage readers to think more deeply about the American political system and its impact on US citizens and the international community.

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: