Saturday, December 3, 2016

New York State Prisons and Racial Bias

   Unfortunately, many of the reactionary, knee-jerk comments in the NY Times piece The Scourge of Racial Bias in New York State Prisons by Michael Schwirtz, Michael Winerip and Robert Gebeloff on December 3, 2016 reflect why radical prison reform is practically impossible in this country; especially in the wake of the contentious 2016 presidential race as an administration - comprised predominantly of aggrieved white ethnics strikingly similar to the rural, isolated communities many of the guards and institutions are located - comes to national power.

   Many of these same people would be outraged if the ignorant, racist guards (many who can barely read or write) treated an animal - e.g., pet, dog, cat, gerbil ex cetera - in the same despicable manner they treat these inmates (or other guards who happen to be black. Interestingly, I read no comments on systemic racism impacting black guards) with little or no oversight or accountability.

   So, what these self-righteous commentators - making overly broad generalizations, casting a huge swath of non-violent offenders as "violent criminals" because they may be housed in a "maximum security facility" sans any objective evidence to support such conclusions - fail to note is that the vast majority or approximately 90% of these inmates are serving on average six year sentences.

   Demoralized, brutalized, under-educated, and under-trained, most invariably return to the same environment that nurtured their criminal exploits upon release. Unless they are fortunate enough to land a conscientious parole officer (which is a huge stretch considering most parole officers are barely a cut above the very parolees they supervise), who can immediately divert them into job training and job readiness programs that leads to actual employment (and, hopefully, a liveable wage).

   Until that occurs routinely, prison is not the end of the line for these people. It is just the beginning. And black and brown communities will continue to be plagued by broken families, drug and alcohol abuse, and disproportionately high crime rates. If progressive thinking prison reform advocates, mass incarceration opponents, radical reformers and change agents want to see wholesale reform that will have a ripple effect on crime and punishment in this country, tie prison vocational-education programs to United States Department of Labor apprenticeship or journeyman models enabling inmates to gain a marketable skill before release that can take them from the "big house" to the "club house."

   This reform will never happen, though. There is little or no will for it within the state legislature. So, the same aggrieved white ethnics who are over-represented among the guards in these brutal warehouses will fight tooth and nail to prevent it from threatening their livelihood while their buddies offer up a hackneyed refrain complaining that a common-sense proposal to train these inmates to discourage recidivism is rewarding the criminals...

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Failed Libertarian Party Presidential Candidate Gary Johnson: A poster child for the anti-legalization [marijuana] movement

Let me apologize beforehand. Oh Lord, I’m sorry. I promised not to write another article critical of anyone. But like my arch-nemesis, Donald “The Don” John Trump, I cannot help myself. Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson is an irresponsible bumbler; a kinder, gentler Trump in his utter lack of curiosity about geopolitical affairs. The affairs, matters of war and peace, that an American president can expect to confront immediately after being elected and sworn into office.

For the second time Johnson’s showed himself not to be a viable and, more troublingly, serious third-party candidate. Syndicated columnist David Shields said Johnson “set back the cause to legalize marijuana” in a tongue-in-cheek crack aired on the “Analysis of Mark Shields and David Brooks” segment of PBS’s “Newhour” this evening.

MSNBC’s Mike Barnicle asked Johnson how he would handle Aleppo, Syria as president in an interview that aired on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Sep 8, 2016. Johnson infamously responded, “And what is Allepo?”

This time it was MSNBC’s Chris Matthew. "Who's your favorite foreign leader," Matthews asked Johnson in an interview that aired on Wednesday evening. Seemingly dazed and caught off guard by the routine presidential campaign question, Johnson was unable to name one world leader more or less one he admired. This is Johnson on Wednesday:

Chris Matthews: "Who’s your favorite foreign leader?"

Gary Johnson: "Who’s my favorite—"

Chris Matthews: "Any. Just name anywhere in the—any one of the continents, any country. Name one foreign leader that you respect and look up to. Anybody."

William Weld: "Mine was Shimon Peres."

Chris Matthews: "No, no, OK. I’m talking about living. Go ahead. You’ve got to do this. Anywhere. Any continent. Canada. Mexico. Europe, over there. Asia. South America. Africa. Name a foreign leader that you respect."

Gary Johnson: "I guess I’m having an Aleppo moment in the former—former president of Mexico."

Chris Matthews: "But I’m giving you the whole world!"

Gary Johnson: "I know. I know. I know. I know."

Chris Matthews: "Anybody in the world you like. Anybody. Pick any leader."

Gary Johnson: "The former president of Mexico."

Chris Matthews: "Now—which one?"
Gary Johnson: "I’m having a brain—I’m having a brainfreeze."

Chris Matthews: "Well, name anybody."

Johnson was having more than a “brainfreeze.” He was addled. History favors the prepared, though. If ever we needed a competent bench player, a credible third-party candidate because the team starter and relief had become disqualified, it is now. But Johnson failed to seize the opportunity, not necessarily for the Libertarian Party, however. But for all third-party candidates that follow. This is why Johnson’s stunning incuriosity of world events and abysmal lack of preparation for the office he is running to assume is especially distressing.

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Friday, November 25, 2016

Trump: From Russia With Love...

  The problem with any claim that a Russian intelligence service operation gave the hitherto moribund Trump campaign a needed boost over the finish line is that without hard facts – e.g., empirical data, primary source material, or other evidence - the Far Right abetted by a complicit media, already hard at work normalizing an abnormal candidacy, will be able to dismiss the claim as sour grapes; unsubstantiated conspiracy theories; the rantings of the lunatic fringe, or unfairly cast Clinton as a sore loser. 

   In all likelihood, the evidence would be dismissed as unpersuasive by an indolent media that gave us Trump on a silver platter. Look how easily Trump was able to adroitly manipulate his "poorly educated" supporters by characterizing the fourth estate as "corrupt," "liars" ex cetera. Now Trump backers are subliminally programmed to disbelieve anything the mainstream media publishes with good reason. It was a masterful disinformation campaign by a seasoned, media savvy, confidence man. 

   And it is also scarily reminiscent of 9/11/2001 when the United States government, in collusion with equally uncritical mainstream reporting, promoted the dubious story that numerous untrained Saudi nationals simultaneously high-jacked three jets on the East Coast of the United States - while the most sophisticated air-defense system in the world, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) - lay dormant. 

   The big, computer controlled, passenger jets hit targets in restricted airspace in three separate incidents causing considerable loss of life, negligible damage to a section of the Pentagon (already under renovation), but allegedly the complete destruction - by a fire fueled by kerosene - and eventual collapse of the twin towers comprising the World Trade Center. Notable experts to a person debunked the claims, however: Preposterous stories made by Bush administration scientists that total collapse of not one but two structures built to the standards of the WTC with American steel started by a jet fuel fire was even physically possible. 911: In Plane Site: Director’s Cut released in 2004 documents inconsistencies in the government's story. Prominent critics who have disagreed with the party line have had their professional reputations destroyed and subjected to ignominy as conspiracy theorists, personal lives disrupted; or, worst, taken in bizarre accidents.

   Wildly popular HBO political talk show, Real Time with Bill Maher, must have gotten the memo. To this day, Maher dismissively admonishes his viewers to “don't write me about the World Trade Center anymore... “”I'm not losing my show...” “it burned down...” Vice President Joe Biden once said of Trump supporter, former NYC mayor Rudy Guiliani who ran against Barack Obama in the 2007 presidential campaign “there's only three things [Guiliani needs] to make ... a sentence: a noun and a verb and 9/11.” 

   Giuliani has since acted as an unapologetic apologist for Trump's worst excesses including an internationally aired entreaty to the Russians, which they apparently took literally, to hack into Hillary Clinton's servers. During the aftermath of  9/11, the Giuliani administration inscrutably allowed a crime scene to be destroyed by letting the building owner hire contractors to remove millions of tons of debris - including damaged steel beams that showed trace evidence of thermite, which is an incendiary typically delivered by explosives that is able to burn through steel.

   The bottom line is that we have a long history of inadequately explained conspiracies in these United States beginning with the Kennedy, King and Malcolm X assassinations respectively in the 1960s. Trump's incredulous (albeit implausible) victory is simply one of the latest. But thread lightly in raising your concerns because neither the co-opted media more concerned with ratings than with objective reporting; and, powers-that-be wielding their influence quietly much like the proverbial Wizard behind the curtain kindly brook dissent. If history is a guide, dissenters with the temerity to question the party line, have not fared well – if at all.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Central Park Five According To Donald Trump

   There are many problematic aspects to reality television star Donald John Trump’s presidential campaign beyond pathological lying; invitation to foreign intelligence service to hack into an independent political party’s database; refusal to release income tax returns; bullying, inciting violence; birtherism, nativism, racism and sexism. But none have been more troubling than his call to reinstitute New York’s death penalty in the wake of the infamous Central Park Five jogger case. 
   The Central Park jogger case concerned the assault, rape, and sodomy of Trisha Meili, a female jogger, and attacks on others in New York City's Central Park, on April 19, 1989. We wrote about the case over a year ago. The “mainstream” media just this past week picked up the story with renewed vigor.

   Trump took out full page ads full-page advertisements in all four major New York newspapers calling for the return of the death penalty recklessly and prematurely condemning four black - and one Hispanic - teenagers who were falsely alleged to have raped a pretty, young white woman, which invokes all manner of racist stereotypes. Melli was jogging in NYC’s Central Park. 
   Par for the course, Trump lacked any empirical evidence beyond the boys coerced confessions (which were unlawful pursuant to New York State Rules of Evidence since most were minors and, consequently, parental consent was required to question them) to support his opinion. Not one to bother with pesky little facts, Trump doubled down on the libelous claim as recently as 2013, though.
    “In 2002, Matias Reyes, another Hispanic male who had been a juvenile at the time of the attack, confessed to raping the jogger, and DNA evidence confirmed his involvement in Meili's rape, however. He also said he committed the rape alone. Reyes at the time of his confession was a convicted serial rapist and murderer, serving a life sentence. He was not prosecuted for raping Meili, because the statute of limitations had passed by the time Reyes confessed.”
    “District Attorney Robert Morgenthau suggested to the court that their convictions related to the assault and rape of Meili and the attacks on others to which they had confessed be vacated (a legal position in which the parties are treated as though no trial has taken place) and withdrew the charges. Their convictions were vacated in 2002.” 
   Trump said he wanted the criminals of every age who were accused of beating and raping a jogger in Central Park 12 days earlier to be afraid... be very afraid. The advertisement, which cost an estimated $85,000 said, in part, "Mayor [Ed] Koch has stated that hate and rancor should be removed from our hearts. I do not think so. I want to hate these muggers and murderers. They should be forced to suffer ... Yes, Mayor Koch, I want to hate these murderers and I always will. ... How can our great society tolerate the continued brutalization of its citizens by crazed misfits? Criminals must be told that their CIVIL LIBERTIES END WHEN AN ATTACK ON OUR SAFETY BEGINS!" 
   In a 1989 interview with CNN, Trump defended the ad, saying to Larry King: "The problem with our society is the victim has absolutely no rights and the criminal has unbelievable rights" and that "maybe hate is what we need if we're gonna get something done." Lawyers for the five defendants said that Trump's advertisement had inflamed public opinion. 
   After Reyes confessed to the crime and said he acted alone, one of the defendants' lawyers, Michael W. Warren, said, "I think Donald Trump at the very least owes a real apology to this community and to the young men and their families." Protests were held outside Trump Tower in October 2002 with protestors chanting, "Trump is a chump!" Trump was unapologetic at the time, saying, "I don't mind if they picket. I like pickets." 
   The bookend to Mr. Trump hell-bent drive to the White House is the wake of destruction left in his path akin to Hurricane Matthew. Like his cartoon counterpart Mr. Magoo, Trump often seems oblivious to the harm he causes. Quincy Magoo is a wealthy, short-statured retiree who gets into a series of comical situations as a result of his nearsightedness, compounded by his stubborn refusal to admit the problem. Sound familiar? It should. And voters with an appreciation of provenance should also denying Mr. Trump another misadventure the country can ill-afford.

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