Let’s look at 50 reasons, some large and some small, why W. inspired so much anger.
1. He stole the presidency in 2000. People may forget that Republicans in Florida purged more than 50,000 African-American voters before Election Day, and then went to the Supreme Court where the GOP-appointed majority stopped a recount that would have awarded the presidency to Vice-President Al Gore if all votes were counted. National news organizations verified that outcome long after Bush had been sworn in.
2. Bush’s lies started in that race. Bush ran for office claiming he was a “uniter, not a divider.” Even though he received fewer popular votes than Gore, he quickly claimed he had the mandate from the American public to push his right-wing agenda.
3. He covered up his past. He was a party boy, the scion of a powerful political family who got away with being a deserter during the Vietnam War. He was reportedly AWOL for over a year from his assigned unit, the Texas Air National Guard, which other military outfits called the “Champagne Division.”
4. He loved the death penalty. As Texas governor from 1995-2000, he signed the most execution orders of any governor in U.S. history—152 people, including the mentally ill and women who were domestic abuse victims. He spared one man’s life, a serial killer.
5. He was a corporate shill from Day 1. Bush locked up the GOP nomination by raising more campaign money from corporate boardrooms than anyone at that time. He lunched with CEOs who would jet into Austin to “educate” him about their political wish lists.
6. He gutted global political progress. He pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol which set requirements for 38 nations to lower greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change, saying that abiding by the agreement would “harm our economy and hurt our workers.”
7. He embraced global isolationism. He withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, over Russia’s protest, taking the U.S. in a direction not seen since World War I.
8. He ignored warnings about Osama bin Laden. He ignored the Aug. 6, 2001 White House intelligence briefing titled, “Bin Laden determined to strike in the U.S.” Meanwhile, his chief anti-terrorism advisor, Richard Clarke, and first Treasury Secretary, Paul O’Neill, testified in Congress that he was intent on invading Iraq within days of becoming president.
9. Ramped up war on drugs, not terrorists. The Bush administration had twice as many FBI agents assigned to the war on drugs than fighting terrorism before 9/11, and kept thousands in that role after the terror attacks.
10. “My Pet Goat.” He kept reading a picture book to grade-schoolers at a Florida school for seven minutes after his top aides told him that the World Trade Centers had been attacked in 9/11. Then Air Force One flew away from the school, vanishing for hours after the attack.
11. Squandered global goodwill after 9/11. Bush thumbed his nose at world sympathy for the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks, by declaring a global war on terrorism and declaring “you are either with us or against us.”
12. Bush turned to Iraq not Afghanistan. The Bush administration soon started beating war drums for an attack on Iraq, where there was no proven Al Qaeda link, instead of Afghanistan, where the 9/11 bombers had trained and Osama bin Laden was based. His 2002 State of the Union speech declared that Iraq was part of an “Axis of Evil.”
13. Attacked United Nation weapons inspectors. The march to war in Iraq started with White House attacks on the credibility of U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq, whose claims that Saddam Hussein did not have nuclear weapons proved to be true.
14. He flat-out lied about Iraq’s weapons. In a major speech in October 2002, he said that Saddam Hussein had the capacity to send unmanned aircraft to the U.S. with bombs that could range from chemical weapons to nuclear devices. “We cannot wait for the final proof—the smoking gun—that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud,” he said.
15. He ignored the U.N. and launched a war. The Bush administration tried to get the U.N. Security Council to authorize an attack on Iraq, which it refused to do. Bush then decided to lead a “preemptive” attack regardless of international consequences. He did not wait for any congressional authorization to launch a war.
16. Abandoned international Criminal Court. Before invading Iraq, Bush told the U.N. that the U.S. was withdrawing from ratifying the International Criminal Court Treaty to protect American troops from persecution and to allow it to pursue preemptive war.
17. Colin Powell’s false evidence at U.N. The highly decorated soldier turned Secretary of State presented false evidence at the U.N. as the American mainstream media began its jingoistic drumbeat to launch a war of choice on Saddam Hussein and Iraq.
18. He launched a war on CIA whistleblowers. When a former ambassador, Joseph C. Wilson, wrote a New York Times op-ed saying there was no nuclear threat from Iraq, the White House retaliated by leaking the name and destroying the career of his wife, Valerie Plame, one of the CIA’s top national security experts.
19. Bush pardoned the Plame affair leaker. Before leaving office, Bush pardoned the vice president’s top staffer, Scooter Libby, for leaking Plame’s name to the press.
20. Bush launched the second Iraq War. In April 2003, the U.S. military invaded Iraq for the second time in two decades, leading to hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths and more than a million refugees as a years of sectarian violence took hold on Iraq. Nearly 6,700 U.S. soldiers have died in the Iraq and Afghan wars.
21. Baghdad looted except for oil ministry. The Pentagon failure to plan for a military occupation and transition to civilian rule was seen as Baghdad was looted while troops guarded the oil ministry, suggesting this war was fought for oil riches, not terrorism.
22. The war did not make the U.S. safer. In 2006, a National Intelligence Estimate (a consensus report of the heads of 16 U.S. intelligence agencies) asserted that the Iraq war had increased Islamic radicalism and had worsened the terror threat.
23. U.S. troops were given unsafe gear. From inadequate vests from protection against snipers to Humvees that could not protect soldiers from roadside bombs, the military did not sufficiently equip its soldiers in Iraq, leading to an epidemic of brain injuries.
24. Meanwhile, the war propaganda continued. From landing on an aircraft carrier in a flight suit to declare “mission accomplished” to surprising troops in Baghdad with a Thanksgiving turkey that was a table decoration used as a prop, Bush defended his war of choice by using soldiers as PR props.
25. He never attended soldiers’ funerals. For years after the war started, Bush never attended a funeral even though as of June 2005, 144 soldiers (of the 1,700 killed thus far) were laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery, about two miles from the White House.
26. Meanwhile, war profiteering surged. The list of top Bush administration officials whose former corporate employers made billions in Pentagon contracts starts with Vice-President Dick Cheney and Halliburton, which made $39.5 billion, and included his daughter, Liz Cheney, who ran a $300 million Middle East partnership program.
27. Bush ignored international ban on torture. Suspected terrorists were captured and tortured by the U.S. military in Baghdad’s Abu Gharib prison, in the highest profile example of how the Bush White House ignored international agreements, such as the Geneva Convention, that banned torture, and created a secret system of detention that was unmasked when photos made their way to the American media outlets.
28. Created the blackhole at Gitmo and renditions. The Bush White House created the offshore military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as well as secret detention sites in eastern Europe to evade domestic and military justice systems. Many of the men still jailed in Cuba were turned over to the U.S. military by bounty hunters.
29. Bush violated U.S. Constitution as well. The Bush White House ignored basic civil liberties, most notably by launching a massive domestic spying program where millions of Americans’ online activities were monitored with the help of big telecom companies. The government had no search warrant or court authority for its electronic dragnet.
30. Iraq war created federal debt crisis. The total costs of the Iraq and Afghan wars will reach between $4 trillion and $6 trillion, when the long-term medical costs are added in for wounded veterans, a March 2013 report by a Harvard researcher has estimated. Earlier reports said the wars cost $2 billion a week.
31. He cut veterans’ healthcare funding. At the height of the Iraq war, the White House cut funding for veterans’ healthcare by several billion dollars, slashed more than one billion from military housing and opposed extending healthcare to National Guard families, even as they were repeatedly tapped for extended and repeat overseas deployments.
32. Then Bush decided to cut income taxes. In 2001 and 2003, a series of bills lowered income tax rates, cutting federal revenues as the cost of the foreign wars escalated. The tax cuts disproportionately benefited the wealthy, with roughly one-quarter going to the top one percent of incomes compared to 8.9% going to the middle 20 percent. The cuts were supposed to expire in 2013, but most are still on the books.
33. Assault on reproductive rights. From the earliest days of his first term, the Bush White House led a prolonged assault on reproductive rights. He cut funds for U.N. family planning programs, barred military bases from offering abortions, put right-wing evangelicals in regulatory positions where they rejected new birth control drugs, and issued regulations making fetuses—but not women—eligible for federal healthcare.
34. Cut Pell Grant loans for poor students. His administration froze Pell Grants for years and tightened eligibility for loans, affecting 1.5 million low-income students. He also eliminated other federal job training programs that targeted young people.
35. Turned corporations loose on environment. Bush’s environmental record was truly appalling, starting with abandoning a campaign pledge to tax carbon emissions and then withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gases. The Sierra Club lists 300 actions his staff took to undermine federal laws, from cutting enforcement budgets to putting industry lobbyists in charge of agencies to keeping energy policies secret.
36.. Said evolution was a theory—like intelligent design. One of his most inflammatory comments was saying that public schools should teach that evolution is a theory with as much validity as the religious belief in intelligent design, or God’s active hand in creating life.
37. Misguided school reform effort. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” initiative made preparation for standardized tests and resulting test scores the top priority in schools, to the dismay of legions of educators who felt that there was more to learning than taking tests.
38. Appointed flank of right-wing judges. Bush’s two Supreme Court picks—Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito—have reliably sided with pro-business interests and social conservatives. He also elevated U.S. District Court Judge Charles Pickering to an appeals court, despite his known segregationist views.
39. Gutted the DOJ’s voting rights section. Bush’s Justice Department appointees led a multi-year effort to prosecute so-called voter fraud, including firing seven U.S. attorneys who did not pursue overtly political cases because of lack of evidence.
40. Meanwhile average household incomes fell. When Bush took office in 2000, median household incomes were $52,500. In 2008, they were $50,303, a drop of 4.2 percent, making Bush the only recent two-term president to preside over such a drop.
41. And millions more fell below the poverty line. When Bill Clinton left office, 31.6 million Americans were living in poverty. When Bush left office, there were 39.8 million, according to the U.S. Census, an increase of 26.1 percent. The Census said two-thirds of that growth occurred before the economic downturn of 2008.
42. Poverty among children also exploded. The Census also found that 11.6 million children lived below the poverty line when Clinton left office. Under Bush, that number grew by 21 percent to 14.1 million.
43. Millions more lacked access to healthcare. Following these poverty trends, the number of Americans without health insurance was 38.4 million when Clinton left office. When Bush left, that figure had grown by nearly 8 million to 46.3 million, the Census found. Those with employer-provided benefits fell every year he was in office.
44. Bush let black New Orleans drown. Hurricane Katrina exposed Bush’s attitude toward the poor. He didn’t visit the city after the storm destroyed the poorest sections. He praised his Federal Emergency Management Agency director for doing a “heck of a job” as the federal government did little to help thousands in the storm’s aftermath and rebuilding.
45. Yet pandered to religious right. Months before Katrina hit, Bush flew back to the White House to sign a bill to try to stop the comatose Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube from being removed, saying the sanctity of life was at stake.
46. Set record for fewest press conferences. During his first term that was defined by the 9/11 attacks, he had the fewest press conferences of any modern president and had never met with the New York Times editorial board.
47. But took the most vacation time. Reporters analyzing Bush’s record found that he took off 1,020 days in two four-year terms—more than one out of every three days. No other modern president comes close. Bush also set the record for the longest vacation among modern presidents—five weeks, the Washington Post noted.
48. Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld. Not since Richard Nixon’s White House and the era of the Watergate burglary and expansion of the Vietnam War have there been as many power-hungry and arrogant operators holding the levers of power. Cheney ran the White House; Rove the political operation for corporations and the religious right; and Rumsfeld oversaw the wars.
49. He’s escaped accountability for his actions. From Iraq war General Tommy Franks’ declaration that “we don’t do body counts” to numerous efforts to impeach Bush and top administration officials—primarily over launching the war in Iraq—he has never been held to account in any official domestic or international tribunal.
50. He may have stolen the 2004 election as well. The closest Bush came to a public referendum on his presidency was the 2004 election, which came down to the swing state of Ohio. There the GOP’s voter suppression tactics rivaled Florida in 2000 and many unresolved questions remain about whether the former GOP Secretary of State altered the Election Night totals from rural Bible Belt counties.
“When a trio of hooded men struck at some of our most cherished democratic principles, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, they assaulted democracy everywhere . . . They have declared war on anybody who does not think and act exactly as they wish they would think and act . . . . they have declared war on any country, like ourselves, that values freedom, openness and tolerance.”
“Ottawa threatening hate charges against those who boycott Israel”
The Harper government is signaling its intention to use hate crime laws against Canadian advocacy groups that encourage boycotts of Israel.
Such a move could target a range of civil society organizations, from the United Church of Canada and the Canadian Quakers to campus protest groups and labour unions.
If carried out, it would be a remarkably aggressive tactic, and another measure of the Conservative government’s lockstep support for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. . . .
The government’s intention was made clear in a response to inquiries from CBC News about statements by federal ministers of a “zero tolerance” approach to groups participating in a loose coalition called Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS), which was begun in 2006 at the request of Palestinian non-governmental organizations.
Asked to explain what zero tolerance means, and what is being done to enforce it, a spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney replied, four days later, with a detailed list of Canada’s updated hate laws, noting that Canada has one of the most comprehensive sets of such laws “anywhere in the world.”
Has a #JeSuisBDS hashtag started trending yet on Twitter? Under the new Charlie Hebdo standard — it’s not enough to defend free speech; one must praise and even express the speech targeted with suppression — have all of the newfound free speech crusaders begun organizing pro-Israel-boycott rallies in order to defy these suppression efforts? In a zillion years, could anyone imagine the popularity-craving officials who run PEN America bestowing one of their glamorous awards on advocates of the Israel-targeted Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions movement? The answer to all of those questions is and will remain “no,” because (as I discussed last week here with Bob Wright) the Charlie Hebdo ritual (for most, not all) was about many agendas having nothing to do with the free expression banner under which it paraded.
In that regard, Stephen Harper is the perfect Poster Boy for how free expression is tribalistically manipulated and exploited in the West. When the views being suppressed are ones amenable to those in power (e.g., cartoons mocking Islam), free speech is venerated; attempts to suppress those kinds of ideas show that “they have declared war on any country, like ourselves, that values freedom, openness and tolerance.” We get to celebrate ourselves as superior and progressive and victimized, and how good that feels. But when ideas are advocated that upset those in power (e.g. speech by Muslims critical of Western nations and their allies), the very same people acquiesce to, or expressly endorse, full-scale suppression. Thus can the Canadian Prime Minister pompously parade around as some sort of Guardian of Enlightenment Ideals only, three months later, to act like the classic tyrant.
As I’ve argued many times — most comprehensively here — all applications of hate speech laws are inherently tyrannical, dangerous and wrong, and it’s truly mystifying (and scary) that people convince themselves that their judgment is so unerring and their beliefs so sacrosanct that it should be illegal to question or dissent from them. But independent of that, what we see here again is the utter foolishness of endorsing such laws on pragmatic grounds: they will inevitably be used against not just the ideas you hate but the ones you like, and when that happens, if you cheered when such laws were used to suppress the ideas you hate, then you will have no valid ground to object.
TRANSCRIPT AND SOURCES: http://www.corbettreport.com/?p=8999
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With the Libyan war, like so many wars before it, the public was lied to just enough to convince them that war was necessary to maintain peace. And now that the real mission has been accomplished and Libya’s gold has been stolen and its central bank has been established and its AFRICOM-resisting leader has been killed and it has been established as an operations base for NATO’s Al-CIAda mercenaries, the political misleaders who started the war couldn’t care less about the lives of the Libyan people. Find out more about what’s happening in Libya today in this week’s Eyeopener report.
February 09, 2014 “Information Clearing House – What is it about America’s women diplomats? They seem so hard and cloned – bereft of any humanity or intelligence. Presumably, these women are supposed to represent social advance for the female gender. But, far from displaying female independence, they are just a pathetic copy of the worst traits in American male politicians – aggressive, arrogant and completely arrant in their views.
Take Victoria Nuland – the US Assistant Secretary of State – who was caught using obscene language in a phone call about the European Union and the political affairs of Ukraine. In her previous posting as a spokeswoman for the US State Department, Nuland had the demeanor of a robotic matron with a swivel eye.
Now in her new role of covertly rallying anti-government protesters in Ukraine, Nuland has emerged to sound like a bubblegum-chewing Mafia doll. In her leaked private conversation with the US ambassador to Kiev, the American female diplomat is heard laying down in imperious tones how a new government in Ukraine should be constituted. Nuland talks about “gluing together” a sovereign country as if it is a mere plaything, and she stipulates which members of the US-backed street rabble in Kiev should or should not be included in any Washington-approved new government in the former Soviet republic.
We don’t know who actually tapped and leaked Nuland’s private call to the US ambassador in Kiev, Geoffrey Pyatt. It could have been the Ukrainian or Russian secret services, but, regardless, it was an inspired move to reveal it. For the disclosure, which has been posted on the internet, lays bare the subversive meddling agenda of Washington in Ukrainian internal affairs. Up to now, the Americans have been piously pretending that their involvement is one of a bystander supporting democracy from afar.
But, thanks to the Nuland’s foul-mouthed indiscretion, the truth is out. Washington, from her own admission, is acting like an agent provocateur in Ukraine’s political turmoil. That is an illegal breach of international rules of sovereignty. Nuland finishes her phone call like a gangster ordering a hit on a rival, referring to incompetent European interference in Ukraine with disdain – “F…k the EU.”
What we are witnessing here is the real, ugly face of American government and its uncouth contempt for international law and norms.
Next up is Wendy Sherman, the Under Secretary for Political Affairs, who is also Washington’s top negotiator in the P5+1 nuclear talks with Iran. Sherman is another flinty-eyed female specimen of the American political class, who, like Nuland, seems to have a block of ice for a heart and a frozen Popsicle for a brain.
Again, like Nuland, Sherman aims to excel in her political career by sounding even more macho, morose and moronic than her male American peers.
Last week, Sherman was giving testimony before the US Senate foreign affairs committee on the upcoming negotiations with Iran over the interim nuclear agreement. The panel was chaired by the warmongering Democrat Senator Robert Menendez, who wants to immediately ramp up more sanctions on Iran, as well as back the Israeli regime in any preemptive military strike on the Islamic Republic.
Sherman’s performance was a craven display of someone who has been brainwashed to mouth a mantra of falsehoods with no apparent ability to think for herself. It’s scary that such people comprise the government of the most nuclear-armed-and-dangerous state in the world.
Programmed Sherman accused Iran of harboring ambitions to build nuclear weapons. “We share the same goal [as the warmonger Menendez] to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” And she went on to repeat threadbare, risible allegations that Iran is supporting international terrorism. That is a disturbing indication of the low level of political intelligence possessed by the US chief negotiator.
“Iran also continues to arm and train militants in Lebanon, Gaza, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Bahrain. And Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah continue,” asserted Sherman without citing an iota of proof and instead relying on a stale-old propaganda narrative.
The number three in the US State Department went on to say of the interim nuclear deal with Iran: “What is also important to understand is that we remain in control over whether to accept the terms of a final deal or not. We have made it clear to Iran that, if it fails to live up to its commitments, or if we are unable to reach agreement on a comprehensive solution, we would ask the Congress to ramp up new sanctions.”
Remember that Sherman and her State Department boss John Kerry are considered “soft on Iran” by the likes of Menendez, John McCain, Lyndsey Graham, Mark Kirk, and the other political psychopaths in Washington. So, we can tell from Sherman’s callous words and mean-minded logic that the scope for genuine rapprochement between the US and Iran is extremely limited.
Sherman finished her performance before the Senate panel with the obligatory illegal threat of war that Washington continually issues against Iran: “We retain all options to ensure that Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon.”
In the goldfish-bowl environment of Washington politics, perhaps such female officials are to be even more feared. The uniform monopoly of America’s political class is dictated by militarism – weapons manufacturers, oil companies and Zionist lobbyists. The only way to “succeed” in this cesspool is to be even more aggressive and imperialist than your peers.
Nuland and Sherman illustrate the cold-hearted logic at work in American robotic politics: it’s a system programmed for imperialism and war, and it doesn’t matter whether the officials are Democrat, Republic, male or female. They are all clones of a war criminal state.
Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in journalism.
Saudi Arabia is in talks with Pakistan to provide anti-aircraft and anti-tank rockets to Syrian rebels to try to tip the balance in the war to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, a Saudi source said Sunday. The United States has long opposed arming…
Rocker-turned-conservative activist Ted Nugent declined multiple invitations Monday by talk show host Dennis Miller to back away from his comparisons of the Obama administration to Nazi Germany. Nugent offered a non-apology last week for his widely…
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The number of U.S. soldiers forced out of the Army because of crimes or misconduct has soared in the past several years as the military emerges from a decade of war that put a greater focus on battle competence than on character, the Associated Press reported Saturday.
Data shows that the number of officers who left the Army due to misconduct more than tripled in the past three years. The number of enlisted soldiers forced out for drugs, alcohol, crimes and other misconduct shot up from about 5,600 in 2007, as the Iraq war peaked, to more than 11,000 last year.
It also reflects the Army’s rapid growth in the middle part of the decade, and the decisions to relax standards a bit to bring in and retain tens of thousands of soldiers to fill the ranks as the Pentagon added troops in Iraq and continued the fight in Afghanistan.
“I wouldn’t say lack of character was tolerated in (war) theater, but the fact of the last 10 or 12 years of repeated deployments, of the high op-tempo – we might have lost focus on this issue,” Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army’s top officer, told the AP last week. “Sometimes in the past we’ve overlooked character issues because of competence and commitment.”
His comments mirror concerns aired by Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, several times in recent months. The ethical lapses, Dempsey said, can be attributed in some ways to 10 years at war when the military failed to properly balance character and competence.
Over the past year, a series of high profile scandals – from sexual assault and damaging leadership to mistreatment of the enemy and unauthorized spending – has dogged the military, leading to broad ethics reviews and new personnel policies.
Those scandals included the demotion of Army Gen. William “Kip” Ward for lavish, unauthorized spending; sexual misconduct charges against Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair; and episodes of gambling and drinking by other general officers.
More recently, there have been cheating allegations against Air Force nuclear missile launch officers and a massive bribery case in California that has implicated six Navy officers. Examples of troop misconduct include Marines urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters and soldiers posing with body parts of Afghan militants.
As a result, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and other leaders say ethics is a priority about which they now routinely lecture troops and officers. They also have undertaken initiatives aimed at identifying and dealing with problem service members.
“We’re paying a lot more attention to it now. We are not tolerant at all of those showing a lack of character,” Odierno said. “We have to refocus ourselves so we get to where we think is the right place.”
George Galloway and former General / aide to Ariel Sharon debate the state of Iraq after war.
Ever since President Nixon proclaimed the start of a War on Drugs some 40 years ago, prison populations in this country have grown far faster than the population as a whole. The United States now incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than any other nation in the world, largely due to laws related to this “war”. Last week, while Congress continued its extended summer siesta, Attorney General Eric Holder announced some initiatives in the prosecution of the War on Drugs that may signal a significant shift in our criminal justice system in coming years.
In addition to the fact that our prisons are holding more prisoners per capita than any other nation, our judicial system has resulted in a situation where those incarcerated are dramatically over-representative of minority groups and poor people. Increasing evidence of discriminatory prosecution and sentencing that results in longer sentences for relatively minor and non-violent crimes is being seen by many as unfair to the prisoners, costly to taxpayers and counterproductive overall in terms of reducing crime and alleviating the perceived national drug problem.
Much of the legislation related to drug-related crimes appears to be discriminatory to people of color and those living in poverty, judging by the prison statistics. Inordinate numbers of racial minority group members tend to serve longer sentences for crimes which are often victimless. Strict marijuana laws are one example of this, as well as the huge disparity in sentences meted out for possession of various amounts of crack cocaine as opposed to powder cocaine. Serving prison sentences rather than receiving treatment for drug-dependence is often more costly to taxpayers and does little to alleviate the problem of recidivism once terms have been completed. Convicted felons face additional hardships in finding employment upon completion of sentences. Having more potential breadwinners in prison means more children living in one parent homes or foster care – in poverty. States which have three-strikes rules also end up sentencing people to life sentences which are obviously excessive when compared to the severity of their crimes.
The proposals unveiled by Holder could mean an easing of the policies and practices which have resulted in our bloated prison population. Americans, as far as I can determine, are no more deserving of involuntary incarceration than citizens of other countries. That our laws and policies so blatantly discriminate against racial and ethnic minorities as well as those at the lower end of the socio-economic ladder is appalling. The whole nature of our current justice system serves to further exacerbate already an existing inequality of income and future opportunities for advancement among broad expanses of our society People become disenfranchised politically in many states, as well. Many felons find they still may not be able to vote despite having paid their debt to society by serving their prison terms.
The whole War on Drugs has been a humongous waste of resources and lives without seeming to accomplish much of anything in terms of reducing the use of illegal drugs or the damage that dependence on them causes, both to those using them and to those affected by the users. The supplies of drugs do not seem to have dried up. Militarizing the war in countries such as Mexico and Columbia has not seemed to work. Drug cartels and gangs continue to proliferate at home and abroad, in some cases exhibiting more powerful than the governments that rule them. Prohibition of some of these drugs seems to parallel the failed prohibition of alcohol in the U.S. during part of the 20th century. Some states have begun easing restrictions on marijuana, and many have even legalized it for medicinal purposes, but they have also often found themselves at odds with a federal government which adamantly opposes any lessening of its opposition to the drug. Holder made no attempt to address the issue of marijuana legalization, but that is not his job. The laws regarding this need to be addressed by Congress before real lasting change can occur on this issue.
Changes to sentencing guidelines and policies regarding how drug-related offenses are to be handled by the judicial system should ease much of the prison crowding and alleviate some of the dysfunctional nature of our current prison system. Cost-cutting measures like prison privatization will only make matters worse if trends continue. Prisons, like schools, have a social value that should not be based on how much profit they can gain some private corporation. They are meant to serve society as a whole, not merely corporate stockholders, and the wellbeing of prisoners as well as students as human beings needs to be foremost. There are currently two county judges where I live serving prison terms for taking kickbacks for sending kids to a private juvenile facility to keep it sufficiently occupied. Is it any wonder why private prison companies want more, not fewer, prisoners? We currently spend far more per person to incarcerate people in this country than to educate them. That situation should be reversed.
Ruining the lives of young poor people for possessing a small quantity of a relatively harmless substance while allowing supposedly fine upstanding people to use their wealth, power and political influence to live in luxury while decimating the economy and taking away others’ livelihoods, homes and health is not how a just society operates. Turning the tide of a War on Drugs that has been a failure for decades and caused more harm than good for society as a whole would be a good start to alleviating some of the problems faced by our prison system and society as a whole.
The actions proposed by the Attorney General, along with the decision last week regarding the racial profiling practiced under New York City’s Stop and Frisk policy are only a beginning. More rational and humane drug policy at federal, state and local levels are a must in order to maintain momentum. Conditions in our prisons must be improved. That can only happen if we use a more fair system for determining how to deal with acts that so many no longer feel should be illegal. As the case with marriage equality has seen great strides in the recent past, much of the drug war must become a thing of the past so that the entire nation’s prisons do not become like the California system, where judges are ordering the release of prisoners to alleviate overcrowding which has reached the level of cruel and unusual punishment. Something is wrong somewhere in the system when you can’t adequately house and care for all the people you seem to feel do not deserve to live freely.