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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Prisons offer free transfers to lock-down paradises out of state.

A new study predicts what I think we all knew: the US prison population is heading for more records in the future. In an age where the US consistently ranks down at the bottom of almost every positive social indicator, it's good to know we're still number one at something.

The study, reported in USA Today "[t]he number of inmates in U.S. prisons likely will rise nearly 13% during the next five years, costing states up to $27.5 billion in new operating and construction expenses[.]" The increase in population will be equivalent to the entire federal prison population already incarcerated. It projects a national prison population (excluding jails, which hold more than a million more) of over 1.7 million by 2011.

Aside from pointing out that the growth rate of female inmates will outpace their male counterparts, the study had this to say as well:
•By 2011, Florida's prison system is expected to become the third state system to surpass 100,000 inmates, joining California and Texas. California's projected inmate population for 2011 is 188,772; Texas' is 166,327.

•In Louisiana, which has the nation's highest rate of incarceration with 835 prisoners per 100,000 residents, the incarceration rate is projected to reach 859 by 2011.

•Nearly two-thirds of the more than 600,000 people admitted to prison each year have failed to satisfy terms of probation or parole.
Increasing jail sentences for meth and sex-offenses are cited as prime contributers to growth.

Meanwhile, California is grappling with its own problems of prison overcrowding. A Reuters piece reported that California is holding 172,000 prisoners in a system designed to lock up only (!) 100,000. The government proposes building new prisons and in the meantime has started housing inmates in previously general mixing areas like gyms, where prisoners share triple bunks. This has lead to an increase in violence and tensions. One inmate described it this way:
"This is not conducive to good mental health and rehabilitation," said Glenn Hanes, 35, one of the inmates housed on a triple bunk bed.

"A system that has over a 70 percent recidivism rate is a failure," said Hanes, an intense, well-spoken man who is serving a 15-year-to-life sentence for second-degree murder. "Building new prisons is like getting a fat man new pants."
And that's right. Building more prisons will just mean more incarceration. In particular, given the white supremacist nature of US prisons and the judicial system, more prisons can also means more imprisonment for people of color in particular. Secondly, the increase in capacity will surely be used to provide more room for the incarceration of immigrants, thus widening the capacity of the state to crack down on them in an effort to placate their white constituents.

So, rather than do something concrete about the racist and classist mass incarceration of a large chunk of the population, California has produced a video to be shown to inmates, enticing them with promises of better treatment if they will agree to transfer to prisons outside the state.
Tasty meals! A room with a view! Ping-Pong! Cable TV!

In one of the more unusual marketing campaigns undertaken by state government, California prison officials are asking inmates to bid adieu to their cellmates and transfer to lockups elsewhere in the country.

As part of the recruitment drive, wardens are screening a film extolling the virtues of out-of-state prisons and reminding convicts of the violent, overcrowded, racially charged conditions they face in California.

"You get 79 channels here — ESPN!" one tattooed California felon, now housed in Tennessee, says in the movie.

"They talk to us like humans," says another, "not like animals."
Initially, a government survey suggested that as many as 19,000 inmates would be interested in a transfer (read: better conditions), but so far only a few hundred have taken the state up on the offer. Inmates and officials cite a variety of reasons for the disparity, including relationships on the outside that prisoners have with family and friends. In addition,
[s]ome convicts have been disqualified to transfer because of medical or mental health problems or because they require a high level of security not offered in the out-of-state facilities that have agreed to take California prisoners.

But two other factors may be deflating interest, officials say.

Prison gangs, wary of losing troops and control behind bars, have reportedly warned inmates not to sign up.

And false but persistent rumors of possible early releases in California also may be deterring volunteers. Because of a pending lawsuit seeking to cap the inmate population, many convicts apparently believe that a judge may allow some to go free before the end of their terms — an opportunity they would miss if they were housed in another state.

"Most of these inmates have some family or girlfriend or pen pal or other connection here, so the idea of transferring a long ways away, to the unknown, is not that attractive," said Lance Corcoran, a lobbyist with the California Correctional Peace Officers Assn. "Not that the department hasn't tried. They've marketed these places like cruise ships."
No doubt, many prisoners also suspect that the reality of a transfer may not live up to the promises made, given the general condition of most American prisons.

The article goes on to describe the video, which is 20 minutes long and broadcast over the prison TV system.
The... movie depicts the entire relocation experience, including searches and shackling at the beginning, a charter flight and the arrival at a clean, quiet prison with polished floors.

Most compelling are testimonials from some of the 80 convicts who already have arrived at the West Tennessee Detention Facility in Mason, a private lockup run by Corrections Corp. of America.

In voluntary interviews, inmates praise their new surroundings, including the food, the staff, the recreation and the job and education opportunities.

Footage shows inmates lounging in roomy cells with views, playing basketball and chess, lining up for hot meals and chatting amiably with smiling officers.

Inmates of different races mingle — something unheard of on a California prison yard — and one convict marvels that "we've already had dental exams," which are hard to come by behind bars in the Golden State.

"It blew all of our minds," one inmate says of the Tennessee experience. "We didn't expect all this."
But Schwarzenegger ought to know better than that. After all, didn't he star in the classic 80's movie, "The Running Man," where supposed "winners" of previous battles to the death were revealed to have been murdered instead of delivered to the promised tropical paradises?

Undeterred by prisoners' lack of enthusiasm for the deal, the governor promises to forge ahead. He has rescinded an order forbidding out of state transfers without an inmate's consent. True to the formula, the new policy will find its first application against non-citizens. Citizens will surely follow close behind.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A confession? Wolfowitz's speech at West Point June, 2001

In what either must be a heck of a prediction, a damn good guess or a thinly veiled confession before the fact, the video below shows noted PNAC Neo-Con, former Deputy Defense Secretary, architect of the Bush's Iraq invasion and current President of the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz delivering the commencement speech at West Point on June 2, 2001. His topic: "'surprise' and 'courage.'"
"This year marks the sixtieth anniversary of a military disaster whose name has become synonymous with surprise—the attack on Pearl Harbor. Interestingly, that "surprise attack" was preceded by an astonishing number of unheeded warnings and missed signals. Intelligence reports warned of "a surprise move in any direction," but this made the Army commander in Honolulu think of sabotage, not attack. People were reading newspapers in Hawaii that cited promising reports about intensive Japanese diplomatic efforts, unaware that these were merely a charade. An ultra-secret code-breaking operation, one of the most remarkable achievements in American intelligence history, an operation called "Magic," had unlocked the most private Japanese communications, but the operation was considered so secret and so vulnerable to compromise that the distribution of its product was restricted to the point that our field commanders didn’t make the "need-to-know" list. And at 7 a.m. on December 7th, at Opana radar station, two privates detected what they called "something completely out of the ordinary." In fact, it was so out of the ordinary that the inexperienced watch officer assumed it must be friendly airplanes and told them to just forget about it.

"Yet military history is full of surprises, even if few are as dramatic or as memorable as Pearl Harbor. Surprise happens so often that it’s surprising that we’re still surprised by it. Very few of these surprises are the product of simple blindness or simple stupidity. Almost always there have been warnings and signals that have been missed--sometimes because there were just too many warnings to pick the right one out, sometimes because of what one scholar of Pearl Harbor called "a poverty of expectations"—a routine obsession with a few familiar dangers.

"This expectation of the familiar has gotten whole governments, sometimes whole societies, into trouble. At the beginning of the last century, the British economist Norman Angell published a runaway best seller that must have drawn the attention of professors and cadets of West Point at that time. Angell argued that the idea that nations could profit from war was obsolete. It had become, as he titled his book, The Great Illusion. International finance, he argued, had become so interdependent and so interwoven with trade and industry that it had rendered war unprofitable.

"One of Angell's disciples, David Starr Jordan, the President of an institution on the West Coast called Stanford University, argued that war in Europe, though much threatened, would never come. "The bankers," he said, "will not find the money for such a fight; the industries will not maintain it; the statesmen cannot. There will be no general war." Unfortunately for him, he made that prediction in 1913. One year later, Archduke Franz Ferdinand fell to an assassin’s bullet, plunging Europe into a war more terrible than any that had come before it. The notion of the Great Illusion yielded to the reality of the Great War.

"One hundred years later, we live, once again, in a time of great hopes for world peace and prosperity. Our chances of realizing those hopes will be greater if we use the benefit of hindsight to replace a poverty of expectations with an anticipation of the unfamiliar and the unlikely."
I know it isn't popular with many of the leading figures in American anarchy to entertain conspiracy theories about 9/11 other than the one supported by the government, but I have generally found the evidence compelling that the attacks of that day must have involved government and private organizations and individuals in the US. Would such a conspiracy have gone as high as a Deputy Secretary of Defense? It doesn't seem necessary, but neither does it seem impossible.

Some may say that it doesn't matter which conspiracy it is, the problem is the system (capitalism, the state, empire and hierarchies in general). And I would agree. '9/11 Truth' as a movement does not contain the systematic critiques necessary to develop into the kind of revolutionary movement that most anarchists would be sympathetic with. The 9/11 Truth movement, like Arizona's so-called libertarians that crow constantly for the closing of the border and the wider regulation of non-white labor, certainly seems to be participating in a dialectic that leads not to more freedom, as they claim to desire, but rather to substantially less. Bill Weinberg of the excellent World War 3 Report has written on this phenomenon, and, although I disagree with his position on the 9/11 attacks, I find his critique of that movement to be insightful and generally right on. Of course, anarchists should be careful not to write off a group's ideas simply because of the people who believe them. After all, I've met my share of anarchist weirdos and nutjobs.

But I've written about my position previously ('The Ruling Class Loves Terrorism So Much They Married It'), so I won't rehash old arguments, save to say that regardless of what one thinks about the real nature of 9/11, false flag terrorism does in fact exist, and lots of governments, including the US, Britain, Italy, Pakistan and Russia, have engaged in it at various times. Those who are in what I will call the 'Al-Qaeda did it on it's own' camp would do well not to forget that state sponsored terrorism, directed under false pretense by intelligence agencies within their home countries in order to obtain specific domestic political goals, certainly fits well with the post-9/11 landscape of fear and distrust and, as such, will certainly be manipulated by authorities in the future for the purpose of controlling their populations, especially as the political and economic situation grows steadily worse - as it surely will.

Nevertheless, I present the video of Wolfowitz's speech here for entertainment purposes if nothing else. Although, perhaps there's more there than we might like to admit. Try this link if the video doesn't play below.

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Monday, February 05, 2007

News of Interest for 2/05/07

Industry is the enemy for barricaded India farmers
Not everyone wants development, it turns out.
"Salim, she says, was trying to defend the family's land, earmarked by India's communist state government of West Bengal for a chemicals hub in a low-tax Special Economic Zone (SEZ).

'"I lost my son, I can't do anything about that, but I can save my land -- even if I have to sacrifice two more of my sons," she said, sitting in the midst of a crowd of angry villagers, a veil half pulled over her face.

"'We want to live by farming, we don't want development.'

"Deep trenches have been dug in every road leading into Nandigram. Every few meters (yards), a barricade of rocks, logs or bricks blocks the way, while knots of angry men keep a wary eye on intruders. Police and government officials dare not enter.

"Six people have been killed and more than 50 injured in weeks of protests since a leaked government document revealed plans to seize 19,000 acres of fertile land on the banks of the Haldi and Hooghly rivers, home to 38 villages and 100,000 people.

"This is just one of several hundred SEZs the Indian government wants to set up across the country in a bid to lure foreign investment and close the gap with China's booming manufacturing sector.

"The problem, in a country of 1.1 billion people, is where to build the factories. Many farmers are unwilling to give up their land for cash, arguing that it brings them security, status and employment -- as well as being all they have ever known."
Top secret army cell breaks terrorists
"Deep inside the heart of the "Green Zone", the heavily fortified administrative compound in Baghdad, lies one of the most carefully guarded secrets of the war in Iraq. It is a cell from a small and anonymous British Army unit that goes by the deliberately meaningless name of the Joint Support Group (JSG), and it has proved to be one of the Coalition's most effective and deadly weapons in the fight against terror."
Immigrants' DNA to flood U.S. database
It starts with immigrants, but white Americans are fooling themselves if they think this leads anywhere but towards the eventual tracking and databasing of every person in this country.
"The U.S. Justice Department is finishing rules to allow a vast expansion of its DNA gathering to include samples from most people arrested or detained by the federal authorities, officials said.

"The move would affect hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants each year.

"Congress authorized the new DNA sampling in a little-noticed amendment to a renewal in January 2006 of the Violence Against Women Act, which protects and assists victims of sexual crimes. The amendment permits DNA collecting from anyone under criminal arrest by the federal authorities and also from illegal immigrants detained by federal agents — by far the largest group to be affected by the new law."

One union wakes up to the threat of technology at work

The New York City government has plans to spend $180 million dollars on hand scanners for all city employees. The government says it's just so that they can track work hours, not to gather information on workers (if so, what was their objection to with time cards?).

The local union, however, has not been pacified by the "privacy will be protected" argument that employers routinely trot out in cases like these (essentially: "Sure, we're going to track you, but we won't share that information with a third party"). In a Reuters article that ran Monday, the Civil Service Technical Guild, recognizing the class war implications of the technology, has denounced the scanners as amounting to "geo-slavery."
[T]he planned roll-out of hand geometry scanners in all New York City government agencies has sparked union cries of "geoslavery" and assertions that technology developed for security will be used to track, label and control workforces.

"It's frustrating, it's kind of an insult," Colson, 53, told Reuters. "They are talking about going to voice and retina scanners and that's an invasion of privacy in that they can track you wherever you go."

Jon Forster, of the Civil Service Technical Guild, which represents Department of Design and Construction workers, said the biometric systems gave the city a license to obtain personal, uniquely identifiable data to track workers.

"It's really a matter of this kind of technology having far outstripped any legislation or even case law in the United States in terms of what are the restrictions," Forster told Reuters.

"On the one hand I think people might all agree that if you put a GPS system in ambulances then that's a good thing. On the other hand you have an employer in Ohio who has demanded that two of his employees have chips implanted in their bodies."

If these are the extremes, the question is where does the line get drawn?" he said.
These are important questions for workers and their organizations to be asking. In the age of high technology, the class war has increasingly become technologized as well. While applying technology to attack workers power isn't new, these days the technological assault has broadened to the point of near ubiquity. Very soon, such technology will be everywhere, and the ability of workers to organize autonomously for their own ends, much less to directly confront technology, will be extremely limited. We need to attack now, while there is still time and space to do so.

However, an expert interviewed expressed this interesting dissent:
Biometrics expert Jim Wayman, who consults for the US, British and Australia governments, said mobile phones and credit cards were the "No. 1 enemies" for workers worried about geoslavery, not biometrics.

"There may be large forces at work in western society wishing to enslave the workforce. I want to acknowledge that fear. But hand geometry is not part of this," Wayman, who has studied biometrics for more than two decades, told Reuters.

He said monitoring computer and phone usage were the "tools by which an employer would seek to enslave the workforce - it would not be done through biometrics."
This is an important dissent, because it shows that the attack is multi-faceted, meaning that our critique of technology must go deeper than one technology or another. We have to be willing to develop a expansive view of the class war nature of technology and, at the same time, be prepared to engage in a fight along a broad front if we are successfully to challenge the high tech attack on our power at work.

Just how broad? American workers would do well to learn a lesson that immigrant workers are learning right now, as the US government trots out its new IMAGE program. Under pressure from the ever more reactionary white working and middle classes - themselves under attack by an increasingly globalized capitalism - the government, through ICE, has begun inviting companies to voluntarily run workers' information through a variety of government databases in order to single out those workers with papers from those without. By doing this, white working class Americans hope to defend their relative but shrinking privilege through the tried and true method of attacking the non-white section of their own class, effectively eliminating the competition.

This is important to understand, because many reactionary workers on the right, who are opposed to undocumented workers, have been advocating for a broad worker database ('Worker Verification') by which every worker will have to be approved in order to gain employment (thus betraying their commitment to white supremacy over libertarian values). In fact, some anti-immigrant organizations, like WeHireAliens.com have set about creating their own databases. Aside from the clumsy attack on workers power that the vigilante databases represent, how could a basic technology like a government computer database of all workers be used for class war applications?
Pittman called Smithfield's agreement with ICE "a business decision" resulting from an implied threat. "We knew raids could be a possibility," he said. "We felt going this way, there would be less of an effect."

But Smithfield received an added benefit from cooperating with the government, according to the union that is helping its workers organize. Union officials say the company submitted the names of organizers as a tactic to intimidate some workers and get rid of others. The officials note that the National Labor Relations Board has found that Smithfield worked to undermine union elections by intimidating employees in 1994 and 1997.
"Most of the leaders of a walkout in November are on their list," said Leila McDowell, a spokeswoman for the United Food and Commercial Workers. "Whether ICE is consciously in collusion or not, Smithfield could very easily manipulate the process and can use it as a tool to intimidate and threaten workers, which it has done in the past and been found to have done so illegally."
New technologies very often find their initial application against vulnerable populations like immigrants and other minorities. It doesn't take long, however, for them to spread to even broader sections of society. By supporting the application of database technology to immigrants, white workers are unknowingly sowing the seeds of their own regulation and, eventually, their defeat. Just like the effects of biometrics cannot possibly be limited to merely clocking in and out each day at work, the effects of a computer database of all workers cannot be held to just undocumented workers. Our opposition to technologies in the workplace must be broad and militant.

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