Archive for April, 2015

30
Apr
15

senseless destruction

chas schultz cartoon
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Quoted from The Minneapolis Star-Tribune (April 22, 2015):
Three days after being crowned the largest tree of its kind in the state, possibly in the nation, a towering jack pine near Mountain Iron MN, was felled by a logger making room for a $40 million expansion of US Steel’s Minntac mine—an expansion already put on hold.
“It’s somewhat of a tragedy,” said Dale Irish, the longtime Mountain Iron resident who until recently owned the land where the champion tree stood. He said it would have been crowned national champ, too.

But just after a state Department of Natural Resources forester measured the tree, Irish closed on a deal to sell the land to US Steel. The loggers came the next day.

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Groove of the Day

Listen to The Stooges performing “Search and Destroy”

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Weather Report

69° and Clear

29
Apr
15

what do they expect?

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This country is being mismanaged by the career politicians and authorities, yet they seem to be surprised when things begin to come apart at the seams.

According to last August’s CNN poll, an all-time high of 87% of Americans simply do not trust their own government nor regard the mainstream media as truthful or credible.

police vehicle on fireThe recent riots in Baltimore are just the most recent result of decades of abusive police tactics carried out against blacks and other disadvantaged populations. But they’re likely not to be the last, and disadvantaged people are only the beginning. Mass incarceration is such a generalized phenomenon in America, once the fissures begin to open, urban unrest is likely to happen anywhere in America. Eventually, the whole country could blow up like a super-volcano.

The government knows this and is taking steps to maintain repressive control.

From July 15 to September 15, a Special Operations exercise called “Jade Helm 15” is scheduled to be carried out by the US Army’s Special Operations Command in 10 states in the southwest, plus Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida. The Army says the operation is designed to train 1,200 special forces personnel including the Green Berets, Air Force and Marine Special Ops Commands, Navy SEALS, Marine Expeditionary Units, and the 82nd Airborne Division in ‘Mastering the Human Domain’: the use of the military to engender trust in order to control “the totality of the physical, cultural, and social environments that influence human behavior.” In other words, Jade Helm is a dry run exercise at the roll-out of martial law and asymmetric warfare against Americans.

jade helm mapThe government knows that invading and conquering a country is a lot easier than maintaining order under its rule. Jade Helm appears to be a practiced study in the modern domination of culture. It is a dry run at using one’s soldiers as counselors and spies to keep the population of a territory subservient.

It appears that infiltration exercises will be incorporated in the operation. According to a Houston Chronicle report, soldiers will attempt to blend in with the local population in an effort to test the effectiveness of infiltration techniques.

Residents will be encouraged to report suspicious activity during the exercise. “They’re going to set up cells of people and test how well they’re able to move around without getting too noticed in the community,” says Roy Boyd, chief deputy with the Victoria County sheriff’s office. “They’re testing their abilities to basically blend in with the local environment and not stand out and blow their cover.”

Jade Helm is a massive rehearsal not only for the implementation of martial law over the general population, but for snatch-and-grab extractions of key resistance figures from the independent media as well as uncooperative political figures.

On Tuesday Governor Greg Abbott of Texas says he ordered the Texas National Guard to monitor Jade Helm 15 “to safeguard Texans’ constitutional rights, private property & civil liberties,” but this provides scant reassurance and is likely part of Abbott’s own cover story.

Twenty-three Marines are said to be deployed in the Big Bend area. Drones and stealth helicopters have already been observed here.

4-walmartIn Midland TX, the number one Walmart in America (based on per capita spending) has been suddenly closed without warning, its employees fired, and the store is now a hotbed of reconstruction and military activity, and the site is crawling with military and DHS personnel and vehicles. According to the official cover story, the store had to be closed because of “plumbing issues.” But since when does the military service Walmart’s plumbing?

jhtwm2The Midland location is one of five stores Walmart said it closed in California, Texas, Oklahoma, and Florida because of persistent “plumbing issues,” which could take as long as six months to fix. These are all states which have a role to play in the Jade Helm exercise, and the Walmarts are rumored to being prepared as command centers. There are also persistent rumors of Walmart installing facial recognition software in its operations because 85% of Americans are said to patronize the retailer over some period of time.

So what is going on? No one outside of government really knows, but conspiracy theories abound. The “exercise” cover story seems pretty thin, but the gullible American public has fallen for much less. I will remind you that Dick Cheney was in charge of a NORAD “military exercise” when 9-11 was permitted to happen. And most Americans have been content to swallow the government’s official line.

The chances are just as great that Jade Helm is itself a major move of oppression against Americans as they are that Jade Helm will ultimately prove to be just a means of conditioning the public to accept a repressive domestic military presence. This is the real tragedy of the United States national and state governments today. Their intentions are simply not trustworthy.

Police are seen as demonstrators gather near Camden Yards to protest against the death in police custody of Freddie Gray in Baltimore

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Groove of the Day

Listen to Nickelback performing “Edge Of A Revolution”

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Weather Report

64° and Clear

 

28
Apr
15

yuck

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Many years ago in Minneapolis, I first started thinking about what goes into processed foods when a friend of mine told me that Cargill, the giant food company, adds sand to increase the weight of its grain because (1) sand is cheaper than grain and (2) federal regulators say that a certain amount of sand is acceptable in the grain. In other words, a food company is purposely adulterating its product because it is economically profitable and the government says it’s okay.

A couple days ago an email came across my desk that lists a few other disgusting ingredients that are a part of other companies’ processed foods:

Red Dye: Ground up Beetles

Between yogurt, maraschino cherries, jams, cakes, and tomato products, you’ve probably consumed at least one pound of red dye in your life. That means that you’ve also ingested at least 70,000 cochineal beetles, according to Change.org. The bug is crushed up to make red dye.

Ice Cream: Beaver Anal Glands

Vanilla and raspberry flavors might be enhanced by “castoreum,” a mixture of the anal secretions and urine of beavers. It’s also found in perfume. The FDA-approved product is categorized under “natural flavoring,” so you won’t know if you’re eating it. After celebrity chef Jamie Oliver went on David Letterman’s show and mentioned castoreum’s presence in vanilla ice cream—”If you like that stuff, next time you put it in your mouth think of anal gland”—manufacturers adamantly denied the claims.

Beer: Fish Bladders

Isinglass, or dried fish bladder, gives beer its golden glow. The BBC did a whole segment on the substance, which is primarily used in British beers.

Wendy’s Chili: Sand

One key ingredient to Wendy’s chili is an anti-caking agent called silicon dioxide. Street name: sand or glass powder.

Jell-O: Animal Connective Tissue

Gelatin is made from collagen, which is boiled down animal connective tissue. Today, gelatin most likely is made from pigskin.

Gum: Sheep Secretions

Lanolin—a goopy, oily secretion found in sheep’s wool—is an FDA-approved additive used to soften chewing gum. It can also be found in cosmetics, sunscreen, and baby products.

Cheese: Sawdust

Cellulose, or virgin wood pulp that is more commonly identified as sawdust, is an ingredient found in shredded cheese. It keeps the shreds from clumping up. Cellulose also appears in Kraft Parmesan Cheese—but Kraft isn’t the only company to do so. Thestreet.com, a financial news and services website, found 15 other companies that use “wood” in their products. The USDA, which regulates meat, has decided that meat products that consist of more than 3.5 percent cellulose cannot be recognized as nutritionally sound

Bread: Duck Feathers and Human Hair

L-Cysteine is an amino acid often used in dough conditioners, which softens mass-produced breads. It is made from human hair or duck feathers. Although 80% of L-cysteine is made of human hair, McDonald’s uses the duck feather variety in its baked hot apple pies and warm cinnamon rolls.

Mushrooms: Maggots

The FDA says it’s legally OK to have up to 19 maggots and 74 mites in a 3.5-ounce can of mushrooms.

Potato Chips: Cleaning Agents

Sodium bisulfite is used in most toilet boil cleaning agents. It’s also used to extend the shelf-life and bleach out the discoloration of potato chips.

Chocolate: Rat Hairs

I’m not saying that rat hairs are the secret ingredient of your favorite chocolate bars… but they might make accidental guest appearances. The FDA allows one rat hair per 100 grams in six 100-gram subsamples of chocolate and 60 insect fragments per 100 grams in six 100-gram subsamples.

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These weird ingredients and impurities aren’t enough to kill you, but they do remind us that we’re treading on thin ice any time we trust companies and people who are motivated by making money off of us. And it’s not just food.

In the last few months, TV doctor and Columbia University faculty member Mehmez Oz has come under heavy criticism for promoting junk science on his widely-watched television show. He’s been lambasted by experts, by fellow doctors, even by the federal government. Last week, 10 doctors sent an email to the university contending that Dr. Oz promoted “quack treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain” and should be removed as vice-chair of Columbia’s surgery department. (He lost me years ago when he predicted my early death in a promotional email-administered questionnaire. What does he know? He didn’t see me. His junk emails regularly clog my spam filter like plaque in the circulatory system, and I’m sick of it.)

There is a tendency for people to cry “victimization” when anyone uses us as raw material in some money-making scheme or scam. But I suggest to you that the relationship of grifter and mark is a dance in which both partners play a part. We owe it to ourselves to be discriminating in who we trust. It is a matter of not only avoiding being fooled, but maintaining our personal dignity and integrity.

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Groove of the Day

Listen to Jamiroquai performing “Scam”

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Weather Report

54° and Cloudy

27
Apr
15

most open secret

rape

Why We Let Prison Rape Go On

by Chandra Bozelko, The New York Times

April 17, 2015

It’s been called “America’s most ‘open’ secret”: According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, around 80,000 women and men a year are sexually abused in American correctional facilities. That number is almost certainly subject to underreporting, through shame or a victim’s fear of retaliation. Overall, only 35% of rapes and sexual assaults were reported to the police in 2010, and the rate of reporting in prisons is undoubtedly lower still.

To tackle the problem, Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2003. The way to eliminate sexual assault, lawmakers determined, was to make Department of Justice funding for correctional facilities conditional on states’ adoption of zero-tolerance policies toward sexual abuse of inmates.

Inmates would be screened to identify possible predators and victims. Prison procedures would ensure investigation of complaints by outside law enforcement. Correctional officers would be instructed about behavior that constitutes sexual abuse. And abusers, whether inmates or guards, would be punished effectively.

But only two states—New Hampshire and New Jersey—have fully complied with the act. Forty-seven states and territories have promised that they will do so. Using Justice Department data, the American Civil Liberties Union estimated that from 2003 to 2012, when the law’s standards were finalized, nearly two million inmates were sexually assaulted.

Six Republican governors have neglected or refused to comply, complaining of cost and other factors. Rick Perry, then the governor of Texas, wrote to the Justice Department last year stating that 40 percent of the correctional officers in male facilities in Texas were women, so that “cross-gender viewing” (like witnessing inmates in the shower, which contravenes the legal guidelines) could not be avoided. The mandated measures, he said, would levy “an unacceptable cost” on Texas, which has one of the highest rates of prison sexual assault.

For its noncompliance, Texas is likely to lose just 5% of federal funding for its state prisons, or about $800,000. It will still receive $15.2 million in federal grants even as inmates continue to be sexually assaulted. If Congress passes an amendment that Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, proposed last year, the financial penalty for noncompliance will be removed altogether.

Ultimately, prisons protect rape culture to protect themselves. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, about half of prison sexual assault complaints in 2011 were filed against staff. (These reports weren’t all claims of forcible rape; it is considered statutory sexual assault for a guard to have sexual contact with an inmate.)

I was an inmate for six years in Connecticut after being convicted of identity fraud, among other charges. From what I saw, the same small group of guards preyed on inmates again and again, yet never faced discipline. They were protected by prison guard unions, one of the strongest forces in American labor.

Sexualized violence is often used as a tool to subdue inmates whom guards see as upstarts. In May 2008, while in a restricted housing unit, or “the SHU” as it is commonly known, I was sexually assaulted by a guard. The first person I reported the incident to, another guard, ignored it. I finally reached a nurse who reported it to a senior officer.

When the state police arrived, I decided not to talk to them because the harassment I’d received in the intervening hours made me fearful. For the same reason, I refused medical treatment when I was taken to a local emergency room.

I was also a witness in a case in which an inmate claimed to have been sexually assaulted by a guard and then told me she’d made it up. I reported her—and this time, I was perfectly credible to an investigator, who praised me for having a conscience and a clear head.

The Justice Department estimates that the total bill to society for prison rape and sexual abuse is as high as $51.9 billion per year, including the costs of victims’ compensation and increased recidivism. If states refuse to implement the law when the fiscal benefit is so obvious, something larger is at stake.

According to Allen Beck, senior statistical adviser at the Bureau of Justice Statistics, “institutional culture and facility leadership may be key factors in determining the level of victimization.” Rape persists, in other words, because it’s the cultural wallpaper of American correctional facilities. We preserve the abuse because we’re down with perps getting punished in the worst ways.

Compliance does not even cost that much. The Justice Department estimates that full nationwide compliance would cost $468.5 million per year, through 2026. Even that much is less than 1% of states’ spending on corrections. Putting aside the cruelty and pain inflicted, prison rape costs far more than the implementation of the law designed to stop it.

26
Apr
15

dick cavett’s vietnam

It’s not much fun returning to Vietnam.

I don’t mean in person and, no, I did not fight in that sad war. It’s the war we don’t like to think about but can’t quite forget.

In going through, reviewing and cataloging past shows of mine from that awful time (in preparation for a PBS special, “Dick Cavett’s Vietnam,” airing Monday), two things stand out. I’m surprised at what a vast amount of Vietnam was either a planned or unplanned part of the shows of those years. And it’s fascinating how much we all may have repressed or, mercifully, just forgotten.

The memory is jogged in a hundred ways, viewing and hearing all this again. Even minor things come back to the mind’s ear, like John F. Kennedy, with his tin ear for other languages, saying “Lay-oss” for Laos.

ap_202_vietnam_real_war_kb_ss_131023_sshMore significantly, how many of us have forgotten those two haunting monosyllables, “My Lai,” and the round-the-world headlines: US SOLDIER: “I SHOT BABIES.” The infamous Lt. William Calley lives and breathes. He was convicted on 22 counts of murder, but was eventually pardoned by Richard Nixon.

In one of my old shows, the very personable Barry Goldwater is asked by me if he is pleased by the current heavy bombing raids.

“No, I’m not,” the affable gent replies. “They’re not bombing enough.”

One of the best comments on the war back then on my show came from Warren Beatty. The highly intelligent and well-informed actor warned that this country must get out of the habit of relying on “experts” on matters like the war. Experts like those depicted in David Halberstam’s “The Best and the Brightest.” Experts such as Robert McNamara, a businessman, and the clueless Gen. William Westmoreland.

Beatty, clearly with intellectual equipment of a higher order than most of our politicians, made you wonder if more actors should be in charge. (Wait…was there, once?)

Until re-seeing one of the old shows, I actually had forgotten having asked Henry Kissinger what he would say to a father who wondered, “What did we get out of this war that was worth the death of my son?”

Henry fuzzes the answer and seems more concerned about blaming other administrations—Kennedy’s in particular—than in answering directly. A sense of absent concern for the human cost is distressing in Kissinger. Why didn’t I just say that of course the boy didn’t die for nothing—he died for a hideous, world-shaking case of criminal political ineptitude and miscalculation by people, including you, sir, who should have known better?

Wounded American Soldier, Viet Nam 1965Unsettling isn’t a strong enough word for seeing, again, Kissinger’s boss, The Great Unindicted Co-conspirator himself, Richard Nixon, campaigning on an emphatic promise to end the war.

Elected, he widened it.

I’d even forgotten that, incredibly, Westmoreland pleaded for a whopping 50,000 more troops to be poured into the bloodshed. And more incredibly, he got them.

Protests exploded. Alas, the generous gift of soldiers was apparently not enough to prevent “Westy” from being immortalized as “The General Who Lost Vietnam.”

I remember hearing a disgusted World War II vet asking, “Who’s running this damn war, anyway? The Marx Brothers?”

As it happens, Groucho Marx, in a departure from hilarity, weighed in quite brilliantly against the war on one show. He said he no longer liked to watch the news: “They show you a battlefield and there are boys lying there dead and injured. I don’t want to see that when I go to bed at night. I have enough problems going to bed without that.”

Can we have forgotten what a bombshell the Pentagon papers were? Daniel Ellsberg was a particularly eloquent guest. The same Daniel Ellsberg whose psychiatrist’s notes Nixon’s team of Three Stooges burglars tried to purloin.

Ah, and here’s Jane Fonda, gorgeous and infuriating to hordes of her life-threateners, but, who, as it turned out, happened to be right about the war.

I’m a friend of Jane’s. She can never satisfy some of her durable bloodthirsty critics, of course, but she has impressively described and tearfully apologized for what she came to see as her own deep foolishness in certain appalling actions at the time. She has admitted she will never live down her shame at some of her—as they’re called in acting—“bad choices.”

It’s great to view again one particular tape. Nobody was more moving on the show than the great Senator Wayne Morse. His reasoned and passionate excoriations about the war and those who concocted it played to a hushed studio audience. He was riveting. I’ve never seen an audience so rapt. “We violated one section in Article F, another of the charter of the United Nations. We practically tore up the Geneva Accords,” he told me. “We have to face up to the fact that we cannot conduct a unilateral military course of action around the world without the world organizing against us. We’ve got to get out of Asia.”

viet51Sometimes a story of a single minor incident stays in the mind vividly. It’s the kind of story you’d prefer never to have heard. A party of US soldiers making their way along a road passed a small farmhouse. The curious family stood watching them pass.

One of the soldiers casually shot their cow.

This story makes me cry.

Their cow. She was not only vital to their lives, of course, but lived with them in a portion of the house.

A pet and beloved family member, shot by that brave warrior. I should like to meet the shooter.

Sadly, you can’t forget those two nauseating syllables, Kent State. A crime that stinks to high heaven. Of the four students shot dead by National Guardsmen, a couple were reportedly on their way to class, and not even part of the demonstration.

One of my favorite historic figures, Bob Hope, was another casualty of Vietnam. His heroic and dangerous flights all over the globe to entertain and thrill fun-starved soldiers with laughs and pretty movie stars have been deservedly lauded. (Those shows made top-rated and highly profitable TV specials.)

Poor Bob stayed on too long. I’ll never forget the night on the show that returned-veteran John Kerry shocked us all with the report that Bob Hope had been booed at Danang.

Richard Zoglin explains in his fine biography of Hope that Bob never “got” it. The troops who had loved him before were now sickened by the war and by his continued fervent support of it. He lost much of his public that way, too. He never got over it.

It’s stirring watching the impressive Gen. Wesley Clark saying, in a more recent interview, that he had supported the war, and then questioned it, finally wondering aloud, “How much did we learn? Not enough.” Then he mentions the words “Afghanistan” and “Iraq.”

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At long, long last the war was ended.

Not by a president or a Congress or by the protesters. Someone said it was the only war in history ever ended by a journalist.

The-Vietnam-War-2“The Most Trusted Man in America,” Walter Cronkite, not always a critic of the war, went to see the damage of the Tet offensive, came back, and said on his news broadcast that we had to get out. The beleaguered Lyndon Johnson’s reported reaction: “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.”

I sometimes wonder how many people have forgotten—or how many young people are astonished to learn—that we lost that war.

Sadly, in one of George W. Bush’s favored phrases, we cut and ran.

The great invincible American war machine went down to ignominious defeat. And just what did we achieve? We had been assured by powerful intellectuals that we “had to stop Communism somewhere.” So we made our dashing entrance into another country’s business, forgetting that the place already was half-Communist.

Now it all is.

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Dick Cavett is the former television talk show host known for his conversational style and in-depth discussions. He appeared regularly in the US on nationally broadcast television from the 1960s through the 2000s. In recent years, he has written a column for the online New York Times, promoted DVDs of his former shows as well as a book of his Times columns, and hosted replays of his classic TV interviews.

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Groove of the Day

Listen to Jimi Hendrix performing “Good Morning Vietnam”

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Weather Report

80° Windy and Clear

25
Apr
15

a different pie

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“The difference between white people and Indians is that Indian people know they are oppressed but don’t feel powerless. White people don’t feel oppressed, but feel powerless. Deconstruct that disempowerment. Part of the mythology that they’ve been teaching you is that you have no power.

“Power is not brute force and money; power is in your spirit. Power is in your soul. It is what your ancestors, your old people gave you. Power is in the earth; it is in your relationship to the earth.

“The question of socialism or communism or capitalism or between the left and right—I think the important question is between the industrial society and the earth-based society. And I say that because I believe that capitalism and communism are really much more about how the wealth is distributed, if it trickles down or is appropriated at the beginning to those who have worked for it.

“But, you know, someone has to question where the wealth came from. What right does society have to the wealth? What is the relationship between that society and the land from which it got its wealth? Those are the questions that should be asked.

“The essence of the problem is about consumption, recognizing that a society that consumes one-third of the world’s resources is unsustainable. This level of consumption requires constant intervention into other people’s lands. That’s what’s going on.

“We don’t want a bigger piece of the pie. We want a different pie.”

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Winona LaDuke
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—  Winona LaDuke
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Winona LaDuke (born 1959) is an American activist, environmentalist, economist, and writer, known for her work on tribal land claims and preservation, as well as sustainable development.
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24
Apr
15

we’re #1

Cory Booker.

What’s better for America’s status?

Here’s a pop quiz: What’s better for America’s status in the world?

A) Being a global leader in innovation, job creation, education, social mobility, literacy and child health.

B) Being a global leader in imprisoning the highest number of human beings—its own citizens.

It’s an obvious answer. But the unfortunate reality is that the United States leads the world in incarceration, not education.

Our country has shown time and again a nearly unlimited capacity to reinvent itself and move closer to the ideals on which our society was founded.

Yet we have emerged as the global leader in a race that no nation would want to even be a contender in. While our country is home to only 5% of the world’s total population, we are home to 25% of the world’s prison population. And nearly three-fourths of this population is comprised of nonviolent offenders.

At the same time, we are losing the increasingly important race to educate our citizens.

Where the United States was once ranked first in high school graduation rates, we now rank 23rd in high school completion among 30 of the world’s most developed nations.

Where we were once the driving force of the global economy, we now rank fifth in the World Economic Forum’s global competitiveness index. Key metrics in this index include the quality of a nation’s primary, secondary and higher education systems.

Instead of empowering the next generation of American artists, scientists, engineers, inventors and entrepreneurs, our country has chosen to devote a massive amount of resources, time and energy to locking people up. By imprisoning individuals, we also burden families, condemn generations to cycles of poverty and breed economic inequality.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Congress chose to adopt laws that drastically changed the way our country handled nonviolent drug crimes. Since then, the American prison population has increased by nearly 800% over the past 30 years. Over 2.7 million American children have a parent who is incarcerated, and 10 million American children at one time in their lives had a parent in prison.

Americans of color are disproportionately burdened by the failures of our justice system. There are more black men in prison or under state or federal supervision today than there were enslaved in 1850. And while African Americans make up only 13.6% of the total US population, they make up a whopping 40.2% of the US prison population.

The sad reality is that in today’s America, prisoners are never truly free from the burdens of our criminal justice system.

A report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research concluded that once released from prison, an ex-offender’s prospects for obtaining employment statistically decreased. The report estimated that, in 2008, ex-offender employment losses cost our economy the equivalent of 1.5 to 1.7 million workers, or $57 billion to $65 billion annually. It’s therefore no surprise that American prisons have become revolving doors, with two out of every three former offenders rearrested within three years of their release.

The millions of wives, sisters, husbands, daughters, sons, friends and the people they love who have been incarcerated are burdened disproportionately by an outdated, archaic and overly punitive system. These millions of Americans have the ability to advance our country, our economy and our global competitiveness. They just need to be given the opportunity.

American taxpayers aren’t free from the burdens of our criminal justice system either.

In addition to the billions lost in jobs and productivity, Americans spend over a quarter of a trillion dollars each year to keep millions of nonviolent, low-level offenders imprisoned. The price tag is truly staggering.

It costs on average $29,000 a year to house one inmate at the federal level. In contrast, our country spends a little over $11,000 dollars a year per elementary school student. Imagine the good we could do if we could re-appropriate those tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer money and economic losses away from imprisonment and toward investment in our children’s future.

We must start to deconstruct the perverse order of our priorities and build a more just society by making needed changes at the federal level. We must examine the way our criminal justice system works—or rather, doesn’t—and take the necessary actions to change it.

Fortunately, there is already a road map for successfully addressing these problems. We know reforms will work because they already are in states across the country. In both blue states such as New Jersey and Connecticut and red states such as Texas and Georgia, state and local officials have developed and instituted sweeping reforms that have reduced their prison populations and crime rates.

They are succeeding by focusing their efforts on areas where the criminal justice system most needs reform. We should follow their example on the federal level.

First, we should pass legislation that promotes “front end” reform, such as ending mandatory minimum sentencing for nonviolent drug crimes.

Secondly, we should pass legislation that enacts “behind the wall” reforms, such as eradicating the cruel practice of juvenile solitary confinement.

And thirdly, we should enact “back end” reforms with legislation that assists in sealing criminal records and removing barriers to employment for nonviolent formerly incarcerated people.

As we reform our criminal justice system at the national level, we will alter the cycles of poverty and recidivism that plague too many American communities and start to develop virtuous cycles of excellence.

Instead of putting resources toward juvenile detention centers, we can put resources toward afterschool programs that have proved to help keep kids out of the juvenile justice system and in school.

Instead of losing valuable contributors to our economy because of their status as ex-offenders, we can develop apprenticeship and training programs that improve worker skills and jump start our economy.

Instead of asking American taxpayers to pay for warehousing people who commit nonviolent, low-level, crimes, we can make sure that students of all ages have access to math, science and technology schooling that will help them excel in the workforce and as productive members of society.

Let’s devote our resources to empowering our citizens, not imprisoning them.

Let’s choose to raise our expectations as a country, and let’s meet them.

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Cory A. Booker is a Democratic senator from New Jersey. He was a keynote speaker for a New America conference April 23 and 24, and this is what he said.

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Groove of the Day

Listen to Thin Lizzy performing “Jailbreak”

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Weather Report

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