Thursday, December 11, 2008

Crime Pays!

¡Hola! Everybody... I grew up poor -- I come from humble origins -- and I am grateful for that. I am not ashamed. My family taught me how to smile in the midst of trouble, laugh during adversity, and pawtay even during rough times. Sure, the conservatives see that and call it irresponsibility or evidence of a “culture of poverty,” but I know it’s living even when authorities do their damndest to put their boots on your neck.

These are tough times, but perhaps my ancestors have something to teach all of us today -- to smile in the face of adversity, to celebrate life even when it seems as if “life sucks” (and saying that is just narcissistic bullshit!). My people -- we party hard because life is hard, but they also knew life was precious. Hope you can find it within yourself to at least fake the funk this holiday season.

* * *

-=[ Victoria's Secret ]=-

“This American system of ours, call it Americanism, call it capitalism, call it what you will, gives each and every one of us a great opportunity if we only seize it with both hands and make the most of it.”

-- Al Capone

Too many of my friends are being kicked to the curb these days. Quite a few of my friends who work in the financial sector are being let go right before the holidays. It’s for economic reasons -- health insurance will change in the New Year, and it’s best to give severance packages before the end of the year. Two of my fiends who work at Citibank will be clearing their desks this Monday. Two others, who work on Wall St. have already been let go. There are many more living in fear for their jobs. These are good people, hard-working people with families and homes, who have always played “by the book” and believed in the merit myth that if you played by the rules, worked hard, that you could achieve the American Dream.

Yesterday, I had lunch with a very close friend -- a woman who had to scratch and fight for everything she got working in the financial sector. She was let go. I tried to spin it positively for her, but she’s in her 40s and she’s afraid that she won’t be able to get a job.

This is what we have voted for people. We believe in using people as disposable assets. We believe in the “free” market to set our social policies. We believe that predatory lending is cool. We want corporations to be our masters.

Welcome to the world we have chosen. A world where people die in emergency rooms and talented people, good, honest people, are thrown to the curb even while our tax dollars pay for CEO Golden Parachutes. Welcome to a world where, in the richest nation in the history of the world, children die needlessly of hunger and treatable disease.

Welcome to the world you have created. A world where imprisonment is the answer to poverty and lack of education. Welcome to a world where we would rather spend $50,000 a year to incarcerate a black youth rather than a fraction of that to educate him. A world in which we incarcerate more people than any other nation. Welcome, it’s our world -- yours and mine.

I spoke at a prison yesterday. I’m asked to speak at these things because I am considered an expert in helping people not return to prison. Administrators and politicians are interested in this not because it’s morally correct, but because there’s no money left to run the prisons.

I get in trouble all the time because I don’t filter my analysis with kind language. I’m not here to convince anyone, nor persuade anyone. I’m here to speak the truth.


This world of ours didn’t come about by accident. Our criminal justice system is racist. It always has been. They ask me to expound on this phenomenon and I tell them -- it’s racism, you stupid ma’fuccas! No one else mentions it. someone has to...

Put together long mandatory sentences for minor drug offenses, a strong racial bias, prisons run by corporations for profit, the sale of convict labor to corporations, and a charge from room and board and you have a modern system of bonded labor -- a social condition otherwise known as slavery.

People don’t like to hear this, but it’s the truth with a big “T.”

JC Penny, Victoria’s Secret, IBM, Toys R Us, and TWA are among the US corporations that have profited by employing incarcerated men and women. If you think this is inconsequential, think again because prisoners have no rights and the jobs they are taking (working for literally slave wages) are the jobs that you are losing. How would you like to compete for a job where you competition comes from third world nations and prisoners? You don’t stand a chance. Sure, keep bad mouthing unions, you idiot.

Not only do corporations profit from the prison system they profit tremendously from committing corporate crime. Corporate crimes kill far more people and costs taxpayers far more money than street crime. Include illness, physical injury, and death from dangerous, defective, and mislabeled products, dangerous working conditions, and the release of toxic pollutants, and the human and financial costs or organized corporate crime becomes truly staggering.

Yet, unlike the harsh mandatory sentences imposed on street criminals (mostly young men of color), mostly for petty crimes, the persons responsible for corporate crime rarely suffer personal fines of imprisonment.

I saw fear in my friend’s face yesterday. Fear in the face of a Latina who has fought all her life to make her place in a world dominated by mostly white privileged males and my anger seethes because they’re taking our money and using it to downsize good, honest, hardworking people.

Welcome to out world, people. The world you wanted.


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