Austerity for Thee and Me; a New Supermax Prison and More Nukes for Empire
One of my early hopes was that this President had meant what he’d said in 2009 about the US leading the way towards a nuclear-free world.
As the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act,” he said. We cannot succeed in this endeavour alone, but we can lead it.
So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment and desire to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.
He’d added several caveats during the speech, appaarently, to show the world how tough he’d be on Iran, North Korea, surrounding enemy nations with missile ’defense’ systems, etc. But even at the time, lest we’d get too misty-eyed over the possibility, we should have been advised of more than the feel-good sound bites (my bolds throughout):
Gary Samore, the White House’s Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction and Terrorism, indicated that Mr. Obama’s call for ridding the world of nuclear weapons need not be taken too literally.
“In terms of a nuclear-free world, I think we all recognize this is not a near-term possibility.” Rather, the call was an attempt to “seize the moral high ground” in order to increase pressure on countries like North Korea and Iran.
Yes We Can! (Make Sure That Only the Good** Our Guys Have Nukes!)
Sure, there have been indications for the past year or two that Obomba was set on ‘upgrading’ the US nuclear arsenal, but it’s now official. John LaForge writing at Counterpunch says that during these days of ‘austerity’ (read: gouges in the safety net, Headstart, no jobs programs, and things in aid of everyday people) Obomba’s 2014 military budget is not only a whopping 47% of the budget, coming in at $1,335 billion, but that:
For 2014, the President plans a nuclear weapons spending increase over the current level of $7.227 billion. Where’s the money to come from? Taking a page from the Reagan/Thatcher play book, Obama plans to get it from the nuclear non-proliferation budget. According to a report by Jeffery Smith and Douglas Birch in Foreign Policy April 9, the president has proposed a $460 million cut from the nuclear non-proliferation program — so it can boost nuclear weapons building programs by exactly $500 million.
Since 2011, Obama has been pushing a plan to spend $85 billion over 10 years to rebuild thousands of H-bombs — bombs that should be retired and abolished. The president has also proposed pouring $125 billion over 10 years into a new fleet of nuclear-armed submarines, new nuclear bombers and new land-based ICBMs.
Ugh. Proliferation: you remember, as in securing all the loose nukes and fissile material that could be used to make dirty bombs, etc. Or, I assume, the actual nuclear arsenal in Pakistan O and Hillary warned us they’d secure as nauseum were they elected Prez…
Foreign Policy (FP) says this about the accounting shift:
The new weapons-related spending would expand efforts to upgrade the W76, W88, W78, and B-61 warheads, and help fund construction of a new facility in Tennessee for processing uranium, a nuclear explosive used in these and other warheads. These programs have experienced billions of dollars in cost overruns in recent years, forcing the administration to look elsewhere in the DOE budget to find the money it needs to keep them alive.
Under the Obama proposal, the budget for other DOE work related to nuclear nonproliferation would also be curtailed by about $277 million. That would include a 16 percent cut in spending on efforts to halt the use of fissile material in civilian nuclear reactors and collect or secure weapons-usable fissile materials in other countries; an 8 percent cut in spending on policy to control the spread of nuclear weapons-related technologies; and a 36 percent cut in efforts to monitor potential illicit commerce in fissile materials.
Given that the current non-proliferation budget is only $2.45 billion (a paltry sum, really), the 20% decrease doesn’t amount to much, but the irony is total. Or worse: a lie, given that FP quotes Obomba as saying as recently as Dec. 3 at the National Defense University that the government’s nonproliferation efforts are “one of our most important national security programs” and that:
Obama said the effort was “nowhere near done. Not by a long shot.” He also proudly said the government has been “increasing funding, and sustaining it….because our national security depends on it.”
I guess our national security also depends on bribing Hamid Karzai with CIA ‘ghost money’, too. How is that movement to strip Obomba of his Nobel Peace Medal going by now? Or locking down Boston in apparent martial law to show us how serious they are over terrorism (read: generating fear), and how seriously militarized cops are now, and how crucial massively funding DHS and other acronyms needs to be.
In other news, the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the US, Eric Holder, spoke at the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network in New York at the beginning of April, and declared that he was shocked, I tell you, shocked to hear that the US Sentencing Commission had issued a report that concluded that black male offenders were given sentences on average 20% longer than white males for similar offenses! (Not that he mentioned how more often blacks are stopped, frisked, arrested, charged with scant evidence, and identified incorrectly as proven by DNA evidence years or decades later.) But back to Holder’s shock, and all that utter bullshit after having served as the the first black US Attorney General for over four years. And to make it worse, he now has the balls to say that:
“It is time to ask ourselves some fundamental questions about our criminal justice system. Statutes passed by legislatures that mandate sentences, irrespective of the unique facts of an individual case, too often bear no relation to the conduct at issue, breed disrespect for the system, and are ultimately counterproductive. It is time to examine our systems and determine what truly works. We need to ensure that incarceration is used to punish, to rehabilitate, and to deter – and not simply to warehouse and forget,” Holder argued.
If the expression ‘Up yours’ leaps to mind, you.are.not.alone. But keep that last sentence in the quote in mind when you read about this Obomba 2014 budget item that confirms that a new Supermax prison facility will open in Illinois. It will be designated as an “Administrative Maximum U.S. Penitentiary”, the other one of which is the infamous ADX in Florence, CO, which houses at least 400 inmates in solitary confinement. Originally, Obomba had recommended that the unused Thompson Correctional Center, which was purchased by the government to be upgraded to house Gitmo detainees if and when…Gitmo were shuttered. But Republicans objected, and it’s still open. From solitarywatch.com:
Instead, while Guantanamo remains open, the Bureau of Prisons is moving ahead with plans to open hundreds, and perhaps thousands of new isolation cells at Thomson to “reduce crowding in high security facilities.”A subsequent section of the Budget Fact Sheet, detailing “Program Increases,” states that Thomson will have 2,100 beds, employ 749 corrections officers, and cost $58.7 million to renovate and operate. [snip]At ADX, prisoners are in 23- to 24-hour solitary confinement. Both are forms of long-term isolated confinement, and both have been denounced by human rights and prisoners rights groups as an inhumane and ineffective form of punishment often amounting to torture.
You can read more on Chris Burke’s (spokesperson for the Bureau of Prisons) failure to answer questions posed by the folks at Solitary Watch at the link.
If you’re interested in the long history of solitary confinement, its various bureaucratic designations, or to see a video of what one unit looked like, please open my diary from 2011 on the subject. I was, of course, prompted by Bradley Manning’s evil experiences with solitary confinement before any charges had ever been preferred against him (already seven months when I posted the diary).
The Guardian’s posted a piece on the 2012 Senate hearings on domestic gulags and dark sites. Please ask yourselves which classes of citizens will be housed in the new control units. From Bonnie Kerns at thirdworldtraveler.com:
“The development of control units can be traced to the tumultuous years of the civil rights movement, during which time many activists found themselves in U.S. prisons. We believe this use of isolation stems directly from the brain-washing techniques used during the Korean War. Sensory deprivation as a form of behavior modification was used extensively for imprisoned members of the Black Panther party, members of Black Liberation Army formations, members of the Puerto Rican Independence Movement, members of the American Indian Movement, white activists, jail house lawyers, Islamic militants, and prison activists. At one time or another, they all found themselves living in extended isolation, sometimes for years on end. Many political prisoners still live in isolation, not because they have received charges for infractions, but because of who they are and what they believe.”
No official figures exist concerning the number of inmates held in solitary, but those who study the issue reckon that the number’s about 88,000 now, and increasing. Thousands of juveniles are in solitary lockdown for different periods of time, but again, no actual statistics are kept, partially because the practice can be called by several different terms. The Guardian called the chilling fact America’s official child abuse’ in 2012, but that terminology is crap: it’s child torture, of course.
NPR did a series on solitary (yeah; I know: in the old days of the organization) in 2006 in which Laura Sullivan toured some of the most notorious prisons, including Pelican Bay, which is in the news a lot lately. Included toward the bottom of the page she wrote about corrections officers who’d been rethinking isolation units, one of whom was Don Cabana at Parchman Prison, in Mississippi:
Cabana says he would lie awake at night under the pressure of having to decide whom to send to isolation and whom to release. Then one day, as he walked the tier of his Supermax facility, Cabana says something occurred to him.“Inmate hauls off and spits at you — yeah, you want to slap the total crap out of them into the next cell,” Cabana says. “Problem is, that takes you down to his level, and we’re supposed to be better than that. And as a society, one of the best measures of how far a society has come is what their prisons are like. I think what we’re doing in Supermax is, we’re taking some bad folks, and we’re making them even worse. We’re making them even meaner.“
So, the 2104 budget will be chock full of evidence of what this failing Empire really values. It’s not likely you’ll see much in it that makes your life significantly better, but plenty of cuts that will make yours worse, as will the phony ‘sequester’ or ‘grand bargains’. And when you remember just these two bits, you’ll be sick to your stoamach again. Yes, on the nukes, you might want to call or email your Congress-critter. It’s been deemed controversial.
But when someone ask you if you’re all right, you can tell ‘em:
(the second image is a screenshot via flickr.com from the recently released video of a 2012 incident in Maine, in which a mentally ill (bipolar and more) inmate in solitary confinement was tortured via pepper-spray while strapped in a chair.) Watch it at your own risk, seriously.
(to be cross-posted soon at wendyedavis.net)