Tuesday, August 28, 2007

New York Times brings national spotlight to ACLU lawsuit over internment camp conditions faced by migrants in Texas

Published: August 28, 2007

HOUSTON [08/27/07] — The federal government and lawyers for immigrant children have announced an agreement to improve living conditions at the nation’s main family detention center for illegal immigrant suspects.

The deal involves the 512-bed The T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Tex., which houses about 400 asylum seekers and others suspected of being in the country illegally, about half of whom are children and teenagers.

When it opened last year, the privately run center was to be a model for a tougher federal immigration policy in which more people suspected of being illegal immigrants would be held instead of released before hearings. But the center drew protests when it was reported that immigrant children were inadequately fed, deprived of toys and confined to cells with open toilets.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the immigration clinic at the University of Texas Law School sued federal officials on behalf of 26 immigrant children and teenagers, seeking their release and improved conditions at the center. The agreement, announced as a trial had been set to begin on Monday, requires improving education, recreation and nutrition for children, hiring a full-time pediatrician, and installing privacy curtains around toilets. It provides for inspections by a federal magistrate, Andrew W. Austin.

The New York Tims article reports that all of the children on whose behalf the ACLU sued have now been released. Click here for the ACLU's report.

The T. Don Hutto Residential Center, run by Corrections Corporation of America, was formerly a high security prison unit. The "detainees" who are currently warehoused there are non-Mexican foreign nationals seeking asylum or immigrant status. Critics insist, not without historical precedent, that the facility is nothing more than a prison internment camp that many in the field of human rights view as degrading and draconian. A civilization as technologically creative as our own could surely solve what conservatives such as Pat Buchanan and Lou Dobbs are sensationalizing as "an invasion," with a solution that recognizes the dignity of each person.

The migrants being held at Hutto and other facilities around the country -- such as the ones we have reported on in Del Rio, Texas, and Tacoma, Washington -- have committed no crimes other than attempting to immigrate or find asylum without completing the formal legal process required by law. The number of these privately operated prison camps, detention centers for the otherwise innocent population of migrants living and working within the United States and contributing to the economy, is growing by leaps and bounds under the current conservative political exploitation of racism vis-a-vis a new incarnation of the Republican "Southern Strategy" set to reemerge full-throttle in the 2008 election cycle, and inflamed via a corporatist jamboree of profiteering and lobbying.

At any rate, the application process would more than likely turn them away, given the system of quotas written into immigration law, a quota system that limits some nationalities and encourages others. Under such preferential quotas, our current immigration laws would be hard pressed to prove itself free of racial and ethnic bias.

There are now scores of such "holding facilities" [READ: "Prison Camps"] throughout the United States that warehouse Mexican nationals. More are under construction with private prison companies scrambling to outbid each other for their contracts. Under such free market conditions of corporatist laissez-faire as promoted by the current Straussian Neocon Administration, the prison population of both migrants and convicted felons is booming, now at 600% over that of the 80s, when it began during the Law&Order Reagan years. American is now a prison state.

Illustrating the dangers of the current run on unrestrained profiteering, recently in Seattle, The GEO Group came under public scrutiny when 300 migrants and security staff became ill after eating tainted food. Proper funding and staffing of the needed food services by the private prison operator is suspected by critics of privatization to be the chief mitigating factor in the incident. Last week, at the Val Verde County Jail in Del Rio, Texas, another such holding facility for migrants, the same private prison corporation had to call in the Centers for Disease Control and State Health Department investigators to help them determine the cause of two deaths and two more "mystery illnesses." This week, they announced, incredulously, that none of the sudden illnesses were related [cf. story below on these pages].

* * *


Monday, August 27, 2007

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales Resigns; Michael Chertoff Floated as Replacement

Read: "Ran Out of Town on a Rail."
I don't think I'd be sticking my neck out too far if I opined that, given Rove's and Gonzales' resignations, Poppy Bush must have sent James Baker to D.C. to chide and advise Jr. Perhaps Karl Rove devised the plan; for it is obvious that if this Administration continues on the current track, the Republican's chances in November 2008 are all but shot.

Another possibility is that something big is about to break in the Congressional investigations of the Attorney General's Office. Remember Jack Abramoff, Tom DeLay, Karl Rove, Ralph Reed and the K-Street Lobbying Scandals? The associated bribery scandals of several Republican representatives? The scandal that involved Native American casinos and the fraud and murder intrigue that accompanied the acquisition of Sun Cruise Gambling Ships in Florida? All of these scandals are being connected to Karl Rove and the Office of Attorney General. And don't forget the scandal over NSA's wiretapping of American citizens without warrants that just will not go away. All a part of one soiled cloth.

Abramoff, Rove and possibly Gonzales [when Gonzales served as White House Counsel] were scheming to set-up lobbyist-paid "holidays," complete with whores [cf. Pamela Martin & Associates, the "D.C. Madam"] off shore gambling and money laundering [for the GOP in the wake of campaign finance reform] -- you know, the customary shenanigans in Jeb Bush's Florida.

The Wayne Madsen Report even points to possible connections with last weekend's triple murder of Republican campaign insiders in Orlando.

Ralph Gonzalez, a top GOP political consultant and veteran campaign manager for a number of current Republican office holders, was found shot to death, along with his roommate, David Abrami, and another friend, Robert Drake, yesterday. The bodies of the three men were found in Gonzalez's Orlando home in the Hickory Cove subdivision, which also doubled as an office for his Strategum Group, Gonzalez's political consulting firm. Strategum's website also indicates it maintains offices in Atlanta and Nevada.

Police determined the three men had been dead since August 21.

Gonzalez was the former head of the Georgia Republican Party and was a close confidant of Georgia Lieutenant Governor candidate and former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed. Reed was also close to convicted GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff and helped broker various Indian casino deals with Abramoff.
It's probably a bit too early to assert any connection to the murders in Florida -- unless you have intelligence connections like Wayne Madsen -- but one does wonder. Where there is a cover-up these days, we seem to have fallen into the habit of suspecting our Machiavellian players in the Bush Administration. Their names just keep popping up.

But how does this affect Texas politics? Notice how many of the players are from Texas? There has been recent conjecture in Texas Democratic Party circles that Karl Rove is heading our way, perhaps not only to manage the campaign of the ultimate Republican presidential candidate in 2008 from his Texas base, but also to assist Yes-Man Senator John Cornyn, whose reelection prospects in Texas look dismal from any perspective.

Adding to the intrigue are rumors that Homeland Securities Michael Chertoff may replace Gonzales as AG. At Homeland Security, it is Chertoff who administers the current migrant worker chase along our southern borders. If insiders are right about his selection, which has apparently been floated by the Bush Administration to test the public response, Chertoff would be in the most strategic position to affect the exploitation of the immigration issue as part of the Republican Party's reinvention of its infamous "Souther Strategy" by which covert racism was used to create a wedge in the traditional Democrat base to lure white male voters to the Republican Party.

You just gotta wonder: What planet are these guys living on? According to the Washington Post, in the wake of the Gonzales resignation announcement here is what our astute and "straight-talking" President George W. Bush had to say from Crawford about his scandal embroiled Attorney General:

"It's sad that we live in a time when a talented and honorable person like Alberto Gonzales is impeded from doing important work because his good name was dragged through the mud for political reasons," Bush said.
Well, shut my mouth! Surely he continues to believe with all his "born again" heart that Fox News and it's purveyors of the "Noble Lie" have had their intended Straussian effect on cud-chewing viewers all over America.


Sunday, August 26, 2007

Update: Four jail illnesses in Val Verde appear unrelated

Or so the Houston Chronicle reports
. But despite the fact that the law requires an autopsy when someone dies in custody, the body of the Honduran migrant who died was quickly embalmed and shipped back to Honduras. Perhaps that is permissible when dealing with "illegal aliens," as migrant workers are now labeled.

We are told that two of the men who died -- of course since there were only two, one had to be the Honduran -- suffered "with symptoms that included erratic behavioral changes, incontinence and respiratory illness." And yet, the article quotes the medical official in the very next paragraph:
"We don't think these are necessarily related to each other right now based on the information we have," said Dr. Sandra Guerra-Cantu, regional medical director of the Texas Department of State Health Services. "So we feel fairly confident there's not an ongoing exposure, that people are as safe as they always have been within the facility."
Funny how all those symptoms they have in common are somehow unrelated.

Last week, we received a statement from a GEO spokesperson, quoted by the Del Rio News Herald, informing us that there was no Tuberculosis outbreak at the facility, as rumors had it. Neither was there any indication of an assault by corrections officers. Having to explain away the public fear regarding the latter is certainly telling in itself.

It goes without saying, the spokesperson could have been more clear at the time, given the Chronicle's report. Was the spokesperson parsing words or were reporters and journalists stumbling over themselves in the press blackout and apparent GEO paranoia that ensued? In what appears to have been company and state official defensiveness, as seems the case now as well, there seems to be lot of effort being expended to calm the public concerning a possible contagion. Yet their overly cautious efforts and parsing of words seem to lend the impression that something is being covered-up.

According to the Chronicle's latest report we suddenly find that "Guerra-Cantu said two of the inmates were infected with HIV, and one of those also had tuberculosis." Did one of these die in addition to the Honduran migrant that was spirited out of the country after embalming? Uninformed minds, no thanks to GEO and the State health department officials, want to know.

The forth incarcerate is said to have a mental health diagnosis. Although, this report adds data to the incident without helping us to understand how it is relevant, it also reminds us that the State of Texas is effectively using the prison system to house people with mental illnesses, a fact documented since those times when George W. Bush as governor ordered the emptying of the states mental hospitals into the streets, "compassionate conservative" though he is. Of course, it could also indicate that one of the HIV patients...er, ummm, "detainees" is suffering from the dementia that accompanies the final stages of AIDS. We simply don't know because "we aren't being told shit," as Gonzo would say.

If someone can figure out what the other death resulted from would you please let the rest of us know? Having to ask makes it painfully clear that Texas health officials and GEO representatives have learned well from the days when Dubya was our gub'ner that "transparent government" has gone the way of all the other promises he made. Gee, boys, tell us "A Big Lie" - a noble lie. These little manipulations and word parsings are only causing us to go nose to the ground.


In a related story of prison privatization concerning our very own The GEO Group, which manages Reeves County Detention Centers I, II & III and the Val Verde County Jail in Del Rio (a story we just reported on above), the Los Angeles Times reports on the problems created in California by privatization that could be a precursor of our own systemic demise. The GEO Group has California contracts, as well as contracts in the State of Arizona where California is sending her spillover, a spillover ironically caused by the cutting of funding for rehabilitation services such as substance abuse education, treatment and GED programming, cemented together with a "get tough on crime" attitude. This myopically focussed punitive "law & order" mindset has resulted in the incarceration of people with a history of substance abuse who should be receiving treatment and/or education rather than prison sentences -- obviously a policy driven to even more extremes in our own times than its original incarnation as the pre-twentieth century "moral model" of addiction -- sinners such as they are, despite what forty years of research tells us.

Last week The Balmorhea Progressive posted links to an article that blamed the increase of recidivism in California, now the highest in the nation at 70%, on the very fact that California has taken the draconian approach that produced the Rockefeller Laws of the 80s by reducing funding for programs that address the risk factors involved in recidivism -- substance abuse treatment and GED educational services. You can read The Nation article, reproduced at AlterNet, and entitled, "Jailing Nation: How Did Our Prison System Become Such a Nightmare?"

As we keep reminding folks, "Pay me now or pay me later." To reiterate the point made in "Jailing Nation," private prisons are more than happy to aid in the cause of recidivism by warehousing inmates on the cheap and lobbying Congress for tougher drug laws. Suspicions concerning the illnesses at Val Verde County Jail follow along the realization that a corporatist profit motive leads to corporation budgets that seek to cut needed services.

What will we do with these unenlightened law & order folks who see lock-up as the "final solution" to crime, chemical dependency and immigration rolled into one money making corporatist affair?

A special note of thanks to Alex, at Drug Law Blog, who brought this article to everyone's attention with his post, Dungeons for Dollars: LAT on California Prison Crowding and Privatization.


Friday, August 24, 2007

Mexican Governors Meet With Emigrants in U.S.

In an article posted August 20th by HispanicBusiness.com, Ivan Majia reported that governors from Mexico, concerned about the treatment of emigrating families from their states, will be meeting with city officials in various American cities, including Dallas, New York and Chicago.

The Mexican governors appear to be taking a proactive role in advance of the 2008 National elections in the United States, whereupon immigration is expected to pose a substantial and divisive issue affecting the lives of millions of Latinos who call the United States their home and who still maintain family connections in Mexico.
Despite support from most Democrats and the Bush administration, a bill that would have put many of the millions of illegal immigrants on a path toward citizenship while also bolstering border security was checkmated earlier this summer in the U.S. Senate.

Proponents of the legislation were unable to sway Republican lawmakers who contended that the proposal amounted to another "amnesty" for undocumented immigrants, would encourage more illegal migration and not do enough to secure the frontier.

Speaking on behalf of all the visiting Mexican governors, Oliva Ramirez said he proposes that the United States adopt "a reciprocally beneficial policy based on respect."

Amalia Garcia Medina, the governor of Zacatecas, said that roughly half of all those with roots in her state are now living in the United States.

"For me it's essential to strengthen that link with Mexicans who generate wealth for the United States and who also contribute so much to their own country," referring to the remittances sent home by emigrants. -Ivan Mejia
This development is viewed by the editors of BPblog as a Progressive, proactive opportunity to avert what some fear will become more heated as self-serving politicians exploit the issue to pander for votes among their covertly racist southern and southwestern base during the coming national elections in 2008. We recommend the same proactive approach here in West Texas as we stand on our pride as a diverse people -- Americans of every national origin, North and South, from across the length and breadth of these great conjoined continents - The Americas.

Read the entire article here.


Immigration Promisses to Become the New Keystone of the Republican "Southern Strategy"

In 2006, speaking to a gathering of N.A.A.C.P. convention goers at the time of his resignation, the now former chairman of the Republican National Committee, Kenneth Mehlman, offered his party's mea culpa for using race as a wedge issue in national elections. In a time when the country was thought to be finally beyond overt racism, the GOP's nefarious use of covert racism helped to secure former George Wallace conservative Democrats and their base to the ranks of a new Republican "Moral Majority" under Ronald Reagan. It was all done through racist innuendo, subterfuge and "dirty tricks" and implemented by so-called stellar voices of morality, such as that of the infamously racist televangelist, Jerry Falwell, who organized the Moral Majority in the South. Hypocrisy and self-righteousness was never lacking in the resurgence of a formerly Nixon-plagued Conservative Movement.

The strategy was so successful, as implemented by Grover Norquest, that Karl Rove, his second generation protege, continued his "dirty tricks" campaign tactics through the next several nation elections cycles and on into the years of George W. Bush who, claiming to be be "born again," according to stretegic formula, allowed all sorts of unethical shenanigans in both his campaigns and subsequent administration, while abusing the concept of "plausible deniability" to even greater depths of opprobrium.

The election strategy, known disingenuously among Republicans as "The Southern Strategy," relied upon not-so-subtle racial overtones in demanding an end to the "Welfare State" by suggesting that unwed and promiscuous "Welfare Queens" were the beneficiaries of government social programs since the days of the New Deal. It played upon racial stereotypes with a Machiavellian ardor that consciously denied the statistical fact that the Welfare system was overwhelming peopled with single white female heads of household. It is still working today.

Promoting further discrimination in its effects, the strategy sacrificed women, counting on the "family tradition" that they would remain disunited as a political force. To insure that the gamble remained the reality, female activists such as Phillis Schlafly were mobilized to join conservative televangelists to carry the message of "traditional family values," which insisted that women remain subservient in what is now openly recognized looking back over the shoulder of history as an oppressive institutional system, made dysfunctional in the wake of the passing of the herding and agriculture-dominated societies of Old Testament times and of the pre-Industrial Age South that demanded sex-roll assignments and a division of labor between the sexes now justifiably assessed as dysfunctional and draconian when forced for the sake of blind tradition upon people of a post-industrial service economy. The obvious hypocrisy of Schlafly's activism against the Equal Rights Amendment when she should have been "home in the kitchen" by self-definition was conveniently overlooked.

Conservative Southern and Midwestern whites, suggested the Republican Southern Strategy, were the true heroes of an American work ethic that celebrated "self-reliance" and independence from a federal system that was imposing "multiculturalism" upon them. Ironical in its historical context, Republicans were accusing a pernicious, anti-American "bleeding heart liberalism" of working to deny "states rights" and "local control." Framed in the 19th Century as arguments against Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president, these were the foundation stones Southern conservatism, a agriculturally based conservatism that sought to defend the Confederacy against Lincoln's attacks against the hollowed institutions and traditions of Dixie [read: "against slavery" and against the concept of "separate but equal"].

Mehlman's apology meant nothing. It came just prior to a party attempt to recruit black voters to the party rank and file. Less than two weeks after his resignation and meaningless party mia culpa, a Republican Congress launched a media blitz against "illegal immigrants" and the problems they purportedly posed to the "homeland security."

Indeed, Immigration represents the Republican's return to racist based divisive politics that pander to a new paranoia, this time reframed as the "Southwest Strategy" by its opponents -- all those who can see clearly that the king is wearing no clothes.

August 24, 2007
Seeking Willie Horton
So now Mitt Romney is trying to Willie Hortonize Rudy Giuliani. And thereby hangs a tale — the tale, in fact, of American politics past and future, and the ultimate reason Karl Rove’s vision of a permanent Republican majority was a foolish fantasy.

Willie Horton, for those who don’t remember the 1988 election, was a convict from Massachusetts who committed armed robbery and rape after being released from prison on a weekend furlough program. He was made famous by an attack ad, featuring a menacing mugshot, that played into racial fears. Many believe that the ad played an important role in George H.W. Bush’s victory over Michael Dukakis.

Now some Republicans are trying to make similar use of the recent murder of three college students in Newark, a crime in which two of the suspects are Hispanic illegal immigrants. Tom Tancredo flew into Newark to accuse the city’s leaders of inviting the crime by failing to enforce immigration laws, while Newt Gingrich declared that the “war here at home” against illegal immigrants is “even more deadly than the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

And Mr. Romney, who pretends to be whatever he thinks the G.O.P. base wants him to be, is running a radio ad denouncing New York as a “sanctuary city” for illegal immigrants, an implicit attack on Mr. Giuliani.

Strangely, nobody seems to be trying to make a national political issue out of other horrifying crimes, like the Connecticut home invasion in which two paroled convicts, both white, are accused of killing a mother and her two daughters. Oh, and by the way: over all, Hispanic immigrants appear to commit relatively few crimes — in fact, their incarceration rate is actually lower than that of native-born non-Hispanic whites.

A Huffington Post article this morning provides more documentation of accusations of racial exploitation against Giuliani's new media team.

Mr. Krugman continues by expounding upon the Republican Souther Strategy, a strategy that was used vis-a-vis the power of symbolic speech by George W. Bush when his campaign strategist, Karl Rove, had him speak to an overflow audience at Bob Jones University in South Carolina. At the same time, Rove was spreading the rumors that Bush's primary opponent, John McCain, had fathered a black baby and kept it secret from the American people. The strategy worked and the campaign swung in the direction of Bush. Bush kept to a tactic of denying knowledge of the dirty tricks played by his campaign staff while standing on the righteousness of his status as a "reborn Christian." Many in-the-know were rightly nauseated. McCain has never recovered. Although, everyone now acknowledges the lie [except George Bush], McCain's time has passed.

To appreciate what’s going on here you need to understand the difference between the goals of the modern Republican Party and the strategy it uses to win elections.

The people who run the G.O.P. are concerned, above all, with making America safe for the rich. Their ultimate goal, as Grover Norquist once put it, is to get America back to the way it was “up until Teddy Roosevelt, when the socialists took over,” getting rid of “the income tax, the death tax, regulation, all that.”

But right-wing economic ideology has never been a vote-winner. Instead, the party’s electoral strategy has depended largely on exploiting racial fear and animosity. Ronald Reagan didn’t become governor of California by preaching the wonders of free enterprise; he did it by attacking the state’s fair housing law, denouncing welfare cheats and associating liberals with urban riots.

Reagan didn’t begin his 1980 campaign with a speech on supply-side economics, he began it — at the urging of a young Trent Lott — with a speech supporting states’ rights delivered just outside Philadelphia, Miss., where three civil rights workers were murdered in 1964.
In the 2008 race, we can expect the nefarious exploitation of the underlying bigotry in West Texas -- the "swiftboating" of migrants. Who can deny that we not only continue to struggle with some level of ethnic hatred; but that also, we are struggling with an ethnocentric backlash by Latinos who remember the days of overt discrimination by whites who, with an iron fist, dominated the social institutions of West Texas during the 20th Century, keeping Latinos "in their place."

But Republicans have a problem: demographic changes are making their race-based electoral strategy decreasingly effective. Quite simply, America is becoming less white, mainly because of immigration. Hispanic and Asian voters were only 4 percent of the electorate in 1980, but they were 11 percent of voters in 2004 — and that number will keep rising for the foreseeable future.

Those numbers are the reason Karl Rove was so eager to reach out to Hispanic voters. But the whites the G.O.P. has counted on to vote their color, not their economic interests, are having none of it. From their point of view, it’s us versus them — and everyone who looks different is one of them.

So now we have the spectacle of Republicans competing over who can be most convincingly anti-Hispanic. I know, officially they’re not hostile to Hispanics in general, only to illegal immigrants, but that’s a distinction neither the G.O.P. base nor Hispanic voters takes seriously.

Today’s G.O.P., in short, is trapped by its history of cynicism. For decades it has exploited racial animosity to win over white voters — and now, when Republican politicians need to reach out to an increasingly diverse country, the base won’t let them. --Paul Krugman, Columnist for The New York Times; 8/24/07

The timely Krugman editorial, one of significant relevance to our social and political lives in West Texas can be read in the original at the New York Times site. Isn't it time we whites in West Texas get a clue and realize that the Republican Party does not serve the economic and social interests of a region filled with working class peoples. Ethnicity is no longer the keystone. It is important; but it no longer represents the social phenomenon that has been exploiting the people of this country making the "rich become richer and poor become poorer," dividing the "halves from the have-nots" -- classism perpetrated by an elitist system of corporatist cronies who use the ethnocentrism of a dominant culture to manipulate the people and hold onto power, all the while having abandoned, ironically, the most noble of "traditional American values" -- that of noblesse oblige.

I invite your comments.


Thursday, August 23, 2007

The writers at The Balmorhea Progressive are pleased to announce:

This ain' my first rodeo...

...a blog dedicated to members of the working class with a progressive attitude -- those members of construction trades, teamsters, oil field workers, mechanics, waitstaff, barbers and stylists, corrections officers, border patrol agents, police officers and other law enforcement employees, clerks, miners, fishermen, dock workers, priests, ministers, rabbis, mullahs, senseis, tulkus, rinpoches, immigrant farm workers & entrepreneurs, technicians and factory workers and anyone else who celebrates the gift of "a native intelligence unencumbered by an education," whether degreed, GEDed, or not.*

Neo-conservatives, right-wing authoritarian personalities and their lock-stepping followers, Minutemen terrorists, fundamentalist religi0-fascists, Republicans and Libertarian wing-nuts, corporatists and their lobbyists are invited to make comments but should be forewarned that all or part of your contributions may be forwarded to satirical or parody-minded websites for purposes of humor and public mockery.

If you are racist, ethnocentric, "super-patriotic," anti-immigrant, xenophobic, zen-o-phobic, homophobic, sexist, Islamist, Christianist, anti-humanist, anti-Semitic, regressively evangelical or intolerant of the world's religious traditions, then you might as well go ahead and kiss my ass right now before you upset yourself and have to take the day off. We have to put up with your ignorance and self-righteousness on the job to keep ours; but when we punch-out, we drive past the draconian caves of semi-consciousness where y'all slumber among televised daydreams related to the poisoning of Socrates, while we head whistling away toward the light of reason and universal spiritual principles. So stay off our zafus. Otherwise, if you promise to remain as innocuously docile as when sitting hungover in church being programed for the Crusades, feel free to check your guns at the cattle guard and visit our campsite; but we suggest you stop-off with our team of shade-tree anger management camp-counselors before getting back on the virtual super highway.

And remember: If you drink, don't type; if you type, don't snort, smoke or shoot-up.

Everyone else who suffers like ourselves, trudging day-to-day along the road to progress and happy destiny, is invited to link to us, share your issues, news, gossip, comments, concerns, prayers and dreams as we sort through the bullshit produced for mass consumption in Pax Amerikana.

*NOTES: Postal workers must consent to a mental health assessment/screening by a qualified professional barber or show proof of parole/probation monitoring. All others who present with certifiable "crazy thinking" (with the exception of Zen masters) must provide a letter of recommendation from your AA/NA sponsor before posting in our "13th-Step Forum."

--Willie the Rodeo Pimp

UPDATE: FBI Corruption Investigation of El Paso Commissioners Court Raises Little Interest Outside the Region

An August 18th report by the El Paso Times seems incredulous that there is so little effect of the ongoing corruption investigation of the El Paso County Commissioners' Court on the recruitment of new bid'ness investment in El Paso. The investigation has been looking into fraud and bribery on the court since 2005 and has produced a number of plea-bargains that have led to an expansion of FBI interests. Given the current Bush Administration-enabled international corporatist free-for-all, the lack of accountability of government officials and the negative role modeling they provide downhill, I'm not surprised at all at such apathy. The Times writes:

While the public corruption case in El Paso has stymied the city, its effects are not spilling past the city limits, officials said.

Several elected officials and business leaders say the investigation rarely comes up in conversations in Austin, Washington, D.C., or anywhere else. And it is not keeping them from doing their jobs.

"It's not a big deal outside of here," state Rep. Joe Pickett said. "I have not had one single person ask about it. It might be that other cities have also had similar investigations." [Indeed, Reeves County had the honor in 2006.]

Bob Cook, president of El Paso's Regional Economic Development Corp., said the corruption investigation never comes up when he talks to businesses. It is REDCo's job to lure businesses to El Paso.

"We are working with 60 to 65 businesses right now and not a single one of them has asked about it," Cook said. "So far, it is a nonfactor." --Ramon Bracamontes; rbracamontes@elpasotimes.com

My guess is that investor groups and companies looking to relocate will begin to care significantly more after the 2008 elections when -- and if -- the citizens of West Texas become en-couraged that, indeed, it is possible to TAKE BACK AMERICA from the corporatists who now exploit her.

*[A special thanks this morning to the Grits for Breakfast blog for providing the link,
simmering payola scandal in El Paso County. Also of interest to Grits fans is their concerned report on the record 400th Texas execution, which took place last night in Huntsville. ] --Progress

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Update on last week's inmate deaths at Val Verde Jail

While we wait for the results
of the CDC and State Health Services Department investigation into the deaths of two inmates who died last month at the GEO Group-run Val Verde Jail, here is something interesting to ponder: The GEO Group Rap Sheet at the Private Corrections Institute website.

Of four detainees who fell sick in late July with a "mystery illness" at the jail in Del Rio, two died. Three of the four were foreign nationals. They were being held under an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) contract when they reportedly experienced the onset of symptoms that included a change in personality, incontinence and dehydration.

Tuberculoses and assault have been ruled out. Despite rumors that staff members at the facility have become ill, a spokesman for GEO denies the report.

The CDC/Health Services report was expected to be announced early this week, possibly today, but thus far today there has been no announcement.

Exacerbating these concerns, The GEO Group also had a food contamination crisis at its Tacoma, Washington immigration facility on August 15:

By Lornet Turnbull
Seattle Times staff reporter

About 300 immigrants being held at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma spent the early part of this week recovering from suspected food poisoning.

Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department officials said they were contacted Saturday night after about 180 detainees were treated for diarrhea, nausea and vomiting at the detention-center clinic.

They had been served three meals that day that included hamburger-potato casserole for lunch and beef sausage and coleslaw for dinner.

Most began showing symptoms late Saturday, Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Lorie Dankers said, adding that detention-center staff, who sometimes eat there, also got ill.

Joby Winans, public health-information officer, said Tacoma-Pierce County health officials were at the detention center Sunday, Monday and again Tuesday to try to determine what made so many people sick.

"It's a scientific mystery at this point," Winans said. "The good news is that no one was seriously ill. They were uncomfortable, yes, but not seriously ill." -- Lornet Turnbull, Seattle Times

The chief concern over private management of prisons is whether and how often profit motive preempts the responsible, focused care of human beings who are incarcerated. Too often, incarcerated people become "economic units" occupying "bedspace" at a cost of "dollars per bed-days occupied." This is a dangerous materialist perspective when it preempts the consciousness that it is human beings who are under the care and control of the state.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops expressed this concern succinctly in their 2000 ethical statement on "Responsibility, Rehabilitation and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice":

“We bishops question whether private, for-profit corporations can effectively run prisons. The profit motive may lead to reduced efforts to change behaviors, treat substance abuse, and offer skills necessary for reintegration into the community.”
Indeed, in Pecos over the last six-months, the RCDC complex suddenly experienced the gutting of substance abuse education programming. Curriculum prescribed by B.O.P. policy on order for a number of classes was canceled, reportedly under the provisions of a local BOP contract that amount to a set-aside. Curricula funding for Life-skills, GED and English as a Second Language (ELS) classes has been curbed as well.

According to inside sources, counselor continuing education training was canceled, forcing counselors to pay their own way if they expected to remain licensed, a situation that violates industry-wide standards of practice.

The required state license for designation as a Counselor Training Institution (CTI) was allowed to expire by GEO's national headquarters in Boca Raton -- no longer required now that GEO is under BOP contract guidelines -- followed by the local administration's denial for re-licensure funds requested by its own department of substance abuse services. A counselor intern who had completed the entire 2-year curriculum of training has reportedly been denied application for licensure as a chemical dependency counselor by State Health Services as a result. His appeals have been denied by GEO despite his proven loyalty and value to the company. They simply do not care that his career goal of obtaining an LCDC has been thwarted at its very threshold.

Employee requests to restore these valuable resources have been denied by regional company heads with a demonstrably callous apathy despite dual appeals for employer loyalty and ethical responsibility to the populations these counselors and instructors serve.

The appeals for restoration of these vital substance abuse and education resources are currently before county officials, according to anonymous sources within the facility. As of the time of this posting, Reeves County Sheriff Andy Gomez has been made aware of the situation but has not yet rendered an authoritative recommendation to the County Commissioners' Court, who has the authority to overrule the GEO Group and, for starters, restore the affected employee's due career status before renegotiating the responsible revitalization of Department of Education services.

Loyalty is a one-way street with The GEO Group. Employee loyalty is expected; employer loyalty -- when profit is the bottom line -- is a throw-away. The American Bishops were obviously justified in their concerns for the rehabilitation programs affected by current trends in corporatist budgeting restraint. Programs that have been proven over and again to reduce recidivism are not a concern for private contractors with an eye for profits expanded exponentially by recidivism. As the state of California recently discovered to the chagrin of all concerned, when the dollar is the bottom line and rehabilitation programs are cut, the recidivism rate skyrockets and while the costs are enormous to the state, the private prison industry luxuriates in the recent performance of its stocks despite a volatile market. In fact, on August 8th, The GEO Group announced a 94% second quarter increase in profits just over the first quarter of 2007. All the while, California now has the highest recidivism rates in the county at 70%. Federal district courts are forcing compliance with jail standards which ultimately will mean the expenditure of hundreds of millions more than were saved in the short-term. They are currently stacking inmates three-bunks high and setting up tent cities while private prison corporations circle for the kill.

When will American corporatists such as The GEO Group be held accountable to the people they serve and to the people they employ while they chase the Almighty Dollar? The corporatists administrators who are responsible for this unrestrained exploitation can no longer rationalize their "amorality" -- the ideological claim of classic laissez- faire capitalists since the days of Adam Smith -- by deferring responsibility to "the corporation," "the market" or simply explaining it away as, "It's my job." No, it's time to TAKE BACK AMERICA!


Monday, August 20, 2007

Feature Article: "Jailing Nation: How Did Our Prison System Become Such a Nightmare?"

The Reeves County Detention Center complex in Pecos
, all three units of which are now under federal Bureau of Prisons contract to The GEO Group, in partnership with Reeves County, has regressed to nothing more than a prison warehousing facility. Under the new BOP contract and the red pencil of the new county judge, Sam Contreras, rehabilitation programs such as education, and substance abuse are suffering the gutting of their budgets before the corporatist juggernaut of profit-taking. This is to say nothing of the food and programmatic medical concerns that have also caused conflict at other Texas GEO-run facilities.

Don’t expect The GEO Group to promote humanist or progressive concerns that might actually benefit the tax paying public through rehabilitation efforts. Regional heads of this prison-for-profit corporation are as unenlightened about progressive rehabilitation strategies as a bunch of tobacco chewing jailers in Langtree throwing down shots of rye whiskey in The Jersey Lilly after a hanging.

In convolution with this testosterone-injected, cowboy-with-a-badge mentality -- perhaps even groveling to placate it -- the current national domestic slash & burn mindset that channels all available federal monies into a hawkish neoconservative foreign policy benefiting what Eisenhower dubbed "the military-industrial complex," doesn't leave much left-over for progressive prison programs. A new Democratic congressional majority has done little to challenge the current regressive domestic policies, recently presided over by Karl Rove and Tom DeLay.

So The GEO Group doesn't deserve all the blame -- only that part which is responsible for completely destroying staff moral and creativity vis-a-vis a corporatist authoritarian system of micromanagement, inflexible policy structures (unless it benefits the upper hierarchy to become hypocritically flexible in their own interest), poor boundaries between job assignments, an unresponsive, unidirectional communication network, a condescending demand for employee loyalty when absolutely none is given in return, bullying bosses that rule by threat, personal devaluation and coercion rather than through enlightened responsive management styles more typical of functional systems -- those that empower people and encourage teamwork. Stack that on top of a know-it-all attitude, a pervasive disrespect and total disregard for professionals representing the non-corrections disciplines and you have an authoritarian dominated workplace that promises burn-out and episodic employee abuse.

To wit: with one voice, from their national headquarters in Boca Raton, Florida, to the contract overseers in Pecos, GEO administrators have made it obvious that they could care less about any objective that diminishes optimum profitability, including that most paramount of all traditional American social values, the common good. This negligence of social responsibility to the tax payer and to its own employees presides unchallenged despite that educational deficits, accountability (addressed by "therapeutic community treatment programming") and substance abuse are the most significant risk factors for recidivism among the people most in need of their mission. But in the case of The GEO Group, the old adage “pay me now or pay me latter” is just another means of profitability in the futures market. They simply don't care about the principles of rehabilitation -- money comes first, not your family member doing time for non-violent immigration or substance abuse offenses, offenders who could benefit from such programs and turn their lives around with community support.

Anxious to prove his salt to the county as a penny-pinching financial wizard, County Judge Sam Contreras has administered the prison complex with an unwitting neoconservative mindset in all matters including the promotion and aggrandizement of his own cadre of cronies and family members; although, he must surely be unaware that his "gut it & run" perspective was presaged by post-reform minded, law & order conservatives now turned Straussian in the Bush Administration.

Ironically, Contreras ran as a Democrat. However, in West Texas that means nothing in a region historically laden with corruption and political cronyism of the sort brought to notorious putrescence under Republican Representative Henry Bonilla, one of the most infamous of Tom DeLay's and President Dubya's Congressional yes-men, defeated in 2004 by Democrat Ciro Rodriguez in a purge by voters. To his credit, in all but matters of family loyalty, Contreras seems dead set on honest and transparent government. He has even reached out through "family ties" to Rep. Rodriguez (former County Judge and Contreras extended family member Jimmy Galindo now works for Ciro Rodriguez). Nevertheless, with GEO working to get him into their back pocket, as is their corporatist style of “lobbying," one has to wonder how long he can hold out against this network of good-ol’-boys who continue to export their profits instead of supercharging the local economy by reinvestment, as was the original expectation -- obviously a “pig-in-a-poke” sold to the voters of Reeves County.

Exacerbating this ironic situation of balancing a county budget on the backs of county workers -- - one that allows for corporate exploitation and no-bid contracts to cronies such as "Affordable Tools" (a telephone on a desk owned by Jimmy Galindo that serves the sole purpose of collecting a cut of the take on maintenance orders) -- Contreras and his County Commission seem to have absolutely no awareness that his short-sighted budgetary policies are Neo-Hooverian, the very style of failure-prone reactionary conservative budget tightening that was administered by President Herbert Hoover in response to the Great Depression until Roosevelt initiated the New Deal (and WWII) to stimulate the economy. If it worked in 1941, perhaps what we can expect from the Reeves County Commission is a war with Mexico.

If Judge Contreras has ever heard of John Maynard Keynes, the New Deal economic wonder boy from Great Britain, he probably thinks he was a jailer at RCDC. What a pity; while he learns his new job, many county employees are suffering at their own. -Progress

For a more enlightened perspective, I present the following article by Daniel Lazare of The Nation, which has been cross-posted to AlterNet. In it, Mr. Lazare provides an arduously researched progressive perspective. I struggle to keep pace. Coincidently, today I received in the mail from Amazon.com, “American Furies: Crime, Punishment, and Vengeance in the Age of Mass Imprisonment,” by Sasha Abramsky, one of Lazare’s sources, a relatively thin, but to the point, academic tome published in May of this year. I will provide a book review upon completion….I promise. ;>) -Progress

Jailing Nation: How Did Our Prison System Become Such a Nightmare?

By Daniel Lazare, The Nation. Posted August 20, 2007.

"With five percent of the world's population, the U.S. has close to a quarter of the world's prisoners. How did the American criminal justice system go so wrong?"

"State health authorities issued a statement in response to rumors related to the deaths of two prisoners from GEO Group's Val Verde lockup. This seems to be in response to an inquiry from the Del Rio New Herald about the numerous contacts they have received.

"The state is saying that the deaths are not from tuberculosis, and not from assaults by staff. They have also said that no staff are ill with similar symptoms. But no word yet on what has caused the two prisoner deaths and what can prevent other prisoner deaths." --Texas Prison Bid'ness

We will be anxious to hear what the CDC and GEO officials have to announce tomorrow. --Progrsss

Least we forget: Our hero Superman was an illegal alien.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Minutemen film thenselves shooting at illegal immigrants

Last week on the Mexican border, a cadre of Minutemen, who pride themselves in paramilitary vigilantism, apparently pridefully filmed themselves shooting at illegal immigrants crossing the border. Words cannot describe.

The Southern Poverty Law Center’s HateWatch, carries the video encapsulated within a sobering article on the KKK related extremist right-wing organization.

“Shooting at Mexicans: Chilling Video Exposedspeaks for itself. YouTube has since deleted the original posted last week on its site. I hope the MSM is catching on; when they first took up arms along the border, attempting to force the hand of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), they were the darlings of Fox News and every other mega news outlet that didn’t bother to do their research. They are an offshoot of the Ku Klux Klan and anyone over the age of innocence knows this.

I had some bitter email correspondence with a minuteman from Arizona last year in a discussion group. The experience awakened a sense of dreadful concern in me. Despite any reasoned discussion I presented, his replies to me were threatening and involved a callously primitive level of reasoning—proof by assertion, argumentum ad hominem and plain bullying. He attempted to elicit my address so that he could drive to Texas and get me. I did my homework and emailed him his criminal record in the State of Arizona. That seemed to be enough to back him off.

I’m convinced that these folks are every bit the “right-wing authoritarian followers”—some with overt characteristics of anti-social personality disorder—that
Bob Altemeyer describes in his internet book, The Authoritarians.

Dean is on its way

If you're been praying for rain in West Texas, next weekend is likely to have you dancing in the fields. The National Hurricane Center's most recent 5-day guestament of the storms track has it coming in at landfall sometime after 2:00 pm Wednesday on the northeaster coast of Mexico, below Brownsville.

Before zeroing in on the Mexican mainland, Dean is expected to deliver a devastating blow to the Yucatan early Tuesday, causing it to weaken to a category 3 or 4 before gaining strength again in its progress westward over the warm southern Gulf. If it continues at its current quickened pace, Dean will not have time to recover to a category 5 hurricane.

If this one does what most hurricanes do, after landfall in eastern Mexico on Wednesday afternoon, it will turn northward as it begins to weaken, rolling up central Mexico through the mountains and into the American desert Southwest. As it whirls its wings counterclockwise like a great water mill, it is expected to dip the moisture rising from the warm Gulf waters and wheel it northwestward into West Texas.

A storm of this magnitude is bad news for Mexico, of course, and locals will be working furiously this coming week to prepare. People along the Mexican coast who have American relatives can be expected to communicate with family members in Texas to make arrangements for their safe evacuation -- suggesting a coming problem for anal-retentive border security officials. Anyone living in low-lying areas subject to flooding is especially at risk. "Gonzo" is praying for the people of the Yucatan as I write.

Dean is currently speeding toward Jamaica after passing south of the Dominican Republic, causing damage there.

The economic impact to the States may be varied due to drought conditions in the American Southwest. The Chicago agricultural futures market will go into a dizzy state of "cognitive dissonance" trying to figure out what this means for the affected "slices" of produce yield in the region. Of course, the price of oil will be going up -- rigs in the Gulf are at high risk at the moment.

For those interested in tracking the storm via video, follow this link to YouTube, which now has video uploads pouring in at an incredible rate.

My advice for citizens: this may be a good time for a "vacation," especially if you are into volunteerism. Otherwise get out your umbrellas.

Hurricane Dean on path to south Texas border region

The image on the left is the 12:00 AM, Sunday morning inferred image of Dean located at the NOAA website.

The National Hurricane Center predicts the path for Hurricane Dean to cross the Yucatan Peninsula before heading toward northern Mexico.

The Corpus Christi Caller Times has a lot of helpful information, including charts and graphics in addition to the most recent tracking dynamics.

President Bush has gotten out ahead of this one, perhaps having learned from the Katrina disaster. Let's hope FEMA won't be nearly so incompetent during the coming week.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Big country; big prisons; big business

News from Iraq keeps getting more disconcerting. The military-industrial corporatist cabal, now in Washington and contracting with neoconservative pundits who can rationalize their avarice, is beginning to pervade and contaminate an already materialist national conscious. Even in West Texas it seems the prison state has invaded, at once invited into the wake of a depressed region with depressed oil reserves, and now competing with a resurgence in the oil market.

Even in tiny Balmorhea this week, seismographic crews began stretching wire across electronic equipment mounted on flotation devices in Lake Balmorhea, searching for oil thousands of feet below the desert surface. I'm surprised that the Bush Administration hasn't ordered it's network of BOP facilities to provide inmate labor in this renewed search for West Texas crude.

The federal government has recently been at the "bidness" of opening scores of new prisons in the southwest dedicated to the detention of illegal immigrants, immigrants whose only charge is that they crossed the border. Thanks to the lobbying of the private prison industry, crossing the Rio Grand is now a felony offense. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is aggressively filling new facilities including those run by The GEO Group, who is the largest employer in Reeves County.

Are we getting too good at this? I'm sure the Iraqis are not pleased with our corporatist adventurism. Here is a story linked this week to Raw Story that may help us understand what thin "ICE" we walk upon in Texas:

Thousands of Iraqi Civilian prisoners held without charges

by Waleed Ibrahim and Peter Graff

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Rare footage from inside a Baghdad prison camp shows hundreds of inmates packed into wire-mesh tents, protesting their innocence.

"I have been jailed for two years and have never been put before a judge or court!" one prisoner is shown shouting.

The video pictures were given to Reuters Television on Saturday by the office of Sunni Arab Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, who visited the Rusafa prison compound in eastern Baghdad with his Shi'ite counterpart.

Hashemi told the prisoners that the authorities were working to speed up their cases and he promised better treatment.

The footage showed row upon row of outdoor tents made of wire mesh and covered with white plastic sheeting, each about the size of a basketball court and housing dozens of inmates.

"We are not asking for food or water. Just free us. We have committed no crimes," said one inmate....

This matches the feelings and reports of neglect and abuse currently being reported in Texas among immigrants detained in what can only be called prison camps.

Here in Reeves County, where prisons are becoming part of the local -- still depressed -- economy, the county operates in partnership with The GEO Group to house over 3000 "CAR-5" Bureau of Prison inmates, all of whom are foreign nationals detained for crimes committed in the United States. After serving their sentences they will be deported to their home countries.

The GEO Group has recently been a national focus of interest due to medical issues at its Del Rio facility where four foreign nationals being held under Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) contract became ill last week with a "mystery illness," two of whom died. The Centers for Disease Control was invited in for an investigation of the malady that until autopsies reveal the cause, is generating rumors along the Texas-Mexican border.

Investigators are promising to release the results early next week. Anonymous inmate sources provide their own explanation, one related to a string of immigrant complains concerning food improperly stored at the GEO run facility. These sources -- you heard it first from the Balmorhea Progressive -- report that a spoiled meal of calves liver is the culprit but this leak by inmates remains unconfirmed and could have been inspired by a recent find of maggots in food prepared and served to the detained immigrant population.

More will be revealed on this blog as reports issue. In the meantime, you may find interesting this background article [pdf] by the Stopp Coalition on the privatization of prisons in the United States.