Dr Vandana Shiva, Rights of Nature and Earth Democracy
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† Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.
There it was – the explosion/exposure of the cultural morass of our collective criminalizing presumptions, assumptions, exploitations, objectifications, commodifications – conjured by the gaze of one Jeremy Meeks*. One picture literally unleashing 10 trillion revelatory words.
Meeks is now an international media sensation, because of his face not his case. His model good looks have made him the object of both desire and derision, the subject now of newscasts “wagging the finger of shame”, sensationalistic headlines and labels such as “hottie thug”, photo shop memes, castigation over his prior criminal history and his (maybe past?) gang affiliations, and gave rise to a troubling Twitter hashtag. #FelonCrushFriday moved beyond Meeks to include the mugshots of nameless others (mostly women of color), every known misconception about the criminal injustice system/”criminals”/”gang members”, the “white gaze”, colorism, rampant misogyny and homophobia, ridicule, scorn, calls for prison rape and impossibly harsh punishments.
In a word – Dehumanization. As Mariame Kaba notes in No, Mugshots Do Not “Humanize” Anyone…:
The mugshot then is a tool used by the state to flatten individuals and turn them into rationalized, bureaucratized ‘things.’ This process is so successful that many observers never consider the pain and suffering (too often) etched on the faces of those being photographed. These images of the accused (usually never convicted) are made public for all to consume as they like. Indeed in the age of the internet, police departments regularly post mugshots on social media. Look at this ‘thing,’ the gatekeepers of the state tell us. And millions of people oblige.
Because we live in the midst of the profit-driven, privatizing epicenter of the now globalizing prison industrial complex, there is another word too. Capitalize. It is no longer enough to dehumanize – to leave stigmatized, banished, branded, marked in a degraded status as “criminal”. Dehumanization is the prerequisite of commodification, and yes that abounded too. Immediately internet entrepreneurs were creating T-shirts and phone cases, while high end coat-tail riders like the Warhol Museum and Orange is the New Black (see The Reign of Whitey Is Never Over by Yasmin Nair) were using the hash tag to pimp art exhibits and television shows.
— Orange Is the New… (@OITNB) June 20, 2014
Par for the course. Profit — that is the often under-estimated essence of the prison industrial complex. We are aware of the pic as a source of cheap labor, private/public supply and construction contracts, job creation, continued media profits from exaggerated crime reporting and crime/punishment as entertainment and of the newly emerging “markets” in privatized community corrections. Even this is the tip of the iceberg as we start to include the immense reliance on privatized background check companies and on-line repositories of criminal records. We are still uncovering the manifold ways – both actualized and imagined — in which there is money to be made.
On Mugshots and More.
From Heather Jarvis:
On the one hand, the administration proposes to extend PAYE to all student borrowers starting in 2015, regardless of when they borrowed. That would be nice.
But the administration proposes sharply reducing the loan forgiveness available to high-debt student loan borrowers (except they refer to these cuts as “reform[ing] the PAYE terms to ensure that program benefits are targeted to the neediest borrowers.” The proposed “reforms” are a response to criticism arguing that existing forgiveness provisions permit already expensive schools to continue raising tuition with impunity.
Proposed changes include:
- Eliminating the standard payment cap under PAYE;
- Calculating payments for married borrowers filing separately on the combined household Adjusted Gross Income;
- Capping Public Sector Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) at the aggregate loan limit for independent undergraduate students (currently $57,500);
- Establishing a 25-year forgiveness period for borrowers with balances above the aggregate loan limit for independent undergraduate students;
- Preventing payments made under non-income driven repayment plans from being applied toward PSLF;
- Capping the amount of interest that can accrue when a borrower’s monthly payment is insufficient to cover the interest.
After the number of foreclosure cases filed in state court plummeted during the past two years, the courts are now seeing a “markedly higher” rate of filings and coping with a rise in settlement conferences, according to an Office of Court Administration report.
Despite the sharp jump in filings, the Nov. 1 report also emphasized that an increasing amount of homeowners are getting legal representation during settlement conferences.
As of early October, there were almost 34,000 residential foreclosures filed in the court system this year. By the end of the year, filings could top 44,000 according to the report’s projections.
If the numbers bear out, that would mean more filings this year than the past two years combined, when there were 25,411 foreclosure actions filed in 2012 and 16,655 actions in 2011.
The rise in filings suggests lenders’ improved ability to vouch for the accuracy of their court papers in affirmations after two years of difficulties, said the report, drawing on data from October 2012 to October 2013.
The affirmation requirement was imposed by Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman in October 2010. Effective Aug. 30 a “certificate of merit” replaced the affirmation requirement for new cases. The new requirement is supposed to move cases more quickly.
“This report marks a period that has seen a tremendous spike in new foreclosure filings. As a result, the number of mandated settlement conferences has soared. …Despite these staggering statistics and challenges, the percentage of represented defendants still increased. Much progress has been made in addressing the burgeoning foreclosure docket that continues to rise,” said the report, noting foreclosures account for about one-third of the court system’s civil caseload.
From Mother Jones:
When conservative activists began laying the groundwork months ago for their plan to shut down the federal government, their stated goal was delaying or defunding the Affordable Care Act, the equivalent of landing a haymaker on President Obama’s signature policy achievement. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) tromped around Texas railing against the health care law, a banner proclaiming “DEFUND OBAMACARE” hanging behind him.
Yet the ultimate goal of conservative interest groups such as Heritage Action and FreedomWorks has always been the wholesale repeal of Obamacare. Some conservative lawmakers reportedly even insisted on repealing Obamacare as part of a deal to end the government shutdown that began on October 1.
But on Fox News Wednesday morning, Michael Needham, the CEO of Heritage Action, brought some reality to the discussion over repealing Obamacare:
Fox News: With a Democrat in the White House and Harry Reid with the majority in the Senate, what can you do [to stop Obamacare]?
Needham: Well, everybody understands that we’re not going to be able to repeal this law until 2017. And that we have to win the Senate and win the White House.
But right now, it is clear that this bill is not ready for primetime. It is clear that this bill is unfair. The president’s given a waiver to employers; why can’t we give that waiver to the individual people all across America?”
So there you have it.
After years of false narratives, misstated data and a remarkably successful campaign to poison the Affordable Care Act in the hearts and minds of the American public, Republicans have finally run into the one force that could improve the perception of healthcare reform in the eyes of the people….
According to the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll out this week, the GOP-Tea Party efforts to defund or delay Obamacare—the demand which directly led to the government shutdown—has brought about a seven point increase in popularity of the law.
Immediately prior to the shutdown, only 31 percent of Americans believed Obamacare was a good idea. Today, that number is 38 percent, just one percentage point lower than the peak approval number of forty percent that was achieved in July 2012.
House Republicans, facing the ninth day of a government shutdown, appeared increasingly isolated on Wednesday from even their strongest backers, with business groups demanding the immediate reopening of the government and benefactors such as Koch Industries publicly distancing themselves from the shutdown fight.
Republican and Democratic leaders met at noon to try to find a way forward, both on reopening the government and on raising the federal debt limit before the Treasury exhausts its ability to borrow on Oct. 17. Leading Republicans in the House appeared to be trying to move the stalemate away from efforts to defund President Obama’s health care law to a broader discussion of fiscal policy.
In an opinion piece in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal, Representative Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin and chairman of the House Budget Committee, proposed negotiating a continuing resolution to reopen the government with a focus on changes to entitlement programs like Medicare and a reshaping of the federal tax code. He did not mention the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans had said must be defunded, delayed or damaged before the full government is to be reopened.
It was not clear whether conservative rank-and-file Republicans would go along with that redirection. But other voices usually allied with Republicans stepped up pleas for an end to the standoff. On Wednesday, the National Retail Federation joined other business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers in asking House Republicans to relent.
“We strongly support passage of both a continuing resolution to provide for funding of the federal government into the next fiscal year and a measure to raise the nation’s debt ceiling,” the group’s president, Matthew Shay said in a letter to Congress that highlighted economic indicators showing that the shutdown has already hurt consumer spending and depressed consumer confidence.
President Obama has planned a series of meetings with lawmakers. He is scheduled to meet this evening with House Democrats at the White House, and to meet separately later this week with House Republicans, Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats.
Meantime, Koch Industries accused Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, on Wednesday of spreading “false information” about the Koch brothers by suggesting they were behind the move to end financing for President Obama’s health care law and the partial shutdown of the federal government.