Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Slave Labor-Gerrymandering, Redistricting, ALEC, Koch Brothers and their Conservative Agenda...

I recently read an informative article about Arizona's private prison industry and the impact upon communities by the way the political districts are drawn to allow small rural, communities with predominantly white populations to enjoy financial benefits of having large inmate populations counted in their census. This also allows small communities to appear to have populations that represent African-American and Hispanic ethnicities, where that representation is all behind bars.

The impact of all this is a drain of financial money away from the large urban areas of Arizona when those funds are redirected to the smaller rural communities. In addition this system allows for an increase of representation from those small communities, based on populations inflated by the inclusion of thousands of prisoners, many that come from other states as far away as Hawaii.

This Article in the Phoenix Magazine shines a light on how small, mostly conservative white communities receive their political and financial clout in Arizona. A sad fact of this is that many other states do the same thing. With almost 2.5 million of us in prisons today, redistricting based on the inclusion of inmate populations, enables rural prison communities to appear to have much larger and more diverse populations and to receive millions in state and federal tax dollars because of that. Former Arizona state Representative Pete Rios says it better than I:
"Today, the town (Florence) and its neighbor, Eloy, are Arizona’s major prison towns. There are two large state prisons and eight private prisons in the area that, together, house more than 24,000 prisoners. They are bused in from the Valley and throughout Arizona or imported from other states, including Hawaii and Alaska.

"Those prisoners aren’t really Eloy or Florence residents or constituents of Pinal County in any sense of the words. They can’t vote, and they may never step foot in the county beyond the prison walls. Most of them will be released in a few years and will return to homes elsewhere. But when the U.S. Census Bureau counted Arizona’s population last year, all those prisoners were counted as if Pinal County were home. That means millions of dollars in additional tax revenue sent from the state to governments in Pinal County. It also could mean a louder voice for local residents in state elections.

"This year Arizona and every other state will redraw political boundaries. The redistricting process is tedious but hugely important. It occurs every 10 years and guarantees the fundamental principle of “one person, one vote” in our representative democracy.

"But as that process kicks off, some experts are warning that the sheer abundance of prisoners in Pinal County and in large prisons throughout the state could impact the basic tenet of equal representation. How prisoners behind the walls are counted when Arizona redraws the lines could distort political power in the state, enhance the clout of the controversial private-prison industry and dilute the voice of Phoenix residents in state politics in favor of other areas with prison “residents” who aren’t really residents at all.
Peter Wagner, executive director of the Massachusetts-based Prison Policy Initiative, which helped push recent reforms in New York, Maryland and Delaware, says:
"The impact of prisoners on Arizona’s political landscape could be among the most dramatic anywhere in the nation. “We have enough people in prison in this country and enough people in prison in Arizona to change how our democracy works, to change the decisions that the Legislature makes.”
This situation in Arizona is also replicated in many other states, coast to coast and represents another way in which prison inmates are used by Republicans to impact upon tax dollars and political issues and influence. With this kind of system used to falsely increase true populations of small, White communities that are predominantly conservative provides them with more tax dollars, representation and allows the larger urban cities to lose both in the process.

As this article reports, prisoners from large cities are sent to prison facilities in distant rural settings - far from where they lived and their families remain. Gerrymandering allows these prisoners to count toward tax subsidies - state and federal - in amounts disproportionate to their actual ethnic makeup and true population(s).

If nothing else this clearly demonstrates that the Conservatives have all issues involving prisoners, prison industries using those prisoners and private prisons mapped out. In Pinal County, Arizona, the largest employer is Corrections Corporation of American that operates no less than six private prisons in that county alone.

If we think or believe that CCA is not a dominant presence in Arizona and get their way through the community's reliance upon the increased tax dollars from incarceration and tax subsidies, one has only to look at this article about Eloy, Arizona's recent council meeting concerning three agreements presented by CCA. In the face of facts and figures presented by those attending with knowledge and experience in prison issues, informing the council that using private prisons did not reduce costs and the impact upon community infrastructures (water consumption, roads, etc.) the city council unanimously passed everything CCA wanted (of course it didn't hurt CCA's position that they had already awarded a lucrative landscaping contract at the prison to the city Mayor). In many similar small communities where CCA and Geo Group have a presence the outcomes are usually preordained. In Arizona, Governor Brewer's repeated statements of support for CCA and other private prison corporations - along with her propensity to funnel every spare dollar the state treasury has to corrections and private prison operations - leads to such unanimous approval of everything CCA and prison.

Take a quick look at the 15 or so prison industries located at or near the city of Florence here. Also the prison industries have a retail outlet store - where anyone can buy goods if they don't inform the staff that items purchased will not be removed from Arizona. Right.

Florence Arizona is representative of what's wrong with prison privatization, prison labor, gerrymandering and the overall conservative agenda to capitalize off of all three. As I've written in the past, CCA and the number two private prison company, Geo Group are both members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and sit across from conservative legislative members in each of the nine (9) "Task Forces" of ALEC. There they jointly determine new laws or amendments to existing laws that benefit corporate interests. One corporation above all others has great influence upon both the agendas of these task forces and the 2,400 state conservative lawmakers involved in the manipulations of law - and that is Koch Industries, represented by their director of public and government affairs, Mike Morgan.

ALEC, Koch and CCA's interests, influence and intentions were clearly represented last year in the implementation of SB 1070 there in AZ. We've all been made aware of the involvement of all three in the illegal alien and immigration issues in that state by reports by such as NPR, compiled by Laura Sullivan and others, that informed us about the money to be made off of detention of those apprehended by CCA. Today we are once again faced with the involvement of ALEC and the Koch brothers in issues also involving corporate interests in wages and other labor issues all across the U.S. I believe the latest debacle unfolding in Wisconsin, Ohio, Virginia, New Jersey, Montana and Indiana are happening because Koch brothers, ALEC and other corporations profiting off the exploitation of inmates to eliminate civilian jobs and depress wages, were emboldened by the quick passage of SB 1070 last year. The conservatives led by Koch and ALEC are doing exactly what PRIDE Enterprises did in Florida - overwhelming the public and government resources by forcing both into a battle over issues important to corporations. More of their divide and conquer initiative.

In this economy, with individuals fighting to put food on their tables, states seeking ways to reduce their deficits and the federal government being attacked on all sides about spending, the situation is rife for those with unlimited capital reserves to wage a war of attrition against labor, government and wages. With the exception of corporations, big businesses, banking and investment firms the rest of the country and state governments are hovering on bankruptcy. In that environment, rich business owners find they can use their money to influence the passage of legislation favorable to them. It is now relatively easy to understand that in the run up to the 2010 elections we heard all about the influence of the Koch influences upon campaigns in key states across the country and their funding of the Tea Party. In Wisconsin alone, they contributed $43,000.00 to Walker's gubernatorial run, money to Kasich in Ohio, possibly Snyder in Michigan and to the campaigns of numerous conservative legislative candidates in many states. The end result was that through the use of vast reserves of cash, the Koch brothers were able to "buy" political slots across the country. The Tea Party successes were not so much about the issues and "values" they presented, but rather the amount of money and influence used to buy them a position within our government. Only in those campaigns such as O'Donnel's in the Northeast and Angle's in Nevada was the money simply not enough to overcome the candidates ludicrous platforms.

Once January rolled around and the Koch funded "winners" were sworn in, Koch and fellow conservatives in ALEC began to immediately advance their attacks on labor and wages in several key states where they won big. Governor Walker is so indebted to the Koch money that he was willing to use violence by introducing "troublemakers" into the demonstrations in Wisconsin in an attempt to prevail at passing legislation to end collective bargaining and implementing right to work laws. Both of these are within the conservative agenda pressed by Koch and ALEC's membership.

Senator John Ensign (R) of Nevada introduced a bill last month to require all low-security prisoners to work 50 hours a week. Creating a national prison labor force has been a goal since he went to Congress in 1995. Wonder what the position of ALEC and the Koch's are regarding this legislation?

Check out this statement made in the article linked to above:
"Technology has made it easier to coordinate. In Hunterdon County, N.J., nonprofit organizations and government agencies can view prisoners’ work schedules online and reserve them for a specific task on a free day. (Coming tasks include cleaning up after a Fire Department fish fry and maintaining a public park.)"
I have to wonder if all these indicators here - and in previous diary posts - have served to awaken all of us to the fact that we are definitely in a class war here in the U.S.? It is no longer Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and other far away countries that are suffering from - and protesting against - the rule of the rich through depressing citizen's wages, education and incarcerating those who object. Many of us now know if we merely stand up and look around us with critical vision, we can see the same machinations ongoing all around us. Instead of dictators with their pictures splashed all over every flat surface to remind us of their omniscience, we find billboards for AT&T, Boeing, Victoria's Secret, Shelby Muscle Cars, Burger King, Wendy's, McDonalds, and hundreds of other corporate advertisements for the corporations making huge profits from incarceration and prison slave labor. The pictures are different, but the concept and agenda is the same.

We have to give credit where credit is due - whether we want to or not - by acknowledging that the Koch family empire has thought all of this out well, doing their homework and putting their influences within ALEC to good use. They rub elbows with the two top private prison corporations in the world as well as three hundred or more other influential corporate members all belonging to ALEC. Together Koch and ALEC's corporate and conservative lawmakers are now holding the steering wheel representing our nation as it moves forward in history. Their hands grip the wheel so tightly it is nearly impossible to tear it from their grip as they firmly turn the wheel and head our country toward the roadside ditch - a deep, dark hole from which we will have great difficulty extricating ourselves. Time is running out and we are steadily approaching that abyss at their hands.

As this diary and the links provided demonstrate, conservatives led by General's such as David and Charles Koch, with officers comprised of the likes of ALEC's Public Board of Directors led by LA. Representative Noble Ellington lead an army of Conservatives in this class war. The soldiers led by these capable officers are the likes of Governors Walker, Daniels, Kasich, Snyder, Scott, Christie and the conservative heavy legislatures of those and other states. In this battle we are led by...well, our President has chosen to sit on the sidelines and let the workers and the unions that represent them fight this battle without his guidance or assistance. In his place Americans are now led by Unions such as the AFLCIO, UAW, SEIU, and dozens more who are fighting alongside Democratic Senators from Indiana, Wisconsin and elsewhere. So far they have only been able to forestall the inevitable money funded outcome, fighting the Kochs and others to a temporary standstill. How one leads when their citizens are faced with nearly insurmountable attacks upon them on important issues, is part of the legacy left by world leaders. President Obama's standing silent as our country is attacked from within, while professing to be a world leader and involving us in the protests and demonstrations ongoing world wide is puzzling to me. I voted for him and the changes he promised. I've continued to support him as others began to throw up their hands and turn their backs on him, but it's becoming harder and harder to continue that support as our jobs disappear into prisons and the likes of the Koch brothers and their cabal tear at the fabric of democracy with the long knives of insurgency and their actions are ignored by him.

How much longer will this go on with President Obama remaining silent on the sidelines, offering neither guidance or getting up and actually standing with them in this all-out assault upon American workers? I don't know and can't speak for our President but I can make a prediction as to the outcome if he doesn't weigh in on these issues - and soon: we'll all be working for these Kochsuckers...for pennies on the dollar, whether in prison or out. There really will be no difference if these bastards prevail. America is now in the same position of "Middle Earth" (for those J.R.R. Tolkien fans) and Mordor and Sauron are nearly upon us - where in the hell is our Gandalf?

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