Claire Graham at MorYork, York avenue Los Angeles

A friend and I visited MorYork studio to see Claire Graham’s creations. I was so happily surprised and in awe of hundreds of pieces, large and small, handmade by Graham. Some of my favorite pieces were made from doll parts, human teeth, wooden school house rulers, teddy Bears…there was an Empire State building was made entirely out of scrabble pieces

The obscure mixture of enthralling repetitious pieces put together made me feel like I could spend hours there. I spoke with the artist and his partner and they explained how the local thrift stores sort of have them on speed dial. They told me about a time they came across a truck load of buttons, which had been collected and used for many years on several pieces. Graham’s background in textiles and weaving allows him to put together dozens of stuffed animals, for example, wrapped in seran wrap and woven together to look as though in a spiders web.
Claire Graham
We also visited the best organic smoothie bar I’ve probably ever been to. Followed by an amazing vegan donut experience.

La is a strange place. I vaguely remember a time when friends sat around and talked about music- (and Im only 26)… what albums we owned, vinyl and compact disc. If you knew all the lyrics to my favorite PJ Harvey or TOOL album, you were so getting invited back to my garage. But I didn’t see anyone looking into anyone else’s eyes that day, except the interactions with artists at a few galleries I went to. Almost everyone I saw looked like they belonged in an American apparel ad, and they probably had the coolest instagrams ever, and they didn’t even need a filter. As usual, this has become a rant, but I’ll leave you with some of my very own hipster Instagram photos…




Insanely intricate mosaic chair/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/07e/59498382/files/2015/01/img_1571-0.jpg

Self portrait with magnifying glasses


Sittin’ in my tin can chair


Human teeth, as promised

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/07e/59498382/files/2015/01/img_1581.jpgIndividually painted mosaic pieces, in no order


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Media: Independent vs. Mainstream coverage of the Stop Watching Us Rally Against Mass Surveillance

This is a paper I wrote on politics in the media. I decided to choose news coverage of the Stop Watching Us rally against mass surveillance, in Washington DC last month.

Freedom of speech and the right to privacy have always been a part of the ‘American Exceptionalism’ rhetoric in this country. They are part of the fundamental rights we have as Americans, and are often called upon when critiquing other governments, or invading other countries. Our own government does not actually uphold these constitutional rights, as was highlighted by thousands of Americans at the October 25 Rally against mass surveillance. The First Amendment was intended to allow each American to speak up about their religious or moral beliefs without any laws barring that freedom, stating that “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Why, then, are so many detained and imprisoned for speaking out? American Democracy advertises the freedom and power individuals have to speak out—against policies, laws, and most importantly a tyrannical government, but at the same time prosecutes whistleblowers for doing so. Freedom of speech includes the right to assemble or protest in symbolic speech, and freedom of the press, media, and otherwise although those outlets are all heavily monitored by the NSA. Liberty is the foundation, the cornerstone, of the United States, mainly because the first colonists eventually fought against Britain for the ability to remain free from such an authoritarian government—many had fled from religious persecution. In a true democracy we should have the freedom and ability to govern ourselves, and that is only possible with the freedom of speech, and we should be protected from intrusive spying and collection of the data in which we exercise that free speech. The Fourth Amendment is another set of principals on which our country claims to be founded.

The Fourth was intended to protect individuals from unreasonable search and seizure without probable cause, providing “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” Possibly the most important part is the emphasis on the need for a warrant, if personal effects are to be searched and seized. The Stop Watching Us Rally, backed by a hundred organizations, and attended by thousands, sent the message that the NSA is violating the First and Fourth Amendments with their massive spying programs. The rally took place on the 12th anniversary of the of the signing of the Patriot Act, the overarching piece of legislature that passed with bipartisan agreement in the wake of the September 11 attacks. The Act gave the government access to American’s private information in a way that was never allowed by law before without a warrant.  The TV and mainstream media coverage of this event was scarce, while independent news media covered it at length. The Nation, Mother Jones, RT, Democracy Now, and The Guardian are among the news organizations that actually did cover it, providing a detailed history and articulate outline of the views and demands of the people.

John Nichols, cofounder of Free Press, wrote an article for The Nation outlining the idea behind the massive rally against spying on U.S. citizens that took place in Washington, D.C. The rally was backed by a “remarkable left-right coalition” of organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union, Freedom Works, Demand progress, as well as the conservative Young Americans for Liberty. Even the Council on American-Islamis Relations had a presence. Free Press president Craig Aaron explained that it wasn’t “about right and left,” but about “right and wrong.” Republican Congressman Justin Amash was among the people gathered to voice their opinions against unconstitutional spying. Amash worked to defund the NSA’s collection of data, and believes that “the Fourth Amendment ought be respected.” Former Congressman Dennis Kucinich was also at the rally in opposition to the NSA’s far reaching spying power as he was opposed to the 2001 Patriot Act. The coalition delivered petitions signed by 575,000 Americans to Congress opposing mass surveillance. also collected several thousand more signatures in support of government transparency.

The coalition is “calling on Congress to take immediate action to halt this surveillance and provide a full public accounting of the NSA’s and FBI’s data collecting programs.” Some of the demands of the people are to enact reform to section 215 of the Patriot Act, which is the state secret privilege, as well as the FISA Amendments Act. Sweeping surveillance of the Internet and telecommunications of U.S. residents is “prohibited by law” and that is why our government must be held accountable. Nichols includes a statement from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, saying that “no telephone in America makes a call without passing through the NSA’s hands” and “no internet transaction enters or leaves America without passing through the NSA’s hands. Our representatives in Congress tell us this is not surveillance. They’re wrong. Now it’s time for the government to learn from us.” This is a powerful statement because Snowden, and millions of Americans, are no longer willing to trust the unscrupulous and corruptible NSA and endorsing governments. The topic is often in the news, however it is not being debated or changed by the administration. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has produced a video featuring Oliver Stone, whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, and several celebrities. The message is simple: A free society is not free when there are secret laws and massive spying by the government. The rally’s message was also clear: Stop watching us, and remind our elected officials, “they work for us, not the NSA”

Bart Jansen wrote a piece for USA Today about the “anti-NSA rally” which included the ACLU and the “Kock brothers’ FreedomWorks and Occupy Wall Street-NYC.” In light of the revelations by Edward Snowden, leaders of France and Italy have protested NSA surveillance of foreign countries. Even Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff cancelled a visit to the U.S. because of her opposition to the spying. Jesselyn Radack read Snowden’s statement about the NSA, then gestured to the Capitol building and said, “We are watching you.” The grass-roots group Demand Progress helped to organize the event and opposes the mass surveillance by the NSA. Members have been lobbying for legislation to “block bulk collection of data” after an unsuccessful attempt in the House. Sen. Pat Leahy and Rep. James Sensenbrenner are expected to propose new legislation in the following week as well. Dave Miller was among the people assembled, and wore a dark-blue windbreaker with yellow letters mimicking FBI jackets. The letters read “U.S. CITIZEN.” Grass-roots group Fight for the Future was present at the rally, and one of its founders Holmes Wilson wore tape across his mouth. Wilson’s banner read, “Spying is censorship” and he said in reference to the NSA, “They know who we associate with and where we are at any given time. It’s only getting worse.” Former senior executive at the NSA Thomas Drake, pushed for the repeal of the Patriot Act and said, “It’s time to roll back the surveillance state. It is time for the U.S. government to stop watching us.”

FOX news published a two-paragraph long piece about the rally against NSA spying. This article was the only coverage fox news did on the monumental rally, producing only one Associated Press photo with six people, sparsely placed, holding hand-written signs reading “No NSA spying.” The article doesn’t even have an author or contributor to be held accountable for this meager, ridiculous ‘coverage’ of the event. Even the title, Protestors Swarm D.C., implies unrest and possibly violence. The most erroneous part of this fake news network’s coverage is that it claims hundreds, or “nearly a thousand” protestors marched on the Capitol. Former NSA whistleblower was “prosecuted by the Department of Justice under the Espionage Act for leaking unclassified information to a Baltimore Sun reporter” and told the crowd “We’re against mass surveillance.” FOX news is clearly not willing to look at the real issue of unconstitutional spying done by our government.

The way the press media bolster the fact that so many different partisan organizations were present is evidence of further atomization of our society. As Congressman Amash stated at the rally, “this isn’t a partisan issue. This is for Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, conservatives and liberals, everyone in between.” One doesn’t need to be affiliated with a political party; one only needs to read The Constitution to understand that free speech and protection against unreasonable search and seizure by law enforcement are indispensable rights. The way FOX news willingly omitted crucial information about the rally shows exactly how pro-government mainstream news can be. Their misguided information about the number of people gathered is an attempt to make this movement appear small. This is a people’s movement with several thousand peaceful protestors and activists, many from reputable organizations, and many current and former government. Further, FOX’s portrayal of Thomas Drake, NSA whistleblower and recipient of the Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling, is totally flawed because he was not prosecuted by the DOJ. Drake was accused of espionage yet all charges were dropped. He eventually pled to one misdemeanor, which was exceeding the authorized use of a government computer. This is not even close to being prosecuted under the Espionage Act, and if he had been, he probably wouldn’t be a free man today. One might never be able to point out or change all the fallacies that FOX news supplies their subscribers. The real motivation behind the Stop Watching Us movement is simply freedom of speech and the right to privacy provided in the U.S. Constitution, and the organizations that supported the Stop Watching Us movement are not stopping until legislation is passed, and the NSA is held accountable.

Sidlow, E., Henschen, B. (2012) Govt (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Wadsworth, Cenage Learning.

Nichols, John. (2013 October 25) A Mass Rally Against Mass Surveillance. The                        Nation. Retrieved from rally-against-mass-surveillance on November 5.

Jansen, Bart. (2013 October 26) Anti-NSA rally attracts thousands to march in Washington. USA TODAY. Retrieved from news/nation/2013/10/26/nsa-dc-rally/3241417 on November 5.

Daily Caller. (2013 October 25) Protestors Swarm D.C. To Rally Against NSA Spying. FOX News. Retrieved from protestors-swarm-dc-rally-against-nsa-spying on November 6.

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Dorothy Police Search

Dorothy Police Search


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November 4, 2013 · 6:35 am

U.S. Prison system, racial and social injustice

This was originally a paper I wrote for a history course back in 2011, I have edited a few parts and shortened it drastically, while adding my own commentary.

My school’s book fair was based on banned books by the Tuscon, AZ school district. I became very inspired by Angela Davis’ Are Prisons Obsolete? and Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. Although I didn’t use much from Alexander’s book and have recently done more critical analysis of the text, this paper echoes her message; The criminal justice system is corruptible and has relegated a large group of African-Americans and low-income Americans to a lower caste. The consequences of being convicted of a crime (even drug possession for personal use, or writing bad checks) can permanently destroy a persons record and allow for legal discrimination, similar to the jim crow laws after reconstruction.


Race has been used to justify countless acts of imprisonment, oppression, and disenfranchisement in the United States, from the first settlers until modern society. With improvements of social and biological sciences, as well as critical revision of history, we now have the evidence that ‘race’ is socially constructed. The human brain is practically identical among our species, and we share most of the same DNA. When using moral and ethical judgment, as well as biological knowledge, it seems intuitive that all people should be equal. Equal in the eyes of the law, nature, and some would contend, God. Social races are almost impossible to defend– we have no way of completely distinguishing them. Culture is a more appropriate description for a people, but it is undeniable that race has been the motive for age-old systems of oppression.

The United States has struggled with these issues tragically, with dehumanizing and destructive outcomes such as slavery. Slavery was a system of forced labor based on skin color, and there were even laws characterizing Blacks as being those with “one drop of negro blood” even though humans pass on half of their genetic material to the next generation. “One drop” of a type of blood is literally impossible, and it just shows to what lengths the early governments and ruling classes of the United States were willing to go to in order to be legally racist and discriminative. Even the term African-American implies that a group is only half-American. Although this blatant racism is hard to imagine in modern society, there is a system that some would argue is similar to slavery—the prison system, or what has been labeled the Prison Industrial Complex. It is referred to as the Prison Industrial Complex because its production of goods and labor force compare with that of the Military Industrial Complex.

The prison system is used to reform or rehabilitate convicted criminals and therefore it is widely accepted. It doles out punishment through forced labor, mandatory sentencing, and the stripping of individual rights; however, research has proven that the incarceration system is not effective in rehabilitating criminals, lowering crime rates, or protecting the public. Not only does it lock up and disenfranchise predominately people of lower socioeconomic class, that cannot afford representation, but also historians and scholars have argued that the legal system in place today is merely a continuation of the racially motivated institutions and laws such as slavery, the Black Codes, and Jim Crow.

The U.S. prison system is rife with social and racial injustices, similar to those of the South, both before and after the Civil War. Jim Crow laws in the South after the war ensured that voting, housing rights, and education were not accessible to Blacks. Even with the passage of the 13th amendment, slavery and involuntary servitude were abolished “except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted” (Davis 28). Former slaves were punished with forced labor, sometimes on the very same plantations that had been utilized for slavery. Similarly, the Black Codes, which controlled and criminalized every aspect of Black life, were enacted in Texas after the Civil War. These laws reinforced the inferior position that Blacks held in this country and hindered them from becoming free of the legal system, let alone successful members of society. The Codes marginalized Blacks by regulating labor and criminalizing petty offenses.

Today’s legal system criminalizes a multitude of actions such as drug use, theft, and prostitution. Crime is committed the same among races, however law enforcement targets overwhelmingly non-white potential criminals. After being convicted, there is little opportunity to access voting, housing rights, and education. Further, once an inmate is labeled a felon and becomes institutionalized, the chances of them obtaining an education that would lead to a good job statistically improbable. The association of Blacks with crime is a powerful conviction still seen today, and is by no means accidental. Just watch the news to see what groups are being portrayed as the pillars of crime and poverty. Although there are no Jim Crow laws today, the legal system continues to perpetuate a racially and socioeconomically divided society. Minority and low-income individuals are arrested, convicted and imprisoned more often than Caucasians, or those of higher economic standing. The struggles presented to an individual with a felony conviction are similar to those of Blacks in the Jim Crow era. The 13th amendment was also not the first or last piece of legislature to seem progressive at face value, yet contain wording that excluded or criminalized certain groups. While abolishing slavery, it also had the capacity to lay the framework for a new structure of slavery. Today, many states proscribe voting and other constitutional rights to people who have been convicted of a felony. This is one of the worst forms of disenfranchisement, and the public often does not question the arbitrary power of the legal system to deny constitutional rights.

Michelle Alexander, former director of the Racial Justice Project at the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California has argued that the legal system put in place today is actually a new form of the Jim Crow laws. The disproportionate number of Blacks imprisoned is so similar to slavery, to put it into perspective; “More Blacks men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began.” The ‘Justice’ system that incarcerates and disenfranchises hundreds of thousands of Blacks has created a new under caste by permanently denying them the right to vote, serve on juries, as well as gain access to housing opportunities and education. This is not just for a murder, rape, or any other violent crime conviction; but for marijuana possession as well. Many states today have legalized the drug, which has been proven to be less harmful than alcohol or tobacco, yet many citizens spend years in and out of the prison system for possession. And these citizens are mostly Blacks, despite the fact that people of all races and classes use the drug. As for drug use, all genders, age groups, and social races engage in it. There is no conclusive study that shows Blacks or Latinos use more drugs than Whites. There is a higher chance of being exposed to petty crime and drug use within inner cities and impoverished neighborhoods, but it’s due mostly to lack of adequate housing, education, and family structure.


The fact that law enforcement focuses on arresting and convicting predominantly Blacks is indicative of the fact that there is a method of oppressive, authoritarian, control being used by the state. That method is the justice system as we know it, violating personal freedoms in an incredibly unjust (and unconstitutional) way.There is a stigma that comes with having been imprisoned or under correctional control. Aside from being discredited in society for jobs, parolees wave many of their constitutional rights. The equal protection clause in the 14th amendment and the search and seizure clause in the 4th amendment have been violated especially when targeting minority groups. Law enforcement does not stop, search, and raid affluent White communities the same as it does inner cities. Poorer, inner city communities are undoubtedly targeted more aggressively– with SWAT teams armed to the teeth, representing a sort of totalitarian military police state.

Moreover, after being convicted and sentenced, it is very difficult to escape the lifestyle and culture of the “revolving door” that is the prison system. That revolving door serves as a sort of school for criminals, and actually worsens their situationIn the U.S. young minorities have a better chance of ending up incarcerated at some point in their lives than in a classroom. The federal and state tax dollars used to house an inmate for a year exceed that of tuition for a year at most universities (Davis 11). Investing in the young people of this nation should be a top priority; we need to provide an education and an alternative to violence, drug addiction, and crime. Prisons make Americans feel safe, though, and so it is constantly swept under the rug—the percentage of our youth that are being systematically destroyed, the amount of money used to do it, and the unquestionable fact that minorities are targeted. The unequal sentencing for convictions of specific groups or classes of people today is downright obvious. African-American and Latino males are the most imprisoned portions of the population.

Approximately 10 percent of Black males between the ages of 25 and 29 in a community are incarcerated. The institution has not only transformed into a method of controlling a population with racially driven motives, but also become a statistically more likely place for African-Americans to end up than a university. With the increasing number of imprisoned African-Americans, prison has become “a more important institution for integrating them as subjects into adult roles than higher education, the military, or marriage” (Simon 472). This is incredibly depressing. Because imprisonment is so widespread among poor and minority culture, it has become a sort of “rite of passage” that earns credibility, respect, and in some instances initiation to a group. For some, prison has become the university, the job, the home, and the place of dying. These statistics show that these groups are especially subject to a heavy hand on the scales of justice.

The punishment industry has become another avenue for controlling and regulating behavior of people who were seen to have committed a crime. People of low socioeconomic background are grossly overrepresented in the prison, parole, and probation systems. It seems as though the justice system has too often not lived up to its name, because only those who can afford legal representation have a chance at proving their case. In many cases the legal system used to cater to the political and social interests of the upper class. Gideon v. Wainwright is a landmark Supreme Court case that had a significant impact on the legal system. After arrested and wrongfully convicted of burglary, Clarence Gideon was unable to provide legal counsel for himself. Because it was not a federal case, assistance of counsel for defense under the Sixth Amendment was not provided. From his jail cell, Gideon challenged this and the case was moved to the Supreme Court. The court found that appointment of counsel was “a fundamental right, essential to a fair trial”(Cornell Law) and that the Fourteenth Amendment extended the requirement of legal defense. This case is an example of how the majority of prisoners incarcerated do not have proper legal counsel, and many are wrongly convicted. If more money were used to provide legal counsel to individuals facing criminal charges instead of on maintaining jails and prisons, there would certainly be a lower prison population.

The levels of government spending on the rapidly proliferating prison system are almost incomprehensible—high tech security systems, employing correctional officers, and funding the inmates’ basic needs, are a huge cost. Citizens’ tax dollars are used to fund incarceration facilities. There has long been a debate in this country relating to the percentage of tax dollars that should go to programs like Temporary Aid for Needy Families and so-called entitlement programs. Some social and political groups are absolutely opposed to cash aid, welfare, and even federal student financial aid. The welfare recipients, or “takers” that republicans and Tea Party activists often speak about hardly take a portion of what is spent on the prison system. On the contrary, prisons are a source of profit. Many corporations rely on prison labor and the system is used to produce goods that the American public consumes, after we have already paid for the labor to produce them—giving a different, twisted meaning to “making crime pay.”

This is not the only way that private companies are making money from the prison system. Some examples of the beneficiaries of this exploitative system are the Correctional Corporations of America and Capital Corrections Resources, Inc. With privatization, governments pay companies a fee for each inmate. That gives an incentive to fill up cells of inmates, in turn giving incentive to create and enforce laws to incriminate more citizens. In Texas, there are 34 privately owned, government run prisons generating about $80 million for Texas. Inmates are used for labor in various departments of the government, including fire department and military gear manufacturing. This is what the term Prison Industrial Complex implies. The “chain gang” is sadly alive and well today, and it seems indentured servitude or slavery has merely changed its name. Another huge injustice is the large portion of people serving time for mainly non-violent crimes.

The “drug war” has cost trillions of dollars; yet street narcotics are more available and pure than ever (Jarecki). The drug problem American citizens face today is overwhelming and too often treated with jail time. Anyone with knowledge of the system knows that prison is like a school for criminals, and drugs are widely accepted, used, and sold within the prison– even by prison guards. This might be a harsh reality to face, but little action has been taken to actually address the problem and identify its true causes. Using prison as an indefinite punishment cannot be a logical solution. Furthermore, how much power should a government have? Enough to incarcerate marijuana users, permanently brand individuals as felons, or use capital punishment? And whose right is it to essentially force prisoners to work?


Philosophical arguments aside, there are alternatives to incarceration including behavior modification and social model drug rehabilitation programs. Moreover, education is the cornerstone of a productive life, especially for younger people. Drug abuse has been criminalized when it should be treated as a public health problem. Convicting young people with felony drug offenses does not reform them; it sucks them into a system of incarceration and legal requirements that are arduous to escape. The prison system is not a practical solution to many crimes, and it has created a power dynamic that is most certainly destructive because of the social roles of the prisoner and correctional officer.

Philip Zimbardo, psychology professor and creator of the Stanford prison experiment, has done extensive research on prison, punishment, and power. Zimbardo found that when placed in the setting, not only will prisoners become hostile and aggressive in harsh environments, but also prison guards may become severely abusive when in a place of power. The Stanford Prison Experiment was a process in which 24 ordinary males of normal cognitive and emotional functioning drastically changed their behavior when assigned to be inmates or prison guards. The ones assigned to be prison guards displayed brutal, abusive behaviors in the psychological experiment. Within 24 hours, guards invented mentally and emotionally abusive rules to humiliate the prisoners. If this happened within 24 hours, one can imagine how abusive and oppressive the incarceration system is over a long period of time. Imagine being locked in the Security Housing Unit for a decade. The students in the Stanford Prison experiment assigned to be prisoners displayed real fear and terror, and believed they were truly imprisoned. Any prisoner will attest to the feelings of fear, helplessness, deprivation, and anger that are experienced surrounding incarceration.

This dynamic is not only detrimental to the prisoner, but to the system as well and it is simply not acceptable for people to live in that way. Those feelings are often what initially caused the accused to act outside of the social norm by breaking laws. The prison system will not function as a reformation tool; it will only be destructive if there is so much power given to the correctional officers, warden, and so on.

No one would deny that this country has been driven by race when creating laws and exacting punishment. Racism has systematically shaped society as a whole. Immediately after the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, the Black Codes were developed to reprimand actions like “vagrancy” or “drunkenness” only when done by Blacks. Following the Codes were the Jim Crow laws, which forced segregation with separate drinking fountains, separate schools, and no inkling as to what it is to be an American.

Imagine living with that reproach, and how shameful and painful that would be. Even the Supreme Court ruled that facilities could be “separate but equal” in the Plessy vs. Ferguson case (Which was later overturned by Brown vs. Board). Even with the Brown case, banning de jour segregation, had no way of enforcing de facto integration. It wasn’t until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s that (some) voting rights were restored to Black Americans. The Civil Rights Act of 1965 banned racial discrimination, at least in a legal sense, but in reality some groups are still discriminated against when it comes to jobs, education, and housing.

Most recently, a trial was held in New York City challenging the constitutionality of the NYPD’s “stop and frisk” policy, concluding that they unfairly target people of Black and Latino heritage. *update: Stop and Frisk deemed unconstitutional* Racism, particularly anti-Black racism, is entrenched in our government and society. The worst discrimination seems to still be in the government and legal system; after all, it has been enforced that way since the constitution. Even though great progress has been made, there is no accounting for the gross overrepresentation of minority groups in the punishment system. It is almost worse that people at every level of government and law enforcement part take it in this discrimination in such a covert manner, and deny altogether any racial prejudice.

The punishment industry is clearly a way to continue the malevolent systems of oppression which society seems to attribute to the shameful chapters of the past. These injustices are done in such a surreptitious manner that much of the population does not see it as a racially driven form of oppression. Much of the population would never consider releasing millions of prisoners, or abolishing the prison system altogether. The general American public would not necessarily feel safe with convicted criminals living freely as they do.

I have to point out, this is also how the majority of Americans felt about Blacks in the 1800s and throughout the Jim Crow era. The criminalization of millions of law-breakers has instilled this horrible fear into society, not taking into account the fact that we are all human beings and possibly it is the gargantuan set of arbitrary rules that we should be fearful of. A a person who has committed a non-violent crime such as violating traffic laws or drug use shouldn’t have to live with a permanent stain on his or her record, regardless of race.

It may seem presumptuous to claim that the legal system causes similar detriment to criminals that slavery and Jim Crow did to Blacks, or that the prison system is a new form of slavery. However, taking into account the history of the United States, it is not completely unfounded. The United States legal system locks up more prisoners than any other country per capita, and increasingly more Black and Latino individuals. If this is the “land of the free,” it certainly doesn’t seem that way with over 2 million criminals incarcerated, making up almost 25% of the worlds population. As a society we need to be weary of trusting the objectivity of our government, and the methods of implementation used by law enforcement. If this type of racial and social injustice continues to drive the nation apart, we may be living in a modern day segregation era based on economics, politics, and race.


Davis, Angela. Are Prisons Obsolete? New York: Seven Stories Press, 2003.

McDermott, Rose. “The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil – By Philip Zimbardo.” Political Psychology 28.5 (2007): 644-646. Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection. Web. 13 Apr. 2013.

Simon, Jonathan. “Rise Of The Carceral State.” Social Research 74.2 (2007): 471-508. Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection. Web. 13 Apr. 2013

Linda Lobao, et al. “The Prison Industry: Carceral Expansion And Employment In U.S. Counties, 1969–1994.” Social Science Quarterly (Blackwell Publishing Limited) 85.1 (2004): 37-57. America: History and Life with Full Text. Web. 28 Feb. 2013.

Supreme Court Of The United States. “Gideon v. Wainwright” 327 U.S. 335. Web.

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November 2, 2013 · 6:09 pm



The Trans-Pacific Partnership, also known as the TPP, is a multi-national trade agreement that would link 12 nations’ economies. The deal includes 29 chapters, compiled mostly by corporate lawyers. Mr. Obama has pushed for further negotiations and a Fast Track to congress, during and despite the government shutdown. Many critics have speculated that parts of the TPP will violate the constitution in regards to fair treatment, due process, and privacy.

Dr. Margret Flowers is a board member of Healthcare-Now, co-director of Its Our Economy, and co-host of the independent news radio show Clearing The Fog. Flowers wrote an article for Al Jazeera in June about the TPP its potentially detrimental effects. Flowers points out that food safely and inspection, health care and medical supplies, as well as workers rights and conditions will be affected. The TPP is a “deal that is being secretly negotiated by The White House, with the help of more than 600 corporate advisors and Pacific Rim nations. While the TPP is being called a trade agreement, the US already has trade agreements covering 90 percent of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the countries involved in the talks” (Flowers 1) The US government already holds agreements with all of those nations, so why the need for another corporate benefitting, covetous ‘free trade’ agreement? The majority of the TPP is based on creating or changing laws to suit (some) US government and corporate needs.

The powerful and encompassing North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, already protects US corporate interests while giving free reign to hundreds of US companies from Canada to Mexico. The TPP would further benefit multi national corporations by restricting Internet privacy, increasing patent protections, and financial deregulation. Through extensive patent protections, the agreement could make medications more expensive or unavailable to people in poorer countries. Patents prevent companies from cheaper generic versions of medications. As far as health care and prescription costs, the US is already struggling with huge expenses because there is “no rational system for setting prices” and the TPP “will protect the medical industries and give them greater power to use their wealth and the rigged trade tribunal court system to protect their profits” (Flowers 4). The document will not be released to the public because the White House refuses to do so until it is signed into law, and Flowers urges her readers to do research, demand to see the document, and stop the agreement before it hurts people.

ABC News contributor Katie Cassidy reports that the TPP is a giant trade deal being negotiated by 12 nations and could “bring together the economies of the US, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, Chile, Canada, Mexico, and Peru- accounting for about a third of global economic output” (Cassidy 1). According to this article, NAFTA has produced $17 trillion for the US and the estimated worth of the TPP is $28 trillion. The deal could also boost Australia’s trade by delivering new markets, according to a statement by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). Cassidy shed a positive light on the deal, highlighting is potential economic benefits. Negotiators have been talking for three years, and they have discussed the influence of state owned enterprises, intellectual property and environment regulations.

Cassidy points out that even “Prime Minister Tony Abbot also appeared optimistic an agreement over the TPP could be finalized soon,” quoting Abbot as saying “Inevitably there are issues…but if you can come to a deal, everyone is better off.” Cassidy’s article does mention some concerns over the agreement from the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network’s Patricia Ranald, who said, “This agreement is not just about trade. It is actually about changing regulatory frameworks at the domestic level and the US is making these demands on behalf of its major industries and corporations.” The text is also largely private, and this is worrisome to some speculators.

Cassidy added a few dissenting opinions, but none that are substantial or based on actual evidence of the document. Nowhere in the article does is specifically explain the details in chapters that have been released or leaked. Cassidy does not elaborate on exactly how the TPP would bring together several economies and producing $28 trillion.

Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizens Trade Watch, did an interview with Amy Goodman on her news show Democracy Now!. Wallach says the TPP, often referred to by critics as “NAFTA on Steroids,” is a secretive document containing 29 chapters, only 5 of them relating to trade. The rest are about “handcuffing our domestic governments, limiting food safety, environmental standards, financial regulation, energy and climate policy, or establishing new powers for corporations.” A major concern for citizens is that the document is not being released to the public, and when it does go through congress, it would be limited to an up-or-down vote. The TPP has the capacity to change current laws, especially when giving individual corporations power. The “investor-state system” would allow corporations to sue governments in extrajudicial tribunals where corporate attorneys would act as judges (Wallach 3).

The agreement could also hinder countries from regulating tobacco and other environmental issues. A “corporate Trojan horse” is a way of looking at it because it gives a back door for American corporations into other countries’ economies. Wallach provided sources to find more information, including and

Each of these news outlets gave different facts to support their view, with ABC being the more mainstream, publically acceptable source. Regardless of political parties, the independent and less mainstream news sources are making is clear that the TPP is not really about Free Trade. If the corporations really believe in Free Market, why do they need gargantuan bills and trade agreements passed through senate to support them? Further, the fact that the US Chamber of Commerce and the president are pushing for Fast Track approval before the text has even been made public should be discerning. Once it does go through congress, they would not be able to alter it, and they would only be able to give an up or down vote.

A leaked portion of the agreement is similar to the SOPA bill and would impact copyright infringement and privacy. SOPA was successfully defeated in because millions of people and dozens of Internet servers united and essentially shut down the web in a boycott. Google, Wikipedia, Craigslist, and Amazon were a few of the websites that ‘went black’ last year in solidarity to protest the bill. SOPA would have criminalized streaming or copying copyrighted content. The right to privacy of United States citizens is ideally protected or implied in the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Ninth Amendments.

Nevertheless, governments, especially within the executive branch, are constantly trying to disregard these fundamental rights. In light of recent leaks by former National Security Administration systems administrator Edward Snowden, clearly no information is protected. The TPP is just another legislation that would not only benefit corporate interests, and most likely destroy local economies, but it tramples on constitutional rights to life, liberty and property. The secrecy and hastiness of the process of passing the agreement is undoubtedly without due process.

I wasn’t paying enough attention when NAFTA was created and passed. I wasn’t old enough. The general consensus at the time was that it would help promote fair trade, and possible benefit small countries. Plus, the words ‘free-trade’ are like a dog whistle to some Americans. But enough countries (especially in Latin America) have seen how destructive these policies can be. People are taking a lot of action to stop something that hasn’t even had mainstream news coverage. We don’t want another NAFTA!

I will post a later blog on the Zapatistas and Mexico’s resistance to NAFTA.

Sidlow, E., Henschen, B. (2012) Govt (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Wadsworth, Cenage Learning.

Flowers, Mary. (2013, June 17). Trans-Pacific Partnership undermines health system. Al Jazeera. Retrieved from

Cassidy, Katie. (2013, October 8). Trans-Pacific Partnership: Giant free-trade deal to link Asia-Pacific. ABC Online. Retrieved from

Wallach, Lori. (2013, October 4). A Corporate Trojan Horse: Obama Pushes Secretive TPP Trade Pact. Democracy Now!. Retrieved from

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Media critique, and analysis of the Trans-Pacific Partnership to be posted today.

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October 28, 2013 · 3:41 pm

Climate Change, Environmentalism

Since lengthy essays and outlines aren’t always fun to read, I will post a few slides from a presentation I did on basic facts on climate change.






I excluded some of the longer slides, with information, statistics, and science, but I will include this one, for satirical purposes:

politicians on climate change. Yes, these people actually are current or former congress members.

I really enjoy how the media actually frames this as a debate; putting most of the emphasis on whether human activities impact climate change or not. It is not as though there is a split debate about the fundamentals of climate change. There is a large body of evidence, with 97% of scientists agreeing on the idea that our climate is changing, our air and oceans are being polluted largely due to CO2 emissions. Then there is FOX news and a few scientists, meteorologists (you know, the people who read weather reports), and politicians who claim that any change in weather is due to the natural occurrences of the sun and moon, or my favorite, “God.”

Anyway, I feel strongly about calling to action, and we all know how to preserve our resources, recycle, etc. Unfortunately, that is almost all for naught considering the massive pollution and burning of fossil fuels that large corporations take part in, not to mention our government. Before the recent revelations of the NSA’s massive spying network thanks to Edward Snowden, a friend and I were cynically commenting on how much energy is wasted collecting all of our private data.

Honestly, why should I shut off my lights obsessively and conserve water (of course I still do) when our government is wasting millions of gallons of water, millions of trees, and tons of fossil fuels to fund their unconstitutional spying program?


We can, however, work to change policies and resist fracking and expansions of major pipelines. Maybe this can prevent more horrible disasters, poisoning of water sources, and devastating oil spills.

And of course, abolish the NSA.

Sources Cited:

Karina Dolores Hall Berry

Psychology and Political Science

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