American Chicken Hawk Militarists Boldly Lead the Charge–From Behind

President Donald Trump arrives at Newark International airport
Washington’s illustrious company of Chicken Hawk Militarists, war-mongering politicians who didn’t actually do any military service, has a new Chicken Hawk in Chief, President Donald J. Trump. It’s a dubious honor.

The Chicken Hawk, the Most Ignominious Bird of All

The military service records–or lack thereof–of American war-mongering politicians are an excellent place to scrutinize their particular kinds of patriotism. The patriotic sentiments of those lacking in military experience are usually not of the Nathan Hale “I-only-regret-that-I-have-but-one-life-to-give- for-my-country” variety. The most common type of patriotism to be found among your non-combatant militarist politicians is of the vocal variety. Their mouths are admirably patriotic, the rest of their makeup not so much. These reluctant warriors who strongly support military action everywhere, all the time, yet went out of their way to avoid military service when of age are aptly referred to as “Chicken Hawks.” The term has a nice ring to it and an interesting set of connotations.

Note: Not all public figures who prefer sending other people to fight for their beliefs are politicians. There are also dozens of them in the right-wing media.

First and Foremost

The country’s foremost Chicken Hawk, until President Trump earned the crown, was President G.W. Bush’s vice president, Dick Cheney, the rabidly pro-war, multi-deferment politico notorious for his bold “I had other priorities” pronouncement. As if those other 58,000 Americans–eight of whom were women–whose names are engraved on Washington’s black marble wall didn’t also have “other priorities.” Or perhaps they freely chose to die in the Vietnam war.

But Cheney is not alone. The majority of the leading neo-con lights also exempted themselves from national service. They, too, had other priorities. If you google “Chicken Hawks” you will find long lists of shirkers. Though the original best list, published by the New Hampshire Gazette, “The Nation’s Oldest Newspaper, and posted on the web for years as the “Chickenhawk Hall of Shame,” has somehow morphed into an error message. Currently the most complete list of Chicken Hawks, both in politics and the media, is at http://www.awolbush.com/whoserved.html. In fairness, this list looks a bit cherry picked, as virtually all of the Republicans are listed as “did not serve,” but nearly all the Democrats are veterans.

What do these Chicken Hawk dudes have to suffer in order to accede to positions of high responsibility–and privilege–in the American government, anyway? Essentially it’s just the exigencies of the campaign trail and countless town meetings, political debates, boring hotels and the occasional impertinent interviewer. Demanding, certainly, but nothing like the Ho Chi Minh Trail nor the Hanoi Hilton.

But let’s look on the bright side. There’s a rich vein of humor running through the Chicken Hawk saga. Here’s a comment from “eastvan” on The Daily Kos in 2007:

And lets not forget Bill Kristol… He managed to dodge one war so succesfully he has no problem encouraging others to die for his beliefs. As an NCO involved in recruit courses ( I’m teaching one now) there is nothing I would like more than to see a platoon full of Yellow Elephants show up. I keep waiting, but it never happens. Love to see Selective Service become so selective it only drafts out of gated communities.

There’s a New Chicken Hawk in Chief in Town

Now President Donald Trump, who evaded military service because of alleged “heel spurs,” has become the new highest-profile Chicken Hawk. It was James Fallows, veteran correspondent for The Atlantic, who first dubbed Trump in his 7 August 2017 article there, as “Chicken Hawk in Chief.” Fallows, who puts his finger on the least endearing trait of the Chicken Hawks–their facile willingness to criticize people who did go to war–  sums it up wryly:

Through the murk, though, one line shines bright and clear. Even as the United States becomes more and more a “chickenhawk nation”—always at war, but with only a tiny sliver of the country doing the fighting—it’s the line that individual chickenhawks should respect. No one wants to hear them criticizing others for their war decisions, not even via Twitter from the golf course.

Though he certainly didn’t want to be one of them President Trump has eloquent words for America’s “fallen heroes.” This is from his remarks at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 28, 2018:

Our fallen heroes have not only written our history they have shaped our destiny. They saved the lives of the men and women with whom they served. They cared for their families more than anything in the world, they loved their families. They inspired their communities…

Trump being Trump, however, he follows this tender eulogy with an oafish  advertisement for himself:

Happy Memorial Day! Those who died for our great country would be very happy and proud at how well our country is doing today. Best economy in decades, lowest unemployment numbers for Blacks and Hispanics EVER (& women in 18years), rebuilding our Military and so much more. Nice!

How Low Can You Go?

Perhaps the most glaringly crass example of Chicken Hawk practice came from Donald Trump himself, in 2015 before he was President, when he attacked John McCain’s war record. McCain was a Navy pilot in Vietnam, was shot down, had both arms and a leg broken, was butt stroked and bayonetted and spent five and a half years in North Vietnamese prisoner of war camps being tortured regularly. When his Vietnamese captors learned his father was the commander of the US fleet they offered to release him. McCain refused to be released unless all the other American POWs were also sent home. Trump, who had spent his life, including the Vietnam war years, speculating, going bankrupt and “grabbing pussy,” was reported as boldly saying: “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured? I like people who weren’t captured.”

The Guardian quoted former Texas governor Rick Perry at the time as saying this verbal attack on McCain was “a new low in US politics.” They also quoted other Republican notables:

South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham, a friend of McCain, has been a vociferous critic of Trump. On Twitter, he said: “If there was ever any doubt that Donald Trump should not be our commander in chief, this stupid statement should end all doubt.”

The most pointed response came from the Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal, who tweeted: “After Donald Trump spends six years in a POW camp, he can weigh in on John McCain’s service.”

The John McCain/Chicken Hawks saga has a lugubrious post script. Global News.ca reported on May 10, 2018 that a White House official mocked Sen. John McCain, who is battling brain cancer, a day after McCain voiced his opposition to President Donald Trump‘s decision to nominate Gina Haspel to lead the CIA.

“It doesn’t matter, he’s dying anyway,” communications aide Kelly Sadler said during a closed-door meeting, The Hill reported first, citing a source familiar with the meeting.

Who Pays the Tab for Chicken Hawk Militarism?

The casualties pay the tab most directly. The militarists give no thought to the human cost of war, both on the side of their enemies and their own. Much emphasis is placed on civilian dead and wounded, and that’s fair enough. But let’s not forget that soldiers and sailors are also human beings, with all that implies. They’ve got mothers and fathers, wives and children, friends and neighbors, projects and aspirations. In short, they’ve got lives. Most of them participating in wars would rather not be there. Many were draftees, others are economic slaves to war. Some of them are in it to get an education; some of them get a flag-draped casket.

The most serious aspect of all this isn’t necessarily about non-veteran politicians voting for military solutions. It’s about them wrapping themselves in the flag and using “patriotism” as a blunt instrument against more valid opponents who have lived the realities of war in their own flesh and minds. It’s about arrogance, willful ignorance and infirm self satisfaction. It’s about their doubtful legitimacy. It’s about their style-yes, style is important–as truculent dwarves, relying on bluster and fear mongering instead of anything that might pass for thinking, working from dubious foregone conclusions, blind and deaf to human suffering. Of course, the civilian control of the military is an essential component of democracy. The question is, which civilians? Certainly not the mindless, flag-waving, know-nothing civilians who are in charge today.

 

Read more rantings in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.
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American Democracy: The Art of Winning

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By Hook or by Crook

In the mid-seventies, when they started building underground parking lots in Granada, whenever I would drive into town I would have to park on the outskirts and walk into the center. On the walk I would pass the old Pharmacy Faculty, which had been moved to a new building and replaced in the old one by Political Science. So I’m walking up that little-frequented street one day and I notice the sign over the door. It says “Facultad de Sociología y Ciencias Políticas.” That was when it hit me. The prevailing political model, which the United States has exported all over the world, calling it “democracy,” is not about noble ideas and the fight for human rights. It’s about sociology: opinion polls and pandering to lowbrow voters and powerful interests. It’s about opportunism, not idealism, as they would have us believe.

Where do the sociologists fit into this scheme of things? They design and run polls to determine scientifically what it is that voters want, no matter how insane or banal those desires may be. Election shifters have no need to introduce voters to any higher ideas or projects for their intellectual or moral advancement. Their mission is just to promise the marks the pre-digested kibble of advanced consumer society and win elections.

The Benefits of Dumbing Down

This scheme of things has another advantage. It guarantees the gradual stagnation of citizens’ thoughts and aspirations for a better society or for any suggestion of collective solutions. (The dreaded socialism! The only Americans who benefit from Socialist programs are members of Congress and the Armed Forces. They get the works, notably health and dental care, and living pensions paid for at the taxpayers’ expense.) The end result of this process of stagnation is–in case you hadn’t noticed–the dumbing down of the majority of the country’s unfortunate citizens. This is how the United States got presidents like Harry Truman, George W. Bush (and his expert and essential puppeteer, Dick Cheney), and Donald Trump.

Other positive aspects of the dumbing down of American citizens are the creation of thousands of inmates for the country’s for-profit prisons and a massive pool of recruits to feed the armed services.

The Unique Objective

The only objective of American politicians is winning elections, and at that they are masters. Winning is the be-all and end-all that justifies all means, however sordid. Candidates in federal elections adhere to agendas that have been designed for them by election experts, including the essential sociologists. Though these agendas are nowadays generally financed by corporate sponsors, and sold as programs to benefit the voters, the truth is that they are designed uniquely to win elections.

Where do ethics enter into the equation? They don’t. What enters into the equation is expediency and adherence to a pre-determined ideological agenda tailored to the needs of the big-bucks sponsors. That’s the desired end. Whether the means of achieving it are ethical or not is irrelevant.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that the United States government is no longer a democracy. A regime that was always predatory has morphed over the past couple of decades into a total corporatocracy with the classic corporate values. The irony of this chilling fact is that it was achieved through entirely legal means. What is meant by “legal,” anyway? It means “in accordance with the law.” Who makes the federal laws of the United States of America? Who legalizes all the clearly anti-democratic pieces of this puzzle? The United States Congress, the House of Representatives and the Senate. There, you see, it’s not that complicated, after all.

For the full list of election manipulation devices that have been legalized by the House and the Senate you would have to ask a member of Congress or a veteran lobbyist. But here are a few examples to initiate your list:

  • Superdelegates
    superdelegates600In American politics, a superdelegate is an unpledged delegate to the Democratic National Convention who is seated automatically and decides for themselves for whom they vote. These Democratic Party superdelegates include elected officials and party activists and officials. They are free to support any candidate for the presidential nomination. There were 437 DNC members who were superdelegates at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. With these numbers, they can usually sway the election of a Democratic Party preferred candidate, though in 2016 they missed.
  • Gerrymandering
    Gerrymandering, in its simplest form, is the re-drawing of Congressional
    Districts to include voters favorable to the candidate’s party and exclude
    those who would be more inclined to vote against them. Incumbent
    members of Congress can use this mechanism to virtually assure their
    re-election.
  • Bargaining for Industrial and Institutional Campaign Contributions
    The United States Supreme Court held (5–4) on January 21, 2010, that the free speech clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution prohibits the government from restricting independent expenditures for communications by nonprofit corporations, for-profit corporations, labor unions, and other associations. This decision effectively equated corporations with private citizens when it came to campaign donations, thus opening the floodgates to the virtual purchasing of elected officials. 
  • Super Pacs
    What they don’t achieve through direct campaign financing, corporate and other institutional interests can manage through the use of super PACs, which can raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, associations and individuals, then spend those sums to overtly advocate for or against political candidates. In any case, it’s clear that the vias for buying election results are wide open.

Once Upon a Time

I once actually believed that there was a time when American politics was about brilliant and conscientious politicians who had ideas and ideals and wanted to promote them for the good of society. To find that time you had to go quite a ways back, maybe to Abraham Lincoln or maybe even George Washington. Or perhaps not even Washington, who was probably conditioned by being perhaps the richest man in the colonies, thanks to Martha’s extensive land–and slave–holdings.

However that may be, I am still so naive that I would like to believe that at one time or another there had been an element of decency in American politics, some remnant of consideration for the commonwealth. Maybe Franklin D. Roosevelt embodied some of that. But I’m still not sure. What I do know for certain is that modern American politics–and by extension, most of the rest of the world’s “democracies”–is bereft of any hint of ideas or idealism. Anybody who believes otherwise is a dupe and a sap, I fear

Today’s aspirant to public office doesn’t need ideals. All he needs are corporate sponsors, the ability to read a script and a team of sociologists and other “elections experts.” As for “the ability to read…” Donald Trump has shown us that even that is not absolutely essential. This atypical President is not alone. He’s accompanied on his belicose magical mystery tour by many cohorts of a similar ilk. It will be terrifying to see where they take their country–and the world.

People who write articles, if they want to maintain their readership, are advised to end their pieces on an upbeat note. I would love to be able to do that. But I can’t.

Read more rantings in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.
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How Drones Have Made War Fun and Easy–3/3

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The Abuse of Power Is a Downward Spiral

What we have seen in the transition from the Obama to the Trump administrations is that the abuse of power under one administration leads to the abuse of power under another. Trump may be driving it more recklessly, but he’s still operating a machine the Obama administration built.

During his last year in office, responding to increasing criticism, Obama gave a speech attempting to clarify the boundaries of his drone target selection and his “signature killings,” based exclusively on behaviors observed on the ground considered indicative of possible terrorist activity, whatever that means.

“America’s actions are legal,” the president asserted of the drone war, which he claimed was being “waged proportionally, in last resort, and in self-defense.” Self-defense? Obama might be able to claim the self-defense justification if he were killing enemies in the heat of battle in Ohio or Utah, but Iraq or Somalia? Not quite. This is just another case of clear and present bullshit. Continue reading “How Drones Have Made War Fun and Easy–3/3”

Just Say Goodbye — 1/3

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Are You Fed Up?

So, you’re finally fed up with the seemingly endless string of cynical,  self-serving, and ruthless magnates, politicians, and generals, and the infirm society they have created for you and your fellow Americans.  You’re frustrated, ashamed and depressed. You really want out.  You’re convinced, ready to make your move.

Would you like to hear a few suggestions from someone who’s been through it, and who has met a lot of people over the years who have achieved the goal that you aspire to? Maybe I can help you out. Expatriating one’s self is like any other worthwhile project; it requires some planning. You don’t just pack your bags. First you think the whole thing through, consider your alternatives, make preparations, and cultivate contacts, both in your home and destination countries—you’re going to need all the friends and business contacts you can get.

Heady Stuff

This is one of the most exciting and rewarding times in the process of leaving. You’re actually beginning to act, to make choices, to savor the taste of change. This is the stage of active dreaming, and it’s heady stuff. Everything is possible. You get to choose your destination, make work plans, marshall your resources and do endless research on the Web. During this stage you can permit yourself the luxury of taking it easy and making careful plans.  Now that your mind is made up, there’s no urgency. More-careful preparation will save you surprises down the road. And you’re lucky, because leaving your country is not a cataclysmic, all-or-nothing act.  You get to test the water before diving in.

Be Discreet

First of all, be discreet. Do your best not to publicize your move as a protest or flight from an insufferable situation.  That will only complicate matters.  The fewer explanations you have to give, the better. And don’t worry about the legal aspects; they will sort themselves out in time.  This is, after all, a long-term project.  I arrived in Spain to stay at the end of 1968, but I didn’t renounce my American citizenship and take Spanish nationality till the early 1980’s. It was a 15-year process.  If they had asked me in the beginning if I wanted to become Spanish, I would have said no. I wasn’t ready yet. But, little by little, the country and I began to understand and appreciate one another, and over time—a matter of years—a bond was created which I wouldn’t trade for anything. So don’t be impetuous.  Don’t try to renounce your citizenship.  Under current American policy they won’t let you do that, anyway.  Don’t burn your passport. Don’t burn your bridges. You’re an idealist, but you’re not stupid.

Shall I give it to you straight in two words?  Just leave. Come up with a project which will take you abroad. Do your homework. Make a plan. Then do your best to carry it out. It doesn’t even have to be long-term or definitive. Make your first goal something feasible: “I’d like to spend a year teaching English in Italy.”  Why not? Go for it! As my old boss, Charlie Craig, used to say, “What’s the worst that can happen? You’ll have to go back home and get a job.” When I came to Spain I had no idea that I would spend the rest of my life here.  My initial goal was to stay out of the U.S. for five years, an objective which seemed to me wildly extravagant at the time. That was 50 years ago. One thing led to another and the next thing I knew I had a wife and family, a house and garden, dozens of Spanish friends, then a whole clan in Spain, and enough animals to fill the Ark.

The “Business Plan”

A candidate for expatriation needs something very like a business plan, and if you’ve ever written one, you’ll recognize the similarities immediately.  Though you’re not primarily interested in profit, you’ve got a project and you’ve got a product.  Your project is expatriation and your product is you. You’ve got some resources and a timetable. You may be surprised to hear that your most important resource probably isn’t economic. It’s probably moral; call it conviction, desire, or aspiration. Mere money won’t get you where you want to go. You need vision, heart and a sound value system.

Though it’s a spiritual endeavor you’re embarking on, your expatriation project lends itself perfectly to a businesslike SWOT analysis. You’ve got Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and

cover-turncoat-final1_187Threats, and they can be written down and analyzed on a four-square matrix. This simple exercise is not only fun, but it will permit you to get a clearer idea of what you’re about to do, what your chances are of success, and maybe even how to head off disaster. How to go about it? Look it up in Google.

Next, in Part II, How to Get Started
Read the full story in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.
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The U.S. American White Trash Values Are Mutating and Migrating

America, Your Deodorant Is Letting You Down

“Poor White Trash,” was originally a despective term for impoverished,  landless sharecroppers who differed from black slaves only in their skin color. They were white, and that whiteness spared them from being considered–and considering themselves–the lowest scum on the earth.

They were unwashed, undernourished and unlettered. But, by God, they were white. That gave them an ascendency over black people: they could kill them with impunity. The name for that time-honored southern tradition is lynching, and its legacy lives on in various forms, in police forces, in the penal system, in education and employment… Continue reading “The U.S. American White Trash Values Are Mutating and Migrating”

USA Driven by a Familiar Fear: The Russians Are Coming!–1/2

100  Years of Using Fear of Russians to Keep American Citizens in Line

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My opinion—and I think I can sustain it with evidence–is that fear is the principal factor that has given rise to the United States’s world view since the early 20th century, and that fear still underlies much of what official America thinks and does both at home and—especially–abroad.

First a word about linguistcs. It’s neither fair nor correct to use the term “Americans” carelessly and all inclusively, as if the United States were made up of a homogenized, monolithic population. No, there are many flavors of Americans, each with its own political philosophy, from semi-literate, gun-toting  white supremacists and Nazis to dedicated radical leftists and, in the middle, a great grey mass of well-meaning, faith-driven folks who just believe what they’re told to believe. And that’s the problem—what they’re told to believe.

It’s a Pyramid

At the top of this tutti-frutti pyramid are the Americans in Charge (AiC): big businessmen (including a surprising number of psychotic billionaires with extravagant political agendas), a truculent, predatory military-industrial complex bent on world domination (euphemistically, in their own words, “full spectrum dominance”) and a political class the likes of which we have never seen before in terms of cynicism, opportunism and utter lack of human values. At the top of the pyramid reigns a louche, narcissistic and infantiloid maniac, the paradigm of ignorance and arrogance in a world endowed today with a surfeit of maniacs.

So, what exactly do the Americans fear? The answer to this question comes in pyramid form, too. Let’s start from the top down. The Americans in Charge (AiC, see above) since the early 20th century all fear the power of a better idea. (Americans used to be fond of saying, “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.” That was when they built better mousetraps. Now that Slovakia builds better mousetraps that old saying has fallen somewhat into disuse.)

The Better Idea Looked Dangerous

That better idea reared its head in 1917, after centuries of tyrannical Tsarist rule in Russia, with the socialist October Revolution led by Vladimir Lenin. There followed a civil war between Lenin’s Bolsheviks and a coalition of monarchists, capitalists and Menchevik socialists. Eight foreign countries, including Britain, France and half a dozen other countries belonging to the World War I Allied armies, also intervened against Lenin’s forces, but to no avail. The war was resolved in 1923 in favor of the Bolsheviks after six years and a toll of between seven and twelve million casualties, mostly civilians.

At that crucial point in the early 20th century the world was weary of rule by European royal autocrats and American robber barons. It was ripe for more egalitarian governments. In those days, before Soviet communism had revealed its dark side, many world citizens aspired to imitate the solutions of the recently-created Soviet Union for a fairer distribution of the wealth of nations.

Institutional Fear Triggers Overwhelming Responses

In America there was a short history of labor activism before the 1920s. The ultimate response to these inconveniences to business as usual was the Haymarket Square Massacre at a rally of leftist demonstrators in Chicago who were demanding an eight-hour day. Someone threw a bomb that killed seven police officers and at least four civilians and, though it was never made clear who was responsible for the bomb, of the eight defendants one committed suicide and four were hanged. Six years later in 1893 Illinois’s new governor, John Peter Altgeld, pardoned the remaining defendants and criticized the trial.

It was events like this and the deadly stalking of the International Workers of the World (IWW, the Wobblies) that set the scene for the enhanced persecution of the left, then in the context of the post-World-War-I nationalist hysteria and the Russian Revolution. These events were referred to subsequently as “the first Red Scare” (1917-1920). The IWW, founded as an industrial union in 1905 in Chicago, grew to 150,000 members by 1917. Its founders included some of the great names in the history of progressive America: William D. (“Big Bill”) HaywoodJames ConnollyDaniel De LeonEugene V. DebsThomas HagertyLucy ParsonsMary Harris “Mother” JonesFrank BohnWilliam TrautmannVincent Saint JohnRalph Chaplin, and many others. (Thank you, Wikipedia.)

More Gratuitous Repression: The Palmer Raids

American big business, which had enjoyed a free hand (and wielded it) against workers and unions before 1917, was quick to perceive the threat of losing control and responded in panic mode. The Attorney General, A. Mitchell Palmer (with the inestimable help of his promising protégé, 24-year-old J. Edgar Hoover), carried out in November of 1919 and January of 1920 the so-called Palmer Raids to capture, arrest and deport suspected radical leftists and anarchists. Palmer’s attempt to suppress left-wing organizations was characterized by inflammatory rhetoric, illegal searches and seizures, unwarranted arrests and detentions, and the deportation of some 500 “alleged” radicals and anarchists.  There would have been many more deportations if the U.S. Secretary of Labor, William B. Wilson, had not intervened on behalf of workers, who had neither been tried nor convicted of anything.

Coming soon Chapter 2/2

Read more rants in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.

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The United States of America Is the Only Country in the World That Sentences Children to Die in Prison

 

Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.

Goddamn, boys and girls live precarious lives in the U.S.A today. If they don’t fall victims to regularly scheduled school shootings or pederast clergymen, they are processed into commercially valuable commododities by corrupt juvenile judges and sold to private prisons. The shooting deaths at school might be attributed to crazies with constitutionally-sanctioned access to guns, and perverted priests are old hat, but the sale of children to private prisons is uniquely sinister. This cynical practice is perpetrated by subjects–we’re talking about judges–who are bound by public trust to guarantee the safety and wellbeing of their country’s young people.

The betrayal of that obligation in order to ruin young lives is, I submit, a crime as serious as homicide. Violation of public trust, like election tampering, is an issue that touches the very DNA of a democratic society. A country without honest and trustworthy judicial authorities and free and fair elections has no right to call itself a democracy.

Kids for Cash

I refer to the 2008 Kids for Cash case in which two Pennsylvania juvenile court judges were convicted of accepting kickbacks from a “prominent” real estate developer for unfairly sentencing children to imprisonment in his two for-profit juvenile prisons. The  judges, Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan, not only provided the new prisons with some 2,400 children for profit, but were instrumental in using their influence to have the existing juvenile facility discredited and the new ones constructed.

The “crimes” for which children as young as 13, first offenders, were accused of by the corrupt judges were as trivial as making fun of a school principal on Myspace.com, entering a vacant building or shoplifting DVDs from Wal-Mart. And thanks to a judicial twist called “indefinite probation” the young inmates were subject to periodic behavior reviews which could extend their sentences up to seven years. Probation officers actually had their own offices in the district’s schools to monitor students.

In the end, after a class-action suit filed by the Philadelfia-based Juvenile Law Center, it was established that the two judges received some $2.6 million in “finders’ fees” for providing children for the private prisons. When the trial was over all the children had their convictions overturned and expunged from their records, which is not to say they got off easy. After their years of harrowing incarceration 66% of them never went back to school. As for the crooked judges, they are currently in prison themselves. Ciavarella was additionally indicted for racketeering, a crime in which prosecutors said the former judge used children “as pawns to enrich himself.” Ciavarella was imprisoned for 28 years. Conahan got 17 and a half.

Corrupt Judge as Civic Hero

Ironically, before the scandal broke, “President Judge Ciavarella” was lionized in the community both by school authorities and parents whose children were not imprisoned  for his “zero tolerance” policy and dispensation of virtually automatic prison sentences for petty crimes committed by children. (Everybody wants zero tolerance for other people’s children.) Ciavarella was a popular speaker every year for two decades at school assemblies all over the district, where he promised unabashedly that the students would be subject to rough justice.

Even without the payment-for-children aspect of the Kids for Cash case, the popularity of “zero-tolerance” is still responsible for exaggeratedly severe prison sentences for young people all over the country. Zero tolerance is the name for a policy that sprang from the rich compost of authoritarianism prevalent in post-911 America. It holds no regard for human rights nor extenuating circumstances such as poverty or childhood abuse. In most cases it prohibits judges from exercising discretion. The sentences are blindly mandated by law.

The Damage Done

The damage done to children, families, schools and the society at large is incalculable. The permanent presence of parole officers, with offices inside schools, is an ominous
precedent in the schools of a democratic society, just one more Orwellian oppressive measure that Americans are learning to accept as normal. What’s next, political
commisars to prevent deviant thinking in schools? Mercenary army recruiters? Gun shows?

For more than a century the United States was the world leader in lynchings. It’s not a coincidence that the majority of these kids who receive life no-parole sentences are African Americans. The well-oiled school-to-prison pipeline affects young black men with an overall incarceration risk that is six to eight times higher than young whites.

Kids for Cash is Just the Tip of the America’s Injustice Iceberg

The Kids for Cash case is just one example of  the ill treatment of young people under United States law. The U.S. is, in fact, the only country in the world whose legislation forsees the possibility of defendants under the age of 18 being incarcerated on a life-no-parole basis. They will stay in prison until they die. Today there approximately 2,500 of them in this situation in American prisons. How is this abuse of power possible in “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” unless that moniker is just a publicity slogan not subject to the laws of truth in advertising.

We shouldn’t be surprised though. Of the 193 United Nations member countries there are only two that have not ratified the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child: Somalia and the United States of America.

More information:

The Kids for Cash case gave rise to some excellent documentaries. The first of these cited here is a fascinating 50-minute interview with the documentary film maker, Robert May: https://youtu.be/mVzSe2TQ3d0

 

And this one is his Kids for Cash documentary: https://youtu.be/vxpNynnYwC0

Kids Serve LIFE in Prison, the story of Kenneth Young. This one will shake you: https://youtu.be/4_RSz_Rq3cg
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Read more ranting in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.

Thanks for sharing and commenting.