Too Big To Jail

What’s worse than unjust and ineffective laws like the failed War on Drugs and the failed sanctions on Iran?

Unjust and ineffective laws that apply to ordinary folks, but not to banksters:

When the Justice Department announced its record $1.9 billion settlement against British bank HSBC last week, prosecutors called it a powerful blow to a dysfunctional institution accused of laundering money for Iran, Libya and Mexico’s murderous drug cartels.

But to some former federal prosecutors, it was only the latest case of the government stopping short of bringing criminal money laundering charges against a big bank or its executives, at least in part on the rationale that such prosecutions could be devastating enough to cause such banks to fail.

They say it sounds a lot like the “too big to fail” meme that kept big but sickly banks alive on the support of taxpayer-funded bailouts. In these cases, they call it, “Too big to jail.”

This stings. It should sting anyone who cares about the idea of equality in front of the law, anyone who cares about the basic rule of law, anyone who doesn’t want to see their society devolve into a festering pool of feudalism.

According to the most recent data, there were 197,050 sentenced prisoners under federal jurisdiction of which 94,600 were serving time for drug offenses.There were 1,362,028 sentenced prisoners under state jurisdiction of which 237,000 were serving time for drug offenses. That’s over 300,000 individuals serving time currently for drugs offenses, in addition to over one million currently on probation. Now I don’t agree with the War on Drugs at all. But big banks are deemed too “systemically important” to be held to the same standard as the huge and disproportionately black population of low-level drug users.

BlackPrisoners

If the Drug War laws don’t apply to the big banks — if Wall Street bankers who have broken the law can’t go to prison too — then how is incarcerating low-level drug users really much different to chattel slavery?

And not only do private prison companies pocket massive profits from the taxpayers’ purse for running the prisons, but prisoners are a pool of ultra-cheap indentured labour.

As Todd Curl notes:

Prisons in the United States used to be institutions of actual reform and rehabilitation. Men who entered a prison, would often learn a trade and have a usable skill to earn a legitimate living upon release. The recidivism rates have sharply increased as job and education programs within prisons–especially private prisons–have steadily declined. This is not to say that skills are not acquired in these private prisons, quite the contrary. In many of these private prisons, inmates are contracted as telemarketers, among other things, for many large corporations. These prisoners can earn as much as 75 cents an hour for their job–sometimes under 40 cents. What’s the payoff one might ask? For one, corporations get very cheap—third world cheap—labor that cannot unionize, cannot call in sick and cannot complain without fear of time added to their sentence or retaliation from guards who overworked and underpaid themselves, and risk losing their livelihood if an “uppity” prisoner refuses their indentured corporate servitude.

The War on Drugs is descending from tragedy into farce. Poor black drug users are fair game for the slave labour business. Rich Wall Street bankers who launder drug money? Nope.

In May I asked:

Have the 2008 bailouts cemented a new feudal aristocracy of bankers, financiers and too-big-to-fail zombies, alongside a serf class that exists to fund the excesses of the financial and corporate elite?

Only time will tell.

Time is telling.

Once a certain segment of society becomes protected from criminal liability, that society has travelled a long way down the road to feudalism, to a caste system, to serfdom.

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The Failed War on Drugs

Provided by onlinecriminaljusticedegree.com

President Choomwagon

President Obama’s teenage gang called themselves the Choom Gang, choom being their slang word for marijuana. They developed a marijuana-oriented culture:

As a member of the Choom Gang, Barry Obama was known for starting a few pot-smoking trends. The first was called “TA,” short for “total absorption.” To place this in the physical and political context of another young man who would grow up to be president, TA was the antithesis of Bill Clinton’s claim that as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford he smoked dope but never inhaled.

Along with TA, Barry popularized the concept of “roof hits”: when they were chooming in the car all the windows had to be rolled up so no smoke blew out and went to waste; when the pot was gone, they tilted their heads back and sucked in the last bit of smoke from the ceiling.

When you were with Barry and his pals, if you exhaled precious pakalolo (Hawaiian slang for marijuana, meaning “numbing tobacco”) instead of absorbing it fully into your lungs, you were assessed a penalty and your turn was skipped the next time the joint came around.

They even called their Mystery-Machine-style VW van the Choomwagon:

I don’t have a problem with Obama — or anyone else — smoking dope. As far as I am concerned, consenting adults have the liberty to do whatever they like so long as they don’t hurt others, or take their liberty or property.

I don’t have a problem with Obama — or anyone else — defining themselves by smoking dope.

I have a problem with hypocrisy.

Not only did Obama use marijuana in his youth, he also used cocaine, and reportedly crack. Today around 400,000 Americans are jailed for non-violent drug related offenses. That’s 400,000 outside of the workforce who could be out working and producing, instead of burdening the taxpayer, who pays to create profits for well-connected corporations in the prison-industrial complex.

Put more simply, there are more black people in prison as a result of the drug war today than there were slaves in 1850.

What’s President Obama — as a black man and a drug user — doing about that? There are still thousands of people being arrested for nonviolent drug offenses who are facing life in prison.

President Obama’s signature  policy in this area has been the Fair Sentencing Act which reduced the previous 100:1 sentencing discrepancy between crack (predominantly used by blacks) and powder cocaine to 18:1, as well as eliminating the five-year mandatory minimum sentence for simple possession of crack cocaine. So now the courts will be 18 times tougher on urban blacks using crack than they are on Wall Street traders (etc) using powder cocaine? Am I supposed to think that that is better?

No. He is willing to keep jailing nonviolent citizens who did nothing more than ingest or possess a narcotic, and deny them their liberty. He is willing to enforce racist laws and policies that lock up and criminalise a disproportionately high number of minorities, at a huge cost to the taxpayer. He is willing to deny medical marijuana patients the medicine their doctors have prescribed. He is willing to maintain the drug laws and the drug war, that (lest we forget) are the thing that are empowering and enriching the Mexican drug smuggling cartels and urban criminal gangs, and creating huge violence and thousands of deaths throughout Latin America.

As Milton Friedman wrote:

If you look at the drug war from a purely economic point of view, the role of the government is to protect the drug cartel. That’s literally true.

There is no logical basis for the prohibition of marijuana. Our failure to successfully enforce these laws is responsible for the deaths of thousands of people in Colombia. I haven’t even included the harm to young people. It’s absolutely disgraceful to think of picking up a 22-year-old for smoking pot. More disgraceful is the denial of marijuana for medical purposes.

But the thing that tears me up most is the rank hypocrisy. President Obama is a hypocrite who won’t even fight to legalise nonviolent behaviour that he himself proudly and overtly practised. If only he hadn’t been so lucky; those unjust drug laws that he won’t fight to repeal would likely have prevented him from ever being President, and he might instead be on probation working at Footlocker.

A President with integrity or compassion would fight tooth and nail to end this. Ron Paul — who has never used illegal recreational drugs — has vowed that as President he will pardon nonviolent drug offenders, give them back their liberty, and the right to keep the fruits of their labour, and save taxpayers a $15 billion-per-year bundle of cash by ending the waste and destruction of the war on drugs. Drug abuse should be treated as a social-medical problem. The war on drugs is an economic drain and a threat to our liberty.