Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Hard War Against Disposable Youth

This is shocking but not really surprising: Baltimore teenagers appear to have been deliberately set up by government officials and cops on Monday for purposes of accelerating the school-to-prison pipeline, transforming it into a virtual downhill luge event of Olympic Malthusian proportions.

The ruling cartel seized upon a rumor of a "purge" of the police department by roving street gangs in the wake of Freddie Gray's funeral, and got the bright idea of closing the schools early and cancelling the public transportation that is the only way home for many of the kids. Instead of being greeted by school buses, students were greeted by a phalanx of cops in riot gear.

And what a surprise when the kids reacted by fighting back and breaking stuff. It's been a made-for-cable TV spectacle to make the rest of the world forget that a man had died in police custody for the crime of making eye contact with cops and then having the audacity to run away from them. It made the rest of the world forget that city and state officials have stalled on releasing an autopsy report, lest it foment further unrest. Lest it make them look bad.

Baltimore is only the latest, and so far the largest, front in the ongoing "hard war against disposable youth," as explained by writer and social critic Henry Giroux of McMaster University. Just days before the latest outbreak of state-instigated urban violence in Maryland, Henry had sent me a link to a recent CBC radio interview and SPUR talk he gave in Toronto. Listen to the whole thing in the context of Baltimore, and everything becomes disturbingly crystal-clear.

There is both a soft war and hard war against youth. The soft war, waged by the free market and the advertising industry, is an insidious way to infantilize young people, teaching them to become consumers instead of socially responsible citizens.

The hard war is a means of trapping them in the Youth Criminal Control Complex -- "a site of terminal exclusion" --  when they are deemed by cruel design to have become "failed consumers." This is not hyperbole. Every year, 500,000 young people are imprisoned, out of the 2.5 million who are arrested. By the time they reach the age of 23, one-third of Americans are arrested for a crime.

Using the tried and true neoliberal tradition of never letting a crisis go to waste, Maryland Gov. Larry "Law & Order" Hogan promptly suspended Habeas Corpus in the name of protecting the public from the public. More than 200 protesters arrested for disorderly conduct and other relatively minor offenses are being held on high bail that they can't possibly meet. One youth charged with theft, rioting and disorderly conduct is being held in lieu of $500,000 bail. Others, including first time offenders and even journalists, remain jailed because they are unable to pay a cash bond of $100,000. This, while the police officers temporarily suspended from duty while the death of Freddie Gray is being investigated, remain free while drawing their paychecks.

Once the Republican governor eventually rescinds his emergency order, the backlog of defendants awaiting bail hearings and arraignment will be a feature, not a bug, of how punishment is meted out to poor people.

"The plight of the outcast has expanded to include a whole generation," Giroux observes in the CBC program. 

And the race to the bottom (or off the rails) of the Malthusian Luge Run is proceeding at breakneck speed, with the US going for the gold for highest death rates and most rampant child poverty in the civilized world. Eduardo Porter lays out the grisly details:
American babies born to white, college-educated, married women survive as often as those born to advantaged women in Europe. It’s the babies born to nonwhite, nonmarried, nonprosperous women who die so young.
Three or four decades ago, the United States was the most prosperous country on earth. It had the mightiest military and the most advanced technologies known to humanity. Today, it’s still the richest, strongest and most inventive. But when it comes to the health, well-being and shared prosperity of its people, the United States has fallen far behind.
Pick almost any measure of social health and cohesion over the last four decades or so, and you will find that the United States took a wrong turn along the way.
It's not just globalization and horrific trade deals like NAFTA and the looming Trans-Pacific Partnership and its grotesque cousin, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). It's the fact that "government support for Americans in the bottom half turned out to be too meager to hold society together."

 Reactionary right-wing moralizing from the likes of Charles Murray and David Brooks notwithstanding, America is not a welfare state. At least, it's not a welfare state for its people. It is, however, a full-fledged corporate nanny state giving non-stop succor to the plutocracy, multinational businesses, and the permawar industry.

Meanwhile, the poobahs of the media-political complex persist in calling an abused urban population with a youth unemployment rate of over 80% a bunch of "thugs." It's made to order divide-and-conquer propaganda for the One Percent. Pit the poor whites and the poor browns and blacks against one another so that plutocratic power can remain entrenched. It worked for Tricky Dick Nixon and his Silent Majority, and it's working again. Archie Bunker lives, even in the elite educated reader comments section of the New York Times. Instead of police brutality and crushing poverty, we hear the same old themes of black-on-black crime and drug use that are the remnants of a slavery society. The Civil War never really ended.

 It's been only a few generations since the phony truce was signed between a couple of generals.

Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, is announcing a presidential challenge (unfortunately within the cloying confines of the Democratic Party) to Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton, that self-styled Boudica of the hard-soft wars, gave a rousing speech for social justice. But she has also just hired Charlie Baker, whose lobby shop helped orchestrate billionaire austerian Pete Peterson's "Fix the Debt." That's the astroturf campaign against the already too-thin social safety net. Besides acting as her new chief administrative officer, says the New York Times, Baker will also coordinate slush funding for other Democratic candidates.

The truly damaging burning and looting -- and partisan rooting, and own-horn tooting -- continues unabated at the very highest levels. 

The corporate media celebrate the concern-trolling elites at the same time that they force our glazed eyes toward the shell of a chain drugstore within the shell of a city neighborhood that itself has been smoldering and collapsing for decades. Visuals of destruction are engineered for blame-the-victim purposes. How dare the lower classes destroy a monolith of commerce erected just for them by their betters? 

It's no accident that CNN was prominently looping film of a Newt Gingrich-inspired volunteer janitorial crew cleaning up the mess at "their" store as though it is a worker-owned cooperative and CVS isn't hoarding its insurance check. These are the "respectable" poor people told to be patient while the leaders engage in another National Conversation. 

Meanwhile, for all those at the bottom, still resisting and calling out respectability for the sham it is, here's Bob Marley:
This morning I woke up in a curfew;
O God, I was a prisoner, too

 Could not recognize the faces standing over me;
They were all dressed in uniforms of brutality.


Tommybones said...

Oh how I love your cynical heart! (That is supposed to be a compliment--please don't take it the wrong way). Be careful out there.

Pearl said...

Tommybones: it's a loving heart that has been painfully injured as for so many of us. But we must not be afraid to speak truth to power and the message is starting to be heard. Putting another corporate heart in the attorney general's office will prolong the agony in Baltimore but those brave souls protesting are our troops fighting to breathe once again and they need our support. Words, pitchforks, non violent physical action based on silent anger is required to expose the truth more than ever.

Meredith NYC said...

Civil war attitudes kept morphing into new forms through the generations, until they could exist along with our civil rights laws. We can say we are a non racist society, thus minorities problems must be their own fault. How many generations......?

Many gop voting whites don’t realize that the powers that be are redefining them into an underclass as well,a notch above minorities, and blaming them for their own economic problems --caused by the wealth transfer to the 1 percent. But they're not being killed by cops on video, yet.

Speaking of NYT Eduardo Porter---why isn’t he on the op ed page? He’d bring it up a notch.
See Porter in this video with Joseph Stiglitz:

Interesting April 22 video of Joseph Stiglitz and Nicholas Stern at their Cuny Graduate Center talk.
Topic: Inequality and Climate change as Earth Day is observed.

Moderated by NY Times economic columnist Eduardo Porter.

Find at Cuny Grad Center Stiglitz youtube.
Also has past videos of conversations with Krugman, Piketty, Sen. Warren and Stiglitz.

Coming up May 4:
Globalization, Technological Change, and Inequality: Jeffrey Sachs and Paul Krugman in Conversation

annenigma said...

Let's not forget that those cops did not kill all those unarmed minorities because they were unemployed. They did it because violence has sickened the nation's soul. What we have witnessed recently through citizen videos is just the tip of the iceberg - the few cops who were caught in the act.

MLK nailed it when he spoke about the triplets of Racism, Materialism, and Militarism. The Ruling Class would like us to forget, but we must not. They'd like us to believe that MLK was about volunteering and community service, but it wasn't. We need to hear his voice again today:

"I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government."

"A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."

"I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a 'thing-oriented' society to a 'person-oriented' society.

When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. [Wake up, Obama!]

We still have a choice today; nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace and justice throughout the developing world – a world that borders on our doors.

If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality and strength without sight."

Tommy Bones said...

Pearl, you may have misunderstood my comment to Karen. I was referring to having a cynical attitude towards the propaganda fed to us by the powers-that-be and their minions and she is smart enough to know without being told by me, to watch her back after stepping on so many important toes. I was just cheering her on.

Also, a big thumbs up to Meredith NYC for this comment "Many gop voting whites don’t realize that the powers that be are redefining them into an underclass as well,a notch above minorities, and blaming them for their own economic problems --caused by the wealth transfer to the 1 percent. But they're not being killed by cops on video, yet." I had my eyes opened to the truth of this years ago as I watched the people stranded on their roofs waiting for some help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. There but for the grace of god go a whole lot of us!

Denis Neville said...

In a leaked Baltimore police document, other van prisoner says Freddie Gray was “intentionally trying to injure himself” while in the back of that police van.

According to Baltimore police, criminal suspects being transported in police vans are totally credible witnesses, that is, the ones who aren't dead.

Freddie Gray severed his own spinal cord? Crushed his own larynx?

David Simon on “rough rides,” or “the bounce,”

“There was a code to when you gave the guy the bounce or the rough ride. And it was this: He fought the police. Two things get your ass kicked faster than anything: one is making a cop run. If he catches you, you're 18 years old, you've got fucking Nikes, he’s got cop shoes, he's wearing a utility belt, if you fucking run and he catches you, you're gonna take some lumps…

“But the other thing that gets you beat is if you fight. So the rough ride was reserved for the guys who fought the police, who basically made — in the cop parlance — assholes of themselves. And yet, you look at the sheet for poor Mr. Gray, and you look at the nature of the arrest and you look at the number of police who made the arrest, you look at the nature of what they were charging him with — if anything, because again there’s a complete absence of probable cause — and you look at the fact that the guy hasn’t got much propensity for serious violence according to his sheet, and you say, How did this guy get a rough ride? How did that happen? Is this really the arrest that you were supposed to make today? And then, if you were supposed to make it, was this the guy that needed an ass-kicking on the street, or beyond that, a hard ride to the lockup?”

“…if you look at why the city of Baltimore paid that $5.7 million for beating down people over the last few years…Anyone and everyone was a potential ass-whipping – even people that were never otherwise charged with any real crimes. It’s astonishing.

“By the standard of that long list, Freddie Gray becomes almost plausible as a victim. He was a street guy. And before he came along, there were actual working people — citizens, taxpayers — who were indistinguishable from criminal suspects in the eyes of the police who were beating them down. Again, that’s a department that has a diminished capacity to actually respond to crime or investigate crime, or to even distinguish innocence or guilt. And that comes from too many officers who came up in a culture that taught them not the hard job of policing, but simply how to roam the city, jack everyone up, and call for the wagon.”

David Simon, “They’re an army of occupation. And once it’s that, then everybody’s the enemy.”

They were all dressed in uniforms of brutality.

Jay–Ottawa said...

Henry Giroux weighs in on the spat between Michael Eric Dyson and Cornel West.

Dyson’s research and writings have taken him one way, West’s another. Understanding the differences between these so-called public intellectuals can help everyday Americans evaluate their own private readings of events from Baltimore and beyond.

Kat said...

Eduardo Porter-What the hell is it with the NYT? Is there no problem that cannot be solved by ensuring that everyone has a college degree? What the hell is that going to solve? The problem of having a server or landscaper that is not college educated? Countries that offer free education do not offer free education to everyone. Admissions are more selective and thus are still dependent on society being more equitable to ensure fairness (and I am sure that they are not totally fair but probably come a lot closer than if a similar program would be instituted in the US.)Here is what would happen if we were to ensure a college education for everyone. We would have higher unemployment among the college educated. We would then ask "What is to be done". We would hear more about revamping curriculum to meet the needs of business. We would continue to have high un/underemployment, more need to "meet the needs of business... well, you get the idea. Rinse and repeat. Throw in some highly paid newly created administrative positions "VP of student transformation and success" and you now have one big welfare program for the higher educational industrial complex. We would have a watering down of education and we would be forcing many young people that might have wished their schooling to end at 18 to sit in a classroom.
In the same article Porter writes about medical costs, essentially throwing up his arms and saying "It's all so complicated." It really isn't.
Many of the things that would help people that are poor would help most people. Forget the welfare state-- lets get rid of the parasite and predator state. We could spend on infrastructure and create jobs and stop the borrowing from Wall Street for all these projects. Deficit hawks never like to talk about those debt burdens. We could build public housing, we could make the law truly accessible to everyone and fund legal aid public defenders (and provide jobs for law school grads), we could take back the right to sue, we could invest in green energy. We could crack down on predatory lending. We could break up monopolies. Hey Eduardo- maybe if the DOJ would block some of these pharmaceutical mergers that would bring costs down!
How about anyone else-- what are your suggestions that go beyond the standard NYT boilerplate?

Mark Thomason said...

"closing the schools early and cancelling the public transportation that is the only way home for many of the kids. Instead of being greeted by school buses, students were greeted by a phalanx of cops in riot gear. And what a surprise when the kids reacted by fighting"

This is the first that I'd read that. I follow such things.

I'm outraged that this happened.

I'm far more outraged that it was not reported, and I didn't hear about it before this.

This is the story, not something to set aside in favor of video of what it caused.

Mark Thomason

Pearl said...

Tommy Bones: I understood completely what you were saying and just moved it one step further to what cost it becomes to those of us who are fully involved in these battles. It is very hard to not become truly bitter beyond cynicism especially when we see our life's work thrown down the drain. And Karen puts herself on the line which is inspiring and worrisome which you must feel as well.
I am glad you wrote and hope you feel free to say anything you feel as I did not mean to offer criticism.
We have such an exceptional group of regulars who say it like it is and add information to Karen's amazing research as well as support our own concerns many of whom are the victims of the current state of the union.

Take care - everyone.

Meredith NYC said...

Re Baltimore schools closed the 1st day... why wasn't it reported about the school buses not showing up and the cops there? That would have been perfect for TV. No mention of this interviewing various n. leaders, unless i missed it. I did a quick search and couldn't find it.

The students would be much safer in school, in organized activities, and maybe talking about the situation with teachers, so could have been constructive. And if young kids are let out, do their parents have to take off from work to be there?Causes trouble in many ways to cancel school.

Karen Garcia said...


I don't know why the mass media have ignored Monday's police provocation of the students. I guess they prefer to believe in spontaneous combustion-by-thug, or something. Also, they might be too busy thumbing through their ghetto tourism guides and trying to channel Anthony Bourdain in "Parts Unknown." It is truly amazing to witness how amazed some of these bubble-dwellers are that the poor natives could be so articulate! And how about that Mom of the Year smacking her thug-spawn upside the head? The subtext of the reportage is that she is teaching a real lesson in character to the hordes of irresponsible Black Maternal Stereotypes we constantly hear about from the likes of David Brooks and Ross Douthat. No matter that she explained that she hit him out of fear of the police, not respect for the police.

I get that Baltimore is 40 miles distant from the Beltway, but haven't they ever ventured into Anacostia? I think Maureen Dowd did once, when she wrote a puff-piece column about the millionaire director of Martha's Table. If I recall correctly, she described some of the clients as though they were extras in a movie. They had no speaking parts.