Saturday, January 5, 2013


In American society, “gangs” are considered one of the greatest evils to exist. Whether we are talking about drug-gangs, prison-gangs, or “neighborhood “street-gangs," there are many programs aimed at reducing the influence of gangs in the communities where gangs are most visible. In the United States today there are upwards of 33,000 street gangs [FBI]. Gang affiliation in prison qualifies the prisoner to be locked up 23 hours a day in a one-man cell. The gang-affiliated prisoner is so threatening to prison officials; any policy claiming to increase prison safety is promoted and implemented, regardless of the overall effect on the prisoner. This is cruel and inhumane punishment, yet it is practiced in prisons all across the country.  Isolation, “cell-extraction,” increasing sentences through the use of “Prison Courts,” are but a few of the tools used by the private prison system to “keep a lid” on the prison, and guarantee the safety of correctional staff and inmates [Rudolf].
 Yet at what price to the American notion of individual liberty? Many of those in jail wait months and sometimes years, to work their way through the court system .One of the first statements the accused felon makes is to “waive his right to a speedy trial.” The majority of inmates use public defenders and “plead” guilty in agreements with the DA’s office that guarantees sentence recommendations to the judge. These sentences can be viewed as extremely harsh, or extremely lenient depending on one’s position regarding drugs in the United States. Mandatory sentencing, Three-strike laws, the parole system, all serve to fill America’s prisons to full capacity. These prisoners are overwhelmingly drug-offenders. Either drugs were the focus of their crime, or their crime was related to the drug culture.
Gangs are nothing new in the United States. They existed in old Europe as far back as the 17th. Century and those established gangs immigrated to America with the people. Of course if one was to consider how far back the existence of gangs actually goes, then gangs can be considered as old as civilization itself. Using present-day definitions of what constitutes a gang, we could almost call pre-civilization, hunter-gatherer groups, "gangs." For America, the ancestor to today’s definition of gangs began in New York and flourished in post-revolutionary times [Howel].
Gangs have members from every age group. Most members join the gang when they are adolescent. This has been true of gang membership throughout the centuries. Gangs recruit its members when they are young, and those members develop the same kind of loyalty to their gang as  children have for their own families. For many youth, the street gang is their family. For these children joining the gang puts one on the fast-track to prison. Gangs cross the divide between prison and communities. A street gang can have all its leaders incarcerated and still function as a criminal enterprise. With smuggled cell phones, gang-affiliated inmates are able to relay the orders of the leadership to the members without any problem. In California alone in 2008, over 1300 cell phones were confiscated [National]. Cell phones in prison can be a real danger to society. When people who have already used threats and extortion against others have uncontrolled access to the outside world, things like ordering assassinations, or directing the criminal activities of a gang are accomplished with little or no problem.
            In America today the threat of street gangs is very real. Law enforcement lists gangs as one of the major problems facing low-income communities. While the reality of gangs is viewed as a problem, the fantasy of gangs means big money for entertainment companies. Big budget Hollywood movies bring in millions to the studios that produce them. Movie studios have found that violence sells. In fact, violence outsells sex and nudity [Dolan]. The entertainment industry has used violence to sell movies for decades. Going back to the 1930’s when “Gangland” style movies made famous by James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson and Humphrey Bogart; became popular and the studios could count on profits from films that portrayed the gangster as the central figure in the films. Not all portrayals were negative. Sometimes the gangster was portrayed as a victim of society, rather than a deviant within the society. The same is true today. In film and television, gangsters are prevalent. Every year the major studios release movies aimed at African-American communities that include portrayals of gangs and others who use violence as a method of income. Many of the “Hip-Hop” artists that are promoted by established entertainment companies have come up from the “Gangster” lifestyle. Rather than that being seen as a detriment to the artist’s career, it is seen as benefit.
            Nowhere in the United States are gangs more visible than in South Central Los Angeles, California. In cities such as Bell, Paramount, Inglewood, El Segundo and Long Beach, street gangs have taken over the towns. According to police, “The County and City of Los Angeles is the ‘gang capital’ of the nation. There are more than 450 active gangs in the City of Los Angeles. Many of these gangs have been in existence for over 50 years. These gangs have a combined membership of over 45,000 individuals [LAPD].”
            These varied facts about gangs in the US can only give us a small glimpse of the problem. However, it is important for the average American to be aware of the gang situation. This author feels that the one action that could completely dis-empower gangs and other criminal enterprises is the complete decriminalization of drugs. Drugs are the number one source of income for gangs. Illegal drugs are the number one cause of gang violence. It may be hard to imagine drugs being legal, but if we want to stop the violence associated with drugs, if we want to decrease the prison population; then we have to treat drugs as a medical issue and take law enforcement out of the equation.

Works Cited
Dolan, Eric W. "Study Finds Violence In Movies Likely To Increase Profits, While Sex or Nudity Likely to Decrease Profits." PSYPOST. UK2 GROUP LTD, 15 Jan. 2010. Web. 3 Dec. 2012. .
FBI. "Gangs - They poison our streets with drugs, violence, and all manner of crime." The FBI - Federal Bureau of Investigation. U.S. Dept. of Justice, 1 Nov. 2012. Web. 1 Dec. 2012. . Some 33,000 violent street gangs, motorcycle gangs, and prison gangs with about 1.4 million members are criminally active in the U.S. today. Many are sophisticated and well organized; all use violence to control neighborhoods and boost their illegal money-making activities, which include robbery, drug and gun trafficking, fraud, extortion, and prostitution rings. We’re redoubling our efforts to disrupt and dismantle gangs through intelligence-driven investigations and new initiatives and partnerships.
Howel, James C., and John P. Moore. "History of Street Gangs In The United States." National Gang Center. Bureau of Justice Assistance/ US Dept. of Justice/Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, May 2010. Web. 1 Dec. 2012. .
LAPD. "Gangs." Los Angeles Police Department Online. Los Angeles Police Department, 3 Dec. 2012. Web. 3 Dec. 2012. .
National Institute of Justice. US Dept. Of Justice, 1 Aug. 2011. Web. 2 Dec. 2012. .
Rudolf, John. "California Prisoners Join Hunger Strike To Protest Solitary Conditions." The Huffington Post [New York] 9 July 2011: n. pag. Web. 1 Dec. 2012. . "The hunger strike is not a protest against overcrowding, however, but against the treatment of offenders who are segregated from the general population due to gang affiliations or crimes committed in prison."

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Real Psycho.....

So who was Christopher Columbus? In the ongoing mythology of “Justification for Conquest” Columbus is an explorer and “Discoverer” of the “New World.” This is what is taught in elementary schools in the United States even today. But as Ward Churchill says in the film: “The Canary Effect,” “How do you 'discover' a place that is already occupied by a huge population?” this is true in all respects. When Columbus landed in the West Indies there was a population, cities, towns, agriculture; all the aspects of a thriving civilization. Churchill likens it to: “...what if I came to your house, I'd never been there before, and I knock on your door, you answer it and I tell you that I now lay claim to your house, your neighborhood and all your goods?” For me this is it in a nutshell. In Columbus' mind, if they did not speak one of the European languages, then they were not a people. Their towns did not exist even when they were right in front of Columbus' eyes. This kind of logic is only possible in the minds of psychopaths. When one reads Chapter Six in Stannard's text: “American Holocaust.” it's becomes clear that Christopher Columbus is a psychopath.

Like all psychopaths, Columbus had a manifesto. The: “Imago Mundi” According to Stannard, the”Imago Mundi” Written in the mid-1400's by Catholic Cardinal Pierre d'Ailly. It was a combination of horoscope, astrology and commentary on the mechanisms of the universe filled with incorrect science; Columbus used this text as his key to predicting the “End of the World.” Columbus' cosmology of course favored “Christians” and as proven by the atrocities committed by the invaders; did not count non-Christians as fully human.

Stannard says that Columbus thought, “...he had discovered-with the Lord's guidance, or course-King Solomon's mines, and it was this gold that would launch the crusade that would bring on the end of the world.” The Text says that, “...,some modern observers have claimed, Columbus was demented, or at least had been at sea too long.” After quoting his description of the Earth as being shaped like a “woman's teat...” But an earlier quote shows his sanity: “But I am completely persuaded in my own mind that the Terrestrial Paradise in the place I have described.” Absolutely. I was a terrestrial paradise to those who were the caretakers of the paradise. For 15th century Europeans the biblical paradise was a garden. But where Columbus was demented and psychopathic was how he was able to justify his taking of another person's property. In Europe at the time of Columbus property rights, at least those of the rich; were law. It's not surprising that Columbus sounds like a bank robber, or a terrorist. He is talking about committing crime and taking life to support his cause. And his cause comes out of his preoccupation with the unseen.

Christopher Columbus claimed all his actions for Christ. But here is another place where Columbus was a psychopath. His religion teaches tolerance, forgiveness, non-aggressive behavior. So just like the question of property that was right in front of his eyes; so were the Christian texts prohibiting what he was doing daily. That is violate and steal from innocent people. He was able to compartmentalize all his concepts and “realities,” All this so he could continue to enrich himself and ascribe it to a higher purpose. So he is definitely a psychopath, but he is also one of many known as “Crusaders.” Those who gave themselves nobility by invading the middle east and taking the property of others. The Indigenous people of the Americas were not able to mount a defense of their realm as did the Muslims. Obviously the Arabs did not have the problem with European diseases after centuries of Mediterranean trade, and the peoples of the middle east where on par with the weaponry and type of warfare practiced by the Europeans. In my opinion they were better suited to deal with psychopaths like Columbus.

I would like to end with Christopher Columbus' psychopath nature. He obviously had apocalyptic ideas. He was able to bring about destruction of a world that had existed in sustainability for countless millennium. He was able to convince himself that the horrors he was bringing upon innocent people, was for their own good. He kept a manifesto of secret knowledge that only he understood. But he was not alone. He was but one the thousands of Europeans who were willing to commit any crime against their own consciences to get money. One the big reasons for this kind of national/continental psychosis has to be the capitalist system of western monarchies. The poor suffered and lived a hard life deprived of resources; while the few at the top lived in opulence. So once the members of that unjust society found a people with no fences, no culture of murder and taking of resources; they were all agreed it was justified. It was justified the same way Christopher Columbus justified it. Non-European Christians where not “.. even descended from Adam and Eve, but from separate and inferior progenitors.” according to the philosopher Paracelsus in Stannard. So not only was Christopher Columbus a psychopath, but he came from a whole continent of psychopaths. Who were all made that way through greed and oppression.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Semester's End....

I pray this post finds you all in good health and spirits. I can now take a breath and check in with my own blog for a change. When HSU is in session, I rarely have time to manage my own blog. Instead I find myself prompted to comment on Sohum Parlance or the Humboldt Herald instead.
I would like to take this opportunity to share my recent painting assignments from a wonderful Art course provided by the university. I just finished a painting class taught by a wonderful, engaged professor and artist: Lien Troung. Ms. Troung uses a positive outlook on art and life to encourage her students to develop "problem-solving" techniques during the development of a work or art.
As someone who has worked as a "professional" artist for almost thirty years, I can say that I was humbled by the talent, and creativity of my fellow students in Ms. Troung's class.
Thank you to everyone in the Art Department of Humboldt State University. I look forward to seeing you all again next semester; God willing, and the creek don't rise.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

In Northern California people have access to the healthier aspects of their environment. There are trees and flowing waters. They can step off on almost any road and forget the technological culture they live in. A society dominated by advertising. Those in the urban centers are not so blessed. They have no natural retreat at their fingertips. Their only refuge is one they create for themselves. That refuge is now being undone by an unbridled commercialism.

Americans are swimming in a commercialized world. It is so accepted among the mass population that there is no public debate about the commercialization of our visual space and our “virtual” space. We live in a culture where it's ok that every action on the internet may now be crafted and designed to be held up by a series of interruptions and secondary confirmations; slowing down processes to expose the user to more advertising. In our visual space there is now the phenomena of truck and trailer ads. In most California counties it is illegal for a homeowner to hang a sign to advertise a yard-sale, or to sell his mother's car. Yet, huge truck and trailers file past. Everywhere there is an endless series of mobile bill-boards thirty feet long. Showing huge graphics in bright colors with multiple lines of copy. With the “large-format-printer,” they can over power the streets.

Corporations in the United States are allowed to put their advertising wherever they see fit. It can be argued that there are new laws restricting the placing of outdoor advertising, so it is getting better, but the Corps have moved beyond outdoor, while they still use the truck and trailer mobile bill-boards method, they appear to be more concerned with commercializing any remaining space not now carrying ads. They don't need static, roadside billboards when they can have a constant stream of advertising in your vehicle. With the map programs that come with new cars there will be no escape from the ads coming from dashboard monitors.

Advertising in the public space used to be a necessary component of capitalism. In 2011 the public space has been narrowed down to a small screen. Within that flat glass lies a world with its own “real estate” and its own “reality”. But it takes real money from this world to keep that world going. At some point Americans have to say: “No, I've already paid the fee; you don't get to advertise on top of it!”

Monday, May 2, 2011

"A Day That Will Live In Infamy"

In the faith tradition to which I belong; we believe there is a new covenant in Christ that does away with the notion of: “An eye for an eye; a tooth for tooth.” In the nation to which I also belong, we have given authority and judgment to a system of law. This system is for the protection of human rights. . This system is now directed by people who have used their mandated power to organize and carry out an extrajudicial assassination of a wanted murderer; who should have been prosecuted for crimes against humanity.
Bin Laden is the “Adolph Hitler” of this generation. He is the embodiment of evil and has besmirched reputation of the religion he professed to follow; but, we are not the mafia. We do not put a “Hit” on someone and just go kill him. This is America, there has to be an attempt to arrest him. If that is impossible, then besiege him. Let him show himself to be the killer, Let the world see who is the good and who is the bad. But no, instead we became ourselves a criminal, and a murderer; as a nation we have committed a crime. This is not what America is supposed to be about. John Wayne always brought the bastard in for the judge to “...hang em' good and proper.” He didn't just go execute him on his own authority.
The U.S. Government had no right to risk the lives of our servicemen and women to carry out this killing.
This is a shameful event. There is celebration? There are parties? This should be prosecuted as a crime. Contempt was shown for the law, the constitution, and the rights of the survivors and victims of the 911 attack.
The word “closure” has come up a lot, but the victims of the attack have not had their say. They're not done fighting for their lives, so who is getting “closure.”?
This is a dark day for the United States. Even the most heinous, depraved, despicable criminal is protected by the rule of law. This execution is equivalent to a lynching. “Why waste time on a trial, we know he's guilty, so lets just go kill him and be done with it!” This is the sentiment demonstrated by this act of vengeance. Without the rule of law, we are lost as a nation. We have become the thing we condemn.
I just can't help but feel that my country is in the hands of greedy criminals, who will use any pretext, any excuse to exercise its power over the world. First they have stolen our money; now they have stolen our honor.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Citizens United- Corporations Become Self-Aware

Today we live in a world where you and I are a resource to be mined. We are no more than coal, or petroleum taken from the ground. Through the power of corporations and the ultra wealthy who own them; we can be made to pay any fees, suffer any penalty, made to buy products and services from businesses which have corrupted the election system and perverted democracy.

Through this corruption the executive class now owns the federal and state governments. They use the power of the government to enforce upon common working people things such as insurance requirements which can only be met, legally by for-profit corporations, what’s more insidious is the fleecing of citizens through exploitation of the airwaves, the water sources, the natural resources like timber and almost every other measure of wealth on the planet.

They take these resources from us the people, and then are allowed to sell these resources back to us at a high price. Such as the way the FCC has given away our airwaves and satellite permits.

The Corporate interests have scored a huge victory this past January. In the Decision: “Citizens United Vs. Federal Election Commission” the U.S. Supreme Court has given the Corporation the same rights as a living breathing person, and can be allowed to use as much of their wealth and power exercising their free speech rights by supporting candidates and issues in U.S. Elections.

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Sunday, December 5, 2010

You're Already Out.

Every now and then I have remind myself that the internet is a data stream that I am already in. Even if I tried to keep myself anonymous, I could not actually be anonymous. You can't be hidden. There is nowhere that you can have no register of yourself. The stores you use have data in which you are listed. You're on the reports of sales registers, card-swipe readers. Security cameras contain recordings of you, both audio and visual. So where is there to try to hide? Where can one be anonymous?
I have railed at the injustice of using the "Sacred Anonymous" in the service of political backbiting. One of the most revered authors in the western monastic tradition is Anonymous. Being anonymous is having humility.
Anonymity should be reserved for those who would be persecuted for exposing crimes of their superiors who are actually in a position to retaliate. I'm totally for protecting the anonymity of whistle-blowers. And inside sources. But that really isn't the case with much of the blog-splotter being thrown around. With so much casual anonymity, it's too easy to speak so much "for" and "against" people, regular common people who are known. But, the speakers are unknown.
Also, our computers are like our fingerprints, we have so many interchanges with other computers giving our URL's to sites we don't even know. So we can only be anonymous to our peers, while those with power can identify us at will.
And finally, it's just sad that so many smart, literate people are afraid to just be themselves. To actually own the words coming from their minds. In the new-millennium, all of us have been "outed" on the internet.