Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Texas: The Gulag Wasteland Bush Left Behind

by Len Hart, the Existentialist Cowboy

The Texas Bush left behind leads the nation in crime, pollution and poverty. It trails the nation in education, quality of life, and the environment. American education has deteriorated inversely with the rise of right wing politics! An example is 'Texas' and every child that Bush left behind. Texas beats out Mississippi for DEAD LAST in high school graduations at the same time that it LEADS the nation in executions due to the state's extremely high crime rate!

This, I believe, is due to the neglect given a fact-based, a science-based liberal education. This is the result of the influence of fanatics and 'religionists' upon education. This, I believe, is a medieval triumph of superstition over science, of claptrap over logic, bullshit over verifiable fact, ideology and nonsense over inquiry and good sense.

"Gulag” was the name for the penal labor camps that existed in the Soviet Union; the term was popularized by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s 1973 book, The Gulag Archipelago. Some political commentators have compared the Texas prison system (and the facilities of the Texas Youth Commission) to the Soviet gulag system, calling it a “Texas Gulag” and calling Texas a “Gulag State.”

The term “Texas Gulag” became popular about 2000, when Texas Governor George W. Bush was running for president of the United States. A February 2008 report by the Pew Center on the large number of prison inmates in the United States caused some political commentators to again use the “Texas Gulag” nickname (or epithet).

Texas was once the largest state in the nation. Now --thanks to Bush, DeLay and the Texas GOP --it is the largest disaster area outside of New Orleans and Iraq.

Tom DeLay is remembered as the prototypical Texas politician defined by graft, arrogance and deceit. Voting in the Texas legislature is a symptomatic, sophomoric free for all. Their motto: vote early and often! There is precedent. It was in 1948 that one Luis Salas wrote in the names of dead people in order to get LBJ into the US Senate. Still --one would think politicians, even Texas politicians, would at least maintain the pretense of integrity. Nope!

Nothing will be done about it if the public doesn't scream bloody murder. It would be easy enough to program a system that would require a unique ID. But, lawmakers would simply pass their ID/passwords around. Perhaps a fingerprint scan!To put this all in perspective, it's small stuff when you consider this state's recent record. Texas is the scene of the murder of JFK. Texas is home to the big oil companies that have partnered with crooked Saudis to screw the world. Tom DeLay perfected his gerrymandering and "fund raising" (read: shakedown) skills in Texas.

Texas is where GWB left every child behind, where the Houston Miracle wasn't, where Enron fleeced the stupid, the gullible, and California.

Thanks to GWB primarily, Texas is where big polluting corporations take a satisfying dump and often in your back yard!

Texas is where murder rates outstrip every other state and death row is an industry!

Texas is where the prison population may one day overtake the rest of the state. I don't believe in GOP coincidence theories. There are reasons for the sorry state of nation and state. Those reasons are, primarily, GOP incompetence, criminality, and endemic dishonesty. Let's put it in perspective.

The United States holds the dubious distinction of having the largest incarcerated population in the world, with 2 million people behind bars as of year-end 1999.2 With only 5% of the world's population, the US holds a quarter of the world's prisoners In the 1990s alone, more persons were added to prisons and jails than in any other decade on record.


In a continued examination of those states that lead the national trend in increasing levels of incarceration, the Justice Policy Institute turns a focus on the state of Texas. The Lone Star State's criminal justice system is particularly worthy of scrutiny at this time, as the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reported in August, 2000 that Texas, for the first time, leads the nation in imprisoning its citizens: Texas now has the nation's largest incarcerated population under the jurisdiction of its prison system. Since 1990, Texas has lead the nation's 50 states with an annual average growth rate of 11.8%, about twice the annual average growth rate of other state prison systems (6.1%). Even more important to the national context, since 1990, nearly one in five new prisoners added to the nation's prisons (18%) was in Texas.

--An Analysis of Incarceration and Crime Trends in The Lone Star State

The back to back GOP regimes of Bush/Perry have been disastrous. The state itself has become an environmental disaster where the deteriorating air quality is linked to increased incidences of respiratory diseases. [See Toxic TexasThe Environmental Legacy of Governor George W. Bush] The GOP played politics with the education of children, perpetrating a deliberate fraud called the "Houston Miracle". It would become the blueprint for "No Child Left Behind", a scam involving phony test scores and book cooking, an educational "Enron".

When nominated to serve in Bush’s cabinet, many marveled at Paige’s triumphs as Houston’s superintendent of public schools in Houston from 1994 to 2000. Usually near the top of Paige’s list of accomplishments was his success in dramatically bringing down dropout rates in one of the nation’s largest school districts.

There was one funny thing about those dramatically curtailed dropout rates, though. They weren’t true.

In Paige’s last year as Houston’s superintendent, the school district reported an incredibly low dropout rate of 1.5%. That was better than any comparably-sized school district in America. The problem, however, is that the district, which was under Paige’s supervision, cooked the books and failed to count thousands of students who dropped out and didn’t return.

As Cohen explained today, “As with Enron, [Houston’s] school system has kept a set of books that has absolutely nothing to do with reality. Some high schools reported absolutely no — that’s zero — dropouts. That these schools were in impoverished areas made the figures either preposterous or a miracle. The school system — not to mention George Bush — preferred to see a miracle.

--Rod Paige’s Houston ‘Miracle’, Carpetbagger Report

As the GOP "Enronized" the great state of Texas, an assembly line criminal justice system, in cahoots with a medieval, privatized prison system, proved to be an oxymoron. It was "criminal" but hardly "justice". Despite the GOPs "worst" efforts, crime in Texas, always a topic of much discussion and study, has gotten worse. Texas is big on capital punishment, but even its industrialized application of the death penalty just cannot kill off the criminals as fast as they procreate and multiply. The GOP may be seeking a "final solution". year's end 1999, there were 706,600 Texans in prison, jail, parole or probation on any given day. In a state with 14 million adults, this meant that 5% of adult Texans, or 1 out of every 20, are under some form of criminal justice supervision. The scale of what is happening in Texas is so huge, it is difficult to contrast the size of its criminal justice systems to the other states' systems it dwarfs:
  • There are more Texans under criminal justice control than the entire populations of some states, including Vermont, Wyoming and Alaska.
  • According to Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates, one quarter of the nation's parole and probationers are in Texas. California and Texas, together, comprise half the nation's parolees and probationers.
  • The number of people incarcerated in Texas (in prison or jail) reached 207,526 in mid-year 1999. Only California, with 10 million more citizens, has more people in both prison and jail.
  • Texas has a rate of 1,035 people behind bars for every 100,000 in the population, the second highest incarceration rate in the nation (second only to Louisiana). If Texas was a nation separate from the United States, it would have the world's highest incarceration rate--significantly higher than the United States (682), and Russia (685) which has 1 million prisoners, the world's third biggest prison system. Texas' incarceration rate is also higher than China (115), which has the world's second largest prison population (1.4 million prisoners).
  • If the US shared the incarceration rate of Texas, there would be nearly three million Americans behind bars (2,822,300)--instead of our current 2 million prisoners.
  • The Texas prison population tripled since 1990, and rose 61.5% in the last five years of this decade alone. In 1994, there were 92, 669 prisoners in Texas. This number had increased to 149,684 by mid-year 1999.
  • The Texas correctional system has grown so large that in July 2000, corrections officials ran out of six digit numbers to assign inmates, and officially created prisoner number 1,000,000.
--An Analysis of Incarceration and Crime Trends in The Lone Star State
Texas is called the gulag state for good reasons. Certainly, justice in Texas is applied inequitably. Minorities --primarily black and hispanic --are disproportionately represented in the Texas gulag system but under represented in the State legislature, the various city councils, and the state judicial system. For example, blacks represent only 12% of the Texas population but comprise 44% of the total incarcerated population. Whites make up about 58% of Texas' total population, but only 30% of the prison and jail population.
  • While one out of every 20 Texas adults is under some form of criminal justice control, one out of 3 young black men (29% of the black male population between 21 and 29) are in prison, jail, parole or probation on any given day.
  • One out of every four adult black men in Texas is under some form of criminal justice supervision.
  • Blacks in Texas are incarcerated at a rate seven times greater than whites. While there are 555 whites behind bars for every 100,000 in the Texas population, there are an astonishing 3862 African Americans behind bars for every 100,000 in the state. This is nearly 63% higher than the national incarceration rate for blacks of 2366 per 100,000.
  • If Texas' black incarceration rate was applied to the United States, the number of blacks behind bars on a national level would increase by half a million. There are currently an estimated 824,900 African Americans in prison and jail in the US The new figure, 1,346,370, would increase the number of African Americans incarcerated in the US by 63%.
The GOP are consistent to the point of boring. Therefore, what the GOP has done to Texas is a clue to the effect Bush/GOP rule has had nationally, globally. The GOP modus operandi is premised as it is upon delusion, lies, spin, claptrap ideology and bullshit! Failing to wage an effective "war on terrorism" abroad, the GOP presides over rising crime rates at home, throughout the nation.

Predictably, the GOP will blame the victims of GOP policies of disenfranchisement, elitism, and discrimination. The GOP has always been fond of waging wars on crime though the party itself is a crime syndicate. It was no suprise that Bush, like the failed Reagan before him, waged a failed war on terrorism, though Bush is the world's biggest terrorist.
Five years of crime rates show that murders, robberies, rapes and other violent offenses last year were returning to the peak, set in 2002. Crime dropped dramatically after that, the figures show.

In 2006, an estimated 1,417,000 violent crimes were committed, a sharp increase from the 1,360,000 reported in 2004 and approaching the estimated 1,425,000 in 2002.

--New York Times, Violent Crime Reported Up 2% in 2006

Those stats confirm a trend of at least two years. Yet, Justice Department flack, Brian Roehrkasse, called the report "good news", a lie not unlike "we are winning in Iraq". I wonder how Roehrkasse felt about the FBI summary of 2006 indicating that robberies had increased 9.7 percent nationwide, arson 6.8 percent, murders 1.4 percent! It is the situation in Texas, Bush's so-called "homestate", where the effects of the GOP's medieval policies have fallen to Rick Perry.
Reflecting a surge in crime in Texas after the dislocations of Hurricane Katrina, Houston recorded a sharp increase in homicides, to 202 for the first half of 2006, up from 158 in the comparable prestorm period last year. Three Texas cities ranked among the nation’s top 10 in crimes per capita.

Homicides in Dallas were down to 101 from 106 but it still ranked as the nation’s most crime-ridden big city, with 3,985 overall crimes per 100,000 population, followed by Houston with 3,444. After Phoenix with 3,436, San Antonio was 4th with 3,422.

--An Analysis of Incarceration and Crime Trends in The Lone Star State

FBI statistics prove that since Bush seized the White House, crime rates have jumped. Violent crime increased at 2.5 percent in 2005, the highest rate in 15 years. Nevermind! Bush favored a 52 percent cut in law enforcement funding. That's not the worst of it. Bush and the GOP will never admit that GOP policies prove the utter failure, the moral paucity, the complete intellectual inadequacy of the GOP as a party, as an institution. Utterly predictable, the GOP will cite every fact proving their endemic failures as reasons to compound the problem. Having replaced ideas with propaganda, plans with platitudes, the GOP will simply roll out more of the same old GOP eyewash, claptrap, and bullshit!

We would call a doctor an idiot who tells you to just keep on doing whatever it is that's making you sick. Yet the GOP does that repeatedly, mistaking the illness for the cure and making it worse with greed, incompetence, and bald-faced lies. Confronted with rising crime and swelling prisons, the GOP will propose even newer programs guaranteed to raise crime rates even as they enrich their cronies with privatized prison systems, privatized Blackwater storm-troopers, and robotized surveillance systems. Big brother is already borne, snooping and violating your Constitutional rights in Texas. 

It is but a small step then to privatizing the state police or even the various metropolitan police departments. Blackwater, I am sure, would love to get the juicy contract, the license to kill and get paid for it. In that event, the march toward fascism will have been completed.

Life in America will have become a nightmare for everyone but an elite of about one to five percent of the population which already owns more than 90 percent of the rest of us combined. The streets will be patrolled by armor-plated Blackwater goon squads and other gung ho gun nuts for whom human life means little to nothing but their own personal and perverted hard on. In the meantime, the words of the late Molly Ivins seem prescient, a plaintive warning about the breakdown of law and order that follows from the complete and institutional breakdown of the rule of law. We will have the right-wing to blame for having made of America the ugliest police state in the history of the world.

The notorious inability of prosecutors to admit that they are ever wrong is a fact of life. What is far more horrifying is the refusal of judges and courts to look at evidence that proves innocence. Can you imagine how that must feel - to be in prison for a crime you didn't commit and to finally be able to prove it, only to have a court refuse to consider the evidence? Most of this is a consequence of a noxious law that Congress rushed through after the Oklahoma City bombing. Called the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, the law was aimed at the ability of federal judges to second-guess state courts and at the ability of prisoners to file endless habeas corpus claims challenging the constitutionality of their convictions.

--Molly Ivins

Think about how much better off the rest of the nation might have been if Texas had never been annexed and the rest of the South had been allowed to go its own way.


Anonymous said...

What a wonderful article, you are right it would have been better for the Country if the South and Texas, had gone their own way!

Unknown said...

Thanks, Diane...Texas was never perfecct. But it was a lot better before the carpetbagger Bush showed up. And it was better before it was ruined by oil.

Unknown said...

Well, Texas would have been better, because the Bush family would have stayed in Connecticut or landed in some other unfortunate state.

The Bushes have almost single handedly ruined this state. So please don't blame Texas. The only Texans the Bushes really like are the Haves and the Have Mores. The Bush family political philosophy was forged in the Northeast. They are modern day carpetbaggers.

Anonymous said...

Why don't we just solve a lot of problems at one stroke by giving Texas back to Mexico!

It's like cutting out a large cancer. Yes, you lose a little weight, but overall, you're a LOT better off! (Think where we might have been now if there had been no Cheney and no Dubya in the 2000 elections and the actual winners had taken office: no Iraq war, a lot of progress on the environment, a massively better economic situation and so much more.

Anonymous said...

Be careful invoking that "Lyndon Johnson STOLE the election of 1948* story.

The facts are - it was the DEMOCRATIC primary - the home of TEXAS SEGREGATIONISTS - and Johnson's opponent in the 1948 Texas Dem. senatorial primary was COKE STEVENSON, uber Texas establishment segregationist FORMER GOVERNOR of the State of Texas. (i.e. no "innocent Annie.")
Further, Johnson had been ROBBED in his previous election race - by the usual Texas CORRUPTION in voting methods - and in 1948, (with the legacy of being one of President Roosevelt's star, up-and-coming progressive Democrat Congressman behind him) Johnson vowed never to let the Reactionary Right-Wing in Texas ever steal another election from him.

To pound this point home, the ONLY way the Reactionary Right in Texas (up till 1970s mostly within the Democratic Party) could win elections, was by DISENFRANCHISING tens of thousands upon millions of Black, minority, and even poor White voters. (See how poor WHITES were DISENFRANCHISED in Huey Long's Louisiana until Long became a populist muckracker.)

WHENVER a "Liberal" commentator uses the "JOHNSON WON WITH DEAD MEN's VOTES!" story, he/she is WHITEWASHING the SERIAL BIGOTRY and VIOLENT SEGREGATION race hatred of Johnson's opponent(s).

Unknown said...

Semantics! Semantics!

Texas segregationists were really Republicans all along. Richard Nixon proved that. It was called "Southern Strategy".

Now ---can we confine the disucssion of Democrats to REAL Democrats in a real world.

Texas was stolen from Mexico by bigots who wanted to keep slaves. Even earlier it had been stolen FROM my ancestors whom I believe had FIRST TITLE