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The Perpetual Punitive Machine Backfires


The Perpetual Punitive Machine Backfires

Ralph Nader

Our nation has a penchant for creating unnecessary complexity and obstacles for its people in areas such as the tax, health insurance and student debt miasmas. The prison industry adds to this with what it euphemistically calls “collateral consequences.” In simple language, this means a series of state-based statutory punishments – rooted in the medieval English practice of “civil death” – that greet ex-felons who have served their time and paid their debt to society.


Due Process? What a concept. Where do I buy some? The state, in this instance Florida, paid a Houston based company a great deal of money to ensure that black and brown people never got any due process. They, instead, got a massive dose of disenfranchisement and the message, " black and brown lives don’t matter." We like white, male, wealthy guys or their handpicked lackeys, thank you very much. It’s not limited to Florida anymore, however, because it was successful. A peaceful coup d’état, as it were. There continues to be miniscule voter fraud but massive money being made by ensuring the state disenfranchisement of former slaves and, what were once illegal cheap day laborers, never getting a voice. And, if by chance they speak out about working conditions, pay, housing and unequal and selective prosecution, they receive a double dose of same, more selective prosecution and no due process. Ever again, even after repaying their debt , by law and under the direction of white, male, wealthy guys or their handpicked lackeys. On the bright side, the price of lackeys has actually remained the same; very cheap, indeed.


“Our nation has a penchant for creating unnecessary complexity and obstacles for its people”

“Our nation”, meaning “our conservatives”. The people with a penchant to create unnecessary complexity and obstacles for its people to prevent change and keep the racist, fascist quo.


Your frame is ridiculous! It’s not about what “we” like, it’s about a long progression of domination by a group that’s held power–largely through gunpowder (and at gunpoint) for centuries.

Did women like being turned into chattel, burned at the stake if they disobeyed the all-seeing church state?

Did Black citizens like being turned into slaves?

Some of what you say is valid, but when it forms an overall fraudulent narrative that is itself deferential to the white (mostly male) status quo… it’s either a schizophrenic mishmash or smells of some kind of disinformation.


Good catch.

There’s something not unlike a mental disease that’s infected this forum. And what it does is take what’s true for the relative few in power and ascribes its actions and moral failures to the whole. There are a number of fictions propped up by this form of generic assertion. One is that power is shared in equivalent ways and that Democratic channels are open. Inside a society under absolute surveillance with big money purchasing elections, and through them, actual policies that include wars launched on the basis of fabricated triggers and financial stability crumbing for the vast majority… this Democratic Ideal is (and has fast become) a chimera. It’s useful, however, to convince the pack that they got what they asked for. As friggin if!


“It’s useful, however, to convince the pack that they got what they asked for.”

The pack kinda got what they asked for by not voting. Shitty government.


The role of Katherine Harris as Florida Secretary of State and the the hired consulting firm that cooperated with the state’s ‘felon’ list was stunning in its malfeasance and illegality. People that weren’t felons were on the list, including at at least one Florida county elections supervisor, Linda Howell from Madison County. This convinced her that the ‘list’ was flawed, with the result that Madison County and several other counties refused the use of the ‘list’. People who were convicted in other states and served their time, who were later Florida residents in 2000 were also put on the list, which was a clear violation of the law. Some of the convictions were dated into the ‘future’. Incredible. People with similar names as those listed as felons were also included. And needless to say, black voters were vastly over ‘represented’ on the list. No legal, criminal price was paid for this behavior. Juxtapose that with the ‘Buddhist temple’ fund raising scandal which got an Al Gore fund raiser five felony counts.

What broke that scandal was not the untold number of domestic journalists covering that 2000 election but a California native who had to work in the UK for the BBC and the Guardian to do muckraking journalism. It was Greg Palast and his investigative team that broke the story. Apparently, only one Semour Hersh is allowed in the US at any given time. The African American experience in American…having your very existence criminalized.


Should of used snark tag ( s/ ) or otherwise indicated authoritarian p o v from those who like the status quo ( the white privileged state owners and corps. ).


The SCOTUS membership and voting blocks would be 6-3/5-4 the other way on almost all major decisions. Think about that, over the last 15 years, and pour yourself a strong one. Most people know this was a rigged outcome. The NYT recount proved the obvious and then, of course, 9/11 changed everything. In the words of Condi, " who could of imagined…? ", yeah, right. You didn’t need an imagination, just read the reports and daily briefings, please. Unless you thought invading the MENA while giving HUGE tax cuts to your campaign helpers ( ahem- Dick Cheney’s buddies ) was just the winning ticket the country needed. To become a disaster area, for the 99s, that is. The fix was definitely in deep in the Florida/2000 election and is still in, way in. Eyewitness is spot on.


Pitch perfect. Thank you.


I think many people have a reaction similar to what you state. Discourse ‘expressed’ as a handful of all purpose clichés and a list of ‘links’ that when administered enough of times comes across as another fire and brimstone sermon by the good old Rev. Billy Joe Bob. It’s almost an admission that one lacks or in not sufficiently willing to formulate some cohesion in their own words. For instance, one hears frequently that ‘Capitalism’ is an evil. It sure is. And it’s gotten so perverse that what’s called capitalism isn’t.

However, if one slips a couple centuries back they would be in a pre-capitalist time. But the perniciousness, the self centered, class oriented, exploitive, hierarchical, etc, etc non virtues we share our world with today existed in pre-capitalist times as well, one might believe. Thus ‘capitalism’ is a tool…as the WTO is a tool. There are considerations that are more fundamental. But capitalism is awash over us like a religion…like any ‘necessary’ propaganda would be. It’s been given a face, an ugly face for a lot of people. And it’s anti-democratic effect boarders on the sublime for its sheer efficacy. Hard to think of a better example than ‘Fast Track’. The GOP congress has wanted from day one to remove Obama from office or at least neutralize him totally. Yet when it comes to Fast Track they’re on the same wavelength. Why?? No mystery. Their benefactors demand it. It’s now a truism chiselled in stone…if not gold. We have the best government money can buy…probably the worst kept secret on earth, next to you-know-who’s nuclear weapons. One can almost hear the voices of Chris Hedges and Robert Scheer in the background.

Maybe the most important consideration is that democracy needs participation to survive. Get a population feeling there is less and less opportunity for them to be a functioning part of society’s existence and democracy just may wither away. How democratic are our lives? Where we live and where we work. Consider the following. Should one wish to secure their position in an organization, be it corporate, governmental, academia, the sciences, you name it, and desires to climb its organizational ladder they must exhibit one essential property. That is conformity. You don’t have to be told. One may do without it, but it’s like spitting into the wind. The odds aren’t good. But conformity for remuneration is not democracy. Cooperation to democratic decisions are. Half of your democratic existence is gone as soon as you are born. What are the odds of keeping the rest of our lives democratic? Of having what is left of democracy surviving at all. There is no preordained answer. Even Hedges’ assessment of needing a pronounced change can’t predict how that may be manifested. But we can assume that tripping point abound out there. Just waiting.


The pack got what it asked for no choice.


How convenient. Yeah, the disenfranchisement of felons in Florida is what cost Gore the election by 537 votes. Of the 97,488 votes for Nader, surely, every single one of those would have stayed home. Of course anti-Democratic policies by the Republicans had a lot to do with it. The difference is that they are the enemy and Nader claims he is not. Go tell that to the 100,000+ dead and tortured Iraqis done in by the ensuing Bush regime. I’m sure they will be very understanding.

Nader has taken money from the Republicans to support his political efforts. Whether he has become a Republican shill or is just an idiot makes no difference. Shame on Common Dreams for giving him a soapbox.


Yes, I saw the not so subtle irony of your accurate point. However, my feeling is this issue is much larger than the columnist’s inconsistency and deflection concerning Florida 2000. The state has the power to stop, within the existing laws, any attempt to expand the full rights of the poor, non-white minorities and vulnerable women. And use the judicial and prison system to enforce, even execute, those who " don’t go along with the program ", so to speak. Talk for a few minutes with someone who was at Kent State and saw fellow protestors shot down 15 feet from where they were standing, unarmed and holding a cardboard sign. Multiply that by 10000 times across the land; you’ll begin to understand what the Police and Security State is willing to do to " keep a lid on things ". Of course, it all starts and ends with the laws and the judicial system which allow them to. No expansion of justice, equality or liberty; economic or legal, will be allowed to proceed without the 99s regaining control of their policing and the court systems, imo. Just won’t happen.


No vote, no choice.


No choice why vote


Dear Mrs. Ann Hitts,

I agree with everything you said. The problem with Nader is he says all the right things but the net effect of his efforts has been to sow division amongst progressives and to get Republicans elected.

Bernie Sanders is setting the example of how to do it right - by engaging in the primary he is taking the opportunity to shift the focus of the debate.

Nader has functioned as an opportunistic gadfly; a purity troll on steroids. In my opinion no self respecting progressive site should be giving him a soapbox.



So then are you actively participating in the Sanders campaign?


For choice, vote.


Countries with the most democratic governments have near 100% voter turnout. How can we have democratic government when only 36 percent of the people vote?

After years of Republican voter suppression, it could take a few elections with high voter turnout before good candidates arise. They only win by suppressing the vote, lying and cheating.

Someone posted something to the effect that we have successfully lowered voter turnout to 37%. So by lowering it a little more, we will somehow win?? Oligarchy propagandists seem desperate to resort to such deceitful arguments.

Prepare yourselves for another Republican shill invasion, not seen on CD since the midterms.