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Private prisons racket a sin

Privatization of prisons is what happens when right-wing politicians collude with corporations to shrink government “down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub,” to borrow Grover Norquist’s vivid phrase. A major church has belatedly taken a stand against such ventures:

The General Board of Pension and Health Benefits of the United Methodist Church, “after six months of study, discussion and prayerful consideration,” announced on January 3 that it had withdrawn nearly $1 million in stocks from two private prison companies, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group.

A spokesperson for the board said the decision was not based on finance, but morality. “Our board simply felt that it did not want to profit from the business of incarcerating others,” Colette Nies, managing director of communications for the board, told The Crime Report.

She added: “We believe that profiting from incarceration is contrary to Church values.”

The decision comes after a year of lobbying by the National Prison Divestment Campaign, a coalition of immigrant rights, criminal justice and other organizations targeting CCA and GEO. The effort seeks to convince private and public institutions that for-profit prisons are a bad idea.

One of the major objections to private prisons is that, unlike normal prisons, they have no incentive to rehabilitate prisoners because private prisons profit from keeping people incarcerated. Last week CCA was the subject of controversy when it was revealed that it was offering to buy state-owned prisons and operate them for 20 years on the condition that the states keep the prisons at least 90% full.

It’s a pleasure, and a bit of a surprise, to learn that some Christian groups ultimately can’t stomach investing in businesses that are clearly un-Christian.

The EMI song (when you smile)

A new collection of songs Alex Chilton made before Big Star:

Screw you, we’re from Texas

Ray Wylie Hubbard:

I drink

Mary Gauthier:

Statistician’s blues

This one’s dedicated to someone from my past. Todd Snider:

Occupy July 4th

I thought about running, but I think this one belongs to the next generation:

PHILADELPHIA — A group of protesters affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement plans to elect 876 “delegates” from around the country and hold a national “general assembly” in Philadelphia over the Fourth of July as part of ongoing protests over corporate excess and economic inequality.

The group, dubbed the 99% Declaration Working Group, said Wednesday delegates would be selected during a secure online election in early June from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories.

In a nod to their First Amendment rights, delegates will meet in Philadelphia to draft and ratify a “petition for a redress of grievances,” convening during the week of July 2 and holding a news conference in front of Independence Hall on the Fourth of July.
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A 90-year-old dances to Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”

Ash Wednesday blues

A butcher friend of mine on Ninth Street said hello today, and I couldn’t help notice the thin black cross on his forehead. I realized this was the first day of Lent and the cross was ash rubbed into his skin by a priest. More here.

Chicago turnaround

We can’t really acknowledge anything that contradicts the corporate-driven conventional wisdom about privatizing schools, though:

One day before Chicago School Board members vote on whether to “turn around” a record number of flagging schools, a new study emerged Tuesday that dumped on the results of the city’s major turnaround vendor.

About 33 neighborhood schools with at least 95 percent low-income students not only outscored equally poor schools cleared out of all staff and “turned around’’ by the Academy for Urban School Leadership, but even beat the city test score average, the study by Designs for Change indicated.

And the neighborhood schools did so without the average $7 million per school in funds and facility improvements over five years given the typical AUSL school — and with far less teacher turnover, the study said.

Don Moore, executive director of Designs for Change, said CPS should try to duplicate the formula of success at its own high-scoring, high-poverty neighborhood schools before it pays AUSL to turn around more schools.

“If you look down this list of [33 high-poverty neighborhood schools], most people have never heard of them but the turnaround people get all the publicity and they have not done as well,’’ Moore said.

Often, the study found, neighborhood schools outperformed equally-poor AUSL turnaround schools located only a few miles away. For example, in the South Shore neighborhood, Powell came in No. 14, while AUSL’s Bradwell was No. 194.

Serfin’ USA (the new feudalism)

Barring some act of God, or social upheaval that results in something akin to revolution, the numbers indicate that the 99 percent are screwed. More here.

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