12. January 2017 · Comments Off on Human Suffering for Profit · Categories: Politics, Random Thoughts · Tags: , ,

My Four Months as a Private Prison Guard: A Mother Jones Investigation

Source:  My Four Months as a Private Prison Guard: A Mother Jones Investigation

Why I chose this piece:  Shane Bauer goes undercover to find out how the private prison industry is run. His courage and professionalism are first rate. This is journalism at its best.

Quick Summary:  Horrifying.  For example, since Corrections Corp of America has to pay prisoner medical bills, they prevent sick people from getting the care they need.  The lawsuits they settle are likely less expensive than medical care.  Anyone who labors under the delusion that for-profit American prisons are more progressive or humane than a medieval dungeon should have a read.

People who profit at the suffering of others are reprehensible. To find out which politicians accept contributions from Corrections Corp of American, see Follow the Money.  Politicians who take this money are unprincipled and have no business being elected to government offices.

Also read this report from UVM “Campaign Contributions from Corrections Corporation of America”


14. November 2016 · Comments Off on Jonathan Katz on U.S. and Haiti · Categories: Politics, Random Thoughts

Someone said for a democracy to function, people need information.  I’ve decided to use this blog to curate informative, fair articles that can inform political discourse and action.

The Clintons Didn’t Screw Up Haiti Alone.  You Helped

Source: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2016/09/the_truth_about_the_clintons_and_haiti.html

Why I chose this piece: author Jonathan Katz was “Associated Press correspondent in Port-au-Prince from 2007 to 2011 and survived the earthquake in 2010, spent years digging into the details of the response and recovery”;  also author of The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster

Quick summary:

A host of international players along with players from the U.S. – the Bushes, Clintons, U.S. Military, State Dept. etc. –  used same old snake oil prescription to try to help Haiti recover from the devastating 2010 earthquake, a prescription shared by republicans and democrats alike that’s based on “helping” people by “helping” big business.

“The vast majority of U.S. government contracts went to American firms; almost no cash ever went, or was intended to go, to Haitians or the Haitian government. The same is true for nearly all nongovernmental organizations and charities, including the American Red Cross.”

The resulting political fraud, corruption, and fund mismanagement has been a disaster for the people of Haiti, and hasn’t been much of a business success either. The larger picture is one of different power players haggling over the spoils.

22. June 2013 · Comments Off on Citizen Koch – a film about money and power · Categories: Politics, Random Thoughts

It should be no surprise PBS decided not to air Citizen Koch for fear of shutting off the cash flow from the Koch brothers.  PBS sold out long ago, as chronicled in Jane Mayer’s excellent article for the May 27, 2013 New Yorker, “A Word from Our Sponsor” :

“When Koch joined the boards of WGBH and WNET, it seemed to mark an ideological inroad, enabling him to exert influence over a network with a prominent news operation. Meanwhile, the member stations, by having Koch as a trustee, were inoculating themselves against charges of liberal bias, and positioning themselves to receive substantial new donations.”


26. May 2013 · Comments Off on Monsanto: The Face of Evil · Categories: Politics, Random Thoughts

Canada and Europe disallowed Monsanto’s bovine growth hormone after reviewing safety research.  The FDA paid no attention.  And Monsanto wants to make sure we don’t know anything about it.

There are two issues here – a person’s right to choose what they eat, and the ability in this country of big money to dictate what we know or don’t know about the food that’s available.

In addition to the dubious bovine growth hormone, Monsanto sells seeds for round-up resistant plants.  The genetically modified food that comes from these plants contains pesticide residue after being sprayed with round-up.  “Now Monsanto is violating individual rights by controlling our food supply by producing GMOs and forcing lawmakers to pass laws that protect them where citizens don’t have a right to know where it is going despite independent research showing how deadly GMOs are.”

Just as in the case of bovine growth hormone, Monsanto doesn’t want you to know anything about it, or have any choice about ingesting it.  “In Europe, March Against Monsanto Is Latest Rejection of the GMO Giant”

Who’s your daddy? In the U.S. it’s Monsanto, apparently.

A lot of people really like the PBS series Downton Abbey so  I’ve been curious to know what all the fuss is about.  Tonight we watched the first season on DVD.  I was sorely disappointed when the rat poison didn’t make it to the dining room table in the first episode. They missed a great plot opportunity there. I’m also sorry to say I find the characters too well starched. And, I don’t buy the benevolent, all-wise Earl of Grantham bit – history shows the lord is more lech than liege.

the maid

You’ll never see this on Downton Abbey. Photo by Frank Kovalchek (thanks, Frank!)

As the story minces along we see the earl right wrongs and the menials learn from his example. Spare me. If the conceit were indeed true, the house staff would be a crew of entitled loafers by season’s end.  Downton Abbey perpetuates the myth that the upper classes deserve their bastion of superiority  and  the rest of us who benefit from the philosophical wisdom, moral leadership,  and puny wages dispensed from on high are meant to accept the status quo.  There’s a scene in which  Grantham tells Cawley letting the help wait on him is actually a kindness to them (“everyone has a role to play”),  a  self serving sentiment if ever there was one.

Every installation of privilege dispenses this propaganda to justify a lopsided state of affairs.  We all know the reality:  the 1% are more debauched and fraudulent than exemplary, and trickle down of anything is unlikely, except maybe syphilis.


The Help at Curraghmore House, 1905, National Library of Ireland

A more interesting set of characters than the Edwardian paper dolls at Downton Abbey are the flesh and blood Brontes of Haworth.  I recently read Juliet Barker’s meticulous biography of the famous authors and their father.  In addition to writing a compelling, multi-dimensional narrative and character study of creative genius, Ms. Barker provides social and political insight into the first half of 19th century England. We learn, for example, that in the 1830s the Haworth mill owners were in a twist  when new laws were passed to prevent children 6 years old working more than 48 hours per week, and children 12 years old working more than 60 hours per week. (Now we know how the Granthams made their money.)

child labor

Oyster shuckers, Port Royal, South Carolina, or as today’s GOP would say “the good old days.” Photo by Lewis Hines

Having already read Emily and Charlotte’s wonderful books, I was inspired to pick up Anne Bronte’s novel “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.”  In contrast to Emily’s deep soul haunting and Charlotte’s feminist angst, Anne’s prose is charmingly domestic with delightful phrases such as  “in correction for his impudence, [he] received a resounding whack over the sconce.”

So next Sunday will find me reading in my chair in front of the woodstove, instead of watching Downton Abbey.

bronte sisters

The Bronte Sisters as painted by their brother, Branwell


Posted by  Alice Gebura, Copyright 2013, All Rights Reserved.