In a few weeks, millions of Americans will pack the nation’s largest churches to experience a state-of-the-art Christmas spectacular. Gone are the days of simple hymn sings and lit candles. Instead, America’s largest Christian assemblies spend millions of dollars on lavish sight and sound experiences intended to inspire and entertain peaking audiences. Vast choirs, professionallighting, cinematography and intricate choreography with hundreds of participants have become standard fare. Saddleback Church plans to provide its 20,000 members with a 50-foot tree, live reindeer and artificial snow. With so many potential converts in attendance, Christmas services have become liturgical shock-and-awe campaigns.
This display of Christmas cheer seems to reflect the wider cultural investment in a “performative prosperity gospel.” Whether or not churches explicitly teach the prosperity gospel’s message—that faith unleashes heavenly blessings—Christmas seems to do it for them. North American Christians seem most theologically at home with a holiday that heaps presents under the tree and food on the table as a reflection of Emmanuel, God with us.
Christmastime in America’s megachurches is a middle-class utopia. Jesus’ coming rewards the faithful with more than enough, a whole-life prosperity that can be seen as much in the Xbox One under the tree as in the worship at the altar of children’s Christmas pageants. So much the better if your church can assemble a living Christmas tree or a nativity scene that doubles as a petting zoo.
Prison Shocker: U.S. Imprisons Three Times as Many Black People as South Africa During Apartheid
Even Congressional Republicans were a bit disturbed by that stat.
The United States imprisons almost three times as many Black people than were jailed in South Africa during Apartheid, Rep. Spencer Bachus said Thursday during a subcommittee oversight hearing on the Federal Bureau of Prisons. While games of comparison are rarely productive, the American prison industrial complex has seen cries of racism for years now. And for once, both Democrats and Republicans are up in arms over the shocking state of affairs and say they are in favor of overhauling a system that many say is broken and biased.
Bachus reported that the U.S. prison population hovered around 24,000 for most of the 1900s until suddenly, in the 1980s, the country saw a staggering rise in the inmate population to nearly a quarter million. The main causes? the War on Drugs that began in the 1980s under then-President Ronald Reagan, mandatory sentencing and three-strikes laws, all of which, most agree, disproportionately affect minorities.
The rise in prison population may have another less publicized cause: gradual privatization of the prison industry, with its profits over justice motives. If the beds aren’t filled, states are required to pay the prison companies for the empty space, which means taxpayers are largely left to deal with the bill that might come from lower crime and imprisonment rates. Most privately built prisons mandate 90%-occupancy rates, according to the new report by In The Public Interest. The incentive to do so is big. When the state of Arizona recently failed to meet its 97% quota, the state paid the prison company Management & Training Corporation $3 million, the Huffington Post reports.
Of all the contracts that the advocacy group assessed, nearly two-thirds of the quotas were met. The prisons in question then were found to use the profits to expand their reach, pulling a variety of strings in an effort to make lawmakers increase incarceration stats through new laws. The US currently leads the world in incarcerating its residents, with one in every 100 adults behind bars, making it a $6 billion annual industry. Over the past 30 years, the prison population has more than quadrupled, mostly due to the very same drug offenses that disproportionately African Americans.
"There has to be an effort to reduce the population," BOP Director Charles Samuels Jr. told the subcommittee. Soon after. Rep. Bobby Scott, the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee joined forces with Bachus and Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz to sponsor a House reform bill, signaling a rare moment of bi-partisan agreement.
Other subcommittee members pressed Samuels on other issues, including prison staff safety, the cost of making a phone call, which is .23 a minute for domestic calls, and various other costs that come from taxpayer money. Though Samuels was unable to provide requested statistics, both parties agreed that the bloated prison population creates a dangerous environment for both inmates and staff, creating an open floodgate for a ride in public safety concerns, making reform a rare cross-party imperative.
Well where the hell have they been?
From the essay:
In late 2012, after I had finished most of the This Town manuscript, I was interviewing Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the Connecticut Democrat, for a brief Q and A that would appear in the front of The New York Times Magazine. Feeling a bit jaded — maybe more than usual after three years’ immersion in the Washington political class — my sarcasm flowed: “You’re retiring after serving 24 years in the Senate,” I asked Lieberman. “What lobbying firm are you going to join now?
“I’m not going to lobby,” Lieberman told me. “For sure.” “Chris Dodd said the same thing two years ago,” I said. (Dodd, Lieberman’s longtime fellow senator from Connecticut, had left the senate in 2011 and since went on to become head of the Motion Pictures Association of America, one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington.)
“Yeah, I know,” Lieberman said. “Watch me.”
We did, and it’s no surprise how this story ends. Politico’s Byron Tau reported before Thanksgiving that Lieberman had in fact signed on to represent a Libyan businessman who might run for president of his native land. Lieberman’s firm, Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman, would include “government relations services, communication of information to the principal and as well as [communication of] information about the principal to interested persons in the public sector,” according to public documents. Such communication will include “meetings with members of Congress, executive branch officials and others.” Not lobbying per se — he would not formally register! — but certainly lobbying-ish activities.
A 16-year-old avoided spending time in prison for killing four people in a car accident in June after the judge bought his lawyers’ argument that he was the victim of wealth.
CBSDFW reports that Ethan Couch was sentenced in a Fort Worth, Tex. juvenile court to 10 years probation for the drunk driving crash that ended the lives of youth pastor, Brian Jennings; Hollie and Shelby Boyles; and Breanna Mitchell.
Prosecutors asked that Couch serve 20 years in prison. His blood alcohol level was .24, three times the legal limit for an adult.
Psychologist G. Dick Miller testified for the defense that Couch suffered from “affluenza,” a condition in which “his family felt that wealth bought privilege and there was no rational link between behavior and consequences,” KHOU reported.
Miller said Couch’s parents never punished him for his behavior, even when, in a separate incident, cops found him passed out in a car with a naked 14-year-old girl.
As part of his sentence, Couch will be sent to a private counseling center that costs $450,000, which will be paid for by his father.
Money and privilege has helped defendants avoid serious prison time for violent crimes before.
In a particularly clear example, cited by journalist Glenn Greenwald, hedge fund manager Martin Joel Erzinger served just 90 days in jail after driving the car that seriously injured a bicyclist and fled the scene of the accident in 2010.
The district attorney in the case charged Erzlinger with two misdemeanors instead of a felony, noting that “felony convictions have some pretty serious job implications for someone in Mr. Erzinger’s profession.”
THEY DONT TELL US THIS IN HISTORY CLASS THO.I’d watch a movie about this.
Stuff I never learned in school
Why the hell would they teach us about successful events of POC solidarity?
Gov. Rick Snyder has added his voice to the chorus of criticism directed at Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema over his latest antigay remarks. Agema, in a speech at a Republican meeting in Berrien County on Thursday, said that gay people manipulate the system to get free health insurance because they are dying from AIDS at a young age. (via Gov. Snyder: Dave Agema’s antigay remarks ‘extreme and discriminatory’ | Detroit Free Press | freep.com)