Guns

ALEC’s 40th Birthday Bash Crashed in Chicago

ALEC’s 40th Birthday Bash Crashed in Chicago

by Bob Sloan

As members of the secretive American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) meet for their Annual Meeting in Chicago (August 7-9), the organization planned a “two-for” to also celebrate their fortieth corporate birthday.  In addition to a meeting to determine upcoming pro-corporate (anti-consumer) model legislation for the coming year, ALEC hoped to celebrate forty years of secretive activities that has brought American’s new state laws in reference to; “Stand Your Ground”, Privatized Prisons, Prison Industries, Tort “Reforms”, voter ID, voter suppression, fracking and anti-labor.

Why is ALEC so dangerous to our democracy – and how have they been able to chart a conservative course for America for the past forty years?  These questions were answered by the CMD General Counsel, Brendan Fischer in a recent interview on “Real News Network“:

“But with respect to how is this different from traditional lobbying, with traditional lobbying you at least have some level of transparency. If a lobbyist is going to meet with a legislator in a state, they’ll maybe get there ear for 15 minutes. With ALEC, legislators fly to ALEC meetings, usually on the corporate dime. Meetings are held in places like Amelia Island, Florida, or New Orleans, or this year in Chicago, usually at the nicest hotel in town. The corporate members that benefit from ALEC model legislation are footing the bill for legislators’ travel expenses.

While at these meetings, lobbyists get legislators’ ear for three days of meetings and workshops and other events where legislators are sold on these corporate-friendly ideas and urged to pass these bills that are going to benefit the corporations that are footing the bill for the travel, for the meetings, for the nights out. By the time legislators get back to the state, they are the ones who are already convinced that a particular bill or policy idea is right for the state. By the time the public gets a chance to weigh in, the legislator is oftentimes already convinced. So in some ways the legislators are the ones who are becoming the lobbyists for the corporate special-interest agenda advanced by ALEC.”

With all the media attention, things have not been going as planned for the ultra-conservative think tank as hundreds of protesters, activists, clergy, organized labor members and an angry public have turned out to protest ALEC’s existence, their anti-consumer legislative activities and efforts to prioritize corporate rights over human ones.

The protests in Chicago this week are the latest in a long line of similar actions undertaken over the past three years.  In April 2011 hundreds turned out in Cincinnati in the first ever Anti-ALEC protest/rally.  At that event a whistleblower turned over hundreds of ALEC’s secret “model legislation” earmarked for presentation in state legislatures to fatten the bottom lines of ALEC’s corporate membership.  CMD published all of the material at a PRWatch website: www.alecexposed.org to warn the public of then current and upcoming “initiatives” of ALEC that would be detrimental to the general public.

Since that initial protest, VLTP along with organizations such as People For the American Way (PFAW), Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), Common Cause, Color of Change and a half dozen others have pursued ALEC continuously.  We have crisscrossed America following ALEC from state to state, city by city to set-up and protest all of their activities and to offer information to locals about ALEC’s legislative record and ongoing agenda.  Common Cause and VLTP were joined by Clergy Voice in Ohio in filing whistleblower complaints/claims with the IRS, asserting that ALEC’s IRS (c)(3) exempt status is being used to openly lobby at the state and federal levels for legislation they themselves wrote on behalf of corporate interests.  Such activities are prohibited for “charities” holding the 501 (c)(3) exemption.

ALEC protesters have turned to social media of late in an effort of informing more Americans about ALEC.  A special Facebook Group page was established to allow activists to communicate, plan and announce events planned for Chicago this week.  Activists have attracted unions by exposing ALEC’s anti-worker, anti-union legislative efforts.  In Oklahoma city earlier this year at ALEC’s spring summit, AFLCIO members joined with the Teamsters and local unions to organize a huge anti-ALEC protest, rally and march.

In Chicago AFSCME has weighed in along with the Chicago Teacher’s Union

The ALEC protesting started on Monday (Moral Monday) of this week as protesters staged a sit-in at the fashionable Chicago resort/hotel, the Palmer House where several protesters were arrested:

Six people were arrested Monday when protesters descended upon the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago to push back against the impending visit of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), whose conservative agenda, activists say, promotes policies and legislation that protects corporate interests and disenfranchises workers and voters.

Chanting “No to ALEC,” Goodman, along with fellow members of the Chicago Moral Monday Coalition, such as Natalie Wahlberg, were arrested for linking arms on the steps of the hotel’s lobby, at 17 E. Monroe St. According to the Chicago Police Department, six protesters were charged with misdemeanor criminal trespassing for causing a disturbance and refusing to leave the lobby. (see video of the event here.

The arrests demonstrate how ALEC coordinates with Hotel security, local police and some say Homeland Security to provide protection to the hundreds of corporate representatives that attend ALEC events to wine and dine thousands of state legislators in an attempt to woo them into sponsoring proposed legislation beneficial to corporate interests.  In Phoenix in November 2011 dozens of demonstrators were pepper sprayed by local police – most wearing their name badges backwards to hide their identity – before arrests were made at a protest in front of the Westin resort in Scottsdale.

Obviously with their vast influence, money and connections (nearly 2,000 state legislative members), ALEC is able to deter local authorities from the primary task of “serving the public” to “licking the boots of the corporate elite” at each event.  Instead of protecting the public and their rights to protest and demonstrate, local authorities are quick to arrest on behalf of ALEC.

Yesterday, PRWatch published information about ALEC’s efforts in Chicago, exposing the think tank’s upcoming agenda:

CHICAGO — This week, the corporate and legislator members of the American Legislative Exchange Council are meeting at the swank Palmer House hotel in Chicago to celebrate the organization’s 40th anniversary, be educated in corporate sponsored workshops and adopt legislative priorities for the coming year. Here is what is on the agenda for ALEC’s 40th — notably, some of the workshops carry a $40,000 pricetag for corporate sponsors.

Fracking, Virtual Schools, and Privatization

  • New ways to thwart local democratic control by prohibiting city or county governments from regulating genetically modified plant seeds. Members of the Agriculture Subcommittee — which is chaired by Jeff Case of CropLife America — will consider a bill to thwart local democratic control by prohibiting city or local governments from regulating genetically modified plant seeds, which happens to benefit many members of CropLife’s trade association and other big ag companies. Contrary to Jeffersonian principles of local democracy, for years ALEC has promoted bills to preempt local efforts to establish everything from paid sick days to municipal broadband.
  • ALEC's Energy, Environment & Agriculture (EEA) task forcePresentations on how fracking America can lead to increased profits through exporting America’s natural gas. American Petroleum Institute representatives Jon Shore and Rebecca Heimlich will give a presentation on “Local Bans on Hydraulic Fracturing: Coming Soon to Your District.” Jason French of energy company Cheniere Energy will present to the Energy Subcommittee about “LNG [Liquid Natural Gas] exports: A Story of American Innovation and Economic Opportunity.”
  • Discussions of the wonders of nuclear energy and offshore drilling. Other energy-related agenda items include a presentation on “Nuclear Energy’s Continuing Role in Providing Baseload Electricity,” and another on “Developing America’s Offshore Energy Potential: Good Sense and Good Cents.” ALEC will also consider a “Resolution in Opposition to a Carbon Tax.”
  • More climate change denial? Members of the Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force will be part of a breakfast plenary session called “A Thoughtful Approach to Climate Science.” The title is less inflammatory than some of its past panels — at the 2011 ALEC meeting, legislators attended a workshop titled “Warming Up to Climate Change: The Many Benefits of Increased Atmospheric CO2” — but given ALEC funders like the Koch brothers and members like the Heartland Institute, it seems unlikely that the organization has woken up to the dangers of climate change.
  • Expanding virtual “schools,” which enriches ALEC’s online school corporate funders, such as K12 Inc.The Illinois Policy Institute — the State Policy Network affiliate in the state — will present on “digital education.” IPI employees had pushed a Virtual Charter School plan in Illinois, apparently in collaboration with ALEC member K12 Inc., the nation’s largest provider of online charter schools (which has become notorious for poor educational outcomes and high profit margins). Additionally, at least two “workshops” — which carry a $40,000 pricetag — will deal with online education: “Modeling State Funding Formulas, K-12 Online Course Providers” and “Statewide Full-Time Virtual Schools: The Case for Parent Choice vs. Local Control.”

(Read the full agenda at the link provided above).

These topics are why so many Americans are now putting their safety and freedom on the line to step forward and actively protest ALEC.  The future of our society and indeed our nation are at peril from this organization and their powerful members.  Now that organized labor has joined the fray in earnest, I’m hopeful ALEC’s days are numbered and the countdown to the end is accelerating.

Finally, a great article by The Nation encapsulates the complete ALEC story and forewarns all of us of what the future holds if ALEC is allowed to continue operations unabated.

Street protests against ALEC like those planned in Chicago directly led to the organization’s exposure two years ago. After University of Wisconsin–Madison history professor William Cronon wrote a blog post examining the organization’s role in providing model legislation similar to the “Budget Repair Bill” pushed by Governor Scott Walker (a former ALEC member as a state legislator) that led to the famous Madison capitol occupation, Midwestern activists organized a protest outside the annual ALEC convention and a series of informational teach-ins in Cincinnati, Ohio. Two hours later, a whistleblower telephoned protest organizer Aliya Rahman, offering access to 800 of ALEC’s model bills.

Since that leak two years ago, and the subsequent investigation by The Nation and the Center for Media and Democracy’s, “ALEC Exposed,” as well as the CMD’s ongoing coverage through ALECexposed.org, the organization has faced intense national scrutiny, drawing protest from a wide variety of progressive groups in cities around the country for their role in writing and promoting a battery of right-wing legislation.

 

Michigan Lawmakers Push Ineffective NRA Gun Safety Program

Joined by twenty-eight of his colleagues, Michigan House Rep. Bruce Rendon (R-103) thinks he has the solution to preventing gun violence among children. This morning he introduced a resolution (HR – 104 of 2013) that encourages public schools to adopt a video training program developed by the National Rifle Association called the Eddie Eagle Gun Safe Program. Rendon proposes the training start at the Pre-K level, but says it should start no later than Third Grade. View the video here.

The program has been around for a couple of decades, and has yet to prove to be effective in any way. Paul Helmke, President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, cites a 2004 study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics which found that, although children could memorize the video, they did not put to use the skills in real life tests. 

Helmke goes on to say the following about Eddie Eagle:

Another study published in the late 1990s by the Violence Policy Center (VPC) noted that Eddie Eagle was like “Joe Camel with feathers,” pointing out that: “The primary goal of the National Rifle Association’s Eddie Eagle program is not to safeguard children, but to protect the interests of the NRA and the firearms industry by making guns more acceptable to children and youth… The hoped-for result is new customers for the industry and new members for the NRA.”

Michigan’s Republican lawmakers have proven they have little regard for science or facts when it comes to legislating, but when their NRA report cards are on the line, even the occasional Democrat can have an attack of willful ignorance.

Amy Kerr Hardin from Democracy Tree

Dr. Niaz Kasvari: Private Prisons are the New Slave Ships of America

Dr. Niaz Kasvari: Private Prisons are the New Slave Ships of America

Dr. Niaz Kasvari, Director of the NAACP Criminal Justice Program recently wrote a very compelling article about the serious CCA patchdangers of private prisons.   Dr. Kasvari mentions specifically the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) as the primary culprit, and the company that is truly happy to see you and your loved ones behind bars.   I know the prison system well:  I’ve had several close relatives to go prison, all of them men.  I also know that none of them were better men because of it, and that it was a life of post-felony marginalization that left the man I considered to be my older brother destitute and homeless until he died last summer.  These institutions are as poisonous to our society as drone strikes are to young children in countries around the world.

Another interesting article at Techyville.com goes into detail about how the private prison industry is structured, and who benefits.   According to Dr. Niaz Kasvari, the CCA sent a letter to 48 governors offering to purchase their prisons in exchange for a guaranteed occupancy rate of 90 percent.  This dangerous statement implies that the CCA is actively seeking to persuade legislators to modify and enforce laws in such a way that more American citizens will end up in prison.  

While law-abiding Americans reading this article may not see the dangers in such a proposal, I encourage you to remember that everyone breaks the law at some point, and it is only the strictness with which the law is enforced that makes the difference between whether we are free or incarcerated.

The CCA earns $1.7 billion per year by putting people in prison, mostly African Americans.  Part of the reason that I am gathering for a public forum with Min. Louis Farrakhan in Chicago on March 30 (5 pm, UIC forum) is because mass incarceration has served to destroy the black family in America.  The rapid increase in single parent homes and the pervasive spread of prison culture in the black community is largely driven by the growth in incarceration rates all across America.  Black people are being fed like cattle into the prison industrial complex, and the lives of our children have little value to this system.

Dr. Niaz Kasvari also notes that the CCA considers modifications to even the most Draconian drug laws to be a threat that could “affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them.”

As a Finance Professor, I am well-aware of the dangers of hardcore capitalism.   If it is not properly regulated, capitalism can be as harmful to our society as crack cocaine is to the mind of an addict.  Similar to crack, the drug of capitalism can cause you to make decisions that are in direct contradiction to the values you claim to embrace as a human being.  It can create a pharmaceutical industry that lets human beings die because they can’t afford medication, and it can create a prison industry that actually wants to see people behind bars, even if our society is being ruined because of it.

When we incarcerate so many millions of Americans, our world becomes less safe and more unstable.  Today, the streets are filled with young, misguided teenagers, many of whom grew up without parents who were given long sentences for non-violent, drug-related offenses.  Black women have fewer men to marry because prison culture has come to play a role in shaping how too many black men think and live.

Even worse, many of our men grew up with a steady dose of brainwashing via commercialized hip-hop on the radio that teaches them that every black man is supposed to be a blunt-blowing, gun totting thug who wastes his money and takes pleasure in killing black men while disrespecting black women.   These systems create a type of mental illness that causes us to become something other than what we were truly meant to be, and that is why our families are falling apart.

This is the society that is being created around us, and this is the battle we are in.  All of us should support those like Dr. Niaz Kasvari who are fighting against the dangers of the prison industrial complex.  The goal is not to get rid of punishment and rehabilitation as a logical response to crime.  Instead, it is to embrace productive rehabilitation that makes communities stronger and not weaker.

We are in the fight of our lives.
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This article is published at ThyBlackMan.com and can be found at http://thyblackman.com/2013/03/01/dr-niaz-kasvari-private-prisons-are-the-new-slave-ships-of-america/ It was written by Staff Writer;
Dr. Boyce Watkins thy black man

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition.  For more information, please visit http://BoyceWatkins.com.

Snyder Puts the Smack-Down on Michigan Lawmakers

In a rare show of political spine, Governor Snyder admonished lawmakers to pull their collective heads out of their asses (my words — he was much more statesman like), and stop wasting time on gun laws, particularly those that won’t stand-up to a constitutional challenge.

Catering to a fringe demographic, conservative legislators are putting the constitution to a good old-fashioned witch drowning — trial by ordeal — with Senate Bill 63.  A proposed law that would exempt weapons manufactured in Michigan from federal gun regulations, and which lawmakers readily admit is unconstitutional. The “logic” behind the potential law goes likes this:

Lawmakers love their constitution so much (particularly the second amendment), that they are willing to violate it to protect it — a legislative honor killing meant to preserve the virtue of our foundational document.

Snyder’s warning to lawmakers is likely intended to give them a political “out” with the NRA. A lawmaker need only introduce or vote More →

Another School Shooting and Michigan Lawmakers Tries to Loosen Gun Regs

images[4]Another school shooting, and another Michigan lawmaker gaffe — just a month after the Newtown massacre and the ill-fated guns in schools legislation were introduced on the same morning, (vetoed by Gov. Snyder) — here we go again….

As details of the Texas school shooting come in, it is reported that Sen. Rick Jones (R-ALEC) introduced the Fire Arms Freedom Act in Michigan — a bill that is described by The Tenth Amendment Center as:

“Originally introduced and passed in Montana, the FFA declares that any firearms made and retained in-state are beyond the authority of Congress under its constitutional power to regulate commerce among the states. The FFA is primarily a Tenth Amendment challenge to the powers of Congress under the commerce clause, with firearms as the object.”

Translation: Guns manufactured and sold within state lines are exempt from all federal gun laws. Lawmakers readily admit that the legislation is unconstitutional and that their intent is merely a push-back on potential upcoming gun regulation legislation.

Way to go Michigan lawmakers…way to go.

Amy Kerr Hardin from Democracy Tree

democracy tree logo

Guns and Animus

images[9]President Obama unveiled his, not so secret, plan to curb gun violence in the United States: universal background checks, ban on military-style assault weapons, limits on high-capacity magazines, toughening punishments for violations, and approval of the long overdue appointment of a director to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Pew research indicates all are heavily supported by the American people.

The National Rifle Association’s official response to the Obama administration recommendations appears to be nothing more than a repeat of their PR boondoggle of a few weeks prior, which resulted
More →

‘Stand Your Ground’ Linked To Increase In Homicides – NPR

If a stranger attacks you inside your own home, the law has always permitted you to defend yourself. On the other hand, if an altercation breaks out in public, the law requires you to try to retreat. At least, that’s what it used to do.

In 2005, Florida became the first of nearly two-dozen states to pass a “stand your ground” law that removed the requirement to retreat. If you felt at risk of harm in a park or on the street, you could use lethal force to defend yourself. The shooting of unarmed 17-yearold Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., drew national attention to these laws.

Now, researchers who’ve studied the effect of the laws have found that states with a stand your ground law have more homicides than states without such laws. More →

NRA and ALEC – Behind The Castle Doctrine, Together

We’ll just let the picture tell the story of how Florida’s Stand Your Ground law became ALEC’s Castle Doctrine Law.  A version of one or the other law is in force in , which is the law of the land in 46 states *  Here from August 12, 2005…

NRA Presents ALEC Model Legislation in Grapevine, TX* ref:  http://cga.ct.gov/2012/rpt/2012-R-0172.htm

 

Public Schools and Guns

I am a public school teacher.  The irony of teachers being the heroes this week after standing between students and a gun – is not lost on me.  

After being villainized for the last few years, I guess my main surprise is that someone else noticed that teachers are heroes.  It seems apparent to me . . .  teachers are heroes.  I work with dozens of heroes every workday.  I know many people who give everything they have – to teach students.  I’m not surprised by the events in Connecticut.  My only surprise is that the general public seemed to finally notice teachers again and find something to value about us.

I don’t expect this admiration to last long because Americans have to get back to the bottom line soon.  Someone in a corporation needs to make money.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/24/teachers-heroic-actions-i_n_2360571.html

I am a public school teacher.  The response of gun lovers this week has been – disgusting. More →

Michigan Right to Work Law Was the Brainchild of ALEC, The Most Dangerous Group in Politics

From article written by Bob Sloan and published on Policy Mic...

Fact: 282 bills were passed in Michigan during the lame duck session. 42% of all the bills passed in the last two years were in this last lame duck session, with 180 votes taken on the last day of the 2012 session alone.

Fact: In the session from Dec 13 to Dec 14 (ending at 4:29AM), 180 roll-call votes were held. This took place in the 18 hours leading up to the ending of lame duck.

No sooner had the GOP secured total control of Michigan in 2010, holding majorities in both houses and winning the governorship, than the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a right-wing ultra-conservative “bill mill” and THE source of money and corruption in politics today, lept into action. ALEC wasted no time in sending many of their most onerous “model legislation” bills to Michigan. These included the Emergency Manager law, , expansion of charter schools, HB 5221 (Voter ID Act), which required voters to provide proof of citizenship when registering to vote, and HB 4305 with language similar to ALEC’s model “Immigration Law Enforcement Act.” More →