LGBT

WA Bill Would Allow Businesses to Openly Discriminate Against Gays

WA Bill Would Allow Businesses to Openly Discriminate Against Gays

LogoFrom Think Progress / By Zack Ford

“Republicans in Washington state have proposed a bill that would  allow businesses to openly discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation if they want to do so because of their religious beliefs.  SB 5927carves out a specific exception to the state’s nondiscrimination law that says only federal protections — which don’t include sexual orientation — apply when a person’s religious belief is “burdened”: 

“Nothing in this section may burden a person or religious organization’s freedom of religion including, but not limited to, the right of an individual or entity to deny services if providing those goods or services would be contrary to the individual’s or entity owner’s sincerely held religious beliefs…”

Read the full article -> here <- at AlterNet.

ALEC’s Involvement in Criminalizing HIV/AIDS Sufferers

ALEC’s Involvement in Criminalizing HIV/AIDS Sufferers

by VLTP Executive Director, Bob Sloan

A recent article from the Advocate and the American Independent caught my attention the other day…then it was picked up and republished by Salon yesterday.

These articles help us to dissect how the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) involves themselves in issue specific initiatives in an effort of promoting their “free market,” pro-corporate agenda.  Not to assist the public in overcoming a health or other issue, not to alleviate the false claims or misunderstandings causing members of our society fear – but rather to capitalize off of that fear and if possible to increase the fear for monetary and political gain.

As we’re told by reading these articles, 1988 was the first time ALEC formed a task force to take up a single issue – HIV and AIDS.  During that period in our history there was much misunderstanding, disinformation and outright lies spread about the disease.  While many were trying to come to grips with the issue, ALEC and one of their pharma members were busy fueling the fires, so to speak…ending with the creation of legislation to criminalize the spread of HIV or AIDS.

I would urge everyone to read the linked articles to fully grasp the way in which ALEC is able to accomplish their agenda – and why they continue to be so successful on advancing their conservative model legislation…

I believe this was a pursuit of ALEC to drive those with the disease to the “cure” which was being manufactured by Hoffman La Roche and was then being studied in trials:

“This pharmaceutical company had the HIV-treating drug zalcitabine (also known as ddC) in clinical trials a couple of years prior. That drug would ultimately win Food and Drug Administration approval in 1992 after three successful trials conducted in cooperation with, among others, the National Cancer Institute.

It was bad enough that Hoffman La Roche was anxious to capitalize off a new drug designed to lead the way in treating a new and dangerous worldwide disease.  The fact that they funded the publishing of a book put out by ALEC that called for criminalizing those with the disease unless they divulged to potential partners that they had such a disease, made it worse.  They weren’t actually trying to cure, rather they were attempting to fuel the flames with incendiary proposals that made it a “law” for those with the ailment to publicly disclose derogatory personal health information…and if they failed to inform, they could face prison.

“The efforts of ALEC’s AIDS policy working group were published that year in a 169-page book containing 13 HIV-specific legislative recommendations. Some of those model laws would, after becoming real state laws, go on to effectively criminalize the behavior of people living with HIV and perpetuate a lasting stigma against HIV-positive people. Today, a majority of states have laws on the books that criminalize HIV exposure regardless of whether the virus was transmitted or there was an intention to infect another person with HIV.”“Every half hour in America someone dies of AIDS!” wrote ALEC’s then-executive director (and former Denver Bronco) Samuel Brunelli and Florida state representative Frank Messersmith, then ALEC’s chairman, in 1989 in their introductory letter published in the AIDS working group’s final report. “Yet, despite this terrible toll, we have been unable to implement a coherent public health strategy for dealing with this modern plague. Instead, we have allowed political special interests to paralyze the legislative process and block effective public health measures. This politicization of the public health process is exacting a deadly price.”

One of the pieces of model legislation drafted by the working group was the HIV Assault Act(adopted by ALEC’s membership as Model legislation in 1995).

“This model bill created a felony charge if a person knew he or she was infected with HIV while engaging in “intimate contact” with another person (exposing one’s bodily fluids to another in a way that could transmit HIV); donating blood, organs, or tissues; or sharing intravenous or intramuscular injection equipment.

There are some who would argue that there were already laws on the books in many states in 1988 making the spread of HIV a criminal act and that ALEC’s efforts were therefore inconsequential.  However, that claim would be false:

“When ALEC produced its model HIV Assault Act in 1989, nine states had HIV-specific criminal laws on the books. Today, 32 states and two U.S. territories have laws criminalizing HIV exposure, according to the Center for HIV Law and Policy. Only a handful of laws require intent to transmit the virus, and none requires an actual transmission for criminal prosecution to proceed. Since 2010, HIV-related criminal charges have led to more than 80 prosecutions against people living with HIV in the U.S., according to the LGBT legal advocacy group Lambda Legal.

ALEC now admits that the creation of the task force and publication of the book was due to the urging of “private interests.”

“Tanner said ALEC, which brings lawmakers and corporate interests together to hammer out legislative recommendations, came to address the HIV epidemic because of pressure from “private interests.””Specifically, he recalled that drugmaker Hoffmann-La Roche was a “big mover” and “put up a lot of funding behind publication of the book…”

The most incriminating aspect of this terrible story?  The names of those sitting upon the ALEC “HIV working group”…

“The co-chairs of the ALEC working group were J. Brian Munroe of Hoffmann-La Rocheand Delaware state Rep. Richard DavisRepresentatives from Nationwide Insurance and Alexander Hamilton Life Insurance also served on the AIDS working group.”

All this sad story is missing is the links between this pursuit of HIV prosecutions, profiting off of the illness and funding and the input from individuals such as Charles or David Koch…but wait, here comes another well known name that weighed in on behalf of ALEC and Hoffman La Roche…:

“Long criticized for not doing enough about the AIDS epidemic, which exploded onto the American medical scene in June 1981, President Ronald Reagan established the first Presidential Commission on the Human Immunodeficiency Virus Epidemic in 1987.The first months of the commission, which deliberated for a year, were plagued by public infighting, leading to the resignation of the chair and another member. The final commission included Richard DeVos, co-founder of Amway and frequent donor to social conservative causes; the late Cardinal John O’Connor, who had served as the archbishop of New York and who openly opposed condoms as an HIV-prevention method; and Penny Pullen, a conservative lawmaker from Illinois.

Penny Pullen
Illinois State Representative Penny Pullen has slipped under the radar of ALEC researchers – until now.  Pullen was a member of ALEC for 14 years, serving on the Board of Directors and upon ALEC’s Education Task Force.  A staunch conservative she complained during the hearings of the Commission on HIV about the tax dollars spent on pursuing the HIV/AIDS epidemic…saying it was paid for by taxpayers and should be used by them and not just as a “headline”, but actually read.
DeVos
DeVos is a well known contributor to ALEC and conservative think tanks and heavily involved in privatization 

efforts of public education.  So President Reagan’s “Commission on the Human Immunodeficiency Virus Epidemic ” included ALEC members and supporters sent there with an agenda.  These folks went right to work finding ways to capitalize off a terrible and frightening disease and to enrich fellow ALEC member, Hoffman La Roche.

Here is a story that only comes out nearly 25 years after the act was accomplished and the damages began to accrue.  This single case demonstrates how ALEC and their conservative cabal use fear to create the illusion that “their” solution is the salvation…how they use the contributors (DeVos and their financial and political influences), their corporate members and influential lawmakers to coordinate their pursuits of profits through crafting legislation that attaches a criminal penalty for failure to comply.

This is precisely what the cabal had already been doing for nearly a decade by filling the public with a fear of crime then crafting criminal justice legislation on three strikes, minimum mandatory sentences and other harsh criminal laws used to fill prisons.  That was followed by creating a prison industrial complex using prisoners for slave labor for corporate manufacturers (claiming the prisoners they worked so hard to imprison needed training for rehabilitation)…when the AIDS/HIV epidemic came along, they put their tried and true skills to work to capitalize off that debilitating disease.  Today they use the same skill sets and tactics to pursue right to work, voter ID suppression and to end collective bargaining.

Still today, the laws ALEC helped to write are still being used to prosecute those with HIV or AIDS in many states.  Hoffman La Roche scored big time, raking in millions in sales of their HIV drug by consumers who’s fears had been elevated by the disease and the legislation put out by ALEC to criminalize those with the disease.

I’m hopeful that the LGBT community takes ALEC and their PhRMA members to task for how this was accomplished, the non-transparent way in which it was done and the mental and physical harm caused by their actions.

Destroying Access to Local Democracy

Most of you will have no idea what I am writing about – because you are fortunate to have more than just basic cable, and were born after the advent of cable TV.

Many of you – might not know or care – but you should –  if you claim to care about the democratic process – or are a progressive, or a liberal, or just like to spout off something about caring for your fellow man when you’re drunk.

While taking my somewhat regular look at the ALECexposed webpage today to research some model legislation, I was reading about the intricate web of legislation woven in Wisconsin.

As very similar legislation  has already been passed into law here in NC it piqued my interest.  And let me tell you Wisconsinites something — you should really care about this one.

For those of you in the industry – please excuse my simplistic approach to this issue – this is the best I could surmise from my research.

HISTORY

rabbit ears antennaBack in the “good old days”, if people wanted to watch TV they had to have an antenna either on top of the TV, next to their house or on top of their house.

Back in the seventies – cable broadcasting came about in order to provide more TV service to more people.  Because the signal to an antenna was often interfered with by tall buildings or mountains,  cables were dug underground to improve reception and to bring it to areas beyond the limited reach of broadcast antennae.

The underground areas that the corporations wanted to use for installing these cables were generally located in cities across the United States.  This is referred to as the “right-of-way” where the electric, telephone, and gas lines (aka utilities considered necessary needed to live) were then located.

right of wayThis ”right-of-way” is PUBLIC land – owned by you and me.  Back in the old days, it was determined that cable TV was entertainment, a luxury – not really needed.  So if the private, for-profit cable companies wanted to run their cables in the PUBLIC right-of-way – the cable companies would need to pay a franchise fee (aka rent payment) to the cities to use that space located underground land that belongs to the PUBLIC.

Public Access TVpublic access tv

As part of those franchise agreements allowing private for-profit cable companies to use the PUBLIC right-of-way, was the establishment of PEG programs.  PEG stands for Public, Educational and Government programming.  This is your local public access TV station.

Public – This means that the public access station is available to most any person to use their first amendment rights to do a TV show.  In my area  – every one of these shows is a local citizen spouting right wing babble.  Although in many parts of the country there are many interesting shows focusing on local and national issues, including ethnic groups, youth, seniors, the LGBT… community programming.

Educational – This is available to the schools to broadcast school board meetings, high school sports programs, high school graduations, band concerts, grade school programs, etc. on the public access TV station.

Government – This is available to government to broadcast city and county board meetings, planning meetings, utility board meetings and a host of other meetings that are suppose to be “open meetings”.

vocational programming on public access tvAnd let’s not forget job creation.  Many Public Access TV stations broadcast programming that provides valuable training  to local teens and adults which can help them to learn employable skills.

But don’t believe for a split second that the funding for this was given to the cities out of the cable companies’ goodwill.  The negotiation of franchise renewals continues to be a bitter and horrendous process – a Private v. Public “death-match” every time.

Meanwhile,  the well financed private corporations are effectively acting as a cartel–carving up the country between themselves so that they do not have to have any costly competition with each other…essentially monopolies in their own marketing areas.

In these franchise renewal negotiations the arrogance of the Private cable companies is on display as the use of YOUR Public right-of-way is a bone of contention.  These corporations want to be able to use the right-of-way for Corporations are not Peoplefree–this is just taken for granted.  Apparently this fits well with their corporate personhood,  No restrictions on their profits are acceptable.  Regulations to ensure that Public Access TV remains Public are anathema.  In the pursuit of ever greater revenues – these corporations demonstrate nothing but absolute disdain for the Public services that are part and parcel of Public Access TV.

And that is where the association with ALEC comes in along with cable-company-specific ALEC “model” legislation comes in.

Many Public Access stations across the United States are losing their funding from the cable companies because of ALEC legislation.  The aim of this ALEC legislation is take the franchise negotiations away from the city level and put the negotiations at the state level – where ALEC’s Corporate Member cable companies negotiate with ALEC Legislative Members in the state legislatures.
ALECexposed

Quoting very liberally from ALECexposed, here is an interesting timetable for you to consider:

First, in Wisconsin,, there was the The Broadband Deployment Act of 2003, which freed the telecom industry from oversight.  Check out the resemblance to ALEC’s Broadband and Telecommunications Deployment Act

Then came  a Municipal Broadband bill from 2004, which blocked municipalities from competing with corporate providers of broadband services.  A remarkable resemblance to ALEC’s Municipal Telecommunications Private Industry Safeguards Act

And a 2007 Telephone Deregulation Bill, ending public oversight and regulations in Wisconsin for telephone services, looks like the ALEC Advanced Voice Services Availability Act of 2007

And the Video Competition Act, eliminating municipal cable franchises and freeing companies from their previously-negotiated contracts.  Considering that it looks like the ALEC Cable and Video Competition Act, there certainly appears to be a strategy at work for the possible takeover (perhaps privatization?) of Wisconsin’s Public Access TV,


Do Not Forget
The services that are provided by Public Access TV to the public include:

Public – which gives people the chance to voice their first amendment rights to a larger audience.

Educational – which gives people the opportunity to see events that they cannot physically or financially attend.

Government – which gives the public access to their government.  Even when they are working 10 – 12 hour days – the public can watch the government meetings on TV and know what is happening in their community and comment to their city / county representatives.  They can see for themselves just who their elected representatives are indeed representing,  Transparency in government.

Many of you may not watch public access TV – but many people do.

Just because some don’t watch it – does not mean that public access TV should not be available.

As I stated earlier – franchise negotiations appear to be fierce – with the cable companies wielding their well-paid lawyers against public servants.  Many towns don’t have the expertise or the money to pay for the legal expertise to properly negotiate with the legions of highly paid cable lawyers.  And thus many cities across the United States are losing most funding for public access TV or all funding for public access TV.

Think about it – just for a moment. There is something horribly wrong with this ALEC, legislators, corporationsscenario.  ALEC Corporate private sector members come into the state legislature and negotiate cable franchise agreements (for the cities) with ALEC state legislators.  If this piece of ALEC “model” legislation has not already been implemented in your state (and it has been in some) – it will be introduced by an ALEC state legislator sooner than later.

When the public no longer has access to their local government (as provided by public access TV), democracy at the most local level is diminished and that is what ALEC’s pro-cable company “model” legislation and your state ALEC legislator are doing – reducing access to democracy  to increase profits / revenues for some very large corporations.

If you check the corporations listed at ALECExposed – you will find your cable provider.  They attend ALEC meetings to promote legislation that increases cable corporate revenues / profits – with total disregard for the needs of the public.