Happy Mother’s Day!
For this second half of our Sunday Reads, let’s take a look a variety of topics sandwiched between a couple of items about “Mutha’s Day.”
Years after she founded Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis was dining at the Tea Room at Wanamaker’s department store in Philadelphia. She saw they were offering a “Mother’s Day Salad.” She ordered the salad and when it was served, she stood up, dumped it on the floor, left the money to pay for it, and walked out in a huff. Jarvis had lost control of the holiday she helped create, and she was crushed by her belief that commercialism was destroying Mother’s Day.
Here is a little history of Anna Jarvis and Mother’s Day, in cartoon format, by Steve Brodner. Click on the cartoon to view larger image.
Makes that “Mother’s Day Salad” protest in the Tea Room at Wanamaker’s department store in Philadelphia all the more symbolic doesn’t it?
In a story that you may have missed last week: University of Montana agrees to reform handling of rape cases | Reuters
The University of Montana has agreed to reform how it responds to rape accusations following a year-long investigation by two U.S. government agencies into complaints such cases were mishandled, federal authorities and the school said on Thursday.
The U.S. departments of justice and education had probed allegations the university failed to aggressively pursue sexual assault and harassment reports, several of which involved football players.
The inquiries stemmed from reports that women on campus had been subjected to unfair treatment that infringed on their civil rights and violated constitutional bans on gender-based discrimination.
“What is noteworthy about this announcement today is not the problems our investigation found at the university, but a shared commitment to the equality of women students and their safety,” Roy Austin, deputy assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s civil rights division, said in a statement.
Jocelyn Samuels, the division’s principal deputy assistant attorney general, told a news conference that the set of agreements would provide a blueprint for reform for other campuses across the country as they address the “all too common problem of sexual assault and harassment of students.”
Blueprint? I should hope so. But after all this is 2013 and we are talking blueprints when it comes to the “all too common problem of sexual assault and harassment of students.” Seriously? It seems like bullshit to me when the day before this story was published on Reuters, the State Department was dealing with the actual “Blueprints” to make 3-D printed guns.
The State Department on Thursday ordered the nonprofit Defense Distributed to remove blueprints for the world’s first 3D-printed gun from its website.
“All such data should be removed from public access, the letter says. That might be an impossible standard. But we’ll do our part to remove it from our servers,” Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson told Forbes.
The department’s Office of Defense Trade Controls Compliance warned Wilson that posting the materials online could be a violation of export controls. The International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) prohibits weapons manufactures from exporting technical data to foreign persons without authorization from the State Department.
“This means that all such data should be removed from public access immediately,” the Office of Defense Trade Controls Compliance said.
The warning from the State Department came just days after Defense Distributed unveiled the blueprints for its plastic single-shot handgun, called the “Liberator.” The firearm can be created by anyone with the blueprints and access to a 3D printer. Defense Distributed also released nine other 3D-printable firearms components.
Well….I think I made my point.
Moving on now to this, Can You Generate Electricity From Plants? Science Says Yes | Geekosystem
Plants use energy from the Sun through photosynthesis, and humans use energy from the Sun through things like solar panels. A new technique created by researchers at the University of Georgia allows humans to get electricity from plants by hijacking the photosynthesis process. This research could someday lead to some very literal power plants.
Cool innit? Go to the link to check it out.
A few weeks ago, we lost a comic genius…Jonathan Winters. I have two articles written by Dick Cavett in the New York Times. Take a few minutes to read them when you can.
No more Jonathan Winters.
What did we do to deserve this?
I’m just antique enough to remember when Jonathan first hit. Or at least for me. It was the Jack Paar “Tonight Show” and no one had ever seen anything remotely like it.
A slightly chubby, amiable, Midwesternly looking man who could have been an accountant or a bus driver, nicely dressed in dark suit and tie, stepped out, a bit timorously, from behind the curtain and, on the spot and before our eyes, created a whole mad little world.
I remember once mentioning the name Jonathan Winters to Groucho Marx.
The reply: “There’s a giant talent.”
Now for some history links, this first one is more about something that is history in the making actually. First black woman named to Ga. Civil War Commission
The first black woman has been appointed to serve on Georgia’s Civil War Commission.
House Speaker David Ralston on Friday selected Inger Eberhart for the post.
The Acworth resident currently serves on the staff of Cobb County Commissioner JoAnn Birrell. She is on the board of advisers of the Dustin Inman Society, which advocates for stricter enforcement of state and federal laws related to immigration.
Oh…that explains it.
Anyway, more history goodies, in link dump fashion:
Held a virtual prisoner by the Bolsheviks months before his execution, Russia’s last Tsar Nicholas II pasted informal snapshots of his family into an album which has now come to light in a Russian provincial museum.
The photographs, most of which have never been seen before, show the last of the Romanov rulers of Russia without pomp and in unguarded moments. Many were taken by Nicholas II himself.
There are many informal photos…with penciled names and dates written on the backs.
World View: After the Great War, Britain and France carved up the Middle East between them. Now, plans for Syria have the same potential for disaster.
The “Great East Coast Cicada Sex Invasion of 2013” is upon us.
After 17 years of feeding and living under the earth’s surface, billions of “Brood II” cicadas will emerge this summer between Connecticut and Georgia, swarming in thick, forbidding billows of shed exoskeletons and raucous insect lovemaking. (To get an idea of what the cicada mating call sounds like, click here for audio.)
For all their physical creepiness and loud public sex orgies, the (actually completely harmless) bugs have a rich cultural history in the United States. Bob Dylan wrote a song about the cicadas, for instance. But cicadas also have a rich political history in this country. Here are their greatest hits…
The 48th International Congress on Medieval Studies begins this Thursday on the campus of Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. I’m moderating a legal history panel on Thursday at 1:30, in Bernhard 106, called Law as Culture: Secular Punishment and Divine Retribution in Medieval Ireland (Panel 90). Here are the paper titles:
- Beheading, Hanging, and Being Drawn Asunder: Execution in Medieval Ireland
- Property Incursions and Punitive Irish Saints
- Divine Diversion: Divine Retribution as Dispute Resolution and the Norman Invasion of Ireland
H/T to Delphyne for this one: The Medieval and Early Modern Meme Menagerie, or, Grumpy Cat is a Time Lord
I think we’ve finally found a proper Late Medieval or Early Modern Grumpy Cat.
…And, yes, Grumpy Cat is a Time Lord.
I actually love the expression on this little guy….
2. Maxwell, Disapproving Rabbit:
Even before someone discovered the “disapproval face,” Disapproving Rabbit was already fed up with your shit.
Oh, that is sooooooo true!
On to Movie news…
This next link is here because of two things… first, the movie that is mentioned is about Shanghai Kate, the woman who did two of my tattoos back in 1999 and 2000 in NYC. And second, it makes me think of when movies started to use video tape, we had VCRs and Blockbusters. Then it went to DVDs and we had NetFlix and RedBox. Now it is Digital, we still have NetFlix but more and more companies are getting into the groove. Eventually we won’t have anything real to touch or feel…it will all be digital. And that kind of sucks. Los Angeles startup Yekra nets $3M for its digital movie distribution platform
Disney is doing it again: Merida From ‘Brave’ Gets An Unnecessary Makeover, Sparks Change.org Petition (PHOTO)
Merida, “Brave’s” red-headed heroine will be crowned Disney’s 11th princess on May 11. And just in time for her royal induction, the animated character has received a head-to-toe makeover — she’s thinner, her eyes are wider and … Is that miracle anti-frizz solution she’s using? What is going on!?
New Merida, left. Original Merida, right.
Last night, my kids went to see The Great Gatsby with a bunch of their friends. When they came back home after the show, I asked my daughter what she thought of the movie…this was her response.
It was okay, but there was like…no story to it?
Well, that about says it all, doesn’t it.
She laughed and said that when they first walked into the theater there was nothing but “old people” there, and she and her friends were worried that they may have made a mistake by going to see the movie in the first place.
“As I watched the trailer, I thought, ‘This is for 16-year-olds,’ ” she says. “All of this is about gearing this toward high school and college students who may not have any notion of who Fitzgerald was or what the book actually was.
“They’re not going to care too much about whether this is a well-done adaptation,” she adds. “They’re going to care about whether it’s a Hollywood blockbuster.”
Read the article I linked to, that quote is the last two sentences of the piece, but it fit so well with what my daughter said that I had to put it in here. She also said the music sucked, and my son said the entire thing was crap…well, except for the film quality. He said it was a very “crisp” film.
I really do think there are some books that should not be made into film. My favorite, John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces, is a perfect example. There is just some things that are too detailed and involved to be parsed down into a 2 hour flick.
Well, I have one more Gatsby link for you, a solemn one. The Great Gatsby: F Scott Fitzgerald’s novels are read by millions, but he was buried in near anonymity
The bard of the Jazz Age shouldn’t be buried here. On a hillside in Hollywood perhaps, where he spent his last, unhappy years, or in glamorous downtown Manhattan – or even in Père Lachaise in Paris, the last resting place of Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison, among other foreigners who sought inspiration or refuge in the City of Light. But not in the commercial suburbs of Washington DC, among office blocks and strip malls, in a cemetery wedged between a six-lane highway and a railway line.
That, though, is where you find the grave of F Scott Fitzgerald, at St Mary’s Catholic Church in Rockville, Maryland, an Exxon station visible from the spot where he lies. In the pre-car age Rockville must have been a small village in the countryside; the church itself dates from 1817, when America was barely 40 years old. Today, however, it is Anywhere, USA.
Boston Boomer linked to Ginsburg’s comments on Roe v Wade yesterday, oh-oh is right….I thought it should be put on the front page: Justice Ginsburg: Roe v. Wade not ‘woman-centered’ – chicagotribune.com
It’s easy to take the job description of motherhood for granted: Take care of your kids, in whatever way you can. The specifics, though, are a little trickier.
In fact, the meaning and duties of being a mom have undergone great upheaval just in the last century. Should moms work outside the home or stay with the kids full time? Does letting a baby cry scar it or strengthen it? Should moms be praised just for being moms?
The answers to these questions depend on the era in which they’re asked. Throughout U.S. history, moms have been exalted, demonized and exalted again. Their instincts have been questioned and ruled sacrosanct. And they’ve taken the most guilt upon themselves during periods where they spend the most time with their children.
Read on for five ways motherhood has changed in the United States.
So Happy Mother’s Day to you, and for everyone else…enjoy the rest of your Sunday!
Via Raw Story, the above cartoon by Jack Ohman of the Sacramento Bee, published last Thursday, has Texas Governor Rick Perry all hot under the collar–so much so that he (or some flunky) wrote a letter to the editor, which the Bee published on Friday. Here it is:
Re “Business is booming in Texas” (Editorial cartoon, April 25): It was with extreme disgust and disappointment I viewed your recent cartoon. While I will always welcome healthypolicy debate, I won’t stand for someone mocking the tragic deaths of my fellow Texans and our fellow Americans.
Additionally, publishing this on the very day our state and nation paused to honor and mourn those who died only compounds the pain and suffering of the many Texans who lost family and friends in this disaster. The Bee owes the community of West, Texas an immediate apology for your detestable attempt at satire.
– Gov. Rick Perry, Austin, Tex.
So far, Ohman’s editor Stuart Leavenworth is standing up for him. You can read his full response at the above link. From Raw Story:
Stuart Leavenworth, the editorial page editor of The Sacramento Bee, said the cartoon illustrated Perry’s “disregard for worker safety, and his attempts to market Texas as a place where industries can thrive with few regulations.”
Earlier this year, California Gov. Jerry Brown chided Texas for having a high percentage of workers earning minimum wage. Perry responded about a month later by running radio ads in California that encouraged business owners to move to his state. Perry claimed building a business in California was “next to impossible” because of regulations and taxes — regulations and taxes that his state lacked.
Ohman wrote about the “controversy” on his blog today. He says that a number of readers chastised him for the cartoon.
Their comments ranged from “you are a sick human being” to “insensitive and tasteless.” I’m not sure I am clinically qualified to give myself a direct diagnosis, but I am pretty sure I am not a sick human being. Let’s explore the question of tastelessness.
The Texas chemical plant had not been inspected by the state of Texas since 2006. That’s seven years ago. You may have read in the news that Gov. Perry, during his business recruiting trips to California and Illinois, generally described his state as free from high taxes and burdensome regulation. One of the burdensome regulations he neglected to mention was the fact that his state hadn’t really gotten around to checking out that fertilizer plant. Many Texas cities have little or no zoning, resulting in homes being permitted next to sparely inspected businesses that store explosive chemicals….
When I have to come up with these ideas, I can assure you that I am not really deliberately trying to be tasteless. I am not. What I am trying to do is make readers think about an issue in a striking way. I seem to have succeeded in this cartoon, one way or the other.
The question is whether it is tasteless or not.
My answer, respectfully, is that it isn’t.
Having said that, what normal person doesn’t mourn those poor people fighting the fire and living by the plant? I certainly do. What makes me angry, and, yes, I am driven by anger, is that it could have been prevented. I guess I could have done a toned-down version of the cartoon; I am not sure what that would have been, but I think many readers’ objections just stemmed from the fact that I used the explosion as a metaphor, period. The wound is fresh, the hurt still stings.
Personally, I thought the cartoon was brilliant–a perfect example of the old saying “a picture is worth a thousands words.” Apparently it got a pretty big rise out of Perry when the thousands of gallons of ink spilled on news stories hasn’t. Perry should be ashamed to show his face in public after what happened in West, Texas. Why on earth do Texans keep reelecting this guy?
Ohman recommended that Perry read this outstanding investigation by Pro Publica, which I read and recommended a few days ago: What Went Wrong in West, Texas — and Where Were the Regulators? Perry should either read it or have his flunky read it to him. Then he should wake up and realize that millions of Americans disapprove of his laissez-faire, Ayn Randian approach to government, and cartoonist Jack Ohman expressed our feelings perfectly.
But I don’t expect Perry will take responsibility for his role in the West, Texas disaster, because he can’t handle the truth.
The one thing that has become apparent to me recently is that privatizing anything related to important infrastructure is a recipe for one disaster after another. For-profit corporations are into maximizing profits to owners by either slashing costs or hiking prices. They rarely do anything that actually improves service or delivery quality. When you experience any kind of disaster that taxes the infrastructure, you learn quickly how negligent for-profits are when it comes to maintaining or fixing infrastructure. My reality since Hurricane Katrina is living with infrastructure that comes and goes on a windy day, on a drizzly day, on any kind of day that might cause our privately owned electric and natural gas company’s patched together infrastructure to hiccup. We get power outages at the super bowl, in my home, and in our water treatment plant. I’ve experienced two boil water orders in the last six months and dozens of electric outages for days on end. Cox cable’s infrastructure is just about as bad. They patch things up when they have to do it. I’ve heard excuses about hungry squirrels, curious racoons, and unusual wind events to the point I could just scream.
Then, there’s these oil pipe disasters. Why on earth would you trust an oil company with any kind of pipe line given their obvious neglect? There is a THIRD major oil spill in a week. This time it is in Texas.
Thousands of gallons of oil have spilled from a pipeline in Texas, the third accident of its kind in only a week.
Shell Pipeline, a unit of Royal Dutch Shell Plc, shut down their West Columbia, Texas, pipeline last Friday after electronic calculations conducted by the US National Response Center showed that upwards of 700 barrels had been lost, amounting to almost 30,000 gallons of crude oil.
By Monday, Shell spokespeople said inspectors found “no evidence” of an oil leak, but days later it was revealed that a breach did occur. Representatives with the US Coast Guard confirmed to Dow Jones on Thursday that roughly 50 barrels of oil spilled from a pipe near Houston, Texas and entered a waterway that connects to the Gulf of Mexico.
Coast Guard Petty Officer Steven Lehman said that Shell had dispatched clean-up crews that were working hard to correct any damage to Vince Bayou, a small waterway that runs for less than 20 miles from the Houston area into a shipping channel that opens into the Gulf.
The spill was contained, said Lehman, who was hesitant to offer an official number on how much crude was lost in the accident. According to Shell spokeswoman Kim Windon, though, the damage could have been quite significant. After being presented with the estimate that said as much as 700 barrels were found to have leaked from the pipeline due to an unknown cause, investigators determined that 60 barrels entered the bayou.
“That’s a very early estimate–things can change,” Officer Lehman told Dow Jones.
Meanwhile, though, rescue works in Arkansas have been getting their hands dirty responding to an emergency there. A rupture in ExxonMobil’s Pegasus pipeline late last week send thousands of barrels of oil into the small town of Mayflower, around 25 miles outside of Little Rock. Authorities evacuated more than 20 homes in response, and by this Thursday roughly 19,000 barrels had been recovered.
Mayflower, Ark is still fighting the sludge and will likely be doing so for some time.
We tend to think of oil spills on a massive scale, so large they are hard to imagine. Millions of barrels of crude pouring into the Bering Sea from the slashed hull of the Exxon Valdez. Tens of thousands of workers and volunteers combing hundreds of miles of Gulf Coast beaches after the Deep Water Horizon spill. But in Mayflower, Ark., the scale of an oil spill there is disturbing not for its size, but its proximity. On March 29, a 20-inch buried pipeline burst under the small town, turning backyards into tar pits and suburban streets into oil slicks.
This will probably be yet another part of our new reality given the age of pipelines–around 70 years old–and the continued negligence of oil companies who continue to make record profits and enjoy stupendous tax breaks in this country.
Residents of Washington, DC are used to jokes about metaphorical hot air, humidity, and the swampy history of their city. But there’s something they may not know about the District: it’s overrun with methane, which sometimes makes manhole covers explode.
Natural gas is mostly methane, and it is carried through underground pipes to heat buildings and cook food. Those pipes are often old, and this led ecologist and chemical engineer Robert Jackson of Duke University to drive around DC over a period of two months, regularly measuring the air to take methane levels.
He and his research team found methane leaks everywhere, with thousands of places having significantly higher than normal methane concentrations, and some places reaching 50 times normal urban levels (100 ppm vs 2 ppm). A similar study in Boston last year found essentially the same results. In DC, the source wasn’t the swamp on which the city was built — it was fossil fuel. (The methane they measured had more carbon-13 rather than the normal, modern carbon-12.)
You can laugh about this but I’ve actually seen exploding manhole covers in action. I was gigging at Balconies restaurant down in the French Quarter. The piano was situated under a window and the restaurant–now defunct–was located in a building on the 600 block of Royal. It’s a really famous intersection and the building is one of those that gets photographed all the time. The window is basically to the left of the open door where they black car is passing the building. Mule drawn carriages would stop there frequently to listen to me play and to have a cocktail or cafe au lait brought out for the occupents. Anyway, one night, after a series of exploding man hole covers had been shutting down the electricity in the Quarter, one of them in the middle of this street took off like a cannon and sliced through the top part of a car right before my eyes. Of course, the electricity went off in the area and shut down the grocery across the street, the restaurants and everything in that locale. But, I’ll tell you, that manhole cover was an unbelievable projectile. Oh, it of course, the natural gas in town is Entergy-controlled. The other thing I recall was the distinct smell of ozone burning up and the wierdish green light show. This was about 15 years ago, but damn, I will never forget watching the roof of a hard top car get sliced off like a piece of salami. It’s been fixed now since the city doesn’t tolerate anything being wrong in the French Quarter, but for about 3 months of the summer 1996, it was a wild trip with a series of exploding manhole covers and black outs. It was also the same summer I got Karma so, who knows. Maybe it was just one of those summers.
Anyway, after having lived in a city where levees failed us and electricity fails us all the time, I would just like to say that no private corporation should be left on its own with unmonitored vital infrastructure. All kinds of things are at stake. Also, you can’t trust any oil company to do right by any one but themselves after a spill. I have experience in that area too.
And away we go…
This first cartoon made me think of Harvey. Cagle Post » GOP Real Election Fraud
Some of these cartoons were from early in the week, this one is from Sept. 26th:
I wonder if you all get this one: Cagle Post » An Honest Man
Of course you would…just like many of you would get the Harvey connection up top.
I think that there should be a large group of elephants trampling Trevor down…then a single donkey comes along and shits on him. Seems like it would fit, don’t ya think? All these damn GOP nuts running us over with there right wing christian jesus freak beliefs…and all the Dems do is sit there and pile on more bullshit responses.
This next one is for BB: Replacement Refs – Political Cartoon by Don Landgren Jr., TelegramTowns – 10/05/2012
One on the Spain situation, coming up: AAEC – Political Cartoon by Gustavo Rodriguez, El Nuevo Herald – 09/30/2012
Hey, with such a big bull, I think he needs a set of bigger balls! Don’t you?
And, for the last funny: AAEC – Political Cartoon by Charlie Daniel, Knoxville News Sentinel – 09/30/2012
Okay, that is all folks….tomorrow is the big ass KKK rally here in Banjoville. I will not be going downtown to see these assholes parade around in their white sheets. As it is, the sheriff office has an additional 35 Georgia state troopers coming in to keep the peace.
I will be sure to post links to this crap in my Sunday post. Honestly, I would be afraid to go see who supports this Hate Group, something tells me many of our local friends may be hiding under those hoods.
There is a leaked “trade” document that needs to be on every one’s reading list. I know it’s a big request to ask you to follow what seems like a fairly complex negotiation riddled with legalese. However, we’re fortunate it was leaked. No one knows what’s been going on in negotiations for ongoing US trade negotiations with eight Pacific nations. This includes Senator Ron Wyden who is responsible for oversight who is trying to draft legislation to get access.
U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Finance Subcommittee on International Trade Customs and Global Competitiveness, introduced legislation clarifying USTR’s obligation to share information on trade agreements with Members of Congress. Legislation is necessitated by administration’s refusal to share information with Congress broadly, and specifically with Wyden’s office.
So much for Obama’s pledge of transparency.
The document in question is part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This document shows evidence that the agreement would “drastically undermine Obama’s proposed domestic agenda and give unprecedented political authority to multinational corporations”.
The TPP negotiations have gone on for two years between the Obama administration and several Pacific nations under conditions of ‘extreme secrecy’ without press, public or policymaker oversight, says Public Citizen who posted the leaked document on their website today.
“The top U.S. trade official effectively has said that the administration must keep TPP secret because otherwise it won’t be able to shove this deal past the public and Congress,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.
The leaked document, according to the Huffington Post, reveals ‘extreme provisions’ that have been agreed upon in secret negotiations that “bestow radical new political powers upon multinational corporations” in global trade and contradict key promises made to the US public about such deals.
According to Public Citizen, the leaked text now confirms that the terms of the TPP would:
- Limit how U.S. federal and state officials could regulate foreign firms operating within U.S. boundaries, with requirements to provide them greater rights than domestic firms;
- Extend the incentives for U.S. firms to offshore investment and jobs to lower-wage countries;
- Establish a two-track legal system that gives foreign firms new rights to skirt U.S. courts and laws, directly sue the U.S. government before foreign tribunals and demand compensation for financial, health, environmental, land use and other laws they claim undermine their TPP privileges; and
- Allow foreign firms to demand compensation for the costs of complying with U.S. financial or environmental regulations that apply equally to domestic and foreign firms.
“The airing of this one TPP chapter,” said Wallach, “which greatly favors foreign corporations over domestic businesses and the public interest and exposes us to significant financial liabilities, shows that the whole draft text must be released immediately so it can be reviewed and debated. Absent that, these negotiations must be ended now.”
I first learned the details of the leak document from listening to the daily podcast at Democracy Now. Juan Gonzalez interviewed Wallach who is running around with her hair on fire trying to explain the ramifications to our country and others should this pass.
There are so many items in just this one chapter of the leaked document to fear that it’s hard to cover it all in one short Saturday Post. Basically, multinational corporations will be able to sue governments should they be hurt by labor laws, environmental laws, or any kind of regulation and seek damages. Their case will be heard by a tribunal made up of corporate lawyers. So, laws that apply to us that get tried in our courts will not apply to these multinationals. The tribunal panel gets to decide their fate.
Upon reading this latest document and the previously leaked document on intellectual property, and regarding what they mean for our access to life-saving medication, Judit Rius, the U.S. manager of Doctors Without Borders Access to Medicine Campaign said that “Bush was better than Obama on this. It’s pathetic, but it is what it is. The world’s upside-down.”
In response to the widespread criticism of the leaded document, USTR spokesman Nkenge Harmon said “This administration is committed to ensuring strong environmental, public health, and safety laws. Nothing in our TPP investment proposal could impair our government’s ability to ensure legitimate non-discriminatory public interest regulation, including measures to protect public health, public safety and the environment.”
It would be up to the international tribunals, however, to interpret “legitimate,” and “non-discriminatory.”
“Our worst fears about the investment chapter have been confirmed by this leaked text … This investment chapter would severely undermine attempts to strengthen environmental law and policy,” said Margrete Strand Rangnes, director of Labor and Trade for the the environmental group the Sierra Club.
The impact of this would be incredible. I’m going to be watching this carefully and I’d like to suggest you watch it too. Urge your Senators to support Wyden’s attempt to gain access to oversight of the trade negotiation process.
I have a personal interest in seeing ALEC dismembered. My governor Bobby Jindal has adopted and enacted some of its worse cookie cutter laws. There are three progressive interests that are leading actions to defund and defang this supposedly “nonpartisan individual membership organization of state legislators which favors federalism and conservative public policy solutions”. They are the Urban League, Common Cause, and ColorofChange. I would hope that many more groups will join in.
Many of ALEC’s corporate sponsors have quit funding the organization which seeks to remove oversight and regulation of all kinds of industry, privatize public services and goods, and deprive minority communities and women of basic voting rights and civil rights. They seek tort reform that would limit corporate exposure to liability from unsafe products and practices. They like to remove laws providing consumer protection and information. They are not nonpartisan and are responsible for some of the most heinous, radical legislation of the last few years. Woe to those of you whose governors or legislators belong to this organization for you will live in a world with very little protection from big money and big business and your tax dollars will be used to line their coffers.
The American Legislative Exchange Council describes itself as a nonpartisan champion of free markets. But if you spend some time at an ALEC conference (Bloomberg Businessweek did, for an article last year) you will be hard-pressed to find many Democrats. And when the entire conference meets for lunch, you will hear from the podium nothing that would seem out of place in a press release from Eric Cantor’s office. Last year in New Orleans, for example, Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisana, told an ALEC annual meeting, “Defeating the president is crucial to defending our economy,” and “Obama has been a disaster.” I didn’t hear anyone boo. What I did hear was the sound of fevered applause when the conference played a videotaped greeting from Ronald Reagan.
I’m not saying it’s wrong to feverishly applaud Ronald Reagan. I am saying that only in the most thinly defensible, legalistic sense can ALEC call itself “nonpartisan.” And the council doesn’t really support free markets, either. It supports the companies that fund it. This is an important distinction, because the corporations that donate to ALEC aren’t doing so to protect markets. They’re protecting favored tax treatments and pushing regulations that lock in their market positions. As best as we were able to determine in reporting our piece last year, corporations propose bills at the state level and then push them up to ALEC, which has both corporate and legislative members. ALEC pushes the legislative members to the foreground, stamps the bills as “model legislation,” and then the corporations push them back out to other state legislatures. This may not be the case with all ALEC legislation, but it certainly was with the bill we followed.
So ALEC is not what it says it is. That’s not extraordinary: Few advocacy groups are what they say they are. In ALEC’s case, however, the fingers-crossed-behind-its-back description of itself is definitional. If the American Legislative Exchange Council operated with complete openness, it couldn’t operate at all. ALEC has attracted a wide and wealthy range of supporters precisely because it does its real work in a black box. Membership lists are secret. The origins of the model bills are secret. Deliberations and votes on model bills are secret. The model bills themselves are secret. The council has designed its entire structure to disguise industry-backed legislation as grassroots work from state legislators. If this becomes clear to everyone, there’s no reason for corporations to use it. And that is exactly what has been happening.
Minority advocacy groups have been most active in the fight against ALEC. ALEC is responsible for the legislation that requires specific picture ids to vote and they are responsible for the Stand Your Ground Laws. Both of these issues have been front and center in Civil Rights Groups. The Trayvon Martin case is important in two key ways. First, it is bringing to light the institutional racism implicit in the criminal system. Second, it has exposed the role of ALEC in sneaking through legislature in states that most voters do not support or like. The vigilante-empowering Stand Your Ground laws are now seeing daylight.
The tension in corporate boardrooms over the case is the latest example of the pitfalls companies can sometimes face when they donate to political and lobbying groups, even those that seem safely below the radar of public consciousness.
The ALEC controversy is now sparking a broader debate about corporate participation in politics and the polarized state of political discourse. At a minimum, it has strengthened calls for companies to develop clear policies explaining their spending.
“I would caution companies to be very aware of where their money is going,” says Nell Minow, director of GMI Ratings, which provides corporate governance information to investors, corporate auditors and regulatory agencies. “Companies are going to realize they can take a real reputational hit with this kind of affiliation.”
She and others recall the tempest that erupted in 2010 around Target after the company donated to a nonprofit group supporting a Minnesota gubernatorial candidate who was known for opposing gay rights initiatives.
Like Louisiana, many Arizona politicians are in cahoots with ALEC. ALEC likes to use laws to funnel public money into corporate income statements. This isn’t free market promotion, this is more like being given the ability to loot public resources.
Legislators in Arizona continue to advance extremist legislation inspired by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and its out-of-state corporate backers, according to a new analysis by People For the American Way Foundation, Common Cause, the Center for Media and Democracy and Progress Now. This report shines a new light on the Arizona Legislature’s unprecedented ties to the secretive organization, which recently drew nationwide fire for its role in implementing radical policies across the country like “Shoot First” laws and voter suppression laws, and anti-worker measures. ALEC’s extreme agenda has recently led companies such as Pepsi, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Wendy’s, KRAFT and Intuit to withdraw from the organization. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on Monday also withdrew its support from ALEC.
The comprehensive report found that Arizona’s large concentration of ALEC-member legislators, working hand-in-hand with the corporate leaders who make up ALEC’s membership, are continuing to endorse special interest legislation that harms ordinary people by limiting consumers’ rights, privatizing education and dismantling unions.
The report, ALEC in Arizona: The Voice of Corporate Special Interests in the Halls of Arizona’s Legislature, updated for the Fiftieth Legislature, second regular session is available here.
“Recent polling shows that Arizonans are appalled by the out-of-touch and extremist agenda at their State Legislature. This report shows that agenda is no accident,” said John Loredo, a member of Arizona Working Families and a former Arizona House Minority Leader. “Unfortunately, Arizona has one of the highest concentrations of ALEC legislators in the country, and that makes us a petri dish for anti-worker legislation and a host of other bad ideas.”
“ALEC-member legislators are unabashedly continuing to push legislation straight from corporate headquarters to Arizona’s lawbooks,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President at People For the American Way Foundation. “Well-heeled special interests are circumventing the democratic system and bypassing Arizona’s citizens, who can’t match the level of access that ALEC provides. As a result, Arizonans are facing an endless assault from laws that serve the interests of the rich and powerful instead of everyday people.”
You can find ALEC’s model bills and reports on its activities in many states at the site ALEC Exposed. ALEC is responsible for the horrible school voucher and privatization plan that Bobby Jindal has ramrodded through our state. It is also responsible for some of the worst climate change denial propaganda. The source of this funding is big oil, big coal, and the Koch Brothers.
$375,858 received from Koch foundations 2005-2010 [Total Koch foundation grants 1997-2010: $708,858]
American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is one-stop shopping for state elected officials interested in perusing the wares of an array of Koch-funded opposition organizations including IER, ACCF, Mercatus and other sources. ALEC has successfully peddled corporate-written legislation to numerous states attacking the Kyoto Protocol, undermining climate science education in schools and numerous other anti-environmental legislation. ALEC has close ties to Koch Industries, which helped bail the organization out of financial troubles with a half-million dollar grant.
ALEC publishes its own materials as well, including a “Climate Change Overview for State Legislators” which downplays the science and risks of global warming and exaggerates the costs of addressing it. The Overview was written by Daniel Simmons, who moved from ALEC to become AEA’s Director of State Affairs. Simmons was at the Mercatus Institute before ALEC and is a graduate of the George Mason University School of Law.
Here’s some of the background information on the laws that ALEC creates with the intended purpose of “starving Public Schools“.
ALEC’s most ambitious and strategic push toward privatizing education came in 2007, through a publication called School Choice and State Constitutions, which proposed a list of programs tailored to each state. That year Georgia passed a version of ALEC’s Special Needs Scholarship Program Act. Most disability organizations strongly oppose special education vouchers—and decades of evidence suggest that such students are better off receiving additional support in public schools. Nonetheless, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Florida, Utah and Indiana have passed versions of their own. Louisiana also passed a version of ALEC’s Parental Choice Scholarship Program Act (renaming it Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence), along with ALEC’s Family Education Tax Credit Program (renamed Tax Deductions for Tuition), which has also been passed by Arizona and Indiana. ALEC’s so-called Great Schools Tax Credit Program Act has been passed by Arizona, Indiana and Oklahoma.
ALEC’s 2010 Report Card on American Education called on members and allies to “Transform the system, don’t tweak it,” likening the group’s current legislative strategy to a game of whack-a-mole: introduce so many pieces of model legislation that there is “no way the person with the mallet [teachers’ unions] can get them all.” ALEC’s agenda includes:
§ Introducing market factors into teaching, through bills like the National Teacher Certification Fairness Act.
§ Privatizing education through vouchers, charters and tax incentives, especially through the Parental Choice Scholarship Program Act and Special Needs Scholarship Program Act, whose many spinoffs encourage the creation of private schools for specific populations: children with autism, children in military families, etc.
§ Increasing student testing and reporting, through more “accountability,” as seen in the Education Accountability Act, Longitudinal Student Growth Act, One-to-One Reading Improvement Act and the Resolution Supporting the Principles of No Child Left Behind.
§ Chipping away at local school districts and school boards, through its 2009 Innovation Schools and School Districts Act and more. Proposals like the Public School Financial Transparency Act and School Board Freedom to Contract Act would allow school districts to outsource auxiliary services.
ALEC is also invested in influencing the educational curriculum. Its 2010 Founding Principles Act would require high school students to take “a semester-long course on the philosophical understandings and the founders’ principles.”
Perhaps the Brookings Institute states the mission most clearly: “Taken seriously, choice is not a system-preserving reform. It is a revolutionary reform that introduces a new system of public education.”
The passage of radical public school defunding in Louisiana is leading to a recall Jindal effort. We’ve already had some of this type of reform in New Orleans and it’s clearly not working well at all unless you count teacher union busting and lowering teacher salaries progress. Here are some of the things we will now be suffering in Louisiana. I personally am opposed to the state funding religious indoctrination hiding under the guise of education. These laws funnel public money into any thing that deems itself a school, it seems.
A vast expansion of charter schools, an overhaul of teacher tenure and establishment of a statewide program to pay private school tuition with public dollars moved within one step of final passage Thursday, as the Louisiana Senate Education Committee endorsed the headliner components of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education agenda without changes or dissent.
I know this thread wanders around through many topics but the number of right wing bills pressured cooked into law by ALEC and their toadies is just as wandering and perverse. Check out the site and be aware of which politicians supposedly representing the people of your state that are ALEC cronies. The movement to get corporations to defund the organization should be paramount. Ordinary Americans have already lost a lot to their agenda. It’s time to stop them. Put pressure on organizations to join in the effort. Let’s defang this beast together.