Posts Tagged ‘alec’
by stuartbramhall in Mind Control and Disinformation
This is Part I of a two part guest post by Dr Danny Weil. It’s a repost of an article Cornell University to Offer the “Hypodermic Needle Theory” of Education in an Attempt to Colonize Consciousness and Groom Future Elites originally published at Daily Censored
Understanding history: The Powell Memo and the Growth of the Reactionary Right
By Dr Danny Weil
In order to understand how America’s ruling elites are bivouacking at elite universities with the aim of taking them over and assuring ideology replaces education, it is necessary to understand the historical development of the current colonization of consciousness.
As I wrote at Truthout.org back in August of 2012:
The strategy and tactics to create a sustained and united countervailing political force was laid out in a memo written by Virginia corporate attorney and soon-to-be Supreme Court Justice, Lewis Powell. Many see this memo as the chief catalyst for the paradigm shift in corporate strategy from bipartisanship to far-right acrimony. Written in 1971 at the request of his client at the time, the powerful US Chamber of Commerce, the Powell memo advised the Chamber that corporations needed to organize to stop what he referred to as an “attack on the American free enterprise system” (Powell Manifesto: Attack of American Free Enterprise System).
The Powell memo went even further, urging corporations to jointly cough up substantial funds to pool for a sustained and coordinated political offensive. More significantly, Powell identified working through the judicial system and an “activist-minded Supreme Court” as essential to shaping “social, economic and political change” for corporate benefit and the assurance of a white, patriarchal hierarchy.
The Chamber of Commerce has always been a leading voice of the right, but since the ’60s and ’70s upheavals, the US Chamber of Commerce has become an increasingly well-funded and powerful voice on behalf of corporate interests in Washington and a deep-pocketed friend to reactionaries on the campaign trail. In fact, since 1997, the Chamber of Commerce has been deeply involved in political activism and is currently a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
In 1972, Powell was appointed to the Supreme Court by Richard Nixon (many say as a result of his memo). A close reading of Powell’s rulings on the high court finds he overwhelmingly favored corporate power. Justice William Rehnquist, a well-known conservative, was also a Nixon Supreme Court appointee in 1972 and sat on the bench with Powell.
This is the same Rehnquist that, according to Al Jazeera, guarded a largely African-American polling site in South Phoenix, Arizona, in his youth for the Republican Party:
He even made those who spoke accented English interpret parts of the constitution to prove that they understood it. The lines were long, people fought, got tired or had to go to work and many of them left without voting. It was a notorious episode long remembered in Phoenix political circles.
It turned out that it was part of a Republican Party strategy known as “Operation Eagle Eye” and “Bill” was future Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist. He was confronted with his intimidation tactics in his confirmation hearings years later and characterized his behavior as simple arbitration of polling place disputes. In doing so, he set a standard for GOP dishonesty and obfuscation surrounding voting rights that continues to this day.
Rehnquist also had a hand in the impeachment of Bill Clinton and then went on to decide the 2000 presidential election in favor of George W. Bush. Bush turned right around and appointed John Roberts, now chief justice of the Supreme Court (Chief Justice Roberts, who clerked for Rehnquist and considers Rehnquist his mentor), and Roberts went on to deliver the Citizens United decision, setting the stage for the corporate takeover of the government (http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/10936-paul-ryan-and-the-long-war-on-democracy).
The Powell memo of course has been put into play now for many decade. But recently Harrison Wills has discovered a new application. Wills is the former student body president of Santa Monica College, once named a “community college”, before the devastation of communities (they have now dropped the word “community” from their lexicon owed to its ‘collectivist’ connotation and instead have spent taxpayer dollars on a corporate logo – over $150,000 for a more individualistic and corporatized connotation). Wills is an excellent researcher (http://www.dailycensored.com/investigative-reporting-research-tips-from-harrison-wills-former-student-body-president-at-santa-monica-college/) and he has uncovered that Cornell University, home of the elites, is now offering a course entitled, “Waiting for Superman” (http://www.human.cornell.edu/pam/academics/courses/upload/PAM-2550-Matsudaira-Sp13.pdf).
The title, of the course, is modeled after the Hollywood propaganda film of the same name, funded by Bill Gates and his ‘philanthro-pirate’ cronies who have for years have been devoted to dismantling public education using the “shock doctrine” of “educational crisis” and the money gained from exploitation of workers — all of this under the auspices of “advocacy philanthropy”, or the new ALEC, of which I will be writing about soon for readers.
(To be continued)
Dr Danny Weil is an investigative journalist, author and public interest attorney who practiced public interest law for more than twenty years and has been published in a case of first impression in California. He now lives in Ecuador.
by stuartbramhall in Attacks on Civil Liberties, Electoral reform
If video won’t play go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Ybl9roaHe0
Investigative reporter Greg Palast is on a speaking tour for his latest book Billionaires and Bandits: How to Steal and Election in 9 Easy Steps. Palast is best known for exposing the so-called “ex-felon” scrub list that deliberately disenfranchised tens of thousands of law abiding African Americans from voting in the 2000 presidential election in Florida. From his interview on RealNews, I suspect Billionaires and Bandits is probably his most important expose. In it he reveals, for the first time, the true motivation behind the Citizens United case, in which a small group of right wing activists obtained a Supreme Court ruling removing any limitation on corporate donations to political campaigns.
According to Palast, the real agenda behind the Supreme Court case was to keep the notorious Koch brothers (major founders and funders of conservative thinktanks like the Heritage Foundation, ALEC, the CATO Institute, and right wing Astroturf groups, such as the Campaign for America’s Future, the Campaign for a Fair Economy and the Tea Party) out of jail for illegal corporate donations they had made to Republican campaigns. In other words, the ruling decriminalized extensive lawbreaking by the Republican Party’s favorite billionaires. Palast stresses it was no accident that Ted Olsen, the Citizens United attorney, also happens to be legal counsel for Koch Industries.
The Koch Brothers’ Long History of Flouting the Law
As Palast reveals at the beginning of the interview, he was an FBI investigator prior to becoming an investigative journalist. During the late eighties, he was directly involved in investigating Charles Koch for illegally siphoning oil (beyond what Koch Industries had for) from Indian reservations. According to Palast, the FBI had videos of the whole operation, as well as numerous witness statements, including one from David and Charles’ younger brother Bill. The US attorney in Oklahoma had already filed an indictment against subject 67C (their code name for Charles Koch) when Koch leaned heavily on Oklahoma Senator Don Nickles (R 1988-2005) who exerted pressure to have the federal prosecutor replaced and had the indictment quashed.
With the possibility of criminal prosecution off the table, brother Bill Koch filed a civil lawsuit over the oil theft under the False Claims Act, which allows private plaintiffs to sue, on behalf of the government, companies and individuals which have defrauded it.
In December 1999, the jury found that Koch Industries had taken oil it didn’t pay for from federal land, and the company paid a $25 million settlement to the federal government.
The FBI next turned its attention to 350 criminal violations of environmental law, mainly due to faulty pipelines dumping oil sludge into rivers. After George W. Bush became president in 2000, the US Justice Department dropped 88 of the charges. Two days before the trial, Attorney General John Ashcroft settled for a plea bargain, in which the company pled guilty to falsifying documents. All major charges were dropped, and Koch and Ashcroft settled the lawsuit for a fraction of that amount.
The FBI – and Congress – Investigate Illegal Corporate Donations
Next on the FBI list of crimes was the smear campaign Koch Industries secretly funded, through Campaign for Our Children’s Futures, in 1994, when corporate campaign donations were still illegal. The campaign, which caused 25 incumbent Democrats to lose their seats, also caused Clinton to lose control of Congress in the 1994 midterms and again in 1996. The illegal campaign donations were funded through an entity called Triad Management Services. Senator Fred Thompson, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee attempted to undertake an investigation into Triad. According to Palast, it was shut down the same day Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (who was also seriously ethically challenged) made a deal with President Bill Clinton not to investigate his illegal campaign donations from the Indonesian billionaire James Riady.
by stuartbramhall in The Global Economic Crisis
Carton credit California Political Review
Owing to candidates tripping over each other to be tough on immigrants and crime, the crisis of massive prison overcrowding is an issue that receives scant attention in an election year. Although federal candidates, including Obama and Romney, seem totally indifferent to the prison crisis faced by many states, most governors and state legislators have accepted the hard reality that building and running prisons is one of their biggest budget items. Since the economic crisis began in 2008, every state except Montana and North Dakota has faced yearly shortfalls. Because states aren’t allowed to run deficits, these have led to big cuts in many essential state programs, including education, housing and even highway maintenance and repair. As the economy and tax revenues continue to falter, 31 states predict a shortfall for fiscal year July 2012-June 2013 – which means they face even further cuts.
Thus despite massive lobbying by the Corrections Corporations of America, Wackenhut Corrections Corporation, Cornell Corrections and their friends at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), for states to build more for-profit private prisons, California and fourteen other states have enacted or are about to enact legislation to balance their state budgets by reducing prison numbers. During a recession, even corporate lobbyists don’t have the same hold they once did over state legislatures. As my mother used to say, you can’t get blood out of a turnip.
California’s Criminal Justice Realignment Act
California clearly leads the nation in this initiative. When the US Supreme Court (in May 2011) upheld a lower court ruling ordering them to reduce overcrowding, the state had the hard choice between borrowing money and building more prisons or adopting the Criminal Justice Realignment Act, which seeks to move nonviolent offenders out of the prison system and find alternatives to custodial sentences for new offenders. Under the Realignment Act, the number of people in California prisons has dropped by more than 25,000 over 16 months. The count of people on parole is down almost 30,000, and the number of people held in private out-of-state prisons is down 10 percent. Cynics predicted that putting tends of thousands of offenders on the street would cause a massive spike in the crime rate. Instead the opposite has happened.
As former Assembly member Jackie Goldberg noted in a recent editorial in the Sacramento Bee, the California crime rate continues to fall, despite the release of thousands of nonviolent prisoners. Meanwhile putting fewer people in state prisons means saving billions in tax dollars. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation estimates that it’s saving $1.5 billion a year through realignment and will save another $2.2 billion a year by canceling $4.1 billion in new construction projects.
According to the ACLU, other states saving money by cutting and/or slowing the growth of their prison populations include:
- Alabama – passed law allowing a sentencing commission to set guidelines for nonviolent crimes judges would generally have to follow.
- Colorado – shut down large penitentiary in view of falling crime rates, created a commission to study marijuana legalization, has initiative on November ballot to legalize marijuana.
- Connecticut – became 17th state to repeal death penalty in April.
- Florida – closed eight prisons that were built in anticipation of a crime wave that never occurred.
- Georgia – passed bill reducing sentences for low level drug offenses and theft, creates drug and mental illness courts and establishes graduated sanctions, such as community service, for probation violations.
- Hawaii – passed law requiring the use of risk assessments in pretrial and parole hearings, to enable the identification of individuals who pose the most risk to public safety, as well as those who can be safely supervised outside of prison or jail.
- Illinois – passed SB 2621, which would reinstate a program allowing prisoners to reduce their sentences through good behavior and participation in reentry programs. The bill will reduce Illinois’ prison population and give prisoners incentives to participate in programs that are proven to reduce recidivism, such as drug treatment.
- Kansas – passed a law allowing judges to divert individuals convicted of low-level crimes from prison to less expensive and more effective treatment programs.ouisiana – passed one law allowing prisoners serving life sentences for nonviolent crimes to go before a parole board to prove they are ready for release and another allowing inmates who have committed repeat low-level offenses to appear before a parole board after serving one-third of their sentences.
- Louisiana – passed one law allowing prisoners serving life sentences for nonviolent crimes to go before a parole board to prove they are ready for release and another allowing inmates who have committed repeat low-level offenses to appear before a parole board after serving one-third of their sentences.
- Maryland – passed law increasing the number of offenses that must be and can be charged by a citation instead of arrest and detention.
- Missouri – passed one law reducing disparity for crack and powder cocaine offenses and another sending fewer people back to prison for technical violations of probation and parole, such as a missed meeting or failed drug test.
- Washington State – created the LEAD program, which diverts individuals charged with low-level offenses into community-based services, such as drug treatment, immediately after arrest and before booking. This is in addition to a ballot initiative in November to legalize marijuana.
States with pending legislation:
- Massachusetts – the state house and senate are working out a compromise on an omnibus criminal justice reform bill (a compromise of H3811 and S2054), which includes reforming the state’s habitual offender law and reducing sentences for some nonviolent offenders.
- Rhode Island – considering SB 2253 and HB 7092, which would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. Instead of facing jail time, individuals found with less than one ounce of marijuana will be punished with alternative sanctions, such as a fine.
by stuartbramhall in Attacks on Civil Liberties, Attacks on the Working Class
According to Brendan Fischer of PR Watch, Marcus Owens, former chief of the Internal Revenue’s non-profit division has just filed a complaint with the IRS that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has violated the terms of its nonprofit status by lobbying on behalf of its corporate members. Owens is a nationally recognized expert on nonprofit tax law. He filed the complaint on behalf of Clergy VOICE, a group of Christian ministers in Ohio.
ALEC is an organization composed of conservative thinkers, state legislators of both parties, corporations dedicated to drafting to draft research, policy papers and model legislation to assist and influence state legislatures and promote free-market and conservative ideas. Until recently, most major American corporations belonged to it.
ALEC and Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law
Over the past six months, ALEC has received a lot of negative publicity regarding specific model laws they have written. The Florida “Stand Your Ground Law,” which George Zimmerman invoked after shooting and killing Treyvon Martin, the unarmed black teenager, is the most notable. ALEC is also responsible for drafting anti-union legislation in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana to limit collective bargaining rights of public sector unions, as well as Arizona’s anti-immigration law. They are also the driving force behind efforts to privatize the US post office.
The model laws ALEC writes often benefit the financial interests of its corporate members, which Owens emphasizes in his complaint. He gives the example of the asbestos liability act, which specifically shields ALEC member Crown Holdings from asbestos liability claims, and the Drug Liability Act, which benefits ALEC member pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer and Merck by protecting them from lawsuits when their products injure or kill patients.
Owens Demands Criminal Penalties
In his complaint, Owens notes that ALEC and those who helped prepare ALEC’s deceptive IRS filings are liable to civil penalties, fines, and potentially criminal charges. ALEC could also be stripped of its tax-exempt status. This is because ALEC has deliberately lied, under penalty of perjury, in completing their annual IRS Form 990 about lobbying and payments to state officials. They claimed to have spent zero dollars on lobbying, as well as denying any payments to state officials. Both are blatantly untrue.
The IRS is still processing two prior complaints about ALEC lobbying in violation of its nonprofit charity status. The Campaign for Media Democracy filed one in March, and in April Common Cause filed a “whistleblower” complaint based on similar charges.
Read more here: http://www.prwatch.org/node/11627
by stuartbramhall in Attacks on the Working Class
May 15th marked the end of the 4 ½ month moratorium on post office closures. The Postmaster General was pressured to call the moratorium last December, following an outcry from Senate and state leaders. A week after the moratorium ended, the US Postal Service (USPS) finalized plans to lay off 150,000 postal workers over the next three years. According to the May 26th New York Times, the post office plans to close 229 of its 461 processing centers and reduce its workforce from 600,000 to 450,000 by 2104. The first 45,000 mail handlers, who are being offered $15,000 payouts, are slated to go by the end of 2011. According to the Times, a big decline in mail volume, as Americans shift to the Internet to communicate and pay bills, leaves the US no choice but to close processing centers and rural post offices.
The Role of ALEC in the Demise of the Post Office
The Times Free Press indicates the real reason for the closures and layoffs is a $3.2 billion dollar deficit for the first quarter of 2012. Part of this loss relates to declining revenue coupled with escalating fuel and energy costs. However as Ralph Nader emphasizes out in a April 26th letter to Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, 80% of this deficit relates to a congressional requirement that the post office pre-pay federal health benefits for their retirees. Occupy the Post Office believes this onerous requirement – unheard of in the corporate world – is part of a deliberate strategy by corporate lobbyists to privatize America’s oldest and most important public service. They remind readers that the law was written by the infamous American Legislative Council (ALEC – see * below) and its Congressional members, who have an overt agenda of shrinking and privatizing public services.
Since 1971, the USPS has been expected to run as an independent, corporation-like agency of the federal government. At the same time, strong ideological opposition to a publicly run postal service has led Congress to create onerous regulations that make it impossible for USPS to run as a competitive business. In addition to the requirement around prepaid retiree health benefits, the post office is still waiting for a refund of an $80 billion overpayment to the Civil Service Retirement System and the Federal Employees Retirement System. USPS also operates under congressional regulations that prevent them from offering digital services to capture some of the first class business they are losing to Internet providers.
Nader finds all this especially ironic, given that the post office was one of the only “corporations” to receive no corporate welfare related to the economic downturn.
Why Nader is Calling for Danohoe’s Resignation
Nader highlights the disconnect between Danohoe’s repeated emphasis on running the post office like a business and his decision to embark on the worst business strategy possible – raising prices while simultaneously cutting services (i.e. closing rural post offices, eliminating Saturday delivery and guaranteed overnight first class delivery). The only effect of such poorly conceived changes will be to hasten the loss of postal customers who won’t return. His letter also reminds Danohoe of the strain his own $400,000 compensation package poses on the USPS budget, along with several other postal executives with base pay rates over $200,000. Added to this is the substantial cost of subsidizing cheap bulk mail services for businesses.
He also faults Danohoe for failing to consider – or even to respond to – dozens of practical proposals for making the post office more profitable. These include suggestions by Senator Bernie Sanders for the post office to offer high demand services, including notary, check cashing and gift wrapping services; the sale of hunting and fishing licenses and accepting wine or beer for delivery.
Danohoe has also failed to respond to two dozen practical suggestions from Ruth Goldway, chair of the Postal Regulatory Commission, and others from one of the conferences on innovation held in the summer of 2010. Nader is equally critical of Danohoe’s dismissive attitude towards the reinstatement of a Postal Savings Service (ended in 1967), a proposal by the Appleseed Group, an agency years of experience dealing with the “unbanked.” They estimate there are over 30 million “unbanked” Americans in 35,000 communities who would make use of such a service.
Effect on November Elections
Makes you wonder how many votes Obama will get from postal workers in November. Not many, I expect. It would appear that our President is tired of the job – that he wants Romney to win.
*On a separate but related issue, ALEC is currently facing a whistleblower suit instigated by Common Cause, related to leaked documents revealing that the corporate lobbying group has misrepresented itself to the IRS as a charity. This enables corporations to claim contributions to ALEC can be claimed as a tax deductible charitable donations. It also means that ALEC is in violation of strict IRS regulations that prohibit non-profit charities from engaging in lobbying.
by stuartbramhall in Attacks on the Working Class
One for Our Side
The one positive outcome of Trayvon Martin’s appalling murder, is the recent withdrawal of several well-known corporations from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Thus far the list of members that have terminated their membership includes Mars candy, Coca-Cola, Kraft, Pepsico, Wendy’s, McDonald’s and the Gates Foundation. ALEC is an ideologically conservative group consisting of business interests and conservative state legislators for the purpose of drafting research, policy papers and model legislation to assist and influence state legislatures and promote conservative initiatives. ALEC is best known for drafting model legislation that can be easily adopted by state legislators and introduced as legislation. They are responsible for writing the notorious anti-union legislation passed in Wisconsin, Indiana and other Republican controlled, as well as private prison legislation in at least a dozen states, Arizona’s controversial anti-immigration law (for the benefit of Correction Corporations of America, which runs their immigration detention facilities), and Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which some blame for Trayvon Martin’s tragic shooting.
Sign the Petition!
Please support the Center for Media and Democracy Campaign to pressure other corporations to rescind their ALEC membership by signing the petition at Tell ALEC Companies to Stand Down. It’s already clear that those who manufacture consumer products are extremely concerned about bad press that might discourage Americans from buying their products. Mars, which manufactures the Skittles Trayvon purchased the night Zimmerman shot him, was one of the first to distance themselves from ALEC.
Despite the best efforts of Wall Street and the corporate media, Americans aren’t helpless against the power of corporate greed. There is increasing evidence that they have starting fighting back.
by stuartbramhall in Attacks on Civil Liberties, The Global Economic Crisis, Things That Aren't What They Seem
As I stressed in my November 3rd blog, it’s no longer politics and fear of violent crime that are driving America’s phenomenal incarceration rate – now the highest in the world. Statistics show that violent and property crime has been declining steadily since 1990 and that nearly half (one million) US prisoners, many of whom are mentally ill, are in the slammer for non-violent offenses.
The main drivers of incarceration in the US are economic – a lot of powerful people and corporations are getting rich off of locking Americans of – and they spend millions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions to federal and state lawmakers. Imprisoning people is now a multibillion industry with its own trade shows, conventions, mail order catalogues and direct marketing.
I encourage people to check out Robert Sloan’s excellent blog http://sloan-wwwpiecp-violations.blogspot.com/2010/10/corporatocracy-v.html regarding the American Legislative Exchange Council, the corporate lobby group responsible for helping major corporate players to enrich themselves (building private prisons and contracting for dirt cheap prison labor are just two examples) from the public trough at taxpayer expense. Sloan documents some of ALEC’s more questionable activities much more clearly than I can here.
For people wanting to do something to end this atrocity, I strongly suggest they contact Grassroots Leadership at www.grassrootsleadership.org, which is aggressively organizing to end prison privatization.
Who’s Making Big Bucks Off Prison Privatization
From my cursory survey of Internet sources, I have identified at least six places along the food chain where people are turning over profits (at taxpayer expense) in the booming prison business (see http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1571/is_19_15/ai_54736555/):
- The Wall Street investment banks who issue the bonds to finance the building of state and local prisons (I won’t list them here. Just Google the banks who got TARP bail-outs. As usual, Goldman Sachs is at the top of the list).
- The private companies who run prisons – Corrections Corporation of America and Wackenhut are the largest, but there are now 18 altogether (CCA also operates our federal immigration detention facilities and helped write Arizona’s controversial immigration law).
- Depressed rural communities – facing a decline (thanks to NAFTA and GAT which made it easier to move local companies overseas) in traditional sources of revenue, such as mining, dairy farming and manufacturing.
- Private companies that provide food services, health care, and assorted security paraphernalia to prisons.
- Bed brokers who, in Texas, earn $2.50 – 5.50 per man-day (for the duration of a prisoner’s sentence) by recruiting prisoners from out of state.
- Major corporations, the best known being BP, Dell, TWA, Compaq, J.C. Penny, Best Western Hotels, Honda, Chevron, IBM, Microsoft, Victoria’s Secret, and Boeing, who save on labor costs by employing cheap prison labor (0 to $1.50 per hour – the average is 40 cents) – which turns out to be far cheaper than outsourcing overseas – especially with rising labor costs in economic boom countries like India and China.
Local New Orleans residents who have been put out of work due to the mass Gulf oil spill are extremely unhappy about BP using prison labor in the clean-up.
Also if you recently made a credit card reservation at TWA or Best Western Hotels, it was very likely a prisoner who took your credit card details. Using prisoners for call centers and telemarketing is especially popular.