Nel's New Day

April 30, 2012

To Confused Conservatives: Why Women Aren’t Happy with You

What a view from conservatives regarding women’s rights! “Senate Democrats Plan another Trap for Mitt Romney with Female Voters,” reads the headline for Alexander Bolton’s “article” in the conservative publicationThe Hill.  What is the trap? Proposed legislation to more easily create equal pay for the genders. The Paycheck Fairness Act, blocked by Republicans two years ago, would prohibit employer discrimination in talking about other employers’ wages in both the same offices and other offices of the company. A woman could allege wage discrimination is she’s paid less than a man working for the same job for the same employer. That’s the “trap” causing Bolton to cry “foul”:  sending a bill up for a vote that mandates equal pay is trying to trap the poor Republicans.

These are the same conservatives who probably consider the Violence against Women Act (VAWA) to be a “trap” because it tries to protect all women, not just specific classes. Thirty-one male senators voted against VAWA; several of the others voted for it only because they think that the House will remove some of those “special classes” of women from protection. Calling the existing VAWA “controversial,” the men of the House were very sure to have women—specifically Sen. Kay Hutchinson (R-TX) and Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL)—front and center to introduce the “uncontroversial” bill that eliminates certain classes of women. Or maybe they were just embarrassed to admit that some women deserve to be sexually assaulted.

After the House passed a bill taking Affordable Care Act funding to pay for keeping the federal student loan interest rate the same, Rep. John Boehner is trying to persuade anyone who will listen that this has nothing to do with women. The “slush fund,” as Boehner dismisses it, pays for hundreds of thousands of screenings for breast and cervical cancer. Mr. Boehner, those are women’s parts so the loss of funding hurts women.

In giving marching orders to House Republicans for the “reconciliation” of the budget, Reps. Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Jeb Hensarling sent a memo telling their colleagues to increase the defense budget while reducing food stamps. That’s another blow against women who are trying to find food for their children. The three House Republican leaders ignore the facts that the budget was settled last summer during the debt crisis and that they voted for this budget. Because Democratic senators arguing that the Budget Control Act counts as a budget with no need for an additional spending plan for 2013, the House Republicans are considering a seldom-used reconciliation process, hoping that Democrats won’t stick to last summer’s law and won’t have their own plan.

Republicans should use a mirror to see how offensive their behavior is. On a Meet the Press panel talking about the “war on women” yesterday, Republican strategist Alex Castellanos immediately interrupted Rachel Maddow when she said that women in this country make 77 cents for each dollar that men make and then continued to interrupt everything she said. She finally called him out on his “stylistic issue,” calling it “condescending,” after he said, ” I wish you are as right about what you’re saying as you are passionate about it. I really do.” The look on his face showed that he still didn’t get it. As Jason Easley wrote, “The goal was to put Rachel Maddow in her place, and to stop the ‘hysteria’ from the ‘girls’ who don’t understand that because men say so there is no war on women and pay gap.”

After Hilary Rosen mistakenly said that Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann, doesn’t work and then repeatedly apologized, saying that she meant Ann didn’t work outside the home, the Republicans thought they were home free. When Ann Romney went out on the campaign trail to make a speech, this is what she said: “I love the fact that there are women out there who don’t have a choice and they must go to work and they still have to raise the kids.” When she suggested that she understood poor families, she said that she and Mitt had to sell some of their stocks to get by in college. Her husband had already suggested that young people can start businesses the same way that he did, by borrowing $20,000 from his parents—back when $20,000 was equivalent to perhaps ten times what it is now.

Republicans around the country also ignore women’s needs. Florida Gov. Rick Scott is willing to drug-test welfare applicants before they can get any benefits although this costs the state. He also took $2 million from health care providers to give to the fake “crisis pregnancy centers” that keep women from having abortions no matter what their needs. His most recent attack on women is to veto $1.5 million for Florida’s rape crisis centers because he thinks it duplicates existing services. The majority of the existing services, however, are education and prevention; the $1.5 million would have gone to working with actual victims.

Ohio has a proposal to rearrange funding for women’s clinics, putting Planned Parenthood last. Local health departments get the top funding priority, followed by federally qualified community health centers, and then private care centers. The end result of the reprioritization leaves thousands of Ohio women with no birth control, cancer screenings, or STI testing and treatment. Although women could go to a private care center, not everyone who works at this private care center will provide birth control. “You would have to be an established patient, and it would depend on the doctor,” said the receptionist at Lower Lights Health Care center. Ohio plans to move funds meant to help cover contraception to groups that decide on a case by case basis whether or not they want to provide contraception.

Even candidates don’t take women seriously. Recently a woman asked State Attorney General Rob McKenna, Republican candidate for Washington governor, how he would vote on the Reproductive Parity Act, a bill that would expand insurance coverage for abortions in the state insurance plan as long as the plan covers maternity care as well. At first McKenna accused her of trying to “bushwhack” him by asking the question and asked her if she were being honest. When she tried to address the question, he snapped at her and said, “Why don’t you go get a job?” The woman runs “youth empowerment” programs at the YMCA.  Again a Republican man tried to shut up a woman by  being contemptuous to her.

In his speech at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, President Obama described the Republican position: “Jimmy [Kimmel] got his start years ago on ‘The Man Show.’ In Washington, that’s what we call a congressional hearing on contraception.” No war on women? Thing.progress has produced a video collage of comments during the past few months. For another piece of black humor, check out this video from the Funny or Die website as women counsel Rick Santorum for aborting his campaign.

And these are just the most recent Republicans actions against women!

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April 29, 2012

Farewell to Gingrich?

Newt Gingrich is almost gone from the current political scene although he hasn’t declared himself officially there—just officially maybe if etc. No matter what, he deserves a sendoff. This is the man that the GOP hates, who liked Citizens United until another Republican had a bigger super PAC, who thought that he could arrest judges for doing their job, and who decided that Fox was biased in favor of Mitt Romney—when Fox was supporting Rick Santorum. But there’s lots more about him.

As a child, Gingrich was seriously abused by his stepfather, a Marine officer. As a teenager, Gingrich loved zoos and dinosaurs, wanting an academic career. In his twenties, Gingrich grew his hair long, having a yen for the counter-culture of the 60s. By his thirties, having successfully dodged the draft with student and family deferments, he ran for the House of Representatives in an Atlanta (GA) suburb. After he lost, his campaign scheduler said, “We would have won if we could have kept him out of the office and screwing [a young campaign staffer] on his desk.” At this time Gingrich was with his high school geometry teacher, Jackie Battley, who he married when he was nineteen years old.

Politics and his wife didn’t mix. While Jackie Gingrich was still in the hospital recovering from her third cancer surgery, Gingrich “argued” with her over the terms of the divorce that he wanted and she didn’t. He had told one of his aides, “She isn’t young enough or pretty enough to be the President’s wife. And besides, she has cancer.” Another reason was his affair with Marianne, who became his second wife and was discarded after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Because Gingrich refused to pay alimony or offer child support for his two children, Jackie’s church took up a collection for her. Gingrich has said that when he read a book called Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them, he “found frightening pieces that related to my own life.”

Finally getting elected to the House of Representatives in 1978, Gingrich used the Republican whip, Dick Cheney, to rise in the ranks. Gingrich’s staff started a whisper campaign falsely accusing Speaker of the House Tom Foley, a Democrat, of being a closet homosexual and created another manufactured scandal about some House members’ supposed abuse of their credit union. Gingrich used these bodies for his advancement.

After George H. W. Bush appointed Cheney as secretary of defense, Gingrich took over as the House whip. Bill Clinton’s reelection dropped Gringrich’s national approval rating to 28 percent, leading him to push for Clinton’s impeachment. At the same time, Gingrich was having an affair with Callista Bisek, one of his staffers who is twenty-three years younger than Gingrich. Little did he know that Tom DeLay was leading a group of 20 Republicans working to oust Gingrich. The coup failed when Dick Armey told Gingrich about it after he found out that the plan didn’t include his succeeding Gingrich.

James Dobson gave up on the Republicans’ trying to get rid of Gingrich and took over the task himself by mobilizing the Christian Right. In 1998 Dobson gave a speech to the Council for National Policy, a secret group that brings together right-wing activists with wealthy conservatives to shape political strategy.

“Does the Republican Party want our votes—no strings attached—to court us every two years, and then to say, ‘Don’t call me. I’ll call you?’ And not to care about the moral law of the universe? Is that what they want? Is that what the plan is? Is that the way the system works? And if so, is it going to stay that way? Is this the way it’s going to be? If it is, I’m gone, and if I go—I’m not trying to threaten anybody because I don’t influence the world—but if I go, I will do everything I can to take as many people with me as possible.”

Dobson continued to threaten House Republicans when he met with 25 of them a month later. After Army confronted Dobson, Dobson persuaded Focus on the Family to tell its members—falsely—that Army was a paid consultant to the ACLU. Despite Gingrich’s and Army’s strategy of impeachment, the House lost five Republican seats—the worst midterm-election in 64 years for a party that did not control the White House. Gingrich resigned and divorced his second wife, again in her hospital room. This time he sent his message by phone.

For years Gingrich wrote op-eds and speeches, even a trilogy of alternative historical novels in which the Confederacy won the Civil War before he returned to the political arena in 2006. In New Hampshire, Gingrich warned that “before we actually lose a city” to a terrorist attack, the government should consider limiting free speech. In his manifesto, Rediscovering God in America, he also declared that the United States is a Christian nation. “There is no attack on American culture more deadly and more historically dishonest than the secular effort to drive God out of America’s public life,” he insisted.

At that time, even the right wing disapproved of Gingrich’s philandering. Jeffrey Kuhner, editor of the right-wing Web magazine Insight, wrote, “Mr. Gingrich views women as little more than sex objects who are discarded like an empty Coke bottle when they fail to satisfy his near-limitless appetite. He is yesterday’s man.”

Gingrich thought he could persuade Dobson to overlook his past peccadilloes. The big mistake was justifying his own actions because “every member of every jury of America has had weaknesses.” Dobson considers himself without spiritual fault. After Dobson’s harsh statements and questions, Gingrich said, “I have turned to God and got on my knees and prayed to God and asked for forgiveness.” Gingrich’s answer satisfied Dobson, especially because he had the impression that he could lift this sinner out of his darkness and depravity. It was Gingrich’s statement that led Jerry Falwell to ask him to give the commencement speech at Liberty University.

Despite the tarnished image of Liberty after one of the students was arrested for confessing his plans to commit mass murder against the notorious Fred Phelps church, a confession that came immediately after Falwell’s unexpected death, Gingrich gave the speech. He gave a call for graduates to confront “the growing culture of radical secularism,” thereby honoring the memory of Falwell. Gingrich’s sins fell away, and he was invited to appear with the other GOP presidential wannabes at the Family Research Council’s annual Value Voters Summit. Gingrich was back.

With Dobson’s anointing, Gingrich has joined the company of serial killer like Ted Bundy and David Berkowitz, forgiven and redeemed by Dobson because they  confessed their evil deeds and professed a commitment to evangelical religion.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German clergyman executed by the Nazis for publicly opposing Hitler and denouncing church leaders who acquiesced to his rule, calls this “cheap grace.” In 1943, he wrote, “Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like a cheapjack’s wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut-rate prices . . . In such a Church the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin.”

Part of this information came from an abstract of Max Blumenthal’s book, Republican Gomorrah. This blog is just a piece of the iceberg regarding Gingrich’s scandals. You’re welcome to read more—or just wait for him to re-emerge somewhere else.

April 28, 2012

Manly War for Conservatives

The Republican candidates are rattling their sabers. Despite the tremendous debt that W. Bush’s wars rolled up for future generations, hawks Romney and Rubio (on the short list for vice-president) don’t believe in diplomacy regarding Iran and Pakistan. They believe in war. The question is “why.”

Corey Robin’s book The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin has some theories about the need for force and violence.  First, there is a need for the “manliness” of confronting disasters, a feeling of romance related to war. Avoiding war, to many of these people, is weak and soft, the wrongful subordination of passion to rational belief. “War is inescapable,” Yitzhak Shamir declared, not because it ensures security but “because without this, the life of the individual has no purpose.” Mussolini agreed with his claim that war is the sole source of human advance. “War is to men,” he said, “as maternity is to women.”

This philosophy was obvious a decade ago in the search of imaginary weapons of mass destruction and the demand to use torture. Donald Rumsfeld ridiculed analysts’ desire to have “all the dots connected for us with a ribbon wrapped around it.” His staffers derided the military quest for “actionable intelligence,” for information solid enough to warrant assassinations and other preemptive acts of violence. In the pundit world, David Brooks blasted the CIA’s “bloodless compilations of data by anonymous technicians” and praised those analysts who make “novelistic judgments” informed by “history, literature, philosophy and theology.”

The opposition to rule-bound culture and risk aversion of the military shows a deep antipathy to law and order. Rumsfeld’s secret directive that terrorists should be captured or killed included orders to his generals that the goal was “not simply to arrest them in a law-enforcement exercise.” To avoid any reasonable action by the military leaders, Rumsfeld supported lightning strikes by U.S. Special Forces without the generals’ approval. Geoffrey Miller replaced a general at Guantanamo for being too “soft—too worried about the prisoners’ well-being.”

Instead of democratizing the Middle East, the W. Bush camp invaded Iraq because of their grand idea, seeing themselves as a brave army that would prove themselves as heroes. The soldier mentality was accompanied by the “scholarly” justification of torture. The argument to torture anyone at any time, despite the Geneva Convention, puts forth the scenario of a bomb placed in the midst of a populated area. Is it ethical, ask the scholars, to torture the person who can protect all those people from the bomb?

The ticking-bomb argument, however, avoids the facts that none of the tortured people by the United States during the past decade, was questioned about any bomb, that between 60 and 90 percent of suspected prisoners were taken by mistake or with no basis of threat, and that many U.S. intelligence officials were convinced that torture did not result in accurate information. Yet the dialog about whether to torture and what constitutes torture continued under the romantic view of war held by the nation’s leaders for almost a decade. And once again, conservative Congressional members are also readying for war by introducing a bill to put aside money for the military in the Middle East.

Ironically, the word “theater” is used for both stagecraft and war, giving the feeling that national security is a “house of illusions.” Actors in both theaters behave like divas, waiting for people to admire their crafts. As Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage,/And all the men and women merely players.”

One of the recent players to appear is Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) giving what has been called his first major speech on foreign policy, perhaps to boost the feeling of Mitt Romney’s ignorance in this area. Rubio invoked Saint Ronald Reagan and criticized President Obama for not taking decisive and unilateral action, currently in Syria and earlier in Libya.

Although receiving much praise from the conservative press, Rubio may not yet be ready for prime time: he lost the last page of this speech. “Does anyone have my last page?” Rubio said on national television before Sen. Joe Lieberman, who introduced Rubio, passed it to him across the stage. He also lost quite a few points because of voting against the Violence against Women Act (VAWA). The second place guy Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) was one of ten Republican men to vote yes for VAWA. [Portman was W. Bush’s budget director during Bush’s second term—and we know how well that went!)

At The Daily Beast, Andrew Sullivan wrote, “If Romney is elected, and if no deal with Iran is accomplished before then, we will go to war in a third Muslim country, and possibly escalate again in Afghanistan. The rebooting of the global religious war would be instant. The US will almost certainly become the guarantor of all of Greater Israel, rendering us cut off from the entire Arab and Muslim world, as well as increasingly isolated from Europe. Russia, Romney tells us, is the number one “threat”. Torture could well return.” It’s the manly thing.

April 27, 2012

Science for the Week

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:01 PM
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The Congress has done all the damage it can until it returns after a one-week recess, and it’s Friday. Let’s have some science, both good and bad news. Here are things that researchers discovered last week.

Blood Test for Depression: Testing rats shows that depressed rats have different types of molecules than healthy rats. Moving on to teenagers, the researchers discovered that they also have higher concentrations of the same specific molecules in their blood. It’s preliminary, but parents can someday learn whether they tell their kids to “get over it” or find them medical help–and maybe adults can do this too.

Math’s Help in Real Life: When Dmitri Krioukov, a physicist from the University of California at San Diego, was pulled over by an officer for going through a stop sign, he didn’t pay the fine. Instead he wrote a paper proving his innocence because of three simultaneously occurring phenomena: (1) the officer measurement of Krioukov’s angular, not linear velocity; (2) Krioukov’s rapid deceleration, which made it look as if he had not stopped; and (3) another cars obstructing the officer’s view at just the right moment, causing him to miss Krioukov’s actual stop. Krioukov even used graphs. He beat the ticket, and the judge didn’t blame the police officer, saying the officer’s “perception of reality did not properly reflect reality.”

Freeing Microbes: Scientific American’s “Melting Glaciers Liberate Ancient Microbes” by Cheryl Katz and the Daily Climate (an extended version of Bugs in the Ice Sheet, SA’s May 2012 issue) addresses the melting ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland. The article concluded, “Tiny organisms that may have been trapped there longer than modern humans have walked the planet, biding their time until conditions change and set them free again” will become free again. These bacteria still able to “grow and divide” after ages under ice have been “evolving inside the ice sheets exchanging DNA and gaining new traits,” waiting for a population that is no longer immune to them.

Blind Shrimp and Clawless Crabs: According to a specialist with the Bureau of Land Management, the “blind, tiny, almost translucent shrimp” recently found in a cave near Carlsbad Caverns (NM) have “been down there tens of thousands of years, millions of years and we’re just now getting around to finding them.” After the 200-million-gallon BP oil disaster two years ago, eyeless shrimp, clawless crabs, gill-less fish and other deformed marine life are showing up along with shrimp with tumors, crabs with soft shells or no spikes on their shells, and fish with lesions. Amir Khan of the The International Business Times reported, “BP officials said tests show that gulf seafood is safe and that fish deformities were documented before the oil spill.” Jim Cowan, an oceanographer at Louisiana State University, said that the fisherman have never seen anything like this and after 20 years and up to 30,000 fish “I’ve never seen anything like this either.”

Khan’s story also stated, “Environmental researchers blame the spill and also BP’s attempt to clean it up using two million gallons of a dispersant called Corexit. The exact effects of the dispersant are unknown and researchers with Corexit’s manufacturer Nalco didn’t conduct toxicity studies on the product before use.”

Better Ways to Clean Up Oil Spill: Researchers at Rice University and Penn State figured that adding boron during the creation of carbon nanotubes produces “solid, spongy, reusable blocks that have an astounding ability to absorb oil spilled in water,” reported Science Daily. Boron promotes covalent bonds (bonds created when atoms of a molecule share a pair of electrons) in the nanotubes which is what gives them their “robust quality.” They can be used over and over again, and a sample “remained elastic after about 10,000 compressions in the lab.” Cleaning up big oil spills is just one use for the nanosponges, wrote Mauricio Terrones, co-author of the paper that appeared in Nature’s online open-access journal Scientific Reports. They could also help make lighter batteries, “scaffolds for bone-tissue regeneration,” materials for the auto and aircraft industries and also for filtration systems.

Chemical Crayon Labels: Queinteresante on Etsy (via io9) has 96 color labels that match a basic 96 crayon pack but include the names of the chemicals that create the color. Kids love coloring, learning big new words (all kids can name more dinosaurs than most adults can), and sounding smart. Caveat: parents have to remember them, too. When the kid says, “Please hand me the mercuric iodide,” parents better be clued in.

Gene Mutation Making People More Intelligent: Mariette Le Roux wrote that a genetic variant is not the last word on how bright you are but does provide a glimpse as to why some people are smarter than others. “DNA, the blueprint for life, comprises four basic chemicals called A (for adenine), C (cytosine), T (thymine) and G (guanine), strung together in different combinations along a double helix.” On the gene HMGA2, people who had an extra C instead of a T on a specific segment of the gene had larger brains. People with two Cs also scored 1.3 points higher on standardized IQ tests than those with one C while those with no Cs scored 1.3 points lower than average. “The team found that every T in place of a C represented a 0.6 percent smaller brain — equal to more than a year’s worth of brain loss through the normal aging process.” Study leader Paul Thompson said that while the effect was small, “it would help our brain resist cognitive decline later in life.” He also said, “Most other ways we know of improving brain function more than outweigh this gene,” including exercising and improving both our diets and our educations. [I must be lacking those Cs because I don’t really understand this!]

Size Matters: A research team at UCLA found that men who were holding a .357 Magnum handgun looked taller than men who were holding other objects. Participants looked at photos of men’s hands holding either the gun or another object like a drill or caulking gun and then asked them to estimate the size of the person holding the object. The gun toters always came out taller–two inches taller than those with the caulking gun. The more complex an animal is, the more complex their threat assessment. Daniel Fessler, evolutionary anthropologist and director of UCLA’s Center for Behavior Evolution and Culture, and his research team theorize that “the many factors that go into assessing a threat in our species might be represented in a very simple and primitive way in the brain: simply as an image of the person’s size and strength.”

Grand Illusion: After Tupac Shakur was killed by gunfire in 1996 at the age of 25, he made a stunning appearance at the Coachella Music and Arts Festival. According to Ars Technica, it was because of an optical illusion technique known as “Pepper’s Ghost.” While the eye is trained on a target area where a piece of glass is hidden. The actual performer/object is in a main room off to the side, out of the viewer’s line of vision. Light shining on the object in the main room is reflected in the glass pushing it into the target area and creating a ghostly illusion. AV Concepts added an tech-slick-trick by using a sheet of something called Musion Eyeliner, a “proprietary Mylar foil,” instead of glass. Ars Technica quotes a press release saying that it “delivered uncompressed media for 3 stacked 1920 x 1080 images, delivering 54,000 lumens of incredibly clear projected imagery.”

Have a good weekend!

April 26, 2012

House Votes Yes on CISPA, Erases Rights

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:24 PM
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Such a benign reason for passing a bill, protecting online companies from cyber attack. Everyone thinks that protection is good. But the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) allows these online companies to further erode everyone’s civil rights. And the House of Representatives passed CISPA today.

According to Anjali Dalal, a resident fellow with the Information Society Project at Yale Law School, “CISPA seems to place constitutionally suspect behavior outside of judicial review. The bill immunizes all participating entities ‘acting in good faith.’ So what happens when an ISP hands over mountains of data under the encouragement and appreciation of the federal government? We can’t sue the government, because they didn’t do anything. And we can’t sue the ISP because the bill forbids it.”

If CISPA passes the Senate, the government will no longer need to go through courts to fight “enemies” on U.S. soil in the Internet arena, and we know that the government considers everyone in this country a potential “enemy.” The United States is in a perpetual war.

Currently the courts distinguish between public and private aspects of online activity. For example, e-mail addresses, subject lines, and traffic patterns are public in the same way as addresses on the outside of a paper envelope are. Just as the contents of a letter are private, however, so are the contents of electronic communication, requiring a search warrant for courts to examine these details. Yet private companies doing government work don’t have the same restrictions.

CISPA deputizes tech companies to share everything–online activities, history, searches, transactions, mail—with the government. In addition, Internet firms would not be required to tell clients when the companies give this information to the government. The result is no legal recourse for these companies’ actions and no limits on the government’s use and retention of any information gained from them. In CISPA Congress will free private firms from liability.

CISPA guarantees than any private action involved with the Internet will be potentially public. As the San Jose Mercury News, the daily newspaper of Silicon Valley, pointed out, “Personal privacy protection is all but nonexistent.” To the people who claim that they don’t have anything to hide, I say, that’s not the point. The point is that people in a free world should have the right to privacy.

“I think our First and Fourth Amendment rights aren’t being adequately considered,” said Yale Law School’s Dalal. “We have a right to be free from government intrusion into our private thoughts, actions, and effects without a warrant. We also have a right to speak freely without government interference. Authorizing private surveillance of everything we do on the Internet with the understanding that government can be a recipient of that surveillance information threatens our right to speak freely, and to be free from unlawful search and seizure.”

As they did with the immunity granted to the telecom industry three years ago for warrantless wiretapping of all our phones, Congress explains to the nation’s citizens that passing this law will make us safer, that we have to make compromises for our safety. They don’t explain that passing CISPA makes the Constitution smaller.

The House passed CISPA with a 248-168 vote, 42 Democrats supporting it and 28 Republicans opposing it. The bill had a stronger bipartisan support before President Obama promised to veto it. “Legislation should address core critical infrastructure vulnerabilities without sacrificing the fundamental values of privacy and civil liberties for our citizens, especially at a time our Nation is facing challenges to our economic well-being and national security,” the White House said.

Passing CISPA may be a moot point: National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower William Binney estimates the NSA has assembled 20 trillion “transactions”–phone calls, emails and other forms of data—from people in this country. The information likely includes copies of almost all of the emails sent and received from most people living in the United States although NSA Director Keith Alexander asserts that the NSA is not intercepting information about U.S. citizens.

Big Business strongly supports CISPA. Their letters of support praise the information sharing for “successful public-private cybersecurity collaboration.” The ACLU differs from their perspective, giving this example of how CISPA works.

“Imagine you are emailing your doctor from your Gmail account about a medical condition. Your doctor pulls up your medical records from his cloud storage server and sends them your way. Somewhere in that communication, a virus crops up. Under CISPA, Google could send your emails, including the electronic copy of your medical records, to the NSA, so they can gather information on the virus. But, Google would be under no obligation whatsoever to scrub out your private details–which have nothing to do with the virus. And now your medical records are in government hands indefinitely–and the government can use them for all sorts of unrelated purposes like the undefined ‘national security.’”

CISPA will destroy all privacy on the Internet, it will make all whistleblowers and journalists public, it will provide unaccountable spying freedom for the government. Even worse, CISPA will give the government the ability to close down free and open access to the Internet. Dictators delight in this control; that’s what they did in Iran during the recent revolution.

This bill is what happens when the people who make the laws don’t understand the way that technology works. Some of the people voting for this will want the total control, but the discussion about the Stop Online Piracy Act late last year showed lawmakers’ ignorance. They need to have a test before they are allowed to vote on any subject.

April 25, 2012

Romney: ‘Vote for Me; I’m Great’

“I have a very different vision for America, and of our future. It is an America driven by freedom, where free people, pursuing happiness in their own unique ways, create free enterprises that employ more and more Americans. Because there are so many enterprises that are succeeding, the competition for hard-working, educated and skilled employees is intense, and so wages and salaries rise.

“I see an America with a growing middle class, with rising standards of living. I see children even more successful than their parents – some successful even beyond their wildest dreams – and others congratulating them for their achievement, not attacking them for it.

“This America is fundamentally fair. We will stop the unfairness of urban children being denied access to the good schools of their choice; we will stop the unfairness of politicians giving taxpayer money to their friends’ businesses; we will stop the unfairness of requiring union workers to contribute to politicians not of their choosing; we will stop the unfairness of government workers getting better pay and benefits than the taxpayers they serve; and we will stop the unfairness of one generation passing larger and larger debts on to the next.

“In the America I see, character and choices matter.  And education, hard work, and living within our means are valued and rewarded.  And poverty will be defeated, not with a government check, but with respect and achievement that is taught by parents, learned in school, and practiced in the workplace.”

Nobody can disagree with the importance of fairness, rising salaries, growing middle class, small business, education and hard work, etc. In fact, President Obama has been talking about these for years. These are the values that Mitt Romney espoused last night in his kickoff speech as presidential nominee for the GOP. Not enough delegates yet, but everyone else is dropping like flies except Ron Paul. Romney’s basic problem with his speech is no explanation of how he would accomplish these laudatory goals.

Romney’s speech could be summed up in one statement: “Vote for me: I know America is a great country.”

In discussing Romney’s speech, Ezra Klein described the three parts of an effective political speech: extolling values; defining policy goals; and providing specific ideas or proposals or programs that achieve these goals. Romney did two out of three but nothing about how he plans to raise salaries etc.  Keeping general keeps from alienating much of his audience. Between supporting the Ryan budget and discriminating against immigrants, Romney has a big problem.

Republicans do seem to be falling in line behind Romney. Despite an earlier statement from one Congressman that Congress is not there to be Romney’s cheerleaders, both House and Senate conservatives are already changing their positions on key issues. Romney supports the Violence against Women Act, so Republicans senators say they will vote for the bill, letting Republican representatives in the House fight about the controversial language expanding special visas to illegal immigrants seeking protection from abuse, a provision specifically naming same-sex partners as eligible for domestic violence programs, and another empowering American-Indian tribal authorities to prosecute abuses alleged to have happened on their reservations.

Once in lockstep opposition to keeping the interest rate below 4 percent for college loans, Republicans are now vigorously supporting the extension of the current interest rate for federal student loans for one more year on top of the past five years. (Republicans are big on short-term fixes!) The catch is that while Democrats plan to pay for the supposed $6 billion cost by ending tax subsidies for oil and gas companies, Republicans hope to take the funding from the health care “slush fund”—House Speaker John Boehner’s words. As usual, the Republicans prefer to give money to wealthy corporations rather than using it to fight obesity and tobacco use as well as respond to public health threats and outbreaks.

Thus Romney shows support for women through VAWA and students through the federal loan program. He has a harder time with immigration reform even with Republican support in an attempt at an the “Etch a Sketch” reversal. Republicans have their own 180-degree turns: in February Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) criticized Romney’s “self-deportation” approach, that life be made so miserable for Latino immigrants that they leave this country. Now McCain emphatically claims that Romney never made that statement, despite videos of Romney using this term, even in his debates last year.

Also in the debates, Romney referred to Arizona’s discriminatory law SB1070 mandating profiling people as a “model” for the nation. In a current poll, 14 percent of the Latinos support Romney whereas 70 percent support President Obama, a separation that might grow when the reason behind SB1070 becomes better publicized. Co-authors Kris Kobach, past Romney adviser, worried about foreign terrorists, while Michael Hethmon feared that immigrants would overburden the environment.

According to Hethmon, immigration is “on track to change the demographic makeup of the entire country. You know, what they call ‘minority-majority.’ ” Hethmon said, “How many countries have gone through a transition like that–peacefully, carefully? It’s theoretically possible, but we don’t have any examples.” So the purpose of SB1070 as a “model” is to keep the country from making a “transition” away from a majority of Anglos?

Women, immigrants, massive cuts to the country’s safety net—these are parts of the baggage that Romney will carry during his campaign against President Obama. As Dana Milbank wrote, “Aficionados of the Etch a Sketch will recall a certain flaw in the toy: If you use it often, some of the lines drawn no longer disappear when you shake the device, instead leaving an indelible trace of where you have been.” The lines are not disappearing for Mitt Romney’s outrageously far-right statements no matter what platitudes he spouts in speeches.

Correction: The North Carolina election for the anti-marriage equality amendment is on May 8.

April 24, 2012

GOP Opposes VAWA, Women

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 1:19 PM
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Politics takes front and center this week with five primaries across the nation today. Voters in one state, North Carolina, will determine the fate of an anti-marriage equality amendment to the constitution which will disenfranchise domestic partnerships for not only LGBT couples but also for 233,000 heterosexual couples. Friday may bring a vote in the House on the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) that greatly expands the government’s ability examine online activities in this country.

Tomorrow the Supreme Court discusses the Arizona anti-immigrant law SB1070. Let’s hope that none of them addresses the “fairness” of the law the way that one of them did while discussing the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. Also tomorrow the Senate debates a bill that potentially impacts over half the population of the United States—the Violence against Women Act (VAWA).

For the first time since its original passage in 1994, VAWA faces a fight for renewal. Originally written and introduced by then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE), the bill is an effort to prevent domestic violence and help victims of domestic or sexual abuse. Twice reauthorized–once signed by George W. Bush–VAWA has enjoyed broad bipartisan support until this year. Republicans have decided to fight VAWA because the revised act extends the classes of victims to Native Americans, the LGBT community, and undocumented immigrants. Conservatives don’t want other women to be beaten, strangled, and raped, but those other women don’t deserve government help.

Some women are even supporting the Republican opposition: Janice Crouse, a spokesperson for Concerned Women for America, said that VAWA “pits husbands against wives” and that under the law “a woman can, with the barest evidence and no evidence at all, claim abuse and get (a husband or partner) out of the house.” Meanwhile after opposing VAWA in the Judiciary Committee two months ago, some Republicans say they are drafting their own, scaled-back version of the law. They have yet, however, to produce any specific proposals.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has said that the Senate GOP won’t filibuster VAWA, up for debate tomorrow. Its 61 Senate co-sponsors would already make it filibuster-proof, but Republicans plan to undermine the bill through amendments that delete the added classes of victims. Concerned that tribal officials might be able to prosecute non-Indians for abuse on reservations, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) described the added classes of victims, “matters put on that bill that almost seem to invite opposition.” Conservatives can pass these amendments with 51 votes if all the Republicans plus a few less-than-liberal Democrats vote to delete some women from the bill. An alternative to these amendments is to add toxic amendments, forcing Democrats to oppose the bill.

Since VAWA’s first passage, domestic violence has annually decreased by 53 percent. Because victims now report incidents, abuse reports have increased 51 percent. The law has provided hundreds of thousands of women, men, and children access to legal help, health care, and police assistance. VAWA makes special provisions for the elderly, the disabled, and women in rural areas who can’t easily access help. Thus far, VAWA has not been a cure: in 45 percent of cases where a man killed a woman, it was because a woman tried to leave an abusive relationship. One in five women will be raped in her lifetime, as will one in 71 men. Between one-third and one-fourth of same-sex relationships has experienced domestic violence.

One in three Native American women will be raped in her lifetime; they face the highest rate of domestic violence out of any group in the country, three and a half times the national average. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) said that “any American” could be imprisoned by tribal courts, but the provisions allow tribal members to prosecute non-tribal people who commit domestic violence and who either live or work on a reservation or are married to a tribal member. Republicans also oppose the increased number of visas extended to abused undocumented victims. The expanded VAWA would prevent shelters from discriminating against LGBT victims.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the highest-ranking member of the Senate Democratic leadership, and Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) held a press conference last week about VAWA. “It really is a shame, I think, that we’ve gotten to this point that we even have to stand here today to urge our colleagues on the other side of the aisle to support legislation that has consistently received broad bipartisan support,” Murray said.

One GOP Senate candidate, Sarah Steelman who is opposing Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), didn’t know about VAWA until she got a question about the bill. Later she said, “Of course I am for stopping violence against women” but accused Senate Democrats of making the bill a “political football.” [Any time someone disagrees with the GOP position (which is anything opposing the Democrats’ position), that person screams “politization,” probably the term replacing “un-American.”]

Steelman is in good company: Mitt Romney didn’t know what VAWA was when he was a presidential candidate in 2008. Thus far, Romney has not stated an opinion about VAWA’s renewal.

Since the beginning of the recession, the Northeast has seen a 72 percent increase in the incidence of domestic violence in the Northeast while domestic violence homicide rates have increased 24 percent in New York. Yet across the country, states are cutting funding to counseling programs, non-shelter services, and rental subsidies that help domestic violence victims escape into other permanent housing.

This Friday the Senate will leave for a one-week recess. Will they create separate classes of Native Americans, LGBT, and undocumented immigrant people, allowing them to suffer violence to the point of being killed?

As Meghan Rhoade wrote, “The bottom line for women is that everyone deserves protection from violence–regardless of the length of her skirt, regardless of her sexual orientation, and regardless of her immigration status.” Freedom from violence should be a human right.

April 23, 2012

CookieGate Joins the War

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:36 PM
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Before the incessant “war”—the one on terrorism, Christmas, Easter, salt, potatoes, etc.—there was the “gate.” Mostly invisible for the past few years after Sarah Palin’s infamous “Troopergate” episode, “gate” is back—in CookieGate. The news went across the country from the Wall Street Journal to the LA Times.

When the almost-annointed Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, set up a staged meet with four Republican couples in Bethel Park (PA) for a friendly chat last week, he started his conversation by ridiculing the cookies in front of them. Looking at a plate of lady locks, thumbprints, and other delicacies, he said, “I’m not sure about these cookies. They don’t look like you made them. No, no. They came from the local 7-Eleven, bakery, or whatever.” Little did he know that a nearby beloved bakery, opened in 1955 by the current baker’s father, had prepared the variety tray especially to celebrate Romney’s.

”Mitt Romney is right,” said chirpy 7-Eleven spokesperson Margaret Chabris. “There are bakeries dedicated just to delivering and making fresh baked goods every day, 365 days a year, for 7-Eleven stores. So we were very amused, because he got it right.” Chabris added that 7-Eleven will “send some [cookies] to his campaign headquarters in Boston so he can try them out.” What an amazing spin when the real cookies didn’t come from 7-Eleven!

Meanwhile the Bethel Bakery offered a “CookieGate Special”—a free half-dozen cookies with the purchase of a dozen cookies—for the two days after Romney’s gaffe. The Obama campaign had already ordered a tray of five dozen cookies, the same platter that Romney mocked, for its campaign before the sale.

Faithful customers were not amused by Romney’s rude comments. “Maybe he’s just used to eating cookies with diamonds in them,” one said on Facebook. Another contributed, “I think the Bethel Bakery should make a new cookie, called ‘The Romney’, and have the top be encrusted with something that resembles diamonds.” Even local GOP candidates were bothered by Romney’s bad-mannered remarks, including Evan Feinberg, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, for his 18th Congressional District seat. Feinberg said on his Twitter page: “Huge mistake. Bethel Bakery is an institution around here!”

If this were Romney’s first blunder and if he had apologized, there might be less attention paid to his discourteous off-hand observations. We know, however, that neither of these is true, and Romney has shown his total lack of concern for small businesses, giving the corporation 7-Eleven publicity in his remarks without noting—even after his gaffe—the consideration of a small business.

Romney opens his mouth and a stupid comments seems to fly out. Yesterday as he auditioned Marco Rubio for potential vice-president at a press conference in Pennsylvania, he opened his speech with this statement like this: this is where you get to ask questions, and I circumvent them.

When he’s not making mistakes, Romney is either lying or showing the bravado that demonstrates how out-of-touch he is with people. When he complains about the hundreds of millions that President Obama will receive in donations from unions, he is totally unaware of the fact that unions have provided only ten percent of political donations from organizations compared to the 90 percent that comes from wealthy corporations, usually for Republican causes and candidates.

Addressing a group of state Republican party leaders in Arizona, Romney said about the proposed Keystone project, “I will build that pipeline if I have to do it myself.” This affirmation might bring up images of John Henry to some, but others may see it as Romney’s potential ability to do this because of his wealth. This statement is reminiscent of his offer to bet Rick Perry $10,000 in one of last fall’s debates. Romney also ignores the facts—that existing cross-border pipelines could carry perhaps 1 million additional barrels of oil per day and that the proposed Keystone pipeline would employ only 13,000 people instead of the ten-fold numbers that Republicans have tossed around.

Rachel Maddow, one of the top political researchers in the nation, has said this about Romney: “This is not a normal amount of politician lying. He lies about himself, he lies about the president, he lies about everything! [Romney lies] arguably more than any modern candidate for major office, and there are a lot of creeps among them,” and [he is] “utterly unashamed, unprecedented deceit.”

Romney’s behavior illustrates the reason that people don’t trust government, but the same people who don’t trust government are more likely to vote for Romney. Go figure!

April 22, 2012

Join Earth Day Pledges

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 12:55 PM
Tags: , , ,

The Palouse

Arizona Saguaro Cactus

 

For the second year, award-winning photographer Ann Hubard has provided the blog’s images of Oregon that might not have been here in 2012 without the first Earth Day—and might disappear in the near future if people lose the battle to protect the Earth.

Multnomah Falls

Within the past year, Gov. Scott Walker and Rep. Paul Ryan have given Wisconsin a black eye with their firsts, but the state has a history of positive actions. One of the most important is Earth Day, conceived by Sen. Gaylord Nelson after he saw the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara (CA). Outraged by the devastation, he helped pass a bill designating April 22 as a national day to celebrate the earth. An estimated one in 10 Americans—over 20 million people–took part in the first Earth Day, observed across the country 42 years ago, joining Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, city dwellers and farmers, tycoons and labor leaders. Its success led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the 1973 passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts, both under the aegis of President Richard Nixon.

Cape Kiwanda

The good news for environmentalism: Between 1970 and 2010, concentrations of six principal air pollutants declined by almost 71 percent; and in just the first 20 years of the Clean Air Act, an estimated 200,000 premature deaths and 700,000 cases of chronic bronchitis were prevented. The percentage of children with elevated blood-lead levels dropped from 88 percent in the 1970s to just 4.4 percent in the mid-90s. Similarly, lead air pollution decreased 98 percent by 2000. Prior to 1972, industrial waste and sewage had made approximately two-thirds of waterways unsafe for recreation and fishing use. Three decades later, in 2004, 53 percent of assessed river miles and 70 percent of bay and estuarine square miles were safe for recreation and fishing.

Half Dome Yosemite

The bad news for environmentalism: The United States lost more than 500,000 additional acres of such vital areas just between 1998 and 2004. In 2007, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) concluded that “water quality improvement reached a plateau about a decade ago” and there had been a recent “upward trend for beach closings, red tides, dead zones, droughts, flooding, coral reef damage, nutrient pollution, and sewage pollution.” Given current trends, the EPA has “projected that sewage pollution will be as high in 2025 as it was in 1968, that is, before the passage of the Clean Water Act.”

Grand Canyon (Arizona)

Fish consumption warning advisories increased from 899 nationwide in 1993 to 4,598 in 2010. Toxic chemicals, species loss, landfill waste, deteriorating freshwater supplies—the list seems endless. Around 154 million Americans, about half of the nation, currently live in areas that suffer from ambient ozone and/or particulate levels that are often too dangerous to breathe, resulting in 50,000 or more premature deaths per year.

Tree and Snow

The economic system is committed to growth in the use of resources (many of them non-renewable); growth in the use of low-cost labor; growth in the number of products produced; growth of shareholder profits; and, inevitably, growth in pollution and carbon emissions. Local communities feel the full effects of pollution and climate change as well as the massive social and environmental costs of corporate outsourcing of jobs.

Ramona Falls

A “new economy” movement is, however, building up momentum, in large part because the failure of national and international strategies produces more and more economic and ecological devastation. Citizens in all parts of the country have been taking the lead in constructing new economic models and institutions that not only promote democratized economic opportunity, but also, ecological sustainability, for example, in Austin (TX), Cleveland (OH), and San Francisco (CA).

Forest Park, Portland

Earth Day went global in 1990 with 200 million people in 141 countries. By 2000, 5,000 environmental groups in 184 countries organized activists, including hundreds of thousands of people who gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on April 22 that year. Eight years of George W. Bush as president saw climate-change deniers, well-funded oil lobbyists, and frightened politicians reduce the impact of Earth Day by 2010, yet 225,000 people still met at the National Mall that year for a Climate Rally. Two years later, over 800 million actions have been recorded by the program “A Billion Acts of Green,” and this year’s theme, Mobilize the Earth, has moved its activism into faith, literacy, education, arts, athleticism, etc. You can join them with your pledge of action.

Mt. Hood (Oregon)

April 20, 2012

ALEC Becomes Visible, Loses Support

Shrouded in secrecy, an ultra-conservative organization has operated for at least 30 years to destroy the poor and middle class people in the United States until George Zimmerman followed and killed Trayvon Martin, who was armed only with Skittles and an iced tea. Although law enforcement groups opposed the so-called “Stand Your Ground” law, people in Florida are permitted to attack a perceived assailant without retreating. John Timoney, former Miami police chief, called the law a “recipe for disaster” and said that he and other police chiefs had correctly predicted it would lead to more violent road-rage incidents and drug killings.

Behind this law is not only the NRA but also the shadowy American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a collection of wealthy corporations and highly conservative legislators, that exists to prepare ultra-conservative legislative bills that have swept the country as more and more states are held hostage by Republicans.

Once people began to learn about ALEC’s destructive nature, they protested, frequently with on-line petitions against its supporters. At least 12 major corporations, the number growing daily, have withdrawn their donations, including McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Intuit, Kraft, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and the Gates Foundation. Petitions are still out there to persuade State Farm Insurance, Johnson & Johnson, and AT&T to drop their support.

The pressure is paying off: ALEC has announced that it will be “eliminating the ALEC Public Safety and Elections task force that dealt with non-economic issues, and reinvesting these resources in the task forces that focus on the economy.” That’s the task force that was behind the controversial voter ID, “stand your ground,” and anti-immigrant laws.

Complaining about “an intimidation campaign,” ALEC claims that its aim is “economic vitality.” Toward that end, they strive to break unions, repeal minimum wage laws, privatize public lands, repeal capital gains and estate taxes, oppose efforts to address human-created climate change, repeal sick day laws, require super-majorities to raise taxes, restrict women’s reproductive rights, and even push laws stating that kids’ eating rat poison is an “acceptable risk.”

In the name of “economic vitality,” ALEC has model laws in the educational field to teach creationism and stop the teaching of human involvement in climate change. Their ultimate goal is to strip public education of all financing,  funding only private religious academies. The Supreme Court allows Arizona to funnel public taxes to religious schools, and Tennessee now promotes creationism and climate change denial in its schools. Denying any involvement in ALEC, New Jersey governor Chris Christie uses its model bills for education “reform” including the use of standardized testing and reforming teacher tenure. ALEC is also in Minnesota working for “torte reform.” 

ALEC distributes hate messages, such as the pamphlets about the “Ten Harms of Same-Sex Marriage” and worse. According to this material from the Family Research Council, marriage equality would result in fewer people marrying or remaining monogamous followed by polygamy.

After the NRA conceived Florida’s so-called Stand Your Ground law and promoted its passage, the gun-advocacy group brought the bill to ALEC in 2005, when legislators and corporate lobbyists on the Criminal Justice Task Force voted unanimously to adopt it as a “model bill.” Since becoming first an ALEC model and then a law in dozens of other states, the number of homicides classified as “justifiable” has dramatically increased, jumping 300 percent in Florida alone. In 2009, members of the same Task Force approved the model “Voter ID Act,” versions of which were introduced in a majority of states in 2011, illegally denying voters the opportunity to participate in elections.

Members of the now-eliminated Task Force have included for-profit prison providers like Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), which has also served as the co-chair. The ALEC Criminal Justice/Public Safety & Elections Task Force has created model bills that lengthen sentences, dramatically increased incarceration rates, and—of course—privatize prisons, putting more of those inmates under the control of for-profit corporations.

Fifteen years ago, Scott Walker, currently Wisconsin governor, introduced the “Truth in Sentencing” bill passed by the legislature which requires inmates to serve their full sentence without options for parole or supervised release. The law removes incentives for prisoners to reduce prison time through good behavior and participation in counseling as well as eliminating the ability for judges and parole boards to decide that the financial and social costs of keeping a particular person incarcerated no longer furthers public safety goals.

Walker failed to make money for CCA by losing his bid to privatize Wisconsin prisons, but Arizona Republican Rep. Russell Pearce was more successful when he collaborated with CCA to privatize half the immigrant detention centers at the same time that he persuaded the state legislature to pass the ALEC “model” immigration bill that became SB1070. An immigrant contesting their deportation can wait up to a year for a hearing, even though many of those detained have not committed a crime and have no criminal record. Taxpayers give CCA $122 per day for each detained immigrant in these centers. Pearce is known nation-wide because of the successful recall against him.

ALEC also made money for the for-profit bail bond industry’s trade association, the American Bail Coalition (ABC), through ALEC’s anti-immigration laws. An immigrant facing removal in some cases may be released on bond and will often pay a commercial bail bondsman for  release. Immigration bonds are usually between $5,000 and $10,000 although the bond can be much higher. A for-profit bail bondsman who receives 10 percent of that bail as a nonrefundable fee can collect significant profits for doing very little. ABC has called ALEC the industry’s “life preserver.” After the dissolution of ALEC’s Criminal Justice/Public Safety & Elections Task Force, ABC moved over to the Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development Task Force.

In one specific way, ALEC affects almost everyone in its attempt to raise prices for Internet use. Although ALEC’s restrictive bill  failed to stop the public broadband system in Lafayette (LA), the “model” remains in ALEC’s library. Lafayette’s system offers Internet speed at a 750-percent cheaper cost to users than rival Cox’s service at the lowest tier. If the corporations that run ALEC get their way in the future, you will never have cheaper and faster Internet service.

While ALEC tries to keep Internet subscribers paying top dollar, they use it to protest what they perceive as “unfair” treatment, sending their message out to conservative bloggers of how to defend ALEC. In addition to its false claim of transparency, it also touts its “diversity of thought … a non-partisan resource”: ALEC leadership has one Democrat and 103 Republicans. Because of the closed-door policy, constituents don’t know that corporations write and approve ALEC legislation. Bloggers were told that ALEC will soon launch a website called “I Stand with ALEC.” (Until it comes up, you can find real information about ALEC at a website exposing their activities.)

Sounding virtuous about its work, ALEC said, “America needs organizations like ALEC to foster the discussion and debate of policy differences in an open, transparent way.” ALEC Task Force meetings are closed to the press and public and take place behind closed doors. The Koch brothers are large donors to ALEC; they well understand the importance of opacity.

Unfortunately, ALEC is not unique in the land of blueprint legislation, borrowing bill prototypes or model bills from a central national entity and then adapting them for introduction in statehouses. People who notice that the women’s anti-reproductive rights legislation sweeping Republican states pretty much look alike can thank Americans United for Life (AUL) that took over from ALEC in this area. Behind this organization is former Mike Huckabee staffer Charmaine Yoest and former Planned Parenthood employee Abby Johnson, who now claims “that Planned Parenthood is in cahoots with Satan.” Johnson is also behind Komen’s defunding Planned Parenthood. Not much has been said about their funding, but they certainly seem to have clout.

As The Nation reports, conservatives in ALEC think everything in government should be “demonized, starved, or privatized.” That’s probably true for all conservatives.

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