We look forward to the Thanksgiving holiday with a true frustration.
Television news will focus on such important news stories as who will be open all day Thanksgiving so we can get that holiday shopping started early or the folks camped out so they can save a nickel on the newest video system. After all those stores spend money for advertising, so what is wrong with giving them a segment of the news and maybe a flash or two of their logo on the news. That’s what news is supposed to be isn’t it? Support for the station’s bottom line, right? Stories of poor people and the middle class getting screwed by corporations and condoned by many current government policies just aren’t newsworthy.
So three weeks after an outrageously expensive and poorly attended midterm election we go back to what has become business as usual for America: keeping wages low as the lion’s share of profit goes to a few people at the top; families working 3 and 4 jobs between the parents and they can barely put food on the table; the vaunted “best medical care in the world” that is closed to many with a very good chance it will be closed to millions more if the Tea Party has its way; global warming perhaps beyond the tipping point condemning our children and grandchildren to a hell on earth while oil companies buy and sell politicians; our education system that is sacrificed on the altar of money and our future bankrupted for leaders because we refuse to educate our children.
We always have money for war. We always have money for the next Pentagon toy no matter the cost. Yet we can barely help our neighbor with a few bucks to heat his house in the sub-freezing weather of Iowa. Nor can we scrape up a few bucks to help the family down the street that is down on its luck with food stamps or unemployment insurance. We have a nattering class that says “get a job.” Yet there are not enough jobs to go around and those that are open pay so little that the worker can’t afford rent, food insurance and transportation. One in six Americans go to sleep hungry. Millions are homeless. This is due to choices those on the right have made, nothing else.
There is a huge amount of work that needs to be done in this country. There is much repair left over from last century to be attended to. There is much work to be done to set the stage for advancement in the new century to keep America in its leadership position in the world. But those who control the purse strings in this country decided long ago that their focus will be to extract as much money from society as they can as quickly as they can while giving as little as they can back to society. In their quest they have enlisted craven politicians who will do whatever they are told for price.
Americans have been optimistic from the very beginning of this country, but it appears even they have reached a breaking point. Once the mantra was that we can make our leaders listen if we get together and demand it. Now the reality many confront is that they will not be listened to unless they come with money in their hands. Popular actions get little response, money gets immediate action. The political system is for sale and 99% of us can’t even get a bid in. In response citizens do not vote because they feel the system is rigged against them.
Media, once known as the fourth estate that was to act as a check on government abuse, is now fully integrated into the media-corporate-government complex. Where once common folk could turn to the likes of HL Mencken or Walter Cronkite or Ed Murrow for in depth analysis we now have Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh whose sole mission is to broadcast the propaganda of the wealthy. The work of true journalism is now done in the margins by the likes of Amy Goodman, Matt Taibi and Jeremy Scahill. Magazines like the Nation and Mother Jones do important work, but are mostly ignored. The best informed Americans get their news not from NPR, but from comedians Jon Stewart, Steven Colbert and John Fugelsang.
There is but one corner of the media not controlled by the wealthy – the internet. As could be expected the assault to control that corner is an all out war of lobbying and favors. One man, FCC chair Tom Wheeler, stands as the very last defense against total corporate take over of the internet. Even the Tea party base opposes this take over. Wheeler is working himself into a frenzy trying to give the wealthy what they want while making it appear he isn’t doing so. They were once his employer and presumably will be again. The game is rigged.
Beginning in 1971 with the Powell memo, the wealthy have worked hard for control of this country. The Reagan years put into place economic policies that have continued and been magnified through today that greatly favor the wealthy. Social policies have been gutted. Voting rights become narrower and narrower. Drug policies and law enforcement have been used in large part against certain population groups, thus muting any power they may accrue.
Yes, it is a great time to be wealthy in America. For the rest of us, not so much.
Make friends with the Center for Media and Democracy because they are the #1 enemy of the Koch brothers and ALEC. They have an amazing website that you will want to visit – ALEC Exposed – where you can find ALEC model bills, ALEC politicians, ALEC state chairs, ALEC corporations, ALEC think tanks, boards, task forces, and much more.
“The biggest winners this election cycle are the billionaire Koch brothers who have now captured the Senate and the House in order to starve the state and cook the planet,” said NBC’s Brian Williams on election night.
Well, no. Williams didn’t say anything like that and neither did any other anchor in the main-stream media.
For honest reporting, for detailed tracking of the Carbon Kings and their minions, you need fiercely independent groups like CMD.
The day after the election, the incoming U.S. Senate leader Mitch McConnell declared that Republicans will use their new majority to bully the President into approving the Keystone XL pipeline and rolling back the EPA’s new rules limiting carbon releases from coal-fired power plants.
It is no accident that the entire U.S. Senate majority will now devote itself to the Koch agenda.
The Kochs are not just oligarchs; they are now a political party. Koch groups were projected to spend some $300 million this election cycle. For comparison, the DNC and RNC, combined spent $300 million.
To learn more, check out my colleague Mary Bottari’s article “The Koch Party Wins, Planet in Peril.” Check out Rebekah Wilce’s rundown of the pet politicians who will be working to implement the Koch agenda “ALEC Pols Moving Up in 2014 Midterms.” And let’s not forget Brendan Fischer’s in-depth work exposing money in politics and the criminal investigation of ALEC stalwart Scott Walker.
These are dark days, but the fight back is already underway. A few days ago CMD’s research director Nick Surgey discovered that ALEC’s corporate board chair is quitting the group over ALEC’s denial that climate change is happening and other issues, joining Google and a cluster of other tech firms, including AOL just this week. This brings to more than 90 the number of private sector firms that have stopped funding ALEC, since we launched ALECexposed and citizen groups across the country joined us in exposing ALEC and its funders..
ALEC will be doubling down on its reactionary agenda in 2015, but we will be hot on their trail.
Thank you for all you do to help make the world a better place!
Center for Media and Democracy
Just to remind you that the Republican Destruction Machine never sleeps:
ALEC will be meeting in Washington DC, December 3rd to 5th. The order of business will be to tell Republican state legislators what they (the legislators) will be doing. They will be given a set of bills that have nothing to do with the states they “represent” to be pushed through for their corporate sponsors.
And a reminder: Corporations are still working hard to have the internet over to them to run. Once more Tom Wheeler, chair of the FCC and former lobbyist for the communications industry, is floating a proposal that will try to hide the fact that the internet will be turned over to corporations.
Please go here to sign the Free Press petition.
While Republicans lie their way through another campaign, their owners are meeting in Dallas,Texas to prepare the marching orders for the upcoming state legislative sessions. Voting for a Republican legislative candidate is about the same as a vote for Charles and David Koch. The Kochs are the major funder for ALEC. They and their corporate buddies have a major say, in actuality probably the only say, in so-called proposed “model” legislation.
It is hard to tell anymore which Iowa legislators are members of ALEC. Since Iowa no longer pays ALEC dues out of House and Senate expenses, legislators are left on their own to pay ALEC dues. ALEC dues are only $100 so it is not a big deal to pay such a small fee. If you happen to be at any appearance for any legislative candidate, ask them if they are an ALEC member. Also ask how they view legislators being so close to corporate interest groups, including advancing bills that ALEC writes often verbatim.
Since ALEC operates behind closed doors, or under a rock if you prefer, it is hard to know exactly what takes place. They have three meetings a year, usually after most legislative sessions, then in the late July/ early August time frame and then another meeting in early December. We can only take an educated guess and say that they take an inventory, then write up new legislation, then hand it out to their minions.
The Center for Media and Democracy has been acting as a watch dog on ALEC. America should appreciate their diligence since they have been able to expose many ALEC legislative initiatives – sometimes even before they were able to get off the ground. Thus once more CMD has posted their assesment of current ALEC doings. This is something every progressive and every citizen concerned about ethics in government should be reading and acting on if need be.
Their most recent effort came out Thursday and it can be found here: It is very hard to distill this to a few of the most egregious, so I recommend that you go to the link to the full list and explanation. However, here briefly are a few of the actions they are expecting to come out of the current ALEC meeting. Note: it looks like ALEC has tried to mask access to many of these links. Thus I took out my link, but you can link from the prwatch link.
Changing Laws Providing for Public Education
The “Affordable Baccalaureate Degree Act” would enrich companies invested in online college degree programs and materials — like Pearson (whose subsidiary Connections Education has been a prominent member of ALEC’s Education Task Force), which sells the LearningStudio platform used by many universities like Arizona State University’s popular and much-hyped online degree program. It would “require all pubic [sic] four-year universities to offer bachelor’s degrees costing no more than $10,000, total, for four years of tuition, fees, and books. The Act would require that ten percent of all public, four-year university degrees awarded reach this price-point within four years of passage of this act.” The bill instructs universities to focus on online and blended learning “to achieve this price-point.”
Changing Laws Protecting the Environment
Not just ALEC’s “Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force” will be talking about the regulation of bodies of water, however. Its “Federal Relations (Federalism) Working Group” will consider a “Draft State Constitutional ‘Water is Life Amendment'” that would encourage the State to resist federal enforcement of federal regulations seeking to protect state waters. It would also make the proposed constitutional change “enforceable in the courts of this State by any taxpaying resident without fee, expense or cost-shifting to the State,” although what entity would bear the cost is unclear.
Changing Laws Providing Healthcare
The “Medicaid Anti-Crowd-Out Act” is a particularly egregious bill that would benefit private health insurance companies by prohibiting a state “from causing or allowing Medicaid enrollment or Medicaid HMO enrollment in any situation where individuals and/or dependents have availability of commercial healthcare insurance or are already enrolled in commercial healthcare insurance” (emphasis added). Jon Peacock, Research Director of Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, said of the draft bill, “It would make anyone with an offer of employer insurance ineligible for Medicaid, regardless of how poor they are and how narrow or expensive the insurance plan is. And the proposal is so poorly drafted that it would seem to make everyone ineligible for Medicaid — because everyone has ‘availability of commercial healthcare insurance.’ This might be the most poorly drafted, overly broad piece of legislation I’ve ever seen.”
This is only a sampling. Please head on over to the link to be amazed at what corporate endorsed laws ALEC wants their minions and lackeys in the Republican Party to advance for them.
They Need A Horse Race!
One thing you have to remember going into the silly political ad season is that this is the time of year that make TV stations and networks and those corporations that own them rich. No doubt those with corner offices on upper floors of corporate headquarters care for the most part that Republicans win. But beyond that they care more that all their air time is bought at top dollar.
So what the TV execs want more than anything else is a good old fashioned horse race so that candidates will keep forking over the big bucks to keep the candidates name out there right up to the end.
As Usual, Branstad Lies
Those damn Branstad commercials are on every channel in the universe. I wonder if they are getting them in London or Ottawa? As with anything Branstad, they are a load of lies. Yes we have gained some jobs but nowhere near what he promised. Since I can’t stand to watch his commercials, I can’t say they are lying. However since his administration puts out false numbers I would suspect his commercials do also.
SCOTUS Turns Its Back On Women.
Even the women on the Supreme Court seemed to have turned its back on women. Taking away the 35 foot buffer zone to women’s health clinics in Massachusetts is a hard blow to women’s reproductive rights. Once more the most activist Court makes another argument that it is the worst Court in history. In this case they seemed to think that the protesters free speech rights are somehow impinged if they can’t get right in patients faces to intimidate and harass. They were perfectly free to say whatever they wanted from their 35 foot distance.
I trust this means the end of the so called free speech zones at political functions. Based on this decision, anyone should be able to protest right up to the door of a convention or other meeting. Have at it.
ALEC To Meet To Sell Out America
Just a reminder that the oligarchs of ALEC (a subsidiary of Koch Industries) will be meeting in Dallas on July 30th to decide what they will have their puppet legislators throughout the country do in their state legislatures next winter. If you have a Republican legislator, you have a legislator who owes their allegiance to the oligarchs at ALEC not to their district or state.
Pesky Damned Facts
Jonah Goldberg via Dailykos:
“I supported the war, and I still think the arguments in favor at the time were superior to the arguments against. Alas, the facts on the ground didn’t care about the arguments.”
Portable Death Machines
They kill indiscriminately. Kill your neighbors. Kill your family. Kill yourselves. But do read the roundup of gun deaths weekly at dailykos.com. It is not sad. It is not funny. It is frightening. Don’t want to lose a son or daughter. Stand up against guns.
The American Legislative Exchange Council — ALEC — has had quite a bit of success writing “model” bills that advance the interests of its corporate backers and then wining and dining friendly state lawmakers to grease the wheels for their passage…
Groups Expose Assault By ALEC Fossil Fuel & Utility Members on Clean Energy and Environmental Regulations
Through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), fossil fuel and utility interests are pushing a comprehensive agenda to eliminate environmental and public health regulations, and gut pro-clean energy policies across the country. ALEC’s Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force has proposed model legislation and is now appearing in state legislatures, to:
• Rollback renewable energy policies by weakening or eliminating Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS).
• Weaken solar net metering policies by gutting compensation for homeowners who transmit solar power to the electricity grid.
• Create loopholes in disclosure rules for hydraulic fracturing (fracking), allowing drilling companies to hide chemicals used in the controversial process from the public.
• Reject regulation of greenhouse gas emissions by the Environmental Protection Agency, allowing utilities to continue polluting our air and water.
There will be a tele-press briefing with pro-clean energy and environmental experts to hear about where ALEC’s pro-corporate energy agenda is appearing in state legislatures this year.
Who: Aliya Haq, Climate Program Special Projects Director, NRDC
Brant Olson, Campaigns Manager, Forecast the Facts
Connor Gibson, Reseacher, Greenpeace
Gabe Elsner, Executive Director, Energy & Policy Institute
Steve Horn, Research Fellow, DeSmogBlog
What: Tele-press conference call on ALEC’s fossil fuel and utility members’ comprehensive assault on clean energy and environmental regulations. Speakers will detail efforts happening now in state legislatures to gut clean air regulations, stop pro-clean energy policies, and restrict disclosure of fracking chemicals.
When: Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 1:30 PM CT
How: Reporters should register at http://bit.ly/1ez0voa to join the call.
DeSmogBlog exists to clear the PR pollution that is clouding the science on climate change.Energy & Policy Institute performs research and analysis on lobbyists, front groups, and politicians working to expand our reliance on fossil fuels and slow the development of a clean energy economy.Forecast the Facts is a grassroots movement to spread the truth about climate change. Greenpeace is the leading independent campaigning organization that uses peaceful protest and creative communication to expose global environmental problems and to promote solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future. Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is a national environmental action group that combines the expertise of more than 350 lawyers, scientists and other professionals with the power of 1.4 million members and online activists.
“The Republicans who run your Iowa House say they won’t approve public school funding for the 2015-2016 school year, even though the law requires it.”
TO: Interested Parties
FROM: Matt Sinovic, Progress Iowa Executive Director
DATE: February 14th, 2014
RE: Iowa’s ‘House of Distractions’
The Iowa legislature failed to meet a crucial deadline yesterday, when they were supposed to approve K-12 funding for the 2015-2016 school year.
Securing that funding in advance is even more crucial now, as our schools are funded at $1,500 lower per pupil than the national average, and more and more students are living in or on the brink of poverty. Those students count on our public schools for opportunity, and rely on our elected officials for leadership.
Last week, the Iowa Senate passed a 6% funding increase for next year, meeting their obligation to our students and restoring critical funding for our schools. Unfortunately, the Iowa House of Representatives refused to consider any increase and did almost everything except fund our schools during the past week, turning themselves into the Iowa House of Distractions.
What has the House of Distractions been doing, if not following the law and funding our schools? Here are a few of the issues they chose to focus on this week:
Comparing guns to hot dogs: Rep. Matt Windschitl, debating HJR4, compared gun deaths to deaths caused by… hot dogs. If we regulate guns, we might as well regulate hot dogs.
Restricting access to women’s health care: The House passed a bill banning the use of so-called telemedicine delivery systems for medication abortion, restricting access for women primarily in rural areas. They did this despite the fact that as access and education about abortion has increased, the rate has decreased.
Listening to the extreme right on education: In a subcommittee chaired by Rep. Sandy Salmon, only right wing experts were heard, including a self-proclaimed author of template legislation for ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. No parents, teachers, or students were listed as invited participants.
Email sent by Rep. Sandy Salmon; emphasis/highlight added, 2/9/14:
From: “Salmon, Sandy [LEGIS]”
Date: February 9, 2014 at 6:30:35 AM CST
Subject: testimony for subcommittee
Thank you for serving on a subcommittee with me that will look at issues related to the Common Core.
I wanted to give you the heads up that some speakers will be coming from out-of-town to give testimony at the subcommittee meeting. They are the following people:
Jane Robbins J.D., senior fellow at the American Principles Project, whose work includes education policy, student privacy and parental rights issues. Ms. Robbins has drafted state legislation on educational transparency and sovereignty that has led to a parallel resolution by the South Carolina Southern Baptist Convention, model ALEC legislation, and emulated legislation in several states.
Henry Burke of Omaha, Nebraska, is a Civil Engineer with a B.S.C.E. and M.S.C.E. He has been a Registered Professional Engineer (P.E.) for 37 years and has worked as a Civil Engineer in construction for over 40 years. Mr. Burke had a successful 27-year career with a large construction company.
Henry Burke serves as a full-time volunteer to oversee various construction projects. He has written numerous articles on education, engineering, construction, politics, taxes, and the economy including state specific costs for the implementation of Common Core / Iowa Core.
Bruno Behrend, J.D. is a senior fellow for education policy at The Heartland Institute in Chicago. The mission of the Heartland Institute is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems.
Thank you for helping to look into this and we’ll see you this coming week!
State Representative Iowa House District 63
Following only the laws they choose to follow: After failing to meet the school funding deadline set by state law, the Iowa House passed a bill changing state law, meaning they could delay funding. One Representative who opposed the change asked “so you’re going to pick and choose which laws you follow?”
None of these proposals are expected to pass in the Democratically controlled Senate. All of these proposals serve only as a distraction from the real responsibilities of the Iowa House, the first of which is funding our schools. While they should have been working toward better opportunities for Iowa students, they instead chose to spend time on distractions.
More than 1,700 have petitioned House leadership to fund our schools. School administrators oppose their funding delay by a 98 percent margin. It’s time the leadership in the Iowa House of Representatives start leading and stop distracting. They should put an end to the House of Distractions and get to work.
Of course the real story beyond that is that in general, Republicans are a group that believe in Jesus. Now I don’t do religion anymore, but like many I was raised as a Catholic. That meant 12 years of studying the Bible and what Christianity meant. I think anyone in this country can tell you that the very basis of being a Christian is to help the poor. At the same time one of the very fundamentals of government is to keep the governed alive. Since we are self-governing, one of our very, very basic duties would be to keep each others alive.
Cutting food stamps, cutting jobs, cutting unemployment insurance and so on should be called out for those who believe in Christ as the mortal sin that it is. Now religion is not the reason that we should have such policies. We should have such policies because as noted before keeping each other alive is a fundamental of self government. But to be a believer and vote against the basic tenets of your own religion seems to me to earn such people a special place in the hell they believe in.
“Whether or not the president obtains the listed negotiating objectives, the bill would empower the president to sign a trade pact before Congress votes on it with a guarantee that the executive branch can write legislation to implement the pact and alter wide swaths of existing U.S. law and obtain both House and Senate votes within 90 days. That legislation is not subject to markup and amendment in committee, all amendments are forbidden during floor votes and a maximum of 20 hours of debate is permitted in the House and Senate.”
That should scare you right to the quick. TPP will be a disaster for all except the very rich. Odd that this may be the one time that Obama wants something and the Tea Party agrees. The Tea Party knows what a disaster it will be, thus delighting them no doubt. Not sure why Obama would want it.
Gee, maybe our corporatist press could ask him?
Dems In Iowa House Say NO to ALEC
Press Believes Its Own Memes?
One thing that jumped out at me during this Christie affair is that the corporate media loves to believe the themes it develops over the years. John McCain was (is?) a “maverick.” Never was, McCain is a hard right crank, but apparently he must buy the boys a beer once in a while and snarl an occasional quotable line.
– Republicans good at national defense? Not unless you think wasting time, money and personnel wandering in a desert with no plan is good defense.
– Republicans good with finance? Just go look at the markets under Dems, then Republicans. Just look at debt under Dems, then Republicans. You will quickly get that nonsense out of your head.
– Republicans religious? See my comment above. The way they act is condemned by most major religions, thus they have to take one and twist it beyond recognition. Even the pope has called them out on this.
– Christie a bipartisan leader? Never was, never will be. He is a true believer republican, he just avoids the cliches, so must be refreshing for the corporate press. But he is a caricature of the New Jersey thug politician.
Medical Spending Slows
Salon has a quite interesting article on the debate over the cause of the dramatic slowing in medical spending in this country. Most importantly medical spending is slowing like it never has before. Why I do not care, but finally one thing in life is show some signs of coming into control.
Iowa House Democratic Leader Mark Smith (D-Marshalltown) sent a letter to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) today denouncing ALEC’s claim that all members of the Iowa Legislature are members of their organization.
“Last year, all 47 Democratic members of the Iowa House informed the Chief Clerk of the Iowa House that no dues or fees were to be paid to ALEC on our behalf and none of us have applied to ALEC for individual membership,” said Leader Smith. “In light of recent ALEC documents made public, we are deeply troubled that ALEC is currently listing us as members without our permission.”
ALEC is a self-described conservative “voluntary membership organization of state legislators.” The recently disclosed agenda of the August 6, 2013 board meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council lists all Iowa state legislators as ALEC members. ALEC is funded in large part by donations from corporations with interests before state legislatures.
“Since neither we nor the state has paid ALEC dues, we question who has paid the dues on our behalf. Further, we question why ALEC would accept payment of dues on behalf of legislators who clearly want no part of your organization,” said Rep. Smith. “If a corporation or other entity has paid dues to ALEC on behalf of Iowa state legislators, we believe such action likely constitutes a violation of Iowa ethics law.”
Rep. Smith demanded that all names of Iowa House Democrats be removed from ALEC membership lists and that ALEC disclose who paid for the Iowa memberships.
Below is the letter from Representative Mark Smith to ALEC:
Thursday, January 8, 2014
Ron Scheberle, Executive Director
American Legislative Exchange Council
2900 Crystal Drive, 6th Floor
Arlington, VA 22202
The recently disclosed agenda of the August 6, 2013 board meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) lists all Iowa state legislators as members. This is deeply troubling to me as a leader in the Iowa House of Representatives, especially since this information has been repeated many times in on-line blogs and news stories.
ALEC is self-described as a “voluntary membership organization of state legislators.” As we made clear to the Chief Clerk of the Iowa House on the opening day of session January 14, 2013, no House Democrats have applied to ALEC for membership nor do any of us wish to become members of ALEC. Since none of us have become a “voluntary member,” I am concerned about how we came to be listed as members.
The Iowa General Assembly pays membership dues to other organizations of state legislators, such as the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Council of State Governments, but does not pay dues to ALEC. Individual ALEC members pay $100 for a two-year membership. Since neither we nor the state has paid ALEC dues, I question who has paid the dues on our behalf. Further, I question why ALEC would accept payment of dues on behalf of legislators who clearly want no part of ALEC.
ALEC is funded in large part by donations from corporations with interests before state legislatures. Iowa ethics laws in most instances prohibit corporations with interests before the Iowa General Assembly to make expenditures to or on behalf of Iowa state legislators. If a corporation or other entity has paid dues to ALEC on behalf of Iowa state legislators, I believe such action likely constitutes a violation of Iowa ethics law.
Consequently, I ask you to take the following action:
Remove the names of Iowa House Democrats from the ALEC membership list.
Identify who paid our membership dues.
Explain why payment of ALEC dues can be made on behalf of a legislator without the legislator’s knowledge or consent.
If you misrepresented the status of Iowa legislators and we are not all considered ALEC members, I ask you to set the record straight by issuing a public clarification and by providing me with a list of those Iowa legislators who are actual dues-paying members of ALEC.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Rep. Mark Smith
Iowa House Democratic Leader