Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The State of Montana challenges Citizens United

Montana has taken a stand against the legalization of bribery more commonly known as unlimited corporate election spending. If Montana succeeds in defying the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, the other 49 states will be able to do the same.

Ask your state's Governor to stand up for Montana.

The U.S. Supreme Court may soon hear a case between the State of Montana and two corporations suing for their "human right" to the "free speech" of unlimited election spending. The Supreme Court could take this opportunity to undo its disastrous Citizens United decision. Or it could decline to take up the case by agreeing with the Montana Supreme Court that Montana's law does not violate the First Amendment. Or the U.S. Supreme Court could strip Montana of its right not to see its elections sold to the highest bidder.

As goes Montana, so go the other 49 states. All of our Governors and Attorneys General can take a public position now in support of Montana's right to limit corporate election spending.

Ask your state to get on the right side of this question.

Please forward this email widely to like-minded friends.

Onward,
Aimee, David, Sarah
and the RootsAction team

Friday, April 20, 2012

ALEC is down for the count

by Claude Chaney
    Once again we see another case of what goes around comes around. ACORN was an organization
whose primary focus was to get minorities to vote, so they initiated successful voter registration drives. The League of Women Voters also did the same thing for many years. ACORN was doing nothing more than helping people exercise their constitutional rights. Republicans (and some DEMOCRATS) cried foul and defunded the organization stating that all sorts of inproper activities were going on, including prostitution. The late Mr. Breitbart was very much involved in the destruction of this worthwhile organization that in the end was never proven to have done anything illegal.
   Well ALEC (American Legislative Election Counsel) has existed for more than 30 years and it
has done plenty of improper activities, the most glaring of which is actively disenfranchising African-American voting activity. ALEC wrote prospective conservative bills that were passed on to governors and congresspersons. It is alleged that New Jersey governor and possible vice presidential candidate Chris Christie promoted ALEC proposals without actually reading them. ALEC was the driving force behind the movement to stop blacks from voting. Laws that limit black participation in the upcoming presidential election by way of photo ids and driver licences passed in over 30 states. Even more dispicable ALEC was a major sponsor of the "stand your ground" law that caused the death of 17 year old Trayvon Martin.
    ColorOfChange waged an effective letter campaign that convinced the major corporations that
funded ALEC to withdraw their financial support and many of them did just that......Coca Cola,
Pepsi Cola, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Taco Bell etc. ALEC founder Paul Wyrick, a former member
of the Reagan Administration openly confessed in a speech "I don't want MORE people to vote, I
want LESS people to vote."   The sinister activities of ALEC and like organizations always escape
public scrutiny because the media is owned by the 1%. We don't have the same type of reporters
that we had in the 50s and 60s. If you ask the average person about the purpose of the Heritage
Foundation, The Cato Institute, Americans For Prosperity or any of the other extreme right wing
think tanks they wouldn't have the slightest idea of what you are talking about. Like ALEC all
of these conservative dynamos are financially supported by the notorious Koch brothers.
     Caitlin Korb, ALEC spokesperson now claims the organization will no longer attempt to
influence legislation in unconventional forms and that ALEC will not promote "Stand Your Ground"
but the damage has already been done. Trayvon Martin is dead, but how many other Trayvon Martins
are out there who were completely ignored by the media.
    When Americans of all colors started to flood these major corporations with letters of disapproval
they immediately withdrew from ALEC and I believe it was not out of moral concern but because of danger to their bottom line. This is the most effective way to deal with injustice, it worked with Glenn Beck, it worked with Rush Limbaugh and it worked with the Montgomery bus boycott.    ACORN, which didn't do anything wrong but was viciously attacked by congress and ALEC which did so many wrongs that were tolerated, and even supported by congress are at opposite ends of the spectrum and together  they prove that when you do wrong to others it eventually comes back to you.

                                          

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Fired for teaching about Trayvon: Re-hire Brook Harris at Pontiac School of Excellence

Signatures to be Delivered to School Board

Petitions with 200,000 signatures gathered by a national Internet group are to be presented to the board of the Pontiac Academy of Excellence Tuesday demanding the reinstatement of a teacher fired following a disagreement with administration over the request to do a “Hoodie Day” in honor of Trayvon Martin.
The petition was started on Change.org by Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights organization

Monday, April 16, 2012

Times of London Sued in Hacking Scandal

By ALAN COWELL AND RAVI SOMAIYA


Published: April 13, 2012

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DiggRedditTumblrPermalink.LONDON — As Britain’s hacking scandal shows little sign of easing, a high-profile London lawyer who has been closely involved in pursuing cases involving Rupert Murdoch’s British tabloids said on Friday that his firm was suing the upmarket Times of London over e-mail hacking for which the newspaper has apologized.



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.The lawyer, Mark Lewis, said in an interview Friday that the “claim has been issued,” and that he would soon be filing a comprehensive statement of case against the London newspaper, also part of Mr. Murdoch’s British newspaper group, News International. The suit, filed Tuesday, concerns a case in which a reporter who is no longer with the newspaper hacked into the e-mail account of Richard Horton, a police detective who ran an award-winning blog under the pseudonym NightJack. The claim, Mr. Lewis said, “is not just on misuse of information or privacy grounds, but also a claim for what lawyers would call deceit,” based on denials the newspaper made. A spokeswoman for News International confirmed the suit had been filed, but declined to comment further.



The blogger’s true identity was not publicly known until an article in The Times of London in 2009 identified him as Mr. Horton.



At a hearing in February of the so-called Leveson inquiry into press ethics and practices, James Harding, the editor of The Times of London, apologized on behalf of the newspaper, saying “I sorely regret the intrusion” into the e-mail account.



His acknowledgment reversed earlier denials by the newspaper.



Britain’s hacking scandal has focused largely on the illicit interception of voice mails, which are at the center of overlapping police, parliamentary and judicial inquiries mainly involving News International, the British newspaper subsidiary of the giant News Corporation.



Investigators are also examining the payment of bribes to public officials at two Murdoch-owned tabloids, The Sun and the now-defunct News of the World.



Hacking into people’s e-mails is a potentially more serious crime than listening to their voice mail messages, and last summer the police opened Operation Tuleta, an investigation into computer hacking that is being held in tandem with one on phone hacking (Operation Weeting) and another on bribing the police (Operation Elveden).



The scandal may be poised to go beyond Britain.



On Thursday, Mr. Lewis, the lawyer, said that he planned for the first time to sue on behalf of alleged victims in the United States, the center of Mr. Murdoch’s global media empire.



In a telephone interview, he said that he would take legal action on behalf of three people — a well-known sports person, a sports person not in the public eye and an American citizen, none of whom he would further identify.



“The News of the World had thousands of people they hacked,” Mr. Lewis said, when announcing the suits in an interview with the BBC, referring to the Sunday tabloid that Mr. Murdoch closed down last year as the hacking scandal engulfed it. “Some of them were in America at the time, either traveling or resident there.”



It was not immediately clear how or whether the action would affect the News Corporation. News International declined immediate comment on the cases.



Mr. Lewis’s clients in the hacking scandal include the family of Milly Dowler, an abducted teenager who was found murdered in an outer London suburb in 2002, and whose voice mail was said to have been hacked after she disappeared. Public outrage at the case helped propel the hacking scandal to new heights in July, leading to the closure of The News of the World.



Reports last year said News International had offered a package of compensation worth some $4.8 million in that case, made up of $3.2 million to the Dowler family, with an additional payment of about $1.6 million to go to charity.



News International has so far paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars in other compensation settlements to dozens of hacking victims. But, the BBC said, more than 4,000 people have been identified by the police as possible victims of phone hacking.



The scandal spread further earlier this month when a British satellite news broadcaster, Sky News, whose parent company is partly owned by News Corporation admitted that one of its reporters had hacked into e-mails on two occasions while pursuing news coverage, the first time that such accusations had spilled into television news.



The acknowledgment came just two days after Mr. Murdoch’s son James resigned as chairman of Sky’s parent company, British Sky Broadcasting, or BSkyB, of which News Corporation owns around 39 percent. Company officials said there was no link between the resignation and the hacking revelations, which were made public only as a result of an inquiry by the newspaper The Guardian.



Saturday, April 14, 2012

ALEC issues a panicked response to PCCC

BIG NEWS: The right-wing ALEC organization issued a panicked response to our campaign to defund them.

After years of ALEC's coordinated attempt to ram voter-suppression and union-busting bills through states like Wisconsin, they accused progressives of running a "well-funded, expertly coordinated intimidation campaign...against corporate members of the organization."

This week, PCCC members aimed thousands of calls (and Tweets) at ALEC's funders -- and won. We're also preparing ads and events at corporate headquarters to pressure more of them.


Our friends at ColorOfChange made huge news last week by pressuring Coke to no longer fund ALEC. We joined the fight Monday, and after a day of massive pressure got the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to pledge no future ALEC funding!

McDonald's, Wendy's, Intuit, Kraft, and Pepsi have now made similar announcements -- and we're working with ColorOfChange to pressure AT&T, Johnson & Johnson, and others.

But let's be clear. This is not intimidation. This is regular people rising up to take back our democracy. ALEC's voter-suppression and union-busting agenda simply can't withstand public scrutiny.


Thanks for being a bold progressive.

-- Adam Green, Amanda Johnson, James Ploeser, Andrew Mayersohn, Karen Oelschlaeger, and the PCCC team


Friday, April 13, 2012

Koch Brothers defeated in Wake County, North Carolina

PUBLIC-SCHOOL RESEGREGATION LOSES! Victory Against Koch Brothers from BRAVENEW FOUNDATION 13OKT11

VICTORY!!!! THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!!! Here's an update on the battle against the koch brothers and their involvement in their attempt to destroy public education in Wake County, NC followed by my original post on this story "WHY DO THE KOCH BROTHERS WANT TO END PUBLIC EDUCATION? & HOW THE KOCH BROTHERS FUNDED PUBLIC-SCHOOL SEGREGATION" ON 19AUG11. This is another example of how regular people can prevail when their cause is just if they work together. WAY TO GO WAKE COUNTY VOTERS!!!! This from Brave New Foundation.....
Thanks to your support, I am happy to share two recent victories for the Koch Brothers Exposed campaign.
The video investigation "Why do the Koch brothers want to end public education?" revealed how the Koch Brothers, through the think tanks and front groups they fund, were able to support an insurgent school board majority that favored resegregating public schools. The Koch supported candidates described their plans as “neighborhood schools,” which we rightfully exposed as the old language of Jim Crow and segregationist Gov. George Wallace.
North Carolina voters headed to the polls Oct. 11 and defeated school board candidates sympathetic to the Koch Brothers and school resegregation. This is great news for the hundreds of thousands of families who were threatened by the Koch Brothers’ influence in their community. We are grateful for the part you played in the tremendous victory for this community as well as a larger victory for democracy that works for everyone, not just the wealthiest 1%.

WHY DO THE KOCH BROTHERS WANT TO DESTROY PUBLIC EDUCATION? & HOW THE KOCH BROTHERS FUNDED PUBLIC-SCHOOL SEGREGATION 19AUG11
THE koch brothers are evil. Only evil people would work to destroy a school system that does what a school system is supposed to do, educate all the community's children equally. The Wake County, N.C. public school system does that very well, in racially and economically diverse schools. The koch brothers are evil because they tried to destroy this through their proxy organization americans for prosperity which lead a campaign of deception, manipulation and fear mongering propaganda to gain control of the Wake County School Board and then begin the dismantling of a very successful public school system. Only the strength and resolve of a majority of the residents, students and teachers protesting at school board meetings as well as the threat of lawsuits and calls for the federal government to investigate has stopped the afp and koch brothers plans. The Brave New Foundation has documented what the koch brothers are trying to do in Wake County. Check out the video and linked articles and donate to BNF if you can, at the least share this with others so the koch brothers attacks on our public education system are exposed.
More



We got them! With your help, we got the Kochs and we got them good. Our latest video about the Koch brothers' fight against public education earned 60,000 views so far. It was played on MSNBC and was written about everywhere from Mother Jones to the Raleigh News & Observer. These and other press clip links are below.
Now the Koch-supported Tea Party group, Americans for Prosperity, is telling reporters that it has pending legal action against us. Will you counter the Kochs' billions and donate $20 to help our efforts?
We drew the Kochs' ire as soon as our video went live and these reporters started making calls. Americans for Prosperity quickly flooded reporters' inboxes with litigation threats and retraction demands. When asked for their side of the story by news organizations, Americans for Prosperity's Dallas Woodhouse told journalists there is pending legal action against us.
We can't withstand the Kochs without you.
Thanks for everything you do to protect democracy,
Robert Greenwald
and the Brave New Foundation team
http://KochBrothersExposed.com/education

P.S. I invite you to join our Koch Brothers Exposed page on Facebook and follow me on Twitter.
--------------------
Mother Jones: How the Koch Brothers Funded Public-School Segregation

See the video here.

How the Koch Brothers Funded Public-School Segregation

By Andy Kroll
http://motherjones.com/mojo/2011/08/koch-brothers-school-segregation-americans-prosperity

[UDPATE: In an August 16 letter to Brave New Foundation Robert Greenwald, Dallas Woodhouse, Americans for Prosperity's North Carolina state director, attacked the premise of Greenwald's film, saying it "falsely claims" AFP was involved in the 2009 Wake County school board elections. Woodhouse asserts that AFP "did not spend a single dime on those elections" nor did it engage in any get-out-the-vote or voter education efforts. "AFP played no role in the 2009 WCPSS election," Woodhouse asserts. Read his full response.
In its response to AFP, Brave New Foundation stood by its story. BNF pointed to several statements of AFP-NC's in support of its claims, including a 2008 blog post of Woodhouse's saying AFP-NC "is on record as supporting the parents of WakeCARES, through significant financial contributions as well as other support." In the fall of 2009, WakeCARES endorsed the four school board candidates who opposed Wake County's busing policy, and a former AFP-NC director later credited WakeCARES with paving the way for the four candidates' victories. BNF alleged AFP "funneled" financial support to the candidates through Art Pope, a wealthy Raleigh businessman and an AFP national director, who gave more than $15,000 to the Wake GOP which in turn spent nearly all of its political donations in 2009 on backing the four conservative school board candidates. AFP-NC's Woodhouse also told Newsweek in January that his group did voter education and mobilized volunteers for the school board election.]
At first glance, the billionaire libertarian Koch brothers and the Wake County, North Carolina, school board couldn't be more disparate. Charles and David Koch, the brains behind the massive Koch Industries conglomerate and the funders of so many right-wing political causes, are national figures, credited with (or accused of, depending on your political persuasion) launching the tea party movement and waging war on the Obama administration and its agenda. The Wake County public school board is, well, just that.
In reality, there are deep connections between the Kochs and Wake County, and it's all about the money. The latest installment in the left-leaning Brave New Foundation's "Koch Brothers Exposed" video series reveals how a Koch-founded and funded outfit, Americans for Prosperity, fueled a campaign to "resegregate" the schools of Wake County, a prosperous area in central North Carolina that's home to the cities of Raleigh and Cary, among others.
The story starts back in 2009, when elections were held for four of Wake County's nine school board seats—enough seats to dictate the public school district's agenda if all four board members wanted the same reforms. That's where Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political advocacy group, came into play. AFP swooped in to fund and organize on behalf of four candidates who sought to kill the district's policy of busing to ensure diverse, desegregated public schools. The AFP-backed candidates ran against what they called "forced busing"—a phrase, the film points out, that dates back to George Wallace in the 1970s—and instead stressed that schools should educate only those who lived in the surrounding neighborhood.
Local reporters, some of whom are interviewed in the film, connected the push to eliminate busing with the philosophies of AFP and its funders. "They're definitely pushing an agenda to resegregate these schools, but there's also a real push toward privatization," Sue Sturgis of the Institute for Southern Studies says in the film.
In the end, all four AFP-backed candidates won, and the school board has since begun to roll back its existing busing policies despite a wave of protest and outrage in the local community.
Robert Greenwald, president of Brave New Films, says he and his team zeroed in on the Wake County schools controversy as a way to illustrate just how powerful monied interests can be at the local level. "The fact that millionaires can put hundreds of thousands of dollars into a local election and essentially deprive people of their rights, in many ways, and mess with their school system," he says. "It seems to us one of the strongest examples of the really incredible way money takes away our democracy."
You can watch the video in its entirety above.
Andy Kroll is a reporter at Mother Jones. For more of his stories, click here. Email him with tips and insights at akroll (at) motherjones (dot) com. Follow him on Twitter here. Get Andy Kroll's RSS feed.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Claude Chaney & Friends - Feels So Bad (The Bush Years)

video
                                                        Feels So Bad (The Bush Years)
                                      by Claude Chaney (c) 2008 New Continuum Music Co.

Easy for one without your problem to give you advice
Easy for one with more than he needs to tell you to sacrifice
Feels so bad, drives me bad, it's so sad
to see the years of progress come undone
and see the fat cats having so much fun
and find the battles only just begun

Affirmative action fair play and compassion eroding away
The wealthy get takes breaks, the poor get more heartache
the middle class pay
Feels so bad, drives me mad, it's so sad
People's programs just cannot be saved
Roosevelt is turning over in his grave
We're living in a very different age

It's to the right the winds are blowing
Resistance is small, but I feel it growing
Status-quo is strong and all the while knowing
the big fish gets big by eating the little one

The Iraqi war that we're paying for was surely based on a lie
Just one senator with the courage to ask this president why
Say no more we're headed for another war
unless the people wise up and insist
we cannot not go on living like this
Do checks and balances really exist

Feels so bad, drives me mad, it's so sad
to see the years of progress come undone
and see the fat cats having so much fun
and find the battles only just begun

Robert Reich Explains How Mitt Romney Got Obscenely Rich

Robert Reich Explains How Mitt Romney Got Obscenely Rich

The United States War

by Claude Chaney
     There is a war going on......the one I am referring to is not in Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria. It is right here in the United States and it is against African-Americans. Having a black president means NOTHING. What it has done is only agitate the racists. I would ask all people of good will regardless of color to acknowledge this war and to commit themselves to combating modern day racism in the United States. The first step is to admit racist acts on African-Americans are on the rise, many such acts go unreported.
    The first thing that we have to do is know the enemy, who more often than not can be seen wearing a three piece suit instead of a white hooded robe. We should know as much as we can about ALEC, a right wing think tank that sponsored the "Stand Your Ground" laws to twenty U.S. states. This is the law that permitted an alleged murderer to be a free man. Armed 250 pound George Zimmerman stalked and killed unarmed 17 year old Trayvon Martin, then claimed it was done in self defense. Five African-Americans were randomly murdered in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In New York a 68 year old decorated ex-marine was murdered after his heart monitoring device accidentally went off. Troy Davis was killed by the state of Texas without having any physical evidence against him and having all but one of those who testified against him change their testimony. Oscar Grant was killed in California when he was handcuffed with his hands behind his back. These outrageous racist acts have been covered by the media, but there are many similar events that don't see the light of day in the media.
     We have a compromised media. Serious investigative reporting is becoming a rarity. Many newspapers are more concerned about satisfying their advertisers than they are about reporting the truth.
Reporters who have families to support, mouths to feed realize that if they write about an act that was
true, but scrutinizes a sponsor of his or her newspaper this person could quickly become unemployed.
    We have to know the enemy and we have to make sure that our children also know their names. Do you know The Koch Brothers, Darrell Issa, Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor? ......and how what they are
doing is specifically designed to lower the standard of living of African Americans in the United States.
     Do you know about Wackenhut?  The number of prisons in the United States is continually growing at an unprecedented rate and their focus is to make money not rehabilitate. The United States imprisons more people than any other nation on Earth.....and that includes China, that has a much bigger population. Most of the prison population is black. If you committed a crime I don't care what color you are you should pay for it, but many African-Americans are serving time for crimes they didn't commit.
    In the case of Mumia Abu Jamal in Pennsylvania a man has come forth and said the he murdered
officer Faulkner, yet Jamal continues to be imprisoned. What I find particularly egregious is ALEC. This influential conservative organization allegedly writes right wing legislation and gives it to politicians (particularly Governors) so that these proposals become law. "Stand Your Ground" and
laws that disenfranchise blacks, hispanics, college students and the elderly have been traced to ALEC.
    Although we have an African-American attorney general, he seldom speaks about these issues. The mainstream media only mentions them when there is massive public outcry. This is why African-Americans and all people of good will must know about the enemy and must make sure that their children know about them too because they are the ones who are most effected. There are so many
good organizations out there, join one of them.....The NAACP, The National Action Network, The American Civil Liberties Union, People For The American Way, Occupy Wall Street, MoveOn.org, just to name a few. Get active, the enemy is organized and he has a lot of money, but what he doesn't have is the numbers. In order for him to get the numbers he must rely on the Rush Limbaughs, the Rupert Murdochs,  the Shawn Hannities and the Glenn Becks of the media.

                           

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

ColorOfChange and PCCC unite to challenge ALEC


Have you heard about the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)?

They spearheaded union-busting laws in states like Wisconsin, voter-disenfranchisement laws in states like Maine, and Florida's "Shoot First" law that let Trayvon Martin's killer go free.

Last week, progressive activists scored a major victory by pressuring Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Kraft to stop funding ALEC!

Can you continue the momentum by signing our petition telling ALEC's other funders -- including AT&T and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation -- to stop funding this right-wing group? Click here.

After Coke's announcement, civil rights group ColorOfChange said, "The clear and simple message was that you can't come for black folks' money by day and try to take away our vote by night." Amen.

Our friends at ColorOfChange led last week's activism and were assisted by Credo, a progressive phone company which engages in progressive campaigns.

If we can get other dominoes to fall, we can dramatically reduce ALEC's ability to do evil.

Sign our petition telling ALEC's funders to stop supporting this right-wing group. Click here.

Thanks for being a bold progressive.

-- James Ploeser, PCCC State Organizing Director

U.S House Members Call for Investigation of Dirty Tricks, 'Fraud'' and "Forgery" plot by the US Chamber of Commerce

       On Monday, February 28, 2011, 20 House Members called for a full scale investigation into the recently exposed $12 million dirty tricks campaign against VelvetRevolution.us/StopTheChamber.com and other progressive organizations, solicited and created by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's law firm, Hunton & Williams, and three military/intelligence security firms. Read the full letter here.This scandal has received a great deal of press this week, including in Salon and the Washington Post.

      Brad Friedman, co-founder of VR, was among those specifically targeted by the Chamber plot, and wrote about the latest attempt at accountability at
The BRAD BLOG:
“We are deeply concerned by evidence that intelligence contractors may have engaged in a criminal conspiracy to target American citizens on behalf of powerful corporate interests,” wrote Johnson in a letter signed by more than a dozen Democratic members of the U.S. House. “We believe a full Congressional investigation is warranted to determine whether laws were broken and whether existing laws are sufficient to protect Americans from high-tech dirty tricks.”
      The letter goes on to describe the "deeply troubling" plan to use "tactics developed for use against terrorists [that] may have been unleashed against American citizens."
Last week we filed a D.C. Bar complaint against the three Hunton & Williams attorneys for participating in the dirty tricks campaign to use fraud and forgery in hopes of smearing and discrediting VR and other groups who have taken on the Chamber's mafia-like tactics head on. This week we filed document hold requests letting the Chamber plotters know that we anticipate litigation so they should retain all relevant documents in their possession. Additionally, yesterday we released a new video about this on YouTube.
This a developing story that we need to keep on the front burner. But we need your help to do so!

The Chamber was planning to spend as much as $12 million in their attack on us, so we need your help to fight back!

Monday, April 09, 2012

Monsanto Threatens to Sue Vermont Over GMO Labeling Bill

    By Ronnie Cummins, Will Allen, Organic Consumers Association | Report  
The world's most hated corporation is at it again, this time in Vermont.
Despite overwhelming public support and support from a clear majority of Vermont's Agriculture Committee, Vermont legislators are dragging their feet on a proposed GMO labeling bill. Why? Because Monsanto has threatened to sue the state if the bill passes.
The popular legislative bill requiring mandatory labels on genetically engineered food (H-722) is languishing in the Vermont House Agriculture Committee, with only four weeks left until the legislature adjourns for the year. Despite thousands of emails and calls from constituents who overwhelmingly support mandatory labeling, despite the fact that a majority (6 to 5) of Agriculture Committee members support passage of the measure, Vermont legislators are holding up the labeling bill and refusing to take a vote.
Instead, they're calling for more public hearings on April 12, in the apparent hope that they can run out the clock until the legislative session ends in early May.
What happened to the formerly staunch legislative champions of Vermont's "right to know" bill? They lost their nerve and abandoned their principles after a Monsanto representative recently threatened a public official that the biotech giant would sue Vermont if they dared to pass the bill. Several legislators have rather unconvincingly argued that the Vermont public has a "low appetite" for any bills, even very popular bills like this one, that might end up in court. Others expressed concern about Vermont being the first state to pass a mandatory GMO labeling bill and then having to "go it alone" against Monsanto in court.
What it really comes down to this: Elected officials are abandoning the public interest and public will in the face of corporate intimidation.
Monsanto has used lawsuits or threats of lawsuits for 20 years to force unlabeled genetically engineered foods on the public, and to intimidate farmers into buying their genetically engineered seeds and hormones. When Vermont became the first state in the nation in 1994 to require mandatory labels on milk and dairy products derived from cows injected with the controversial genetically engineered Bovine Growth Hormone, Monsanto's minions sued in Federal Court and won on a judge's decision that dairy corporations have the first amendment "right" to remain silent on whether or not they are injecting their cows with rBGH - even though rBGH has been linked to severe health damage in cows and increased cancer risk for humans, and is banned in much of the industrialized world, including Europe and Canada.
Monsanto wields tremendous influence in Washington, DC and most state capitols. The company's stranglehold over politicians and regulatory officials is what has prompted activists in California to bypass the legislature and collect 850,000 signatures to place a citizens' Initiative on the ballot in November 2012. The 2012 California Right to Know Act will force mandatory labeling of GMOs and to ban the routine practice of labeling GMO-tainted food as "natural."
All of Monsanto's fear mongering and intimidation tactics were blatantly on display in the House Agriculture Committee hearings March 15-16.
During the hearings, the Vermont legislature was deluged with calls, letters, and e-mails urging passage of a GMO labeling bill - more than on any other bill since the fight over Civil Unions in 1999-2000. The legislature heard from pro-labeling witnesses such as Dr. Michael Hansen, an expert on genetic engineering from the Consumers Union, who shredded industry claims that GMOs are safe and that consumers don't need to know if their food is contaminated with them.
On the other side of the fence, Monsanto's lobbyist and Vermont mouthpiece, Margaret Laggis employed inaccurate, unsubstantiated, fear-mongering claims to make Monsanto's case. She warned during the hearings that if this law were passed, there would not be enough corn, canola, and soybean seed for Vermont farmers to plant.
Laggis lied when she said that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had done exhaustive feeding tests on genetically modified foods. Hansen corrected her, testifying that all of the GMO feeding tests submitted to the FDA were conducted by Monsanto and other GMO corporations and that the FDA had not done any GMO testing of its own.
Laggis lied again when she claimed that a recent Canadian study showing that more than 90% pregnant women had high levels of a genetically modified bacterial pesticide in their blood resulted from them "eating too much organic food" during pregnancy. Again, Hansen refuted this nonsense by pointing out that the Bacillus thuingensis (Bt) bacterium spray used by organic growers is chemically and materially different from the GMO Bt bacterium which showed up in the pregnant women's blood and the umbilical cords of their fetuses. Hanson pointed that the high levels of Monsanto's mutant Bt in the women's blood was due to the widespread cultivation of GMO corn, cotton, soy, and canola.
The committee heard testimony that European Union studies have been conducted which showed that even short-term feeding studies of GMO crops caused 43.5% of male test animals to suffer kidney abnormalities, and 30.8% of female test animals to suffer liver abnormalities. Studies also have shown that the intestinal lining of animals fed GMO food was thickened compared to the control animals. All of these short-term results could become chronic, and thus precursors to cancer.
Studies like these have prompted 50 nations around the world to pass laws requiring mandatory labels on GMO right foods.
In the end, none of the scientific testimony mattered. Monsanto operatives simply reverted to their usual tactics: They openly threatened to sue the state.
Unfortunately, in the US, industry and the government continue to side with Monsanto rather than the 90% of consumers who support labeling. Monsanto's biotech bullying is a classic example of how the 1% control the rest of us, even in Vermont, generally acknowledged as the most progressive state in the nation.
Vermont activists are organizing a protest at the state capital on April 12 to coincide with the next round of hearings on H-722, and are asking residents to write letters, make calls, and e-mail their legislators and the Governor. For more information, please go to the website or the Facebook page of the Vermont Right to Know Campaign.
This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of The Free.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTBefore BuzzFlash joined Truthout, it also offered progressive premiums. Perhaps the most popular, with literally hundreds ordered, was Charles Pierce's "Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free."
Pierce was on to something that bears remembering in this Republican primary season where issues appear to be discussed not based on facts, but on coded language that evokes emotional responses. It appears that the candidates are not debating public policy as much as they are competing for how they can make GOP voters feel better about themselves, the facts be damned.
In 2009, BuzzFlash interviewed Pierce for one of our weekly conversations with authors -- and it still offers delightful insight about how so many Americans have entered an alternative universe based on a world view that doesn't correspond to reality.
In the interview with BuzzFlash, Pierce pulled no punches in goring sacred cows, such as the New York Times:
I think the illustrative sentence, for all three of what I call the great premises of Idiot America came from The New York Times, which was talking about the intelligent design movement. And the sentence that appeared on the front page of The New York Times is called the intelligent design movement -- "a politically savvy challenge to evolution." Which is self-evidently ridiculous. It's like deciding that you're going to have an agriculturally savvy challenge to Newtonian geometry. It doesn't work.
It doesn't matter how many people vote for the candidate of the Alchemy Party ticket. He's not going to be able to change lead to gold. It doesn't matter how many people in the Gallup Poll think they should be able to flap their arms and fly to the moon -- they're not going to be able to do it. So when you have The New York Times, on the front page, posing a self-evidently ridiculous notion like a politically savvy challenge to evolution -- actually it's not. It's a politically savvy challenge to the poor bastards who are trying to teach high school biology.
Pierce artfully explains the demagoguery that is today's political surround sound, and why it is do difficult for Obama to effectively communicate with many Americans, when he states:
But, yes, I think we're also dealing with the kind of anti-intellectualism and a contempt for expertise that certainly Richard Hofstadter wrote about, and that Susan Jacoby wrote about in her book, The Age of American Unreason. There is a very powerful element of that in our national discourse.
It has a lot to do with the fact that so much of our national discourse on important issues takes place in an entertainment context. The worst thing you can do, is to know what you're talking about. If you know what you're talking about, you're not going to speak in sound bites. You are very rarely going to speak in sound bites if you know what you're talking about. If you know what you're talking about, most problems are very nuanced and very complicated.
But perhaps this exchange with Pierce best illustrates how perception becomes reality for far too many, even if it makes no sense.
BuzzFlash: When we had the so-called teabagging protest April 15, I was on a commuter train, and there was a woman going to a teabagging protest in Chicago, where BuzzFlash is located. She was writing on a poster with a Magic Marker and it said, "No taxation without representation." I thought to myself for a moment -- I was thinking, what does this person think? She probably has two senators, a congressperson, a state representative, a state senator. She has a representation. Her favorite candidates might have lost the last election. Obviously she's disgruntled. But she has representation.
The Revolutionary War was fought because we were being taxed and we didn't have representation by those who were taxing us, meaning the monarchy in England, King George. This seemed to me one of the real-life encounters with truthiness -- a slogan that has no meaning, but there's a great deal of passion behind it. I believe that lady probably believed she had no representation.
Charles P. Pierce: I think that she's enormously sincere in her concern. And you're right. She's misappropriating the slogan. But you have to understand, one of the great sales jobs that was done over the last twenty or thirty years began with the Ronald Reagan campaign in 1980, which I covered when I was starting out. So I saw the dynamic beginning to work. It was to sell a specific idea to people that the government is an alien entity over which they have no control, and in which they have no say, demolishing the idea of a political commonwealth.
And that is what we are left with, a mass media that reports on perceptions and propaganda as if they were competitive with reality and facts.
It's like the creationism museum in Kentucky that we discussed with Pierce, where dinosaurs have saddles to try to illustrate that men and women lived in Biblical contemporaneous time with the brontosaurus.
But that notion leaves us with fossils for brains.

Intuit Inc. Becomes Fourth Company to Drop ALEC, Follows PepsiCo, Coca-Cola and Kraft Foods in Ending Membership

ColorOfChange Applauds the Decision, Urges More Corporations to Follow Suit

April 6, 2012

NEW YORK – The following is a statement from ColorOfChange Executive Director Rashad Robinson:
Today ColorOfChange learned that Intuit, Inc. has also ended its membership in ALEC. The company, which makes Quicken, Turbo Tax and QuickBooks accounting software, decided not to renew its membership after it expired in 2011.
It appears that Intuit has decided that it, too, wants to be on the right side of history. Through our conversations with PepsiCo, Coca-Cola and Kraft, we've realized that many of these companies are not educated about the dangerous legislation that ALEC pushes. Now that we've succeeded in shining a light on what ALEC is really about, these corporations are severing ties. They know they owe it to their customers to do just that.
We continue to call on all major corporations to stop supporting voter suppression through ALEC. Our members are prepared to hold accountable companies that continue to participate in ALEC's attack on voting rights.
The tragedy of Trayvon Martin's death – and the law that has prevented his killer from being arrested – is another example of how ALEC's agenda is dangerous for people of color. The NRA and ALEC exported Florida's “stand your ground” law to more than 20 states across the country, jeopardizing the safety of Americans nationwide.
We want to thank Intuit for making the right decision, and we want to thank ColorOfChange members and our partners.
More than 85,000 CoC members signed an earlier petition targeting ALEC’s corporate partners for their role in suppressing Black votes. That petition can be found here: http://www.colorofchange.org/campaign/alec/
In addition, more than 170,000 CoC members have signed the petition calling on the Department of Justice to take over the Trayvon Martin case, arrest Martin's killer, and launch an independent investigation into the Sanford police department's mishandling of the case. The petition can be found here: http://www.colorofchange.org/campaign/trayvon/
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Tuesday, April 03, 2012

VR reports success against Karl Rove and The Kochs

On Friday evening, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a ruling that could begin the process of revealing the identities of secret donors to groups connected to Karl Rove and the Koch brothers," reports the Huffington Post. These secret donations have been used to corrupt our elections and give corporations a big advantage over citizens.
Velvet Revolution has reason to be proud.

Ever since the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizen’s United, we have been working hard to require disclosure of campaign donations by groups such as those controlled by Karl Rove, the Koch brothers and the Chamber of Commerce. We launched several campaigns such as AmericanCrossroadsWatch.org, CampaignAccountabilityWatch.org, and ProtectOurElections.org, and filed complaints with the FEC, FBI, DOJ and IRS regarding the failure of these groups to follow campaign finance law. When the Disclose Act was winding its way through Congress, we sent thousands of letters and emails to Congress urging passage of the law.

At last our efforts are beginning to bear fruit. On Friday, the federal court in Washington, DC ruled in Van Hollen v. Federal Election Commission that the FEC rules that restricted campaign donor disclosure are not valid and must be changed to provide for disclosure.

“We are hopeful that this ruling is the beginning of the end for secret donations and corporate manipulation of elections,” said VR attorney Kevin Zeese. “It is a shame that the agency that is tasked to protect elections had to be forced by the federal court to comply with federal election law.”

VR staff worked closely with Congressman Chris Van Hollen and his staff on these issues and made sure that they were aware of all your letters and emails. VR hired attorney Paul Ryan of the Campaign Legal Center to prepare the complaint we filed with the FEC against Karl Rove’s group. Congressman Van Hollen then brought Mr. Ryan on board to sue the FEC on a complementary issue surrounding disclosure of donations.

"This is good news for our democracy and for voters - this victory will compel the FEC to require enhanced disclosures of the funders of campaign-related advertisements," Van Hollen said in a statement.

http://visitor.benchmarkemail.com/c/l?u=B984DC&e=166B76&c=7187&t=0&l=3036B74&email=K6bfJqWLWQpRSaVlK0OcCQSXAE/MRK6oWe want to thank all of you who joined with us in these campaigns and who wrote to Congress. Now we want to continue to build on this terrific success. We are already moving forward by working with Congress to circumvent Citizens United through legislation and litigation. Please help us out with a donation.

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