This week in Cincy was a reminder to everyone there and even the passers-by, that Democracy is once again under attack and involvement is desperately needed to alter the course our country is being taken - through corporatocracy and corruption driven by greed. The generation of today - those now entrusted with the future of themselves, their children and those rights many of us fought for in the past - has taken the helm and begun to attempt to change the course we've been put upon by corporate interests.
We really are standing perched upon a precipice, collectively as a society and more importantly, as Americans. A terrible void is at our backs and from the front we're being pressured from all points, a steady - and until Friday - unresisted force against our democratic way of life as Americans. Though this force is multi-faceted and comes from different directions, applied by what appears to be groups, organizations, PAC's, think tanks and corporations - these are not attacks by totally independent entities who individually oppose Progressive views. No, this is all coordinated by the power, influence and financing of Charles and David Koch.
Using money generously provided them from the ultra-rich Koch "Monopoly", Right Wing Think Tanks, PAC's, 527's and Conservative groups (Mackinac Center, American Enterprise Institute, American Life League, The Cato Institute, The Heritage Foundation and dozens of other groups and organizations found here) are the ones applying this force pushing us toward the abyss. I accurately and without equivocation call this all a Koch Monopoly - not because they own so much of America's wealth now...or because they have managed to monopolize one particular industry, product or company. No I call them this because today they have a genuine monopoly upon nearly all U.S.legislation proposed and beneficial to corporations, business and of interest to conservatives. Legislation that once enacted further weakens us and enriches the corporations.
What only a handful of us know and understand, is that even if the lawmakers within ALEC come up with legislation they wish to propose in their states that will benefit their constituents - they are prohibited from proposing or introducing that legislation in their state General Assemblies unless the legislation is approved by the Corporate members of the task force or any committee! Really, this is how ALEC works...
"ALEC's task forces craft the organization's public-policy agenda,its "model" legislation and issue positions. On each task force, the private-sector representatives have an equal vote with the state legislators'and effective veto power over the task force's activities and legislative recommendations. Nothing can move out of the task force without agreement from its private-sector representatives."Because of this single but controlling provision, no laws discussed or supported by any ALEC lawmaker can ever become law anywhere in the U.S. unless the Corporate membership gives their blessing. Think about this aspect for just a moment and consider that by their own admission; ALEC's legislative membership is compromised by 2,400 state lawmakers - fully 1/3 of the total number of duly elected state Senate and Congressional members in this country. Indeed, the state legislators who attend ALEC meetings are joined by the platoons of lobbyists, corporate executives, and representatives of assorted trade and professional associations who pay to have these 2,400 lawmakers as their captive audience...and are prohibited from proposing anything that is not authorized by these corporate interests. To me this indicates that through ALEC, no legislation beneficial to the public will ever reach state assemblies unless it benefits the corporations in some form or manner. Also it means that certain legislation proposed by the corporate arm of ALEC to purportedly protect the public and has become actual state laws, were enacted to enrich the corporate members of ALEC:
"For ALEC's corporate sponsors, "a seat at the table" "on one or more of its "task forces" is the ideal mechanism for pushing "model" legislation favorable to their interests. Consider, as just one example, ALEC's recent work in the criminaljustice arena. "ALEC developed model criminal justice policies that kept criminals off of our streets for longer periods of time,"one of its recent publications notes, "and allowed private industry to use its expertise to help states meet their growing incarceration needs." The publication goes on to point out that twenty-eight states have authorized the use of private prisons to house inmates. Is it any surprise that ALEC's Task Force on Criminal Justice has been cochaired by a representative of Corrections Corporation of America, the nation's largest operator of private prisons?This alone generates a lot of income from CCA and Geo Group for ALEC. The old "one hand washes the other", syndrome.
Another active private-sector participant in ALEC's Task Force on Criminal Justice is the National Association of Bail Insurance Companies, whose membership consists of the ten companies that write the great majority of court-appearance bonds in the United States. In a recent brochure, the association touts "the ALEC connection" as "an essential ingredient" of NABIC's legislative strategy."
The money and influence guiding each of the cold fingers prodding us toward the precipice I mentioned above, is primarily coming from the Koch family and their Family Foundations through a core group that coordinates them all - the American Legislative Exchange Council Koch money funds everything and Koch influence and real power is exerted through their membership in ALEC and their position upon ALEC's Private Enterprise Board and more than one of the nine (9) ALEC Task Forces.
If I was comfortable in how to produce charts I would have one with Koch Industries at the top and below that: Charles Koch Foundation, the David Koch Foundation, the Koch Family Foundation (that includes the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation). Below these I'd have a list of "Influenced by the above" with lines running to; the Heritage Foundation, Reason Foundation, American's for Prosperity, Club for Growth, Cato Institute, Castle Rock Foundation, Eagle Forum, Mercatus Center, Institute for Humane Studies, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Institute for Justice, Alexis de Tocqueville Institution, Institute for Energy Research, Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment, The Manhattan Institute, the George C. Marshall Institute, American Enterprise Institute, Citizens for a Sound Economy and...I could go on but I'd run out of space to fit the little boxes in.
From there I'd run lines through Mainstream media and Fox News, through to the American Legislative Exchange Council. Under ALEC would be lines to the Nine Task Forces and from those would be lines to the top 350 U.S. Corporations on one side and to 2400 Conservative state Lawmakers on the other. From the Corporations and State lawmaker boxes the lines would move inward to a single box that reads "Legislation in the 50 United States of America"...or to be more factual and realistic, the final box would be labeled: "How the Koch brothers Intend to Rule the U.S."
But, like I said I have no proficiency for charts and graphs, so I'll leave that up to a bright University student or grad to accept as a challenge. He or she will no doubt create it in a few moments and post it so all could see graphically what is perhaps today, the worst thing that has ever happened to the U.S. population - from within.
While we are distracted by the marital plans of the British Royalty, and the question of our President's place of birth, covered 24/7 by the mainstream media, ALEC members - certainly including those representing the Koch's interests - hoped to quietly meet in Cincinnati to plan their legislative agenda for 2011. There in the Hilton Hotel they hoped to decide which laws and issues they will present to the entire membership and propose implementing to the individual state legislatures over the next several months. These are laws and legislation intended to be put into place that we, as a society will be told to abide by (properly sanctioned and blessed by the corporate arm of ALEC). They anticipated that as in years past, this would all be done quietly, in secret with no one knowing that those laws would have been written, developed and worded by ALEC - and ALEC alone. We were not to know that those laws were created with specific input from the corporations and owners of those companies so that they could acquire more profits and influence - or a greater market share in their particular fields. This was their intention...
...We, however had an entirely different agenda; to expose their corrupt methods of implementing laws upon Americans that are written and funded by their corporate masters and lobbyists! We few Americans decided enough is enough already. We'd become tired of funding cuts to education, healthcare, necessary and critical social programs, environmental programs and deregulation of all things governmental to keep corporations in check.
Once word got out in Ohio about the choice of Cincy as the Spring Summit location for ALEC's meeting, the students of Ohio, Indiana, Louisiana and other states put together a protest, rally and educational "Teach-Ins." (As an aside, and a proud one, this protest suggestion was proposed and started right here on D Kos)! The purpose of the protest was to awaken more Americans to the pursuits of Koch funded and influenced legislation that would; allow more arrests; increase incarceration and long sentences served in prison where the prisoners would serve as a slave workforce for those corporations affiliated with or members of ALEC; cut funding for education at all grades and levels; reduce wages for public sector workers; end collective bargaining; break up Unions; repeal universal healthcare; eliminate abortion, deregulate important government programs and oversight, and; repeal child labor laws.
These young and highly motivated and intelligent "whipper-snappers" kicked ALEC and their Corporate master's collective asses - and by the looks of some of those CEO's in attendance, many of those backsides were indeed unbelievably HUGE...from living the high life and feeding freely at the trough that is constantly flowing with our tax dollars.
The seeyouincincinnati organizers made me proud to be a Progressive American. Watching them put this protest together, coordinate those to speak, crowd control, housing for those of us from out of state, garner Union supporters, secure permits and space for the protest and march...finally provided me with a sense that just maybe there was hope for us as a democratic society...that Koch and ALEC could be stopped. Oh, not immediately and just because of a grass roots campaign expertly and smoothly operated by college students and supported by a group of us old farts...no, because this protest has sounded the alarm and awakened other students and old Dems in many other states. Plans, preparations and strategy is now underway for the next round that will take place in New Orleans from August 3rd through August 6th. This time the students - fighting desperately for an education promised them by the laws and Constitution of this great nation - have become alerted to the legislation intended to deprive scholarships and state and federal funding. Their education and thus their future is in jeopardy if ALEC and the corporations prevail. They have not only become aware about the legislation, they now know the enemy. They met them face to face in Cincy at the Hilton and in Fountain Square as Corporate CEO's , corporate representatives and state lawmakers smiled, snickered and in some instances openly laughed at protesters. But as an old timer at this kind of demonstrating, I and many others looked past the smirks, laughter and smug attitude filled rhetoric. We looked into the eyes of the CEO's and lawmakers...we studied the body language as they laughed...and we saw the signs of nervousness and real unease.
During the march we found a small group of state lawmakers standing outside the Hotel, huddled in the entryway - 3 or four of them with a couple of others that appeared to be staffers. I listened attentively as one of them spoke with one of the organizers wearing a "Marshal"shirt, claiming that he and the other lawmakers standing with him were opposed to the SB 1070 styled legislation other members were pushing for in every state. He described ALEC's membership as being one of diversity and he and the others standing with him strongly opposed such discriminatory legislation. As I listened it dawned on me that what we were witnessing was not simply an attempt to dis-inform, rather it was the first signs of a tiny crack within ALEC. The lawmakers standing nervously around the one speaking (A short man, grey haired, wearing glasses with a name tag identifying him as an ALEC member, named Ralph - couldn't see his last name on the badge) were actually trying to identify with the protesters and separate themselves from the ALEC agenda - at least on the immigration initiative. They weren't trying to justify the ALEC initiatives, they were in fact declaring that at least some of the ALEC and corporate controlled and proposed legislation was wrong. They were anxious to not be included in the group supporting SB 1070.
Just as the march, protest and Teach-Ins were a first in the history of ALEC - so was this crack in the ALEC membership. Lawmakers were starting to realize with the eyes of the public looking intently at them, their political future could be in jeopardy due to membership in ALEC. Seeing this I was actually inspired that with more pressure and a larger turnout in New Orleans later this year, we can create more cracks and widen smaller ones that could develop between now and then due to the document dump many are speaking about.
Wisconsin, Indiana, Maine, Florida, Ohio and many other states are on the ropes financially right now. They are cutting everything beneficial to the public and to workers as they fight to continue funding massive incarceration and the prison industry program that serves as a cash cow to the companies using that labor. Profit from the slave labor is then reinvested in lobbying and campaign contributions to keep the Conservative agenda alive and well, funding even more beneficial corporate initiatives.
I think the cabal is beginning to waiver slightly due to the Protest and confrontations that took place on the 29th. In New Orleans in August we hope to drive a solid, heavy wedge into those cracks, over and over until the whole begins to crumble. It won't happen all at once, but I'm confident that another round or two and some lawmakers will begin to drop their memberships to ALEC. I think others will find that when legislation is proposed by corporate interests that would anger the public, they will be less willing to simply sign on and go along. 'Course, as DM used to proclaim, "That's just my opinion, and I could be wrong..."
Below I've posted some pictures we took at the Protest Friday.
An important message indeed. Some may think this protester missed breakfast before attending, but I think he wants to take a bite out of ALEC...
Protest organizers found my wife, Jean and I a place to stay the night before the Rally. We stayed with Flequer Vera (I hope I've spelled his name correctly):
Jean and Flequer in front of the Fountain in Cincy:
Here's the wife and I holding a sign that we think says it all:
Prepping for the Teach-In the night before the Rally. Of course I got caught chewing on a scone when the pic was taken:
Some Kabuki(?) and Organizer staff signing Petitions against SB 5 in Ohio at the Rally:
Bad picture of a SEIU Union member and sign at the Rally. Several Unions were present and active in protesting several anti-Union and worker legislation initiatives there in Ohio:
One of the Protest organizers speaking to the crowd of a couple of hundred protesters:
Another shot of the crowd with a Union member in the foreground:
My video camera malfunctioned and all of the footage I took of the Protest, Rally and March was not captured. This is why I only have the stills the wife and I took during the event. Wish I had more, but I've seen dozens of others posted in several diaries, so the event was covered from all angles.
My greatest thanks to all the students, grads and others who organized, showed up and took part in the march and more importantly attended the Teach-Ins to find a common purpose and the tools necessary to wage this war against education and American workers. I would have given this praise and written a diary sooner than Sunday night, but I have been inundated with calls, emails and faxes requesting more information, interviews and requests for appearances - all this from the opportunities provided by the SeeyouinCincinnati organizers, students and neighborhood associations and groups that made the spreading of the word and networking really work...
...because of your efforts I am thankful and emboldened to do even more. To Aliya, Ben, Alan and others whose name I unfortunately have forgotten or didn't get in the first place (I've gotten old and remembering names is harder than understanding encryption), congratulations and a heartfelt thanks. If you read this count us in for New Orleans. We wouldn't miss that opportunity, even if Koch gets ALEC to propose legislation making NO off limits to Progressives! I'll just put on my red hat in August and go as a faux Conservative. I'll just have to keep my big mouth shut most of the time :)