When Corporations Pay What They Owe

I’m sure that most everyone is familiar with the commercials concerning mesothelioma-“If you or a loved one has been harmed, call 1-800-Jackpot and we’ll help you get your $$$ today!” Okay, so I paraphrased a bit but that’s the gist of the commercials. The impression given is that corporations now realize a terrible wrong was done and they are more than happy to set things to right…to monetarily atone for their crime(s) against humanity, the earth & the Average Joe Worker…

Uh-huh. Well now…back here in the Real World of lawyers, depositions and corporate ass-hattery, it seems that those heartfelt commercials are just a teensy-weensy bit misleading. Last week my dad had to give his depositions for his Meso claim. Because of the nature of his work, his claim cannot be pinned down to one company or location…in other words, he worked on multiple construction sites for multiple employers; he didn’t work for one company or in one shipyard so his claim is harder to prove or trace to just one corporation that could be held liable.

Before he went into the depositions, we figured that no matter what, it wouldn’t be that bad…I mean, this is just one little old man trying to get a few thousand dollars…how hard would they fight this? It’s already been established that asbestos exposure causes mesothelioma; precedent is set, agreements were reached years ago that settled all of this so what could they argue about? Depositions are just standard, routine, nothing to really worry about. Surely, the corporate lawyers would be courteous…go easy on him…he’s just one small man, right?

Or not. What he thought would be a few hours turned into one solid week of being grilled for several hours of each day. “I was under attack, man! One lawyer was downright vicious…” he said. He sounded so exhausted, so wrung out…and so stressed from feeling like he got too tripped up trying to answer their endless streams of questions. Questions precisely designed to trip him up.

Mind you, he’s not out for millions of dollars here. For his age, his case isn’t really worth as much as a younger man diagnosed in his 50′s would be, for instance. We got that. Understood and well, understood. But there ARE extra medical costs being incurred and considering that the ‘safety masks’ approved by his industry were filled with asbestos, there should be something due to him for what he’s suffering now. Surely they won’t fight too hard about all of this..?

Except, they are. They did. The lawyers tore an old man up as if he had all the power in the world.

To be fair, not all of the companies involved in his case are fighting…one of them has made a settlement already. Sweet, eh? Uh-huh. They settled for a whopping $125,000. Now, for our family & my dad’s financial position, that is one HELL of a deal and certainly not something to bitch about. Except, here’s the back-end of the settlement…the corporation filed for bankruptcy and under all of the legal gobbledy-gook of the Superfund arrangement, what that means is that they only have to pay 1/8 of a penny on every dollar of each settlement. By the time the fiat-dust settles & lawyers take their fee, Dad will net just under $700. But on paper, the company shows they’ve paid out $125,000 in blood money. My, my, don’t they look like a generous bunch of roses?

My head is still reeling. Even with everything I know about corporations…the lobbying, the shitty deals, misdeeds, destruction, tax-evasion…even still, I am sitting here just stunned by how this is playing out. It’s one thing to know about in the abstract, “Corporations are immoral entities” but it’s entirely another thing when you watch someone you love get bitch-slapped by a corporate hand.

Unmotherfuckingbelievable. Inconceivable that a corporation would bother pissing on a dying man in his mid-70′s. And yet, after stumbling across this video about the history of asbestos claims…I’m only really surprised that I can still be surprised by the lengths these corporate monsters will go to in order to protect their profit lairs…er, shares…

SoLa: Louisiana Water Stories

Wake-up, wake-up…we cannot continue to live as we have been or keep causing such destruction…sooner or later our bill is going come due and it will be innocent people who pay it for us all…

SoLa: Louisiana Water Stories investigates how the exploitation of Southern Louisiana’s abundant natural resources compromised the resiliency of its ecology and culture, multiplying the devastating impact of the BP oil spill and Hurricane Katrina.

Watch The Full SoLa: Louisiana Water Stories Documentary Here

Pennsylvania Pays; Caterpillar Stays

 

Why the Fight Against Corporate Welfare is So Hard

Crony Chronicles – “Caterpillar, a company with a market cap of nearly $55 billion and 125,000 employees, wasn’t sure if it wanted to stay in York County, PA, an agricultural county in southern PA. Faced with the threat of losing such a prestigious firm, PA decided to give Caterpillar a host of economic incentives to entice them to stay. When faced with the prospect of real job loss, it’s hard for states and counties to just let them leave…” Read More

Caterpillar distribution center to stay in York County

ydr.com – “Caterpillar will keep its distribution center – along with its 200-employee workforce – in York County.

The decision, announced Monday at the company’s Memory Lane facility, comes about one year after Caterpillar said it might move the Springettsbury Township logistics/distribution operation to another site somewhere in the eastern United States…

…Lyndsay Frank, spokeswoman for the state Department of Community and Economic Development, said the company was offered a financial package from the Governor’s Action Team, a point of contact for companies looking to establish new business operations in Pennsylvania or companies considering retention/expansion of existing facilities.

That package, Frank said, includes a $350,000 Pennsylvania First Grant and a $88,650 Guaranteed Free Training Grant.

In addition, the company has been “encouraged” to apply for a $2 million Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority Loan and a $4 million loan from the state’s Machine and Equipment Loan Fund, Frank said.

“We’re just happy as hell,” said Mike Smeltzer, executive director of the Manufacturer’s Association of South Central Pennsylvania.

Smeltzer said the retention of a big-name employer like Caterpillar can be helpful in luring more large companies to York County.

“It’s huge,” Smeltzer said. “Corporations are no different than people. Peer pressure matters.” Full Story

Outrageous Example Of Corporate Greed From Caterpillar

Published on Jul 30, 2012

“…manufacturing giant Caterpillar was seeking major concessions during contract negotiations with striking workers, even as it was making billions in profits and giving its CEO a 60 percent pay boost. The New York Times’ Steven Greenhouse added more details today, noting that the company wants to implement a six-year pay freeze and a pension freeze, at a time when it is making record profits…”

The Lewis Powell Memo – Corporate Blueprint to Dominate Democracy

I‘d like to give a huge “Thank You” shout out to The Secular Jurist for pointing me in the direction of the Powell Memo in a comment yesterday. For all of the time I’ve put into try to dig through the corporate influence and misdeeds of The American Legislative Exchange Council, I had somehow not made the connection between ALEC and Powell. This is just another piece of a puzzle I’ve been trying to unravel for years just for my own personal amusement/interests and to gain a better understanding of how it is our country (and the world) came to be in such a “mess”…

GreenPeace (August 23, 2011) - “On August 23, 1971, Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr., an attorney from Richmond, Virginia, drafted a confidential memorandum for the U.S. Chamber of Commercethat describes a strategy for the corporate takeover of the dominant public institutions of American society.

Powell and his friend Eugene Sydnor, then-chairman of the Chamber’s education committee, believed the Chamber had to transform itself from a passive business group into a powerful political force capable of taking on what Powell described as a major ongoing “attack on the American free enterprise system.”

An astute observer of the business community and broader social trends, Powell was a former president of the American Bar Association and a board member of tobacco giant Philip Morris and other companies. In his memo, he detailed a series of possible “avenues of action” that the Chamber and the broader business community should take in response to fierce criticism in the media, campus-based protests, and new consumer and environmental laws.

Environmental awareness and pressure on corporate polluters had reached a new peak in the months before the Powell memo was written. In January 1970, President Nixon signed the National Environmental Policy Act, which formally recognized the environment’s importance by establishing the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Massive Earth Day events took place all over the country just a few months later and by early July, Nixon signed an executive order that created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Tough new amendments to the Clean Air Act followed in December 1970 and by April 1971, EPA announced the first air pollution standards. Lead paint was soon regulated for the first time, and the awareness of the impacts of pesticides and other pollutants– made famous by Rachel Carson in her 1962 book, Silent Spring – was recognized when DDT was finally banned for agricultural use in 1972.

The overall tone of Powell’s memo reflected a widespread sense of crisis among elites in the business and political communities. “No thoughtful person can question that the American economic system is under broad attack,” he suggested, adding that the attacks were not coming just from a few “extremists of the left,” but also – and most alarmingly — from “perfectly respectable elements of society,” including leading intellectuals, the media, and politicians.

To meet the challenge, business leaders would have to first recognize the severity of the crisis, and begin marshalling their resources to influence prominent institutions of public opinion and political power — especially the universities, the media and the courts. The memo emphasized the importance of education, values, and movement-building. Corporations had to reshape the political debate, organize speakers’ bureaus and keep television programs under “constant surveillance.” Most importantly, business needed to recognize that political power must be “assiduously cultivated; and that when necessary, it must be used aggressively and with determination – without embarrassment and without the reluctance which has been so characteristic of American business.”

Powell emphasized the importance of strengthening institutions like the U.S. Chamber — which represented the interests of the broader business community, and therefore key to creating a united front. While individual corporations could represent their interests more aggressively, the responsibility of conducting an enduring campaign would necessarily fall upon the Chamber and allied foundations. Since business executives had “little stomach for hard-nosed contest with their critics” and “little skill in effective intellectual and philosophical debate,” it was important to create new think tanks, legal foundations, front groups and other organizations. The ability to align such groups into a united front would only come about through “careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and united organizations.”

Before he was appointed by Richard Nixon to the U.S. Supreme Court Powell circulated his call for a business crusade not only to the Chamber, but also to executives at corporations including General Motors. The memo did not become available to the public until after Powell’s confirmation to the Court, when it was leaked to Jack Anderson, a syndicated columnist and investigative reporter, who cited it as reason to doubt Powell’s legal objectivity.

Anderson’s report spread business leaders’ interest in the memo even further. Soon thereafter, the Chamber’s board of directors formed a task force of 40 business executives(from U.S. Steel, GE, ABC, GM, CBS, 3M, Phillips Petroleum, Amway and numerous other companies) to review Powell’s memo and draft a list of specific proposals to “improve understanding of business and the private enterprise system,” which the board adopted on November 8, 1973.

Historian Kim Phillips-Fein describes how “many who read the memo cited it afterward as inspiration for their political choices.” In fact, Powell’s Memo is widely credited for having helped catalyze a new business activist movement, with numerous conservative family and corporate foundations (e.g. Coors, Olin, Bradley, Scaife, Koch and others) thereafter creating and sustaining powerful new voices to help push the corporate agenda, including the Business Roundtable (1972), the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC – 1973), Heritage Foundation (1973), the Cato Institute (1977), the Manhattan Institute (1978), Citizens for a Sound Economy (1984 – now Americans for Prosperity), Accuracy in Academe (1985), and others.

Because it signaled the beginning of a major shift in American business culture, political power and law, the Powell memo essentially marks the beginning of the business community’s multi-decade collective takeover of the most important institutions of public opinion and democratic decision-making. At the very least, it is the first place where this broad agenda was compiled in one document.

That shift continues today, with corporate influence over policy and politics reaching unprecedented new dimensions. The decades-long drive to rethink legal doctrines and ultimately strike down the edifice of campaign finance laws – breaking radical new ground with the Roberts Court’s decision in Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission – continues apace.

Although many new voices have emerged in the 40 years since it circulated Powell’s memo, the U.S. Chamber has expanded its leadership position within the corporate power movement, leading dozens of judicial, legislative and regulatory fights each year. Measured in terms of money spent, the Chamber is by far the most powerful lobby in Washington, DC, spending $770.6 million since 1998, over three times the amount spent by General Electric, the second-largest spender. At the same time, the Chamber has reinforced its lobbying power by becoming one of the largest conduits of election-related “independent expenditures,”spending over $32.8 million on Federal elections in 2010. The Chamber sponsors the Institute for Legal Reform, which has spearheaded the campaign for tort “reform,” making it more difficult for average people who have been injured, assaulted, or harmed to sue the responsible corporations. Along with well over a dozen legal foundations, the Chamber has also helped shape the powerful “business civil liberties” movement that has been a driving force behind the Citizens United decision and other judicial actions that have handcuffed regulators and prevented Congress from putting common-sense checks on corporate power.” Read More On GreenPeace

Private Prisons: Payoffs, Profits & Failures

1pigI’d like to point out that in the first article I link below, the author states that it is Republican-controlled legislatures who are responsible for private prisons…this is only partially the truth. Yes, organizations like ALEC and the prison industries they represent generally bribe, er…give campaign contributions to Republican legislators…BUT… they are not at all above bribing contributing to Democratic lawmakers when it suits their purposes. Our very own former Democratic Guv’ner Bill Richardson received more campaign contributions from private prisons than any other policlown in the country at one point. Great shock that as soon as he was in power, private prison contracts in NM expanded, eh? (The REAL shock comes in the 2nd article linked here that talks about the fines our Republican Gov’ner Martinez just slapped our private prisons with.)

Bottom line is that private prisons and all of the various twisted off-spring of the industry are willing to do whatever it takes, work with whoever it takes and pay nearly whatever it takes to keep expanding their slave trade industry and profit margins. It isn’t a matter of Right or Left anymore folks, it’s all about who can be bought and sold…both in our legislative bodies…and out here in our so-called ‘free’ society. 

Over 18 Months, Nation’s First Privately Owned State Prison Has Declined Rapidly

Think Progress, “In an unprecedented experiment fueled by budget concerns, Ohio sold a state prison to Corrections Corporation of America, one of the largest private prison corporations in the country, in 2011. Within a year, a state audit of Lake Erie Correctional Institute, the nation’s first privately owned state prison, found rampant abuse and abysmal conditions well below state standards. The CCA prison was given another chance to pass, but flunked another inspection four months later.Independent reports continue to illuminate filthy, broken facilities, as well as much higher rates of crime and violence in and around the prison. On Tuesday, the ACLU of Ohio sent Ohio lawmakers a comprehensive timeline of the prison’s decline since CCA took over.

The Lake Erie prison is now reportedly overcrowded at 130 percent capacity, with single-person cells holding 3 inmates each, according to internal documents obtained by the ACLU. Assaults on guards and other inmates have skyrocketed by 40 percent.

In fact, on the same day the ACLU released their timeline, the Lake Erie prison had to tamp down a series of inmate fights that lead to the confinement of 500 inmates.

Private prison companies have been repeatedly caught cutting corners on space, sanitation, and staff in order to maximize their profits. As a result, deadly riots frequently break out at these facilities, sparked by poor food quality, lack of health care access, and unsanitary conditions.

Despite Lake Erie’s multiple violations of state standards, Ohio has stubbornly maintained its infatuation with private prisons. The state plans to outsource prison food to Aramark, a private vendor already under investigation in Kentucky for multiple contract violations, including serving old food that had not been stored properly and overbilling the state.

Republican-dominated state legislatures are all too eager to ignore the private prison industry’s dismal record. CCA and other companies like GEO are paying well to maintain their massively profitable government contracts; the industry spent $45 million on lobbying in the past decade. CCA has done especially well for itself, rebounding from near bankruptcy in 2000 to rake in a net income of $162 million in 2011.” Think Progress

New Mexico Slaps Private Prison Companies with $1.4 Million in Fines

Prison Legal News – “The departure of Bill Richardson as New Mexico’s governor has changed the previously lax business environment for the state’s private prison contractors. The new administration of Governor Susana Martinez is taking a more aggressive tone in demanding contractual compliance at privately-operated facilities that house state prisoners.

In March 2012, the New Mexico Corrections Department (NMDOC) imposed nearly $300,000 in fines against GEO Group, which operates three private prisons in the state. Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) was also hit with $11,779 in fines for failing to properly staff the women’s prison in Grants.

Those fines were on top of another $1.1 million in penalties assessed in November 2011 due to GEO’s failure to adequately staff the Lea County Correctional Facility (LCCF). According to Shannon McReynolds, inspector general at the NMDOC, GEO Group agreed to pay the $1.1 million fine but was “not completely happy” about it. Additionally, the company agreed to spend $200,000 over the next year to recruit more employees at LCCF.

The penalties imposed against the company in March 2012, also for inadequate staffing, resulted from GEO’s failure to have enough guards in staffed positions at LCCF. There were also noncustodial positions, such as counselors for substance abuse and mental health treatment, that had remained vacant for more than 60 days.

Part of the $11,779 penalty against CCA came from not having enough guards at the New Mexico Women’s Correctional Facility. The largest part of the fine, $7,964.46, was due to CCA’s failure to release 15 prisoners on time. Records indicated that 13 of the 15 were released more than 30 days past their release date.

“These are taxpayer dollars that we are spending here,” McReynolds said. “When we spend these taxpayer dollars on these services, we need to make sure we’re getting those services.” New Mexico currently contracts with GEO Group and CCA to operate four facilities that hold state prisoners.

It was only after Governor Martinez took office that GEO and CCA had to worry about penalties for failing to fulfill their contractual obligations.” Full Article on PLN

CORPORATE PRISON RAP SHEETS

American Police Force
Aramark
Cornell
Corrections Corporation of America
DynCorp
Emerald
GEO Group (formerly Wackenhut)
Keefe Commissary Services
Management & Training Corporation
Maranatha Corrections LLC
PsychSolutions
TransCor
US Extradition

Monsanto’s Poisonous Seeds In The White House

So, folks still think we have two major political parties who are quite different from one another, eh? People think the world would be a much different or better place “If Only…” their candidate and party of choice had won the election of 2012…or 2008…or well, you get the point. Hell, even thought I had found a “purist” party this time around when I jumped on the Libertarian train. Figures that I’d find out only a few short weeks after the election that my beloved Savior Party has been working with the corpo-legislative whores known as The American Legislative Exchange Council…ALEC. There is no place, no party and no politician that the huge agra-giants like Monsanto cannot sink their poisonous roots into…

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MonsantoMitt

CLN  “The roots of the relationship between Monsanto and the White House go back for decades. Bush senior’s administration was responsible for deeming GMO crops substantially equivalent to non-GMO crops, opening the flood gates for the industry to take over the food supply with little room for the opposition.

Mitt Romney was intimately involved with Monsanto’s transition into biotechnology.  During the presidential primaries, Romney named an 11-member agricultural advisory committee that was full of Monsanto connections.”

After promising to label GMO’s during his 2008 campaign, President Obama has opened the doors for the following GM crops during his administration:

Monsanto GMO alfalfa
Monsanto GMO sugar beets
Monsanto GMO BT soybean
Syngenta GMO corn for ethanol
Pioneer GMO soybean
Syngenta GMO BT cotton
Bayer GMO cotton
GMO papaya strain

This is not surprising given the fact that Obama has appointed the following people to regulatory bodies that are supposed to be responsible for the safety of our food (click on the links to see the announcements of Obama’s appointments):

Roger Beachy, director of the USDA, is a former director of Monsanto
Michael Taylor, the USDA food safe czar, is a former VP of Monsanto
Ramona Romero, a USDA council, was previously on Dupont’s corporate council.
Islam Siddiqui, the US agriculture trade representative, who pushes GM exports to other countries, is a former Monsanto lobbyist.” Full Story Here

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By  | March 27 2013 3:03 PM

International Business Times – “The “Monsanto Protection Act” is the name opponents of the Farmer Assurance Provision have given to this terrifying piece of policy, and it’s a fitting moniker given its shocking content.

President Barack Obama signed a spending billHR 933, into law on Tuesday that includes language that has food and consumer advocates and organic farmers up in arms over their contention that the so-called “Monsanto Protection Act” is a giveaway to corporations that was passed under the cover of darkness.

There’s a lot being said about it, but here are five terrifying facts about the Farmer Assurance Provision — Section 735 of the spending bill — to get you acquainted with the reasons behind the ongoing uproar:

1.) The “Monsanto Protection Act” effectively bars federal courts from being able to halt the sale or planting of controversial genetically modified (aka GMO) or genetically engineered (GE) seeds, no matter what health issues may arise concerning GMOs in the future. The advent of genetically modified seeds — which has been driven by the massive Monsanto Company – and their exploding use in farms across America came on fast and has proved a huge boon for Monsanto’s profits.

But many anti-GMO folks argue there have not been enough studies into the potential health risks of this new class of crop. Well, now it appears that even if those studies are completed and they end up revealing severe adverse health effects related to the consumption of genetically modified foods, the courts will have no ability to stop the spread of the seeds and the crops they bear.

2.) The provision’s language was apparently written in collusion with Monsanto. Lawmakers and companies working together to craft legislation is by no means a rare occurrence in this day and age. But the fact that Sen. Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, actually worked with Monsanto on a provision that in effect allows them to keep selling seeds, which can then go on to be planted, even if it is found to be harmful to consumers, is stunning. It’s just another example of corporations bending Congress to their will, and it’s one that could have dire risks for public health in America.

3.) Many members of Congress were apparently unaware that the “Monsanto Protection Act” even existed within the bill they were voting on. HR 933 was a spending bill aimed at averting a government shutdown and ensuring that the federal government would continue to be able to pay its bills. But the Center for Food Safety maintains that many Democrats in Congress were not even aware that the provision was in the legislation:

“In this hidden backroom deal, Sen. [Barbara] Mikulski turned her back on consumer, environmental and farmer protection in favor of corporate welfare for biotech companies such as Monsanto,” Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, said in a statement. “This abuse of power is not the kind of leadership the public has come to expect from Sen. Mikulski or the Democrat Majority in the Senate.”

4.) The President did nothing to stop it, either. On Tuesday, Obama signed HR 933 while the rest of the nation was fixated on gay marriage, as the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument concerning California’s Proposition 8. But just because most of the nation and the media were paying attention to gay marriage doesn’t mean that others were not doing their best to express their opposition to the “Monsanto Protection Act.” In fact, more than 250,000 voters signed a petition opposing the provision. And Food Democracy Now protesters even took their fight straight to Obama, protesting in front of the White House against Section 735 of the bill. He signed it anyway.

5.) It sets a terrible precedent. Though it will only remain in effect for six months until the government finds another way to fund its operations, the message it sends is that corporations can get around consumer safety protections if they get Congress on their side. Furthermore, it sets a precedent that suggests that court challenges are a privilege, not a right.” Full Article Here on IBT

Top 10 excuses for Obama signing the Monsanto Protection Act (thesurvivalplaceblog.com)
Obama Signs Monsanto Protection Act Into Law After Promising GMO Labeling in 2007 (naturalsociety.com)
Top 10 excuses for Obama signing the Monsanto Protection Act (jonrappoport.wordpress.com)
FOCUS | Monsanto and the Seeds of Suicide (readersupportednews.org)
Farmers and food safety advocates lead Monsanto backlash (salon.com)
‘Monsanto Protection Act’ slips silently through US Congress (rt.com)
Monsanto Required (Nutrition Optional) (factgammon.wordpress.com)
Obama Betrays Americans Again…with the “Monsanto Protection Act” (thedailysheeple.com)
Monsanto, DuPont bury the lawsuit hatchet, set to make more GMO (EndtheLie.com)
Monsanto is up to no good… AGAIN! (thebubbaeffect.wordpress.com)

ALEC Pushes “Ag-Gag” Laws To Silence Whistleblowers

Anti-whistleblower bills supported by the animal agriculture lobby would criminalize essentially anyone who tries to expose the conditions at factory farms and slaughter plants. The goal: to keep Americans in the dark about the rampant animal abuse in the world of factory farming.

Excerpts, The Raw Story “Bills being shopped in six states by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) would make it a crime to film animal abuse at factory farms or lie on job applications, in hopes of shutting down animal rights activists who infiltrate slaughterhouses to expose ghastly conditions.

“The meat industry’s response to these exposes has not been to try to prevent these abuses from taking place, but rather it’s really just been to prevent Americans from finding out about those abuses in the first place,” Paul Shapiro, spokesperson for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), told Raw Story. “What they’re doing is trying to pass laws throughout the country that don’t just shoot the messenger, they seek to imprison the messenger.”

The proposals mandate that evidence of animal abuse be turned over to law enforcement within 48 hours, or face a financial penalty. Several of the bills bills also make it a crime to lie on slaughterhouse job applications, which activists commonly do in order to get footage like the content of a video published by the HSUS, embedded below…”

“Those bills appear to be spreading with the help of ALEC, a conservative business advocacy group that encourages lawmakers to “exchange” legislative ideas from state to state…”

“…The bills to block animal rights activists are in California, Nebraska, Tennessee, Indiana, Arkansas and Pennsylvania, according to The Associated Press. Three other states — New Mexico, Wyoming and New Hampshire — have already rejected similar bills this year, and HSUS told Raw Story that three more — Minnesota, Vermont and North Carolina — are yet expected to take them up.

Several states already have laws similar to what ALEC is pushing, and virtually all of them were triggered in response to shocking videos produced by animal rights activists, who some critics have taken to calling propagandists.

In one such recent case, undercover video from an Iowa factory farm produced by a group called Mercy for Animals caused the Iowa legislature to support a so-called “Ag-Gag” law that makes it a crime to lie in order to infiltrate a farm’s staff. That act is now a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of $1,500. Lawmakers in Utah passed a similar law in 2012 that bans unauthorized photography in farms. Missouri also has an older law that accomplishes effectively the same thing…” Full Story The Raw Story

Not familiar with ALEC, yet? Here’s a 5 minute clip that explains who and what they are…

Private Prisons; Policies & Profits

“…three of the largest private prison companies have spent approximately $45,000,000 combined on lobbying and campaign contributions over the past decade.

Would they be spending so much money if those companies did not believe that it was getting results?”

 Excerpts,  The Economic Collapse Blog, “How would you describe an industry that wants to put more Americans in prison and keep them there longer so that it can make more money?  In America today, approximately 130,000 people are locked up in private prisons that are being run by for-profit companies, and that number is growing very rapidly.  Overall, the U.S. has approximately 25 percent of the entire global prison population even though it only has 5 percent of the total global population.  The United States has the highest incarceration rate on the entire globe by far, and no nation in the history of the world has ever locked up more of its own citizens than we have.  Are we really such a cesspool of filth and decay that we need to lock up so many of our own people?  Or are there some other factors at work?  Could part of the problem be that we have allowed companies to lock up men and women in cages for profit?  The two largest private prison companies combined to bring in close to $3,000,000,000 in revenue in 2010, and the largest private prison companies have spent tens of millions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions over the past decade.  Putting Americans behind bars has become very big business, and those companies have been given a perverse incentive to push for even more Americans to be locked up.  It is a system that is absolutely teeming with corruption, and it is going to get a lot worse unless someone does something about it…”

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“…At least 37 states have legalized the contracting of prison labor by private corporations that mount their operations inside state prisons. The list of such companies contains the cream of U.S. corporate society: IBM, Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Wireless, Texas Instrument, Dell, Compaq, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Nortel, Lucent Technologies, 3Com, Intel, Northern Telecom, TWA, Nordstrom’s, Revlon, Macy’s, Pierre Cardin, Target Stores, and many more. All of these businesses are excited about the economic boom generation by prison labor. Just between 1980 and 1994, profits went up from $392 million to $1.31 billion. Inmates in state penitentiaries generally receive the minimum wage for their work, but not all; in Colorado, they get about $2 per hour, well under the minimum. And in privately-run prisons, they receive as little as 17 cents per hour for a maximum of six hours a day, the equivalent of $20 per month. The highest-paying private prison is CCA in Tennessee, where prisoners receive 50 cents per hour for what they call “highly skilled positions…”

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“…But of course some of the biggest profits for private prisons come from detaining young people.  Today, private prison companies operate more than 50 percent of all “youth correctional facilities” in the United States.

And sometimes judges have even been bribed by these companies to sentence kids to very harsh sentences and to send them to their facilities…” Full Article Here

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With well over 2 million people in jail – the U.S. has the world’s biggest prison population. But some are seeing the inside of a cell because dodgy judges are getting payback from the private sector…

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“For more than 30 years, ALEC has been the ideal means of creating and delivering public policy ideas aimed at protecting and expanding our free society. Thanks to ALEC’s membership, the duly elected leaders of their state legislatures, Jeffersonian principles advise and inform legislative action across the country. Literally hundreds of dedicated ALEC members have worked together to create, develop, introduce and guide to enactment many of the cutting-edge, conservative policies that have now become the law in the states.  Since its founding, ALEC has amassed an unmatched record of achieving ground-breaking changes in public policy. ALEC’s far-reaching national network of state legislators that crosses geographic and political boundaries, and affects all levels of government, is without equal. [Emphasis mine] No other organization in America today can claim as many valuable assets – both people and ideas – that have influence on as many key decision-making centers.” Learn More About ALEC

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Prisons of Poverty

“Raymond V. Liedka, of Oakland University in Michigan, and colleagues have found that the crime-fighting effects of prison disappear once the incarceration rate gets too high. “If the buildup goes beyond a tipping point, then additional incarceration is not going to gain our society any reduction in crime, and may lead to increased crime,” Dr. Liedka said.”

There is nothing unintentional about what has happened with our incarceration rates and prison system in this country over the past 2 decades or so. Since the latest scheme of enslaving people has taken root in this country, everything has gone exactly according to the plans of the slave-owners, a.k.a. the private prison industry- which is supported and funded by the very legislators we elect.

To call the current system a ‘poverty trap’ is an understatement…it isn’t an accidental trap; it is intentional and well planned. Every time something is proven to reduce recidivism rates, that *something* is magically removed from the equation. Strong outside ties help prisoners? Well then, let’s move prisoners farther from home, charge outrageous rates for phone calls and then…ah yes…let’s go ALL out and mandate that prisoners only be allowed to receive 1 postcard a month instead of long letters from home…

And if poverty increases incarceration rates well by all means…let’s make it impossible for anyone even arrested to ever rise above the poverty and earn their way out of the system via legal employment. There is no profit to be made by allowing people to serve a short, fitting sentence for actual crimes (vs non-crimes such as drug use) and then letting them return to the free world and get on with the business of earning a real living wage and becoming part of productive society and our legislators (you know, those folks who own stock in prison companies or at the very least, accept bribes campaign contributions from prison companies) damn well know it.

US incarceration timeline

US incarceration timeline (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Excerpts, NYTimes- “The shift to tougher penal policies three decades ago was originally credited with helping people in poor neighborhoods by reducing crime. But now that America’s incarceration rate has risen to be the world’s highest, many social scientists find the social benefits to be far outweighed by the costs to those communities.

“Prison has become the new poverty trap,” said Bruce Western, a Harvard sociologist. “It has become a routine event for poor African-American men and their families, creating an enduring disadvantage at the very bottom of American society.”

Among African-Americans who have grown up during the era of mass incarceration, one in four has had a parent locked up at some point during childhood. For black men in their 20s and early 30s without a high school diploma, the incarceration rate is so high — nearly 40 percent nationwide — that they’re more likely to be behind bars than to have a job.

No one denies that some people belong in prison. Mr. Harris, now 47, and his wife, 45, agree that in his early 20s he deserved to be there. But they don’t see what good was accomplished by keeping him there for two decades, and neither do most of the researchers who have been analyzing the prison boom.

The number of Americans in state and federal prisons has quintupled since 1980, and a major reason is that prisoners serve longer terms than before. They remain inmates into middle age and old age, well beyond the peak age for crime…

…Epidemiologists have found that when the incarceration rate rises in a county, there tends to be a subsequent increase in the rates of sexually transmitted diseases and teenage pregnancy, possibly because women have less power to require their partners to practice protected sex or remain monogamous.

When researchers try to explain why AIDS is much more prevalent among blacks than whites, they point to the consequences of incarceration, which disrupts steady relationships and can lead to high-risk sexual behavior. When sociologists look for causes of child poverty and juvenile delinquency, they link these problems to the incarceration…” Full Story Here

Restoration vs Revenge

~ HT to Prison Photography for the link to Unlikely Friends ~

The world needs more thinking and more medicine like what is accomplished with projects like Unlikely Friends.

Restorative Justice instead of Revenge-based Justice. 

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“The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world with one out of 32 Americans under criminal justice supervision. The rest of the world is intrigued by the paradox that the leading democracy in the free world imprisons so many of its citizens, 25% of the total prisoners worldwide.

UNLIKELY FRIENDS documents victims of brutal crimes who, through forgiveness, unexpectedly become friends with their perpetrators.

Finding a criminal justice system that has left them empty and unsupported, these victims of unspeakable crimes forgive out of a deep need to heal themselves, which in turn motivates the perpetrator to fully account for their actions and thereby begin the process of true rehabilitation.

These relationships, so unfathomable for most of us, open our thinking to new possibilities of how to transform a system ensconced in punishment and retribution to one of restorative justice that is based in humanity.”

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Hate begets hate; healing begets healing…it is not a difficult concept to grasp but it isn’t one that is promoted nearly enough. All of the ridiculous fear-based propaganda like “TOUGH ON CRIME” has taken root in our society’s thought process and we are just now beginning to see and feel the ramifications of that school of thought…More prisons, more abuses, more crimes, more violence…more, more and more of everything that is unhealthy and damaging to us all. 

Politricksters who stand to profit from the private prison industry have no reason to reverse anything they have accomplished so it is once again up to US – The People – to instigate the change. I don’t care if you are a ‘bleeding heart liberal’ that thinks we can abolish prisons entirely or an ‘uber-conservative rightwinger’ that is simply fed up with the exorbitant amount of your taxes being spent on prisons…it behooves all of us to do whatever is necessary to halt the revenge-based and profit-driven prison system from rooting itself even more deeply into our societies. (Yes, plural…ALL societies are at risk of being over-run and destroyed by this cancerous growth; it is NOT just an American problem.) 

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Proliferation, Paul Rucker

 Animated mapping of the US Prison system set to original music.
Timeline:
Green Dots: 1778-1900
Yellow Dots: 1901-1940
Orange Dots: 1941-1980
Red Dots: 1981-2005

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The only way to make an idea take hold and start to grow is to keep promoting it so please help spread the word (Loudly, repetitively and often!). The intent of this project is health-based and healing-based…but unless more people hear about it, there is little hope of the spark becoming a wildfire. If you also think it is time to stop the hate and turn towards true healing then fan the flames of forgiveness and share the message(s) and help promote projects like Unlikely Friends as much as you can…social media is our most powerful tool right now, I think and here is another opportunity to use it for good!

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Private Prisons Move Into Public Schools

lock·down /ˈläkˌdoun/

Noun:  The confining of prisoners to their cells, typically during a riot.

“At 9 a.m. on the morning of October 31, 2012, students at Vista Grande High School in Casa Grande were settling in to their daily routine when something unusual occurred.

Vista Grande High School Principal Tim Hamilton ordered the school — with a student population of 1,776 — on “lock down,” kicking off the first “drug sweep” in the school’s four-year history. According to Hamilton, “lock down” is a state in which, “everybody is locked in the room they are in, and nobody leaves — nobody leaves the school, nobody comes into the school.”

“Everybody is locked in, and then they bring the dogs in, and they are teamed with an administrator and go in and out of classrooms. They go to a classroom and they have the kids come out and line up against a wall. The dog goes in and they close the door behind, and then the dog does its thing, and if it gets a hit, it sits on a bag and won’t move.”

Read Full Story “Corrections Corporation of America Used in Drug Sweeps of Public School Student” By Beau Hodai, PRWatch | Report

How many parents imagine when they send their child off to school in the morning that there is a possibility of that child being placed on lockdown, unreasonably searched & exposed to drug dogs – as if they were a convicted criminal?

In the case above, there was no spike in drug use on campus and no justifiable reason for the school to bring in prison canine units to search the students. When asked about the raid, Principal Hamilton stated that, outside from this desire to send a “message to kids,” he had no knowledge of any particular drug use problem on his school’s campus.

Why disrupt classes to bring in prison employees simply to ‘deliver a message’? What is the REAL message Mr. Hamilton is sending here?

Most school districts ended the practice of sending kids to the principal’s office for a paddling years ago…general consensus was that violence begets violence and corporal punishment has no place in the school system. But now…we allow police stations and drug dogs in our schools and no objections are raised? Amazing…

Not only are we indoctrinating kids into believing that it is normal for police forces to march through the hallways conducting unjustifiable searches – we are allowing CHILDREN to be searched by PRISON EMPLOYEES.

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Nationwide Presses for Distance from ALEC

Source – PRWatch – Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, a “mutual” insurance and financial services company, published a press release last week distancing itself from the controversial American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). In the release, the company said it had not funded ALEC for over a decade.

However, a review of ALEC materials by the “2old2care” blog, verified by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), revealed that a Nationwide employee received an ALEC award for corporate lobbyists and special interest group representatives four years ago.

Susan Valauri, who is currently Nationwide’s senior director of government relations, won ALEC’s “Private Sector Member of the Year Award” in 2008.

Alan Smith: Nationwide, ALEC, and Heartland

Ms. Valauri received the award from ALEC, when it was led by Alan Bronson Smith. He was Nationwide’s head of government relations from 1978 to 2002. Smith not only represented Nationwide on ALEC’s corporate “Private Enterprise” board a decade ago, but also a few years after leaving Nationwide he became the Executive Director of ALEC from 2008 to 2009.

Nationwide’s current Director of Public Relations, Dace de la Foret, told CMD: “I spoke to Susan Valauri, and she confirmed that based on Nationwide’s decision not to continue its affiliation with ALEC she resigned from her position as Private Sector Chair at ALEC prior to 2002. The 2008 award was for past service, and at the time she was not a member nor did she have any affiliation with ALEC.” The date of her award overlaps with the period that her former colleague, Smith, was managing ALEC’s day-to-day affairs.

After leaving ALEC, which is now led by former Verizon lobbyist Ronald Scheberle, Smith took a post with ALEC’s long-time partner, the controversial Heartland Institute. Heartland gained notoriety with its billboard campaigncomparing Americans who believe the climate is changing to the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski. Like ALEC, Heartland has lost corporate donors due to its controversial positions.

In his role at Heartland, Smith advanced corporate agenda items such as changes to the rules for using car parts after a car crashes, a long-standing item on the ALEC wishlist. Nationwide has backed similar legislation, among other items on its legislative agenda. Smith was part of Heartland’s “CFIRE” project, which stands for “Center on Finance, Insurance and Real Estate.” Full Story Here

RoBamney & DuSanto

“During the presidential primaries this past March, Romney named an eleven-member Agricultural Advisory Committee that was packed with Monsanto connections, including its principal Washington lobbyist Randy Russell, whose firm has represented Monsanto since its founding in the 1980s and has been paid $2.4 million in lobbying fees since 1998.”

“…This history matters not just because of the light it sheds on Romney’s self-ballyhooed business experience but because of the litany of Monsanto corporate objectives that clash with planetary concerns. If Romney is elected, this bête noire of environmentalists will have a very old friend in a very high place.

…The romance between Romney and Monsanto began back in 1977, when the recently minted Harvard Law and Business School graduate joined Bain, the Boston-based consulting firm launched in 1973, the same year Monsanto became one of its first clients. One of Bain’s founding partners, Ralph Willard, described to the Boston Globe in 2007 how “Romney learned the technical aspects of the chemical business so thoroughly that he sounded as if he had gone to engineering school instead of business school,” and that Monsanto executives soon began “bypassing” him to go directly to Romney…

…John W. Hanley, the Monsanto CEO at the time, has said how “impressed” he was with the 30-year-old Mitt. Hanley became so close to Romney that he and Romney’s boss Bill Bain devised the idea of creating Bain Capital as a way of keeping Romney in the fold. Unless Mitt was allowed to run this spin-off venture firm, Hanley and Bain feared, he would leave. Hanley even contributed $1 million to Romney’s first investment pool at Bain Capital. Monsanto’s Hanley is in fact the only business executive outside of the Bain founding family to so shape Romney’s career—jumpstarting the two companies, Bain & Company and Bain Capital, that account for all but two years of Romney’s much-ballyhooed business experience. Bain and Romney whispered in Monsanto’s ear until 1985, when Hanley’s successor Richard Mahoney says he “fired” them and when Romney moved on to Bain Capital…

“Romney won’t answer our questions, or anyone else’s, about where he stands on the two pending farm bills—the Senate version backed by Obama that passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, or the House bill that made it through the agriculture committee with two Republican amendments dubbed “Monsanto riders.” 

… Monsanto has so far spent $4.2 million to defeat a labeling referendum on the ballot in California this November, more than any other opponent, and several of the organizations connected to members of Romney’s advisory council have also opposed the referendum. President Obama supports a labeling requirement, though he’s done nothing to make it happen, while Romney’s campaign declined to respond to The Nation’s questions about his position on labeling or the California referendum…”

Read the (fantastic) full article here on Truth-Out

As if I didn’t already have enough reasons for not liking Mitt Romney, this latest little tidbit of information regarding his extensive ties to Monsanto would have definitely eliminated any chance there ever might have been for him to get my vote.

THIS is the man people claim is going to *save* America?

This blatantly obvious corporate whore is going to SAVE us?

How is he going to do so, exactly?

By stuffing us all with government subsidized GMO corn crops when all other foods are too expensive for people to buy?

Oh…but wait..! There’s more…! I HAVE A CHOICE!

If I vote for Obama things will be so much different!

Just so long as we ignore HIS connections to Monsanto…

Meet Monsanto’s number one lobbyist: Barack Obama

Tuesday, September 25, 2012 by: Jon Rappoport

“The new president filled key posts with Monsanto people, in federal agencies that wield tremendous force in food issues, the USDA and the FDA:

At the USDA, as the director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Roger Beachy, former director of the Monsanto Danforth Center.

As deputy commissioner of the FDA, the new food-safety-issues czar, the infamous Michael Taylor, former vice-president for public policy for Monsanto. Taylor had been instrumental in getting approval for Monsanto’s genetically engineered bovine growth hormone.

As commissioner of the USDA, Iowa governor, Tom Vilsack. Vilsack had set up a national group, the Governors’ Biotechnology Partnership, and had been given a Governor of the Year Award by the Biotechnology Industry Organization, whose members include Monsanto.

As the new Agriculture Trade Representative, who would push GMOs for export, Islam Siddiqui, a former Monsanto lobbyist.

As the new counsel for the USDA, Ramona Romero, who had been corporate counsel for another biotech giant, DuPont.

As the new head of the USAID, Rajiv Shah, who had preciously worked in key positions for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a major funder of GMO agriculture research.

We should also remember that Obama’s secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, once worked for the Rose law firm. That firm was counsel to Monsanto.”

Source – Natural News

Trying to choose between Obama & Romney is the equivalent of being forced to eat Monsanto’s GM Corn…or DuPont’s GM Soybeans.

Both choices are unsatisfying…and both make me ill.

RoBamma, BoRamney…

DuSanto…MonPonto…

There really is no difference.

ALEC Teams With Foreign Interests To Promote Bills In US Congress

As full members, the foreign representatives have full rights of voting and discussion on ALEC’s proposed legislative bills and resolutions.

ALEC CROW - 21st Century Disenfranchisement

ALEC CROW – 21st Century Disenfranchisement (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

From PolicyMic – The Voters Legislative Transparency Project, Inc. announced this week they had uncovered documents demonstrating that 17 representatives of seven foreign nations have been secretly involved in creating legislative bills and policies meant to become laws of policy in the U.S.

This includes the writing of proposed “model bills,” resolutions sent to Congress and the President in support of key policies they wish the U.S. to adopt. All of this is allegedly being done outside the protocols and provision of the U.S. State Department – and possibly without that Department’s knowledge or approval.

Sixteen of these officials are Members of the European Parliament or foreign governments including: the United Kingdom, Poland, Australia, Belgium, Brussels, Punjab, and the Czech Republic. The 17th is the former U.K. Minister of Defense, Liam Fox, who resigned earlier this year following a scandal involving the Atlantic Bridge Charity and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

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