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When Corporate Sponsors Leave ALEC and Rush, What We Learn

By: spocko Tuesday September 30, 2014 5:07 pm

The other day Google announced it will be leaving ALEC. “Google becomes latest company to abandon right-wing ALEC.”

This is a big deal. It comes on the heels of a number of other corporations like Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Yahoo! having left ALEC.

These things don’t just happen magically. There are a lot of people who have worked very hard to make that happen. Here is a list of just some of them from the letter they sent to the Google folks earlier this month.

I don’t know all the people behind those groups, although I can personally point to my friends at both the Center for Media and Democracy for their steller Alex Exposed work, and my friends at Color of Change, who earlier got corporations to peel off ALEC following the Trayvon Martin shooting.

I think it’s important to acknowledge this success and see what we can learn from it. Like the actions used to get advertisers to leave Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and other RW radio hosts, part of this is educating sponsors and advertisers about the person or entity’s comments and actions so people can decide they don’t want to taint their brand with the association.

We often think that if we just give people the facts they will make the right decision. That does apply in some cases, especially when dealing with Vulcans. Other times we think people only make decisions to maximize revenue, and that’s true when dealing with Ferengi. But humans are more complex, and we need to look at and combine multiple methods to persuade, convince or pressure.

I listened to the Diane Rhem show where Eric Schmitz talked about ALEC. Here is his actual ALEC comment: (emphasis mine)

KRISTEN
I’m curious to know if Google is still supporting ALEC, which is that fund lobbyist in D.C. that are funding climate change deniers.

SCHMIDT
We funded them as part of a political game for something unrelated. I think the consensus within the company was that that was sort of a mistake. And so we’re trying to not do that in the future.

REHM
And how did you get involved with them in the first place? And were you then disappointed in what you saw?

SCHMIDT
Well, the company has a very strong view that we should make decisions in politics based on facts. What a shock. And the facts of climate change are not in question anymore. Everyone understands climate change is occurring. And the people who oppose it are really hurting our children and our grandchildren and making the world a much worse place. And so we should not be aligned with such people. They’re just literally lying.

This comment is great, but for us to learn something about why efforts to use the Spocko Method to alert advertisers and sponsors works, it helps to listen to other parts of the show.

REHM
That’s great. Is it different when you’re thinking about millennials? Are they perhaps more open to the kinds of ideas that Google has come to stand for?

SCHMIDT
Certainly, the millennials that we recruit, hire and so forth, in every way, they seem better than my generation. They’re better prepared, they’re better educated, they’re more collaborative than my generation and they’re more socially conscious. They don’t want to spend their time working for the man in some cog in a wheel doing one task. They want to feel that there’s a social purpose to what they’re doing, that they’re improving the world in some way.

SCHMIDT
And, indeed, you’ll look in tech companies, many of them have very sophisticated corporate responsibility programs or branding around trying to help. And that’s as much to keep the employees motivated as it is for good customer relationships.

 Now I know Eric, and have worked with him and Google before, so I know that what he is saying is accurate for Google. But it also applies to people in lots of other companies.

This is not true of all companies or all people, but the other thing that is not true of all companies is the idea that a public corporation has one, and only objective–to maximize shareholder value. Lynn Stout talked about that myth on Virtually Speaking from her book The Shareholder Value Myth.

What tipped Google over the edge into leaving ALEC? I don’t know exactly, but his answers give us clues. The lying, the hurting children and grandchildren are a big part of it. Then the key phrase, “we should not be aligned with such people.

The lying part goes against the “fact-based decision making” model you might expect from a science/engineering/computer company. But you also see how personal, emotional and other values come into the decision.

If you did some reading (or listen to NPR) you would know that Eric and Wendy Schmitz started The Schmitz Family Foundation whose webpage says,

“Our vision is a healthy, vibrant society that values functioning ecosystems, active civic engagement and equity for all.”

In addition, Wendy was a founding member of Climate Central “… an organization that combines an expert media team with the work of experts using the newest science to measure and describe climate change.”

CEOs aren’t always the final decider, but when you can line up multiple reasons ranging from financial through emotional and into brand image they can be convinced to take a different course of action.

ALEC and Rush appeal to people’s most selfish impulses. They use greed, fear and ignorance to get what they want. They want us to believe that everyone thinks like they do, when in fact it is a self-selected minority that holds these beliefs. They say if you only believe them, you will be among society’s winners.

But when we go to the interested third parties and educate them, many of those real winners are disgusted with what they hear. Combining that education with appeals to both personal and stated corporate values systems and you have a solid package to help them decide to walk away.

If you want to convince people within the corporate form to walk away from a right wing media personality or a right wing legislation bill mill, learn who they are, what they say their company is about and ALL the things that they care about. We have lots of ways to find that out now, just Google them.

 

Mining the Earth: 30 Sep 2014

By: KateCA Tuesday September 30, 2014 4:12 pm

MINING THE EARTH:

*Everywhere.  Last ditch efforts by some utilities around the globe to halt renewables include taxes on “solar energy-equipped houses and offices”, vigorous lobbying to stop governments providing incentives to “green energy”, much heftier “daily connection” fees rather than billing for units of energy used, etc.  Will alternative energy users be subsidizing traditional utilities in the future?

*AZ.  (See also Mexico).  Authorities are testing the water in the San Pedro River (which flows north from Mexico into AZ) to make sure the on-going disaster at Grupo Mexico’s Buenavista mine in Sonora, Mexico has not resulted in contamination of the San Pedro.

*IA.  Two towns in IA—Bloomfield and Algona—dependent on coal-fired plants for electricity, could cut their costs [and charges to customers] “substantially . . . if they invest in deep efficiencies and, to a lesser extent, in renewable sources of generation.”    The Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities participated in the study.

*NV.  Canadian-based Veris Gold will pay a $182,000 penalty to the US Environmental Protection Agency “for failing to correctly report . . . the release of millions of pounds of toxic chemicals—including arsenic and cyanide [and lead, mercury, nickel, zinc, copper, and cobalt]—into the air and ground.”  That occurred at the Jerritt Canyon mine, which last year received 49 citations and 12 safety orders.

*WV.  84 years ago this month, 5,000 coal miners confronted some 3,000 company-backed men in  “the largest armed labor conflict in the nation’s history”.    After five days of intense struggle, then-President Harding sent in federal troops.  For decades the Blair Mountain Battlefield was on the National Register of Historic Places—until 2009, when the government removed it.  The Sierra Club and local historical associations sued, lost the first round, appealed and have won.

*WV.  Brody Mining, a Patriot Coal subsidiary,  is being cited by the state’s Mine Safety Board which “determined the mine roof was not properly supported and controlled to protect workers”, resulting in the deaths of two workers last May 12th.  A third worker was rescued from a similar situation only three days earlier.

*Canada.  First Nations in Quebec-Labrador once again expressed opposition to uranium development, and not just in their territories, but in all of Quebec.  Meanwhile, the Quebec government continues hearings on uranium mining.

*Canada.  As part of its reclamation effort at Copper Cliff, Ontario, Vale nickel miner has covered the slag with “soil, landscaped and planted . . . grass and trees.”  Now they’re also introducing bees to the site.

*Mexico.  A “new wave of unwelcome public attention” is focused on what’s perhaps “the worst ecological disaster in Mexican history”, the millions of gallons of copper sulfate acid that flowed into the Sonora and Bacanuchi Rivers from Grupo Mexico’s Buenavista mine.  Don Quijones explores the intricate web within the Mexican oligarchy that has contributed to the disaster, and an “ever-increasing concentration of power and wealth”.

*Mexico.  More bad news involving Grupo Mexico:  Both the Balsas River and the Xochula River are contaminated from mining, too.  Dam embankments “have high rates of toxic waste”, apparently deriving from silver, zinc and lead mining, leading to arsenic, lead, cadmium and vanadium deposited in the soil and water.

*Mexico.  Impacts of the Buenavista mine disaster are so profound that Mexican “officials are now gearing up to bolster environmental regulations”.

*Mexico.  In addition to more details about the on-going Buenavista mine disaster, another report quotes AFL-CIO president John Sweeney that labor relations with a Grupo Mexico US subsidiary, ASARCO, from 1999-2005 “were marked by constant strife.”  Disability benefits were stopped and retirees’ health care benefits cut.

*El Salvador.  El Salvador doesn’t have much water, which gold mining requires,  so hasn’t issued new gold mining permits for years. OceanaGold (of Australia-Canada) is suing El Salvador for $300 million, as a result.  OceanaGold wants to mine near the Lempa River which provides water for more than 50% of El Salvadorans.  In addition to loss of precious water, the Lempa would also be at risk of cyanide contamination as a result of the mining.

*Colombia.  Eleven companies have been ordered “to halt gold-mining operations” in a large reserve in Choco, northwestern Colombia, and to “return the land to the native tribes that previously lived there.”  They’re the Embera Katio, 7,270-persons, “forced out by mining activities and violent illegal armed groups.”  This ruling entails re-establishing land rights for the Embera Katio and helping them return to their land.

*Bolivia.  South American Silver Limited, a subsidiary of TriMetals Mining of Canada, is in arbitration at The Hague over  alleged “expropriation of [South American Silver’s] Malku Khota project” by Bolivia.  South American Silver wants $385.7 million for “all its losses” and $78.5 million in pre-award interest”.  Alternatively, it wants $176.4 million in damages and the Malku Khota project to proceed.

*Chile.  A solar plant installed in Tarapaca will provide “13% of the annual power required by local mining firm Dona Ines de Collahuasi”.  Pozo Almonte Solar PV farm will add 60,000 MWh of clean energy to the local grid each year, offsetting “the effects of 50,000 tons of carbon emissions”.  Pozo Almonte Solar PV farm is the largest such installation in Chile.

*England.  Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted “coal-fired power plants in the UK should be phased out in the next 10 or 15 years” and any new ones “fitted with carbon capture and storage technology.”  In his climate speech to the UN, however, “he omitted the key phase-out pledge.”

*India.  India’s Supreme Court has cancelled 214 of 218 coal mining licenses dating back to 1993.  The court cited no competitive bidding, and a process it characterized as “‘not fair and transparent’”.  The four permits it let stand “are linked to major state power projects.”

*Australia.  “Western Australia’s remaining deposits [of gold] are deeper and harder to find”, according to a Northern Star Resources managing director, arguing against a royalties increase.   He’s echoing similar complaints made in other extractive industries.

*Australia.  Protesters in New South Wales have “shut down six sites operated by Whitehaven Coal [by chaining themselves] to gates, hanging from coal loaders and hooked on to heavy machinery”.  Acting Minister for Resources Kevin Humphries harrumphed that coal mining is “here to stay” and that he’ll deal only with locals and not with “professional protesters”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cutting Taxes on Rich, Raising Them for Others Won’t Boost Wisconsin Economy

By: WI Budget Project Tuesday September 30, 2014 3:02 pm

The best way to create jobs and build a broad-based prosperity in Wisconsin is to invest in excellent schools, safe communities, and a solid transportation network.

But a new report released today takes a different approach, claiming that giving big tax cuts to the rich and raising taxes for others would help the Wisconsin economy. The report, released by the conservative Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, repeats the myth that tax cuts create jobs, despite growing evidence to the contrary.

The report advocates changing the state’s tax mix to rely less on the income tax and more on the sales tax, a change the group says would boost the state’s economy. But what the report fails to mention is that the result would be big tax cuts for people with the highest incomes and higher taxes for everyone else. If Wisconsin eliminated the income tax and raised the sales tax to make up for the resulting revenue loss, the top 1% of earners in Wisconsin – a group with an average income of $1.1 million – would get a tax cut of a whopping $44,000 on average. Meanwhile, taxpayers in the bottom 20% would be paying $750 more in taxes on average.

The report urges lawmakers to broaden the base for the sales tax by increasing the number of goods and services subject to tax. While that sounds fairly innocuous, reading the fine print reveals that this includes applying the sales tax to grocery purchases. That’s one of the most damaging tax moves you can make for families with low incomes who are struggling to put food on the table. The report shrugs off the concern, noting that a refundable tax credit could provide tax relief for people with low incomes. That’s fine in theory, but Wisconsin lawmakers have shown little interest in expanding refundable tax credits, choosing to cut them instead.

As for tax cuts, they haven’t been contributing much to job growth in Wisconsin. State lawmakers have passed tax cuts totally nearly $2 billion over four years, but job growth in Wisconsin has been slower than the national average, and the overall size of Wisconsin’s economy has grown slower than the U.S. average as well.

Tax cuts haven’t done much to spur job growth in other states either. Lawmakers in Kansas and North Carolina made deep tax cuts, and both states have experienced disappointing levels of subsequent job growth. And as a result of the tax cuts, these states have fewer resources to support investments in public schools, higher education, and a healthy workforce – investments that, unlike tax cuts, have a proven track record for creating jobs.

To construct a strong economy in Wisconsin, we need to create opportunities for everyone to thrive. That means making the kinds of investments in our schools and communities that create shared prosperity and help make Wisconsin a good place to do business and raise families. We can’t create jobs and prosperity for Wisconsin with additional tax cuts, or by raising taxes on most people to pay for tax cuts to the rich.

From www.wisconsinbudgetproject.org.

How do you fight?

By: joe shikspack Tuesday September 30, 2014 1:09 pm

Lately I’ve been getting deluged with emails from politicians like President Obama, various Democratic Party fundraisers and political organizations that go a little like this:

Dear Joe,

Evil Republicans!

Koch Brothers!

The Senate!

I want to fight for you!

Can you help me out with $3, $5, $10 or more?

Really? These folks want to fight for me?

fight

Look Honey, there’s a fella in a thousand dollar suit who wants to fight for me!

Were these guys fighting for me when they failed to meaningfully address climate change, or when Mr. Obama created and doggedly stuck to his disasterous “all of the above” energy policy? Were these guys fighting for me when they extended yet again the endless war – draining the blood and treasure of America despite the fact that those we are wasting trillions to incinerate pose no imminent threat to the United States? How about when they set up the Catfood Commission and tried to grand bargain away some part of my Social Security benefits? Was “my team” fighting for me when they set up secret trade deals that give corporations vast powers to force their demands on communities and destroy the environment with impunity?

On National Day Of Maize In Mexico, Protecting The Sacred Plant

By: Other Worlds Tuesday September 30, 2014 12:49 pm

Adelita San Vicente Tello speaking at local celebration of Mexico’s first National Holiday of Native and Creole Seeds. Photo courtesy of Adelita San Vicente Tello.

By Adelita San Vicente Tello

September 30, 2014

Mexicans celebrated National Day of Maize yesterday, September 29, 2014, with demonstrations, marches, and expositions. Known as the Land of Maize, Mexico now imports one-third of this sacred icon and staple food, mostly from the US. A fierce battle is being waged over corn that is still grown in Mexico, with small farmers and seed sovereignty activists pitted against Monsanto and other GMO giants, the Mexican government, the US government, and the World Trade Organization.

Adelita San Vicente Tello is an agronomist with a master’s degree in rural development and a doctorate in agroecology. She is director of Seeds of Life (Semillas de Vida), a group promoting agro-biodiversity and protecting native corn. San Vicente is also a convener of the Mexico-wide food sovereignty coalition Without Corn, There Is No Country (Sin Maíz, No Hay País) and a member of the Union of Scientists Committed to Society (Unión de Científicos Comprometidos con la Sociedad).

 

Here we have an opportunity, which is that most corn is still produced by campesinos/as [small farmers]. They still use native seeds, and they use rainwater for sowing – even though they do it in soil that is very degraded and thus produces little. We consider this small-holder production to be an opportunity, because genetic reserves are stored in the native seeds. Traditional knowledge lies within them. This is really where the alternative lies for the food production model, especially when faced with the problem of climate change.

I work with an organization called Seeds of Life

Stupid Stuff on Steroids

By: williamboardman Tuesday September 30, 2014 11:22 am

 – Syria and Comic Book Thinking  –
American hysteria is a wondrous thing to behold. 

By William Boardman – Reader Supported News

                “This president needs to rise to the occasion
                           BEFORE WE ALL GET KILLED!”

Our hysteria is usually obvious in retrospect, whether the freak-out is over witches, labor unions, or communists. Hysteria is not always so easy to perceive as it happens or, in this case, as it is happening right now with ISIS-centric Islamophobia running rampant around the nation’s terror-drenched reptilian brain.

The collective rush to do “stupid stuff” kicked in with the mass-pavlovian response to cleverly-marketed, ISIS-produced infomercials featuring the beheading of two Americans (earlier beheadings of non-Americans failed to have the same effect). But killing Americans in the collective mind’s imaginary Islamistan hits the reflexively violent smack in the patriot-plexus and has them screaming for blood vengeance over an horrific but strategically meaningless bit of savagery. [Funny how the equally savage killing of other Americans with a chokehold in New York or a hail of bullets in Ferguson has so much less impact on rampant public moral outrage.]

That psychic selectivity over what savagery is objectionable and what is tolerable has a long American history, as illustrated by natives receiving blankets full of smallpox and all the other gifts of manifest destiny. Given the American pre-disposition for morally selective high dudgeon, the media manipulation of the mindset of the United States by slick snuff films begins to look savvy, strategic, and morbidly effective. From the perspective of ISIS, this bit of theatrical propaganda has succeeded beyond reasonable expectation: it has inflated the threatening image of ISIS from the reality a relatively small, regionally contained, regional band of pathological fundamentalists and their more numerous allies of convenience (which, from time to time, have included the U.S. and other NATO members).

In little more than a month, ISIS (aka ISIL, or IS, or Islamic State, or Islamic Caliphate) has changed little on the ground, while its image in American minds has morphed into a ginormous, imaginary monster capable of throwing a terrifying shadow of fear across the American continent thousands of miles away. This is not a rational perception, even though the president feeds into it (even if he knows better). This is panic, deeply rooted in comic book thinking.

Comic book thinking: never hard to find, but not always dominant

The Governor of Texas and other fear mongers, like Judicial Watch and Fox News, would have you believe there are agents of ISIS, the Islamic Caliphate, crossing the Rio Grande and making themselves at home in the American homeland undetected – except by these fearless watchdogs.

Engelhardt: Entering the Intelligence Labyrinth

By: Tom Engelhardt Tuesday September 30, 2014 8:36 am

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

Note for TomDispatch Readers: My new book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World (with an introduction by Glenn Greenwald), is now available everywhere.  If you’ve been a TomDispatch obsessive all these years, it’s your job to make it a success.  I’m counting on you!  If you want to support TomDispatch in an even bigger way, I’ll send you a signed, personalized copy of the book for a $100 donation to this site (which truly does help keep us alive). Check out the offer at our donation page.

About Shadow Government, Adam Hochschild, author most recently of To End All Wars, had this to say: “Tom Engelhardt is an iconoclast, but he also is the latest exemplar of a great American tradition. Like George Seldes and I.F. Stone before him, he has bypassed conventionally minded newspapers and magazines, and with his remarkable website and in books like this, found a way of addressing readers directly about the issues central to our time. Again and again, he goes to the heart of the matter, drawing on his awesomely wide reading, his knowledge of history, and his acute political radar system that uncovers small but deeply revealing nuggets of news and often makes me feel, enviously: how could I have missed that?”  And then there’s the book’s stunning cover photo (as well as the ones inside) by Trevor Paglen whose shots of the headquarters of our various intelligence services make you feel as if you’ve landed on another planet, which in a way you have. Tom]
 

Failure Is Success
How American Intelligence Works in the Twenty-First Century
By Tom Engelhardt

What are the odds? You put about $68 billion annually into a maze of 17 major intelligence outfits. You build them glorious headquarters.  You create a global surveillance state for the ages. You listen in on your citizenry and gather their communications in staggering quantities.  Your employees even morph into avatars and enter video-game landscapes, lest any Americans betray a penchant for evil deeds while in entertainment mode. You collect information on visits to porn sites just in case, one day, blackmail might be useful. You pass around naked photos of them just for… well, the salacious hell of it.  Your employees even use aspects of the system you’ve created to stalk former lovers and, within your arcane world, that act of “spycraft” gains its own name: LOVEINT.

Imagine There’re No Countries

By: David Swanson Tuesday September 30, 2014 8:01 am

 

A serious case has been made repeatedly by unknown scholars and globally celebrated geniuses for well over a century that a likely step toward abolishing war would be instituting some form of global government. Yet the peace movement barely mentions the idea, and its advocates as often as not appear rather naive about Western imperialism; certainly they are not central to or well integrated into the peace movement or even, as far as I can tell, into peace studies academia. (Here’s a link to one of the main advocacy groups for world government promoting a U.S. war on ISIS.)

All too often the case for world government is even made in this way: Global government would guarantee peace, while its absence guarantees war. The silliness of such assertions, I suspect, damages what may be an absolutely critical cause. Nobody knows what global government guarantees, because it’s never been tried. And if national and local governments and every other large human institution are any guide, global government could bring a million different things depending on how it’s done. The serious question should be whether there’s a way to do it that would make peace more likely, without serious risk of backfiring, and whether pursuing such a course is a more likely path to peace than others.

Does the absence of world government guarantee war? I haven’t seen any proof. Of 200 nations, 199 invest far less in war than the United States. Some have eliminated their militaries entirely. Costa Rica is not attacked because it lacks a military. The United States is attacked because of what its military does. Some nations go centuries without war, while others seemingly can’t go more than half an election cycle.  In their book One World Democracy, Jerry Tetalman and Byron Belitsos write that nations do not go to war because they are armed or inclined toward violence but because “they are hopelessly frustrated by the fact that they have no legislative or judicial forum in which their grievances can be heard and adjudicated.”

Can you, dear reader, recall a time when the U.S. public had a grievance with a foreign country, lamented the absence of a global court to adjudicate it, and demanded that Congress declare and the Pentagon wage a war?  How many pro-war marches have you been on, you lover of justice? When the Taliban offered to let a third country put Bin Laden on trial, was it the U.S. public that replied, “No way, we want a war,” or was it the President? When the U.S. Vice President met with oil company executives to plan the occupation of Iraq, do you think any of them mentioned their frustration at the weakness of international law and arbitration? When the U.S. President in 2013 could not get Congress or the public to accept a new war on Syria and finally agreed to negotiate the removal of chemical weapons without war, why was war the first choice rather than the second? When advocates of world government claim that democracies don’t wage war, or heavily armed nations are not more likely to wage war, or nations with cultures that celebrate war are not more likely to wage war, I think they hurt their cause.

When you start up a campaign to abolish the institution of war, you hear from all kinds of people who have the solution for you. And almost all of them have great ideas, but almost all of them think every other idea but their own is useless. So the solution is world government and nothing else, or a culture of peace and nothing else, or disarmament and nothing else, or ending racism and nothing else, or destroying capitalism and nothing else, or counter-recruitment and nothing else, or media reform and nothing else, or election campaign funding reform and nothing else, or creating peace in our hearts and radiating it outward and nothing else, etc. So those of us who find value in all of the above, have to encourage people to pick their favorite and get busy on it. But we also have to try to prioritize. So, again, the serious question is whether world government should be pursued and whether it should be a top priority or something that waits at the bottom of the list.

There are, of course, serious arguments that world government would make everything worse, that large government is inevitably dysfunctional and an absolutely large government would be dysfunctional absolutely.  Serious, if vague, arguments have been made in favor of making our goal “anarcracy” rather than world democracy. These arguments are overwhelmed in volume by paranoid pronouncements like the ones in this typical email I received: