‘Dark Cloud’ of ALEC Converges at Annual Corporate-Political Lovefest

Protesters carried signs and chanted “ALEC, go home” during an afternoon demonstration outside the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel on Wednesday. (Photo: Chris Stone/Times of San Diego)

This week, San Diego hosts ‘a festival of closed-door deal-making by politicians, corporate executives and lobbyists’

By Deirdre Fulton

Fighting to protect dark money. Attacking federal efforts to rein in carbon pollution. Undermining local democracy.

These are just some of the “hot topics” on the agenda this week as conservative lawmakers, corporate lobbyists, and top GOP candidates from around the country gather in San Diego for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)’s annual meeting.

“A dark cloud is headed our way in the form of a shadowy lobbying organization that buys loyalty from state legislatures with untraceable corporate dollars and threatens the very fabric of our democracy,” San Diego County Democratic Party chair Francine Busby wrote in advance of the conference.

ALEC, Busby explained, “is a ‘bill mill’ funded by corporations and billionaires. It creates ‘model legislation’ by and for industries, which right-wing legislators then take back to their statehouses and enact into law.”

Miles Rapoport, president of the grassroots advocacy organization Common Cause, described the meeting as “a festival of closed-door deal-making by politicians, corporate executives and lobbyists,” at which “[t]hey gather to do the public’s business in private, fashioning legislation that undercuts the public interest in things like clean air and water, quality public schools, economic fairness and participatory democracy.” (more…)

Late Night FDL: It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me

Billy Joel – It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me

Billy Joel: I am Dad Rock

Billy Joel is honoured to be a leading figure of the ‘dad rock’ movement.

The 66-year-old Grammy winning-musician hasn’t released an album since his 1993 offering River of Dreams, which went platinum in several countries.

Billy remains popular with younger generations and he has no idea how youth listeners catch wind of his music.

‘I don’t know! I haven’t figured it out. I assume they’re their own generation and they’ve got their own music. There’s a lot of stuff I don’t know about, like electronic dance music,’ he told Entertainment Weekly. ‘Yeah! That’s a whole other thing. But obviously they’ve heard my music somewhere. Whether their parents played it and it’s, like, dad rock, which I love. I love that expression! That’s what I am.’

Billy attended the legendary Woodstock festival in 1969, an event which is considered to be one of the major catalysts for all modern music festivals.

But the rock star didn’t really enjoy his time there.

‘I went to Woodstock. I didn’t play there, but I went up on a motorcycle, which was a good move because the highway was just a parking lot. I wanted to see Hendrix and the Who. But after a day and a half with no real toilet facilities.what am I, a bear? I have to go in the woods? There was a lot of mud and people were smoking a lot of pot and taking a lot of acid,’ Billy recalled, noting he wasn’t engaging in any drug use at the time.

‘I didn’t do anything back then. I drank a beer or something. The first day, I saw Santana. Or was it Joe Cocker? I was dirty and itchy and covered with poison ivy and I thought, ‘Just get me out of here! I’ve got to use a bathroom.’

What’s on your mind tonite…?

The Israel Lobby’s $50M Campaign Against The Iran Nuclear Deal

If the Iran deal passes, Israel loses. The Israel lobby is spending big on whatever it takes to make sure this doesn’t happen.

By Richard Silverstein

WASHINGTON — The next 60 days offer a fateful window through which Congress will review the Iran nuclear deal announced last week to great fanfare by the P5+1 powers and their Iranian counterparts.

At the end of this period, both the House and Senate will vote on the agreement. Though the GOP has a majority in the latter body, it’s by no means a given that the vote will go against the deal. The Los Angeles Times reports there may be a few Republican senators who can be swayed if public opinion is running in favor.

To that end, the various groups within the Israel lobby have announced a massive PR campaign seeking to move both public opinion and the votes of individual senators against the deal.

Last week, The New York Times reported that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a pro-Israel lobby, has created a stand-alone group, Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran, for this purpose. It plans to spend $20-40 million on the effort.

The group’s website doesn’t list staff and a board of directors. Instead it lists an “advisory board” consisting of the usual hawkish Democratic former senators, including Mark Begich, Joe Lieberman, Mary Landrieu, Evan Bayh, and former Rep. Shelley Berkley. Clearly, this isn’t an independent organization, but rather one established and controlled by AIPAC. Unlike some of groups below which are casting their nets wide, AIPAC seems to be targeting Democratic senators on the fence.

So far this year, according to U.S. Senate public records, AIPAC has spent nearly $2 million on direct lobbying, more than it’s ever spent in any previous six-month period since 1999. This is a further indication of the group’s dead-seriousness in pursuing the defeat of the Iran measure. (more…)

Fracked Earth Whirl

Protester “chipmunks” obstruct work at Utah tar sands mine.

By Kate Lanier

Mining and local communities: Scenes of conflict

__Pope Francis is at it again, saying there must be a “radical change” in the way mining industries interact with local communities and the environment. “The companies, the governments that are supposed to regulate them, investors and consumers … [of] mined material ‘are called to adopt behaviour inspired by the fact that we are all part of one human family.’”

__Utah “mining regulators have given the go-ahead for the next phase of the nation’s first commercial tar sands operation” in Uintah and Grand Counties. US Oil Sands of Calgary, Alberta, Canada will do the mining. State regulators will rely on the mine to “monitor for potential impacts to groundwater and comply with federal pollution standards.” Confident that’ll work?

__”Mining will never satisfy its appetite,” says San Carlos Apache Tribe Chairman Terry Rambler, whose tribe is in an “epic battle to save Oak Flat, its most revered sacred site.” Democracy Now interviews Wendsler Nosie Sr. of the San Carlos Apache Tribe and his granddaughter, Naelyn Pike, about the McCain-Flake giveaway of the sacred Apache site to Rio Tinto for a huge copper mine. The tribe has made a caravan from Arizona to Washington, DC in protest, with a nice assist from Neil Young.

__Uh-oh. Alaska Supreme Court has ruled that the popular initiative for restricting the Pebble mine project—which is on state land—“seriously impedes a regulatory process set out in state law and is unenforceable.” The proposed gold and copper Pebble mine is in the same area as “headwaters of a world-class salmon fishery.”

__Seems the US Forest Service got “thousands of public comments” so is now “considering a more stringent analysis of a mining proposal near Yellowstone National Park. British Columbia’s Lucky Minerals wants to “search for gold on federal and private land around Emigrant Peak in south-central Montana.”

__Imagine! A mining policy which gives “greater weight to social and environmental factors during the approval process.” That’s what’s been proposed for New South Wales, Australia, “giving hope” to those fighting such projects as Rio Tinto’s Mount Thorley Warkworth Hunter coal mine expansion.

__Meanwhile, Shenhua Watermark, a spectacularly huge open-cut coal mine in New South Wales, Australia, could have an unknown impact on local groundwater and underground aquifers, but there’s no plan showing how Shenhua would manage such a crisis.

__Australia’s Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, apparently is a coal-head, insisting that coal is “good for humanity.” His government’s approving coal mines all over the place. (more…)

Late Night FDL: Gimme Some Lovin’

The Spencer Davis Group – Gimme Some Lovin’

R.I.P. Eddie Hardin…!

Vocalist and pianist Eddie Hardin, best known for his work with Spencer Davis Group and Axis Point, has died at the age of 66.

He also collaborated with a wide range of rock artists including Ronnie James Dio and several members of Deep Purple.

His partner Liz says he suffered a heart attack yesterday (July 23) while relaxing in a swimming pool.

A post on Hardin’s website reports: “He first came to prominence with Spencer Davis Group, before quitting – and later returning – with drummer Pete York, to work as Hardin & York for years.

“Then there was Axis Point, with former Family members, and a string of brilliant solo albums. The Wizard’s Convention trilogy, with guest singers including David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes, stands out.

“Nobody but Eddie could pull out two beautiful animal concepts – The Butterfly Ball And The Grasshopper’s Feast, and Wind In The Willows.

“A master of memorable tunes, without whom there wouldn’t be the fantastic Love Is All that Ronnie James Dio sang, Eddie will be sorely missed.”

Hardin’s last blog entry was written after a concert in Germany last month. He said: “Eric Burdon’s band were great, and he still has the voice – but when do you actually say ‘Enough is enough’? I’m certainly reaching that stage.”

What’s on your mind tonite…?

Richard Silverstein On Israel’s Gag Orders And ‘The Middle East’s Only Democracy’

Tikun Olam’s Richard Silverstein
The article was originally published at MintPressNews.com.
By Sean Nevins

WASHINGTON — Though it describes itself as “the only democracy in the Middle East,” the Israeli government and military regularly impose gag orders to stop domestic media from reporting on sensitive information, including the detention of Israeli citizens by Hamas in Gaza, meetings between the Israeli Defense Forces and al-Qaida fighters, and the arrest of Israeli whistleblowers.

“Israel calls itself a democracy, but it really isn’t,” Richard Silverstein, a Seattle-based journalist, told MintPress News.

In addition to being a frequent contributor to MintPress, Silverstein is also the author of Tikun Olam, a progressive Jewish blog that frequently breaks stories Israeli domestic media are prevented from covering due to gag orders.

And he isn’t the only one arguing that Israel, which controls the fate of 4.5 million Palestinians who cannot vote, isn’t a democracy: Last year, The Economist named Tunisia as the only democracy in the Middle East.

Silverstein says the Israeli government targets free speech and freedom of the press with censorship and gag orders, subverting the democratic drive.

Censorship is imposed by the military, which has a mandate to protect state security, Silverstein said, noting: “Security, as the government defines it, trumps everything.”

Censorship is likely to come into play when a journalist reports on sensitive topics — a new weapons technology like a drone, for example.

Gag orders are a broader form of censorship implemented in criminal and intelligence matters. For example, if a person is accused of rape, and the victim wants the story to be known, the lawyer representing the accused can go to a judge and argue that publication of the incident could harm his client. In this case, the judge might issue a gag order to stop any reporting on the case.

But gag orders are also used in intelligence matters, explained Silverstein, and anything that could cause political embarrassment or damage is broadly interpreted to be a threat to the government. (more…)

Late Night FDL: Minion

Spock’s Beard – Minion

UK Prog Rockers, Spock’s Beard rips into the British austerity regime in Minion…

It’s taken from the prog veterans’ 12th album The Oblivion Particle, set for launch on August 21 via InsideOut.

Bassist Dave Meros recently described the follow-up to 2013’s Brief Nocturnes And Dreamless Sleep as a departure for the band.

He said: “Opening track Tides of Time is classic Spock’s in terms of arrangement and style – but everything else is fairly different. The whole album is still within the parameters of what people expect to hear from us.”

They tour Europe starting in September, with support from UK outfit Synaesthesia and Hungarians Special Providence.

What’s on your mind tonite…?

The Eurasian Big Bang: How China and Russia Are Running Rings Around Washington

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Putin, China’s President Xi Jinping, and South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma

By Pepe Escobar

Let’s start with the geopolitical Big Bang you know nothing about, the one that occurred just two weeks ago. Here are its results: from now on, any possible future attack on Iran threatened by the Pentagon (in conjunction with NATO) would essentially be an assault on the planning of an interlocking set of organizations — the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization), the EEU (Eurasian Economic Union), the AIIB (the new Chinese-founded Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank), and the NDB (the BRICS’ New Development Bank) — whose acronyms you’re unlikely to recognize either. Still, they represent an emerging new order in Eurasia.

Tehran, Beijing, Moscow, Islamabad, and New Delhi have been actively establishing interlocking security guarantees. They have been simultaneously calling the Atlanticist bluff when it comes to the endless drumbeat of attention given to the flimsy meme of Iran’s “nuclear weapons program.” And a few days before the Vienna nuclear negotiations finally culminated in an agreement, all of this came together at a twin BRICS/SCO summit in Ufa, Russia — a place you’ve undoubtedly never heard of and a meeting that got next to no attention in the U.S. And yet sooner or later, these developments will ensure that the War Party in Washington and assorted neocons (as well as neoliberalcons) already breathing hard over the Iran deal will sweat bullets as their narratives about how the world works crumble.

The Eurasian Silk Road (more…)

Late Night FDL: Baltimore

Prince – Baltimore

Prince released his Baltimore video yesterday…

Prince’s “Baltimore” — honoring 25-year-old Freddie Gray, whose death incited protests in the city — now has a powerful video that drives home the song’s message about police brutality and the subsequent fight for justice.

The video lays the ballad’s thought-provoking lyrics over images of peaceful marchers and footage from the Rally 4 Peace concert in Baltimore on May 10, just one day before Prince debuted the song on SoundCloud. The song features Eryn Allen Kane.

Gray was arrested without probable cause on April 12 and died April 19 from spinal-cord injuries sustained while in custody. A grand jury on May 21 indicted the six police officers allegedly involved in Gray’s death, just weeks after Baltimore State Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s office filed criminal charges against them on May 1, including manslaughter and second degree depraved-heart murder.

Prince ends his protest video with this message:

What’s on your mind tonite…?

The Spirit of Judy Miller is Alive and Well at the NYT, and It Does Great Damage

‘All anyone in government has to do,’ explains Greenwald, ‘is whisper something in [a NYT] journalists’ ears, demand anonymity for it, and instruct them to print it. Then they obey.’

By Glenn Greenwald

One of the very few Iraq War advocates to pay any price at all was former New York Times reporter Judy Miller, the classic scapegoat. But what was her defining sin? She granted anonymity to government officials and then uncritically laundered their dubious claims in the New York Times. As the paper’s own editors put it in their 2004 mea culpa about the role they played in selling the war: “We have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been. In some cases, information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged.” As a result, its own handbook adopted in the wake of that historic journalistic debacle states that “anonymity is a last resort.”

But 12 years after Miller left, you can pick up that same paper on any given day and the chances are high that you will find reporters doing exactly the same thing. In fact, its public editor, Margaret Sullivan, regularly lambasts the paper for doing so. Granting anonymity to government officials and then uncritically printing what these anonymous officials claim, treating it all as Truth, is not an aberration for the New York Times. With some exceptions among good NYT reporters, it’s an institutional staple for how the paper functions, even a decade after its editors scapegoated Judy Miller for its Iraq War propaganda and excoriated itself for these precise methods.

That the New York Times mindlessly disseminates claims from anonymous officials with great regularity is, at this point, too well-documented to require much discussion. But it is worth observing how damaging it continues to be, because, shockingly, all sorts of self-identified “journalists” — both within the paper and outside of it — continue to equate un-verified assertions from government officials as Proven Truth, even when these officials are too cowardly to attach their names to these claims, as long as papers such as the NYT launder them.

Let’s look at an illustrative example from yesterday to see how this toxic process works. The New York Times published an article about ISIS by Eric Schmitt and Ben Hubbard based entirely and exclusively on unproven claims from officials of the U.S. government and its allies, to whom they (needless to say) granted anonymity. The entire article reads exactly like an official press release: Paragraph after paragraph does nothing other than summarize the claims of anonymous officials, without an iota of questioning, skepticism, scrutiny or doubt.

Read the full article at The Intercept.

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© 2015 The Intercept / First Look Media