In late July, shortly after the launch of ALECexposed.org, Lousiana State Rep.Noble Ellington, a Republican from the state's 20th district and the national chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Council, spoke to NPR about the recent spate of criticism leveled at his organization. When discussing the behind-closed-doors process used to craft ALEC model legislation, Ellington dismissed concerns raised by NPR, assuring interviewer Terry Gross that the public "have an opportunity to talk to their legislators about the legislation -- so I don't see how you can get more transparent than that."
On Wednesday morning, a group of Americans from across the political spectrum, and the country, held a press conference in New Orleans to highlight the devastating impact of the "model" legislation voted on by corporations through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
The event, hosted by People for the American Way and moderated by Center for Media and Democracy Executive Director Lisa Graves, was held directly across the street from ALEC's 38th annual meeting, where corporate lobbyists and state legislators gathered to attend Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindall's PhRMA-sponsored keynote address.
By Katya Szabados
(From CMD: This report was originally printed as the cover story in the March 2, 2004 edition of the Madison-based newspaper "The Wisconsinite," titled "Dr. No and the Spectre of ALEC." While written more than seven years ago, the story it tells about the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and its role in Wisconsin government is illuminating and remains relevant today.
A former executive who in 1996 helped launch Rupert Murdoch's Fox News, told the UK Telegraph that at the time Fox News had a high-security "black ops" department he called a "brain room" at its New York headquarters where employees carried out counterintelligence on the channel's enemies, including illegally hacking private telephone records. Former Fox News managing editor Dan Cooper said he helped design the unit, which employed 15 researchers who worked behind a guarded door. Another former Fox News senior executive who asked to have his name withheld told the Telegraph that the Fox Channel ran an internal "Soviet-Style" spying network tasked with reading the emails of Fox News staff to make sure they weren't leaking information to outside media. The channel denies all the allegations, and a spokesman for Fox News says Cooper was fired six weeks after the Fox News Channel was launched, and that he has "peddled these lies for the past 15 years." The FBI is currently investigating charges that journalists at a Murdoch-owned British newspaper, News of the World, may have tried to hack into 9/11 victims' phones. Both Mr. Cooper and the unnamed executive said they thought Mr. Ailes would not have let his reporters engage in such activities.
The American Legislative Exchange Council's Annual Meetings and Task Force Summits are held in some of the nation's top travel destinations, at swanky hotels where state legislators and corporate executives enjoy lavish accommodations and exclusive excursions.
The efforts of Google, Yahoo, Facebook and other major websites to tailor our online experiences to our supposed interests can affect our ability to get a view of the world the way it really is. Instead, we are fed a view of the world that these organizations "think" we'd like to see. Google, Yahoo, Facebook and other websites use proprietary algorithms to "personalize" news for us -- that is, to select news they think we will like to see -- not to select news that challenges the user, contradicts his or her views or that the user would be unlikely to see. The algorithms work invisibly, so users have no way of knowing what the websites are editing out and preventing us from seeing. The algorithms pick information based on what we usually look at, resulting in a feedback loop that Internet guru Eli Pariser calls "autopropaganda" -- unknowingly indoctrinating yourself with your own views. If you and another person you don't know both perform a search on Google on the exact same term, you can both get shockingly different results, based on Google's analysis of what each of you usually look at. What this means is that Internet users essentially get an edited worldview based on personal information over which they have no control. The fact that this activity is hidden leaves users without the ability to seek out sources of information and news with which they are unfamiliar, that might challenge them or give them a broader view of the world.
The ex-girlfriend of Wisconsin & Southern Railroad CEO William Gardner is speaking out about her decision to tell authorities about his illegal campaign activities and their apparent pay-for-play relationship.
Last January, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) and New York radio station WNYC sought help from the public to find out which senator put an anonymous secret hold on the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, killing the bill at the end of the last congressional term. The bill would have assured protection for government workers who expose illegal activities, waste and corruption. It was tremendously popular with the public and had won unanimous approval in the House when a single, unnamed senator put a "secret hold" on the bill, preventing it from going to the full Senate for a vote. The Government Accountability Project vowed to conduct "a relentless search to find the politician who is a cowardly enemy of taxpayers." WNYC asked listeners to call their Senators and ask if they were responsible for the secret hold that killed this important bill. Finally GAP narrowed the field to two possibilities: either Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Arizona), or Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama). In January, the Senate voted 92-4 to change the rules governing the secret hold to make it harder to use, and GAP's project to expose the senator who used it against the Whistleblower Protection Act has made senators more hesitant to use it. It also brought new attention to the Act, which will be reintroduced in the Senate in the current session.
The world recently discovered that 22 year old, alleged Wikileaker Bradley Manning was subject to inhumane and degrading conditions while being held in military prison. Were his wardens fired? No, the head on the chopping block is State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley, who denounced Manning's treatment in an off-the-cuff remark on a college campus.
Obama's acquiescence over the status of Guantanamo Bay has brought attention back to the detention facility and the controversial information extraction and confinement practices which are carried out behind its walls. While most Americans probably think that these harsh procedures are reserved for violent "enemy combatants," they would be surprised to learn that some of the same techniques are used on American citizens on U.S. soil.
But that is precisely what seems to be happening to Manning, the Army Private accused of supplying WikiLeaks with sensitive information.
On February 11, 2011, after 30 years of dictatorship, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak announced he was stepping down. As ancient pharaohs slumbered inside, a crowd of over a million surrounded the rose-colored Cairo Museum setting off fireworks and jumping for joy as they peacefully forced a modern pharaoh to flee. This hopeful moment will be studied for years, and no topic will be more hotly debated than the role of social media in the uprising.