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Tag: Texas

Exposing ALEC’s “Corporate Sausage Factory” In Dallas

Posted in Journalism, MintPress News, and Occupy Wall Street

We’d gathered at Eddie Deen’s Ranch to interrupt the American Legislative Exchange Council at dinner. I was wearing a pink cowboy hat, temporarily inducted into the CODEPINK Posse, an effort organized by the local branch of the well-known national rabble rousers for peace. About 30 of us stood along the sidewalk outside the Ranch, watched by a half-dozen police officers looking bored, a chatty police detective and a pair of startled horses held by two men dressed as cowboys. Overhead, an airplane circled, towing a warning about corporate corruption.

Powerful people in suits laughed at us and snapped smartphone photos as they disembarked from the chartered buses they rode to the Western-themed restaurant. It was July 31 and ALEC was in town for its 41st meeting. After the first of several days of corporate backroom deals at the Hilton Anatole, ALEC’s members wanted to pretend they were cowboys while they ate.

The buses kept coming and out poured some of the world’s most powerful: corporate executives, rich investors, state legislators and their families. Though they’d normally disdain public transportation — when they aren’t orchestrating cuts against it in the name of austerity — I imagined the atmosphere on the bus was jovial, as if the “1%” was on a field trip.

CODEPINK are no strangers to using humor to fight evil. Duded up in pink Western-wear, with faux handcuffs and a “RUN ALEC OUT OF TEXAS” banner, they were aiming for laughter. As the suits’ humor peaked, CODEPINK Dallas — mostly older women — began chanting, “WE MAY BE FUNNY, BUT YOU ARE CORRUPT!”

Speaking out is thirsty, thankless work in the Texas heat. After two hours, a Ranch worker dressed as a cowboy brought us all bottled water.

Exposing Breitbart’s Lies At ALEC 41

Posted in Journalism, and MintPress News

In his recent article “Code Pink Stages Mini Protest at ALEC National Conference,” Breitbart.com’s California correspondent Jon Fleischman fabricates an encounter with an activist, erases a full day of anti-corporate protest, and makes a major source of corporate corruption in American state politics seem like a benign force for social good — all in just 250 words.

ALEC is the American Legislative Exchange Council, which has helped corporations and rich private investors pass conservative legislation for over 40 years. The legislation is written by the corporations, then passed by conservative state legislators selected and groomed by the group. The group has faced increasing criticism and protest in recent years, especially since the 2011 publication of the Center for Media and Democracy’s ALECexposed.org, a site with hundreds of these model bills and a partial membership list of the organization. Several corporate members have dropped out of the group under this pressure.

Among other policies, ALEC lobbies for the privatization of education and police and undermines laws that encourage the use of renewable energy. It also crafted the Stand Your Ground legislation that may have contributed to the death of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of his killer, George Zimmerman.

Fleischman describes seeing a small group of protesters led by CODEPINK Dallas outside the cowboy-themed restaurant Eddie Deen’s Ranch, where ALEC held a kick-off dinner on the first night of its 41st national conference. Since the article features a photo of the group from inside the restaurant’s property, it’s clear that Fleischman was present on the night of July 30, 2014. But the rest departs significantly from reality.

Video: 5,000 Texans March For Gaza

Posted in Austin, Journalism, and MintPress News

“But we do not have much time. The revolutionary spirit is already worldwide. If the anger of the peoples of the world at the injustice of things is to be channeled into a revolution of love and creativity, we must begin now to work, urgently, with all people, to shape a new world.”

On Aug. 2, Sheikh Islam Mossaad ended his speech at the Texas Stands With Gaza rally by quoting these words of Martin Luther King, Jr. The quotation was preceded by a passionate speech invoking the spirit of dead Palestinian children and calling on the living youth of the world to take up their struggle.

It set the tone for a historic moment — the largest rally for Gaza in the Lone Star State since the beginning of Israel’s military offensive dubbed Operation Protective Edge, and likely the largest pro-Palestine rally ever in the state. A crowd of thousands grew through the speeches and swelled further as it turned from a rally on the state capitol grounds to a march down Congress, the central artery running through downtown Austin, to City Hall. People came off the sidewalks to stand against Israel’s war crimes, to stand with an oppressed people, until the peaceful march stretched to five blocks long and included at least 5,000 Gaza supporters.

Vessel: Former Greenpeace Doctor Offers Worldwide Abortion Access (#SXSW)

Posted in Journalism, and SXSW

Every 10 minutes, a woman dies from a botched abortion. That’s 47,000 women every year. But what if there were an extremely safe way women could self-administer abortion, without needing the permission of the medical establishment or the state?

Vessel — the first documentary from filmmaker Diana Whitten — studies one woman’s efforts to get the abortion pill and the information needed to use it to women worldwide.

Dr. Rebecca Gomperts worked as a ships doctor aboard Greenpeace vessels but realized she could target a more personal issue — abortion. Because she’s from the Netherlands, where abortion is legal, she realized that if she took a ship into international waters she could help women get abortions even if they were illegal in their home country.

Above All Else: The Beauty & Tragedy of Tar Sands Blockade (#SXSW)

Posted in Journalism, and SXSW

The most emotionally devastating and artistically gifted scene in Above All Else, John Fiege’s new climate change documentary, comes late in the film. Deep in the night, East Texas landowner David Daniel hikes through the darkness to an environmental activist encampment where he has to deliver bad news. The scene is lit only by the head lamps that Daniel and the others wear, highlighting or obscuring their grief-stricken faces. Around them is the hush and murmur of the forest. It’s a scene that may have occurred millions of times through history — a half dozen humans, alone among untouched wildness, sharing their pain.

By the early months of 2012, after every Occupy camp in Texas had been evicted, the state became the sight of a dramatic new, ongoing protest: the Tar Sands Blockade. Though largely ignored by the national environmental advocacy groups that had fought to delay the Keystone XL Pipeline, construction of the southern leg of the pipeline continued, cutting across beautiful, untouched Texas wild lands and waterways.

Until police violence and a legal settlement forced a halt to action, the Blockade operated almost continuously from the famous tree village through dozens of smaller direct actions, working from landowners’ property and a secluded tent village. Though the movement attracted many Occupiers and long time activists, it also drew many who’d never taken a stand before — Texas landowners, parents and grandparents who wanted East Texas (and Planet Earth) to be beautiful and life sustaining for their children. The Blockade was truly a citizen’s movement.