Think ALEC

Judd Legum of ThinkProgress reported that:

Police Chief Steve Bracknell, who is responsible for the Florida town where George Zimmerman resides, agreed in a series of emails that Zimmerman is a “ticking time bomb” and another “Sandy Hook” waiting to happen.

Bracknell expressed his views in response to two emails from Santiago Rodriguez, who reached Bracknell through a contact form on the police department’s website. Bracknell confirmed the emails’ authenticity to ThinkProgress and subsequently tried to distance himself from the remarks.

ALEC refers, of course, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a well-funded policy shop dedicated to promoting a reactionary politics (about which, see this) and the source (.pdf) of the “stand your ground” legislation which protected George Zimmerman after he killed Trayvon Martin.

Paranoia the destroyer

Shocking?

According to a recent report in the Palm Beach Post:

A new Florida law that contributed to long voter lines and caused some to abandon voting altogether was intentionally designed by Florida GOP staff and consultants to inhibit Democratic voters, former GOP officials and current GOP consultants have told The Palm Beach Post.

Republican leaders said in proposing the law that it was meant to save money and fight voter fraud. But a former GOP chairman and former Gov. Charlie Crist, both of whom have been ousted from the party, now say that fraud concerns were advanced only as subterfuge for the law’s main purpose: GOP victory.

Former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer says he attended various meetings, beginning in 2009, at which party staffers and consultants pushed for reductions in early voting days and hours.

“The Republican Party, the strategists, the consultants, they firmly believe that early voting is bad for Republican Party candidates,” Greer told The Post. “It’s done for one reason and one reason only. … ‘We’ve got to cut down on early voting because early voting is not good for us,’ ” Greer said he was told by those staffers and consultants.

“They never came in to see me and tell me we had a (voter) fraud issue,” Greer said. “It’s all a marketing ploy.”

No, it is not at all shocking.

Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton,
Old times there are not forgotten,
Look away, look away, look away Dixie Land.

Indentured servitude in Florida

Writing for In These Times, Michele Chen reports that:

They called it “The Bullpen.” Farm workers were roped in from the street by recruiters and herded into the enclosed camp, where they worked during the day and slept in dirty, overcrowded bunks rife with bugs. Some, according to the workers’ legal complaint, wrestled with grinding drug addictions and were sated periodically by dealers who would come by to sink them deeper into debt and dependency.

Though reminiscent of any chain gang from the old South, this labor camp was in modern-day Florida, and these human chattel were harvesting vegetables that might have nourished your family. Brought by the legal advocacy groups Farmworker Justice (FWJ) and Florida Legal Services, this landmark suit alleges a group of homeless men were taken from Jacksonville to the Bulls-Hit Ranch and Farm in nearby Hastings by recruiters, to work the yearly potato harvests in 2009 and 2010.

There, according to the suit, which recently reached a partial settlement, they were warehoused in squalor with inadequate food and filthy surroundings. Drugs from outside “were sold to workers on a daily basis, openly and in plain view of everyone at the camp.” The complaint charges that agent who recruited them, Ronald Uzzle, earned his keep by skimming their wages for housing and food from week to week. Bulls-Hit also served as their loan shark. Uzzle and another employee  known as “Too Tall” allegedly lent them money at “usurious interest rates of 100 percent.” Workers sank deeper into debt when dealers sold them drugs “on credit,” to be paid back when they could collect their wages later on.

George Zimmerman was charged with second degree murder

The charge carries a 25 year minimum sentence for the convicted.

George Zimmerman will be charged this afternoon

Citing an anonymous source, the Washington Post reported that “Florida special prosecutor Angela Corey plans to announce as early as Wednesday afternoon that she is charging neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in the shooting of Trayvon Martin.” This report follows by one day the withdrawal of Zimmerman’s attorneys from the case. Zimmerman’s attorney’s suggested that Zimmerman is not now located in the state of Florida.

Paul Krugman on ALEC

ALEC is the acronym of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a self-proclaimed non-partisan think tank which drafts legislation which is often made into law by the various states. For instance, ALEC wrote for and promoted the “kill at will” or “stand your ground” legislation that recently resulted in the Trayvon Martin killing. As a consequence of its efforts in this matter, ALEC has become a focal point for the Justice for Trayvon Martin movement. ALEC has earned this critical attention for the Martin killing and for much else, including Scott Walker‘s attack on the state of Wisconisn.

Krugman’s description of ALEC is both accurate and critical in intent:

What is ALEC? Despite claims that it’s nonpartisan, it’s very much a movement-conservative organization, funded by the usual suspects: the Kochs, Exxon Mobil, and so on. Unlike other such groups, however, it doesn’t just influence laws, it literally writes them, supplying fully drafted bills to state legislators. In Virginia, for example, more than 50 ALEC-written bills have been introduced, many almost word for word. And these bills often become law.

Many ALEC-drafted bills pursue standard conservative goals: union-busting, undermining environmental protection, tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. ALEC seems, however, to have a special interest in privatization — that is, on turning the provision of public services, from schools to prisons, over to for-profit corporations. And some of the most prominent beneficiaries of privatization, such as the online education company K12 Inc. and the prison operator Corrections Corporation of America, are, not surprisingly, very much involved with the organization.

What this tells us, in turn, is that ALEC’s claim to stand for limited government and free markets is deeply misleading. To a large extent the organization seeks not limited government but privatized government, in which corporations get their profits from taxpayer dollars, dollars steered their way by friendly politicians. In short, ALEC isn’t so much about promoting free markets as it is about expanding crony capitalism.

ALEC — the well-funded defender and promoter of crony capitalism, desiccated democracy, political opacity and unaccountability as well as the socio-political environment which nurtures economic predation. In the last instance, it appears that Trayvon Martin was just unlucky prey for ALEC and some of its tools (George Zimmerman, the Florida state legislators linked to ALEC who passed
Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, etc.). But it is wise to keep one’s attention on the fact that Trayvon Martin was prey because the most Americans are prey.

Quote of the day

Rob Urie recently addressed institutional racism in America in light of the Trayvon Martin killing. During this discussion he observed:

The canard of “crime” reduction used to justify the innocent Trayvon’s murder relies on definitions of criminality devised by the perpetrators of racist violence and by those who benefit economically and politically from the continuation of this system of racial oppression. Even if the innocent Trayvon had been doing what white racists feared that he was, his murder would still have been entirely unjustified by any act short of pulling a loaded gun and threatening to shoot the perpetrator. And if racially neutral definitions of criminality based on actual social harms caused were used most of America’s ruling class would be behind bars.

Has modern American suffered any greater disaster than that caused by America’s long, hot War on Drugs (Crime)? I don’t believe so.