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.

George Zimmerman on tape

A video taken by the Sanford PD , which ABC News obtained and broadcast, shows an apparently uninjured George Zimmerman exiting a squad car and entering the Department office complex (h/t Phoenix Woman):

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.


The 1,000,000 Hoodie March and the Occupy Movement

The Occupy Movement has just taken up Trayvon Martin’s cause. Martin was the Florida youth recently killed by George Zimmerman, a community watch member, for walking while black through Zimmerman’s gated community. The community is located in Sanford, Florida. Martin was visiting his father at his father’s girlfriend’s home at the time of the killing. Martin was rightfully walking the streets of that Community since his father’s girlfriend lived in the community.

It is noteworthy that Zimmerman, a mixed race man, had prior contact with law enforcement because of incidents in which he had acted violently or had posed a threat to another person. On the other hand, Martin, a young black male and a high school student of good standing, lacked a criminal record, was never a suspect in a crime, etc. Despite these differences and the fact that Martin had not committed a crime before Zimmerman shot and killed him, the Sanford Police Department exonerated Zimmerman for his killing of Martin. It did so because Zimmerman had appealed to Florida’s Stand-Your-Ground self-defense laws. Zimmerman claimed that Martin was a threat to him. Yet there is no sound evidence whatsoever indicating Martin threatened Zimmerman, anyone else or anyone’s property while he walked to his father’s girlfriend’s home. This lack of evidence makes Zimmerman’s shooting of Martin appear wholly unjustified. There is evidence supporting the claim that Zimmerman confronted Martin without police authorization.

At first glance, the Martin killing evokes images of racial profiling by the assailant, George Zimmerman, and the Sanford Police Department, while it also exposes the mindless brutality of a law that authorizes gun carriers to shoot-to-kill those individuals the gun holder believes to be a threat and wherever they feel threatened. Moreover, ambiguous evidence (an audibly distorted 911 call) exists which indicates the presence of a racial bias in Zimmerman during his confrontation with Martin. This bias, should it be proven to have existed at the time of Martin’s death, would undermine Zimmerman’s self-defense claims. It would also expose Zimmerman to manslaughter or second degree murder charges.

The Million Hoodie March was a collective expression of a demand for justice to be achieved in the Martin killing. But it was also more. The March gained in significance because it occurred in New York City (a place which specializes in racially motivated policing and low-consequences police brutality) and included the Occupy Movement as a significant element in the protest. The March not only affirmed prior protest actions that had occurred in Florida, as it was meant to do, it added to them. It thus registered more than a public’s disgust with racist violence; the protest also reflected the growth of a multi-class and multi-identity movement for justice in the United States. In the wake of this protest action critics of the Occupy Movement can no longer plausibly claim that a local Occupation is an instance of single-issue movement focused only on Wall Street. (Although, some have criticized the Occupy Movement for seeking to co-opt the Million Hoodie March. It appears that they find cross-movement solidarity troubling.) The March also shows the support of the Movement for Black American civil rights advocates and those committed to defending minorities from police harassment and discrimination. Anti-racism and the demand for social justice have much in common, of course, and the building of a cross-class and multi-identity movement is the goal pursued by most left protest movements.

In the end, the Million Hoodie March ought to be considered a positive development in struggle for justice in the United States. It reflected the strength of two important social movements while demanding justice in the Trayvon Martin killing.


The Million Hoodie March