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For Leap Year, Occupy takes on ALEC

By CL - Posted on 21 February 2012

February 29 comes but once every four years, and the Occupy movement has chosen to make good use of the extra day this month. In some 60 cities across the nation, Occupiers will be protesting the insidious ALEC—the American Legislative Exchange Council—and the corporations it benefits and which fund it. Very worthy targets. The New York Times editors offer a succinct summary:

The American Legislative Exchange Council was founded in 1973 by the right-wing activist Paul Weyrich; its big funders include Exxon Mobil, the Olin and Scaife families and foundations tied to Koch Industries. Many of the largest corporations are represented on its board.

ALEC has written model legislation on a host of subjects dear to corporate and conservative interests, and supporting lawmakers have introduced these bills in dozens of states. A recent study of the group’s impact in Virginia showed that more than 50 of its bills were introduced there, many practically word for word.

The damage done by the corporations that fund ALEC and its stable of mostly Republican legislators is immense and on-going.

You can find out a lot more about ALEC here, the corporations that pay the bills here, its board members here, politicians it is connected to here and information about specific Feb. 29 actions here.

I can hear the sighs from here. Another protest? What for? In fact, these locally organized, nationally networked, peaceful direct actions constitute just one element in a renewed struggle to pry our democracy from the grasp of corporate dominance. The CEOs won't be waving a white flag at the end of the day. The ALEC board won't resign en masse. But that doesn't mean the actions will have failed. Only that we must do more of the same, as well as take many additional approaches, to achieve our objectives.

We who seek change, real change, must be as committed and hard-nosed and in it for the long haul as those who have used ALEC as a means to their ends, which are, so much of the time, enhancement of the bottom line at the expense of the public's health, safety and well-being.

Street politics always get a bad rap in American discourse. Mischaracterized by an ever-more concentrated and conservative megamedia, misdirected by infiltrators, agents provocateursand supposed allies with their own counterproductive agendas, mistaken for a threat to—rather than an enhancement of—democracy, movements like the one organizing the Leap Year action face an array of obstacles just to get heard. And that's before they have to deal with the pepperspray and other antics of officialdumb. To top it off there is always somebody on the sidelines telling you that you're doing it all wrong.

Building a movement is hard, hard work. Plenty of people get disillusioned along the way, often before things really get rolling. Excuses abound. The opposition is too tough, group dynamics too messy, egos too annoying and too many people seem to want to reinvent the wheel at every meeting. Sticking with it takes commitment and sacrifice, often with family and friends and perhaps co-workers suggesting and even demanding that it's time to give it up. The corporadoes count on this. And when they actually do see a threat to their power, rather than a nuisance, they crank up their well-funded machinery to smack us down.

Surrender is truly not an option. Decades of bad policies from the center, right and far right combined with paltry resistance from the left have squeezed vast numbers of Americans in an economic bind, or two paychecks away from one. The acute crisis of the past four years has brought the chronic problems into sharper focus. Chief among them is an inequality not just in wealth and income but also in what that inequality can purchase. And one of those things is ALEC.

From Portland, Ore., to Savannah, from Milwaukee to Phoenix, protesters will be exposing the corporatists to an ever-more receptive public and delivering a message to ALEC and its angels: You don't own us. We're going to get back what you've taken.

Get in touch with your local Feb. 29th organizers. Support them. Join them.

Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2009:

President Barack Obama's Tuesday announcement that the U.S. will be adding 17,000 fresh troops to those already fighting in Afghanistan upended hopes among some progressives that the 60-day policy review he announced February 10 would be completed before any such surge. As has been becoming publicly clear for a while now, progressives themselves are split on the issue.

A few have complained that those who are objecting to Obama's course should have spoken up during his election campaign. This, delivered with a straight face in spite of the fact that there was broad progressive consensus that getting into a fight over Afghanistan would not help Obama's chances against McCain. So progressives who opposed a troop escalation in Afghanistan kept mostly silent. Back then, their perspective was simply that there would be time after November 4 to persuade Obama that expanding the U.S. military presence was a bad idea. But since they shut up then in the interests of the greater good, they are told they should shut up now because they didn't speak up then. Catch-22, subsection 3.

What was a campaign is now an administration. And while diplomacy and rebuilding efforts will surely be getting more attention, there is now every possibility that U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan will double, bringing the total NATO and American armed forces in that country close to 100,000. The NATO contingents are iffy in the long run, but the hints from generals like Petraeus, Odierno and McKiernan indicate that Americans could remain there for five years or more. In the view of some, including progressives, why not? After all, the U.S. still has tens of thousands of troops in Germany and Japan, and look how that turned out. Others see: quagmire. [...]