‘Dark Cloud’ of ALEC Converges at Annual Corporate-Political Lovefest

Protesters carried signs and chanted “ALEC, go home” during an afternoon demonstration outside the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel on Wednesday. (Photo: Chris Stone/Times of San Diego)

This week, San Diego hosts ‘a festival of closed-door deal-making by politicians, corporate executives and lobbyists’

By Deirdre Fulton

Fighting to protect dark money. Attacking federal efforts to rein in carbon pollution. Undermining local democracy.

These are just some of the “hot topics” on the agenda this week as conservative lawmakers, corporate lobbyists, and top GOP candidates from around the country gather in San Diego for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)’s annual meeting.

“A dark cloud is headed our way in the form of a shadowy lobbying organization that buys loyalty from state legislatures with untraceable corporate dollars and threatens the very fabric of our democracy,” San Diego County Democratic Party chair Francine Busby wrote in advance of the conference.

ALEC, Busby explained, “is a ‘bill mill’ funded by corporations and billionaires. It creates ‘model legislation’ by and for industries, which right-wing legislators then take back to their statehouses and enact into law.”

Miles Rapoport, president of the grassroots advocacy organization Common Cause, described the meeting as “a festival of closed-door deal-making by politicians, corporate executives and lobbyists,” at which “[t]hey gather to do the public’s business in private, fashioning legislation that undercuts the public interest in things like clean air and water, quality public schools, economic fairness and participatory democracy.” (more…)

Feds indict former Georgia deputy sheriff for her role in botched SWAT raid that maimed toddler

In the early morning hours of May 28, 2014, Nikki Autry, a deputy sheriff in Habersham County, Georgia, presented a search warrant affidavit to the magistrate judge, swearing under oath that a known confidential informant who had been reliable in the past purchased a small amount of methamphetamine from an individual standing outside a residence. Based on this information, the judge issued a “no-knock” warrant. At 2:30 AM, SWAT officers performed a paramilitary-style SWAT raid on the home, where residents included four children under the age of eight. The SWAT team broke down the door while the family slept, and tossed a flash bang grenade into one of the rooms. The grenade landed inside a 19-month-old baby’s crib.

When the grenade exploded, it blew a hole so deep in the baby’s chest that his ribs were exposed. The baby’s face was disfigured and third-degree burns covered his body. “Baby Bou Bou” fought for his life for several weeks in a burn unit, in a medically induced coma. Washington Times reported on how the SWAT team treated the boy’s mother on the night of the raid:

“I heard my baby wailing and asked one of the officers to let me hold him,” the boy’s mother, Alecia Phonesavanh, told Salon magazine in June. “He screamed at me to sit down and shut up and blocked my view, so I couldn’t see my son. I could see a singed crib, and I could see a pool of blood.

“The officers yelled at me to calm down and told me my son was fine, that he’d just lost a tooth,” she added. “It was only hours later when they finally let us drive to the hospital that we found out Bou Bou was in the intensive burn unit and that he’d been placed into a medically induced coma.”

Baby Bou Bou’s family was quickly overwhelmed with medical expense debt. The county refused to reimburse the family for a single dime of the debt.

Habersham County officials are defending their decision not to pay for the child’s medical bills, saying it wouldn’t be legal to take on the costs.

“The question before the board was whether it is legally permitted to pay these expenses,” Habersham County’s attorney told WSBTV in a statement. “After consideration of this question following advice of counsel, the board of commissioners has concluded that it would be in violation of the law for it to do so.”

Georgia cops quickly blamed the family for the tragedy, claiming that the family was “living in a drug house.” Radley Balko notes that subsequent internal investigation, DA, and state investigations all cleared the cops.

No drugs were found in the home, and neither was the person of interest mentioned in the sworn affidavit. The person of interest did not live there, the house was not a “drug house” with “drug traffic,” the known informant who had been ‘reliable in the past’ was not known and had never been used- and the alleged drug sale was never verified. In fact, according to the federal indictment, the information that then-Deputy Nikki Autry presented to the judge to obtain the no-knock warrant on that tragic night was apparently one hundred percent fact-free bullshit. The Department of Justice press release published on Wednesday, July 22, describes the events leading to Nikki Autry’s federal indictment:

According to Acting U.S. Attorney Horn, the indictment, and other information presented in court: Autry worked for the Habersham County, Georgia, Sheriff’s Office from 2004 to 2014. On the night of May 27, 2014, Autry and other members of the NCIS team were attempting undercover narcotics buys from various subjects in Habersham County.

Eventually, a brand new NCIS informant and two of his associates – his wife and a roommate – went to a residence located in Cornelia, Georgia. The informant’s roommate, who was not officially working with NCIS, approached the residence and allegedly purchased a small quantity of methamphetamine from an individual unknown to him who was standing outside the residence. There was no police surveillance to verify the purchase. Shortly afterwards, Autry presented an affidavit to a Habersham County magistrate judge falsely swearing that the NCIS informant made the purchase and that the NCIS informant was “a true and reliable informant who has provided information in the past that has led to criminal charges on individuals selling narcotics in Habersham County.”

The federal indictment alleges that Autry knew the NCIS informant had not purchased any methamphetamine from anyone at the residence and the NCIS informant had not proven himself to be reliable in the past. Additionally, the indictment alleges that Autry had not confirmed that there was heavy traffic in and out of the residence. Based on this false information, the magistrate judge issued a “no-knock” search warrant for the residence and an arrest warrant for W. T., who allegedly sold the methamphetamine. The warrant obtained by Autry was executed approximately two hours later, during the early morning hours of May 28, 2014.

During the execution of the search warrant, a Habersham County deputy sheriff tossed a “flash and noise distractionary device,” also known as a flash bang grenade, into a side door of the residence. The flash bang grenade was thrown directly into the room where an 18-month-old toddler was sleeping. The grenade landed inside the toddler’s playpen and critically injured him. The toddler and his family had been staying at the residence for approximately six weeks prior to the search. They are relatives of the lawful occupants of the residence. W. T. was arrested shortly after the flash bang incident at a nearby residence.

Nikki Autry, 29, of Clarkesville, Georgia, will be arraigned by a U.S. Magistrate Judge later this week. The indictment charges Autry with four counts of civil rights violations for willfully depriving the occupants of the residence of their right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures by a police officer and for knowingly depriving W. T. of his right to be free from arrest without probable cause.

Nikki Autry was a lying cop who meant to lie and she did lie. Apparently acting on an unfounded hunch that she hoped would pan out to her benefit, she lied freely and with a straight face, in a sworn affidavit that was likely not the first of its kind.

In the end, a child was maimed in the name of a fifty-dollar drug sale that never happened. This is what the War on Drugs looks like.

Camera Work: Going Back

Morning Light, Chief Joseph Mountain

I have a huge file of images; film of all sizes from 8”x10” to 35mm, B&W color and of course digital. The digital consists of scanned work from the film and original digital images. Using the designation common for digital audio, I range from AAA and DDD imagery, as well as in between. I’ve been doing photography since, well, Columbus was a midshipman, or at least it feels that way!

In 2007, I decided the medium has grown up enough to invest in a DSLR, the Nikon D80, and quietly retire the analog aspects. I haven’t really given up analog; I still own by Hasselblad system, but it languishes. That year, we went to Spokane WA for a wedding, and on the return trip, spent several days in Joseph OR, at the North edge of the Wallowas. It was there I launched my first serious effort in image collecting via digital medium. The change was 2-fold: I’m all digital and I’ve given up my preferred format, the square, to embrace the 35mm proportion as the primary format for image collecting.

Fast forward to 2015. Photoshop has changed dramatically in certain aspects. Along with the shoot 2007, I did major edits in CS3 (vers.10 in the evolution of Photoshop). It was pretty successful, and gave me confidence to continue.

These images have languished in my files but in the back of my mind, I knew they would have to emerge as they represent a major Oregon geographical location. So last week, I did a survey of the files and proceeded with selecting the images to publish on my website.

I no longer use Photoshop CS3, (vers 10); we are up to vers 16, known now as cc2015, recently released. What can I do with cc2015 that I could not do then? Turns out both more and less. Less in the sense that some images, when introduced into CC2015, come out less than acceptable, let alone impressive than they did in CS3. Some of that is because, in re-trying an image already corrected, I don’t have the exact steps to follow when I did it back in 2007. Try as I might, I cannot match the qualities, especially B&W images of which I was capable then. Rather nonplussed, to say the least. The implications are not comfortable.

OTOH, the color images do show a remarkable quality running them through cc2015, with tools available only this version, especially one called “Dehaze”.

It also shows that the D-80 is one fine instrument, providing an image that is subtly different than from my current camera, the D7100. By no means would I retire the D80 at this point.

I expected to have a new “Recent Uploads” to show this work, but recent events have slowed down my work which some of you who read OE here know about. So, all I have to show is the cover shot here, and in the near future, a more complete selection from the 2007 Wallowa shoot. I will tell you this. When I completed the edit of this image and did an A:B comparison to the 2007 edit, the change was both subtle and dramatic. Perhaps I’ll show that aspect, before and after at a future time

Photo©2007-2015 Lawrence Hudetz All Rights reserved.

www.hudechrome.com

Podcast: In Cleveland, Organizers Gather to Strengthen & Grow Movement for Black Lives

Screen shot from Movement for Black Lives’ gathering website

Following months of numerous actions across the United States, a gathering was held by the Movement for Black Lives from July 24-26 in Cleveland. The goal was to bring black organizers together to create a “collective mission that matches the intensity, scale, urgency, and promise of the moment.” It was also geared toward reflection on the history of struggle and healing from the many traumas, which black Americans have endured.

Waltrina Middleton, a member of the host committee for the gathering and an organizer/co-founder of Cleveland Action, appeared on this week’s “Unauthorized Disclosure” to highlight the critical importance of this event.

“It is important for us to communally strategize for ways that would be best for us to respond to racialized violence that we have been subjected to as a people,” Middleton declares.

She speaks about the setting of the gathering and recalled how two unarmed black people, Timothy Russell and Melissa Williams, were shot by Cleveland police 137 times, Tanisha Anderson, who was killed by Cleveland police after her family called to get her help, and John Crawford, who was killed by police while he was in a Walmart.

“There are other issues that bring us to Cleveland,” Middleton adds. “Violence against women, in particular black women, violence against LGBTQ community, particularly black trans women community, socioeconomic disparities and going into East Cleveland and seeing buildings or houses boarded up and the infrastructure that does not allow for paved roads and sidewalks going uncleared so people in the winter time are pushing wheelchairs and baby carriages in the middle of the street.”

Middleton explained there is a lack of concern for the quality of education and healthcare, basic needs which any person would want to be able to access.

During the discussion part of the show, hosts Rania Khalek and Kevin Gosztola highlight DHS surveillance of Black Lives Matter protests, the firing of a man from a Chicago police review agency for refusing to change his findings against police, and UK’s PREVENT program and anti-Muslim racism. The show’s hosts also talk a little more about the Movement for Black Lives gathering, including the role of white “allies” or white anti-racism activists in movement building.

The podcast is available on iTunes for download. For a link (and also to download the episode), go here. Click on “go here” and a page will load with the audio file of the podcast. The file will automatically start playing so you can listen to the episode.

Also, below is a player for listening to the podcast. You can listen to the podcast this way by clicking on the player. And please follow the show on Twitter at @UnauthorizedDis.

Sunday Food: Real Friends Take a Zucchini

Have a zucchini If you are a friend.
Have a zucchini
If you are a friend.

(Picture courtesy of Jeremy Keith at flickr.com.)

They’re that greatest test of true friendships out here in the land of prolific gardens.   If you’ve ever grown them, you know the feeling.   Those carefully tended mounds of bright pretty golden flowers have produced monsters that now are filling all your steps, your lawn chairs, and your walkways.   You grew them, you have to find them a home.   There are many many many more coming along out there in those plants mounds, but this kind of veggie the bunnies and deer just don’t eat.

Maybe you’re at that point too, the neighbors don’t want to talk to you anymore, they have the same trouble.   Zucchini abundance happens at this time of year, everywhere.

There’s a cookout and the grill does its burgers, but there you go, you can throw some slices of zucchini onto the dying coals now!   Surely folks would be happy to have those fresh, hard to give, zucchinis to finish up the meal?   Keep smiling, and have some more slices.

They’re absolutely beautiful, they’re healthy and they’re as big as all outdoors.   The mailman likes to find one in the magazine box under the mailbox, surely?   Actually, ours does.   There’s a true good buddy.

Zucchini bread is a wonderful treat.   Here’s the recipe, please wouldn’t you like a zucchini to go with that?   Two or three, maybe?

First grate 3 – 4 cups of zucchini, fresh, and drain.    I do that with a big towel for drips, in front of the t.v., or outside.   Now, you’re ready!

Ingredients

  • 3 cups (390 g) all-purpose flour

  • 2 teaspoons baking soda

  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • 2 eggs, beaten

  • 1 1/3 cup (270 g) sugar

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (omit if using salted butter)

  • 3 to 4 cups grated fresh zucchini (700 to 900 ml)

  • 3/4 cup (170 g) unsalted butter, melted

  • 1 cup  (100 g) chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

  • 1 cup (120 g) dried cranberries or raisins (optional)

METHOD

1 Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter two 5 by 9 inch loaf pans. Place the grated zucchini in a sieve or colander over a bowl to drain any excess moisture.

2 In a large bowl, vigorously whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.

3 In another large bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs, vanilla, and salt. Stir in the grated zucchini and then the melted butter.

Add the flour mixture, a third at a time, to the sugar egg zucchini mixture, stirring after each incorporation. Fold in the nuts and dried cranberries or raisins if using.

5 Divide the batter equally between the loaf pans. Bake for 50 minutes at 350°F (175°C) or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Turn out onto wire racks to cool thoroughly.

Now try giving that away.    And a few more zukes to go with.

(Picture courtesy of Ting Chen at flickr.com.)

Those zuke babies keep coming
Those zuke babies keep coming

Late Night FDL: It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me

Billy Joel – It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me

Billy Joel: I am Dad Rock

Billy Joel is honoured to be a leading figure of the ‘dad rock’ movement.

The 66-year-old Grammy winning-musician hasn’t released an album since his 1993 offering River of Dreams, which went platinum in several countries.

Billy remains popular with younger generations and he has no idea how youth listeners catch wind of his music.

‘I don’t know! I haven’t figured it out. I assume they’re their own generation and they’ve got their own music. There’s a lot of stuff I don’t know about, like electronic dance music,’ he told Entertainment Weekly. ‘Yeah! That’s a whole other thing. But obviously they’ve heard my music somewhere. Whether their parents played it and it’s, like, dad rock, which I love. I love that expression! That’s what I am.’

Billy attended the legendary Woodstock festival in 1969, an event which is considered to be one of the major catalysts for all modern music festivals.

But the rock star didn’t really enjoy his time there.

‘I went to Woodstock. I didn’t play there, but I went up on a motorcycle, which was a good move because the highway was just a parking lot. I wanted to see Hendrix and the Who. But after a day and a half with no real toilet facilities.what am I, a bear? I have to go in the woods? There was a lot of mud and people were smoking a lot of pot and taking a lot of acid,’ Billy recalled, noting he wasn’t engaging in any drug use at the time.

‘I didn’t do anything back then. I drank a beer or something. The first day, I saw Santana. Or was it Joe Cocker? I was dirty and itchy and covered with poison ivy and I thought, ‘Just get me out of here! I’ve got to use a bathroom.’

What’s on your mind tonite…?

The Israel Lobby’s $50M Campaign Against The Iran Nuclear Deal

If the Iran deal passes, Israel loses. The Israel lobby is spending big on whatever it takes to make sure this doesn’t happen.

By Richard Silverstein

WASHINGTON — The next 60 days offer a fateful window through which Congress will review the Iran nuclear deal announced last week to great fanfare by the P5+1 powers and their Iranian counterparts.

At the end of this period, both the House and Senate will vote on the agreement. Though the GOP has a majority in the latter body, it’s by no means a given that the vote will go against the deal. The Los Angeles Times reports there may be a few Republican senators who can be swayed if public opinion is running in favor.

To that end, the various groups within the Israel lobby have announced a massive PR campaign seeking to move both public opinion and the votes of individual senators against the deal.

Last week, The New York Times reported that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a pro-Israel lobby, has created a stand-alone group, Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran, for this purpose. It plans to spend $20-40 million on the effort.

The group’s website doesn’t list staff and a board of directors. Instead it lists an “advisory board” consisting of the usual hawkish Democratic former senators, including Mark Begich, Joe Lieberman, Mary Landrieu, Evan Bayh, and former Rep. Shelley Berkley. Clearly, this isn’t an independent organization, but rather one established and controlled by AIPAC. Unlike some of groups below which are casting their nets wide, AIPAC seems to be targeting Democratic senators on the fence.

So far this year, according to U.S. Senate public records, AIPAC has spent nearly $2 million on direct lobbying, more than it’s ever spent in any previous six-month period since 1999. This is a further indication of the group’s dead-seriousness in pursuing the defeat of the Iran measure. (more…)

Oil And Gas Lobbyists Are Supporting Hillary Clinton’s Campaign

Hillary Clinton by Donkey Hotey for Flickr.com (Creative Commons)

Lobbyists connected to fossil fuel firms are acting as bundlers for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign based on documents uploaded by journalist Lee Fang.

In a post for The Intercept, Fang highlighted how private prison lobbyists were helping raise money for Clinton’s campaign. Interestingly, the documents also highlight lobbyists—who also have gone through the revolving door—working on behalf of oil and gas companies.

Bundlers, as noted by Fang, “collect contributions on behalf of a campaign, and are often rewarded with special favors, such as access to the candidate.”

Tony Podesta, who lobbied the White House in 2013 to push for liquefied natural gas exports, is one bundler for the campaign. Moreover, he is the brother of John Podesta, a former White House official who recently worked with President Barack Obama on environmental issues. Currently, Podesta chairs Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Ankit Desai, vice president of government relations at Cheniere Energy, also is a registered bundler. Desai is a former government official who worked for then-Senator Joseph Biden and worked on John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign.

Cheniere Energy, as noted by Fang and journalist Steve Horn in a report last year, received the first permit by the Obama administration in 2012 to export liquefied natural gas after lobbying White House officials.

Hillary Clinton is no stranger to natural gas as, while Secretary of State under the Obama administration, she pushed for shale gas development overseas. Journalist Mariah Blake, for Mother Jones, highlighted such efforts by the State Department in foreign countries:

As part of its expanded energy mandate, the State Department hosted conferences on fracking from Thailand to Botswana. It sent US experts to work alongside foreign officials as they developed shale gas programs. And it arranged for dozens of foreign delegations to visit the United States to attend workshops and meet with industry consultants—as well as with environmental groups, in some cases.

Steve Elmendorf is another supporter of Clinton’s campaign. He worked for former House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt and Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign as well.

Currently, Elmendorf works for Bryan Cave Strategies, who have lobbied for Shell Oil many times. In 2007, Barack Obama criticized the Clinton campaign for relying on Elmendorf to push for a gas tax holiday. He called their efforts a “shell game, literally.”

Theresa Maria Fariello, vice president of government relations at ExxonMobil, is another bundler and also no stranger to the Democratic Party. From 1999 to 2001, she worked as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of International Affairs at the Department of Energy under then-President Bill Clinton’s administration.

While working for ExxonMobil, she lobbied Democratic officials to obtain “political intelligence” and is cited as the “chief-in-house Democrat” of the firm. The Hill, in 2011, named her as one of the top lobbyists in Washington D.C. where she is “fully engaged in the battles over regulations, oil subsidies and deepwater drilling.”

In general, some fossil fuel lobbyists are working for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, which will surely bring into question her stance on environmental issues like climate change as the primaries approach.

Fracked Earth Whirl

Protester “chipmunks” obstruct work at Utah tar sands mine.

By Kate Lanier

Mining and local communities: Scenes of conflict

__Pope Francis is at it again, saying there must be a “radical change” in the way mining industries interact with local communities and the environment. “The companies, the governments that are supposed to regulate them, investors and consumers … [of] mined material ‘are called to adopt behaviour inspired by the fact that we are all part of one human family.’”

__Utah “mining regulators have given the go-ahead for the next phase of the nation’s first commercial tar sands operation” in Uintah and Grand Counties. US Oil Sands of Calgary, Alberta, Canada will do the mining. State regulators will rely on the mine to “monitor for potential impacts to groundwater and comply with federal pollution standards.” Confident that’ll work?

__”Mining will never satisfy its appetite,” says San Carlos Apache Tribe Chairman Terry Rambler, whose tribe is in an “epic battle to save Oak Flat, its most revered sacred site.” Democracy Now interviews Wendsler Nosie Sr. of the San Carlos Apache Tribe and his granddaughter, Naelyn Pike, about the McCain-Flake giveaway of the sacred Apache site to Rio Tinto for a huge copper mine. The tribe has made a caravan from Arizona to Washington, DC in protest, with a nice assist from Neil Young.

__Uh-oh. Alaska Supreme Court has ruled that the popular initiative for restricting the Pebble mine project—which is on state land—“seriously impedes a regulatory process set out in state law and is unenforceable.” The proposed gold and copper Pebble mine is in the same area as “headwaters of a world-class salmon fishery.”

__Seems the US Forest Service got “thousands of public comments” so is now “considering a more stringent analysis of a mining proposal near Yellowstone National Park. British Columbia’s Lucky Minerals wants to “search for gold on federal and private land around Emigrant Peak in south-central Montana.”

__Imagine! A mining policy which gives “greater weight to social and environmental factors during the approval process.” That’s what’s been proposed for New South Wales, Australia, “giving hope” to those fighting such projects as Rio Tinto’s Mount Thorley Warkworth Hunter coal mine expansion.

__Meanwhile, Shenhua Watermark, a spectacularly huge open-cut coal mine in New South Wales, Australia, could have an unknown impact on local groundwater and underground aquifers, but there’s no plan showing how Shenhua would manage such a crisis.

__Australia’s Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, apparently is a coal-head, insisting that coal is “good for humanity.” His government’s approving coal mines all over the place. (more…)

The Roundup for July 25th, 2015

And that ends our week folks.

International Politics

Overall

– Secretary of State John Kerry: This agreement with Iran is the only alternative to use of military force

– Juan Cole: “Did ISIL Arise Partly Because of Climate Change?

Middle East

– The International Red Cross warned there is “unprecedented” civilian suffering in Yemen. Meanwhile, clashes in Yemen left at least 20 dead

– The Syrian government believes it is too early to launch peace talks

– Refaat Alareer, co-editor of Gaza Unsilenced, joins The Real News to talk about new settlements constructed in the West Bank and reaction to it

– Israel uses one vital resource to control the lives of Palestinians: water

– While the Israeli leadership is furious about the deal with Iran, the security establishment of Israel actually favors it (more…)